Monday, December 31, 2012

2012's Top Ten

Traditionally, on New Year's Eve, I make a list of the top ten things that have happened in the last year, or things that I am grateful for. I've always thought it was best to look back on the year and focus on the postive, even in years that have been horrible (and I've had a couple of years that I'd rather pretend didn't ever happen.) There have been low points in this year, and a couple of months I'd like to erase, but I'm going to laser-focus on the good stuff. These are the awesome things, the things I'm grateful for, the good stuff from 2012 - in no particular order.

~ I'm healthy. That's a pretty huge deal. I don't think I realized what a huge deal that was until this year, when I got seriously ill for the first time in my life...and I wasn't as seriously ill as I could have been. But I got sick to the point that I couldn't take care of myself, and I didn't like it. And it made me look at things in a whole new light. I am healthy. I am a healthy, vigorous person. That's awesome, and I'm intensely grateful. It's not something I'll take for granted again anytime very soon.

~ I have good kids. Okay, so my kids drive me batshit sometimes. I don't think there's any parent in the world who can't say that. And those Friday mornings, those blessed four hours when I'm kid-free...oh. They're simply heavenly. I watch a lot of kid-inappropriate TV in that time. (This is a half-truth. I have actually caught myself putting the TV on Disney Jr. just because I miss the kids.) But my kids are, overall, GOOD kids. If I ever need reassurance of that, I just go to the McDonald's playplace and sit for 30 minutes. That makes me utterly grateful for what I've got.

~ I'm married to an amazing man. There is no other man on this planet who would put up with the amount of bullshit I dole out. I simply have to be the most obnoxious human being on the planet sometimes. I can't imagine living with someone like me. But he does it - and here's the crazy part - he actually not only still loves me, he LIKES me. Isn't that dippy? 

~ I met some amazing friends this year. This was an odd year for friendship for me. I won some and lost some. But the gains I made were so incredible, just so unbelievably wonderful... I can't tell you how lucky I feel to have met the people I have met and grown close to. The losses still sting, but the friends I won over the last 18 months (and especially since May) have been a healing salve, and I thank God daily for them. They've been a rock in a safe harbor, and I hope they know what they mean to me.

~ I grew as a person. I don't know what more I can say about that. I feel I grew in wisdom, although I have a long, long way to go. It seems like the more I grow, the farther I realize I have to go and the more I seem to realize I'll never get there. But I can't stop running - this race may never be finished, but I can't stop running.

~ I started exercising. Which is just awesome, and I love it.

~ I pretty much achieved baseline. Man, I can't tell you how awesome normal feels. Normal is good. Normal is the way I should feel all the time. Normal is just amazing. I wish everyone knew how awesome normal really is. I wish I could make everyone understand just how wonderful it is to be baseline after being in a dark well of depression for a couple of years... and how terrifying it is to have things coming up that threaten my baseline. But I feel good, and I hope I can keep it that way. 

~ I got to go to New York City on a girls' weekend. I can honestly say, without hesitation, that that was the most fun weekend of my entire life. I wish I could relive it. I relive it frequently in my memory.

~ I started blogging again. Sorry for that. 

~ My etsy shop is actually doing something, and I made money at craft shows. Man, that's ego-boost central right there. People looked at something I made with my hands, they said "hey! That's different, pretty and I like it. I think I will give you money for that thing." And then they gave me money. It gives me a sense of pride and self-worth that I've been lacking for a long time. And speaking of pride and self-worth...

~ I've started mental-health activism again. The happiest, healthiest and strongest I've ever been in my life was when I was working as an advocate for NAMI. I want to recapture that, for a multitude of reasons. it will be an uphill battle, but I feel very good about it. I feel very, very good about this. 

And now for something different (but not completely different...)

Things I want to accomplish in 2013

I want to be a better housekeeper.
I want to jog on the beach when we go in May.
I want to do more with my etsy shop and craft shows.
I want to continue advocating.
I want to lose 40lbs.
I want to run a race.
I want to keep blogging.
I want to go on another date with my husband, no kids. 
I want to spend more time with my friends.
I want to go visit my friend who lives out of town.
Realistically, I know I won't accomplish all of these. But I'm going to try. And that's the point, isn't it? I'm going to try. 

ALL the best to you in 2013, and Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

But seriously...

I joke a lot. I'm a pretty funny person. I think. I like to have a good time. But there's some seriousness to me, and for some reason I'm in a serious mood today. I apologize for two serious posts in a row, I had no intention of going back-to-back serious like this. But this has been on my mind.

I want to be a better person. I want to be a better mom. I want to not have mood swings. I want to be the type of person who keeps a clean house, who isn't ashamed for people to drop by her house any old time because it's always presentable. I want to be the type of person who cleans up a mess as soon as she makes it. I want to be a good time manager, a good money manager. I feel like if I could do just a few of these things, all the rest would fall into place. And the biggest key to all of this, the biggest problem I have (in my opinion), is my horrible memory. I forget everything. I forget what I'm doing from the kitchen to the stove. I forget that I'm supposed to call people, I forget appointments, I forget names and faces, I forget things that I've known for years. It's weird that I don't forget certain things. Like, for the most part, I have a great memory for birthdays.

It's not that I don't forget things that are important to me. I forget vital appointments and other things that are very important to my and my children's well-being. Things that I know I have to remember. I make lists. I write myself notes. I do all kinds of little tricks. Nothing has worked. I can be a functional adult with mood swings, I can be normal with guilt. But I can't function with my memory being so bad that people accuse me of being a horrible person and calling me names. So my memory, my anxiety and guilt and my ridiculous mood swings all pile up to disable me and make me a strange and difficult person to be around.

But I don't want to be this way. I've started counseling a few months ago, and my counselor and I are working really hard to try to get me 'normal.' I'm in a better place, mentally and emotionally, than I have been in a long, long time. Despite the fact that I'm under a tremendous amount of stress and my anxiety level is very high, I'm coping very well and am not depressed. I'm working out, I'm going out and being social, I'm not withdrawn, I'm actually well - although I freely admit to being touchy and grouchy(-er than usual.)

I have no idea why I'm sharing this. I really don't. I don't anticipate any advice.  I fear sharing my feelings, cares and woes in certain circles of late. So me opening myself up like this doesn't make any sense. What's more, I don't have it nearly as difficult as some, and I know it. The only thing I can think of is that maybe, I guess, I wanted you guys to know me and my heart a bit better. Maybe I wanted you to understand me and my motivations and where I come from a little bit when we talk. I can't understand any other reason why I would share this.

I have enjoyed getting to know those of you that I have met through this blog. A quick update on the anti-stigma campaign - we're working on getting the ball rolling. There is a group on facebook where we bounce ideas off of each other, we're brainstorming....basically we're a little think-tank. I'm incredibly excited about this, and if you'd like to participate, you're welcome. Contact me through here or through my facebook -

Sorry for being so somber today, I have no idea why. Like I said, I guess I just wanted you guys to know my heart a bit. I'll perk up and get funny again soon. And I hope that you all had a WONDERFUL Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Call To Action

This is going to be a long, rambling post. I apologize in advance, and I hope you'll bear with me. This is incredibly important to me, but my thoughts are numerous and jumbled. I'm going to try to sort them all out.

Once upon a time, about a decade ago, I dated a boy at Virginia Tech for about four years. Every other weekend, I drove the two-and-a-half hours to go visit him, and we would go to football games, frat parties (or other parties - wherever there was beer), or just for walks around campus. Once or twice I came up a day early and went to lectures with him. We would catch the BT (Blacksburg Transit - basically a bus) and ride it around to various parts of the school. I distinctly remember waiting for what seemed like an hour late one night in front of a building that faced the drill field. We'd come from a party, and although it was so late that it was early, I felt completely safe.

It was a beautiful campus, but my favorite time of year there was fall. Blacksburg is in the mountains, and when the leaves are changing, it's just stunning. My ex and I got engaged, and I passively began planning a wedding. We talked briefly about getting married at Virginia Tech, at the chapel that's located at the end of the drill field there. It was fun to entertain that notion and daydream about getting married in the fall with the bright leaves all around. But he and I fell apart, and that was that. I tried not to think about Virginia Tech and its beautiful campus much anymore, the happy memories there were best encapsulated and left to be revisited when I felt strong enough.

Then on April 16, 2007, I had no choice. I was lying down on the couch with a headache when the news broke that there had been a mass shooting at Virginia Tech. It was mass chaos, nobody knew what was going on and the news was grasping at different tidbits of information, reporting the wrong thing. But the imagery...there was this place that I'd spent so very many happy days washed in blood. There were EMS dragging a girl by the hands and feet across the very field where I had hoped to marry my childhood sweetheart. And there were SWAT police, with huge rifles drawn, pointing at the very spot where I had stood with my fiance and his roommates late one night while we waited for the BT to pick us up and take us home.

I can't explain how that made me feel. I can't even fathom how the people on campus must have felt, and I don't want to. And how people who actually went to Tech must feel about it - I can't begin to imagine.

Then came the information that Seung-Hui Cho was mentally ill. Not only that he was mentally ill, but that signs had been missed, warnings had been ignored, he'd been in a position to get help but hadn't. As a person who has a mental illness, I was appalled, embarrassed and hurt. It was the first time in my mental health journey that I wanted to hide my illness. The stigma that came from that instance was powerful. People looked at me differently after that when I said I was bipolar. Guys who were interested in me bolted like the wind when they found out I was bipolar. It hurt. But I was still very open about my disorder.

This shooting in Connecticut has affected me deeply on a number of levels. All of the children who died were six or seven years old. My Andy is seven, and I wept profusely when I saw the list of names and ages read last night. It affects me on the mental illness level (although, to my knowledge, nothing has been confirmed about any mental illness.) It affects me as a human being. The idea of that much heartbreak strikes a chord in me the same way it has everyone else who has seen it.

I've said for many years that the biggest problem facing our country in the field of mental health is not the lack of providers or access (although that is a grave concern), it's the fact that mental illness is so stigmatized that people are afraid to seek help. It's been my fervent desire to make that stigma a thing of the past. For several years, I've wanted to start an anti-stigma campaign to raise awareness of mental illnesses, the people who have them, the stigma surrounding them, and why none of them should be feared. I believe wholeheartedly that if people do not fear being ostracised or backlash for seeking help when they or a loved one develop symptoms of a mental disorder, they would be much more likely to get the help they need.

I believe if we eliminate or reduce the stigma, more people will get help and tragedies will be reduced. Not just widely-publicised tragedies like Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech, but suicides by teenagers who are afraid to tell their families that they hear things other people can't. People whose moods swing so wildly that they get manic, believe they are capable of things they simply are not, and end up breaking the law and causing themselves problems for the rest of their lives. People who are so depressed that their jobs, marriages, children, health, hygiene and homes all deteriorate - sometimes to the point of no return. These are tragedies, too - and they happen every day. But ALL of these are preventable. People just have to get help.

And here comes the sticky part for me, and what I have been building up to. In Christianity, ministers and missionaries speak of receiving "the call." They are called by God to do His work, whatever it is, and when they really have the call, they can't escape it. I feel very much like that about this.

For the last few years, I have been feeling the call to start an Anti-Stigma campaign. I would like to target teens and young adults with the message that Stigma Sucks. I've been worrying this plan in my mind for several years...I'll pull it out and tinker with it for a while, then put it on the back burner and ignore it for a few months. But it always, always comes back. And I just can't ignore it anymore. I feel too strongly about it. I want to do this, and I feel like it needs to happen. People need to hear this message. I feel like it could save lives. I feel like it could make peoples' lives better. I feel more strongly about this than I feel about any other topic in the world (save, of course, my family.) But there are a few flies in my ointment. Pretty big ones.

I'm a woman who is pretty acutely aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I'm an excellent idea person, but I'm not always a great executor. I'm a better Indian than I am a chief. I'm not the best at following through on my own - I need someone to remind me and keep me on task. I lack confidence in my own abilities. But what I do have, what I have in abundance, is passion. I want to make this happen. I want it desperately. I have ideas, plans, dreams, and a domain name. What I need is help.

That's where you come in. I need help. I need people, first to tell me if this is pie-in-the-sky bullcrap or if this is something that is a viable idea that I should pursue. Second, if this is a viable idea, I'm going to need manpower. I have a domain name, but I can't build a website. I can't do graphic design. I know nothing about non-profit organizations. All I have, really, are ideas and a domain name. I need people who believe the same way I do and know what the hell they're doing.

So what I'm asking you to do is please, if you will, pass this blog post along and help me reach the right people. I know this has been long, rambling and probably difficult to read. It's been difficult to write. But I really want to reach the right people. If it needs to be out of my hands, that's fine. I'm happy to be a little Indian who got the ball rolling. I just want the ball rolling, and I'd like to be a part of it if I can.

Thank you for reading this. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time. My heart breaks for the families in Connecticut and for every family who faces a tragedy of an untreated or undertreated mental illness. They can be prevented. Let's do what we can to stop the tragedies.

God bless,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fargo and The First 48

Sometimes I'm an insomniac. Occasionally it's medication induced. (Like the last three nights when I went back on my ADHD meds. It's been fun, I tell you.) Other times, it's just my body acting weird. And then there are the times I do something truly, incredibly stupid, and I can't sleep because of it.

I can't watch scary movies or participate in scary activities. I mean, at all. It's only been in the last decade that I could watch the video for 'Thriller.' My husband tried to get me to watch 'Shaun of the Dead' and I couldn't cope. I was escorted out of a haunted house run by the local Jaycees when I was in my late teens. I just don't handle scary very well. So I avoid scary stuff.

Well, about a week ago, Chris had control of the remote, and he landed on 'Fargo.' I hadn't seen it since I watched it when I was about 20 or so, and I remember that although I was able to watch the whole thing, it screwed with my head for days. DAYS. I told Chris this, and he asked if I wanted to change it. "No," I said, like a fool. "I'm a grownup now. I think I'll be okay." So we watched it from about 15 minutes in til the end. And I felt pretty okay and a little proud of myself when the movie ended. Weird, because, you know, it was Fargo, but okay overall.

Then we went to bed. And I fell asleep. Then I dreamed that my husband had me kidnapped and my face was shot off. *BAM!* I'm up like a shot. And from that point on (about 2:00am), I was awake ALL.NIGHT.LONG. No sleep for me. That was it. I lay in bed and thought about Fargo. Freaked completely out.

So what did I do? At about 4am when I realized it was hopeless, I came downstairs to the trusty DVR and put on one of my top two favorite grownup shows that I never get to watch when the kids are awake - The First 48. (The other show is The Big Bang Theory. I have a deep and abiding love for that show that borders on obsession. I'll probably blog about that later. Bazinga.)

If you're familiar with The First 48, the fact that I love it but desperately fear scary stuff should give you a little insight to how weird I am. In case you're not familiar, it's a documentary-type show that follows a murder case from beginning to arrest. They are real cases with real victims, real suspects, real witnesses, and real cops. And I can't get enough. I love that show. In fact, I love all crime stuff. 48 Hours, Law and Order, Dateline, all of it. Even most of the books I read are true crime novels. My dad calls it "MurderDeathKill." Chris calls it "Dead People and How They Got That Way." I just call it entertainment.

But why? Why do I enjoy this so much? Better question, why am I so fascinated by true crime, but the fake stuff terrifies me? Shouldn't it be the other way around? It is for Chris (although he denies being afraid and just insists that it's boring and/or sickening.) I really don't understand this part of my mental makeup. I can't quite justify it to myself. I'm not a criminal, not even close. I've had three speeding tickets in my life. I don't have any violent tendencies, I'm not a pathological liar (although I'm sure I will  lie horribly about my age later on in life), I vote in every election...I'm a pretty good citizen. So why am I all up in the crime scene? (hehe) And why am I so terrified by scary stuff - more than the average person?

I'm not expecting any answers, really. I just thought it was an interesting contradiction about myself, and maybe I was hoping that someone else might be like me. Or maybe you'll all tell me I'm weird and throw tomatoes. You know, whatever works for you.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Its fun to stay at the YMCA

Andy started begging us to take karate when he was 5. For two years, he begged and pleaded. Finally this past August, after much financial finagling, we got the budget to the point that we could squeak out a YMCA membership, allowing Andy to take TaeKwonDo. He has thoroughly enjoyed it (although he puts up a resistance to going sometimes - he's completely addicted to MarioKart) and has graduated belts once already. He's scheduled to graduate belts again this month. I couldn't be prouder of him...he's really done well.

In September, I was cleared to start exercising. (I had been very ill with a serious, serious kidney infection for the majority of the summer...I was hospitalized twice in July.) So I took advantage of the fact that we as a family had access to the YMCA and started going while Andy was in class. It went well, and I started losing weight. I got ambitious and started Couch-to-5K. I noticed how much better I felt when I worked out, and so in November I sat down with Chris and had a heart-to-heart. We decided that I would start getting up at 5am and going to the gym, working out, taking a shower, then coming home to get the kids ready for school. It's been great, I'm on week 7 of the 8 week program, and I love it.

And let me tell you something else that I love...the anonymity of the Y. THAT, my friends, is awesome. I'm already pretty much anonymous here in my new city. It's only in the past six months that I've started to make some friends and become even remotely recognizable to anyone in the community. ***edit*** I feel like I've been unfair and rude to the few friends I had until a few months ago. I did have a handful of new friends, three or so, and one established friend. But I was essentially a hermit. My loneliness was self-imposed and caused by a combination of kids and chronic depressive states. ***end edit *** Until then, the only people here that knew me were my in-laws, and they avoid me. (Just kidding.) But at the Y, none of my friends or acquaintances are there. So I'm anonymous, and it's wonderful. Why is it so wonderful? Well, I'll tell you.

1) I get some genuine alone time. I never get any alone time. Ever. I spend all of my time talking to someone. Calling them down, explaining something, comforting them, etc. So even just driving to the gym by myself is a treat. Being able to walk in, nod a hello to the strapping young lad behind the counter and then get down to business without further ado is wonderful. Add in the fact that I can put in my earbuds, crank my music up to eleven, and then rock out while I'm working out....ahhhh, paradise.

Speaking of music....

2) I listen to music that most other people don't. I really don't care if my music isn't popular, it's what I like and that's that. One particular song that has become the most motivational to me, and I always put it on in the last 7-8 minutes of my run, when I'm sure I can't go on, is a rock opera-type song. I can kind of get absorbed in the music and forget the fact that I can't feel my legs anymore. The deal with this is that I tend to conduct an invisible band and/or play air drums while I'm jogging. Now, I'm consious that I'm doing it, and I use small movements so as not to look utterly insane. But I still do it. Why? Because the people there don't know me. And even if they do, haters gon' hate. I'm jammin' out.

And as weird as I know that is (and believe me, I know that's pretty out there), this is even weirder. Hang on to yourself.

3) I get to take luxuriant showers at the YMCA. I warned you it was weird. But hear me out. At the Y, I'm not rushed. I'm not constantly listening for one or more of the kids to rush in because "Charlie won't let me play with the tablet!" "Andy hit me!" "Katie has a poop!" "MOOOOM the phone's for you." "Honey, I need to go to the bathroom." Man, shit on that. I just want to wash the important parts. I'm not even trying to shave. But at the Y, I CAN SHAVE IF I WANT TO AND NOBODY IS GOING TO STOP ME.

I also don't have to worry about using too much hot water. As far as I'm concerned, IT'S ALL MINE. What's more, I don't have to worry about my hair clogging the drain. I don't have to worry about washing the towels. I honestly don't have to worry about much of anything, except bringing my own shampoo and conditioner. And frankly, for a woman who goes days without a shower at home because she can't find the time around her kids, it's freaking heavenly.

So yes. It's fun to stay at the YMCA. I absolutely love the YMCA and pay that membership fee gladly every month. I'd pay it gladly every month if it were just for Andy and his TaeKwonDo, but the benefit of me and my workout, showers and music are so wonderful I'd pay for that, too.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Hairbow Conundrum

As I mentioned earlier, I like to make crafts. And recently, I discovered the downfall of all crafters: Pinterest.

Oh. My. God. Pinterest is like crack. I've never done crack, I've never done ANY drug that wasn't prescription, but I imagine that Pinterest is what crack must be like. It's insane. I log on for just a minute, and I'm on there for a solid hour looking at DIY stuff I'll never attempt. Of course, when I pin it, I just KNOW I'm going to master it. But let's be honest. Am I ever going to make my own soap? Hell no I'm not.

But I've actually made a couple of things I found on pinterest...mostly recipes. And they've been resounding successes. Now I've found something else I want to make - DIY hairbows. But I'm having a little bit of a crisis about it.

See, I have this little girl. This little girl has hair. This hair requires hairbows. (It doesn't really *require* hairbows, but my raging pink hormones say that it does.) But I have three close friends that make hairbows already. And I'm feeling really crappy about the fact that I want to try this craft.

Now, in fairness to me, the hairbows that I've pinned and want to try are different from the hairbows that they make. (Sidenote - never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that there could be so many different varieties of freaking hairbows until I had a little girl. I mean, for real. It's ribbon in pretty shapes. But there are a gazillion ways of shaping it, and I'm in awe. End sidenote.) I want to make hairbows that are not the same. Mine would be individual to me. But still, I'm having guilt. There's kind of a code between crafters that you don't hone in on someone else's craft. I've always been very proud of the fact that although I make earrings and everyone and their brother makes earrings, I sort of found a niche by making kitchy, silly earrings. And I've never found anyone else that makes headbands or barrettes quite like mine. Similar, yes, but not quite the same. But there are lots of people who make hairbows like the ones I want to make - just none in my friend circle. But they do make hairbows. So I'm presented with a dilemma.

What do I do? Do I only make hairbows for my little girl? Do I make them anyway? Do I make a few to see if I can even do it? Do I approach them and see if it would be okay with them? What if they say no? What if they say yes but they secretly hold resentment? What if they say yes but I'm convinced in my sometimes-paranoid little brain that they secretly hold resentment?

I've been playing for a while with the idea of closing down my etsy shop and opening a new one. I've been wanting to sever ties with the name associated with my current shop and start fresh. This would be a perfect addition to the direction I want to go. But I'm genuinely at a loss as to what to do. I don't want to hurt my friends over some ribbon and hairclips - but this is something I've been toying with the idea of doing since Katie sprouted fur. Pinterest gave me the vehicle to do it.

Boy, do I ever wish I had good decision-making skills. Does anyone have any advice?