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.

Scotland -Part III

The day after Christmas 2015 found me at the airport, excited, tired and ready to be on my way back to Scotland. I had arrived at the airport at an unreasonably early hour (per my request) and had thoughts of my previous two visits and wondered what this visit would bring. I’d been there all alone, with eyes wide and full of wonderment for my birthday in December 2014, met someone in July that multiplied the happiness, the pleasure of traveling and exploring, not only Scotland, but our personalities, our experiences, hopes and dreams, fears and flights of fancy. I didn’t think I could be happier than I was on my first visit, but the second visit changed all that. What would the third visit bring? Would it be even better or would I have raised my expectations so high that they couldn’t help but fall short? These questions swirled around in my mind as I walked the airport, burning nervous energy and trying to fill my mind with something other than those unanswerable questions.

Well, it’s now almost the end of January and I’ve been back about 3 weeks and I have to say, this time was such an incredible experience. I couldn’t have scripted a better visit, traveling and exploring again, but this time, with hours in the car, talking about nothing and everything at once; taking photos like a mad tourist while speeding down the highways and two-lane roads. Sometimes the only car as far as the eye could see, with endless stretches of gorgeous landscapes, skies full of strange clouds I’d never seen back at home; sunsets and sunrises so beautiful, it takes my breath away each and every day. Being so far away from everything and everyone I know, I found myself. I found the calm I’d always prayed for, the serenity I didn’t think existed and the ability to live fully in the moment, not looking back in regret and not looking forward with fear and anxiety. This couldn’t have been possible without the company I was keeping; I have been a solitary creature by choice most of my life but this was comfortable, effortless and I had the feeling that all was right with the world.

That being said, returning to reality is rarely effortless or comfortable and this time was no exception; the higher you are, the harder you fall. The dizzying heights I had occupied while in Scotland gave way to the deepest depths and dark days (and nights) while my spirit tried to break free of the shackles of everyday life and return to the freedom and wide-open spaces I’d flown; now seemingly a dream I had dreamt. Remembering the calm and trying to get that thought to translate to feeling isn’t the easiest or most natural thing for me to do; I am more prone to go worst case scenario and lock the memory away, for the pain of being away from such bliss is too much to delve into. But this is a new year and the time for change is always, so I am embracing my pain, along with the pleasure the memory holds. Bittersweet is a flavor we’re all familiar with and while it’s not something I’d want to taste at every meal, it’s one of the flavors of life, so it will make an appearance from time to time. Every piece of pain contains a lesson, something learned or experienced that will last far longer than the original discomfort that bore it. It’s easy to say and hard to remember when it happens, but it is a choice. I choose to take the bitter with the sweet, the pain with the pleasure and the heart break with the bliss.

I choose to get up and try again. I choose to belief this, too shall pass. I choose to believe that I will return to Scotland, hopefully again and again, until I am an old lady tottering along with a cane, telling my grandchildren about my time in Scotland over and over again, until they can tell the stories themselves, word for word.

 

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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.

 

Things I Strongly Dislike About Being a Girl (Everyone grab your sense of humor and feminists take a Xanax and/or just relax)

1) Crying. I really thought I was over this once I went through puberty and stopping caring about That Boy. Little did I know that having your face leak is a constant for girls and women alike. We can be wearing our Prada power suit, Christian Louboutin shoes and look like solid steel, but wait until the tears start falling; immediately a strong, successful woman morphs into a hysterical female who cries at the drop of a hat. All the tough talk of independence and man-like behaviors (never let them see you sweat/cry, talking constantly in sports terms) goes right out the window. Instantly the division of the sexes is reinforced; no matter how tough the talk, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Tears are not welcome, tolerated or even understood. Of course, I am making sweeping generalizations and I’m aware of that. I know not all men are stoic, dry-eyed and emotionless. But the majority of the ones that I have met just channel their hurt feelings and wounded pride into anger, the acceptable emotion for manly men. I get angry and somehow it’s unacceptable. Go figure. If you cry, you’re (again) a hysterical female but if you get angry you’re just a bitch. I love that kind of wacky logic. 

2) People think I’m cute. I’m physically pretty small, apparently. In my mind, I’m 6 feet tall and bulletproof, but in reality, I’m 5’5” barefooted. Not a huge, overpowering form and no, I do not strike fear in the hearts of men when I walk in a room; it’s more like, “Oh look! How cute. She must be helpless and fragile and must need someone to take care of her.” Nope, that statement is completely false. I can take care of myself and while I may not be able to lift a VW bug off someone, I have the intelligence to avoid dangerous situations. Should I find myself in one, arm myself not with guns and bullets, but with intelligence in plotting, disarm them with dimples and cripple them with my cuteness.  

3) Everything else:

• Not being able to take off my shirt on hot days

• Not being able to (effectively and neatly) pee standing up

• Not being able to go my entire life without putting a razor to my legs, armpits or whatever else women are expected to shave off. (‘nuff said on that subject)

• The obvious monthly issue that even when it ends, another wondrous event occurs – menopause. Which brings more:

• Hot flashes

• Night sweats

• Mood swings

• Anger issues

All that being said, as I near turning 50, I think I’m finally starting to embrace my girl-ness. Nothing like a strong girl growing  into a strong, beautiful woman who is beautiful because she loves herself, estrogen (or lack thereof) included.

Thanks to all of you who have lifted me up when I was down, picked me up and carried me when I couldn’t walk and gave me love when I had none for myself. 

Thanks as well to each and every soul who has fought for all Americans and allows me the freedom to write this post.

Semper Fidelis

  

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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Wanderlust Unleashed

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I’ve always loved trains. Ever since I can remember trains have held a special place in my heart. Mysterious ladies with “a story to tell” meet up with tall, dark and handsome men; murder happens on trains, as well as fantastic fights on top of trains with the inevitable tunnel that takes out at least one inattentive bad guy. On a lighter note, trains allow for dining and drinking, sightseeing and socializing, as well. Where the train is going is always the best part because I would imagine places that I had read of in books, seen in pictures and been told of in stories. Ireland, home of part of my ancestry, along with Scotland and bits of France and other assorted lands. Growing up in California, I lived where other girls dreamed about and dreamed about living somewhere cloudy and cool with an ocean between us. I love to travel and although I haven’t journeyed often overseas, I am beyond excited to have booked a trip to Edinburgh this December for my birthday.
Yes, I said December. In Scotland. Crazy? Sure. Do I mind? Not at all.
It will be a quick trip, but as I’m hoping it will only be the first of many trips there, it’s a good start. I’ll spend a Wednesday and Thursday getting there and fly back out on a Sunday (my birthday!) arriving home on Monday. I’ll be home for Christmas, our first since Mom passed, which will be good.
To Mr. Liam Neeson (if you happen upon this post by some cosmic turn of the Universe) I will be in Scotland for 4 days and even if you could just meet me at the airport for a quick hug and a photo, that would be the most treasured birthday gift I can think of. No pressure, though. I know you are a busy man and it is during the insanity that is the Holiday Season.
Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled post.
I have always had this wanderlust and believe it is one of the reasons I used to move every 6 months. Not to a new city or anything, just to a different apartment. They were all perfectly decent places, I would just get anxious and feeling trapped or like I had been there too long and I needed to Get Moving. Ever time I travel, whether by train, plane or automobile I feel better. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories of where they’re going and where they’ve been. I love waking up and seeing a different ceiling, hearing new sounds and seeing new sights. It opens a door for me, allowing me to peek into a different world, culture and energy. Even if I’m going to Jackson, Minnesota I know it will be a different world than the one I left. It helps me to reevaluate what my beliefs are when I see them in a different setting. I guess it’s like the Big Fish in a Small Pond/Small Fish in a Big Pond kind of thing. Lastly, when I do return home, I am thankful to be back to the familiar and the routine, at least until the wanderlust strikes again.