Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
BUT, I'm beginning to go just a little bit easier on myself this year. Rather than leaving my marriage, I actually walked into a healthy, joyful space. Instead of my kids having a mom who could not manage to be emotionally present but was still married to their dad, I gave my kids a mom who lives separately from their dad but is fully available in every way. Instead of living with the fear of regret, I live in the moment, knowing that what I've chosen will serve my family best.
Yesterday, I almost gave into the anniversary funk, but I realized I really didn't feel so bad. Jeff and I created three beautiful children and we certainly had our moments in the sun. As time passes, I pray that I will be able to embrace those sweet memories.
But, as for yesterday, I went with my 21 year old twins to watch Toy Story 3, complete with 3D glasses, popcorn and smuggled in cokes. I've learned that even one day is too many to waste. Next June 19, I will remember what Carly, Will and I did yesterday and how June 19, 1982 actually made that possible.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Most people who have spent any time at all with my dad probably know the following things:
- He's a hard worker, (and he's hard of hearing.)
- He's conservative with his money and in his politics.
- He keeps his yard and his cars neat and clean.
- He likes to fix things -- lawn mowers, running toilets, chainsaws, my mom's opinions.
- He has high expectations for others, even higher ones for himself.
Some of these are things others might not know about Dad.
- His temper is fierce when he does get mad, so don't push too hard when you're arguing with my mom.
- When he's nervous, he talks. . . a lot.
- He only wears ties when my mother makes him.
- He promises that this year's garden is his last. . . every year.
- He prays on his knees every night.
Of course, in his spare time, his hobbies are planning for disasters and worrying about the plans.
He's also a softie. He likes Reds baseball and Louisville basketball because those are his younger grandson's teams. He pretends he enjoys Shakespeare when his older grandson is on the stage. He's been known to buy a car that he's never test driven when his granddaughter picked out the car. My mom almost never pumps her own gas , and somehow, the gas can for my lawn mower (in Louisville) never has to be refilled. He loves and cares for us the way many of our dads do, if we're lucky enough, but my dad has also proven himself in the darkest of seasons.
Nearly three years ago a mental illness that I had vehemently denied having for years began to spiral out of control. My marriage was ending and my children were leaving the nest and it was easy to blame my illness on the amount of stress and change in my life. Unfortunately, by the time the stressors had subsided my mental illness had moved into the driver's seat.
For possibly the first time in our family we had a problem my dad couldn't fix. He couldn't fight or buy the illness away. He couldn't order new parts. He wasn't able to reason or argue with it. He couldn't find any bootstraps to pull up. He couldn't work hard enough or long enough; he couldn't even pray it away.
Just when I was convinced that my illness had won and that I had alienated and disappointed him enough to leave me alone to self-destruct in peace, he got his second wind and chose to walk with me straight into the fire. Believe me, the fire was hot; we all have scars to prove it.
That walk entailed thousands of miles ( and dollars), painful conversations, attempts to explain and understand, the shedding of pride, asking for help, trusting others, looking at God and religion in a completely different way.
I did not have a "road to Damascus" experience -- the walk, as my parents will attest to, has been long and difficult, and we realize that it will never be completely finished. Relapses and unhealthy choices make appearances from time to time, and honestly, I don't think my dad will ever fully understand it, but that doesn't matter anymore. My dad no longer promises me that he can fix things, but just like God, my dad will never leave me, even when the night is dark or I vote a straight democratic ticket. How lucky am I!?!
Friday, June 4, 2010
Do I talk about falling in love with the scale the summer I was 10 and recovering from hepatitis? Or maybe I would write about feeling overwhelmed and sleep deprived when my kids were babies - when I nursed too long just to lose weight -- or the hypoglycemia that I struggled with that in actuality didn't exist. (It's funny how when you're starving yourself how your blood sugar will be low.)
Or may I could write about when I was hospitalized when the kids were in elementary school for overdosing on sleeping pills? The psychiatrist then asked me outright if I had anorexia. I told him he was the one that was crazy -- and I really believed what I was saying.
Would I start a book talking about my grandparents' deaths and the journey those events started? Of course, I could write an anthology about a 25 year marriage that I walked out on and what brought me to such an extreme decision.
I could share about time spent at Ten Broeck, a mental hospital, on a 72 hour holdl, with a system full of pain killers, cuts and stitches all over my body, a wrecked car, but still feeling that I was sane and the rest of the world had gone crazy.
I could write about the time spent at Renfrew, drying out and fattening up, searching for my own sense of worth, thinking I could be "cured" in 30 days.
There's the year and a half I've spent in recovery -- going to therapy, practicing coping strategies, lapsing into moments of despair then finding my way again.
There might be a book in the way that Grace, my dog, has been a major player in my sustained recovery, even though on the outside it looks as if I rescued her. A book could come easily with the hours and hours I've spent with Erika, my therapist, talking about "new rooms," staying out of my head, discussing if I'm willing to leave the eating disorder behind for good, and realizing I'm not sure what my answer is to that question. . . still. (It is an old friend, after all.)
I could write about the new relationships I have with my kids, my mom and dad, my friends or the joy I experience each day hanging out with 5th graders in my classroom.
Do the details of the journey make a difference? Is it even worth remembering?
Erika says it's a fine line to walk. I should never allow myself to forget how far I've come and the work I've done, but in remembering, I certainly can't romanticize the disorder or downplay the havoc it brought to my life and the scars that will always remain. I have to write as a healthy woman with a full, rich life, who happens to have a mental illness, NOT as a woman whose life is full of the mental illness. Fortunately, the mentally ill me doesn't show up too often any more so maybe it's time to start writing.
I suppose the bigger story has been told by others more eloquently than I ever could. Quite simply, I was lost but now am found. Maybe that's everybody's story.