Birthdays, Nightmares, and Love

Birthdays are so interesting. At least they are to me. It’s sad as we get older that they get less and less important. That won’t happen with me. No sir. If I can get ONE day to do whatever I want, no questions asked, you better believe I’m gonna take it.

This year, I choose to reflect. This past year can’t easily be labeled.  On this day in 2017, I was celebrating my 50th birthday. Not in the fashion I had hoped. My family was in the quiet farm town of Ottawa, IL preparing for my father’s first surgery. My husband and daughter were getting ready to travel back home while I stayed to help out. It was no big deal. We thought.

A few weeks after this milestone birthday, our family experienced the nightmare of a lifetime. My father…strong, healthy, funny, intelligent, witty, active, generous, efficient, handsome, and dearly loved…was reduced to a shell of a person. And it turned our world upside down.

Over the past year we have experienced fear, anger, frustration, hospitals, doctors, nurses, surgeries, rehab, lawyers, expenses, arguments, sleepless nights, confusion, paranoia, messes, relocation, tears, lies, cover-ups, CYAs, panic attacks, depression, hopelessness, grief, disagreements, and separation. All horrible. All unfair. All unbelievable.

But here’s what I reflect on today:

  • The time the doctor asked my Dad who the President was, and he said, “I’d rather not talk about it.”
  • The two RNs and one PA who were always there when we needed them, were honest with us, KNEW my Dad before this, and said, “What in the hell happened to your Dad?” (They understood our shock and disbelief.)
  • All of the medical staff here and in Illinois who have helped my father return to a new version of himself, still all that he was, just taking a little more time to get there.
  • The privilege of welcoming my parents into my home to rest, recover, and be loved by a daughter who owes them her life, a son-in-law who has a heart of gold, and a grand daughter who will always know what family means.
  • My friends who were curious, shocked, supportive, forgiving, helpful, patient, loving, and here. Just here.
  • And no matter what the hospital does or who takes responsibility for what happened or whether this could be a legal case….I really don’t care. All of that will be taken care of by the all mighty spirit that knows ALL of the answers and how to work things out.

What I really care about is the here, the now, and that everybody feels loved. Everything comes from love. There is no other source.

It’s my birthday. I feel loved.

I hope you do too.

birthdays

 

Behind the Scenes of My Depression and Anxiety

Luckily, I’m one of those people who has no problem giving others a behind the scenes look at my life with depression and anxiety. In fact, I get a kick out of revealing how it all started. There’s no doubt that I had it in my genes long before, but this one life-changing event triggered it. My grandmother, father, and all three of my brothers live/lived with it as well. We all handled it differently. Some with unconventional means and some with the proper channels of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Either way, we’ve all survived. Grandma lived a long, happy life and we have fond memories of her sense of humor, generosity, love, and yummy midnight snacks.

For me, it started in the fall of 1986. I was just starting my second year of college at age 19. Sure, I considered myself an adult, but I was soon to find out that I was still just a teenager with a strong connection to my parents. I was in the “cool” dorm bunking with two friends. Over the summer, I had started dating a Marine, in a long-distance relationship. (Bad idea.) I was ready for an amazing year.

My parents called with the bombshell.

They were moving from my childhood home in Virginia (90 miles from college) to Newport Beach, California (about 3000 miles). And here’s the kicker…they assumed I would just move with them. In hindsight, maybe I should have. But, no. I was a mature young adult. I was in college. I had friends. I was deciding on my major. I was having a great time. And, of course, I had a boyfriend. After many arguments, they let me stay. And they bought me a car.

And that’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan.

Almost immediately, the depression and anxiety set in. I found myself crying all the time and a lot of mornings, unable to get out of bed. And guess who I called. My parents. Rightfully so, they had one answer…move to California. I still wouldn’t do it. I was determined to ride this out on my own. So, I did that. With lots of drinking and partying. Somehow I managed to get to class and dance rehearsals. Don’t really know how. I’m sure my dance program was a good outlet for the way I was feeling.

And what the heck was I feeling? Sad? Angry? Abandoned? Caught off guard? Treated unfairly? To this day, I really don’t know that I can give a label to what I was feeling. It was a physical and emotional attack that came without warning. I believe it was living inside me and had a damn good reason to surface.

The story continues with moves, transfers, break-ups, tons of phone calls, a couple visits to California, psychiatrists, moving in with my sister, more drinking, more partying, more bad relationships, a failed marriage, etc, etc, etc, until the day I had a full-blown panic attack and finally, finally, took this thing seriously and started to turn my life around.

That was in 2001. Fourteen years. I suffered. Just because I was stubborn.

The one saving grace that surely helped me through all of this was the communication with my parents. Yes, we disagreed. Yes, I made decisions that made them cringe. Yes, they wanted grab me up and take me under their care. But they let me find my own way without judgment and with an open line of communication.

________________________________________________

An article from Palmer Lake Recovery, Parents Guide: How To Help Your Teen Cope With Mental Health Issues, is an excellent resource. It discusses statistics, warning signs, causes, how to help, and useful resources.

Some ideas from the article that my parents handled well:

“A good starting point for you as a parent is to have a conversation with your teen in a constructive way that is non-confrontational and is focused on offering them the love and support that they may well need more than ever.”

“Your teen needs the sort of parental support that lets them know they are not facing their struggles alone and that you are there to support them through this difficult time. It is equally important that parents also have a support network they can call upon.”

behind the scenes

One Way to Approach the New Year

As this new year approached and I was inundated with suggestions to leave my troubles in 2017, look ahead to 2018, come up with a resolution for the new year, and be excited about it, all I could feel was the need to be left alone.

The last six months of 2017 were horrendous for my family. My 86-year-old father underwent heart surgery on August 1st and due to medical malpractice, suffered a brain injury. Before this, he was a healthy, strong, intelligent man who went to the gym three times a week, completed the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle, and rode a tractor almost daily through acres of farm land. His heart is now as healthy as can be. His brain is not. Although he has progressed a great deal from being unable to walk, talk, eat, and control his bodily functions, our family has been through pure hell taking care of him. He and my mother now live with my family.

So, when faced with the anticipation of a new year, I simply felt stuck in the hardship of 2017. How can I not be? It’s still happening. So I wanted to put this off.  Could we just wait another six months for a new year? I’m just not ready.

So I turned to thoughts of yoga: love, light, peace, and truth in body, mind, and spirit. And that was my turning point.

New Years Day passed without a thought. I celebrated without the need to have discovered my resolution. Daily tasks were carried out in plenty of time. The house was transitioned back to normalcy from all the decorations, baked goods, and Christmas music.

What I had to remember is that this year has been difficult for me. And 2018 will continue to be the same, at least for the time being. In addition to the events surrounding my father’s injury, I have lived with anxiety and depression since the age of 19. I turned 50 last year. In fact, my 50th birthday celebration was brought to a screeching halt by what happened to my father. It’s been a struggle to keep my anxiety and depression at bay.

So I gave myself a break. A big one. I removed this huge need to identify what I desired for 2018 and gave myself the time and space to let it come to me. I created an opening to allow its entrance.

On January 1st, while scrolling through my Instagram feed, it flew right in. I saw a word I hadn’t seen in a while and had forgotten about: Sankalpa. This is a Sanskrit word in yogic philosophy that refers to a heartfelt desire. It is an intention or a resolve to do something. It comes from deep within and is often an affirmation.

new year

On January 2nd, I taught a yoga class using this idea as my theme, informing my students that they had one of four options:

1.) Use a resolution you’ve already created and transform it into a Sankalpa.

2.) Create your Sankalpa during class today.

3.) Be open to receive your Sankalpa if it is not easily coming to you.

4.) None of the above.

I had already chosen number three and I still haven’t been able to put it into a concise phrase, but I now know what I want this year. I want yoga. Not just the physical practice of yoga but all of the spiritual healing and connection that comes with it. I want to feel as much love and peace as possible every day, in every moment. I want to be able to surround the sadness I feel for my father with light and transform it into joy. I want to be true to myself and allow the time and space needed for all of this.

I can do it. I know I can. And I’m in no hurry.

 

Wonderful Places Where Yoga Heals

Project Balance

“Our Mission is to bring mind-body wellness to the children and families of our community through partnerships, education and outreach.”

Yoga 4 Change

“Yoga 4 Change is a non-profit organization that achieves meaningful change for veterans, incarcerated individuals, vulnerable youth, and those dealing with substance abuse. Our purpose-driven yoga program enables us to heal and empower these under-served populations, creating healthier, safer communities, one class at a time.”

The Recovery Village 

“Our patients reside in beautifully designed, private and semi-private rooms with comforting accommodations and amenities. We provide a rare retreat for our patients with a serene landscape and top-notch amenities to promote a healthy recovery environment.  Our full continuum of care reaches past your stay at our residential facility, ensuring continued success in your future.”

 

 

Five Things You Might Feel When Life Sucks and What To Do About It

Five Things You Might Feel When Life Sucks and What To Do About It

*****Warning – Profanity*****

It doesn’t matter what it is. Maybe you’re incredibly stressed out. Maybe you keep fighting with your spouse. Maybe your children are behaving horribly. Maybe your laundry is piled up like a damn pyramid. Maybe someone you care about is dying. Maybe you’ve just had it up to here with the pressure of being who you are.

Whatever it is…life pretty much sucks right now. But on top of the sucking, you also have to feel these five things. And you are ready to fucking lose it.

  1. Loneliness – you feel completely alone, that you are the only one who can or cares to fix any of this; if you don’t do it, nobody will; you want to just crawl under a damn rock, but then everything would probably get worse
  2. Isolation – might seem like the same as loneliness, but it’s not; it’s that feeling that everybody thinks you have the plague; maybe you’ve bitched one too many times; maybe you cry too much; maybe nobody wants to play with your kid anymore and maybe the parents don’t want your kid around theirs; maybe you’ve just been a little too much YOU and nobody can take it anymore. Hell, YOU can’t take you anymore!!
  3. Irritability – you’re right at the edge all the fucking time; the tiniest thing will send you over; somebody questions you, looks at you funny, or God forbid, criticizes you – – – forget it. That shit won’t fly. Don’t they realize how close you are to breaking every dish in that cabinet? Leave me the hell alone.
  4. Depression – it’s just really damn sad that life has to suck right now. You didn’t do anything to deserve it. In fact, you thought you were doing the complete opposite; being a good person, helping others, waking with a positive attitude, being a better person than you were the day before. A whole lot of good that shit did.
  5. Anger – This mother fucking shit is just about all I can take and the next asshole who does anything to make it worse will have a fucking bloody nose.

What do you do about it?

You say, fuck it.

You feel it. You own it. Then you take care of you.

You are the only one who will.

God Gave Me THE FEELS

God Gave Me THE FEELS…

God

You can tell me to build a thick skin. You can tell me it’s no big deal. You can even tell me to lighten up. But if you tell me I’m too sensitive, you’ll have an argument on your hands. 

Many years ago, I was built a certain way. God gave me the feels. That includes, but is not limited to the following:

sensitivity, emotion, passion, sympathy, empathy, thin skin, fear of the unknown, depression, anxiety, and unconditional love. 

And now imagine all of that swirling around in my body at any given moment. It could be a good moment in which all of those things serve me well. The feels do their job and life is good. 

But the swirling can also occur when the moment is not so good. It could be an argument, a strange place, a difficult person, or even something as simple as a paper cut under certain circumstances. 

When the feels emerge here, the consequences are disturbing and unavoidable. This is when physical reactions are added to the mix:

rapid heart beat, chest tightness, sweaty palms, shaking hands, uncontrollable tears, shortness of breath, and stomach knots.

It’s not pretty, it doesn’t feel good, and it doesn’t even stop there. For days, those reactions manifest themselves into tension, stomach and head aches, indigestion, insomnia, and sometimes, panic attacks.

As much as I’ve learned, as strong as I’ve become, and for each and every hardship I’ve survived, I was still built the same way. With the feels.

So, yes, I’ll do my best to put my big girl pants on every day and ride the storms that evolve around me. But I can’t ever change the way I feel about it. And you’d be wise not to ask me to.

God gave me the feels. And I like what God gave me.

God