Sunday, June 4, 2017

How to Life when You Don't Want To

It's 7:30am. My alarm has been going off for an hour. It stops giving me the option to put it off at 7:30 and puts a big red X on the screen to remind my sleepy brain that I can't procrastinate any longer. I have to get up and Life. Except, I know how to get around that mean little X. So, I punch the X in its big fat red face and I set a stop watch for 10 minutes. I just can't do it yet. I've been awake for the last hour laying here in my oasis I created for myself.

I don't want to Life today. Life feels too oppressive today. I want to stay here wrapped in my 5 pillow 2 blankets head to toe cocoon and hide from all that big, mean, scary stuff out THERE. In another year, another version of my life, I could have. I would have. I'd have stayed wrapped up in this safe hiding place until I had the courage to go out THERE. 

But it is not another year. I have to come out. I have to life. Probation is waiting for that fax from me to send a client to jail and probably save their life in the process. CPS is waiting for that progress report to take to court and give to the judge to help decide the fate of a family. Five people are on my schedule today to rely on ME to help them with Life-ing. How can I do that today? How can I help someone else Life if I can't even listen to that big red X and unwrap myself from this warm womb of safety? I don't know. I guess I just will. I have to.

I'll tell them about that time I didn't want to come out from under the covers because I was afraid and exhausted and Life-ing seemed like  just too much. I'll tell them I got up. I made coffee. I'll tell them that it seemed impossible to me to even consider using a hairbrush or a curling iron or putting my legs into my pants. I'll tell them that I took some deep breaths and I pulled out all of my courage and energy and stood up.

I'll tell them that sometimes Life-ing occurs one minute at a time, one small decision at a time. One courageous moment at a time. I'll tell them that Life can be a big, mean, scary place where people and feelings and words and memories and guilt and shame and regret are flying like bullets at you and seem to be trying to keep you from surviving. But you can't hide forever because then you'll miss the sound of the birds chirping and the smell of morning on the grass and the way your dog follows you around the house and your kitten jumps on your lap. 

You'll miss the chance to tell someone else about that time you didn't want to come out and Life but did it anyway. And how it all turned out okay.
So, here goes. I'm coming out now and shedding my safe, warm cocoon. I'm making coffee and turning on my curling iron and putting my legs into my my pants. 10 minutes late. And it will all turn out okay. At least for the next courageous minute.

My 12 Acceptance for this Today

It's been a difficult day. I'm not yet ready to talk about it. I'm hurt and having to remind myself of what's healthy for me.  So I'll simply share my acceptances for today.
1. I accept that people in my life are free to make their own decisions and are responsible for their own actions. I do not have control over them.
2. I accept that they may not and do not have to acknowldge their behavior and how it may affect me and this is not in my control.
3. I accept that their behavior about them and not about me.
4. I accept that, today, right now, it is harmful to me to be around and be subject to the behavior of certain people and I cannot maintain control if I am without help. Because of this, it is best that I try to avoid any exposure to this behavior until I am better able to manage it and it is less harmful to me.
5. I accept that I must maintain healthy boundaries that are good for me in order to have any type of relationship with these people in the future.
6. I accept that these boundaries are necessary and that consequences are necessary and must be followed through with if boundaries are not respected.
7. I accept that although I cannot have any control or "fix" anyone else, I can and will strengthen myself to be able to manage my own feelings and reactions, both external and internal, to maintain my own health and sanity and not become sick.
8. I accept that regardless of what is said or done to me, I am capable and willing to believe I am a whole person that I can trust to make decisions about my own worth and life choices.
9. I accept that I am responsible for my feelings of self worth, guilt, shame, worthiness of love, anger, sadness, and happiness and that I will trust myself to safely decide which feelings are appropriate and healthy and not a reaction to others words or behavior that is out of my control.
10. I accept that I can, have and will make mistakes and I am allowed to forgive myself and move forward on a better path.
11. I accept that I will always be damaged/affected by people I care about in my life and that I must be vigilant in my own recognition and seek treatment if I become sick because of it.
12. I accept that I am worth accepting these things for myself and those who care about me so I can have a healthy relationship with myself and others.

How I Keep From Losing My Shit For Good

Sometimes people ask me how I find my Zen, keep out of the mental hospital, don't off myself, manage to not hate everyone, etc. after all the crap I've been through (or rather, put myself through) in my life. So, here's a quick note on that. 

First of all, I allow myself to lose my shit every now and then. I don't feel guilty about it. I don't try to restrain it when it comes. I scream or collapse or spend a couple of days in bed or whatever the situation calls for. It's like cleaning your gutters. I have to unclog now and then so the calm waters can flow the rest of the time. I used to do this more often but I'd say I'm down to doing this once or twice every 6 months. As a caveat, there have been times, even in recent years, that I was dug deep into some (seriously fucked up) situations (that I take non-victim responsibility for) that made me lose my shit quite a bit more often. Escalating shit losing. But the source was usually purposefully attempting to rid me of my shit and was fairly successful. So, point to them for their win.

The rest of the time, I engage compassion and detachment. It took me a long, long, long, LONG time to figure out how much better this works for me than losing my shit or hanging on to shit. Instead, I look at the other person like I would a client and examine why they are the way they are; why they do the things they do. I have to dig really deep sometimes to pull out empathy/sympathy for some people, but I have to all the same. I have to see that person's motive to depersonalize it from me. It's not me, it's them and all that. I have to do that for me. It's more than essential. Because, to be honest, it's never about me, is it? No one walks around and centers their lives or thoughts on how they can personally destroy me because I'm such a terrible human. No, that's insane. It's not about me. It is, and always has been, and always will be about them. And the best hindsight-turned-wisdom example of this is that most of the people who have done horrible things to me did them to someone else before, during and/or after me. It wasn't/isn't/will never be about me. So compassion is essential. 

Sometimes I go too far in my compassion and want to help them. There's a word for that. It's codependence.  That makes me lose my shit big time. Codependence is an asshole.  That's where the detachment comes in. Ok, I tell myself, this person is a flawed person who was constructed by their own circumstances. And that person is not me. I'm not responsible for that person or their shit.  I'm responsible for my shit. I'm responsible for keeping myself together no matter what might be falling apart over there. Detachment. Depersonalization. It's an art form I intend to perfect some day. I certainly haven't yet. I stumble about sometimes for a while until the rubber band snaps back and stings the shit out of my forehead and I remember what I'm supposed to be doing. But I get better at it all the time. And that's better than most people do, so point for me for that win.

Third, I clean up. I take toxic people out of my life. Usually not soon enough but again; I haven't perfected anything. This also took me a long time to do. I longed for acceptance for so long and so hard that it was difficult to throw anyone out who didn't accept me as I was. In other words, people who were toxic. I've had to lose friends who ended up just making me feel like shit instead of losing my shit; husbands who I had no business marrying in the first place; the gossips and the backstabbers and the users and the abusers; the too pushy and the shady; the sociopaths and the over-whiners. I've had to throw out a lot of those guys. I don't have any of those friends anymore. Maybe some acquaintances but no one I'd tell any real life, deep down, vulnerable-making shit  too. There's one exception, my family.  I can distance myself but I can't bring myself to rid any toxins in that area. I'm still reeling for their approval, therapy never quite cleaned up that shit.  Tie game.

Fourth through whatever
Write some more.
Drink too much occasionally and make a fool of myself.
Forgive some more.
Get in water as much as possible.
Embrace some sort of music.
Paint some bad art and let the brushstrokes sooth me.
Hang with an actual friend and unload some shit.
Hot baths.
Long, quiet dives.
Forgive some more. 
Write some more. 
Go somewhere. Just run away for a while to somewhere, anywhere, really. 
Keep trying. 
Keep learning.
Cry as liberally as I want and feel no shame in it.
Let someone compliment me and really enjoy it.
Talk to the ocean. (Some people call this meditation. Some prayer. Same thing except I require the actual ocean.)

I'm not exactly the Buddha of Texas but again, it's more than most people do. I've never been committed (though I probably should have been a few times) or offed myself. I only can use the word hate toward one human (yeah.. trust me..trying to not hate that one is a losing battle, but my bucket list says I have to forgive him someday, so I'll have to...some day). I can find my Zen more and more often, I have most of my shit together most of the time. So, something is working. Perfectly imperfectly. I'll keep practicing.  Maybe someday I'll never lose my shit at all. Maybe not. Either way, I forgive me. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

On giving up the career I chose...

A long time ago, I fell in love with helping people. Years later, I realized through a mine field of good therapy that I had simply learned how to profit from my dysfunctional codependence. Whatever works.  Two days ago, my boss asked me if I'd ever considered counseling (belly laughter) after I cried for about 4 hours straight the day after I sent my resignation letter. The day before that, my Mom had some side eye comment about how all jobs suck and that's why they pay you. The day before that, my husband looked at me with an amusing terror while simultaneously telling me that he was totally on board when I had a long talk with him about needing to quit my job. He hugged me and I imagined that while his face was out of view, he probably had the wide, gaping, fearful eyes of a man who just realized he married someone who actually meant all those head-in-the-clouds, wander-lustful, Buddhist sorta things she says that made him sort of love her.

Three days ago, I officially put in my resignation notice on my career.  It's not like this has never happened before. I've resigned. I've run off to Mexico to chase my dreams whilst losing my mind and finding myself. I've stayed home and raised kids and depended on someone else to make the money while I did whatever I did. But, I always knew I had my career in my back pocket. I always knew what I intended to be doing. I always knew that I'd return some day to the tumultuous, drama-filled, adrenaline rush of my career. It's addictive. I've always been well suited to it. It feels a bit ingrained in my me-ness. But, life throws some curve balls and I'm Babe Ruth reincarnate.

A few years ago, I got the diagnosis. I'd suspected the diagnosis for, sheesh, 12, 13, 15 years. I'd been afraid, no-- petrified, of the diagnosis since, well, as long as I can remember. But I got it. It became a reality. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I guess I've thought all this time that I was simply a fully crazed hypochondriac who had manifested these symptoms out of sheer projection and I was not, in fact, a sick girl. A crazy one, SURE, but not a sick one. And then, they gave me that damned test. Some marvel of modern medicine that keeps you from getting to pretend you're just nuts and instead, have to stare shit right in the face. Damn science. And that was that. I no longer got to pretend, I had to deal. And the doctors (plural. ugh) had a lot to tell me about how I couldn't fuck around anymore. Face sufficiently slapped once again by that asshole, reality. I hate that guy.

Sometime around the millennium, I was working in the basement of some insurance company where the CEO only knew me as "sweetie", and going home to a husband who liked to punch me in the face sometimes. I had two little babies and in hindsight, a horrifying lack of insight. I went to a psychotherapist and tried desperately to get him to tell me I was hopelessly mentally ill. He wouldn't do it. I think it frustrated him that I preferred having a diagnosis born of chemical imbalances or genetics instead of just a wretched string of circumstances that led me to feel like I did. You can just take a pill to deal with a clinical diagnosis. He was proposing that I had to, like, gain a bunch of awareness and work out my shit. Who the fuck wants to do that when your mind is fully occupied by your small children, your full time shitty, unsatisfying job, and a gem of a husband who thinks you are Mike--um...Mika Tyson. I preferred to be fully crazy in the clinical sense. So, I'd go to therapy. I'd get mad at him for saying I wasn't a giant fruit basket. And he'd get mad at me for saying I was. Probably the best therapy I ever had, for the record, and I've had a lot. (Have you thought about counseling. hahaha)

So, I did what any self respecting, barely 20something, screwed up gal would do. I divorced my therapist (not my husband) and decided to volunteer in a field that fights the very thing I came home to every day. I became a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected children. Yes, I appreciate the irony of it now, and in a far less mature way, did then.

 I fell in love. THIS was my calling. You just know when you find it; that THING that you're SUPPOSED to do. I wasted no time in stopping all that volunteer stuff, divorcing the asshole, and going back to school for the express purpose of becoming a Child Protective Services Investigator. There was no other goal. That was all the goal I had. 3 years later, I graduated. Two years after that, I finally got the job. Ironically, my husband (a different one) was in a mental hospital the day I started, but that's a story for another day.

I didn't quit that job the first time. I mean, I technically did, but I didn't want to. Life threw me more curve balls (Babe Ruth, baby) and it all just fell apart. I was pretty much forced out of the job by life, a bit of a mental breakdown, some hearty misunderstandings, a murder-suicide plot (I was the murder victim piece of that) and a trio of paranoid, bitchy bosses.

I did a lot of things in the interim, including running off to Mexico and getting that goddamned diagnosis, but I reapplied for the career I chose over and over again until finally, 8 months ago, I got the job again. And I was overjoyed. I truly was. I loved that job! I'd wanted it back for years. It was everything I liked about work. I'd have preferred to be back in Mexico sipping margaritas and not giving a shit about anything, but who wouldn't, right? But that wasn't the reality I was in.

Two months after I started my job, I missed a doctor's appointment. This may sound like nothing to most of the non-chronic-diseased world, but when you have that damned reality happening like I do, that's kind of a big deal. Because I missed that appointment, I ran out of medication. Because specialists in our lovely healthcare system are as they are, I couldn't get another appointment for almost 2 months.

Some PA I'd never seen before took mercy on me and gave me a few of my meds back because his wife had my particular diagnosis and he (and his polka dotted bow tie) were beautifully sympathetic. But I didn't get the important ones back. The ones that make you really sick when you start them and take 3 months to adjust to. I had to quit those. Cold turkey. That went pretty well for me. Two months later, I started them again. And so came the really sickness. Two months after that, I had to quit them again because I couldn't do my job. And I got sick from that, again. If you're keeping score, my 8 months is up. And I've spent 6 of it in health nightmare.

And then I took that damned test and had that damned Come to Jesus moment with my doctors (plural). And it all came crashing down, again. I was sucking at my job. I was sucking at my health. I was sucking at my happiness. All around, I was just sucking. And then the doctors (plural) tell me (in a nutshell) if I keep doing what I'm doing, I'm just going to die. Let's not mince words here. I will just fucking die. My disease will attack the important parts like those two flaps in your chest that make you breathe and that muscle that pumps your blood around with it's rhythmic thump thump thump. So, for all my denial, I mean strength (ahem), it was face slapping reality time. I had to give a shit. And I had to give a shit now.

So, I quit my job.

And the next day I went to my office and I was relieved and happy. Until about lunch. Then I cried for 4 hours. (Have you considered counseling. Bwhahaahaha).I didn't cry for the job, I guess. I mean, I hadn't particularly enjoyed it this time, given that I was doing it whilst feeling like I'd run a marathon, with the flu, after being run over by a truck, for 6 of 8 months.

I cried because I'd never had to quit a job because of this (far too many expletive pronouns) disease. I'd never had this dumb thing - a thing that I stayed in denial about, that sent me to Mexico, that made me throw my bucket list into high gear, that had caused more tears then all 47 or so of my failed marriages and abuses and traumas combined -- have any real effect on my career. What? My life, yeah. My relationships, fuck yes. My thought processes, uh huh. My ability to open a jar of pickles, damn skippy. My entire outlook on life, Oh yes sir.  But my career, um. no. I guess I figured it wouldn't until it was straight up time to go on disability and rev up my electric, off-road, hybrid flotation device wheelchair. No, that didn't occur to me.

I never HAD to quit a job because I just couldn't DO IT. I had to leave my dive instructor course one day because I couldn't swim against the current towing a grown man in decent surf once. ONE DAY. Another day, I managed it. I had to take a leave of absence for a couple months once because life sucked too much. I've quit because I just didn't want to anymore. But I'd never had to quit a job so I didn't DIE. For fuck's sake, I'm 38 years old. I'm THIRTY EIGHT YEARS OLD.

And I am chronically broken and have to figure out how not to die.

And it was devastating. It IS devastating. This was my chosen career. This was my favorite job. This was my calling, my AHA job.

Not to brag or anything, but I'm the strongest bitch I know. What the fuck is happening?

Then I had to realize, it isn't just this job. I won't be able to do a lot of jobs in my profession. Stress is not allowed. Stress makes me sick. Stress will kill me. Wait. What? Stress is an integral part of my career. It's in the job description. It's like, the thing I like. I can't just not work as a CPS investigator, I can't work as a crisis counselor. I can't work as a case manager. I can't work as a social worker. I can't have a job that has my very favorite part of my career, DRAMA. I'm not allowed. Because I will fucking die. What the fuck?

What the hell do I do now? No, seriously, what do I do now?

In case anyone is wondering, travel the world and live on beans and rice in third world apartments has crossed my mind at least 374 times in the past 10 days or so. I'll let you know if I can work that out while maintaining my brand new car payment and raising the two kids I have left in the house. Somehow, I feel like maybe that time hasn't come yet. But, then again, I haven't had any Jack Daniels yet either.

(Maybe I should consider some counseling.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Making it Through

Making It Through Hard Times

One Breath At A Time...

They say when climbing Everest, the struggle is so much that you concentrate on nothing but breath. One then the next then the next. You labor to just make it through the next breath so that you can then make it through the next step. You take a step and stop then again until you have reached the top. You are nothing but lungs and breath. You are not thinking of money or your dry cleaning, the dishes or what you will eat for dinner. You are not thinking of how your spouse has offended you with an offhand comment or what car you’d like to drive. You’re thinking only of the breath you are in. You have pushed yourself so far that the air is almost too thin to sustain. But you keep going, not down, but up. You take a step then stop and breathe. You go up. On the summit, you are essentially dying, but you go up. Because on the summit, the peak is there. The end. The top. The place few others have seen. The closer you get to it, the harder it is to keep going. The worse your situation becomes. But you keep going because you know the peak is there. Each labored breath gets you closer. Each concrete footed step is 6 more inches to the top of the world. So you go. And you think only of breath. And if you pause long enough, you may think of what that breath is for. Your children, your love, your dearest friend, perhaps just the privilege of having breath. But you think of nothing else. And you are grateful for each new inhale. Grateful that you are able.
So that is the journey. Turmoil and danger and misery and breaking the limits of your will and your body. Experiencing limit after limit and pushing through them, no matter how long it takes. Excruciating cold and tooth pain wind. Reliance on guides and trails, fellow journeymen for your very life. And with each new phase, they all fade away one by one and become useless until you are relying on nothing more than your own will to pull oxygen into your lungs and push it carbon dioxide back out. Your own will to endure one more step. That is the journey you have chosen. Does the destination make all of the struggle worth it? I guess one decides for themselves. Many try, few experience the view past the jagged rocky last step to know the experience of the very last edge of human endurance. But what about those who do? They know things others never will. They have seen. They have seen and will always know what others do not, cannot. They will see the world in a way that others cannot see it. And everything, from that moment on, will be viewed through the lens of that knowledge.
And so no matter how hard it gets, take one breath at a time. Breathe, step, stop and breathe again. Keep moving up and forward. You will eventually reach the summit. And when you do, you will see and it will have all become worth it. And you will have wisdom that others cannot.

Still my little blonde firecracker

And still... going into college. My little blonde firecracker.

Raising myself

Paying for my raising more and more...

I’ve learned that there is little that can help you learn about yourself more than raising your children.
My son. My darling little blond-haired firecracker. My sweet little man who inspired me more by his mere birth than anything ever has or will. My baby…
Is turning into a teenager.
He yells and screams. He says things to me that he knows will hurt me and he says them because he knows they will hurt me. He looks me in the eye and tells me, in his own way, that he thinks I am stupid and old and can’t understand. He looks at me as though I’ve slighted him. He looks at me like it hurts him somewhere inside to have to tolerate me. He looks at me like he wishes I would disappear so he could go on with his self. Talk to his girlfriend. Keep his secrets. Throw a football to his friend and use curse words. He looks at me like I can’t possibly understand.
I understand. Every scream that comes from his lips. Every jab he throws at my psyche. Every eye roll. Every secret. Every curse word. Every overly over reaction. I understand.
Because he is me. I am my mother and father. I can read his mind because it was my mind once. I know what is bubbling under the surface of his resistance.
It is reassuring. Reassuring because “I turned out OK.”
It is distressing. Distressing because it was a grueling, tumultuous road from the first bubbling to the OK I feel today.
My little blond firecracker with his over achievement and his maniacal passion. Will he have to endure the pain, the terrible mistakes, the lifelong repercussions? Will he survive and someday be strong, armored, self aware, open and closed, happy? Will it take so long? Will it be so hard? Will he survive? Will he learn and grow?
The hardest thing I’ve ever learned about the human mind is that knowing does not give an automatic answer to knowing how. I know my little firecracker. I know him from his pinky toe to his uncut hair. I know what’s bubbling there. I don’t know how to guide him. I had to guide myself. I resented anyone who tried to guide me then and now. I have my own compass. Can I be his? Will it drive him away if I try? Does he have to find his own way? Will he survive?
Will he be contented?

Old writings

I'm deleting some writings from an old blog so I'm putting the ones I care to keep here. Perhaps the best explanation of codependency I've ever written. 


A dream metaphor

I had a dream last night. I was in a counselor’s office and I was fumbling and bumbling with a piece of kleenex that I’d been crying into. I was working out how I could manage. Working out how I could move forward. The kleenex started sticking to my finger and wouldn’t come off, so I flung it in an ashtray. In the ashtray, it caught on fire. I kept picking it up and trying to put it out, but it wouldn’t go out. Every time I picked it up, it would catch more on fire. So I said aloud, “I’m just going to let it burn itself out.” And so I let it burn.
After just a few seconds, the entire ashtray caught on fire. I started trying to put out the fire and it wouldn’t go out. All the things I did just made the fire spread and burn stronger and hotter. I went to the sink and filled a cup with water. I poured it on the fire and nothing happened. I started screaming, “Get water, do something, help me. Help me put the fire out!” I kept going back to the sink to get water, but each time I went, my cup was smaller until it was finally just a thimble. I started trying to stomp out the fire. Everyone else had gone and it was just me, trying to put out the fire. The fire then caught some electrical wire and quickly spread to an outlet on the wall. The outlet sparked and exploded. All I could do was stare at the outlet as it exploded. I knew at that moment that there was nothing more I could do. I couldn’t put this fire out.
And I just stood and stared at it.
I really wanted to fix it. I really wanted it to be alright. I just kept making it worse.