Monday, December 31, 2012

The end of 2012. I survived it. And it survived me.

I don’t know how to wrap up 2012. There is just so much. I feel like for every awesome action there was an equal and opposite very un-awesome action. There was good and bad just like anyone’s year but somehow I feel like the goods were so high they were almost unfathomable. And the bads were so bad that I don’t want to even remember them. It’s been…a year? A whole year? Another one. I suppose we should try and summarize this one shall we?
I did some ridiculous things this year. I locked myself out of my house in an attempt to be all grown-uppy. I flew down some stairs while still defying the laws of gravity and never actually falling down.

I jumped out of a damn plane! It was amazing. And it cut some deep rooted ties for me. In every clich├ęd way that it could ever be, it changed me. The experience introduced me to a new way of thinking. A new belief.  An old belief really. It was something that I believed all along but was too scared to admit. And the friend who took me to jump out of a plane changed my existence with the words “We get to go around this earth one time. Make it the very best you can, and also make it the best for everyone else.”
I ran in the dirt and mud and icy cold. I jumped literal walls and pits and fire and climbed cargo nets. I pushed my body to heat exhaustion and had to chill with some medics for a while. Then I kept on going. I peed in bushes a few times too.

I went crazy. Again. I went crazy enough to go to the nut house for a while. It was somehow harder this time. Harder than before. This year I was officially diagnosed with what we all knew all along: Bi-Polar. Like, the nutty kind: Bi-Polar 1. I’ve been on the meds before. I have always been so consumed with OCD that the other illnesses stayed at bay. Or fed OCD like a raging fire. I’m still not sure which. They gave me meds. The meds made me fat. I’m still struggling. Hardcore. Hard fucking core.I’m mentally ill and I seem to be reminded of that every damn day.
I met people in the nut house. People you meet in the crazy house are some of the best friends you will ever have. They see you at your worst. And they have lived your worst. They are the only people who can truly understand what it feels like to live this life. To have lost family and friends to this disease. They know. And they can change your life. This time I met a friend who was reading a philosophy text book the first time I saw him. He changed me. It turns out that we had known each other for 15 years. But it took the nut house for him to change me.I changed.

This year I got married. I love this man. I didn’t think I could love again. Ever. I didn’t want to. I am still hurt. There is still a hole a mile wide and infinitely deep. There is still cynicism and distrust and anger. So. Much. Anger. But here we are and we are married. Our ceremony was perfect. It was us. It was funny and poignant and followed a 3 week engagement. It was…us. It was Angela and Dual. It was Dual and Angela. And we were officiated by the same friend who changed my world with his words of making life the best for everyone we encounter. And that’s what Dual and I strive to do. We want to make today count. We don’t live for some metaphysical philosophy. We live for today. And we try and heal from yesterday so that our tomorrow (if we get one) will be the best it can be. We remember our pasts so that we can see where we came from. And we are building a life. Together. Me and him. Him and me.
I walked out on my well paying job this year. I want to blame the illness. I don’t know if that is fair. But I was cracking from the inside out. I was depersonalizing terribly. I had stopped sleeping. I was in an environment where I couldn’t thrive, I couldn’t create, I couldn’t be myself, I couldn’t control my illness. And when the illnesses attacked, as they often do, it was not real to my employer. I don’t have hard feelings. Not everyone can understand why I act the way I do and how to deal with, well…me. I wish it had ended better. But if nothing else, lesson learned.

I went back to full-time music. It is my soul. When I got divorced, I felt like he stole that from me. I don’t know if he actually did, but that’s what I felt like. I lost my studio of 20+ students. I lost my will to create. I lost music. I lost art. But I found it again. It has taken a while. But I’m back. I am creating. I am playing. I am doing what I am born to do.
I started grad school. Mother of all things good and holy, I started grad school. It’s kicking my ass. And I love it. Challenge accepted.

This year, I still mourn my old life. This year, I still hate him. I don’t want to. But I do. I’m trying so hard. SO HARD. I think there may have been a break through a few days ago. But I don’t want to be optimistic. I’ve learned that being optimistic with him leads to devastating pain and irreparable emotional scars.
This year we honeymooned! And it was AMAZING. Best vacation I think I have ever been on. Ever. We laughed every day. We loved every day. We were newlywed…(you know what I’m saying) every day. We explored and we created memories. We are married. We are Dual and Angela. And I’m proud to be his wife.

I found myself this year. I explored so many places outside of my box that I can’t find my box anymore. I strayed so far away from the box I lived in for the past 30 years that I don’t even know how to get back there if I wanted to. But I don’t want to. I am done being in any box. Boxes aren’t for me. Labels aren’t for me. Rules aren’t necessarily for me. I said yes to so so many things. So many opportunities to live and experience and soar and even fail, all because I said yes to everything. No regrets. No fear. The worst that could happen is missing life. And I only get this one.
I posed nude. Multiple times. I got inked. Multiple times. I got pierced, but only just the once so far.

I represented the IOCDF again. It was amazing and eye-opening. It changes me every year. I am humbled by the experience and excited to continue the work of an advocate and face of mental illness. If I wasn’t sick, how would I get these amazing chances to change the world? I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
This year I realized how difficult it is to share custody of my kids. It’s been a whole year of “sharing”. I hate it. It is miserable. But only for me. It isn’t miserable for my kids. And because it is the best thing for my kids, I will deal with it. They are getting a new step-mom soon. I am learning to trust her with my precious babies. I grew them on the inside of me. I felt them kick and held them as infants. I didn’t go to the bathroom alone for like 4 years. I patched up boo-boos and tracked down pacis and Bear. They are my heart and my soul. And I spent this year trying to learn to trust her with my kids. I don’t know if it ever gets easier.

This was the year I got diagnosed. Not the bi-polar because honestly who didn’t see that coming? I have an illness. A “syndrome” to be exact. And I’m processing how to live with it. I’m learning how it will affect my life now and my life in the future. I am learning how to proactively protect and prevent and monitor my body now, so that I can have the best chance for a productive future. I am learning how to cope. And how to act. And, as I am so prone to do, I am learning what I can do to enmesh myself in a community of fellow “syndrome” affected persons. I want to make a difference. Otherwise, what fun is having a syndrome?
This year I discovered what I believe in. And I discovered what I don’t believe in. I discovered that it was ok to say out loud what I always already knew deep down inside somewhere. I discovered that the person I was talking to or praying to, was really me. It was me all along. It was me personifying my fears and my strengths and my choices into a belief system that I was born into. I discovered that it is OK to leave the faith of my heritage. It is OK to leave the path. It is OK to say it. It is OK to see the universe and the sky and the stars and our lives and our journey as natural instead of supernatural. It is OK. And it is safe. And it is me. It is me. We get to go around this earth one time and one time only. We live for our lives here on earth. Let’s make it the very best that we can make it. And everyone else only gets the one time too. Let’s make it the best we can for everyone we encounter.

Let’s start 2013. Bring it. I’m ready.  

Friday, December 28, 2012

I'm manic. I think

I haven't been sleeping. I have so much energy. But not in a super great way.

I mean, I've gotten a TON of things done. But not anything super effective. And I can't seem to finish anything. I did finally totally texture and re-paint the bathroom after a year of slowly picking away at the wallpaper. It's mostly black now because I was apparently channeling my inner jr. high goth me. Suck it grown-ups! It's also purple and actually turned out really cool. I have no plans to ever paint it again and I still have miles of wallpaper in every corner of this house so it is staying that way.

I did learn that I have totally lost all sense of balance. I don't generally require a step stool on account of being enormous, but the little two-stepper I used was apparently trying to buck me off. Maybe it's also because I'm 20 pounds heavier now too. Damn I love have diseases and meds.

Also, my super gumby body allows me to twist and contort all kinds of different ways to reach the paint can when I have one foot on the counter and one on the little step stool 5 feet away. Surprisingly, my balance and coordination are much better when I'm playing twister 3 feet in the air. Feet together: fall down. Legs and arms in every corner at once: totally balanced.

I'm taking a nap. Possibly.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Crazy people! Let's make some NOISE!!

A few days ago I posted on my facebook about my struggle with the insurance company. To catch you up: I am thousands and thousands of dollars in debt due to my recent hospital stay.
I needed help. I went to the hospital to get help. I deserve access to mental health help. And now I am being punished by having my debts go to collections, struggling to pay my bills, answering hours and hours of humiliating questions about my condition, my financial situation, my home life, and filing out pounds of documents and forms and questionnaires all just to make sure I can keep the lights on.
I am being punished for seeking help.

Here’s the kicker…I can’t even get temporary government assistance. I want to pay my bills on my own. I want my insurance to be responsible and not blame me for pre-existing condition. I want to further my career and work hard. I want to have my job! But we make about $1500 annually too much to qualify for even temporary help. Not even just to get us through until February when my contract work as an accompanist picks up and my husband will have better hours at work.

But the best part…
If we would just go ahead and quit our jobs, the public assistance would be paying for everything. We’d still be just as tight on finances as we are now. It’s not like they’d start giving us huge stacks of money, but all our bills would be paid, our credit wouldn’t be demolished , we wouldn’t be dodging collectors, and we’d have gas for the car. But we actually want to work and be financially responsible instead of just laying around our house collecting money and we are getting KICKED IN THE ASS because of it.

Makes perfect sense, right?
So my solution is to do the only thing I know how to do. Make some noise. I’ve written to every single person that may possibly represent me in any way in the government. And possibly some who don't. And other people who seem official. And probably just a couple of random people who got caught in my letter writing cross hairs. The news knows. The President is getting a letter from me. Maybe no one will acknowledge the problem. Or maybe we can raise up a revolution. Who knows?

I’m asking you to get noisy. Not for me. I'm too far gone in the system. I'm figuring it out. My situation is what it is and I will survive. I always have. Now isn’t any different. But get noisy. Don’t let them put other mentally ill people go through this crap. Don't make someone else broke. We deserve better care. We deserve to be humanized despite being mentally ill. We deserve to be heard. Don't be afraid to talk. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and your family or friends. It's like Horton Hears a Who...maybe your voice is the one that finally puts it over the top. 
Share your experiences. Share the experiences of your family. Help me put a face on a broken system. Find your representatives, share your stories with anyone who will listen. Share my story if you need a story to tell. Might as well use the crap to make good fertilizer. Lemons into lemon vodka and all that.

Let’s get noisy.

The new normal

I don’t think I will ever be OK with this feeling.

I will learn to cope with it, but I can’t just be OK with it. I will deal with it and learn to keep moving forward, but I’m not OK with it. It’s the feeling that happens when my kids are not with me. It’s that massive hole right in the middle of your body. That actual physical painful hole in my body. Yesterday was my first Christmas with no kids. It was shit.
I mean, I LOVE my husband. And we spent the whole day together doing all kinds of things. We don’t really do “Christmas” anymore. We have spent the last year doing serious seeking and searching and growing and changing. I won’t bore you with what we don’t believe in. What we do believe in is truth above all else. We believe in love. And hard work. We believe in taking things as they come at us. We believe that we should see everyone around us as humans just trying to do their best like we are. And we want to try and make their day a little better. We believe in action over words. We believe in living life and having experiences. And we believe in moving forward. We believe in constant curiosity and always growing. Always learning.

So we didn’t do the tree and the presents and all the things. Some of that is because we are really really poor. Scary poor. So yesterday was just a day that we both had off work, no homework, and we really truly enjoyed each other all day. We watched movies and drank beer. We laughed our asses off and practiced our dog grooming skills on our unsuspecting little suspect. Lexi is now wonderfully short haired and has confirmed that she is not OK with showers. We looked at snow and spied on the neighbors out the window. We sent Shiner out onto the icy porch because its just so funny when his enormous ass can’t stay up on his big enormous feet. We made dinner and watched my favorite movie of all time; Amadeus. All 3 hours of the director’s cut. Dual was a real trooper with that one. We laid in bed and talked about our futures. We planned, we reminisced, we philosophized, we made dirty jokes, and I cried.
Don’t get me wrong…when I say that I won’t ever be OK with it, I’m not talking about their new family. I’m coping with that reality. I don’t forgive my ex-husband yet, but Dual is helping me see that I can still survive my past. And I can be stronger and better for it. And I am really OK with their future step-mom. I mean in all sincerity that I feel as though she is good for my kids. She loves them. She is learning to be a mom. She will do her best. And my kids are the best ones to teach her. And I think she knows how lucky she is to be loved by them. And she will do what she can to save them from any further hurt. I will be here for her no matter how I feel about her husband.

But not having them with me…that is a pain that I never could have predicted.
It’s difficult not having them every other week. I try not to think of all of the bedtimes and laughs and sleepy morning faces that I don’t get to see. I even miss the bickering and the picky eating and the messes.

I feel sad missing them, and still angry that he put this distance between me and my kids. I feel happy with my husband but guilty for having fun without them. I still feel a little naked without my traditional belief system. I feel confident that the female in my kids’ life is looking out for them but I feel sickeningly jealous of her time. I’m working hard to cope with reality as it is today. I’m up and down and backwards and forwards.
But maybe that’s just the bi-polar talking.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

To Lily on your 7th Birthday

To Lily on your 7th birthday,

I can’t be with you in person today. I hate that. I didn’t mean for it to turn out this way for you and your sister. But I wouldn’t trade anything for you both.
When you were born it was foggy. So foggy that looking out the window was like looking at a cinder block wall. Nothing but solid grey mess. You were ready to be born. So ready, in fact, that because of your size and your speed and the denseness of the fog, I accidently had you with no drugs. I told your daddy that I was either going to die or puke on him. Then I yelled at the nurse for trying to suffocate me. Someday I’ll tell you about how you water ballooned the delivery nurse when my water broke. And you are still quite the little joker. I wouldn’t trade anything for you.
The tattoo on my leg is a symbol for you and your sister. Obviously, you are the lily. Once you told me that you know exactly why the lily is my favorite flower. It’s because you are named Lily and that must have made me like lilies. Yes. You are right. It was exactly like that.
You like to draw me pictures. You make me hearts and flowers and cards filled with individually cut out little hearts and flowers to make confetti. They say “I love you Mommy” or “I love Mom” or sometimes “Lily rules”. I can’t keep them all, but I keep some of them in a box in the closet. Someday we will pull them all out to look at. Maybe you will remember making them, maybe you won’t, but I will never forget. And I wouldn’t sell them or trade them for anything.
You like to wear swimsuits. All the time. No matter what the weather. I try to let you wear them sometimes. I figure you only get away with wearing swimsuits for no reason while you are young. Plus, eventually you will be a teenager and I probably won’t let you wear anything less than a burka. You also refuse to wear pants. Literally. The closest I can get is leggings. You are a fancy dress kinda girl. Fancy dresses and make-up and climbing trees. And I won’t let you trade those frayed edged dresses for anything.
You are my sensitive soul. You are my big blue eyes that fill to the brim with tears that almost overflow. You try sometimes not to let me see you cry, but its ok baby, you can cry. I know you try not to let me see you cry because you are trying not to upset me. You are wise beyond your years. I hear it in your questions and in the way you give hugs. You love to hug. You hug me all the time. When you aren’t here to hug me I look at the calendar and count the days until I get more hugs.
When you were 5 weeks old we almost lost you. Not like we misplaced you, but you were very sick and needed surgery. I handed my tiny little person to a nurse who carried you down the hall where they were to put you under general anesthesia. I'd only known you for 5 weeks and I already didn't want you going anywhere. You didn’t fuss about it. You normally don’t. You have a remarkable ability to stay strong and happy. I love that. I try to be like you sometimes. Then they brought you back and your tiny little body had tubes and monitors and bandages. You still like a band-aid more than anyone I know. Band-aids cure everything.
A few days ago you were laying your head on my lap and watching the movie “Brave”. It’s about a girl and her mom. In the end, she thinks her mom is dying and she is sad. But her mom is OK. It made you cry. You probably won’t remember that someday, but I won’t trade that memory for anything.
When you were about 3 you let your sister play beauty shop. You are always the willing and happy participant. She cut your bangs clean off. To the scalp. Then a year or so later you colored your entire face with a permanent marker. You still love to draw things on yourself. You like to have me draw my tattoos on your arms so we can be twinkies. Sometimes you love creating beauty so much that you draw on the dogs. You also have been known to give haircuts to a few animals. I’m excited to see how you will grow up and bring that beauty to the world.
You are my baby. Your sister is my baby too. But you are my Lily. On your 7th birthday I want you to know that you are special. You are unlike any child that ever was or ever will be. You are about to have a new step-mom. I know this is new and different for us both. But on your 7th birthday I want you to know that I am OK with this because you are so happy. You love her. And anyone who has had you love them is a better person for it. You are kind and happy. You are sensitive and brave. You are creative and passionate. You are difficult to get out of bed in the morning. I think you get that from your dad.
You are growing up. You are making decisions and interacting with the world around you. You are creating change where ever you go. You are growing. You are changing. But to me, part of you will always be exactly who you are today. My little girl. My baby. My Lily. And as we know, Lily Rules.
To Lily on your 7th birthday. I don’t know why I get to be your mom. But I won’t trade it for anything.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Like a turtle poking my head out

We went out last night!

I so needed it. I have been hiding in my cubby hole for the last few weeks. I keep making plans to go out with our friends and relax for a while, but then I somehow freak out when it comes right up to the time and I end up staying home. Making excuses. Fighting the proverbial demons.

To be fair, a lot of my staying in lately has to do with been unbelievably, ridiculously, comically, stereotypically, crazy poor. Like POOR. I've been poor before so it's not a big shocker. But it still is kicking my ass. Yes, we are still comfortable in our home and have food to eat and heat to keep us warm and clothes to wear, but there are no more extras. All of the bills are paid on time and in full so that helps, but we are broke after that. Honestly, it gives us a chance to really evaluate what is important to us.

We get to spend much more time together. We make dinner. We get creative. We share rides and work as a team to keep the electricity and the gas and the food bills under control. We have figured out that we are happy without all the things. In fact, we are kind of not missing the things. But still, it's pretty stressful to be one of those paycheck to paycheck families. It's kind of exhausting.

And then there is the cost of being ill. I haven't even attempted to figure out how to pay for that yet. I'm not counting that as bills yet. I owe hospitals and pharmacies and psychiatrists and the rhuematologist (more to come on that one) and radiology and CT scans and X-rays and hospital meds and therapists... it goes on and on. Fortunately those places and Dr's are working with us to create a way to pay that is reasonable. I have a great team that works together and they want to provide the best care possible and allow the finances to be secondary. Plus this is all 5 minutes from where I live. If I believed in fate or some kind of master plan I would say that this is the reason I up and moved an hour away from the place I'd lived for 20 years. I'd say that everything that has happened in my life, even the really really shitty parts, forced me to change everything I knew about my life and about myself. That, in turn, helped me get to the Drs I needed to get to, who figured out things about my mental and physical health that otherwise would have gone un-noticed and all of it is literally 5 minutes away. Good play, universe. Good play.

All that to say, we went out last night! And I so needed it. We went to a birthday party for an awesomely cool lady and hung out with so many people we hadn't seen in a while. We got a chance to catch up and have fun. Sometimes all the expenses and stress and bills and busyness can be cured, just for a few hours, by laughs and drinks and friends and celebration.

And now I shall retire to my cubby hole for the day.


Robbed. Legit Robbed.

Ever since getting back from the honeymoon, we have been trying to live life as normal.
But if you have ever read this blog for more than five minutes or met me in person for like 10 seconds you would know that in my world, normal is this totally effed up mess of what the hell.
Fun fact: we came home from our honeymoon to find that we had been robbed.
Not outright robbed, like smash and grab, rip the TV off the wall and turn over your mattress and dump out your drawers and burn-your-hand-on-the-doorknob-get-your-socks-and-shoes-pulled-off-by-the-tar-on-the-steps-get-hit-in-the-head-by-paint-cans kind of robbed…but robbed. You see, we left our home under the care of a house sitter. In my mind, house sitter = someone I trust staying in our home, getting the mail, feeding the dogs, locking up at night and generally making sure that the sticky bandits don’t run amok. HOWEVER, in real life our house sitter turned our house into a free for all youth hostel for every bored, destructive teenager in the city. And a few grown ass men. Ew.
Basically it’s like this. House sitter lets everybody on god’s green earth have access to our home. Multiple sets of minors use our bed to have sex. Multiple minors drink our liquor. Multiple minors smoke and break things and leave crap like a pouch of tobacco and a pocket knife laying around the house. Then, a few of these random geniuses take that week to rifle through each and every inch of our home picking and choosing what they want and what they don’t. The list includes everything from DVD’s to a pistol to ALL of my psychiatric medications. Get that…I get home to find that not only have we been robbed which causes me to have a massive panic attack, but now I don’t even have the meds to stop the attack. They even went so far as to steal change out of my purse which I left at home because I didn’t need a purse on the ship.
Fun robbery fact number 2…THEY POSTED PICTURES OF THEMSELVES IN OUR HOME TO FACEBOOK. Hear me?! Posted to the Internet in my bedroom. I can’t even begin to tell you how disgusting it is to actually see these saggy pants kids posing like thug life in my bedroom. And remember I still had no med replacements yet. It actually took several days to replace the stolen meds because they are controlled substances so you can’t just phone it in to the pharmacy. I had to explain to the psychiatrist what happened, prove it with a police report and then wait 2 days while my Rx came through. I don’t know if you have ever been OCD and Bi-Polar, but going 3 days cold turkey off meds is not just miserable, its dangerous. I almost lost my damn mind. Not to mention all the added stress of accepting that these thugs had been through all of my drawers. My underwear, my bathroom cabinet, my jewelry boxes, my closet, my kids’ rooms.
It took me YEARS to regain control of my life after OCD trapped me in my own personal prison. My prison walls consisted of checking locks, knobs, the stove, the oven, outlets, candles, light switches, the alarm code, the windows…everything. When this new place became my home and my husband became my home, I had left those ways behind. We built a life mostly free of my ritual. I could lock my door and go to bed. Just like the normals do. We didn’t even have an alarm. I lived for a year with no alarm at all. And in one week a bunch of crappy kids destroyed it. My peace. My sanctuary. My home. My bedroom. My mind. My illness. My safety. My feeling of overwhelming responsibility to keep everyone in my home safe. Because I’m the one who let her in so it was my fault. I put all of us at risk. It set me back quit a long way.
So here we are a month after coming home. We have our house double and triple secured from the inside out. New locks, new chains, double window locks on the inside, a fully monitored 24/7 alarm system with motion detectors and glass break sensors. We have neighbors who are fully apprised of the situation and are now even more vigilant than ever before. We have sirens and panic buttons and an uplink that allows me to see activity in my home at all times. We have reinforced the fence and locked up all the meds and personal documents. We are out thousands of dollars that we may not be able to recover. We are fighting the rampant OCD and agoraphobia. I have fraud alerts on anything that may possibly be connected to my identity and my SSN. We are safe again…but we have learned a lesson at a very high price. As if I didn't already have enough trust issues.
Also…we have your pictures. We have your names and your phone numbers. We have the names of your parents and we have spoken to your friends who have given police statements. We have screen shots of your facebook wall posts. All we want is for you to  NEVER EVER do it again.