Not So Happy Holidays

Well, we have made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas, now all eyes are looking toward the New Year and the promise of new beginnings. Some will look upon the end of the holiday season with a sadness, a realization that the magic of the season has left along with the clearance-priced ornaments, Christmas cards and the ever-present box of chocolates. Others will welcome an end to the forced cheerfulness, the endless demands of the holiday season, including but not limited to Black Friday shopping, the unspoken expectation that everything must be FESTIVE and everyone should be DELIRIOUS WITH HAPPINESS. You must get the perfect gift, sit alongside family members you haven’t spoken to all year and do your best imitation of a happy, loving family. I think more effort is spent each year acting like we are happy, not alone or lonely; pretending we are immersed in the joy of the season, when in reality, we are immersed in a sadness that colors all the holiday lights a brighter shade of grey because everything and everyone is grey. For those of us who feel this way during the holidays, there doesn’t seem to be a place where we can just be what we are, which ultimately is some degree of depressed. Maybe it’s the forced merriment, maybe it’s the manic pace of the season, the never-ending demands of shopping, decorating, attending parties, kisses under the mistletoe and boatloads of eggnog or the over abundance of alcohol and sugar-laden foods or maybe it’s just the fact that we can’t be with the one we want, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because the holidays always make us think of family members who are no longer with us, loved ones who maybe don’t love us like they used to, family that isn’t quite family any more. Maybe it’s because the real message of Christmas has been drowned out by the crass commercialism and unrealistic expectations set forth by some ad folks in some corporation somewhere. Whatever the reason, no matter how many, those of us who struggle through the holidays don’t stop struggling when the holiday season comes to a close. If anything, we may experience some tiny measure of relief when they pass, but depression is not a seasonal disorder; it is a year-round, take no holidays, 24/7 kind of condition.

My wish is for the spirit of Christmas (the real spirit) to burn brightly within my heart, be shown in my actions and be shared with all I encounter, this New Year and all throughout the years. Just because the calendar says January and the Christmas tree and decorations have been taken down, the Christmas music has (FINALLY) stopped playing in the stores doesn’t mean that goodwill towards your fellow man has to be put away, too. Keep those thoughts in the fore front of your mind, keep the love alive in your heart and above all else, love yourself, celebrate everything that makes you who you are, even if you’re not crazy about those traits. I personally am not overjoyed when my mood takes a trip on the Rocky Roller Coaster ride that only bipolar disorder could design but it’s a part of me; it’s not a curse nor is it a blessing, just a part of me as much as my curly hair and hazel eyes. It has taken me a long time to accept it, not rage against the unfairness of it all, wishing things could be different while doing nothing to change anything. For the best gift we can give is love; to oneself first and foremost and from that self-love, we can send it out to others.

If there is someone you haven’t connected with in a while and they’ve been on your mind, pick up the phone, give them a call and reach out. Chances are that they are thinking of you, too. We don’t know how many Christmases we will have, how many opportunities to say we love them, we are sorry or we just miss them. The smallest gesture can make the biggest difference to someone who is starved for kindness.

Thank you for your support, your encouragement and your love. You continue to make a difference in my life and I appreciate you tremendously.

Happy New Year to you, my friends.

Weddings Always Make Me Cry

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I was fortunate enough to be at the wedding of two truly amazing people yesterday. I have known the bride for years, as she is one of Devon’s core (Hard Core!) group of oldest, best friends. Her now-husband is an intelligent, quiet and thoughtful man who absolutely and whole heartedly loves her with every cell in his being. The feeling is mutual of course and though I know they have struggles, tough times, trying situations and all, I have every faith that they will grow old together, hold hands when they walk down the street, gaze into each other’s eyes like they are seeing them for the first time, every time. These two are hope for happiness, a shining example that True Love is alive and well, working its magic and giving glow to all those around them.

The wedding was a simple ceremony, but the collective love was so great, it created a wave that just flowed between each and every person there. It touched our hearts, tears of happiness and joy were shed, laughter rang out and strangers became friends; troubles forgotten for the time, just being in the world of these two wonderful people. This is the magic of love, that brings people together, wraps them in a powerful blanket stronger than steel, more valuable than gold. Like armor against a harsh world, their love is their power, their truth and their salvation. I know the challenges that Life can present are oftentimes enormous, but I believe that these two will meet whatever the encounter on the Road of Life with a strong faith in their love and the willingness to do whatever it takes to make it through it. It makes my heart happy to see a gorgeous, confident woman looking absolutely radiant in her wedding dress and remember the young teenager that I first met so many years ago. I never gave birth to a daughter, but I have many daughters of my heart and she is the first.

So, I raise my cup of coffee and wish for you again for all the happiness your hearts can hold, all the sunrises your eyes can see and as much laughter as your body can bear.

Cheers!

 

 

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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Love Me Tender

 

Wedding Table

A while ago, I attended a wedding as a guest of a good friend and while it may not have been a wedding that I knew a great deal about the bride and groom, I could tell a great deal about their relationship from the vows they wrote themselves, the looks that passed between them, the people who love them and do know their journey and the smiles from everyone celebrating the occasion.

Sometimes I think that marriage is out of style, a throwback to the ancient rites of old, no longer relevant in today’s modern world. Well, sometimes I am wrong. Oftentimes I am wrong and on the count of marriage because it is relevant and it is still part of the rites of old, just as chopping down a tree, dragging it into your home and decorating it for a celebration (Christmas) that is older than time. Perhaps in our disposable society, marriage is too concrete, too clearly defined and too binding. Now, I know many people who believe that a piece of paper makes no difference in whether a relationship is successful or not. While that may be true for that particular person, I wonder why, if the piece of paper is of no consequence, then why the hesitation to follow through? But I digress.

I see marriage as a partnership; the ceremony and that piece of paper are the contract that lays out the terms and conditions of said partnership. For those of faith, it is a contract drafted by God, agreed to and witnessed by friends, family and the representative of God and of that faith. I guess faith is what it really comes down to; do you have faith in your beloved? Do you have faith that you have the strength to deal with the difficult times, the times where you seem to have lost your way? Do you have faith that you were brought together for a reason and have a shared destiny to fulfill? Or are you more comfortable having a back up plan, an escape plan and keeping one foot out the door, in case things get uncomfortable? Whatever your personal beliefs or fears, relationships will always have tough times, bad things will happen to good people and loved ones will disagree; people will try to come between you, society will tell you you’re better off alone, an individual and thereby free to live how you choose. I say there is a grain of truth in most anything said, but do you focus on that grain of truth and make it larger to suit your belief or do you focus on the big picture; the good with the bad, the happy with the sad, the disappointments with the victories? It’s all about choices; choices we make, as well as choosing to do nothing, which is in fact a choice. Do we let our past heartbreaks prevent us from seeking or accepting love? It’s your choice, your decision and don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.

I always seem to have a really good time when I attend a wedding. Even sober, I have a great time. I always love to dance, even if it’s just doing the Electric Slide with everyone from the little flower girl to great-aunt Thelma, it’s all good. The rooms are filled with so much love from so many people. The love is not only for the happy couple, but I think it brings back memories of their own wedding day and reminds them of how much in love they were, they are and they always will be. For me, it’s an opportunity to show the shaded part of myself that hope lives, love does truly conquer all and there are stories in life that at some point contain the phrase happily ever after.

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.

 

My Birth Card

Your Birth Card for December 21, 1967 is:
The High Priestess
With an intuitive edge sharper than piranha teeth, the Priestess knows exactly what her opponents are thinking. Possessing chameleon-like diplomacy this natural born politician can mediate even the scariest family or global dispute. The Priestess is here to find inner peace and make the peace. Famous Priestesses: Henry Kissinger, Dame Judith Anderson, Bill Clinton, Madonna, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Alice Walker, Mozart, Harry Houdini, Edgar Allen Poe, Goethe, Chagall, Ronald Reagan, Norman Mailer, Sydney Poitier, Isadora Duncan

I can attest to mediating the scariest family dispute, but have never had the opportunity nor the inclination to enter the realm of politics, be it domestic or international. I would like to believe that my intuitive edge is sharper than piranha teeth, but the more I think I can get a “read” on people, the more I am surprised at how much my personal feelings, prejudices, pre-conceived ideas trip me up.
I am certainly all about finding inner peace but I also believe that an unquiet mind may never be truly, completely at peace (at least not mine and at least not right now). I do believe that we all have gifts that we may or may not be aware of and that it is part of our journey (individual and collective) to realize those gifts, make use of them and contribute whatever you can to make your little corner of the world a better place to live and grow. This seems like a rather lofty goal when one takes into consideration all the things that are working against us; finding the time in our busy day, pulling our eyes away from the multitude of screens – computer, cell phone, tablet, television, etc. Just looking up and seeing the beauty in the world requires little effort but provides an immediate reward. When was the last time you looked at a sunset? Laid on the grass and looked at clouds or stars or simply the beautiful blue sky? Do you take the time to appreciate even one single rose throughout the course of your day? How many times has true beauty been ignored while our attention is focused on thoughts that are neither beautiful nor positive? We say that we are so busy, there are not enough hours in the day, but is that really true? If Season 2 of your favorite show is streaming on Netflix, do you spend an entire weekend binge-watching it rather than going outside and enjoying the sunshine or calling a friend? I am guilty of doing just that on a pretty regular basis.
I know on an intellectual level that it isn’t the best thing for me and it doesn’t give me anything other than escape, but it doesn’t stop me from doing it.
Taking the time to discover our gifts, to check in with not only our friends and family, but ourselves, is one of the best things we can do. If we were to factor how much time was spent standing in front of the mirror, body-shaming and criticizing what we see, or how many hours spent searching the internet to find something to Make It All Better, it would soon become apparent that there are many hours in the day that are available if we can spend less time searching for answers from external sources and more time going inward; reflecting, healing and above all else, listening. If we hear negative comments and distorted thinking when going inward, we must work to tear down those thoughts and rebuild a more positive, affirming track that speaks truth and offers encouragement and a source of comfort.
If I were to consider myself a High Priestess of anything, it would be of learning the hard way. I have had more hard lessons than would have been my preference, but through those hard times, I learned that I was much stronger, more resilient and more powerful than I had thought possible.
I feel as though I do have many gifts and if I listen to that voice (my intuition) that tells me to stop and speak with someone who looks lost, or to put away my phone and look up to the sky, I am never disappointed. It’s only when I think I know better that I find myself in trouble. I am a work in progress, as we all are. I’m a perfectly imperfect human being that much like the caterpillar who will become the butterfly, my wish is to transform into an even more beautiful, caring, healing, force and find my place in the world, helping those who are afraid and alone, lost and unloved.

There’s No Place Like Home

I’ve enjoyed my time in Scotland very much and have met some very kind people who were strangers when we met and friends by the time we parted. The one thing about leaving home and going out into the world is that it provides a different view of life, of how one views oneself. Away from the comfort and familiar of home, we tend to find out not only what we are capable of when we break away and stretch our proverbial wings, but we also realize what means the most to us and it usually ends up being something other than our big screen TV or California King bed or even favorite restaurant; it’s the people that make our lives richer, more meaningful and give us a reason to believe that we are important, relevant and cherished. That is why I believe Dorothy had it right when she said, “There’s no place like home”.
On the last night of my first visit to Scotland I want to thank all of the people I’ve met on this trip for their kindness, their willingness to open their hearts to me and give me that feeling of home as well as my friends and family who encouraged me to take this trip and discover myself. I treasure and value you all.

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Giving Thanks 2014

Today I bow my head and pray
Giving thanks, these words I say:
Thank you for the bills that I must pay,
That allow me to live my life my way.
Thank you for the hours In a cubicle I sit
That provide the means for all my stuff (haha – tricked you!)
Thank you for the aches and pains
That remind me of all the years I’ve lived
And those that remain.
Thank you for the family that includes my friends and
Neighbors
Thank you even for the Haters.
They are missing something precious, something necessary
To have compassion, forgiveness and caring.
Thank you for the lessons they’ll teach me,
They’ll make me look deep inside and see
Am I burning with anger, resentment and Hate?
Or can I reach deeper still and somehow relate?
Thank you for the friends you’ve sent me
Thank you for the ones who have gone home to Thee.
Thank you for the losses I have had,
I’ll treasure the times, the memories,
Try not to be sad.
Thank you for what is in store
Thank you for each moment, evermore.
Michelle

I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I saw the man who had no feet.

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Happy Anniversary 2 Me

Holy Moly. I can’t believe 2 years ago I sat down and wrote my first post. So much has changed in these last couple of years but some things (thankfully) have remained; my sobriety, my circle of friends and family who (still) love me and (still) believe in me and my journey. I am thankful and still somewhat surprised to be so incredibly blessed. I’ve learned a great deal about myself, have spent a great deal of time outside my comfort level and have had the opportunity to continually redefine my “New Normal”. Dealing with difficult Life Events, such as death, divorce, sickness and ongoing stress are things that we all encounter and we all have our own unique ways of not only dealing with such issues, but in how we respond to them. Some encounter death and look upon it as just another destination; others believe it is the end of the line, a final destination, if you will. No life after death, no reincarnation, no Heaven (or Hell) just death. They respond in kind, either rejoicing and celebrating their loved one’s “graduation” as my dear friend GG used to say; others mourn and fall into a deep depression, feeling the loss as acutely as they would a severed limb. Some will make this their reason or excuse to overindulge, to fall off the wagon, to stop any and all efforts at creating happiness in their lives. Whatever the way we deal with Life Events, they will be a part of our lives no matter who we are, where we live or what we believe. Faith or lack thereof will either hinder or help one’s quest, for as we well know, positive thoughts bring positive feelings and likewise negativity breeds bad feelings. I have learned it is one thing to have the knowledge, but quite another to put said knowledge into practice. I started this blog with the idea that I could just have a forum to pour out all these thoughts that are constantly on my mind, dashing around in my mind, just like race cars at the Grand Prix, each one hot on the tails of the other, racing to be heard and brought out of the shadows into my conscious mind. What I never expected was that anyone (other than maybe my family and close friends) would read it, much less benefit from reading it. I am constantly and pleasantly surprised with the feedback I’ve gotten and am determined to keep blogging, so long as someone wants to hear what I have to say.
Happy 2nd Anniversary, sunnywithachanceofmanic. Here’s to another year and another after that, etc.

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Seriously? 2014? Already??

Hello again, whomever is still out there reading. I’ve been away quite a long time and I must apologize for that. I have had a few changes, some good, some not so good, but I wanted to share them with you and speak on a topic that is timely; namely Thanksgiving and giving thanks.

I moved to a cute little apartment over a garage at a private residence which is 100 times closer than any of my previous dwellings and has the added bonus of having the most incredibly caring and thoughful landlady. She is wonderful and makes the most delicious cake and other yummy items, such as pomegranate jelly….mmmm….so good.

At any rate, that is one of the good. The not-so-good is that my beloved Neko got very sick and I had to have him put to sleep. The good in that is that he didn’t suffer unnecessarily, he had the best 3 years any cat rescued from “Death Row” could have and was loved more than words can say. He saw me through some really depressing, difficult times and gave me the unconditional love that only animals and small children give so effortlessly. I will miss him, but comfort myself with the thought that he is in good company on the Other Side.

So, update completed and on to the “meat” of this post. Thanksgiving and giving thanks. I would like to believe that I give thanks on a daily basis, but I would also like to believe that I will someday win the lottery; in order to win, I would have to play and in order to give thanks daily I would have to take some time from my “Bitch and Moan” fund and use it instead to focus on the positive. Sounds simple and easy to do but trust me, it’s neither. It is very difficult to see past the negative, which I liken to a basketball player trying to block your shot; hands in your face, rocking back and forth, distracting, frustrating and in your face. It hides the good stuff, filling your vision and your mind with Nothing Nice. However, with effort and the right motivation, you can push aside that negativity and reach (stretch – keep reaching, you’re almost there!) for the positive. Sometimes I have to get really creative, but it does work, when I make it a priority. So, this Thanksgiving holiday, I am thankful for my family, my friends, my professors, fellow classmates, co-workers and people that smile back at me when I smile at them in the store or on the street. Basic human kindness is an accessory that never goes out of style and never gets old. Share it, give it away, pass it along; it will always come back to you.

This time of year it’s very easy to get caught up in the mass hysteria that is The Season aka Christmas, Thanksgiving & every other holiday that you are pressured to acknowledge soley by your purchasing power. As if a wrapped present of any kind could help someone who is lonely, struggling to find meaning or starved for simple affection and kindness. Our gifts to each other should be gifts of the Self: our time, our (undivided) attention, a phone call, an e-mail or even an old-fashioned Christmas card in the mailbox, sent snail-mail, like back in the day. Just those things that you can’t get from a store (ok, the Christmas card you could get from a store, but it wouldn’t be signed or mailed) These are the most valuable and most valued gifts of all.

I will do my best this year and into the New Year to remember how far I’ve traveled, who has helped me on my journey and how I can send that kindness and compassion back into the world, every day. I don’t know where 2013 has gone, but it sure did move fast. I hope I will value my hours, days and months in 2014 and know at this time next year that I kept my promise to myself and focused on the positive, even when it was difficult to find or I simply believed there was none to be found.

For all of you who take the time to read my blog and haven’t given up on me, I send you great glowing beams of love and thanks. May your Thanksgiving be filled with family, friends and food; may your Christmas shine the light of kindness on others and may the New Year bring you all your heart desires.

Love and peace to you all!

Michelle