Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Alaska

The weight of Brett's departure is starting to weigh on me. Of course he's working stupid hours before he goes. Feast or famine with the zoo. Couple weeks ago there wasn't much in the way of shifts to be had. But we're facing this long distance relationship. And I want to spend every minute available with him before he goes. But instead nearly every day is like today. He's working 14 hours.  I think he said originally he'd be working 50 hours this week. Pretty sure it's gone up since then. No days off together between now and this upcoming Tuesday together.

Tuesday morning I'll wake up, barely, to the sound of Brett getting last minute things together. Dim lights as he tries not to wake me. About 15m before we have to walk out he'll officially wake me up. I'll drop him at the official drop off. He will insist I don't park and come in with him. I'll hug and kiss him. He'll tell me to go home and sleep. I'll drive home with the music on and I won't hear a word. I'll climb into bed and force my eyes to close. Sleep won't come. He'll call before they fly away. He'll either call or text from Anchorage.

He'll only be gone for two weeks, then home for just under two weeks, then gone for who knows how long. February until may for the academy. Then a year in Barrow.

I'm afraid of increased isolation. I already struggle with it. I hope I do ok. I hope Brett does too.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Cousin

So I have this cousin...

Let me back up...
I have a mom. Her family was close to another family. The Kelley family. My mom was best friends with the oldest child. That oldest girl grew up and married my mom's youngest brother. This is how she became my Aunt Gail. Aunt Gail has two sisters. Because our families were close I grew up knowing them as aunts as well. Aunt Sharon and Aunt Karen.

Those aunts had children. I grew up knowing we weren't biologically related but like my brothers are just simply brothers, despite their "half" status, these cousins were just cousins despite the "in-law/by marriage" status.

We spent many holidays together. But they were all younger and super close with one another so, really, I was cousin adjacent. Along with my actual cousins, all of them are good natured, loving people, of whom I still get to see each Christmas Eve when I crash their holiday celebration.

Being this weird extroverted introvert I find these gatherings both wonderful and exhausting. I feel a bit shell shocked afterwards but it is totally worth it. You will never find a more loving, fun, awesome crowd. They, to one another, are "The Cousins." I feel lucky to be able to have my adjacent status. It's a pretty cool thing to bear witness to.

Well, one of the cousins, Carmen, left this world last night. In her passing a whole lot of hearts are hurting. And I hurt for them as much as the loss of her presence in this world.

I can't say we were terribly close, but I can say I care very much about her (present tense, I still care). I always thought she was "so cool" even though she was several years my junior. And more recently, she reached out when I was dealing with some of the darkest of my depression. I wasn't in the space at the time to turn it into a real conversation, but rest assured that it stuck with me and it meant a lot.

My heart has been heavy this last week while she was in the hospital. Yeah, she is who I was vaguebooking about, and who I was talking about in asking for prayers/thoughts/love/healing.

And as for "The Cousins", please don't hesitate to ask for anything. I want to be supportive of you. I love you guys. I really do. Thank you for letting me be cousin-adjacent.

And the rest of the family, Aunties and others, the same goes for you. Please let me be there for you. Reach out, to me, or to someone else. But reach out all the same.

(And I know you're all awesome friends out there, and loving but this isn't me needing sympathy. It's just me speaking from this soft, squishy part hidden beneath my rib bones. All that intent, please send it to my family, they'll need it in the days to come.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dis-ordered

My mind around eating and around my body and around my value is disordered. Why?
Why do I think this way?
What is wrong with me?
I'm not looking for sympathy or to have someone try to convince me I'm valuable. I wouldn't believe you anyway. That kind of shit has to come from yourself.

I'm 90# overweight. I don't say that easily. I cringe when I see that number. The majority of people in my life have never seen me thin and that sincerely fucks with me. I feel I have to explain to them that I once was thin. You know, I used to be a valuable person.

Where do these pervasive thoughts come from? I remember being told I was young, thin and pretty and smart. The same person, my mom, called herself old, fat, ugly and stupid. First feeling that came up was I hated how she was abusing someone I love, herself.

But a deeper message rooted itself within me. If I ever gained weight, wasn't as pretty, wasn't as smart as I felt I should be or got older, I would have less value. And the first thing that came up was weight. It also seems to be the one that plagues me the most. in my head my weight has to do with my being or not being pretty. My being pretty is more important than whether or not I'm a good person. Well, hey. Doesn't being thin and pretty equate to being valuable?

As a young girl, like most, I was overwhelmed by my developing body. I didn't have time to admire older girls and their.. womanliness? I got my first bra at 9, and hips, too. The shame started. By 12 I was the height I am now, weighed about 110 and wore a 32D bra. I received a lot of unwanted and inappropriate attention. The only time in my life I looked older than I was. It solidified that I was there for other people's approval.

I also freaked out when my doctor told me (at 110#) that I needed to watch my weight. My brothers also teased me. The word "chubby" came up. I started to restrict my eating and over the next four or five or six years I was obsessed with my weight and was actively, increasingly, restricting my food.

Luckily I didn't have the internet. I didn't realize the food I was eating was calorie dense. Now I know more I'm grateful. Eating nothing but a tiny bag if Doritos and a can of "fruit juice" as my nutrition for the day was better than the same volume of lower calorie food. Never got gaunt. Plus with large breasts and frumpy clothes no one was the wiser. Around 15 I started eating more but exercised like mad. Got down to about 101-104 at 16 (and with 32Gs). I also convinced myself that the hungrier I felt the prettier I was.

Knowing what I know now I should have been around 125-130. I still struggle saying I was anorexic. Didn't you have to be a waif with no breasts and be like 75# to be anorexic?

Then I gained a little. Was actually healthier than ever. This was short lived. I met and dated a guy who sat on his ass all the time downing giant boxes of chicken nuggets and a large fry. I ate a quarter of what he did and gained. And he wasn't very kind to me. So between him and the weight gain I was convinced I was worthless.

Few years later we split. I lost some weight, got a new boyfriend and the weight creeped back up. He dumped me while pregnant. I lost weight while being pregnant, got fired, gained it back from being depressed.

Got married (he married me fat! Who does that?). Kept gaining. Lost weight when I decided to micromanage my diet for a while (I cried at a gathering because of my self imposed rule, I wasn't allowed to eat past 6). Stopped the diet and gained most of it back (still 15# lower today).

Today I was trying on clothes I got from a friend that passed away. The sight from the mirror was horrifying for me. Gravity plus existing fat equals things I can't even verbalize.

And I'm getting older. One day I'll be old. I don't learn as quickly as I once did. I am no longer young, thin, smart and pretty. I can't be valuable.

Where do I go? Diet and exercise, right? I have fear in me that I can't fully express. I don't know exactly what is holding me back but I know it has to do with fear. I'm terrified to even try.

So... Yeah.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Depression.. Anxiety... visiting again.

.. worst company ever.

I am loud about my depression and anxiety not because I want attention or for people to feel sorry for me.  I do it because I know I'm the minority.. Minority in that I'm talking about it.  For every one like ME there are hundreds or thousands or whatever, of people who do NOT speak out.  I'm putting myself out there for every single person who struggles with these issues and can't say it out loud.  For every one who feels alone in this.  Like they're the only one.  There are times I just want to clam up and shut the world out to everything and not let anyone know of the stuff going on.  But then I remember the people who reached out to me with their own stories (more than a couple).  There are people who have told me that it was comforting and they knew they weren't alone.  So I'm here, making myself vulnerable to a shite-tonne of people (if I was going to say "shite" I *had* to say tonne).  It is terrifying, for the record.  I realize it will effect how people react to me in my life and not always in the best ways.

This is not a poor me thing.  Mental health issues are devious bastards who tell you lies.  It's like I have a physical chronic illness, but instead of aches and pains (although, you'd be surprised. It does come with a certain amount of physical ailments) it's just my head telling me how terrible I am.  It is not logic. I  don't even feel like it's ME.  But it's there.  And saying things like "grow up" or "focus on the positive" translate into terrible voices saying "You can't even be a grown up!  You are a failure at adulting!"  and "You are so ungrateful!  So many people have it worse and you're just feeling sorry for yourself."  There is something especially horrible about not being able to trust your own thoughts.  That's where I am.  I can't trust my thoughts or even my interactions with friends around me.  This compounds things during a deppresive/anxity ridden moment.  It's what makes it hard to reach out.

The factual stuff......
So.. I was doing so much better.. why, now, am I back sliding?  Well, it likely has to do with the fact my hair started falling out.  I looked up a couple of my supplements and two could have been the culprit.  One was the lithium.  I had just lowered the dosage because I was getting a nice side effect of apathy.  It was rocky.  I felt I was just finding new balance.  A little more emotional.  A little more sensitive.  Not a bad thing.  Just had to get used to it... then the hair falling out thing.  I admit.. totally vanity.. but I also thought maybe it meant I was getting too much.  So I didn't take it for a few days.  Yeah.  Here I am.  I'm two days in to taking it again.  I also had stopped the st johns wort and lemon balm tea.  Dude, you can only drink so much tea.  Oh, no worries. Also, two days ago I started taking both of them in tincture form.  That is one of those that will take time to build up in my system.

I'm spent.  I need rest.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Memorial

I haven't been able to breathe, much less talk the last week.  As of tomorrow it will have been a week since the memorial.  It was so amazing and beautiful to see how many people showed up (they ran out of the little hand out things!).  There was SO much love in that room.  I laughed a lot but only because she'd want me to.  She'd want me to see the silly stuff.  She'd want me to whisper and share stuff with Heather to make her laugh too.  This joyful creature didn't want to bring anyone down with her trials, do you think she'd want us to sit in a big room and cry?  OH, by all means, tears are necessary.  But if you can laugh and remember her with joy don't you think she'd want you to?  My tears show themselves at weird moments.  Probably dangerous, too.  Lots happen in the car when I'm driving.  Could I get pulled over for distracted driving?  This really was about me saying it's okay to laugh or cry or whatever you need to get through this.  No wrong way to grieve.  Lots of life has taught me that.

Anyway...

She gave me a Buddha.  It was on her altar and now it's going on mine.  Big, fat happy, Buddha.  I'll post a pic here.  This does good for my heart. It was meaningful for her and it means a great deal to me.  Thank you, Sarah.

Okay, so I'm going to post what I wrote for the memorial.  I mentioned on the book of face that I defaulted to writing something, vaguely poetic because it kept me together and helped me express what I was feeling.  I wish I could have done the off-the-cuff speeches that others did.  But I'm trying hard not to judge my stuff.  I just wanted to do her and Julie justice.

Here we go....

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

good times.... good times

Too often I come to my blog to get out some pretty strong emotions.
Often of the negative kind.  You know, I'm really not that depressed of a person.  I've had my bouts, especially recently.  I got to a very dark place recently (shortly after the post when I said "clinical depression").  It took me a while to climb back out.  I've been feeling so much better recently.  I'm glad I got much better before I heard the news about Sarah.  It is really a blessing to start off at a better point than I was.  I just wish I had recovered with enough time to spend some time with her.

Her memorial is coming up in a couple days.  I really want to focus between now and then on good times.  There's one challenge here.  Oh, we had plenty of good times.  But even though we had a few special events a great deal of our hanging out was just casual fun.  It's hard to pinpoint just one funny, fun or fascinating time.  You know?  They all blend together.  One great, big ball of awesome.

How about the one Thanksgiving she invited me and a few other people to? I bought a gluten free pie crust and she made the pie.  Pumpkin.  She was pretty dang thoughtful that way.  And it was a full on yum-fest.  It was a great turkey day.

How about the time we went late night shopping and picked up weird foods?  I turned her on to slices of cheddar cheese with peanut butter and bread and butter pickles.  She was delightfully amazed.

How about the Fourth of July where we made s'mores and I used tortilla chips for mine (gluten free, remember?).  She even tried it and it was okay.

How about the Fourth of July before that where someone worked at a fireworks stand.  We couldn't even let off all of the fireworks!  Marsh had a blast.  So did the grown-ups.

How about bringing Marshie over with some floaties and Marsh and Julie hung out in the pool for hours?

How about her teaching me the little weave-y things?  Hard to explain.  It was one of those times she said, "You know, sometimes I buy you stuff from Walmart and just don't tell you where it's from."  HA! (she knew I don't dig on Walmart or their practices.. but how could you be mad when she put it like that?)

How about how EVERY time we went to Shari's she would engage the waiters/waitresses into long conversations?

How about how she tolerated me brow beating her for using Splenda ("Oh, Johanna.  My hippie friend").  Hey, I *tried* to not show it bugged me!  I cared about her health :P

How about her reading her gypsy cards for me?

How about me reading my Herbal Rider Waite deck for her?

How about her having sharing a table at the holiday bazaar at work?  Or when she had her own table beside mine just this last year?

How about long conversations on the phone despite the fact she didn't like talking on the phone?

How about all the times those conversations were interrupted by children or significant others?

How about how Aliyah (sp?) liked me, then hated me and it wasn't until my hair grew back we realized she hated my haircut.  Damned judgmental dog. (actually, she had been abused by an adolescent boy so, yeah.)

How about how Blanca was a spaz when I came over (in a lovey way)?

How about how much Karma loved her?

How about how much Lila loved her?

How about how much I loved her?

And I still do.

More to come, I'm sure.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

My Sweet Silly

Silly was who I knew her as when we met as teenagers on a BBS (holy shit!  20 years ago!).  We lost track of each other over the years.  Then we reconnected on another online community.  Total fluke.  She was hilarious.  She was a drug and alcohol counselor.  She was an adopter of animals of all sorts.  She seemed to especially drawn to those who fell through the cracks be they animals or people.  Ones that were a bit odd or had issues.  You could say the same about a great deal of those she kept company with, myself included.  She took the broken and battered and loved them back to wholeness.  Unfortunately, too often it was a one way street.  But she gave and she gave and she gave.  She had a positive attitude about the things she could not change and changed the things she could.

She was also the mother of a girl with autism and other mental illness issues (what their names were was debated until the end).  Sarah did amazing with Julieanne.  Julie was obsessed with stuffies and video games.  She could be super stubborn and also super sweet.  Sarah had a way of downplaying the intensity of how things were.  I think often times not only to others but to herself.   But you should have seen her with Julie.  She knew what to do.  She figured out what natural remedies would help and wasn't afraid to try different routes in the pharmaceutical world.  I realized how much she played down Julie's situation one time I was over for some sort of summery gathering.  Julie was annoyed by something and became very agitated.  She was swearing in such ways she could have made a trucker blush.  She was trying to hit her mother.  Sarah restrained her by holding Julie in a way she could not hurt herself or others.  The whole time she was loving to her daughter.  Her calm was palpable.  It didn't take long for Julie to calm down.  She sort of melted.  Once she could control herself again she apologized to her mom and everything was okay.  Business as usual.  I knew Sarah was very capable but I never had an idea about the intensity that cropped up and how cool, calm and collected she was.  It was beyond impressive.

Now a little about our friendship.  For whatever reason we could be competitive.  I think both of us were often seeking validation and wanting to be valuable to one another.  I know I always want to give everyone information about stuff and provide emotional support so that I am valuable to others.  I think she did the same thing. But damn, she really was good at it.  I know she literally saved other people's lives as a drug and alcohol counselor.  She was very good at calling people on their shit, in a loving way.  Us both needing to be smart and capable, that was the hardest part of our friendship.  But it was far outshined by the rest.  Really.  It was minuscule compared to the full breadth of the friendship she gave me.  She was silly (apt name for her online persona).  She was hilarious.  She was smart.  She was intuitive.  She was ridiculously crafty.  She could learn any skill she had a desire to.  She was amazingly friendly...  She was also pulled into too many directions.


We used to go late night shopping.  Wandering isles and being goofy.  We would find fun food to bring back to the house (weird combinations).  She helped me bleach my hair (remember the year I had blue/pink/purple hair?).  She would find little things in her adventures that reminded her of me and couldn't NOT pick them up for me (one of her love language was definitely gifts).  She provided me with a couple of my Monster High dolls to repaint.  She would find cute little owl-y things for me.  I helped her get kombucha started.  She grew herbs for my tinctures.  I gave her tinctures I'd made.

And there was Julie.  I loved Julie immensely.  I still have a bracelet of squinkies she made for me.  I was informed how important this was because she didn't just give away squinkies.  She would often tell me she loved me and I told her I loved her too.  Her calm, clear times she was funny and sweet.  Often when she'd have a rough time it would be followed by things like "I'm sorry," in her sweet way. And, "I didn't really mean it. I was just upset."  That was reserved for when she said something unkind in her grumpiness.  She meant the apology.

Now, because of Sarah and our competitiveness and our wanting to be the master "fixer" we had a few, short lived, rough times.  I really believe we finally came to a point where we could just be there with each other instead of trying to fix one another.  We admitted vulnerability.  We could just *be* together.  We leaned.

So, we were good.  But with my latest pregnancy loss along with some other tremulous life stuff I fell apart and became horribly depressed.  In the last few months I pulled away from everyone.  Sarah included.  I didn't want to be around myself much less inflict myself on others.  It was a rather scary time in my life.  Counseling, coaching, herbs and supplements.  Things have been getting better in the last couple of months and I've started talking to people again.  We had a few near misses on hanging out.  I was happy I was able to go to her daughter's 16th birthday party with Marshall in tow.  She seemed frazzled and I sort of stood back so she could do her thing instead of overwhelming her with seeking her attention when she was obviously pulled every which way while entertaining.  I did hug her.  I did tell her I loved her.  She seemed distant and stressed.  Julie was really having a difficult time.  Sarah got her to come around for a little while.  If I remember correctly Julie was feeding quarters into a claw machine for a time.  And before we knew it it was time to go.  We said how we should get together soon.  And we almost did.  She had to cancel due to illness.  Lame but okay.  We can always do it another day. And with me working more hours I'm not too far from here when I work in office.  I can just swing by. That almost happened too.  But it didn't. She was feeling off when I was going to stop by to pick up D rings to make my pup harness type thing.  I didn't realize that the disconnected, hectic party was the last time I'd get to see my friend.

Saturday I was on my break at work when a mutual friend, Heather, texted me with some screen capture.  I thought I knew what post it was so I didn't open it just then.  Then I did.  It said something about "sorry" and "RIP".  I was like, "Dude!  Did something happen to one of the cats?  Or her dogs?  Is Julie okay?"  Heather said she'd call Sarah and check in with her and get back to me.  I never could have guess what happened next.  I went back in to work.  Heather tried to call me.  I was on a call with some guy talking about Patagonia Capilene long johns.  He was... rambly.  Heather texted me.  Sarah was dead.  Julie was dead.   It couldn't be right.  I was trying to keep my mind together while trying to comprehend these inconsequential questions about long johns.  The guy really just needed to spend some time reading the descriptions and thinking.  I suggested he take time to look at what we had to offer and call back if he has any questions.  Meanwhile I'm messaging our Support Center with "When I'm off this call I need to go.  My friend just killed herself."  So surreal.  I was really close to actually just saying to the guy that there was an emergency and I had to go but I finally got him off the phone.

Half way down the hall to leave I started bawling.  I got on the phone with Brett and headed over to his work.  I sat with him for a while and he held my hand and listened to me.  I talked to Heather more.  I sat up and watched Scrubs until Brett got home (4:30AM).  I called in to work before I went to sleep.  No way was I going in.  The next day Brett kept me company until he had to work.  Then I drove up to Bothell to spend time with Heather.  We talked about Sarah.  We tried to make sense of it.  We both saw how things were only getting worse with Julie and how no one knew what to do.

In the last several months Sarah had taken Julie to a children's hospital so she could get off of her meds safely and they could try something else.  She did this twice.  A whole mess of doctors and psychologists had no insights. Sarah got reassurance that she was doing everything right.  They tried new meds that helped temporarily but left Julie with more unwanted side effects.  And then she got worse again.

Julie had become a full time job and I don't even know how Sarah was surviving.  She was suffering from fibromyalgia and chronic back pain.  Julie was getting bigger and stronger and I saw hints of Julie becoming more aggressive.  Sarah had been joking about getting things lobbed at her head on more than one occasion.  With how Sarah always down played everything I couldn't help but wonder how bad it really was.  I really have no clue.  Maybe it was just on occasion.  I somehow doubt it.

Heather and I compared notes and Sarah had been talking a lot about "What would happen to Julie if something happened to me?"  Sarah was struggling.  What if Julie injured her?  What if something happened and she couldn't take care of her?  Who could take Julie on if she was unable to care for her?  How could anyone else agree to take that on.  I can handle a lot of things but I knew I couldn't handle Julie.  What would be the alternative?

And money?  Sarah had been out of work for sometime.  Layed off.  But she couldn't find more work because all her waking hours were typically taking care of Julie or sleeping when Julie was in school (we won't even get into what her night times were like).  She tried to see if the state could pay her as Julie's full time care but she never heard anything back.  My friend was exhausted.  When would she have time to follow up?  Then her van died.  She did not have the money to pay for the van much less it's repairs.  But she needed a vehicle to take Julie to appointments to try to help find some sort of solution.  It wasn't happening.  There were no signs of it being able to happen.  The subject had come up between us that how things were going were NOT sustainable.  Meanwhile Sarah was watching her daughter, this sweet soul, be a victim of her own mind.  Trapped in a body and brain that wouldn't let her be happy.  And nothing anyone could do was helping.

So really, I can see what led my friend to drastic measures.  She was a victim of poverty and hopelessness. Doctors and mental healthcare professionals had nothing to offer.  It was just getting worse.  I had just pulled myself from the fire and when my own little world had crumbled and I saw what escape looked like.  It was appealing.  And the honest fact of my situation is that things *would* get better.  Sarah's would likely not get better.  There was no end in sight.  Even I could see that even if she had some more happy moments my friend couldn't stand to see her daughter suffering anymore.  My friend was tired.  My friend couldn't keep going.  She couldn't stand to see her daughter in emotional pain, trapped.  She couldn't keep her own pain at bay either.

My head is full of should-have-could-have-would-have.  But I know anything I had to offer would have been a temporary band-aid.  I wish I could have given her even a small repreive (see, there, with the "could-have").  It's a crazy train I'm better off not riding.  And it can't change a thing.  I just wanted better for her.  I wanted better for both of them.

I wish I knew what she was thinking for sure.  All of this is speculation.  Just my perspective.  I'm no expert on why she did what she did.  I wish I knew what was in that letter she left.  I want to know that she for sure knew how much I loved her.  Because she meant a lot to me.  She still does.  This whole thing is still so surreal.  I don't want to believe it.  I hope she and Julie have found peace.  I hope she can get the reprieve now that she so richly deserved.