Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Flashbacks

Sometimes we experience things in life and it becomes a trigger for something that happened in our past. If we are educated about triggers, we may be completely aware that it is happening. Having insight though, doesn’t always change the intensity of the experience.

Last year about this time of year, I did a series of blogs on the mental health system based on my experiences with my daughter Emily. The purpose was not bash the mental health or medical system, but just to share my experiences in hopes that it would be helpful someday to someone, and who knows? Maybe a small, tiny pebble of change might happen in the large mountain that needs to be moved.

Recently, I had another experience and I spent the morning being painfully aware that I was reliving that experience again. The details are different of course, but there are two things happening inside of me that are so real I could touch them.

First, is the utter helplessness and powerlessness I can feel as a human being. It is so strong it makes my head spin and it is maddening. I found myself again knowing what someone needs, but also knowing that I had no idea how to help her get it. She has been in and out of the mental health system for much of her thirty years of life. In my (professional) opinion, she has not ever been properly diagnosed and therefore not ever properly medicated. She re-lives her self-destructive cycle over and over again and then is filled with self-loathing because she can’t change herself. She has been decompensating at an accelerated rate over the last month and has become a danger to self and others. There is a spouse and a beautiful newborn in the mix.

There is literally no system in place to get her what she needs. She needs a very thorough evaluation. That’s not how the system works. But I was in the ultimate catch-22. I couldn’t do nothing. I couldn’t. That would be unprofessional, unethical, uncaring. I couldn’t let her go home. Yet I knew that putting her through the system might not help either.

I spent three hours with her, canceled all my other sessions. Called the mobile unit. I was scared, sad, worried, sickened because I care so damn much. I didn’t just go the extra mile. I went the extra six miles, because that’s just what I do. And in the end, her last words to me before getting in the ambulance were: I never want to see you again. Now I will embark on several days of documenting everything that happens. I will spend hours on the phone trying to get a different experience for her. And I am painfully aware that my chances for success are slim to none. The only analogy I can come up with, is that going to work is like walking into a room and purposefully banging my head on the wall. But I have to do it. I have to do everything I can for her, even though I am doubtful it will help.

Utter helplessness and powerlessness. What the hell do you do with that? I know I am doing my best. I know it’s not my fault. That isn’t the struggle. The struggle is the anger and pain from watching a system go wrong and a very real person and family suffering because of it.

The second part, is dealing with the last words. I absolutely get it. I know she doesn’t REALLY hate me. I know part of that frustration and anger is directed at me because she feels safe with me. I get that part of it is because of the mental illness. BUT IT STILL SUCKS. And I went through that with my daughter too.

Here I am, being the single, solitary person who is truly advocating intelligently in her corner, and I’m the bad guy. Yep, that’s what my daughter did too. No amount of self-talk and insight makes it hurt any less. I go through rapid flip-flops of sadness and anger. Why do I do this? Why do I repeatedly do this?

Because in my world, in my brain, in my head, in my heart, I have no other choice. Without thought, I dive in and I love and care.

But I have to tell you… THIS is why I want to work at Family Video when I grow up. I’m not even kidding.


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Teenage Angst

When I got married to Tim, I became a step-mom at the same time. I started out with a 13, 16 and 19-year-old child. I always said it was like baptism by fire. Parenting teens is hard enough, but starting out with them first, I was more than lost. Parenting is like everything else in life that I counsel people about. I help the best I can based on knowledge I’ve gained, but the ability for me to truly help grows exponentially when I have some real-life experience under my belt. I could help a married couple, but much better after marriage. I could help a divorced couple, but better after experiencing one. Same goes with parenting, step-parenting, losing a parent, losing a spouse, etc….

Now I get to parent a teenager (Frankie is 12) that I actually carried in my womb, have sacrificially given my time, energy, money and heart to for his entire life, and love beyond anything I thought possible. Knowing that teens become big jerks 90% of the time to their parents doesn’t make it any easier to endure it. I have clients going through it too and I sympathize with them as well. I can read all the theory I want about why it is developmentally necessary for them to push away from us, but I still hate it.

So there is “normal.” And then you have the added dimensions about the loss we have suffered. It’s an additional dynamic to add to the mix. From my perspective, he is all I have left. From my perspective, I am terribly lonely every night in our home. He and Colin are buds and they laugh their heads off, play sports and games together, and talk a mile a minute. Oh yeah, they also “bond” over being disgusted that they have such a terrible mother.

Now Colin (Colin is 31) will say that it is my head. He thinks I just feel bad about myself and so I imagine they are treating me that way. But I know better. There have been a million people who have observed our home. There has been more than one or two helping professionals that totally agree. There is more than just the “normal” pulling away here. They have anger and an axe to grind. And it’s directed at me. Full force.

It sucks. Most of the time it breaks my heart, but sometimes I find myself getting really angry. Yesterday was like that. A relatively minor incident occurred where my dad and I went to watch Frankie play basketball at his school. He completely ignored us. He didn’t want us there. It embarrassed him. I tried very hard to do all the verbal talking in my head about how this is what teens too. But I was enraged anyway. I sat there on the bleachers with a couple of tears trickling down my face that I couldn’t control. I wanted to shake him.

Frankie is incredibly smart and gifted. And he is an old soul. He gets life in ways that some adults never will. I guess I expect more from him. At his young age, he unfortunately already knows about grief and loss. He has lost four cats, a grandmother he was very close to, and most importantly, his father. So I know he gets that parents and people who love you should NOT be taken for granted. He knows things his peers don’t. But instead of drawing closer, he treats me like he would be much happier if I was gone too. (That is not based solely on this basketball incident, so don’t think I’ve completely lost my marbles.)

Then the shock sets in for me. I couldn’t wait to have Frankie. I wanted a kid so badly that it was agony waiting for him. Then I had a miscarriage, got pregnant with Frankie and had the world’s worst pregnancy the entire nine months. I adored him. We had a close, healthy, unique relationship for eight years of his life. Like any mother, I would take a bullet for my child, lose a limb without even thinking twice. But now I find myself having horrible thoughts. Things like I don’t even like him anymore. Things like maybe I really should disappear for a while and teach him a lesson. And then I’m shocked. I can’t believe it is me that is having those feelings. What the hell has happened to me? To us?

Death. That’s what fucking happened. Four and a half years later and I still don’t know how to fix our family. Shit.


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Anger- the New Sadness?

Is 47 the proper age for a mid-life crisis? Is 47 the proper time for menopause (which means hormones and changes that are out of our control)? I hear 50 is the age that women make lots of changes and just stop taking things they shouldn’t take anymore. Is that me?

I wish someone could explain it to me. As a person who has struggled with depression most of my life, I am somewhat comfortable with it. I know that sounds weird. It’s true, though. I am familiar with crying regularly, know what despair is like, and all that jazz.

When Tim got sick, I remember there being a switch to anxiety. I could count on one hand how many times in my life I had experienced an anxiety attack before that day in Roswell when we got the diagnosis. After that, I found myself passing out, nearly passing out, breathing into paper bags, etc.. That hasn’t been the norm over the last couple of years, but lately I’ve been teetering on the edge again.

I have a friend who, well, let’s say his primary emotion is anger. I’ve heard him F-bomb everything and everyone in sight. I’ve watched his face turn red. I’ve worried about him often, wondering if he will have a heart attack before he’s 50. He defends his positions with confidence, but I wonder if his life is any better than mine. I strive to “be the bigger person.” Angry or sad? Neither one seems like a great quality of life.

This week I’ve found myself angry. Instead of responding like I usually do, I’ve been angry. Red-hot angry. Throwing around my own F-bombs. Deciding I don’t need to be so damn forgiving anymore. I don’t want to be bitter or hateful, but do I really need to put myself out like I do? It’s like some magic number got reached inside of me and all my cheeks are used up. I can’t turn the other one anymore.

Before I could even finish writing this blog, I found out my GPS got stolen out of my car last night. I have been locking everything since the money was stolen from my house just two weeks ago. How the car happened to be unlocked I will never know or understand. Can you believe that? The police came right away. I think they are getting used to me by now. The good news is, they already caught the guy. They said it was dumb luck, but they caught him. He went up and down our street and stole a bunch of stuff, including someone’s car. The police came back with my GPS cover. Yep, that’s mine. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find the GPS but they are still looking. Sick feeling, angry beyond belief. The last thing I F$%^&*G need right now is to spend money on another GPS. I’m broke. I signed a statement and you bet your ass I will press charges. Where is the person that would give you my pants if you stole my shirt? She’s left the building.

A couple of days ago, I discovered some people were accusing me of purposefully changing my stepdaughter’s last name in the paper to benefit myself. I couldn’t believe it. First of all, it was a ridiculous thought. It would have served ZERO purpose to do such a thing. But more importantly, I’ve taken crap from these people for 15 years. I’ve done nothing but be the “bigger person.” Decided I’m done. No more. I’ve gotten phone calls from people who will try to make it right again, but I’ve refused to call back. I just don’t have it in me. Too angry. Just too damn pissed off. No more cheeks to turn. The first 40,000 times they insulted me without reason I was forgiving. Can’t do it anymore.

I still cry. I can cry at a mere word. But mostly, I’m just angry. I feel like my chest hurts. Last night I had to call a few friends to talk me down from a full-blown panic attack. I could feel it coming on- like soon I wouldn’t be able to breathe.

I received an email this morning from an old high school friend. He talked about how nice I was all those years ago. I responded with how I am suddenly questioning if it’s been worth it. I’ve hurt people and made mistakes in my life, without a doubt. But mostly, I have been NICE. Not stupid, but nice. Not naive, but nice. (Well, maybe naive sometimes.) I’m not an idiot; I’ve just chosen on purpose to respond with kindness. Where has it gotten me? For years, it was the internal satisfaction of feeling like I’ve done the right thing. Why, all of a sudden, is that not enough anymore?

Anger or sadness? I know they are both part of the human experience, but I don’t like either one of them. I’d like to try happiness on for a change. If anyone knows how to get some of that, let me know. I’d do just about anything to trade in this crap I’m feeling.

I know you probably expect more from me than this. Maybe that other woman will come back soon. But right now, I don’t have anything inspiring to offer. Just pure human nature. At its worst.