School Daze

“Two great gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts, mutilated monkey meat, itty-bitty birdy feet; two big eyeballs rolling down a dirty street and me without a spoon…”

Out of all of the things I could remember from grade school, this is the one thing that just instantly pops in my head when I think of those early days of being a kid in the 70’s. I know there are different versions, depending on where in the world you grew up and so there are variations on the theme, but in general, it’s just plain silliness and I love it.

Whenever I think of school, the first thing that comes to mind is the crisp Autumn air, the leaves turning color and the back to school shopping, which was hands-down my favorite part of it all. Some kids want new shoes, new clothes and backpacks. I, on the other hand, looked forward to new pens and fresh, unmarked notebooks and piles of binder paper, just waiting to be filled with the endless stream of thoughts and ideas I always seem to find whenever faced with a blank page. I loved the new beginning, fresh start and endless possibilities that awaited me with each new school year; it was like New Year’s except without the hangover and the pressure to make resolutions. It was a chance to learn, to strengthen existing friendships, make some new ones and exercise my brain, while learning new concepts and discovering new worlds that I had not previously known. It was an escape from an unquiet, chaotic household to a world of order, clearly defined rules of behavior and expectations. It was a world of learning and because I was (and still am) a huge fan of learning, I received a great deal of praise and encouragement in those classrooms. It was a place that I felt I truly belonged to and some of my most formative lessons growing up took place at school.

As an adult, of course, things are a little different, but I still love learning. I have to work harder than I did as a kid because 5o is just around the proverbial corner and because (as you all know) my mood swings around like dancers doing the Lindy Hop.

But there are rewards that by far outweigh the effort put forth; the sense of accomplishment, of facing challenges and overcoming obstacles that you just don’t get when you run away or quit. It reinforces the belief that I am capable, intelligent and have some serious moxie.

mox·ie
noun NORTH AMERICAN informal
force of character, determination, or nerve.

I love that word, moxie. It’s so cool. Makes me think of old school gangster movies with Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Bogey.

Sorry. Shiny thing distracted me.

At any rate, school will always be a place that I love. I may not like the teacher, the subject matter or other miscellaneous things, it is a happy place for me and the memories of playing dodgeball and hopscotch will always be some of my all-time favorites. My first slumber party, becoming a song leader (cooler dancing sister to the cheerleader) and playing volleyball are some of milestones that made me the woman I am today and the teachers who were endlessly patient with my endless supply of questions nurtured the desire to learn in me and allowed me to explore my intellect and question what others called the truth.

Doodles. That’s another thing I love about school. Doodles are awesome.

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Deja Vu/Vuja De

It was a year ago, around this time on the calendar when I finally admitted to myself and to my psychiatrist that everything was most definitely NOT fine and a change of venue was in order. My doctor, being the good doctor that he is, referred me for psych evaluation and an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) to deal with the immediate concerns and to eventually get my mood rightened and myself back to the land of brilliant Technicolor, instead of the shades of black in the world I was living in. Well, fast forward a little over a year and guess what? I’m back in the same place, with the same therapists and doctors, cafeteria style lunches and rooms with uncomfortable chairs, lots of Kleenex boxes and people with stories, like me and very much unlike me. My immediate thought upon having to tell my doctor YET AGAIN that I was losing my s**t was not one of “Atta Girl!” but more like, “Seriously? Didn’t we JUST do this?? WTF is wrong with you, loser??” because my first thoughts are always from a place of extreme judgment and an unrealistic goal of perfection, no matter the circumstance.

Now, I wouldn’t say that to my worst enemy anymore than I would say it to someone who was doing another round of chemo or radiation in an effort to destroy that which is trying to destroy them. Treatment is treatment; the disease may differ, the course of treatment may differ but the goal is the same, to provide relief of symptoms and improve the health of the individual, thus improving the quality of life. Mental health is really no different, although much less one size fits all. Mental illness and those who battle depression, mania and other disorders are as different and varied as any selection of human beings can be; one person’s burden is another’s blessing. There is no absolute 100% guaranteed course of treatment and whatever course is selected, the patient must be able and willing to follow subscribed course of treatment, which often if not always includes eliminating substance (pick a poison, alcohol included) abuse and implementing a medication program that includes a cocktail (pardon the pun) of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers and perhaps a little Antabuse thrown in for the hard core alcoholics. The patient must be willing to give up those self-medicating methods and switch to the psych meds, which usually come with a hefty side of side effects, weight gain being at the top of the list and covering all manner of ailments including, but not limited to: psychosis, permanent facial and/or body tics, blindness, headaches and possibly (of course) death by suicide, because some of these drugs have induced suicidal tendencies in certain groups, such as adolescents and the elderly. Go figure. Seems kind of counter-intuitive, but every rose has its thorn, as we learned from Guns ‘n Roses/Poison.

If you’re still reading and still awake, I commend you. 

Back to the present time – I am back in the land of black and bleh, trying to find my way to the light and a coherent, relatively calm mind so that I can make some decisions that will hopefully keep me from having to return again at this time next year. I have a great many decisions to make at some point in time and I want to choose wisely and make choices that are good for me and my health. It’s easy for me to say that (I’ve said it over and over again) but the execution is where I falter. I guess if I’m thinking about what I SHOULD do instead of what I NEED to do, that could lead me to an unwise choice.

For all of you who have sent happy thoughts, well wishes and in reached out to me in general, I want you to know I feel the love. Seriously. Those of you who are thinking about me but haven’t reached out, I assure you, I still feel the love. You are the difference between me giving up or carrying on; your belief in me is my sword of truth, fighting against the lies and untruths that hold my spirit hostage, trapped in a dark and dismal mind. Your love and support brings a light to the darkness, a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow to come back to the land of the living and love. I have talked to many people who have no family, no friends and oftentimes it is because their mental illness/addiction issues have exhausted the supply of people willing to lend a hand or support that person. Some people have a limited time only offer of assistance and once that window is closed, there are no more. I understand the reasoning behind this; if you are trying to save a drowning person, but don’t know how to swim yourself, you will both most certainly drown. Dealing with mental illness is neither pretty, Facebook post-worthy or fun. It tests  your limits, your love and your own mental stability. It’s like a fire you can’t get too close to or you end up with some pretty serious burns. It’s a rollercoaster ride you don’t remember buying a ticket to ride, a storm that was born of sunny skies and fluffy clouds; sunny and bright one minute, dark and destructive the next. It can tear apart the closest family, take away your best friend and leave a wake of destruction miles wide and years long. Knowing this makes you and your continued support all the more precious and appreciated.

Shooting thoughts of love and gratitude to you. Wish we were there (Half Moon Bay)

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Everything’s Fine.

She looks as if she’s calm as can be,

Got it together, it’s plain to see.

She has a smile that almost reaches her eyes,

appears to be intelligent, capable and even wise.

Light-hearted, quick to joke and laugh

she is the picture of no worries and it’s all good.

But her smile, her voice and her actions deceive;

inside, she feels as brittle as old, broken bones.

Tears are constantly there, seeking a flaw in the wall

she’s built around herself, her heart, her mind.

She’s trembling on the inside,

slave to a mind that’s anything

but quiet.

She’s clenching her teeth to keep from crying,

she’s trying to ignore the desire to be dead or at least dying.

She knows she wasn’t always this way,

but to remember any differently

grows difficult every day.

The dark, heavy weight brings her to her knees each night

is her only constant companion, her cerebral shadow.

It has life to it and a wicked, twisted point of view that lends

itself to despair, deep depression and brings pain

to the state of simply existing.

Doubt is the seed from which distortion of the mind does grow;

She used to feel powerful, smart and in control

Now she is timid, frightened and beaten down.

She once knew the way to happiness and traveled it daily with great passion

Now she hides away from everyone, not willing or able to put on that happy face,

Think those happy thoughts, hear those words again –

“What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just be happy?”

She stands tall, shoulders back and smile soldered on;

she counts the minutes until she can escape to her sanctuary,

peel off that heavy mask of lies and false smiles,

let those weighted shoulders and brimming tears fall.

the sadness pours forth from her

like lava from a volcano,

oozing, burning hot in its intensity,

suffocating in its weight,

It has a presence, a dark energy and a power

that is invisible to all but her.

She dreams of a day when she can be free

from the darkness and find some light,

Soak up some goodness and banish the dark night.