Free Churro – I am doing so great. (TW)

Usually, when people ask how I'm doing, the real answer is I'm doing shitty, but I can't say I'm doing shitty because I don't have a good reason to be doing shitty.
So if I say, "I'm doing shitty," then they say, "Why? What's wrong?" And I have to be like, "I don't know, all of it?" So instead, when people ask how I'm doing, I usually say, "I am doing so great.

"Free Churro". Bojack Horseman. Writ. Raphael Bob-Waksberg. Tornante Television, 2018. Netflix. 

So, I’m obsessed with Bojack Horseman. This is going to be a short post because I worked last night and I haven’t slept yet and I’m tired and I should sleep.

Anyway, the quote I chose is from an episode in the fifth season. I’m not going spoil it in case someone was really jonesing to see it and hasn’t seen it yet. But I will say, he’s giving a eulogy.

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Sometimes Silence is Loud

Saying nothing sometimes says the most.

Emily Dickinson, 1874.

In 2014, I wound up in the hospital, first the emergency room, an overnight stay in the Purple Unit (their code for units where people who were a danger to themselves or others were held before being moved to a higher skilled facility for such people, then by ambulance to a behavioral health facility where I spent 48 hours in what looked like a large waiting room with reclining sofa like chairs, then finally to a locked unit at the same facility.

In the Purple Unit at the first hospital I went to, I remember several unique events. One was a man who was talking, constantly and unintelligibly. A nurse or maybe it was an aide was sitting with him, helping to calm him down. He alternated between crying and talking and sometimes yelling out. He wasn’t violent and barely moved from his chair. I remember her saying sympathetically that his mind was “running a mile a minute”.

Then, there was a woman who actually was in a separate room on the side where at one point they had her restrained. As the night got later she had calmed down and they permitted her to move around a bit. She kept coming out and using the phone on the wall. At first, I paid no attention to it but after a while, I realized, she was calling home. I thought she was calling her husband but he actually came in at one point and she was still on the phone. She kept calling and calling and I eventually realized she was calling home, leaving messages for herself. She spoke as if she was talking to herself and she was someone else. It was chilling and actually somewhat heartbreaking now that I look back because at the end of the first phone call I actually paid attention to, she said, “I love you, you’re going to be okay, take care, God.”

Wow, looking back, I get chills just thinking about that. She was obviously experiencing some kind of disassociation or psychosis. At the time, I found it scary, having never encountered anyone like that before. But with time and also with the amount of exposure I’ve had with mental and behavioral health deviations through my experience working in psych units, nursing homes and hospitals, I’ve grown less frightened and much more sympathetic and understanding. It makes me sad for these people because I know that often those who are not sufferers may look on them as crazy or dangerous. Some of them can be, without treatment or proper support but if we just relegate them to crazy, where do we go from there? Just lock them up and forget about them? Of course, today there is much more and better support for people struggling like this compared to years ago when people were subjected to such questionable corrective surgeries as lobotomies and basically imprisonment where they were locked away or chained up or restrained in inhumane matters.

But I digress, naturally. I’m not here to go into details about my hospitalization, that’s for another day.

I do want to share an experience I had that I still think about to this day and I don’t think I will forget as long as I live.

When I was in 48 hour observation, there was a woman sitting a few chairs behind me. She kept to herself and seemed very withdrawn. At some point, she just broke down crying and this went on for what seemed like an eternity. Everyone was looking at her wondering if she was okay. Well, not everyone. Some people were too out of it. We were all on a cocktail of drugs. Some of the ones I was taking I had a hard time waking up, whereas before I was always such a light sleeper. It was later determined the dose was too high because once I was asleep I was all but unconscious.

Anyway, one of the other patients actually asked the nurse if the crying woman was okay and if there was anything that could be done for her. The nurse said there wasn’t. I don’t remember the nurses in this observation unit with fondness. The room was large, the entrance at one corner, the nurses station in the opposing corner and between the nurses station and entrance was the med room and window where everyone had to come up when their name was called and get their meds and then the on site doctors office where we were called every few hours to assess our condition. My thought is that this unit was to determine stability and also placement because the facility had several different units, one for recovering alcoholics, one for recovering drug addicts and one for patients who were suicidal, at least those are the ones I’m aware of.

I remember just wishing the woman would stop crying. Despite the challenges associated with my own hospitalization, I hadn’t cried once. But I also remember immediately feeling bad for wishing that. I thought, maybe she’s scared, maybe she feels worthless or like a failure or that no one cares. So, finally, I walked over to her. I had no idea what to say so I actually didn’t say anything. I felt as if, I had no idea what she was going through and therefore I also felt, anything I did say might come across as trite or unhelpful. So, I just stood next to her and put my hand on her shoulder. I sort of patted her shoulder a little and moved my hand to her a back a little back and forth. After a while, she calmed down a bit and then told me she was okay. I still didn’t know what to say so I was silent. I don’t remember if I nodded or not but I returned to my chair.

I didn’t talk to her again after that. Shortly after, some very official looking hospital staff came and took her away. Slowly but surely, people would be collected as their observation came to an end. I was taken away to my assigned unit shortly after as well. The first time I went to eat a meal, was when I saw her again. She didn’t go to the same unit I went to. Meals were in a separate building. Those who had leave privileges could leave the unit, with other patients accompanied by hospital staff to eat meals or participate in activities. When I saw her again, I thought she looked better. I didn’t know what to say to her so I didn’t say anything but while I was getting my food, she came up to me and she just said, “thank you” and hugged me.

I’m feeling a bit emotional writing about that. That was all she said. I told her she was welcome. We never really spoke again after that except when we saw each other at meals, we would say hello. After a while, I didn’t see her anymore. I like to hope that she was able to leave, hopefully with the out patient support she needed to aid in her recovery. To this day, I don’t know what she was struggling with. I don’t know what unit she went to. I just know I will never forget it. It was probably the most powerful lesson to me that sometimes, words aren’t necessary, sometimes words don’t help. Sometimes, in the moment, the best thing you can do is say nothing but through your actions you can still demonstrate your sympathy, your sorrow at seeing another person suffer, your desire to comfort them.

As long as I live, I will never forget that. I look back on it and the memory is somewhat sad and painful but also beautiful. We are all human. We all bleed. We all cry. We all laugh. We all need each other.

Be well.

Featured Image: Photo by Katii Bishop from Pexels

It's You. All right? It's You.

You are all the things that are wrong with you.
It's not the alcohol, or the drugs, or any of the shitty things that happened to you in your career, or when you were a kid.
It's you.
All right? It's you.
Fuck, man.
What else is there to say? 

"It's You". Bojack Horseman. Writ.  Raphael Bob-Waksberg. Tornante Television, 2016. Netflix.

While this is on my mind… Who am I kidding? This has been on my mind for a long time.

My childhood was less than perfect. In 2014, I wound up in the hospital, because I made an attempt on my life. I’ll get into that another time. During group therapy, there was a question about what our childhoods had been like. We were on a locked unit and that specific unit was for people who were either a danger to themselves or others, mainly themselves. They took our shoelaces, ties, belts, combs, razors, even hair ties. In fact, we only had one change of clothes, the one we had on and the rest of our things were in little lockers behind the nurses station which was secured from the patients as well.

Anyway, when it came my turn to answer, the therapist made a comment when I finished. “That sounds like it was a battlefield”. My mind was blown. In fact I mulled over it for a few days. I had never thought of it that way. My parents fought a lot. There was a lot of yelling, banging, crying. I don’t even know what they fought about most of the time. I tried not to listen, tried to go someplace where I couldn’t hear it. But my dad when angry is like thunder. You can’t escape it, even if you’re deaf. You’ll hear it or feel it either way.

But this isn’t about bashing my parents. Despite the turmoil between them when I was growing up, they have remained strong. They will be celebrating twenty-seven years married next week. Part of the contributor to the constant discord between them was the fact that they themselves were still trying to work through their own traumas. One parent grew up in an emotionally abusive and negligent household, the other in an emotionally, physically and mentally abusive household. For a long time, after I left home at nineteen, I was bitter and angry at them. But in the past few years, after a lot of reflection and also therapy, I’ve grown to develop compassion and understanding for my parents.

I have had a lot of in depth conversations with my mother since leaving home and she sometimes apologizes for the ways she failed me when I was growing up. I should clarify that there are some things that I think could have been better but I don’t like to think of it as ways I was failed. I often describe it to my mom as them building a house. Their parents told them, here, build a house, here’s a hammer and a ruler, you’ll need to find the rest of the tools yourself. Whereas, my parents tried their hardest, despite the difficulties and now, I’m being told, here, build a house, here’s a toolbox, wood, cement and a backhoe. Sure, maybe all the required tools aren’t here. I just like to think I’m starting out with more tools than my parents did. No generation is perfect. This is the world, ugly, not perfect, frustrating, but among that there’s still beauty, still joy, still goodness.

Don’t think I’m overly positive about this. I’m not. I’m a realist. I understand there’s negativity but there’s also positivity. There are things that happened to me as a kid that were not okay. When my mother talks about some of the things she’s aware of and apologizes for it, I don’t say it’s okay, because it wasn’t. But I do try to be understanding and show compassion because there’s nothing to be gained from anger and bitterness.

Which leads me to my next point. I spent a long time being bitter and angry about my childhood. I used the traumas I endured, the things that happened that I didn’t enjoy as an excuse to act poorly, in general and sometimes to people in my life. I used my childhood as an excuse to be unkind. As Beatrice Horseman said, “No one’s ever nice to me, why should I be nice?” That might as well have been my motto. I used my childhood to explain away my bad behavior, like abusing alcohol, not getting help for my depression and bipolar, not trying at improving my life. A former boyfriend even told me one day, you can’t use your past as an excuse to act badly in the now. I was furious when he told me that. For a long time, I thought, he doesn’t know, he has no idea what I’ve been through, he just doesn’t understand. Years later, I look back and realize, he was right.

This doesn’t mean I should just forget about everything or pretend it was all okay or that I’m not sad about some of the things that went on. But it doesn’t mean that because I suffered that others should suffer from how I treat them. I’ve become a strong proponent of this: NO ONE DESERVES TO BE MISTREATED BY ME, NO MATTER WHAT I’VE BEEN THROUGH. And I live by that. I don’t bring my problems to work. I don’t walk around with a chip on my shoulder. I don’t act like a victim. That’s not to say I’ve arrived. I used to be like that. I used to walk around, little woe is me! But that wasn’t right. And despite how I tried to convince myself that my bad attitude vindicated me, I was miserable. I quickly realized that it wasn’t fair to mistreat others just because I felt I had been mistreated. Those people weren’t responsible for my childhood.

I’m a very matter of fact person. I do sometimes share with people I trust the bad things that have happened to me. But I’ve learned to do so without acting like a victim or couching it in such a way that attempts to elicit sympathy. The simple reason is that I don’t want sympathy. I’m not a poor, little person who deserves kid glove treatment just because of what I’ve experienced. There are people out there who had worst childhoods than me. I can be thankful for the things that didn’t happen to me.

Now, I want to emphasize one fact. This is not to say that a person should feel that because others had it worst that their experiences are therefore less valid. This is simply not true. Speaking of validation, one of the worst things a person can say to another person about their traumas or struggles is, hey, someone else has it worse. Sure, that sometimes works when a person isn’t being grateful for what they have. Such as a friend who complains about their car all the time even though there’s people who don’t have cars. But I don’t think telling a little child, there’s starving people in Africa, when they won’t eat something on their plate is very effective depending on their age mostly because they may not be able to appreciate the fact in general simply because they just may not have the life experience to grasp it.

I digress. When it comes to trauma and mental health, a person should think of it in the context of themselves. They shouldn’t compare themselves to others. Everyone’s struggle is different. We should all try to support each while not losing sight of ourselves. We can’t blame our bad behavior or self destructive behaviors on our past. Of course, our pasts affect us. But hopefully, the negative experiences we have in life don’t cripple us, instead hopefully they give us deeper insight into ourselves and we come back stronger than ever. I will end with this. Someone on a true crime episode once said, in response to a defendant who had raped and murdered a woman and then explained his behavior by referencing his messed up childhood (it was messed up, a lot of sexual and physical abuse from his father), that he didn’t deserve the childhood he had but that there were plenty of people with messed up childhoods who didn’t grow up to rape and murder people. And to me, that’s powerfully true. I may have had a difficult childhood but as an adult, at the end of the day, I’m responsible for me, my actions and my words. I can’t blame alcohol, my childhood or even my mental health struggles. It’s me. It’s all me.

Be well.

Featured Image: Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

Princess Carolyn, do I have a purpose?

Todd: Princess Carolyn, do I have a purpose?

Princess Carolyn: Oh, purpose? Are you high?

Todd: Only the normal amount.

“Chickens”. Bojack Horseman. Writ. Raphael Bob-Waksberg. Tornante Television, 2015. Netflix.

Oftentimes, I think about my purpose in life. Is it to make lots of money and buy a nice, big house one day? Is it to have a family and become a parent? Is it to help others and do good for the world? Is it to find my dream job? Is it to eat healthy and exercise until I’m eighty? Is it to find fulfillment in my life in general?

Maybe it can be all of those things, except maybe for the eating healthy, I’m always going to indulge in chocolate or my sugar rich coffee creamers once in a while (all the time).

My point in bringing this up is because we’re all looking for some sort of purpose in life, some more than others. This search may intensify as we grow older. I, for my part and my astounding quarter of a century on earth, haven’t exactly always been concerned with this as a whole. However, I do often ponder this in relation to the endeavors I undertake. For example, this blog.

I’ve been blogging since I was about fifteen or sixteen. I’ve started and deleted quite a few blogs. I’ve been writing even earlier than that, probably around nine or ten years old. I wrote my first book, more of a novella, at eleven. It has since been lost to the annals of disorganization on my kid part. I’ve always had a passion for writing. Growing up I was told I was a good writer. Maybe I was. I don’t have much writing from before I was fifteen to really compare my current writing to. Whether I possessed a natural affinity for writing or not, I enjoyed it immensely. I was at first encouraged to write in order to turn it into a career. This didn’t work out, clearly. I actually grew to dislike writing after a while because I realized I didn’t enjoy doing it because of its potential earn me greenbacks. I enjoyed it for the simple joy of doing it.

For a few years, I did write with the sole purpose of trying to monetize my writings. After a while, my passion for writing fizzled and I gave up on my blogs and on my attempts to find writing jobs. I realized I wasn’t happy if the only reason I was writing was to monetize it. My mother works currently writing for a living. Her work isn’t creative writing though, mostly it’s content editing for companies and technical writing for clients in various industries. This isn’t something I don’t think I could ever enjoy doing. I’ve done a lot of technical writing over the past six years earning my bachelor’s degree and I know when I eventually buckle down and start on my master’s I’ll be doing even more. I do enjoy technical writing but in an academic setting it serves the purpose of demonstrating a strong understanding of concepts and principles learned. I can get behind that kind of writing. What I can’t get behind is writing simply to earn money. I’ve written many books, over twenty to be exact, many of which were never and may never be published. The ones that were have since been out of print due to my pulling them out because of some editing errors that I just never felt like correcting.

This is not to say that I will never produce writing that may earn money. I just don’t want that to be my sole focus. I enjoy writing just because. I enjoy writing because it gives me an outlet, to decompress, to share my thoughts with others.

Now, back to my blogging failures. I’ve tried many times and failed to maintain a blog successfully. I often gave up because I got bored or decided I didn’t know what to write about.

Finally, I know what I want to write about. I want to write about myself. There’s a plethora of content there. Not because I’m amazing (I am) but because I have had many experiences and will continue to have many more. But this is more like a journey, sharing the good and the bad, not so much showcasing me but focusing more on what I’ve learned and how it has made me a better person.

This is going to be like an introspective journal of my experiences, past and present. I’m going to be very candid. I won’t sugar coat anything because life is butterflies and rainbows and also rotting flora and fauna and earthquakes and tornadoes. Life is like a pizza. Sometimes it has pineapple on it. For some, that’s the best thing since before sliced bread (or most favorite food of choice) and for others, it’s a sign that World War 3 and the end of days is upon us.

Perspective is everything.

Be well.

Featured Image: Photo by Me, Borestone Mountain, 2018.

But, you seem normal (TW)

Recently, I was diagnosed with Bipolar I.

Yes, I went there. I’ll write more later about my life in general and especially my childhood because I find it fascinating in retrospect even though I didn’t enjoy most of it.

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