The Bravest Thing

The bravest thing I have ever done

has dark brown eyes that shine bright like the sun and

smiles with a smile that overtakes his whole face.

And the bravest thing I have ever done

studies his surroundings with a keen curiosity and

touches with world with a intense purpose and enthusiasm unrivaled the world over.

The bravest thing I have ever done

carries my strong personality with its intensity and breadth and

reflects it back to me like a crystal clear mirror of my core and soul.

And the bravest thing I have ever done

has the powerful and calming streaks of his father, the love of my life, and

tempers his reflection of me with his father’s keen reflexive soul.

The bravest thing I have ever done

was to finally say yes to the proposition that society and

myself had always said no to entertaining and pursuing.

And, ultimately, the bravest thing I have ever done

calls me “momma” and

is a part of me forever walking the universe as my son.

I am okay, today.

Today, I am okay.

Today, I am better than I have been in several weeks. I am not 100%. However, for the past several weeks, each day I have wondered if I needed my husband to take me to the hospital. Everything has been in slow motion wrapped in paranoia with distorted thinking accompanying my constant overwhelming feelings.

But, today, I know the hospital is not necessary. Today, I am okay. This morning’s dawn came a little easier as I rested a little easier through the night. Today, I have been able to enjoy my toddler a little more as I have been able to relax and step back from the cloud that has been following me. So far, I have been able to tackle a few items on my to-do list without crippling under the overwhelming thoughts. My son and I went shopping and I was able to drive, pick out my items, and check out without paranoia, taxing rumination, or finding myself overthinking to the point of not being able to buy anything on my list.

I also know that today is okay and not perfect. I need to let it be. No grand life changes or big decisions today. I need to let my cycle happen as I come up for air as I have been drowning. It is as if the brain is opening back up to the light and you don’t want to push too hard and scare it back shut.

Nonetheless, today I am okay and it is good to be okay. I don’t need the hospital today. I can function today.

And tomorrow? I am hopefull will be okay, too.

One of my greatest blessings…

As I venture on my mommahood journey at diagnostic code 295.7, there is a partner that helps make it possible. He is my caregiver, the father to my baby boy, and the love of my life. He is my husband.

For many years I would not consider motherhood. Then late one Summer, I had an epiphany. My husband was not my father. He was the complete opposite of the man I grew up fearing. Also, my husband had cared for me over the many challenging years. He managed my medications, accompanied me to doctor appointments, brought me supplies when inpatient, and looked out for my well-being in every way possible. Furthermore, my husband was loyal. He had demonstrated that quality by remarrying me several years ago when I had divorced him during a whirlwind of mania. This was a man I loved and could raise a child with safely. The only thing stopping me, was me.

So, I took a leap of faith and received an amazing baby boy in return.

But, I have something here that so many others facing severe mental illness do not have. That is a caregiver that works with me as a partner in my journey. Too many are expected to manage this illness on their own… fighting a battle where your brain is working against you. It not only works against you, it tricks you.

One of my greatest blessings lies in my husband. He monitors my medications, checks in on my symptoms daily, supports my needs, and often knows what I may be needing before I am ready to admit it. He has been there through twelve in-patient hospitalizations, eleven treatments of electroconvulsive therapy, one month of partial hospitalization, a suicide attempt, and the past eighteen years of treatment. I am blessed. No other word.

As a society and as a medical establishment, I wish we could learn the power of support and caregiving. I wish we would allocate funds and personnel to such endeavors. I wish we would reach out and help each other, not just place everyone on an assembly line of “care”.

Bottom line, no matter who we are, we need support… we need a caregiver.

The Promise

The turkey has been gobbled, the Black Friday has dawned into Saturday, and we are facing a new holiday season…

In response, my Thanksgiving decorations have been promptly stowed and my Christmas decorations have started to adorn my home. Now that I am mother, this is increasingly important to me. It is making good on a promise made to my younger self, a little girl self, that my adult home that included me as a mother would also include the care to celebrate life and holidays.

To explain, my own mother lived with her own untreated mental illnesses. She was never fully present and would swing in and out of consciousness barely recognizing the world around her. She reacted with paranoia, accusations, anger, irrationality, and was far from celebratory of life. She knew family members were conspiring against her and that the holiday was a conspiracy in itself. My childhood home at the holidays were drear and unpredictable because there was also another side to the coin. That side was my father. A man whose violent mood swings were never treated, and he provided an exquisite unpredictability.  One moment he was of the thought that Christmas only came once a year and we should throw caution to the wind… and the next moment, he was berating me on how I would never understand the value of a dollar and desiring a Christmas tree was pure selfishness.

Simply, as a child, holiday cheer was elusive. I made a promise early on to myself that as a parent I would do different. I would celebrate the season. My child would not feel dreary as a result of my actions and I would not provide the eggshells for that child to walk on. They would be allowed to be a child and experience holiday cheer.

So, here I am. I am a momma to a nineteen month old boy and I made sure that my home is decorated. And while my decorations are not worthy of a Pinterest pin or spot in a magazine, there is a heartfelt desire behind why I do this. I want to cultivate cheer and a celebratory spirit in my home for him… and for me. We both deserve it.

I also do something else. Just like my parents, I am mentally ill. In fact, I have the illness that is the blending of both my parents’ diseases. But, there is a major difference, I receive treatment and have support. I am intentionally stopping the cycle.

So, my friends, may your holiday season have cheer, jolly moments, and sweet times together. And may we remember the power we have in cultivating the experience.

Santa

Facing the Cycle

I have fought acknowledging this reality for a while now. I had been able to surface for a few moments, take a few gulps of air. But, it is here. I have accepted it. I am in the downswing of the cycle. I am in depression with the increased psychosis.

This is the trademark of schizoaffective disorder. You have the extremes of mood and the schizophrenic disorder weaving its way through the roller coaster.

Over the past several weeks, when I would stop for a moment, the depression would grab me. I would cry, weep, and then push forward. Gradually, these moments became more severe, containing in them intensely dark thoughts about myself. Thoughts that weighed down on my chest and created despair. But, as I mentioned earlier, I could seem to surface here and there… find that gulp of air.

Then this past week arrived in slow motion. I would walk, but I was walking though water. My mind was full of dark cotton with everything dulled and no true sensory experiences. Everything around me ran together. I have made sure my son was safe and cared for… myself? not so much.

And then there was the volume of the noise The noise that I only I hear that accompanies me and that I can never free myself from was elevated. As I would try to lie down, the noise would rage in my ears. The quieter I tried to make my home, the louder my noise would roar. And the paranoia was growing and touching on sensitive areas. It was fostering intense insecurity and creating more reasons for tears. Just a hint of the insecurity, and tears were there.

But this evening, as I slowly walked down the hall, a small glimpse of clarity appeared. This is the cycle. I have cycled again. One would think after so many years with this disease that I would understood this progression. But, I couldn’t. Several weeks down this path before I understood. The fatigue, loss of functionality, increased psychosis, dark obsessive thoughts, and sadness were telling me something.

So, what so I do now? First, keep taking my medications. Next, tell my husband. Of course, call my doctor. And, I have to care for myself.

Cycles are a part of this illness. This will happen again. But, I have to face it and work through it.

I Feel Like I Forgot Something

I have all the supplies for the big Thanksgiving meal. Today, my boy and I ventured out and rented several DVDs for my little family of three to enjoy over the long weekend. There are decorations- leaves swinging down from the ceiling and festive decorations on the French doors.

But, I feel like I forgot something.

Fifteen years ago this holiday season, I severed my relationship with my parents. It was both the correct and best decision I could have made. Furthermore, now that I have a son, this decision is even more resolute. I wish my parents no ill will or harm, but they are not welcome in my life. Of course, this makes me parentless by choice.

Many ask why when they learn of this aspect of my life. I generally try to be as vague as possible out of respect for them. I will now say that my childhood was abusive in varied ways. I can also say that the dysfunction within my relationship with them was so extreme that they were, in actuality, toxic for me. Even as an adult, I would be pulled back in so easy; feeding into the dysfunction and manipulation. It truly is best for them to have their life, and me to have my life. Parentless by choice is the healthiest choice for me.

But, I cannot deny that you feel a loss through this process. It is not necessarily that you miss that exact parent, but you have to let go of the dream that somehow the parent you deserved was going to emerge. The loss of a dream is difficult. There is a unique grieving process involved. And after you have worked through that grieving process, you can still sometimes feel like you are missing something… or forgot something.

And that is where I am at. I am all prepared to celebrate the day of thanks with my husband, son, sister-in-law, and father-in-law… and that sneaky forgetful feeling nags a bit. But, that is okay, I have my family from scratch. Nothing forgotten.

May we all give thanks this week for the family we have… whether that family is blood, marriage, partnerships, friendships, or any other kinship relation. May we give thanks for those we trust, love, and value.