Saturday, November 19, 2016

So I Wrote A Paper For School....

For one of my counseling classes, I had to do a reflection paper. It technically was supposed to be on something that we learned in class, but when I approached the professor to ask if it in a round-about kind of way pertained to class, he interrupted me and said something like it seemed it was something I was passionate about so it didn't matter what it was, just write about it. I then, like the smart ass I am, told him it was sea turtles I was most passionate about. Without blinking he told me to go for it. So, even though it's sadly not sea turtles, after Terry read it, he said I should post it. I was hesitant, but in the words of a wise (ass) professor, I'm goin' for it.

What Defines Us
Tabitha Crow

The Black
Fight or Flight?
My brain tells my feet
“Run! Run! Run!”
Fog, as thick as tar.
The Black.
Straining to walk,
The Black sucks at my feet.
Tendrils creep out and bind my arms.
Wisps like vines wrap around my chest.
So hard to breathe.
The Black, ever creeping,
Covering me, pulling me
Down, Down, Down.
A spark. A pinhole of light.
Fight or flight?
My brain tells my feet,
“Stand firm.”
He takes my hand and
The Black recedes, ever so slowly,
Inch by agonizing inch.
He is the light and The Black fears the light.
I’ll keep my eyes on him and my hand in his.
And today, just for today,
The Black fades away.

            Labels. We all have them. We pick them up from the time we are newborns; colicky, happy, constipated. We collect them as we go through life and we keep accumulating them until we die. It’s something we do as humans. We straightjacket ourselves and others into believing we are these things. We let these labels define who we are and not delegate them to where they should rightfully be – just one tiny fraction of what makes us, well, us.
            As a child, I was labeled moody, difficult, quick-tempered, and stubborn. I have snapshot memories, or at least I think they are actual memories, of the time before I was about eight years old. My first real memory that I know didn’t come from a photograph or a story happened when I was about seven or eight, I think. I can remember being so despondent, though I don’t remember why, and writing “I want to die” in big letters in purple crayon on a whole pack of notebook paper. I’d write it on a sheet and just throw the page in the floor and move on to the next sheet. Each page a blank canvas for my adolescent misery.
            I’m sure I scared my mom to pieces, but I’m also sure I solidified those previous labels in her mind and probably added a few more, like disturbed, unstable, and suicidal. These are not labels that should be stuck on a person, much less an adolescent. With labels comes a certain kind of treatment by others. Whether that treatment is good, bad, or indifferent is dependent on each individual. In my family, we generally didn’t talk about problems, we just ignored them and stuffed any associated feelings down until there was no problem. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.
            As I aged out of adolescence and hit puberty, my mood swings and depression, because looking back, that’s exactly what it was, only got worse. It didn’t help matters that I basically had no supervision and was left to my own devices the majority of the time. I pretty much got to do what I wanted when I wanted and didn’t really have anyone to answer to. As long as I made it to school, got acceptable grades, and didn’t get arrested, then I had free reign. I was a hellion. I didn’t get in a lot of trouble, but it’s only because I didn’t get caught.
            I remember having bouts of depression so bad during my teenage years that I honestly didn’t see how I was ever going to make it out. I tried numbing using anything I could – pot, drinking, and sex. Mostly sex. I became very promiscuous. That was my next label: slut. That one stuck around a while and hurt a lot, even though I felt I’d deserved it and that it was totally accurate. It stung to walk into a room and have other girls giggle, whisper and leave the room. Of course, I tried to play the brave face, but deep down, I was labeling myself: broken, damaged, unlovable.
            I hit a major speedbump my senior year in high school. I got pregnant. The day of what should have been my senior prom, I gave birth via C-section to a 5 pound, 5-ounce little boy who looked like a glowworm from another planet and totally scared the life out of me. That earned me the label of ‘teenage mother’.
            When he was two, I married his father, even though I knew better. He was an alcoholic and verbally abusive even before we had a baby. That made me label myself ‘idiot’. Less than a year after we were married, I ended up pregnant again – this time with twins. I filed for divorce and moved my pregnant self and my 3 year-old in with my grandmother. Now I was ‘teenage mother’, ‘divorcee’, ‘abused spouse’, and ‘pregnant again’. I felt ‘hopeless’. I was about to have three children three years old and under, I spent the majority of that pregnancy in the hospital for premature labor, I had no job, I had no car, I had no prospects of ever getting out of the cycle I was in.
            Fast forward a year. The twins are almost a year old, and out of nowhere, a tidal wave of depression washes over me and sweeps me away. I am quite certain, looking back, that I had a nervous breakdown. I let my family take my kids and I moved in with my best friend. The oldest went to my mom and stepdad, one twin went to one aunt and uncle, and the other twin to another aunt and uncle. That’s where they remain to this day. Now I am ‘abandoner’, ‘deadbeat parent’, ‘selfish’, and ‘heartless’.
            Several years after the breakdown, I met who would become my current husband. We have been (mostly) happily married for almost thirteen years. I enjoyed wearing the ‘wife’ label. We were coming up on our fifth anniversary when we had our daughter. Now I was a “real” ‘mom’. We were active in our community and our church so I was ‘involved’ and ‘Christian’.
            Our marriage has had its ups and downs. There was a time in the not-so-distant past that I was addicted to prescription pain medication. I inadvertently got hooked on it after a hysterectomy a couple of years after having our daughter. The addiction lasted several years. ‘Addict’ was the best label to come out of that episode of my life. I still bear ‘ashamed’ for that time period, and perhaps always will. I have been clean for over a year, so now I proudly wear the label ‘sober’.
            At one point during the addiction years, I was diagnosed ‘bipolar’. Any mental illness diagnoses, especially one so misunderstood, immediately screams “CRAZY PERSON HERE – BEWARE”. After seeing shrink after shrink and taking medicine cocktails galore, nothing seemed to work… Until we moved here, to Houston. I started seeing a psychiatrist who actually listened to me. I was not, in fact, bipolar, but unipolar depressive with an anxiety disorder and the reason nothing had been helping is because they were treating something I didn’t have. Now I am on a regimented daily cocktail of medication that keeps me from hopping the rails of the sane train and riding on in to Crazytown. I also found a counselor that I feel comfortable sharing my deepest, ugliest junk with. With this, I label myself ‘transparent’, ‘vulnerable’, and ‘hopeful’.
            While it may not be necessarily true that you can be anything you want to be, you more than likely will live up to what you label yourself as. Or for that matter, what you allow others to label you as. Naming something is powerful. A name gives something meaning.
            One of my goals that this class, and others I’ve taken, has made me realize is that I want to erase the stigma associated with the labels of mental illness. If someone has a disease, like cancer, they don’t say, “I am cancer”. No, they say, “I have cancer”, because the cancer doesn’t define them, it is only one tiny part of them. I am have unipolar depression. I am have anxiety. Why should it be any different with mental illness?

            Labels. You can’t escape them, you can’t just dump them, and you can’t erase them once they’re there. What you can do, though, is choose which ones you want to live up to. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

So I Used This New Product.....

I joined this site, Giveaway Service, a month or so ago. It's a site where you apply to try out products for free or a super reduced rate. My very first approval was for a set of 14 liquid chalk markers by ArtColors.

The site is totally legit. If you get approved, the supplier sends you a code to redeem through Amazon that gives you the discount. I got these chalk markers for $0.00 with free Prime shipping (because I have Prime). Anyway....

So, the "catch" to the site. Each of the products has certain...requirements listed you consider before applying. Things like: Hashtag product on Twitter, Mention on Instagram, Write a blog post....

So here I am. This is me fulfilling my requirement in exchange for my awesome set of liquid chalk markers.

I just got them today. I got approved on Monday and they came in the mail today. I tried them all out right away. If you've ever used a paint pen, they are very much like that. You push in the tip, shake and push the tip back in until the tip fills with color. However, unlike paint pens, these are water-based so they won't dry up and they also wipe off. It says you can use these on white/chalk boards and painted surfaces. I decorated a cardboard box just to try out the colors. The colors are very vibrant. If I had one tiny criticism, it is that because they are water-based, if you hold the tip down too long, it gets too full and then it gets runny. Otherwise, these things rock! And, since they wipe off of non-porous surfaces, I can let the kid use them.

I did receive this product for free in exchange for a review, but this is an honest review from my personal use of this product.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Happy Anniversary, Demons

Some of you may know, others may not... For the last several years I've been waging war on some pretty dark demons. Some days I've been able to pass as mostly normal, but a lot of days I haven't even come close. Today marks the one year anniversary of having those demons under fairly good control. Now, having said that, I don't for one second think they are vanquished or that they have magically disappeared. Nor do I think that I am now miraculously normal. Oh, no. I'm still as whacked as ever; it's just kept under strict control with a chemical cocktail. I know that I have to maintain vigilance or I could be lulled into complacency. I have to keep my guard up, which, by the way is exhausting, or I could end up on a dead end road (again). I have to, even though I want to shrink away from those evil bastards, maintain a constant line of sight at all times so that I know where they're at.

Demons, dragons, monsters; all used to describe the horrors that go on in the minds of us diagnosed with a mental illness. I know I've felt trapped inside my own head on plenty of occasions. I can totally relate to that scene in Breaking Dawn Part I where Bella is turning and she's perfectly still and calm on the outside but screaming and thrashing on the inside. I've felt like that. Still do, sometimes. Like I said, there is no cure. There is treatment, damn good treatment, but this is something I have to deal with for the rest of my life.

To add insult to injured minds, society generally looks down on and fears those of us diagnosed as crazy. Actually, there is no psychiatric diagnosis of "crazy" and I should know. After all, I'll have a bona fide Psych degree by the spring. There are, however, about eleventy billion other diagnoses for all sorts of conditions and disorders. I am afraid of some of them, have a few of them, and am no longer embarrassed by any of them. A diagnosis does not make or define a person. There is a stigma associated with mental illness that isn't associated with any other condition and it's just plain not fair. It's not likely to change just because I hopped on my soapbox, but if one person who reads this considers, just for a second, that people with a diagnosis of something mentally related may not be of the devil after all, well, then, it's all good. I am who I am and will still be me regardless of what anyone else believes.

I have a batshit crazy family. My dad's side especially. Oh, there are no diagnosed mental illnesses, but there are no conversations about anything. At all. Ever. If anything makes anyone uncomfortable, let's just ignore it and it will go away. That's why it took until I was in my 20's before I was actually institutionalized (by my husband) and diagnosed Bipolar (now called Unipolar because I don't have the mania part, only the massive depression).

 I am, we'll say, the black sheep for that side of the family. I have an okay relationship with my dad. He's a hard guy to get close to, but that's what he knows and how he grew up. I have a stinted and rocky relationship with my 2 aunts and my grandmother from some other history stuff. These days, I really only talk to my dad. The last time all of that side of the family were together (for my twins' graduations) I was completely ignored, not even acknowledged, by everyone except for my dad and my cousin. The rest of them wouldn't even make eye contact with me. It makes me sad that it's come to that. And tired. It makes me really, really tired.

My mom's side is better, mostly. I have a good relationship with my aunt and grandmother and have gotten really close with my mom in the last few years. It seems as if one side of the family relationship's are deteriorating and the other side's getting stronger. I think about trying to find a balance but I can't take on other people's problems. I have enough of my own. I don't have the energy or the inclination to deal with your shit. If it's not worth it for someone to reach out to me when I've tried, am still trying, to make my life better, then it's their loss. I am starting to understand what I'm worth, and what's not worth it.

I never could have made it this far without the support of many people in my life but especially my husband and my mom. Without either of them, I really don't know where I would be today (certainly not here coherent enough to write about being demon-controlled for a year). With so much uncertainty in the world in general, and in the world of the mentally ill especially, you can't know how much it means to have that unconditional love and unrelenting stability. No matter how hard I tried to push away, they both just pulled me harder.

So, there's a lot of rant and rave in there, but I'm proud of myself. I've been on a straight path and doing better than I have in a lot of years for a whole 365 days now. It's a big accomplishment, and one I'm not looking to screw up. If anything, it just motivates me more to get to the next milestone.

Still counting.....