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And…2021? What?

2 Jan

11:59 am

I remember when it was Y2K! Haha. Remember that? Y2K. Remember when that was a thing–I mean, almost as “big” of a thing as Covid? Ahh, to think that we were worried about that, when THIS was what was in store for us, 21 years later.

Jesus, 21 years?

Um, 21 years is sounding like a LONG time to me, at this very moment. Of course, lately, since my dad has been having dementia-related memory problems–and as we (meaning, my brothers and myself) learn how to talk to him in a way that is helpful and constructive–it’s got me thinking a lot about time, aging, and the reliability and (d)evolution of our memories as we get older. Sometimes I wonder if I have some form of early-onset dementia–organizing and cataloguing my thoughts just makes me feel irritated, and I definitely have had moments lately where I’m like, wait, why don’t I remember every gory detail anymore of what happened when?

It’s been saddening, shocking, and angering–yup; this feels like grief, as in, all of the sudden, you’re angry at the thing before you melt into tears (on the inside)–to watch my dad’s mind stop working. And, as a life scientist, I do wonder what is happening up there, with all those neurons. His thought patterns remind me a lot of someone in a blackout; he does not remember minute to minute, sometimes second to second, yet, he is present, conversing, and remembering other things. I noticed that his sense of sequential time is all mixed up, too; sometimes, he’ll recycle the same words or conversations that we have had more than once, months ago, as if he is still there, in that moment. Maybe he is? The other night–he was tired, and I’ve read that people with dementia “sun down” and get looser and more confused at nighttime–he kept saying the same thing, in response to anything I asked him; and, it was totally unrelated to anything. He has been fixated on a couple of things–getting out, and getting to the cordless phone at the nursing station so that he can call strangers to get him out–since Thanksgiving, when he was in the first ER/hospital. He was uber-combative then. Now, he seems to just have accepted what is, or, he has more awareness and/memory around why he is inside to begin with (I guess?).

It’s all really, really hard to understand, what’s going on in his brain. We are doing our best, trying to get him from point a to b to c–some days, I feel really deflated, like someone stunned me (the same feeling I had after the hurricanes ripped through our area and tore many a house down). Some days, like tonight, I rally, do what I am supposed to, and stay on track (tonight, I had to start looking at community-based residential facilities, which is just SO, so sad; with my dad, it’s definitely going to be like putting a rare creature who is used to running on the African savannah into a cage in a zoo). Fortunately, I have my brothers to lean on…

Otherwise, yeah, 2021 feels…a bit quiet so far. It was a busy holiday season, actually, since we did almost everything we usually do as well as I had this whole Dad situation to think about. We had a nice dinner at a friend’s place, went sailing on a catamaran (well, the captain motored us around!), and managed to get to three beaches (it’s been like, hurricane-windy here for the past week, which does not make for great beach days). Many days last week, I vowed to give up writing; most nights, I remembered how grateful I am to have a (writing) job to go back to come Monday (my contract was extended). I watched a movie and started watching “Long Strange Trip”–I can’t believe how young Jerry Garcia was when he died!

I managed to patch up a rough spot with a friend of mine, love more on our neighbor dog–we have a special connection since she was my Best Girl’s “angel”–and just lounge around with our new pup on my lap (he is quite the needy boy!). I’ve been running, too, but the hills are not easy on the knees and uh, I have some residual joint pain from the estrogen patch (sure of this; I have no clue why estrogen replacement therapy would cause your body to react as if its joints were arthritic, and I have honestly stopped wondering–see, is this dementia? I am just too tired to care anymore; I am not dying, so all is well, right?).

We actually masked up and went out for sushi on New Year’s Eve; it was quiet around town, and we were home and in our jammies by 10:30. LOL. I really Could Not Even with this year’s New Year’s Eve; I mean, everything was messed up, tossed around, twisted into a new shape during 2020, so, “celebrating” NYE took on a different meaning for me this year, as in, who really cares? Haha.

I haven’t felt much like dwelling on the literal lately, as I said–and so, it’s been hard to come up with some sort of “yearly word.” At first, I was like, God, I’m too tired to care. However, the more I journaled today, the more I felt something brewing…

This year might just be about finally letting go of my expectations, my past projects and goals and dreams–and setting new ones that I want to do, that fit, that feel right. And, if they stop feeling right, move on. It’s like, I don’t have the energy to hang onto my old self and old dreams anymore, you know? Maybe because my heart feels crushed by watching my dad lose his mind?

One of my fondest memories of my dad keeps coming back to this (and, it makes me want to cry every night, because I look up at the sky every night): because he was a trained merchant marine (a sailor), he knew the night sky very well. He knew a lot of things very well, and he could entertain people endlessly with his facts and figures. Anyway, whenever we’d be outside on a summer night on the farm, looking up at the stars–so many, so bright–he’d point and say, Look, that’s Sirius. There, that’s Benetnash and Mizar; there’s Alioth, Megrez, Phad, Merak, Dubhe–all the stars in the Big Dipper. It was ridiculous because, well, most people never even heard of these stars let alone could point them out in the night sky.

Maybe that’s why I go out now, and look up; I want to remember him.

And, I want him to remember, too. I want him to look up, to see the night sky, to remember pointing up, There, that’s Benetnash and Mizar; there’s Alioth, Megrez, Phad

Happy holidaze

27 Dec

12:58 am

I do sort of feel like I’ve been in a daze this season, mainly because of everything that’s been going on. The other day, I posted something and then deleted it, worried that it was too revealing about my father. And, I’m glad I did; this isn’t a blog about him.

I haven’t felt much like blogging recently; not sure why, it just feels like overexposure. I’ve also been working a ton and going-going-going with my brothers, getting my dad situated in a nursing facility–simply put, we think he has dementia, and it is *probably* not going to get better. I mean, we can hope it’s related to a transient, post-operative effect (he recently had surgery; the reason he had surgery, though, was because of his “dementia” thinking, which I see so clearly now)–but, he’s been in decline for like, at least three years, it just wasn’t presenting itself as memory loss, per se. Anyway, it’s been draining; there is no rule book, which is bizarre since so many people go through this!

In light of everything that’s come to a head this year–started menopause, put my dog to sleep, watched my dad literally go from, ‘Oh, Dad’s just being Dad’ in August, to, ‘Holy shit, there is something really very wrong here’ in November–I do feel grateful. I mean, I’m still here, for one. I’m still sane, still working (uber-grateful for this), still breathing, still loving, still content with most everything that comes my way.

Everything that has happened this year that could have definitely been given a strictly negative spin has actually led to something better. I lost my job–but I needed to leave anyway, and ended up finding something better, for the most part. I had to put my dog down–but she needed to Rest, and we were just holding onto a creature who was in unbearable pain. I went into menopause–but I feel SO much better, overall, than I did in perimenopause, and, I’m no longer on the birth control pill, which, I would say is much worse than hormone therapy (today’s bioidentical versions). What else? Oh, so yeah, my dad sort of “went into” dementia–but, considering that these past three years have been a long, crazy lead-up to what we’ve all just realized is actually cognitive decline, at least my dad is safe now. Even Covid has had many silver linings–one could say that Covid allowed nature to come back, people to take stock and be more mindful, mRNA vaccines to have their day probably faster than they would have had.

Anyway, it’s been a long few months. I had a GREAT Christmas, though; yes, we got together, and no, I don’t feel guilty about it (though, there are some people in places where Covid is still raging who would blame me and my friends for spreading the virus)–we are not a hot spot, and the people I hang out with are like me in that, no one really socializes! I am not worried that anyone in the group last night had Covid or has been exposed recently; there were three younger people (someone’s kids in their 20s) who had flown in, but, only two were recent arrivals and everyone has to take a Covid test before being allowed to enter the airport.

Tomorrow, we’re going on a boat trip–a big, twin-hulled catamaran, which should be awesome! I have never stepped foot on a boat like that, so I am looking forward to the experience. Speaking of which, I’ve had some down time to actually remember and cherish some old trips and friends lately–to mind come volunteer trips to Haiti, to Ecuador; a self-styled yoga retreat to Nosara, Costa Rica; years ago, a solo trip to Turkey; years before that, one to Greece; a year abroad in Paris; many exploratory trips all over the mainland through recent years. Ahh, the memories; I am proud of the trips I’ve taken of late, and really, truly can’t wait to be able to travel again…

I hope my dad can entertain himself with his own memories; it’s painful, wondering what he is thinking about right now, you know? I know he has some great memories, so…that’s a small consolation.

Oh, and we got another doggay! He is the most ridiculous dog ever–his cuddle factor is so high, he’s almost TOO cuddly! I do miss my girl so very much–and our boy–but…life goes on. It’s nice to have a little buddy to care about, to walk, to have sleep all over you (we are not letting him on the bed; he will never, ever leave if we do…).

The parent trap

5 Dec

10:12 pm

No, not the movie. MY parents–or, rather, parent…though, both have their issues.

I haven’t really felt like writing lately, considering work and life. We did have a nice Thanksgiving–with old friends and new, a small group; so far, so good re: Covid–and I took a SWEET day off to go hiking with a friend. It was THE best thing I’ve done in a while, to get out of my ‘hood, my house, my head for the entire day, to spend it talking and walking and swimming with a new friend. Today, we went by the shelter to check on our new boy–YES, we’ve finally decided that we’re ready to welcome a new dog! We get to take him home on Monday. (Actually, it was my boo’s pick, so I guess I should say, HE is ready to have a son again. I had my eye on another dog at the shelter, but when I walked her today, I just didn’t feel like we had a connection; I feel bad for her, since she’s been there a year, but…I don’t know if I am ready yet. My old dog, who we put down almost four months ago, was such a smart, ridiculous friend–she was part chow, part shepherd, and I don’t know if I’ll ever meet a girl like her again, so maybe I should lower my expectations? It might be that I’m just not ready for another pup yet…)

Other stuff hasn’t been so good or easy, but I’ll get through this, too. The older I get, the more I realize that I will get through anything; and, a positive, selfless (as in, it’s not about ME, ever; I don’t ever have to choose to take anything personally) attitude goes a long way toward keeping self, others, and events in perspective. However, this thing with my dad has really thrown me for a loop!

Past couple months, shit has truly hit the fan with my dad. To summarize, he has always had what I would call a personality disorder (the closest I can come to describing him is narcissistic–like, according to Wikipedia, he has all three of these: exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive craving for admiration, and struggles with empathy; in fact, I would say his lack of empathy has always almost bordered on sociopathy, mainly because he has often had very little regard for others’ well being and he lies a lot). BUT, he’s also had lifelong UNTREATED bipolar disorder (yeah, it took me until 40 years old to unravel my issues from growing up with that shit!), which seems to have morphed into a full-blown dementia somewhere between five years ago and now–which seemed to be kicked into high gear by going under general anesthesia during a recent hip surgery (in fact, he has had serious mood/personality changes from past surgeries, too, it seems).

Anyway, it’s been a trip trying to deal with him because he’s not incompetent, but…he can’t do what he used to do (work-wise) OR take care of himself anymore. It’s very bad; I don’t really have the energy to go into details, but he is 100% unable to take care of himself (as in, he does not shower, he has not been eating, he didn’t think it was a big deal that he has no heat–it’s freezing cold where he lives now), and he seems 100% incapable of making rational decisions, of executive level thinking. Yet, he is also 100% in denial about this and does not believe anything is wrong.

Tomorrow, a social worker is coming to the house; I guess she will interview him and make the decision on whether to send him to a care facility. It will be interesting to see if and how he takes that; he has been extra-belligerent with my step-mom, and there is NO forcing him to do anything. I don’t know. It’s interesting to wonder about all the mental health stuff–I had no idea that people could pass for so long, as in, hide their dementia; I had no idea that dementia can include all sorts of mental changes, like delusional thinking that can be so very subtle that you don’t distinguish it from “normal” personality-disordered thinking; I had no idea that untreated mental health disorders can actually cause issues like this or wreak havoc later (he’s only 73; pretty young to be this bad, right?).

I have spent hours on the phone with him, my brothers (yep, plural; first time I have talked to the one brother who wrote me off in 3.5 years–eh, I am so over it that I felt next to nothing), my step-mom, trying to get him to understand that he needs care, that he can’t go home–he has no bridges left to burn, and at this point, I am not sure what the future holds for him.

I have thought once or twice about how this would feel if I had wine to rely on for escape; probably just more muddled and overwhelming. No, thanks–I like the extreme clarity re: other people’s “crazy” that being sober affords me these days! It has caused me some anxiety, though…

Anyway…just a short post. Even though I haven’t blogged much lately, I am always reading and following your posts, so keep ’em coming!

Sunday afternoon ramblings

4 Oct

2:53 pm

As I wrote about recently, over the past few weeks (going on a month now, actually), I’ve had terrible leg pain. I thought I had some terrible disease (of course, I did), so I went to the doctor–a first in that, this doc took me seriously and ran every blood test possible for a complaint like, “my legs hurt”–and, well…nothing is wrong. No Covid, no infectious disease, no autoimmune disease, blood panel good, muscles fine. I also got a blood test done for both my estrogen and progesterone levels, and for where I am at in the process of both menopause and taking estradiol via the patch, those came back normal, too.

SO, I have to conclude that it’s something to do with the estradiol patch (which, btw, is only one method of transdermal application; there are also creams, gels, sprays, probably others). And, that kind of really sucks since, I don’t know if another via-the-skin application will work for me. I am going to keep riding it out and see what happens.

So, that’s one reason I’ve been quiet on my blog, I’m just trying to take care of myself–mentally, it’s really hard for me to accept pain and not being able to work out because of pain. I usually just push through pain, but my muscles seem to take days to recover from even the slightest workout, so I have been obeying my body’s commands. It’s not easy not knowing either; and, I’ll never know unless I take the time to go off everything, let my body readjust, and then, go back on things one at a time. The patch is working for my night heat and insomnia, though, which is glorious!? Still, if I can’t live WITH the medication, then…it’d have to be a dealbreaker.

I am well, and my doctors took me very seriously–so, a huge win. Plus, it appears that I never got Covid, which is a relief as well.

I’ve been working full-time and will start working a new remote contract gig this week, putting me at full-time-plus for the next few months, so…that’s been great! It’s a relief to have work, sure, but even more of a relief to not have to job and gig search for a while.

Another thing that’s been going on is that my dad has gotten himself into some physical trouble (think: crashing cars and breaking bones) due to well, untreated bipolar disorder (in my opinion). Long story short, he’s doing fine but he’s still up to his tricks, so to speak. Lesson learned on my part: he will never change until and unless he takes medication; he will never admit anything is wrong; and, importantly, there is nothing I can do for him. I have thought of telling him, I refuse to talk to you until you get meds, but, I don’t quite get how an “intervention” or “ultimatum” would truly work or be beneficial for a mental health disorder like his. He doesn’t believe–refuses to believe–that there is anything wrong. How can you force him to consider an ultimatum that doesn’t really mesh with his version of reality? I don’t know.

On that note, I am going to exhale–my mantra these days–and go for a walk. I can do that at least; it’s funny how much of an “athlete” I am: I have already acclimated to this new level of pain and have found ways around it. I will never stop working out! (maybe that’s what got me here to begin with? lol)

Thank you, one and all, for still being part of my life. This blog-o-sphere is truly one of my favorite places to be on a Sunday afternoon…

Our girl is gone…

14 Aug

6:21 pm

…and, it feels like the end of an era. It kind of is, the end of an era. She was with us for almost a decade (8.5 years from the time I met her until the day she died, which was on Wednesday)–during that time, she lived her entire life…and we, too, lived a decade of our own lifetime. I think that’s what’s most jarring right now, is that we aged a decade, too; we saw a decade of our life disappear, too. A lifetime, in an instant–that’s how all those years of fun, growth, and love seem to me. Lifetimes are instants; the mind cannot comprehend, truly, the passage of time.

What did it all mean, I can’t help but wonder? Sure, she was my higher power; she was literally my entire (albeit small, I see that now) world, after I moved here and got sober, but before I got the courage to re-enter the “real” world (of work and friends and all that comes with stepping out). She, along with our other dog and my boo and my neighborhood–they were my world, for years; and there was nothing more I wanted, truly.

I feel a bit guilty that I “outgrew” only needing this dog, this world! As she aged, started to hurt, became more subdued in her older years, um, so did I! I mean, I grew up, so to speak, alongside her. When I looked through pictures of myself from back in her younger day, I, too, looked so much younger then, it seems: brighter, happier, more smiling. I was beaming, probably out of love for her, my new life, my newfound sobriety, maybe just the giddy youth that you don’t realize you still very much have in your 30s. My 40s have forced me to grow up and stop shitting (as many) unicorns, as it were; I still loved her with all my heart up until her very last day. I know she knows that, and I know it was her time, yet, I still feel a tad guilty.

But I also feel relieved. Her final night was really hard, and I woke up convinced that neither she nor I ever wanted to see her in so much pain ever again. So, we called the vet out to the house, and, surrounded by our loving arms, looking out at the water in her favorite spot (dating back almost a decade)–our girl passed, very peacefully.

It’s been quiet around here, that’s for sure. I am relieved that after about 1.5 years of tending to her needs 24/7, I don’t have to worry about what she’s doing and if she needs me. The final few weeks were really painful to watch, wondering with every passing second if she was in pain, if she was now deaf, if she was overmedicated or experiencing some kind of dementia or just in distress. Now that I have all my time and energy back, it’s like, what do I do with myself?

I was thinking that, it’d be a shame to not get another dog. You hear people who have gone through this say, Oh, I can’t do that again. Same thing with humans who lose a spouse–there will be no one who can replace him/her. Yet…we are made to love. And, to spend the rest of your life not doing what you were meant to do–I can’t see it.

I mean, what do we have to show for our lifetime together? It’s like, we’re back in the same house, the same place, and I feel like nothing happened; yet, it all did, right here. It all went down here, years and years of love. Is that all there is, really, is the love, the act of loving–and there is nothing tangible (unless you have babies or create art) to show for that, and there shouldn’t be. That’s the nature of love; that’s the nature of life. We come, we love, we go.

So, why do anything then? Are all our pursuits outside of loving each other and our animals simply neuroses, compulsions that propel us to work, strive, achieve, accomplish? Who knows?

Anyway, I’m glad she’s no longer struggling, and, I’m joyful, truly, that she got to live out her fierce, fun-loving life until the very end.

Whose mental health are we talking about?

4 Aug

1:58 pm

Lately, I’ve been sort of offline; I just haven’t had the time or ability to wrestle with my thoughts too much these past few days…

A quick life update is that, no, I didn’t get the job I applied for–after a long series of interviews (gah!)–but, that’s OK since there are other jobs out there. I’ve been on the hunt in one way or another since mid-June, and um, I am at the point where I feel like it’s OK (slash, necessary for my mental health) to sit back and let it be for a while. Let it percolate. Enjoy the fact that I was fortunate enough to collect a bit of unemployment, remember that this is just a phase and the economy will rebound, and put some faith in my network. I have worked with a lot of great people over the years, many of whom are still looking out for me, I have no doubt.

Anyway, I’ve got some time to re-focus on this blog and my “e-book project,” which is simply, to compile my posts and self-publish a version of this blog. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and it’s a way for me to sort of close one chapter, as it were. A lot of what I post these days–and will continue to post–isn’t really related to getting sober, and I want to re-read some of my past posts in order to get more of a grip on who I was then and who I am now. It’s a process–and there are probably a LOT more “important” things I could be doing right now and/or thinking about–so I will keep you posted!

What else has been going on? Well, as I think you all remember, I have posted about my parents’ mental health a few times. And, I remain committed to not writing that much about it and them on this blog since it’s not my mental health I’m talking about. However, not writing about it does not mean I don’t think about it a lot–especially as I watch my father devolve, as it were, into what seems to be a worsening mental health “situation.” I mean, if I knew nothing about his past and his personality, and was confronted with only his behavior today–I’d probably avoid him, and then I’d forget about it.

I know from my own experience with alcoholism that MOST people don’t want to know (or admit that they know) about your mental health disorder, or they oversimplify it because they can’t (and don’t want to) delve deep. I like to wonder, I like to ask questions, I like to look for patterns; MANY folks do not.

That being said, I just don’t know what to do about or for my dad–and, if I should do anything? He’s a grown man–in his 70s–yet…from what I can tell, he’s just getting worse. I have to assume that untreated mental health disorders only get worse as you get older. I fear that it’ll all come crashing down, sooner rather than later. Yet, you can’t convince him that there is anything about his behavior he should change–and, a lot does need to change. Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t anything I can do at this point; he won’t hear reason, he won’t hear truth, and even if he acknowledges that things need to change, he won’t choose to change. Yet…there is this feeling of, If something happens to him, well, it’s my fault, I should have done more.

It’s probably the feeling one has trying to get an addict into recovery before they’re ready to get sober–and then, who dies from an overdose or suicide. It’s my fault for not forcing them into recovery. I should have done more.

All I can do is let it go, let him go, let his mental health be HIS mental health. What more can one do? I probably think more about his mental health–and how he’s hurt me and others–than he ever will, which is sad, but probably true.

On that note, it’s time to get outside and enjoy some of this sun!

Helping or enabling

1 Jul

11:22 am

I used to think that I knew the difference between helping a person and enabling them–until I was no longer on the receiving end. As someone who drank alcoholically for years, I never had to wonder if I was helping someone or enabling that person. It was their problem, and they had to figure out how to help me without enabling my ill behavior.

These days, I am the one having to decide between helping and enabling during every phone call I make to both parents. I can say, almost without doubt, that both my parents, by choice, are living with untreated mental health disorders that negatively affect their family members.

It’s sad, but it’s the truth.

And there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

What is this called? Transgenerational something–issues, addiction, trauma? I can clearly see my own workaholism in my dad’s behavior; I can clearly see my neurotic thinking and tendency to catastrophize in my mom’s behavior. Yet, both my parents either don’t see it in themselves or choose to not see it. I chose to see it, and I chose to try to fix it, within myself. It’s a work in progress, but I decided that I could no longer live in denial–that was eight years ago.

Let me give a few “for instances”: I recently found out that my dad and his second wife are divorcing; she served him papers, and he seems to be in this state of “I don’t know why on Earth she would want to divorce me” haze that is just, well, utter bullshit. He knows; the problem is, on our calls, he denies knowing and spins a tale of what he believes has happened (versus the reality, which I know, because my step-mom and brother have seen or heard different versions from him, and they’ve told me about those). The question is, do I listen and not say anything, or do I confront him on his denial? I have tried a version of the latter, but he is deep in his denial so it doesn’t work. Yet, allowing him to go on without being questioned just reinforces this behavior–enabling him to keep it up without facing any kind of consequences.

The last time I talked to my mom, she was complaining about her health issues, about she was feeling overwhelmed and alone. I feel bad for her, but, after decades of telling her what she knows she should do, she’s chosen to not expand her social circle to include even one friend! She chooses to obsess about her health issues instead of letting them go/be; I get that it’s hard, and she has a lot of problems. However, no matter how “bad” you’ve got it, at some point, you have to choose to stop the mental looping and try something else–maybe, meditation, or yoga, or staying on medications consistently, or believing that these medications will help (there is power in placebo; she knows this, as a former nurse). Now, I could tell her, again, that she should do this, that, and the other; she can say, yes, I know I should do that, and then, she can not do it–or, I can just listen and then hang up, not really telling her how I feel because it doesn’t seem to change her behavior, which is in essence, a form of enabling as well!

Why do I feel guilty–and somehow responsible–that my parents, both of them well into their 70s, are very seemingly stuck and unhappy? And, even more guilty that I have decided to give up on helping both of them, wishing their choices were different but not trying to engage anymore in a discussion about any of it? What if it does not end well for my dad, who is soon going to discover just how much of the physical, daily burden my step-mom carried? Should I feel like it was my fault, that I didn’t help him enough by literally screaming the truth, as I know it, into his ear? Same with my mom: should I just let her be, grasping but unwilling, or should I continue to force the issue of personal responsibility for one’s own happiness?

I have chosen, after all these years of getting sober–it was a lot of work to extricate myself from these learned behavioral patterns, some of which really affected me and “caused” my drinking problem–to just let it go. Let. It. Go. I can’t care that much about their problems; I can’t keep trying to “reason” with them when they don’t want to change, essentially.

Is this what it feels like to try to help an addict or alcoholic who is not ready to get sober yet? Maybe…

Welcome to the doll house

21 Oct

1:06 am

I like that title, never saw the movie, and it only pertains to this post in that, I’ve been going through my old collection of Barbie dolls and really getting into it again–remembering why I loved them so much as a kid.  I was going to put them all up on eBay, but um, most aren’t worth that much because they are super-used, and, I do NOT have the patience to spend HOURS picking through my dolls and clothes and trying to figure out if this was Dream Date or Loving You or Peaches N Cream Barbie and then, after posting to eBay, having to field collectors’ questions!  I thought I was pedantic (which is what makes me a good collector/historian…!).  Still, THAT was actually fun, going through my dolls; I think I’ll probably keep the special dolls and clothes (I had the dream house and car and camper van, too, back in the day; I kind of want to hold onto something of my collection!).

What wasn’t as much fun was going through the other stuff.  And, I have been avoiding writing about it and I guess I should write about it, is all I have to say.

About what? Well, everything! Haha. Life, getting older, my dog getting older, my mom getting older, um, discovering via all this sorting of old stuff–writings, mainly, and photos–that my life seems to have been not an adventurous, freewheeling trip of courage and coming of age; but more a meandering path of mental illness.  That, all my writings are not a gold mine of material but a testament to mental illness over the years–and how to live with it while also not even acknowledging that it is there.  What an iceberg I feel like this realization might be; no wonder I threw this shit into storage a decade ago, moved to the island to start over, and never, EVER thought about looking back literally, at this stuff.  I didn’t want to confront it, and I couldn’t.

One good thing about getting older is that, for me anyway, I can see my own life and choices and path and behaviors much more objectively (it also helps that I am not drinking and wine is no longer exacerbating my issues or masking them!).  What mental illness am I talking about?  I’m talking about depression and social anxiety, sure; but also, things like being on the autism spectrum, borderline personality disorder, maybe even some form of paranoid delusions of grandeur (schizoaffective disorder, something of that nature).  I am not saying I suffered from these things; but, that, there may have been some element of all of them in my past.

It’s not easy, and it’s a slow unraveling.  I’ve kind of wanted to drink past few weeks, but more out of boredom than avoidance or fear of confronting this stuff.  I mean, I’m OK, no one is going to die, but…it’s a bit scary and daunting to remember just how effed up I felt back then, as a teen and 20-something (and 30-something!).

So much has happened the past few weeks, too.  After my mom’s visit–and seeing in action what I would call pretty obvious mental illness; where do you think I get it from?–I am just a bit burnt on all the self-analysis.

My mom’s visit was hard, to say the least.  I don’t think we’ll be spending anymore time alone (without the buffer of other family members), I hate to say.  Before her visit, I spent what felt like an eternity sorting through photos from 20 years ago and beyond.  I hadn’t looked at the scrapbooks and piles of prints from grade school all the way through my early 30s (about the time digital cameras took over, thank god) for years; I mean, we’re talking, I hadn’t looked at some of these photos but ONCE since I printed them at a Walgreens in 1995!  At this rate, I won’t look at these again until I’m 70 (um, in 25 years–holy CRAP, that sounds terrifying); what’s the point in keeping them?

And, that is where my mom comes into the picture.  In looking through the old photos, I saw who she was then more clearly, and I saw who I was then more clearly.  She is different now, but not that different!  All this time, I’ve been thinking that somewhere along the way, she just BECAME super-irritating to me; but, she’s always been herself.  So, what’s changed?  It must be me!  I have changed, a LOT, and especially around how I view my upbringing and how I let it and my stressors affect my life now.

Without really going in too deep around her and me and our issues, one of my big takeaways from our weekend is that, she does not want to hear the “objective” truth; she’s not ready to truly look at her own role in her unhappiness.  The ONLY reason I can say this is that I’ve lived it; as an alcoholic, as we all know, a HUGE part of our recovery is coming to terms with the following life FACTS:

it’s not all about me

stop taking things personally

it’s none of my business what others think of me

let it go

These basic “tenets” of sobriety seem to be what normies just know, or what other people learn as they mature without having to go through recovery first!  Why, at 73 years old, is my mother still seeming to refuse these universal mantras?  Like, I know that it’s really hard to choose to not take things personally, but I also know that continuing to do so causes me pain and that pain is greater than the effort of practicing new behavior.  I don’t know, it was like talking to a wall.  She knows all this stuff, too, but for some reason, she seems to be clinging more and more to choosing patterns of behavior that are negative and take up all her time.  Who knows?  I sure don’t know it all, and I can’t spend much more time trying to figure another person out (I am enough work!).

After talking a bit more with a few people close to me, I realized, if she’s not ready to try to see her role in relationships that are not working for her, and if she’s not ready to do a little self-analysis, then…I can’t take on the sadness and guilt that I do feel because she seems terribly unhappy (unless she isn’t really all that unhappy and is just being dramatic or passive aggressive–another story for another blog post).  I just have to let it go, and allow myself to do what I can for her but to then be happy, unapologetically and fully.  And I do, and she wholeheartedly wants me to (consciously, at least).

At this point, I’m like, who knows?  I have to let it go, and I will…

On that note, my brain is a bit fried, I am burning up tonight (again, who KNOWS what’s going on with my hormones, why one week or day I’m fine, the next my torso is on fire, and the next, it’s only my legs!  WHO KNOWS?), and I really just need to close up shop and turn the light out (in my brain).  I had a great day taking my dog to the beach–she’s “elderly” now, sweet girl, and that is painful; but, the twinges are counteracted by the fact that she’s still out there, frolicking in the water, and truly loving life.  What more could a girl want for her “daughter?”

We are moving in less than FIVE short weeks, and of course, my pedantic self has sold off quite a bit of our furniture.  I have this strange desire to get rid of EVERYTHING, to have no bleepity bleeping stuff anymore–maybe I’m just tired of carrying the weight of the past, feeling like I owe it something that I don’t; maybe I’m just tired of caring about keeping stuff.  I’ve never been one to be truly obsessive about not having clutter, but lately, I’ve been dreaming of a truly clutter-free existence where no stuff is going to trigger me, where the only thing that surrounds my field of view is white light, an open space of present-future, silence to meditate and dream…

On boundaries and saying ‘no’

7 Apr

12:40 pm

So, this morning, as I was scrolling Facebook, I became frustrated:

Why do I have to care about you?  Ugh, I should have gone to that thing last night–why am I so lazy, why am I so antisocial? 

And, on and on and on.  I saw in the early years of my sobriety just how much I could overthink and overanalyze, and how this contributed to my unhappiness and dependence on wine to escape my thinking.

It got me thinking about something else, too:  here I was, on a beautiful Sunday morning, and what was I doing but berating myself because I had let my Facebook feed intimidate me!

In getting sober and staying sober, I have come to realize that creating boundaries and saying ‘no’ are essential to my peace of mind.  There are a LOT of things that caused me to binge drink and drink alcoholically, and I never made the connection between that reactive behavior and the bullying forces in my life until I got sober.

In fact, there are a lot of bullies in everyone’s life–whether your friends, parents, or coworkers are consciously aware that they are being bullies is up for debate, though.  And, until I started to understand the concepts of boundaries and saying no–that there could be emotional bullying, and that this is far more prevalent than actual, literal bullying–I didn’t get that I could both say, No, I will not do that, and say no to taking on other people’s stress or expectations of me (or themselves).

It still makes me feel angry when I delve into this aspect of long-term sobriety, and I feel like this is something that will never go away completely because almost everyone out there (including myself) is engaging in some form of bullying–whether it’s dumping their emotional baggage on you, manipulating your weaknesses, or just using your reactions to make themselves feel better.  I have to remind myself, almost daily, that it’s ME who is in control of how I perceive and receive people, and how I react and interact with them–that ultimately, bullying is a two-way street.

Some real-world examples:

Facebook/social media–Before I got sober, I would scroll relentlessly, and I would allow everyone’s story to affect me.  I would internalize my feelings of “not good enough” and “guilty” and “should have, could have, would have” without realizing that one, I didn’t need to feel any of that, and two, I had control over who and what I let into my worldview.  These days, when I feel that coming on, I try to remember that social media is not real life; people posting to social media are not trying to offend me, personally; and if I want to not care, I can choose to not care and close the app.  I don’t have to feel guilty about not really interacting with my so-called friends; I have friends in the here and now, and I can interact with them–and this is healthy, and it is good enough.  These days, I would much rather engage people offline, in the real world, and not on social, email, or text.  And, some days, it’s as simple as closing the app and moving on with my day–and not judging myself to be a bad friend, somehow, because I have chosen to be a spectator on social media and not a player.

Parents–You know, before I got sober, I didn’t have as much frustration toward my parents for their mental health issues as I do now.  I knew that my mom’s difficulty setting emotional boundaries and my dad’s bullying behavior definitely contributed to my drinking, but I didn’t know exactly how.  In any case, I internalized my mom’s pain, and I always tried to please my dad–two things that I have to work very hard at today, every time I talk to them, to NOT do!

These days, I don’t know if I’ve figured out exactly how these family relationships have made me who I am, but in getting sober, I have learned that calling my parents less is OK, that not allowing them to control how I feel is OK, that putting up boundaries and saying no to their projections and expectations is OK–I wish it was different because they are in their 70s and “should know better,” but…

My mom has a lot of health problems these days, and so, our calls are always quite long and tedious. I feel like she feels slighted that I don’t call often, and I feel almost unconsciously judged for having become an alcoholic drinker and for not having had kids; but none of this matters when it comes to me needing to say no to taking on her bad mood or her feelings of helplessness.  In part, I think she wants me to share my own health problems, but I refuse to go down that road because it’s almost as if she relishes that; simply put, I DO NOT relish it.

My dad is an entirely different beast in that the family believes he has multiple actual mental health disorders, and his entire way in the world with everyone has always been about manipulating other people to do what he wants them to do for him, and expectation (I am hard on myself and need to prove my worth, so you should be, too).  I have simply come to the frustrating conclusion recently that nothing will ever change in our relationship except the way that I deal with it.  I have decided that while our conversations won’t change, and while I’ll never likely be able to directly say no to him, I can say no to his expectations–I love our life, and I don’t have to let him lead the conversation toward accomplishment as a measure of success.

Job and school stress–It took me getting sober to see that I was putting a TON of unnecessary expectations and pressure on myself for many, many years.  And, that I don’t have to respond to stress the way people around me are either responding to it or worse, telling me how I “should” respond to it.  It’s like, I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses by wanting that house, or that car, or that “bigger” job–likewise, at work, I don’t have to stress out just because my boss or coworkers are stressing out, necessarily or unnecessarily so.  You don’t have to stress out to care, or to prepare; stress will not help you have fun.  You can (and should!) take long showers, eat nice dinners, go to your yoga class, or hey, even hit the beach (man, I miss it!)–AND get your work done, and be a careful, caring employee who is worthy of her paycheck.  This mentality is really hard to push back against, but I have to push back–if not just in defense of my health, but in defense of my sobriety.

Exhale.  We all have to set boundaries and guard them fiercely, no matter if we’re getting or staying sober.  Likewise, we all get to say ‘no’–and that is a beautiful thing.  I think that is the most empowering aspect to my sobriety, and to my evolving life and lifestyle these days.  As recovering binge drinkers or alcoholics, saying no is essential to our happiness, to our joy, to our continued sobriety.

So…just say no (sometimes)!

Recovery…from family time

14 Jul

4:04 pm

I’m back from my 4th of July trip to see my dad and mom, back to back–along with my brother.  And, whoa, Nellie, what a (head) trip, indeed!

See, I’m going to be blunt–and maybe it’s not my place, but I have to talk about it:  both my parents suffer (yes, I know they are in pain, which makes me feel pained) from untreated mental health disorders.  We think my dad has bipolar disorder, I think my mom has anxiety and possibly never-diagnosed OCD, and we know for a fact that they’ve both been treated for depression.  Not a big thang, you know, if everyone involved SEES that they are suffering and makes a CONCERTED EFFORT to get and stay in treatment.  But, you know, they don’t.  They are not.  They try to hide or avoid their issues, and they seem to be too afraid to confront them in order to change.

Of course, I get it!  I could be describing MYSELF when I was in the midst of my drinking disorder!  And, I know it takes what it takes, but…  They are both in their 70s!?  I don’t know what to do most of the time except to practice not reacting the way I want to (in anger) and accept their behavior but try to lead and/or engage them in what I see as “healthier” techniques of relating.  It’s just all very hard when these people are your parents and not some strangers, or even someone else’s parents.  Our shared history and my emotional baggage makes it harder to not react emotionally.

It makes me angry to see both of them not really ever seeming to resolve anything on the inside, but mostly, it is just draining to have to deal with it.  I felt so drained coming home, and it took me days to stop being really angry and reactive and just heavy-hearted and like my brain had been scrambled.  To make matters worse, they had these issues growing up, and they affected me in a big way–it took me years to even realize what bizarre coping mechanisms I had developed let alone start dealing with them so that they stopped negatively impacting all of my own relationships, from personal to professional!

I SO want to just out them sometimes, to yell and scream, to tell them “what is wrong with them.”  But, I don’t.  It just doesn’t seem…worthwhile.  I’ve thought about writing a letter, which would allow me to be more measured and empathetic, but again, it just seems like it might be a waste of time.  Plus, I’m not ready to go there AFTER the letter has been read, as in, I don’t have the desire to be that open right now, as their daughter, and/or the ability to play the role of psychologist.  So, I just leave it–with my mom, I think she is trying to work on some of her problems, and my dad, well, I kind of consider him a lost cause at the moment because he’s manic, and it seems like a hallmark trait of mania is that until the person hits bottom, they honestly don’t believe there is anything wrong with their thoughts and behaviors.

It was great, though, to get caught up on on this stuff, and to be with each other, and to just be real.  And a part of me feels sure that somehow, seeing their kids helps them stabilize a bit, normalizes whatever tangent their emotional or thought disorder has taken them on–I imagine our kid-parent bond as a powerful antidote, at least temporarily, to feeling estranged from themselves; it helps me, in a way, to feel less estranged from life, to reel me back into something bigger than myself, gives me a sense of order again, helps me find “myself” again, at least one that I recognize.  I hope that I’m right, and it makes me realize that I should see them more often (I hadn’t actually seen my mom for two years, and with my dad, it had been a year…but before last year, it was three years!).

You would think that all of this would have made me want to drink, and I admit, there were a few moments when I really did think a glass of wine would make it easier to just escape, to get rid of the bad feelings, to disappear for a while.  Of course, I didn’t; I had plenty of time to think about ALL that I’ve worked for the past six years, and how, really, one drink would lead me back to where I was when I started writing this blog in June, 2012.  I’ve had quite a few moments, too, in the past month or so, when I’ve felt SO FUCKING BORED here, in my new home, that I have wanted to “start drinking again.”  It’s weird how in this case, it’s not a glass of wine I want, but the entire habit, or activity, of “drinking again.”

Not to worry:  they are just thoughts, and I have every reason in the world to NOT start drinking again.  In fact, just this morning, as I was listening to a podcast about a man who lost the use of his lower body from a drinking and driving accident, I just felt so…horrible for him, and disgusted for him, but also grateful for the simple beauty of the GRAND, POWERFUL act of getting sober, of being sober.  It does keep going, and it does get better, and I am still feeling wonder-full about it all–in spite of family pressures, and in spite of the occasional side of boredom that comes with the eggs and toast of life!  (haha)  Have a great Saturday, all!

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