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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Talk to me Goose

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I remember the first time I saw the movie Top Gun. My girl friend and I giggling our little hearts out in the movie theater, so in love with our respective characters (I loved Maverick, she loved Goose) and it was pure fantasy for a couple of troubled teenage girls. Every shot was glossy, full of man candy, motorcycles, leather jackets and super fast, cool looking jet planes with good-looking guys piloting them, all patriotic and hot as hell.  Aside from all of that, something that has stuck with me after all these years about that movie is the camaraderie between the guys. Not just Maverick and Goose, but the entire squad/group/whatever. When you know people have your back, want to you to succeed and believe in you, it makes all the difference in the world, whether things are going great or at an all-time low. The perspective that others can provide for us and sometimes by doing nothing more than just showing up, listening and being a friend.

Now, this is all well and good, but the other part of this whole wonderful thing is that one often times needs to ask for the lending of the ear, the spending of the time and the shoulder for crying on. That’s where I often falter and fall; it’s my delicate ego that keeps me from making the phone call, saying the thing I detest saying the most (I can’t do it by myself, I need help) but need to say, as I am human. Sometimes I can reach out if the discomfort of white-knuckling it becomes greater than my ability to bear it, but oftentimes I just am like Rocky hitting that bag, never letting up and fighting the good fight. We all have our battles and within those battles we have our fights; my fight against depression, addiction, temptation and the voice that says I can’t be successful, I’m not deserving of happiness, no one will ever love me and (the all-time classic) I’m a failure. Even Rocky had others in his world and they provided what he needed from them; inspiration, belief in him, hard work and above all else, love. I understand these things in concept, but I am working on putting the concept into practice and will let you know how that goes.

So, if you’re struggling with something, if the weight is becoming too much to bear and you need to share it, don’t wait too long before reaching out. People do care and “a burden shared is a burden halved” (T.A. Webb) after all.

C’mon.

Talk to me, Goose.

Swim

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim”Tyler Knott Gregson

My big little brother sent me this quote via Pinterest and as always, it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, as if in answer to the questions I’ve been yelling at the Universe lately. I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy many things because I have been solely focused on trying to cope using ways that (obviously) have lost a degree of effectiveness. I have been so focused on just “keeping it together” that I have turned blind to simple things that I had once remembered to seek out; tiny moments of everyday miracles happening all around me. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly, a baby is born far too early and fights to draw each breath, yet he fights, and he lives. People die, yet their spirit and the essence of who they were live on; the deaf can hear, the wounded heal and rise to fight another day. A mother does the impossible everyday, bringing food to the table, keeping her children safe yet aware of the dangers in this world. A father works himself into an early grave so that his children can have a better life than he did. So many miracles, unnoticed when I’m so deep into myself, my “troubles” and my rollercoaster of emotions that are as much a part of me as my curly hair and my tattoos. Living with mental illness, addiction and temptation are my trifecta of Troubles. But there is so much more to the world, to me, to what I want to accomplish and who I wish to become. As with anything, I must adjust, adapt and/or accept what is happens to me, around me and within me, but that doesn’t mean that I should disregard the beautiful insanity that is my world. A world where people are still my friends, even after I have proven myself to be less than perfect and wholly human, a world where a man knows me, good and bad, happy and sad, sane and mad and still loves me. Where I have a son who has every reason to begrudge me happiness, yet wishes it for me abundantly and repeatedly; where a friend sees the crisis and helps in the the best way possible, giving me sanctuary from stress, mental exhaustion and emotional bankruptcy….next stop Complete Shutdown. I was able to avoid that next stop and it’s due solely to my friend’s generosity, which I will try to repay, but can’t imagine how I will be able to.

These last few days have been an effort to get back into the River that is Life and swim, just for the sheer joy of it. Spending time being creative, whether it’s writing, coloring with crayons or just seeking out beauty and capturing it in a photo, stealing a moment in time and keeping it forever, unchanged and unspoiled. Just walking through a park, on a trail, really looking at the trees, majestic and tall, decorated in Autumn’s colors and waving to me with the crisp morning wind shaking their leaves. This brings me back; this slowly cleanses away the grime and dust of depression, that black dog who creeps in and lies on your chest until you know you will never rise again. Nature fights that, gives you light and beauty and life, but we need to be aware, to reach out to it and let its goodness in.

Oh – and swim. Just for the love and the sheer joy of it.

 

Moving On and Stepping Up

Let him that would move the world first move himself.
Socrates

I started this blog with the intention of documenting my recovery, my issues with mental health and with the hope that my experiences might be of some benefit to others. I think I have accomplished what I set out to do, even though the scope of this blog has gone into more areas than just the two mentioned. I have been neglecting it as of late and certainly haven’t been a faithful blogger, posting regularly and keeping my promise to myself that the content would be positive, but I have enjoyed hearing from others about how my posts resonated with them and have felt incredibly humbled by the number of people who have followed and encouraged me from the very beginning. I feel this is a good time to say good-bye to this blog and instead reach out to people in person, in the physical world. It’s very easy for me to write about my daily struggles and successes most of the time but I feel as though the direction of my writing is moving away from its original intent and perhaps as a natural progression of things, I no longer feel driven to pour my thoughts and feelings out to the world via the internet. I have a great deal more to learn, many more challenges to overcome and my education to continue and ultimately finish. So it is with great love and appreciation to all who have visited my page and encouraged me that I write this final post. Ultimately, I would love to write a book, but for now, writing in my journal so that my Future Self can celebrate how far we’ve come sounds appealing. I will continue to educate people who truly want to understand mental illness and/or addiction in loved ones, co-workers and people that cross their paths every day. There may not be a cure for mental illness or addiction, but knowledge is power and the more knowledge we share, the more empowered we are as a society.
Thank you all for your support. I will think of you often and with great fondness.
Sincerely,
Michelle

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Heartbreak and the Price of Love

I’ve been single for quite some time now; partially by choice and partially because of my tendency to scare the hell out of any interested man in a matter of minutes either by being “too intense” or by unfiltered talking, dropping the “bipolar bomb of truth” right after meeting and shaking hands. (This one is my best friend’s biggest pet peeve with me as it relates to dating) I just tend to find myself being single and most of the time am very content with that status. Needless to say, if Liam decided to meet me at the airport and whisk me away to some charming chapel/cathedral/justice of the peace and marry me, I would most certainly gladly surrender my single person status. Liam aside, this has worked for me for well over a decade.

I have witnessed great relationships that have stood the test of time and human weakness, of difficult days, addiction, illness and loss. I have also watched as good people ripped each other to shreds on a daily basis, tearing into each other’s souls with thorny lies and hurtful truths. I have listened to a woman with blackened eyes and swollen lip tell me she’s going back; she must because she loves him and he’s sorry and it won’t happen again. I have held many friends while they cried themselves sick with broken hearts because someone cheated, someone lied, someone fell out of love, someone stopped listening, stopped caring and ultimately, stopped showing up.

I myself have held someone in my heart for years and years, believing that our time together was magical, driven by Destiny and blessed by the Universe, only to find out that he had all but forgotten me a long, long time ago. It was a nice time for him, nothing to memorialize or even to build on. Temporary passing between two bodies moving through space and time; an instant in a nano second of the Big Picture. Blink and you’ve missed it. While I saw it as a reunion between two souls who had lived many lifetimes together, finding each other again.

So, I have to ask myself: was the happiness you experienced worth all the heartache that followed? Is it really better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Is the price of loving and being loved, if only for that Moment in Time worth the heartbreak that followed? Is it worth the risk of heartbreak to feel even temporarily safe and sound, soul aglow, being loved and loving? I have come to believe that for me, the answer is yes. Will I open my heart to the first person who gives me a smile or flirts with me? Most definitely not. I have grown in my understanding of my role in protecting my heart and no longer open it to any and all. It’s far too precious for that. But I also cannot continue to keep it locked up, surrounded by a vast stone wall, either. Once again, my goal is balance and I believe the more I can accept and love myself, the happier I will be, whether single or coupled.

Shameless Plug for The Book

Many of you have read about my Little Brother and of those many, some have actually had the pleasure of knowing him. He is absolutely hands-down the most crazy (in the non-judgmental, strictly used as an adjective, sense of the word) creative people I know. Since he was a little guy, his mind has always fascinated me with how fluid and complete his created characters and worlds were. He used to have these drawings that were truly blueprints for these worlds; every detail thought of, created and made real with pen and paper (yeah, WAY back in the day, just after stone tablets and chisels) I loved the way it was seemingly effortless, more as if he were recalling a memory instead of creating fiction.

Happily for all of us, he has just completed the First Revision on his book, which is currently available on Amazon. The title is “System Seven” by Michael J. Parks. If I had to classify its genre, I would say sci-fi, but there are many elements of other genres also. It’s a lot like my brother – intelligent with a great sense of humor and bursting with energy.

I’ve got it loaded on my magic tablet device, ready to disappear into its world as I make my way to Edinburgh in December. I believe it’ll be as if I take two trips – one to Edinburgh and the other to the future and to a world I couldn’t have dreamed up if I tried and a peek inside the mind of a creative genius, who happens to be my brother.

Reading and escaping are synonymous in my vocabulary. Before I discovered drugs and alcohol, it was my salvation and a balm to the wounded parts of my soul. I could be anyone, anywhere! I could stand beside queens as they are crowned; be the fly on the wall, seeing everything, hearing thoughts of men, honest and ugly or lying and sweet. I could travel to anywhere, visit any time from prehistoric to futuristic. Reading is the ultimate magic carpet ride, at least for me. When all else fails or the day is just too much, a trip to the library and finding The Book That Calls To Me and taking it home and reading it will set things right.

I hope you take the time to check out my brother’s book or any book the next time you have some free time or just want to escape.
It’s good stuff.

http://www.amazon.com/System-Seven-Michael-Parks-ebook/dp/B00P0IPRD2/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

Heavy Heart & Prayerful Soul

It is with a heavy heart that I wrote this post; yesterday I heard the news that Robin Williams had taken his life. I cannot imagine the pain he must have endured all the 63 years he lived. I cannot claim to know him, to diagnose his condition (if one existed) but I do know that with great brilliance and talent there is often a heavy price that is part and parcel of those gifts. Whether it’s mental illness, loss of privacy due to fame, addiction, or simply the demons that all mankind must bear, each as one different as the person who carries them. What the public sees and what the individual experiences are usually two completely different things. If we were able to see the demons, snarling and snapping hateful, vile things in our ears, then perhaps we would be able to know that no matter how pretty, how rich, how handsome, talented, or morally just a person is, they are not immune to suffering, be it mental, emotional or simply a haunting memory of regret. All too often, we see what we want to see and believe what serves our purpose. People with mental illness know this and it is as if we all have a script of how we are to behave, so as to not appear different or worse, UNWELL. That’s the word that means a trip to the Not So Funny Farm, a series of new medications that make you fat, flat, and absent. Absent of passion, of creative thoughts, pleasant dreams and restful nights. Robin Williams was a genius in making people not only laugh, but FEEL. He was a Live Wire of energy, emotion, humanity and love. I have yet to watch one of his movies or hear an interview of his and not feel moved either by laughter, sadness, hope or just plain love. He delivered, Big Time. It is said that we treat other people the way that we want to be treated and I believe that he loved us as much as we loved him, but the pain was greater than all of us. I cannot condone nor critique his choice, only pray that he has truly found peace and can feel all our love reaching out to him, like a Live Wire.
You have fought the good fight and now I pray for you Eternal Peace, Ever Lasting Love and a return of one thousand fold the kindness and compassion you’ve shown others. God Bless You, Robin Williams. You will live on in our hearts forever.

Note: Please join me in the Out of the Darkness walk if you are in the Sacramento area. For more information, please click on the link below:

http://www.afsp.org/

Victim vs. Victor

The more honest I am with myself, the more I realize that I’ve had a tendency to play the role of The Victim. It was always someone else’s fault that I was angry, someone else’s rejection that caused me to turn bitter, or cynical. I held other people responsible for my fate, my status in the world and in society, in general. It was God’s fault that my brain was all messed up, I was destined to be broken, forever. It was that sort of victimology (I doubt that’s a real word, but it’s certainly a real condition) that allowed me to spiral downward in addiction, depression, rage and apathy. I was on a one-way express ride to a very Bad Place; I was just a helpless victim carried along a raging river of helplessness and irresponsibility. I fell pretty hard, pretty fast into that Bad Place and through some miracle that I have yet to explain, I was able to ask for and receive help. I was able to put aside my childish tendency to blame everyone else and finally accepted that I was in this place because of all the choices that I had made. No one held a gun to my head and told me to drink myself into oblivion or to numb myself to the unpleasant feelings that are a part of life. Disappointment, hurt, rejection, depression and even a little bit of childhood terrors. These are the fires that forge our soul, strengthen our faith in ourselves and test the limits of our endurance. To avoid them is to avoid growing, conquering and discovering who we really are and who we wish to become. Once these feelings have been felt, the healing can begin and the progression to our True Self is possible.

So, I asked for help and my request was answered and then some. I met some incredible people who I would call my Life Teachers because they not only helped to educate me about addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness, they educated me about Life and myself. Taking responsibility for myself, my actions and turning that critical eye inward instead of trying to change the world to fit my expectations. One of my teachers gave me the most simple, yet effective tool for controlling my anger at the world and I’m going to share it with you now. Put your arms in front of you, fingertips touching (like you’re making a big circle in front of you) This is your Hula Hoop; everything that is within this Hula Hoop you have control over. Everything outside of this Hula Hoop is not your concern and you have no control over. So, whenever you find yourself getting angry, look to see where it falls in relation to your Hula Hoop. If it is outside, let it go. If it falls inside, decide what you need to do to make that change and then do it. 

I am now able to catch myself when I start thinking like a victim and I make a conscious decision to stop that thought  and take full responsibility for my actions and to avoid judging others for theirs. I am frequently looking at my Hula Hoop to remind me where my focus needs to be and where I shouldn’t be looking. 

I’m looking forward to meeting my True Self and celebrating the death of the Victim and the birth of the Victor. I hope you’ll travel with me on this journey.