Letting Go…

New Year’s Eve…

A time of reflection of the year that is about to end and the time to make promises or resolutions to the year about to start. 

What do you see when you stand and look in the mirror?  The reflection of yourself?  Is it a positive or negative reflection?  As I stood in the bathroom getting ready for work this morning it was hard to see a good person staring back at me… 

A year ago today was the last day I saw my little boy.

I knew this day would come, probably the most painful memory surrounding that time.  I just didn’t realize how quick it would get here.  There were months of anxiety attacks leading up to today knowing it was coming, months of therapy to help me, and months of thinking, lots of thinking.

I can see him, standing in front of me, looking at me, his “Mommy”.  All I can do is cry.  Salted tears slowly dripping from my eyes, gravity forcing them down my cheeks and eventually falling off my face.  He is just staring, curious, probably repeating in his head, “What is wrong with Mommy?”  I am holding his hands in my own, feeling his skin.  I bring each one up to my lips and kiss them.  His deep sienna eyes following my movements saying, “What is going on?”.  Then I place my hands on his plump cheeks and caress them, trying to brand the feeling into my brain forever.  Soft, very soft.  I cup his face, and bring the teary mess of my own close to his.  I kiss his forehead, his nose, his cheeks, his chin.  Then I back away repeating, “I’m sorry, so sorry.  Mommy is so sorry Tyler.  Mommy loves you and will always love you.” I turn to leave knowing my little boy is longing to know where Mommy is going.

Pain, anguish, heartbreak.  They all take over my reflection in the mirror.  Soon they are joined in with guilt, failure, misery.  How has it been a year?  365 days have passed?  Where was I?

During therapy this week, I had a realization.  As a Depressive, I am automatically prone to dwelling in the past, kind of like I am stuck, my feet bound in a pool of molasses.  I can’t move, I am etched into this memory.  What has staying in the past done?  I’ve missed so many important and great memories with my present daughter because my brain just wasn’t here.  It chose to be absent, it chose to be in purgatory.  Of course telling me to get my head out of the ass of my past and join the present day is so much easier said than done, remember, I am a Chronic Depressive.  I am used to living in the past, so used to it, I don’t know what it is like to live in the present.  But, in therapy this week, holding the hand buzzers for my EMDR treatment, I finally realized I NEED to let go.  I need to pry myself from December 31, 2014, and move on for the health of everyone, especially myself.

How do I let go?  How do I let go and not forget the terrific boy Tyler was (and probably still is)? How do I let go on leaving him because I failed him?  Because I failed myself?  How do I let go of sliding down into the depths of hell so quickly and still ignoring it?  How do I forgive myself for all of this?  For everything that was never supposed to happen again?

During this therapy session, when closing my eyes for another round of EMDR thinking, I pictured Mahatma Gandhi.  At least I thought it was him.  It may have been the Buddha.  All I know is it was a bald seated figure in shrouds.  My therapist thought it interesting but not strange that I pictured this.  He wanted to know why.  I replied saying I felt they were the epitome of being calm and relaxed, the epitome of acceptance.  He then had me close my eyes to ask this figure how I could let go.  I was anxious for a response.  I could see in my head standing next to them and asking them, “How can I let go but not forget?  How can I live in the present?”

A minute passed.  I opened my eyes and took a deep breath.  My therapist asked what happened.  “They didn’t tell me anything.  I spent the last minute asking, begging out of desperation, and nothing.”

“That’s okay,” he said, “Realizing you need to let go is a start and we will work from there.”

So, December 31st, 2015, I am letting go of your 1 year older sister.  I will try my hardest to throw away the horrible emotions my Depression has associated with her.  I will embrace my little boy in my memories and leave the pain and guilt there.  It will not be instant.  This will be a process, but I have finally made a step in the correct direction.

Happy Holidays…

I’ve seen countless articles this week discussing grieving during the holidays, depression during the holidays… What should be a happy time of year, for me, is something I wish I could sleep through.  I know, how could I say that?!  I have a child who still believes in Santa.  Heck, she believes that Stella the Elf is real and still doesn’t touch her.  Did I mention she is 9? I love that she still believes and that is one reason I am living through this season of “joy”.  I want to keep her happy.

If I had my way though, I would go to sleep today, remain in a coma-like state, and wake up sometime in January.  The holidays are too painful.  All the memories of last year.  Happy, joyful, memories of a little boy experiencing his first real Christmas.  With him gone this year, I am just left with those images that are piercingly painful instead of joyful.  Playing out the last couple of weeks of last December in my mind causes tears in my eyes, not only for the first year grieving T, but for how quickly I fell, how quickly I succumbed to my anxiety.  I am a week shy of my first real Panic Attack anniversary.  This Attack that left me crippled, almost dying, fearing life with and without people.  I am reminded of the hallucinations my brain tricked me into believing.  I am also reminded of what followed…

The most severe Depression episode of my life.  A year later, and I am still begging and pleading with it to leave my body.  The Depression that sent me back to be hospitalized.  Now, this little bugger, is keeping me from enjoying the holidays.  Of course it isn’t working alone. 

There is the whole issue with my In-Laws hating me, or at least the Depression is telling me that too.  With this, I have decided on having a Jewish Christmas with my parents… Fiddler On The Roof, Chinese Food and Alcohol.  There is a part of me that is aching, drowning in sorrow, that I will not be at my In-Laws enjoying Christmas Eve dinner like always and watching Sophia open gifts at the butt crack of dawn on Christmas Morning.  But I can’t.  I just can’t.  I am so emotionally unstable, not sure of what words I may spew out if I went, knowing I would feel incredibly uncomfortable, most likely triggering a panic attack.  Sounds merry, right?!

This year, I had to be a bit selfish.  I had to put my Mental Health before the happiness of my husband and daughter.  I am extremely lucky to have the two of them because they both understand.  They have both witnessed my illnesses at their worst.  But, I feel as if there really is no correct choice, Jewish Christmas versus Christian Christmas.  Either way I suffer a bit inside.

So for this holiday season, please remember those that may not be in the spirit.  They may want to be, but just can’t.  Enjoy the holidays, try to really enjoy them and remember that happiness and joy.  Hold on to it as much as possible so that no sorrow can penetrate it.  Then, when at home later on, call or email that one family member or friend who has no happiness and be there for them.  That one action means so much to us, being remembered is powerful.

Happy Holidays!

An Open Letter To My In-Laws…

Dear Parents I Married Into,

I have been a part of your life for almost 20 years now, meeting your son when we were just teenagers working our first jobs.  Over 11 years ago, we married.  I have always taken my vows seriously and have seen your son go through several outpatient surgeries and his own anxiety episode.  I only love him and have always remained loyal.  How come you have not?

In the beginning, I do not remember this coldness I receive now.  The first instance of our relationship turning sour was when the wedding planning started.  Maybe you both felt as if I were stealing your little boy, instead of viewing it as gaining a daughter.  There was the push for Bible readings in a dual religion ceremony that I didn’t think much of.  What pained me the most, and the first instance that remains as such a visual in my head is that fact that you, my Mother-In-Law, would not even touch my arm as we posed for wedding pictures, as if I had some disease.  Cooties.  I get it, I am not good enough to both of you and unfortunately it seems that only your feelings matter.

Then there was the time I received a phone call from my lawyer saying  you sent him and our real estate agent a letter concerning the “filthiness” of the condo we were going to buy.  You stepped out of bounds by going over our heads.  We were grown adults, but I guess that is hard to see when you are the parents of an Only… then again, so am I now and couldn’t fathom interfering like that in Sophia’s life.  We eventually forgave both of you for that.

Things seemed to be going well especially when I gave birth to your only grandchild.  Yet, there was something… Both of you were retired and yet there was no rush to see her.  In fact it would be a couple of months until you did.  But I wonder why?  When your niece delivered her daughter you were there at the birth.  You stayed a week or two.  But your only granddaughter… It couldn’t of been because of her, or your son, it must be because of me.  Still not up to your standards.  When you did come up, I truly wholeheartedly appreciated it.  I was deep in the depths (but in recovery) of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.  We needed help and you gave it to us.  Yet, I wonder if there was an ulterior motive…

Maybe I am imagining everything but there are facts here.  Several years in, while helping us construct steps out to the back yard (a thing that was needed and am grateful for) you disregarded my years working for an architect, doing drawings, heck I went to school for this, knowledge about construction.  16″ on center… not 18″.  You believed a book from the 1960s more than your own daughter-in-law.

Then came Tyler, our former foster son.  A boy whom we loved and still love with all our hearts.  A boy I still grieve over.  You treated him wonderfully.  What hurts is after we had to return him… did we really need the snarky “I told you so!”  This is not just you… why does your niece hate me and not Jimmy for this.  A nurse and she doesn’t understand the shit I went through before myself AND Jimmy agreed Tyler needed to return to DCF.  Don’t you all realize the hell we’ve been through?!  I realize there may have been pain for your too, but it doesn’t seem too believable when you throw out “I told you so!”

And the kicker… your Mental Illness ignorance.  Yes, I am weak, I am extremely emotional, I am making this all up for attention, I want to waste my family’s money.  How can you not believe that Mental Illnesses exist when you have heard from your son what I’ve gone through.  Over 21 years!  Off and on.  Two hospitalizations, years of medication and therapy.  Do you think I want to do this?!  Do you think I want to pay the hospital thousands of dollars because of my psych ward stays?!  Do you think I want to play with medication?!  Do you think I want to spend my Mondays every week talking to a therapist?!  Do you think I want to have thoughts of running away, leaving several people I love because in my brain I am hurting them?!

It’s not physically noticeable.  Oh, but it is.  Did you see my body last winter?  Did you notice I was skin and bones.  My clavicle protruding.  My face thinned and without color?  How many crying bouts did you witness?  My blank stares?  My quietness?  Quite a show, huh?  I must be a fantastic actress.

And the latest… an argument over a parenting decision that I AND Jimmy made during vacation.  You yelling at me to answer you in a way my parents wouldn’t even yell at me.  How dare you?!  Yet, I am the only forgotten criticized one.  I suppose it is my fault that you didn’t call your only child, your son, for his birthday in October like you always do.  Sending him an email with the words, “I didn’t want to call you because I didn’t want to get between you and Stephanie.”  Nice one.  You should be proud of that (insert sarcasm).  But the worst, the absolute worst, what trumps how much you’ve hurt me and how much you’ve hurt Jimmy, is the damage you are doing to your only grandchild.  Why, why couldn’t you call her for her birthday?  She wanted to know.  Why did you have to close on your condo in Colorado her birthday weekend and miss her party?  She wanted to know that too.  She is very observant now at age 9.

Almost 5 months and you both still haven’t called our house.  We’ve called you.  Okay, just Jimmy has called you but it is obvious you do not want to speak to me.  Please realize that your granddaughter sees this.  She sees the hurt and the pain.  She’s witnessed my “non-existing” Mental Illnesses.  Know that it was me who told Jimmy to call you for your birthdays.  He didn’t want to.  He wanted to treat you both the same way you treated him for his and just send an email.  Please know it was me who suggested you watch Sophia for Veteran’s Day.  Please know I could hurt you both if I wanted to, I could stop you seeing your only grandchild, but I know that is not what is best for her.

And now, the holidays approach.  A time of year already hard on me, but you wouldn’t know, you don’t ask so you both have no idea that I have been diagnosed with a 3rd “non-existing” Mental Illness, a mild form of PTSD.  It is bad enough what I relive on a daily basis, the memories that flood my brain of last holiday season from the moment I wake up.  Now I have to deal with a holiday I can’t spend with my husband and child.  Because I am unwanted at your house.  You may never have outright said it but the feeling is there.  Asking Jimmy what he wanted for Christmas, what Sophia wanted for Christmas… not asking about me.  No mention or question of how was I, or how was my work… I just don’t exist.  By doing this, you are solidifying every negative thought I have about myself already.  That I am evil and unworthy.

I am not blood.  I know this.  But my blood runs through your granddaughter’s veins.  I’ve always been respectful and polite.  I’ve always said “Thank you”.  I just don’t understand.  Your son doesn’t understand.  Sophia doesn’t understand.  What did I do?  What did I do to cause you both to have such a hatred of me?

Your Loyal Daughter-In-Law,

The Room Of Requirement (Part 1)…

I’ve recently started a new form of therapy switching from my years of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy.  This is a whole new ballgame.  Where CBT would try to train me to constantly think positively about myself by saying positive things into a mirror, EMDR is actually tricking my brain into rethinking that way as to erase all the negative thoughts I have about myself concerning Tyler last year and concerning Sophia with Postpartum and last year.  It is not an easy feat for someone who for almost 36 years has always been extremely self critical and lives with and Inner Bitch.  This Inner Bitch is very cruel.
EMDR started like any other form of therapy with intake questions.  Then we went over the “calm down” exercises.  One of these would be performed at the end of each session to calm any anxiety brought about during the session.  One such “calm down” exercise is “The Container Exercise”.  For this, you picture a container in which you can put the highly emotional thoughts discussed away until the following session.  After describing this to me, the first thing I thought of was The Room Of Requirement from Harry Potter.  Let me tell you, J.K. Rowling knew what she was doing with this Room.  The Room Of Requirement is … a room that a person can only enter when they have real need of it. Sometimes it is there, and sometimes it is not, but when it appears, it is always equipped for the seeker’s needs

Basically, it is a room, at several points in the books, that contains junk people have thrown away.  Okay, it is not only junk, but several important items that people want to discard because they are too powerful… just like my memories and emotions.
It was after my first true EMDR session using bilateral stimulation (tracking my therapist’s fingers from right to left) that he chose this “calm down” exercise.  Problem was, he missed a step, the step about me NOT entering the room.  Here I am, eyes closed, staring in a room like the picture above with piles and bookshelves of stuff, chatzkies.  I am poised in front of a wooden bookshelf about 6 feet tall.  It is made of thick rough wood, chunky but worn.  There are a variety of things already on this bookshelf… a diadem, books, a golden snitch… and other various items from the Harry Potter world.  From the corner of my right eye I can see the Vanishing Cabinet Draco Malfoy used and in the corner of my left eye, a Gothic arched opening.  I am intrigued by this opening but need to finish the task at hand.
“Place those memories in the Room Of Requirement,” my therapist says.  I take a metallic box, like a small treasure chest and put it on the shelf directly in front of me. “Now close the door to the room.”
Um, uh oh.  “I can’t,” I say, “I’m stuck!”.  He seems slightly perplexed by my statement and asks me to describe further.  “My feet are fused to the floor.  They can’t move.  It’s like a magnetic force is holding me to this spot.”
He thinks a moment, “Hmmm… it seems that maybe you can’t leave these memories behind, that you are too attached to them for now.”
What started out as a calming exercise, now became an anxiety inducing one!  We tabled this exercise for the following week.
So, this past Monday, as I am following his finger from the right to the left, I find myself back in the Room Of Requirement.  I am still fused to that spot with my treasure chest of emotions and memories in front of me, but my eyes are very much focusing on the sunlight coming from the Gothic Arched Opening.  I can turn my head toward it slightly seeing the royal blue skies with the cumulus clouds, rays of sunshine casting shadows over the gray stone floors. 
“Do you feel safe in this room?” he starts.
“Yes, although cold in nature, I am calm.” 
“Do you hear anything?  Can you see anything else?” My therapist asks still moving his fingers.
“I can hear Sophia laughing outside the opening.”
“What do you think that means?”
And the epiphany… “Happiness lies outside this Room.  My daughter, the sun, the fresh air.”
“Can you move?”
As I glance back into my mind, I realize that my feet have shifted to the left toward this opening.  “I haven’t lifted up my feet but I shifted toward the opening.”
“That’s a great start!  You moved.”
Of course I didn’t see this as overly wonderful, what’s shifting an inch or two in one direction, but then again, I live with an Inner Bitch so naturally I would not see this as amazing.
“I wonder, though, why you feel so safe in this room when you know Happiness lies outside that opening?” My therapist states.
Safe… was safe the best term?  Was it more that I felt comfortable?  Why did I find this dark place so relaxing?  And then an answer hit me:
“I have been attached to these emotions for so long I do not think I can part from them yet as much as I want to be happy.  I know that there is so much work left to do and I don’t want my family to see this part of me so it is better it is hidden and fused in this room.”
“What part of you is this?”
“The evil Stephanie.”

“Dude, She Crazy, No Gun Purchases For Her”…

I read somewhere that this year (and 2015 is not over yet) there have been more violent attacks in the United States than days in the year.  This saddens me deeply.  As a force to be reckoned with, the United States, has a huge flaw… we are violence happy.  Regardless if you are Republican or Democrat, Tea Party or all for Han Solo & Chewy for President, we all as a people do agree there is something wrong.

Where we differ is the reasoning.  The Democrats are pushing hard for more gun control laws while the Republicans are lobbying for stricter Mental Health Screenings.  I am not one to discuss my political point of view or religion as I love all my friends and do not judge them nor do I want to be judged.  We are all entitled to our views.  With the recent event in San Bernardino, CA, I have to voice an opinion… an opinion from someone who is Mentally Ill, someone who if stricter screenings were enforced, would definitely be on the “Dude, She Crazy, No Gun Purchases For Her” List.

I hate guns.  I do agree with the constitution though, that guns should be allowed to be purchased to protect yourself and your family.  While it is a well-known fact that people usually wind up shooting people they know, by accident, there are many instances where they have helped to protect people.  I will stand behind our constitutional right to bear arms, but my arms will not bear any guns even if Mental Health screenings came to pass.  That’s just me.  When the 2nd Amendment was written, these colonial men were not arming themselves with semi-automatics that could shoot off hundreds of bullets within seconds, they were holding muskets that took minutes to load.  5 minutes… 5 minutes was all it took at Sandy Hook.  5 minutes led to the deaths of 20 children and 6 adults.  All innocent people.  That type of gun, semi-automatic, I feel should not be in the hands of the general public.

Would it be any different if there were Mental Health screenings?  How would the government be able to enforce them?  If you go in to see a therapist or psychiatrist once are you automatically put on a “No Gun Purchase” list?  Where is the cutoff?  I suppose this is why the screenings have not been enforced yet.  With my history… several diagnosis’… Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Mild PTSD… I am sure red flags, sirens and alarms would be blaring with my name but…

I would never hurt anyone.  With all my manic episodes the only person I ever desired to hurt was myself.  It was me who was going through major mental pain and anguish.  Me who suffered while wearing a happy face.  Just me.  But, I’ve been diagnosed.  I sought out help.  I am on medication and take them daily.  I am not trying to hide that I am different and messed up.  My ego is not so enormous that I don’t believe Mental Illness can happen to me.  Maybe this is the difference.  So, do we clear all those who are seeking help and actively taking their medication from this “No Gun Purchase” List?  Do we only ban those that are diagnosed but refuse care?  What about those that aren’t diagnosed?

It is also a proven fact that those with Mental Illness are more likely to be the victims of violent acts.  This is in a past blog post I wrote What Mental Illness Truly Looks Like.  Then why the huge fear of the Mentally Ill?  Is it because there is still so much the general public does not understand about Mental Illnesses?  Is it because the media and the politicians need some group of people to blame… after all, who would shoot up a building of people but those that are “crazy”?  The problem is, and what most people in this country do, is we will blame a whole community of people for a few acts carried out by those people… The Japanese in WWII (yes today is the anniversary of them bombing Pearl Harbor) but we did not need to react like the Germans did and place them in concentration camps… The Islamic people.  Their whole community is to blame for one tiny sect… And now, the Mentally Ill.  Just because we are different and our illnesses are strange and unknown to most doesn’t mean we all possess the nature to perform a mass massacre.

Yesterday, while reading the Sunday paper, I came across a letter to the editor on the “real” problem… change of heart.  It was actually a very interesting read.  It was written by a pastor, Ken Brooks, who notes that if you “go back as far as you wish in human history… you will find murder.”  He also states, “It’s not the guns.  It’s not the weapons.  Man doesn’t need a weapon: The hand alone can kill.”  Change of heart?  How does one institute that?  How do we turn the evil in this world, or in ourselves, to compassion?

Anyway you look at it, there is no simple solution.  Make stricter gun laws… people will go underground to buy guns.  Increase Mental Screening… you will have a group of people who will fear getting help for being labeled and put on a “No Gun Purchase” list, a stigma that will never go away.  Grow compassion… there is no way of achieving this for everyone.  With all this being said, we do need a change.  We are the only first world country that sees violence as our only answer on everything, even the smallest acts of crime.