Engagement-versary…

Me: “Honey, why did you want to marry me?”

My Fave: Deer in the headlights look and not a single word. When I pressed for a real answer, I got a sappy and sarcastic “Because I loved you and wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.”

This is our life and I would have it no other way.

My Fave and I met at work, a company owned by his older brother, on October 19, 1999; I’d been placed there as a temp executive assistant to his sister-in-law on October 4th. Prior to my placement, I was a bartender at a brewery in downtown Cincinnati. On my way to work on Labor Day weekend I was in a pretty serious car accident and the only thing that kept me from going through the windshield was my 4’11 (on a good day) stature. Injuries made being on my feet nearly impossible and there was rent to be paid, so returning to my bartender life, which my recently diagnosed but not fully medicated bipolar loved, was out and a temp agency it was.

October 23, 1999 marked our first date. The plan was to go to the wedding of high school friends, which looking back was a horrid idea for a first date; trying to get to know someone and the pressure of being surrounded by a ton of his friends, who I knew would be judging me to determine whether or not I was worthy of one of their only still-single friends. Worst idea ever, which is likely why our date turned out the way it did.

When we met, My Fave had been working in Dayton as the company considered opening an office there. (For non-Cincinnati folks, Dayton is about 45 minutes to an hour north). He was staying at his mom’s, almost an hour east of Cincinnati, until he knew if he would be calling Dayton or Cincinnati home permanently. For the 2 days prior to our date, he’d worked with nearly no sleep and when he got back to Cincinnati on the 23rd, he went to his other brother’s house to catch a bit of shut eye, with specific instructions to be woken up in time to get to his mom’s, change and pick me up at 5 p.m. Let’s just say the specific instructions did not include, “Wake me up at 6:30 p.m.” His suit was with him and Kmart happily provided a dress shirt, tie, belt and pleather dress shoes. He called his sister-in-law and brother asking if he should show up or just stand me up. Since I was pretty good at my job, “ditch” was not the suggested option. His attempts at calling me found him talking to a counselor at a halfway house up the street, whose line had been, unknown to me, switched with mine during some phone pole work earlier in the week. He was quite certain he was picking up some person in treatment for something but went ahead and showed up at my door at 7:30 p.m. For reasons I still don’t understand, I did not slam the door in his face for showing up 2 1/2 hours late and off to the wedding reception we went.

The reception was great. My first introduction was to his best friend, who happens to bleed the same color of Blue I do. Instant approval was granted to me and the rest of the night was in no way the terrible I had anticipated. The party was pretty much over by 1 a.m. or so and driving an hour east, on little sleep, at that hour sounded like an accident waiting to happen, so he asked if he could crash, promising he wouldn’t try anything but was certain he’d never make it home. I figured since he was my boss’ brother-in-law it was likely safe to say “yes”. We hung out all day on Sunday and on Sunday night he crashed at my place again. On Monday morning, I went to work and he went to work around noon. When I got home Monday night, there were 2 duffel bags against one of the walls of my studio apartment. It’s nearly 20 years later and I still have no idea why I began unpacking his bags, but I did. We went on our first date and he never left.

rhett119 years ago today, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. in our small two bedroom apartment, to the ring finger on my left hand feeling odd. When I realized what was happening, I flew out of bed and, with zero concern for the neighbors below us, jumped up and down over and over and over. My Fave’s dad died when he was three; his mom had given him her engagement ring to give to me and it was the most amazing piece of jewelry I had ever laid eyes on and he picked me to wear it. He had seen every bit of mess of me there was in those short ten months. Mania, depression, anxiety, panic, outbreaks of rage, eating issues, self-harm, self-hatred, med changes, the fallout from life prior to my diagnosis. All of the stuff that made me think I was completely unworthy of love and the “ick” that made me believe every bad boyfriend, who treated me like garbage, was exactly what I deserved, he saw all of it and stayed and said, “Yep, I am going to do life with her.”

He’d tell me later that he really wanted to propose at Christmas in 1999 but there were still a bunch of people who thought moving in on our first date was the dumbest idea ever, so getting engaged after two months likely wasn’t going to go over well. I know I would have said “Yes” if he’d asked. I knew, really knew, the day we met that My Fave was the person God intended for me to find. The road getting there sucked – SUCKED SUCKED SUCKED – but when people say the very best can come out of the worse of times, I believe My Fave and our life is what they mean. Neither of us was looking. Heck, I remember at 24 years old, standing in my mom’s kitchen and proclaiming that I would never, never, never have kids, let alone ever get married. Never say never, right?

Sometimes you just know and we just knew. Saying “Yes” to his proposal was the scariest and best decision I have ever made. Good, bad, rich, poor, sickness, health, laughing, crying, gain, loss – we’ve hit all the buckets of our marriage vows, many of them more than once. As crappy as the journey to find the guy who I could exchange those vows with was, I wouldn’t change a single thing because I wouldn’t have found the person who made me believe I was worthy of being loved and who I could truly, with no strings attached, trust with all of me.

It’s a crazy love story, but it’s ours and I love you more with every new chapter we write – Happy Engagement-versary, Babe.

Maybe someday…

I needed a moment to process this one and proud to say that I could do so rationally. It’s a nod to a great psychiatrist, that I’m blessed with provision to afford out of pocket, and her vast knowledge of medication, also blessed to afford, that made it possible to not fly off the handle in a total meltdown mess when I saw this the other day.

Maybe someday, this won’t be a headline. A 70% increase in suicide since 2008, coincidentally the same year that social media exploded onto the scene, and losing Americans at a rate of 45 a day is shameful. We should be embarrassed. We should be appalled that people with not fully developed brains, regardless of their social or economic status in life, find such hopelessness in ever emerging from the darkness that they can’t bear the thought of breathing for even 5 more seconds.

I am on incredible medications. I have an army that supports and loves me. My psychiatrist is amazing. I live with no real fear of judgement in telling people I have an illness. I no longer want to cry or throat punch people when they learn of my illness and say, “I would never guess that about you. You’re so put together and function so well.” I am the most mentally healthy I have ever been in my 47 years on this earth.

And still once a week, at minimum, a thought to end my life enters my mind. Sometimes it’s overwhelming and other times it’s a blip & gone in seconds. It’s usually around Mama/wife guilt and/or physical pain. I now exactly where the thought comes from and can usually see it coming but “They’d be better off without you.” fights its way to the front of the line regularly.

Mental illness is not a mindset or choice. It’s not cured with advice to “just be happy” (I do want to throat punch people who say that – no medication is going to fix that one for me.) It doesn’t give a crap about how rich or poor you are. You’re level of education or access to treatment doesn’t matter. Young, old and in between can and are taken down by it. And we’re all hoping like hell it doesn’t find someone we love.

Mental illness is an illness. It’s a brain illness. It’s a chemical imbalance. It’s the synapses in the most complex organ in our bodies that don’t fire the same as other people’s. It’s genetic and there’s no way to know if you will pass it on to your children or not. There is no behavior we can do or self-care choice we can make that can keep it from one day showing up.

It’s pathetically underfunded. It’s access to treatment is horrid. It’s unacceptable to encourage people to ask for help and be proud when they do then hit them with “We’re not taking new patients.” or “Yes, we are taking new patients. We’re scheduling about 10-12 weeks out.” It’s quite literally inhumane. Think you have strep and there’s no issue getting squeezed in same day. Think a belt around your neck or a bottle of pills is a good idea and you’re asked to hang on for 3 months. In some cases, the only way to get inpatient care is to actually make an attempt on your life. It’s intolerable and deplorable and we should be embarrassed that it’s not all hands on deck to reverse this epidemic.

It’s robbing us of 45 incredible people in the US every day. It’s taking 22 American heroes every day. It’s an illness, often an invisible one, but it’s an illness all the same. It’s a fatal illness. Maybe someday, we’ll treat it as one.💔

F-bombing Jesus and living to tell about it…

When+you+tell+your+secrets,+they+lose+their+power+over+you.Before I write another word, let me be clear: I. Am. Good. I am safe. I am taking my meds. I am seeing my docs. I am living life – cursing it along the way at times – but living life. I am good and still here. Don’t always want to be and yet here we are. Crawling and clawing through the next 60 seconds.

Now that we’ve established that…

“Jesus, we’re really doing this today? Really? Why? I don’t want to do this for one more second. That whole ‘I know the plans I have for you…’ thing is crap. Crap. F*#! You, Jesus – Your plans suck!”

My F-bomb Jesus tirade came about 10 minutes after I woke up this morning. My Fave rolled over to cuddle for a few minutes and simply the mattress shifting under me as he slid over, made my body scream. When I sat up and had to lift my legs over the side of the bed to attempt standing up, I knew Jesus was about to get F-bombed. What followed the F-bombing is what we’d like people to be honest about but, when the words come out, “normal people” lose their minds.

“I don’t want to be here. I can’t do life for one more second. This. This is not life. I want to die. I want to die. Just please let me die. Please. I am begging You, don’t make me do this anymore. I would be better off dead, everyone would.”

I considered the pharmacy of psych meds in my drawer that would no doubt do the trick as I looked at the walker always within reach for mornings like this and processed the heaviness of having to answer, “What’s up with the crutches?” 100 times today.

And yet, I’m still here. Nearly 15 hours after having that “conversation” with Jesus, I am finishing the thoughts from this morning and still here and maybe even letting myself be a little proud of that accomplishment.

How?

First, I love Jesus. I have seen what He’s done for me and none of those 60 seconds I clawed my way through today, or any other day for that matter, are happening without Him. Second, I have meds and with them I can vomit the ick and move on (sort of), which sounds much more assertive than it is; slow, pathetic Eeyore-like crawl of dragging my ass might be more accurate. Third, I have a killer Tribe. From My Fave to my doc and everyone in between – I way out kicked my coverage in the area of people I do life with. When you struggle with something the people around you can’t comprehend, no matter how much they want to or try to, it creates this whole catch 22. I feel bad that they feel bad. They feel uncomfortable and helpless and need to go on with their day but feel guilty about it (and let’s be honest, there’s some relief in being able to escape all that uncomfortable, helpless guilt for some length of time).

The thing is I am not the only person in my house or My Tribe or organizations or life struggling under my mental and physical illnesses/disorders – we’re all in the pool together. Just in different ways. We’re all pissed and frustrated and tired. We’re all praying for good days and cursing the bad. We’re all wishing it would end. We’re all anxious about when a bad day is going to show up out of nowhere, slam us like a Mack truck and what it’s going to leave in its wake to clean up. We’re all grateful, but a bit cautious, when a good day, or string of them, come along. We’re all left feeling a little defeated when the good day or string of them passes. When people do life together, they carry the burdens of each other. And empathetic overachiever, people-pleasers like me start spiraling down a hole and don’t want the people they do life with to be burdened one more day. Quitting life sounds like the greatest idea and act of love ever. The chaos and uncertainty and Mack trucks aren’t affecting anyone ever again if we’re not here.

That doesn’t always mean we are going to do something to hurt ourselves but the word “suicide” has come to mean “I am finding a way out and doing it right this second.” For me, it’s such a relief to be able to look at the people I love and say, “I want to die today. I thought about dying today.” rather than having to keep that thought ruminating in my head with all of the other chaos. Shoving those thoughts down over and over is like throwing gasoline on the fire. When the fire gets too hot, the reaction sounds something like, “We had no idea he/she was struggling so bad.” or “This was so sudden – no one saw this coming.”

Awesome, Amy – so what exactly are we supposed to do? I’m not a psychiatrist or therapist but I ran both of these thoughts by my psych this morning, having written them just an hour before I saw her today.

  1. Let us say, “Dying sounds like a great option today.” and sit with us in it. Don’t fix. Sit. Don’t panic and call 911 or our doc. Sit in it with us. Let us say it out loud so it’s not accumulating in our heads. The bigger the inferno grows, the better ending it sounds. Someone saying they would be better off dead is often a “Hey, struggling here.” We have to be able to say it out loud and know y’all aren’t calling out the National Guard. Looking for more warning signs,seeking some resources so if we need more than “Sit with us in it.”, you have them at hand? Yep, do all of that. Sometimes the sharing what feels like a shameful, misunderstood and dirty secret actually releases the death grip it feels like it has one us.
  2. “What’s wrong?”, “Why are you having a bad day today?” or other variations of the same, please don’t. We love you for saying them but your exact words kind of suck sometimes, but we do love you for the intent. We love that you see our hurt, sadness, madness, hopelessness. We do and we love you for it. But we can’t always answer those questions. We can’t. Picture a bowl of spaghetti, drenched in olive oil and 12 balls of yarn, all different colors and already unraveled by a playful kitten. That’s how the thoughts look to us. They are all connected and jumbled and we can’t grasp or even figure out where they start or end and how they can be happy, sad, joyfilled and devastating all at the same time. So when you ask “What’s wrong?” it’s 50 more lbs in the back pack we’re carrying that already is 1,000 lbs in it. “Shitty day, huh? I won’t fix, no matter how much I want to. I can’t imagine and won’t even attempt. I love you and will be here for whatever you need. You’re success rate is 100% – you’ve survived every day that came before this one, good and bad. You’re not alone and this stuff doesn’t scare me so don’t feel like you have to protect me from it. I’m here in it with you and you’re not in the hole solo.” or some version of that – I’d be “Yes” screaming like Meg Ryan in the diner scene of “When Harry Met Sally”. (If I lost you, Google it and then add it to your queue – great movie!) Just don’t ask me to explain it. (My psychiatrist challenged me on the spaghetti thing – she said it might feel like that but then asked “What is it really?” When I snot-bubble cried “People seeing a chink in my armor.” she told me I was arrogant, rooted in humility and feared if I let people see that I wasn’t always a “Force to be reckoned with”, I’d seem more like an “authentic, in the daily battle” Warrior than the “fake, failure, pathetic excuse for a Warrior” I thought people would see me as. I wanted to throat punch her, but she wasn’t wrong which is why she gets paid to torture me. But I digress…)

I actually started writing this in the depths of the “ick” this morning after My Fave left for work. I had no intention of it being this long and appreciate those that stuck with me on this one. It’s been a hell of a day – I fell asleep at 7:45 while we drove home from dinner with my mother-in-law. I feel like I got hit by a bus, twice. But I’m here. My 100% perfect track record continues and while we’ve established that I’m not a psychiatrist or therapist or any other -ist, I can say, on days like this for me, the gas can the voice of “pathetic ick” is all too happy to use to create an inferno, loses so much of its power simply by having the trust established to say  to My Fave or My Tribe, “I’d be better off dead.” It’s taken much practice by all, but it has saved me more than once.

After all, secrets lose their power when they’re no longer secrets.

This I can’t forgive you for…

This past Monday, My Fave having had a long day and not ever thrilled with the 5 day a week 5:30 a.m. alarm…

C at 5 p.m.: “Can _______ spend the night?”

Us: “Sure.”

C at 9 p.m.: “We’re going to walk to UDF to get snacks.”

Us: “Okay.”

J at 9:30 p.m. & out with friends already: “Can I have friends over tonight?”

Us: “Sure. But please remember Dad has to be up at 5:30 tomorrow morning and you all can’t be your normal loud selves.”

J: “We’ll be quiet, I promise.”

Us: “Okay; we’ll give you guys a chance. Please be here by 10:30 so we’re not up late waiting on you all.”

Me to My Fave at 10 p.m.: “We both have to be up early, but this time in 2 yrs, we will be working through the checklist of moving J to college and begging for a return to the night that we didn’t sleep great because we had a house full of teenagers.” Continue reading

Don’t you dare…

On the day after I turned 47, my psychiatrist listened as I described for the 2nd time in three weeks struggling under the weight of “too big” emotions. If your gifting is empathy, you have a fair grasp on what that feels like; couple it with bipolar, depression, and anxiety and it’s utterly exhausting – completely consuming and totally exhausting. Continue reading

What? We only get one day…

best-funny-quotes-happy-mother-day-wishes-poem-for-mom-to-greet-her-on-mothers-day-as-she-deservesHappy Mother’s Day! Ann Jarvis, in 1868, worked to establish a Mother’s Friendship Day in support of families being reunited following the Civil War. Her daughter would continue in her mother’s footsteps and Mother’s Day was born. (Sonora Dodd would follow to establish Father’s Day, as a nod to her father, a Civil War veteran and single father of 6 children). But let’s be honest – 1 day! One day is all we get, and if some of your Mother’s Days have been like mine, our spouses and kids sometimes take Mother’s Day to mean a special day to honor you while you do what you do every single day. But hey, they gave us a card they bought at 11 pm the night before and even though they forgot to sign it before they sealed the envelope it’s the thought that counts, right? Ugh! Ladies, if I ever do write a book, I promise to include an entire chapter on “The Right Way to Celebrate the Women You Love”. Continue reading

Stop whispering…

img_0914Me at 9 or 10, while trying to hear what the adults at the “grown up” Thanksgiving table were saying: “Why are they whispering? We’re not a whispering family.” I tried to ease my way into the conversation by tucking myself in next to my Dad; the volume got lower but I managed to catch a few words: “Cancer. She’s just a little girl.” I didn’t know much about cancer except that it was bad and if the grown ups were whispering, it must be really bad. Like, terrible kind of bad. Continue reading