The common denominator?

I came across this article today:

Have a read through, but to summarize it is an overview of the facts that nearly all of the horrific mass murders and familial murders and tragedies have one thing in common; the accused were taking (or had recently been taking) various medications for mental illnesses.

The not so subtle insinuation of the article is that the drugs are somehow responsible for the actions that these people took. That the effects of the drugs were such that they caused the rampages, the killings and the suicides. What is so aptly pointed out in the comments following is the simple truth that ALL of these (predominantly young) persons were not just being blindly medicated; they were on medications because they had been exhibiting symptoms and issues associated with a variety of mental illnesses. The underlying mental illnesses were, most likely, more to “blame” than the drugs they were taking.
Granted, in many cases, the side effects of these drugs are disturbing and, in some cases, worse than the worst actions that could be caused by the original mental illness but let’s not dismiss that these persons had underlying mental and emotional issues already.

It strikes me personally as I have wondered and it has been speculated what would have become of Willie had he lived. He was diagnosed with the innocuous anxiety and depression that was, in fact, most likely not what was going on inside of him. His journals and writings our private discussions point to a more likely condition involving psychosis that was just starting to manifest. The truth is that we don’t know – and we never will. His journals rant and vent about things that are too private and personal to share but that clearly indicate a mental illness that was not only worsening but that was taking a toll on him with the fear that he would lose control.
When he was placed on Prozac I was concerned and expressed that concern. I had been on antidepressants myself as a teen and they had had very distinct and disturbing side effects on me. I, like so many people, had read and heard about the potential for tragic consequences when teens are placed on SSRI’s and the other drugs that are so commonly prescribed now. I was assured that they were all safe, that the fear-mongering and sensationalized accounts were unfounded… that it was such a low dose anyways.
He was only on the drugs for a few weeks and really, they seemed to have no effect on him at all. In hindsight, he should probably have been on anti-psychotics and not anti-depressants but hindsight is 20/20 as the saying goes.
My psychiatrist has discussed that for all we know, what Willie did was the best possible outcome. That he may have grown and worsened into one of those headlines. Or maybe not. We’ll never know.

What is clear is that regardless of what drugs he was or wasn’t on, he committed suicide because of the mental illness that had caused him to be treated (if that’s what it can be called) in the first place.

Instead of focusing on the drugs, let’s not lose sight of the facts that behind all of these stories and names and tragedies there were people who were sick and scared. People who weren’t sane and rational and “themselves”… That the larger issue here is that they didn’t get the help that could make them “better” … and that sometimes, for some, there is no “better”, just an end…

Dear Universe

An open letter to the Universe:

Dear Universe (or Life or whatever you would like to be addressed as),

I commend you on your tenacity…your many and varied attempts to break me are impressive and you continue to surprise and shock me even as I think I’ve seen it all. Granted, I have only had 42 years to try to decipher whether or not your intention is to find a way to make me tap out of this journey or whether I , like everyone else, is simply here for your amusement and enjoyment… but, 42 years is long enough for me to have garnered some information…

Admittedly, there have been a few occasions where it has looked like you won and I have come close to conceding defeat. Yet, no matter how many times or how long they have lasted; my track record for beating bad days is pretty damn good (that means btw, that I haven’t actually given up ever).

I have never been one to play the games that require great skill at cunning and strategy. Luck has eluded me as well – I find it’s fickleness and uncertainty to be unpleasant to my taste for reason and understanding. I prefer the strength and clarity that comes with knowing not only what I’m up against… but more importantly… what I bring to the table.

So, thank you for showing me what I’m made of and what’s inside of me that I have to fight with. Having seen that sometimes I do slide a bit and falter when I’m pushed; I also see that I always find my grip and dig in and I hold on – without fail. I have simply to say to you today…

You have no idea what I’m capable of and what I can handle… But I do now. Regardless of what comes next… challenge accepted, and I won’t lose.

Me, my Self and I

and P.S. your sense of humour sucks at times.

Another Day in Paradise

I wrote recently about the need to reboot and to reset my Self. About the need to have a bit of a retreat and to allow the indulgence of self-care and self-focus and attention with the intention being to actually make me, my priority. Not only that, but to give me a chance to reconnect with who I am… that being lost in the shuffle of the last couple of years while dealing with grief and eventually depression.

The utter frustration that sits with me now daily comes from seeing the glimpses and feeling the energy of my Self and just as fleetingly seeing and feeling it retreat again, swallowed up by waves of depression and walls of grief that hit me hard enough to knock me back onto my ass… over and over again.

That frustration that, for me, turns inward to anger and hatred. Self-loathing that encompasses my thoughts and at times, my actions. Choosing seclusion as an answer to the question in my mind of how to re-balance my Self. Knowing that no matter how much support I draw from those that I love, it’s the energy and support that I will find within me that is going to make the difference.

Having spent 3 days off from work last week in an attempt to stall the crash that I could feel coming I chose to try the option of an at-home retreat. 3 days dedicated to me and my care and attention. Finances right now don’t allow for me to do what I know I need to – distance and solitude and being gone from “home”… neutral environment, nature based… away from everything. So the option I chose was attempting that but at home…. I can safely say that was a bust. Sure, it was nice to not go to work for a few days and have a relaxed schedule but being in my home, surrounded by the nuances of my day to day life…feeding the cats, changing the litter box, shopping for groceries and getting gas for the car. Still answering work emails and phone calls remotely… not exactly the disconnect I needed to achieve what was necessary.

So I sit here now, finishing up my “retreat” and my rest and dreading work tomorrow. Feeling defeated and beaten down by it all – again. Feeling like I failed – again – at doing what I needed to do.
It has been feeling more and more lately like the way it was last year at this time. The mask goes on in the morning and it’s a fight all day to push through and focus and be “ok”. And I do it – so well that almost no one has any idea what’s under the mask. Then it’s back home and the sheer amount of energy it has taken to carry that mask and wear it all day leaves me depleted to the point that I have nothing left to be there for myself… nothing left to try to store up and rebuild what’s been lost… I have just enough left to be able to drag out of bed in the morning and slip on the mask and count the hours until I can take it off and rest.

I long for this to be over and for it to be better. I want nothing more than to wake up and want to face the day. To look forward to events rather than forcing myself because I *have to* or because I *should*. Yes, I have sparks of that now… but they are so few and so distant from each other. It’s not “me”. This isn’t who I am at my base level. I miss “me”. The dilemma being that I can fake “me” outstandingly well. After all, I now me pretty well. But I can’t fake it to myself for very long… and deep down, I know it’s an act.

This is one reason I have, and continue to, isolate myself from friends and from those who would like to be more to me than friends. They see the glimpses of me that I can pull together for short periods… but I can’t sustain a relationship – even a friendship – if it means me keeping that up… right now there’s still too much time spent re-charging … and no one wants or deserves to be with someone like me – someone who can’t make arrangements because I never know if I’ll be up to what I planned. I have lost one of the integral “me” parts – I have always been reliable and trustworthy… I now look at myself and see someone who can’t be trusted to follow through with a date or with plans… someone who may want to – with all my heart – but just can’t. And “can’t” was NEVER part of my vocabulary.

Shame and self-hatred surrounds the knowledge that people who used to care about me and be close to me now barely even touch base because of my patterns of behaviour. Knowing that I have no one to blame but myself for choosing to be isolated and distanced now. I try every now and then to make an attempt but then after a day or two, or a couple of outings, I run out of steam. I seclude a bit and retreat and everyone else just keeps going and I’m here, alone still… but by my choosing. It starts a cycle that makes me wonder if maybe I should just remove myself entirely from my social circle… it’s getting smaller and smaller as it is anyways.

I have some who are adamant that I can just be who and how I need to be and that’s all that matters. No expectations, no demands, no “standards” to meet. I appreciate that but the vast majority of those people are gone from my life… I have turned down coffee dates and walks and movies and… the list goes on. It’s my fault, not theirs. I have a surprisingly lonely and quiet life for someone who, on the surface has so many “friends”. The reality is that beyond 2 people in my life, I see and socialize with no one. Sure the odd group get together – that leaves me walking away feeling more alone and secluded and ostracized than ever, knowing that I don’t connect with any of them the way they connect to each other. SO I have slowly started to avoid even the group get togethers. Again, not their fault, all mine.

No real answers… no pretty way to tie up the musing and rambling… no hopeful quip that ends on a bright note. That’s not how life feels for me now. Not going to fake it for writing. I’m doing enough of that in person.

Clarity of Hope

After spending some time over the last couple of days going through blog entries and sorting and organizing them, something struck me very clearly…

How clear it is to see the progression and journey in the writings. How easy it is for me to see when the slide from “just” grief transformed into depression… and how it has started to slowly come around again … the depression not so much lifting as taking retreats every now and then with hope peeking back out.

I skim through the entries and see that in those first few months I was simply a shell. Shock and unbelievable grief; I have very little recall of those first 4 months. I read over my words and see that I was operating in a fog of disbelief at my reality coupled with an attempt at my usual optimism in how I live life. Hope and faith that things will be ok pushed through but it was detached and automated. The disconnect that was going on was so strong at that point. I remember saying to my therapist that I’m not a stupid person, that I *know* that Willie is dead and what has happened… but that I just didn’t, on same base level, accept it. Looking over my writings – it’s clear that the acceptance took a long time… that’s evidenced clearly for me when I read my own words.
It was at the time that the acceptance started to sink in that reality became real to me… and that was when the depression started to take hold. It’s been a long road of trying to navigate out of the density of feelings of loss and hurt… anger and hatred so deep that it hurts. I can say honestly that I have good days now. Full days of being ok. It’s still rare that it’s a full day, but they do happen. The bad hours and days are manageable now and lined with the ability to see that it’ll pass – that life isn’t going to always be as bad as it is in that moment… and that’s something that I see in my writings now.

As hard as it is to go back and read and as much as it hurts to see where I was, it makes it better … seeing where I am now and that, while there are still posts about the pain, there are also posts of clarity about hope.

Who would You be?

I think sometimes we forget how to be other than how we are. We all have our “norms”; how we usually are. It can be like how Eeyore is always sad or how Tigger is always bouncy. We become so accustomed to being one way that we are programmed to have that as our nature.

If you drive a wagon the same route on the same road every day, ruts will develop in the road. The route will eventually become habit and routine and just the way you always go. If it’s drawn by a horse, you will eventually not have to even direct the horse anymore after enough time. It will know where to go, when to turn, when to slow and when to speed up. The whole act becomes a rut.
We do this with our driving too. I have been shocked before to arrive somewhere and to have had my mind on my thoughts so much that I don’t actually remember the minutiae of the act of driving to where I ended up at. I went through the right streets and made the correct turns… I could only assume that I stopped at the appropriate lights and crossing.. I made it where I was going safely but I was on the driving equivalent of auto-pilot.
The same thing happens with life is so many areas. The worst one is in our feelings though. We become so used to the same feelings and the same way of relating that, after a while, even unhealthy or uncomfortable feelings become “easy”. A way of life.

We try to make changes and every now and then, the changes hit their mark. A moment happens when we realize that we don’t feel the same… that we feel differently… that change not only can happen but has… and yet somehow… we revert back to the “norm”.

We react differently than “usual” to a situation. Reacting in a healthy way instead of the “usual” way that nurtures hurt and fear and isolation… and somehow talk ourselves around again into the unhealthy feelings being dominant. Why? Because that how it’s supposed to be. Doesn’t’ matter if it’s not right… it’s usual… and that, in a twisted way, makes it comfortable even in it’s wrongness.
We consistently choose sameness over uncharted territory – even when that sameness is exactly what we profess to not want anymore.. what we struggle against and tear at and say we want to change – more than anything…

What would happen to the story of piglet asked Eeyore how he was and Eeyore said he felt great, that the day looked beautiful (instead of the usual gloomy) and that he was in a terrific mood…Impossible… that’s not Eeyore’s “story”. No one would know how to relate to him; and the worst affected would be Eeyore himself. Sure, he might enjoy his new-found giddiness for a bit but it’s easier for him to be how he always has been. It’s easier to complain and mope and be comfortable… because at the end of the day, it’s easier to be unhappy and cozy with the usual than it is to finally be the change you say you’ve always wanted. Once you change your story and make it how you want it… you have to take responsibility for the state of affairs and own that.

For so many, it’s easier to remain a victim of being caught in the same old trap of mood and feelings and behaviours.
I asked myself today… “What would you be if you had nothing “wrong” to complain about… if you loved yourself for how you are right now… not how you want to be…if you looked in the mirror and saw the beautiful and sexy and caring person that you are that you never see? You’d be amazingly who you were meant to be.” A harsh truth but one that I told myself over a decade ago and one that I forgot about recently.

The good kind of trigger

I still find it unnerving how sometimes, something comes into my life seemingly magically.

I had ordered a book through my library last week. A book by Pema Chodron called “Smile at Fear”. I’ve been interested in her books for a while but having gotten around to reading any of them. Now seemed like the right time. Change is happening and it feels like the time to focus and put some direction to understanding that change is now.

So I go to pick up the book after I received the email that it was in and I was surprised to see that I must have ordered the audio book because that’s what was there. I’ve never done the audio book think before… I love to read and hold the book and feel the pages. I had listened to radio stories when I was in my teens and, while I enjoyed them, it just wasn’t the same as reading.
But I figured, why not give it a try. It’s Pema herself doing the reading and I’ve seen her in enough interviews to know that she has a beautiful voice… and it’s her book… so what the heck. Might be fun for a change to have something read to me.

So I glance at the back of the box when I get home and read it more carefully and am upset to find out that it’s not actually just an audio reading of the book by the author but instead, it’s a recording of a retreat that she speaks at that is based on the principles of her book… hmmmm.
Well, I have it here and might as well listen to it…

Imagine my surprise when, 15 minutes into listening I find myself enraptured that she has hit the nail on the proverbial head with what I need to hear. A simple gift from the universe…
Not what I expected but precisely what I needed. A trigger, the good kind for a change…

System Reboot

There are times when a system just doesn’t work right. Every now and then at work I’ll go away from my desk for a bit and when I come back to my computer, it doesn’t work properly. I try to scroll down a page and it zooms in and out instead…or I try to open an email and it just stalls and blanks out trying to open a new one without closing the old one…I’ll go to open a new tab and it does nothing. Weird behaviour that my IT guy can’t explain. His answer is always the same… “ log off, wait a minute then log back in. That should fix it”. Annoying, but it does always fix it. Whatever “it” is. I’ve asked him why my computer does this and why it needs me to log off and on again and he doesn’t know why. He just says that sometimes systems need a reboot. They just do. I don’t worry too much about it, it’s more an annoyance than an issue really.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about changes that I need to make in my life and how I feel like a failure for not being able to make a lot of them stick. I have grown accustomed to some unhealthy and ineffective behaviours in my life and need to re-set things in a sense. Not eating properly, using medication to get to sleep, not exercising enough – or too much and injuring myself – a lack of self-care in general… the list is pretty long. It seems like I just can’t seem to get past some ingrained hurdles that I have with my Self these past couple of years. The inner voice and chatter needs a good hard whack upside the head to set it straight is what it feels like.

I’ve been in a place similar to this before. Just after my first divorce I found myself in a rut in my life of not caring for myself… too wound up in head in the sand behaviour that I could just do it all and not put any energy into my Self that I crashed. Mentally and physically. Ended up with double pneumonia and had a forced 10 days of down time to reflect on how badly I was taking care of myself. Out of that came a reality check and I booked myself a stay at a spa when my ex-husband took our kids to Disneyland later that year.

What ensued was a full on reboot. I spent 3 nights and 4 days alone… sleeping alone, eating alone, hiking alone… spa therapy treatments, yoga, reading and meditating. The only times I spoke were to order food or book a treatment. At the time I was a single Mom to three little boys and the silence was not only bliss but necessary for me to be able to hear ME. I had become so accustomed to pushing my thoughts and feelings away that I had no idea how to even hear my Self anymore. I found solace in the woods and the water… that was when I realized how healing the ocean and the forests are to me. How I need that in a way that I didn’t know in order to connect with my Self. I’ve carried that with me since then and that’s one of the reasons that I moved to the island. To be able to be near the ocean within a short stroll has been a blessing… being surrounded by areas to hike and connect with that nature energy is necessary in a way that I never doubt.

So I find myself at a crossroads again now… my system isn’t firing right… all the things are in place for it to work and the awareness and the foundation is laid but for some reason, it’s wonky. I’m not going to expend any more time or energy trying to figure it out… it’s time for a reboot. Time to, quite simply, log off – wait a bit – then log back in again. It worked before and it will again.