I'm a woman in transition: from being married to being single; from trying to appear perfect to trying to be vulnerable and authentic. Basically, I'm trying to love myself for who I am--for my imperfections AND my awesomeness.

I've always loved quotes and poems. They ground me and give me a topic on which to reflect. In this blog, I'll share a quote that has touched me that day and then what comes to mind when I think and feel about it.

These are my reflections as I go on my journey. As I open myself up to share them with you, I hope that they'll impact you as well and you'll share your reflections with me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Removing the Stigma

"The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness.  Think of your three best friends.  If they're okay, then it's you."  --Rita Mae Brown

So my post the other day has gotten me thinking.  And then there was the post that quickly went viral on Facebook entitled "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother."  I shared it and got a lot of positive feedback (and some controversy).  It also has gotten a lot of attention in the media.  What struck me about this post was not the shocking value of it--I can actually see some of that in my own experience.  It is just how honestly and vulnerably she shared it.  She spoke up when most people stay quiet about a topic that is still taboo. 

After a long walk on the beach yesterday, I decided I want to do my little part to make mental illness such a taboo.  I want us to start talking about it.  I want it to come out into the open as that is the only way that we can really affect change.  I've "come out" about my sexual orientation--I think it's time that more of us "come out" about our experiences with mental illness.  Until we do, it is just another part of us that is held back from living wholly and authentically. 

So here's what I'd like to ask of you:
  • In your comments below or in an e-mail message directly to me, send me a story of mental illness that has affected you.  You can include what you've told people before or what you've never shared.  You can tell how it impacted you or how keeping it a secreted impacted you or your family--anything you think is relevant is welcome. 
I'll pull them together and anonymously share them, if you give me permission.  Now, I know I don't have tons of readers, but I think there are enough of you to have a story or two.  I'll share some of mine too.  Please help me. 

Caveat:  It has been hypothesized, but it has NOT been firmly established that Adam Lanza had mental illness.  It is just that, in my mind, I just can't justify this kind of carnage without it.  If it is not, then I'm going to have to have some real introspective discussions about the nature of evil. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 - 1882)

It's been a month and 10 days since I last posted.  Yes, a lot has been going on, but I miss writing in this blog.  Since then, a few of my friends have started blogging--they said I inspired them; in turn, they're inspiring me to pick it up again. 

Today, 20 perfect children were killed in Connecticut.  There are no words to express the feelings that people are having about this.  Myself, I couldn't turn off the news this evening.  Possibly, I was hoping for some kind of news update telling me this was all a mistake and this didn't really happen. 

I've been through the gamut of reactions:
  • My first one was "again?" with exasperation with people in our country after three of these open area killings in such a short time.
  • Then I am embarrassed to say that I was somewhat numb.  I think I just couldn't go there emotionally.  But I knew I was feeling it because my stomach was upset. 
  • Then I watched the news and was overwhelmed by the whole situation.
  • And then I watched our president break down and I hit me as a parent as well.  I cried.
I've been hugging Kyle so much this evening.  I'd be clinging to Eric too if he were here (and if he'd let me).  I have been sending him mushy texts.

There are going to be a lot of angles to this story: about the bravery of the students and teachers, about gun control and security systems, about first responders.

But here's where my mind also is.  The gunman was said to have a "personality disorder."  In my mind, it is hard to say there wasn't some mental illness involved.  His mother had said that he was distrubed and getting "out of control."  As a mother of someone now involved in the mental health system, my heart also goes out to his family.  And to him--I know that may be controversial, but I can't even imagine what kind of demons must have been in play for him to do something like that. 

And here's two facts that I know for sure.  Our mental health system is broken.  Terribly broken.  I have learned that the hard way.  And, because of the mental institutions of bygone days, there are a lot of protections for the mentally ill so that you can't FORCE anyone to get help after they are 18.  If a person doesn't want help, there is pitifully little you can do as a parent or loved one.  I am very aware that my child is 15 and I have three years to get him in a good place.  And I'm grateful beyond belief for those years. 

I am saying prayers tonight--for the victims and their families, for all the people who saw or experienced the horror of the day, for the town of Newton, and for the family of Adam and Nancy Lanza.  And for families everywhere who are struggling this holiday season. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I'm Not The Only One

“Maybe what we say to each other is not so important after all, but just that we are alive together, and present for each other as best we can be.”  ~Anne Lamott

I had lunch with a good friend today.  This is a friend who brought me dinner the first night I was in the Treehouse and who, unfortunately, I haven't seen since.  It was so wonderful catching up with her over brunch.  I had to fill her in on what has happened in those two short months though, with Dan's suicide, Eric's diagnosis, medication, Virtual School, and all the other details that have just made me feel like I'm in a permanent state of overwhelmed. 

But I also got to hear from her.  Her partner's grandson is going to need surgery out of the state.  Their granddaughter is struggling with issues at home and their daughter may lose her house.  It was a good reminder to me that I'm not the only person with shit going on.  And, that I still have much to be grateful about. 

I think what I've been wanting and needing for a few weeks now is for someone to say--"DAMN, Christine, you've been through a lot the last year and a half.  And you're really been through a lot this last year.  And wow, these last few months have really been a bitch."  It is that outside validation that I'm looking for--that I'm not going insane and that this stuff is real and has been intense (there's a part of me that just believes that it is just a bad Lifetime movie).  And I've had friends who have said exactly that, although somehow, it still hasn't filled the hole of me needing to hear it. 

No, the issues won't go away by someone acknowledging them.  And sometimes I can't just find for something that will make me feel better about them.  At the end of the day, I lean on my friends, I remember just HOW MUCH I have to be grateful for (and it is a lot) and I keep moving on. 

And I remember that I'm not the only one. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Entering into a New World

There are moments when you stand on the brink of a new experience and understand that you have no choice about it. Either you walk into the experience or you turn away from it, but you know that no matter what you choose, you will have altered your life in a permanent way. Either way, there will be consequences.  --Dennis Covington, 1948 -
So it has been way too long since I wrote my last blog post.  While I keep waiting for calm and boring to kick in (any day now, I swear), life has decided that we all need more growing.
About a month ago, Eric was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.  I am very loathe to give medication to kids, but over the last several months, we had thought that he may need an anti-depressant based on his behavior.  What we found was that it was much more severe than that and now we've been dragged into the complex world of Bipolar.  I could go through the whole crazy month or I could just give you the headlines:
  • There are two different types of bipolar--he has bipolar 2, which is marked by depression and then extreme agitation rather than the typical manic episodes that we hear about. 
  • It's all about the medication, stupid.  Our lives are scheduled around dosages and appointments are all about combinations and side effects and mixings. 
  • Medications WORK!  It's amazing to see the changes and the relief that it has given Eric.  I haven't realized how much I missed the old Eric until I got him back. 
  • I have told friends that I have gotten a Master's degree in the adolescent mental health system while at the same time have severely sharpened my mother bear claws.  I have owned this process rather than having it own us.  It takes me a long time to learn, but eventually I get it.
  • We've also looked at how we educate Eric.  He has said that he hates traditional school for years and we finally took heed.  He is taking just lunch and 1 class at his high school (mostly for social purposes) but then he's taking the rest of his courses online.  It is working out GREAT--although I'm also working on just my GED in figuring that out.  It has also created complications in transportation which I've been using my PhD in problem solving to manage.
Throughout all of this, Eric has just been fantastic.  He's been involved in the decisions, feeling empowered, and wanting to find solutions.  Really, I'm in awe of him sometimes.  And the more I learn about what was going on in his head, that respect increases. 
It means more chaos for us, but we will soldier on. 
I'm writing about it because I believe that we shouldn't hide in the world of mental illness.  I've been resistant to talk about it, but Eric isn't.  We are not going to let this define him--it is just an aspect of him that we have to manage. 
And, it will just give me more to talk about in my blog...  Hugs and love to all of you.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

There is a time to Live and a Time to Die

There is no need to be afraid of death. It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a façade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are. Every individual human being born on this earth has the capacity to become a unique and special person unlike any who has ever existed before or will ever exist again… When you live as if you’ll live forever, it becomes too easy to postpone the things you know that you must do. You live your life in preparation for tomorrow or in remembrance of yesterday, and meanwhile, each day is lost. In contrast, when you fully understand that each day you awaken could be the last you have, you take the time that day to grow, to become more of who you really are, to reach out to other human beings.
--Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, 1926 – 2004

So I still continue to be involved with our neighbors in the tragic suicide of our friend Dan.  Last night I officiated his internment.  His family had a funeral the weekend after his death.  And they were cremating his body because his parents wanted to lay him to rest in Pennsylvania and his family here wanted him in Florida.  So they split the ashes.  The boys actually wanted a plot where they could come and visit him and where it would be memorialized.  So that service happened last evening and I was the officiant.  

Yes, I was intimidated.  But then I realized that I knew exactly what to do.  This family was rushing to get the initial funeral done.  And then they've had the focus on this goodbye.  But basically, it has been five weeks of preparing to say goodbye--and just not wanting to do that.  So I knew my message needed to be about letting go. 

After some opening words (my own way of calling in the natural elements of air, fire, water and earth), I read a poem that was entitled, "Miss Me But Let Me Go."  That set the tone--and I talked about it pretty openly.  Then I  worked on the other thing that I was hoping that they could reframe.  There had been so much focus on his tragic and awful death.  But I calculated that the time of his great distress was only 1/1000th of his life.  I encouraged them to focus on how he lived and not how he died.  I ended with the Ecclesiastes poem about how there is a time for everything and I promised them that there will be a time for them to dance again.  And then we put his ashes in the ground and had everyone put flowers with their love and energy into them. 

It was difficult, but it was also very appropriate and even beautiful.  I really hope it brings some peace to the family, who are still really struggling.

So I've done a wedding, a funeral and about a dozen Sunday services.  Can this be considered on-the-job training for my next career as a minister? 

My final words from last night:
He is Gone by David Harkins
You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back,
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on

Thursday, September 27, 2012

1 Step Back and 2 Steps Forward

We should not feel embarrassed by our difficulties, only by our failure to grow anything beautiful from them.   --Alain de Botton

2011 and 2012 have been a dramatic and traumatic time in our family.  While we all have struggled, my youngest son has had a very challenging last 12 months.  I'm STILL waiting for my drama-free, calm, uneventful 2012 to kick in.  There's still time, right?

I could focus on that--and dwell on the negatives in his life and how they are not over yet.  But I'm not going to.  Instead, I'm going to focus on all the great things that have happened this week for him.  I'm trying the approach of putting my energy into the places that I want more of rather than dwelling on things that I want less of (you could also look at it as another way of saying I'm putting my head in the sand, but I prefer the more enlightened version of the story).

His band is rocking!  This week alone, they've gotten band photos, got a recording date for next weekend and gotten two gigs (HS Talent Show and the 3pm slot at a Catholic Church fall festival--gotta start somewhere!). 

He worked all day yesterday (like literally 12 hours) to get through all the tests and studying and courses to get his Learner's Permit and got it this evening.  We started driving right away and he did really well.  And, while I try not to compare my children, I think teaching this one to drive will be much less stressful than teaching my elder one (he's calmer, and I've already been broken in). 

He's just doing a lot of things right.  He's cheerfully doing his chores, getting his grades higher, and just generally being more agreeable.

Without getting into details, this child has had some obstacles the last 18 months.  I'm just so glad to see him have some successes as well.  And, we'll still have challenges ahead, but I'm focusing on what is good. 

Good job, Eric!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Conflict--The Uncomfortable Gift

When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves. When we consistently betray ourselves, we can expect to do the same to the people we love.  

~ Brené Brown

So it is probably time to return back to the great words of Brene Brown. 

As I've been working on myself this year, I've discovered some odd obstacles.  I've spent so long listening to everyone else--what is important to them, what they need, what they believe.  And my history is to take that in and find ways to incorporate that into what I'm doing. 

This comes up most commonly when there is conflict. I was taught early on to avoid any kind of conflict. Avoid it if possible. If not, then bend and accomodate it so that it goes away. And, accompanied with that is the charming ability that I have (sarcasm intended) to take that conflict personally--if someone disagrees, then there must be something wrong with me or I feel that they are judging me. 

I have very little practice in stopping and thinking--what do I want/believe/need/think about that situation.  I've done a better job of doing that afterwards (yeah, me), but I still suck at doing it in the moment.  Which means I need to step back, reflect, and then go back and address the situation--which is FAR harder than doing it right there in the moment. 

What I'm learning, is that I have to lean into that conflict.  Address it as the tool that it is:  a way to better understand someone and to be understood myself.  Check out the assumptions you're having.  Look at what it is that you are really feeling (doing it in real-time would be ideal, but maybe not possible) and then state that. 

Conflict--the uncomfortable gift.