To all the girls I’ve loved before

Remember when you were ten years old and someone mailed you a chain letter and you had to make ten copies, sign your name and mail it to ten more people? I never copied the chain letters. My young heart just couldn’t be bullied into sending a letter under the threat of “10 years of bad luck”. Actually, maybe I should have sent them…

Anyway, this isn’t quite a chain letter (or maybe it is) but I’m really honoured to have been sent it so I’m breaking out the stamps and envelopes. Kim, who opened my eyes to what an honest blog could be, nominated me for a Liebster Award.

In true chain letter fashion, there are rules. I must answer Kim’s random questions. So, here goes:

1. Are you that guy in your neighborhood who feeds the wildlife?

I live in a condo in the city. The only wildlife in my neighborhood is an occasional squirrel climbing those weird small trees they plant in planters on the sidewalk.
I do give fruit and $20 bills to the bag lady who wanders my neighborhood… but mostly because I over-identify with her.

2. Where do you write?

I write at my desk in my gray cubicle at my day job. I’m very sneaky and blog under my maiden name so no one at work will ever find me. I love my job because I get a salary and it’s just busy enough that I’m not completely bored but not so busy that I can’t spend half a day writing on my blog, work for an hour, and then spend the rest of the day reading your blogs.

3. My New Year’s resolution was “More thongs, less yoga pants”. What was yours and are you sticking to it?

I guess my resolution was…um… to not die this year. So far, so good!

4. Lucky Charms for breakfast or are you one of those “I like my heart” kind of people?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. From 2004-2007, I ate two soft boiled eggs for breakfast every single weekday. (Did I mention I have OCD?)

5. What are your thoughts on global warming? Kidding. Do you like pizza? Some people don’t like pizza and those people cannot be trusted.

Gobal warming? As my good friend Elsa said, “the cold never bothered me anyway.” It’s not so much the warming that concerns me as the polution of our air and contamination of our water and destruction of the ecosystem needed to secure a viable food supply for the future. Also microwaves freak me out, so I eat my pizza cold the next morning. (Didn’t think I’d get the connection did you?)

6. What is your favourite colour and have you used that colour (or a variation of it) to paint your walls?

I tell my kids that my favorite colour is green because I like nature.

But really my favourite colour is white. Which is really the absence of colour. I like it because white isn’t distracting or overstimulating (like my brain). So, yes, my walls are all white (except in my closet where I’ve drawn intensely on the wall with sharpies).

But I don’t dress in white because I also like to drink coffee. So I dress in black because it is kind of the opposite of white. (and because, if you are wearing all black, people can’t actually see your clothes or body. True story.)

7. What do you look forward to in the spring?

I look forward to walking outdoors without getting frostbite on my cheeks. And I like the smells and sounds of spring. And birds. I like that there are birds around.

8. Is there a piece of jewelry that you wear every day? Is there any significance to it?

Yes. Lately, I wear three pieces of jewelery most days.

1. A necklace with a small Lotus charm.

I’ve never been the kind of person who liked jewelery or attached sentiment to items. I also wasn’t the kind of person who thought that it was okay to buy something for yourself just because you think it’s pretty. I must have visited this necklace 6 times last year before buying it. It was $30.

I’m not sure why I love it but I do. It’s a lotus which makes me think of yoga- which reminds me to breath. I think that it also represents the new me, my new growth and my new ability to care for myself.

2. A thin black leather bracelet with a silver ball clasp.

This bracelet was given to me on my birthday last year in the middle of a canoe trip in the Northern Ontario wilderness with 12 strangers/best friends.

Rosie, a beautiful woman on the trip gave this to me. She said that she wanted to give me a birthday gift but she hadn’t bought anything, so she took this bracelet off her wrist and put it on mine. I’ve never recieved this kind of a gift before. It was the most beautiful feeling.

Rosie told me that whenever I doubt my place in the world, I should look at this bracelet and remember all the people here and in my family who love me. I do. Thank you Rosie.

3. My shiny diamond Engagement ring.

Two years ago, after my ‘manic break’, I started having thoughts of pawning my engagement ring for a cup of coffee. So I put it in the drawer for safe keeping. It stayed there for well over a year. I’ve started wearing it again now. It makes me think of my husband. I remember how much I love him.

Sometimes people look at my ring and ask me when I’m getting married. Then I give them a weird look like “Can’t you see by my messy hair, tired eyes and squishy body that I’m already married with kids? Isn’t it obvious that I can’t wear my wedding band because my fingers are still to fat and I refuse to resize it?” Such is life.

9. Cold pillow or warm pillow and are you a pillow flipper in the middle of the night?

I think of myself as more of a pillow biter, if you know what I mean…

10. Favourite picture of you and why?

My favourite picture of me was taken last month at my daughter’s 5th birthday party. It’s framed (in black and white, lest I be overstimulated by the colours) and hanging in my bedroom. It’s a picture of my mini-family and we all look so happy and natural. It feels real. We weren’t posed or all dressed the same or standing in a beautiful room. We were having a great day and we stopped to smile for a photo. I am proud of the loving birthday party that I was able to make for my little girl. Something I was never able to have.

That photo also marks my 5 year anniversary of becoming a mother… and the day I began to lose my hold on reality and my sense of self. I look at that photo and remember how hard I climbed to create the day that this photo was taken. Not just ordering the pizza and cake, and not just all the therapy to learn how to celebrate a birthday, but all the work that went into making sure that this little girl had her mother there to hold her at her 5th birthday.

I feel proud of where I am today. I fought so hard to become this woman who can stand in a photo with her husband and children and feel like she belongs. Our smiles are all so genuine. When I look at that photo, I remember that something would be missing if I wasn’t there with them.

(that just got way more sentimental than I expected…)

liebster

Thanks, Kim, for nominating me for this award. xoxo. Keep breathing babe.

Fear itself

knock knock. who’s there? Fear. Boo! Ahhh!

Having a panic attack is like a training session for not dying in the face of paralyzing fear. Having an anxiety attack is good practice in case you ever need to build a bird house in a room full of sleeping hungry lions.

I’ve been getting lots of training in.

I’ve also been reading lots. Sometimes I read books that make me want to have sex. Other times I read books that make me think. My favorite books do both. Right now, I’m reading a juicy young adult sci-fi novel (that I won’t name so that I don’t spoil it for you).

In the book, the sexy characters are training to be brave and fearless so they enter a “fear landscape” to face their own deepest fears again and again until they can figure out how to overcome them. This really makes me think about the power in bringing your fears to the surface. There is power in doing this in therapy. Once we can understand exactly what we are most afraid of, fears become like any other problem that we can work to solve.

I feel like my journey through depression and crazy has been my own “fear landscape” and has forced me to face some big universal fears like the fear of death, fear of toaster strudel, fear of losing your mind, fear of the doorbell, fear of your mother.

In the book, one of the (sexy) characters grew up with an abusive father. In his fear landscape, he sees his father beating him with a belt. Eventually he grows up, leaves the house, learns to fight and after a while, beats the shit out of his father. Then, his fear landscape changes. He is no longer afraid of being beaten by his father, instead, his deepest fear sees him turn into his father. Reading this struck me so deeply.

“I was no longer a child, afraid of the threat my terrifying father posed to my safety. I was a man, afraid of the threat he posed to my character, to my future, to my identity.”

I wonder if this is a typical emotional journey for an abused child? I spent so long thinking that my fear of my mother was normal, repressing it. Then, through therapy, I came to understand it. I started recognizing the abusive behaviours and understanding which parts made it hurt. Cutting her off put me in control of this pain. It showed me that I have power to protect myself and walk away from her attacks.

Then, I had to learn that I had the strength to fight back against getting hurt. Just like the character in the book had to find his strength by beating his father with a belt, the way he was beaten- I had to abandon my mother during her cancer journey, just like she abandoned me during my postpartum depression and all that followed.

(If you don’t really understand this, I know I sound like a huge bitch. Maybe I am, but I’m protecting my kids so I don’t care.)

After the fear of being hurt by my mother subsided, she was still in my “fear landscape”. Why? Because now I was a woman and a mother and she posed a threat to ‘my character, my future and my identity’. Instead of being afraid of her words and actions, I was afraid of becoming her. I was terrified of hearing her words coming out of my mouth. Terrified of making my children feel the way she made me feel. I’m not quite sure how I’m working through this, but I think that putting words to the fears and bringing each one to the surface is a big part of the process of getting her out of my fear landscape for good.

There is a new fear in my landscape now, the fear of losing my children and husband, the fear of harm coming to them. This is a good fear. I am keeping it. I love them.
I. Love.

breath in color

False alarm

Oops. Looks like I pulled out the fire extinguisher for a piece of burnt toast.

I sometimes think about how it’s impossible to know after the fact if you’ve overreacted to a minor threat or if your overreaction is precisely what kept the threat from growing and eating your head.

I’m glad that I didn’t actually lie down on the subway floor the other day. I only got a bit anxious and found it a bit harder to cope with conflict. But, here’s a grain of salt to chew on: when I say a bit anxious, it’s kind of like a skydiver saying that a skyscraper is a bit high.

Do sane people spend much time wondering whether or not they are sane?

I don’t think so either. Maybe the very fact that I’m over-analyzing my thoughts is evidence enough.

Skip this paragraph if you don’t want to read about that mom who is always gloating about her perfect lucky life and the effectiveness of her psychiatric medication cocktail. I feel so fortunate that I got a whole week of inner peace.  Well, not exactly inner peace, more like inner nothingness. I was able to get out of my head and focus on the world around me. I was a wonderful break from having to constantly question my reality.

Jealous?

You should be. Here’s a picture of me:

Selma Smoking

I’m too sexy.

Castles in the quicksand

Come on Lyla, hold on tighter.
You can do it! It’s been ten whole days feeling like a real person.
Just keep it up. Don’t lose your grip now.

You’re being such a great mom. A loving wife. You have been such a capable person for ten days straight!

I am sitting on the subway literally feeling my hold on this reality slipping out of my fingers. I’m trying to think my way out of it. Doesn’t seem to be working…The random anxiety. Wanting to cry. Mind racing trying to predict the next ten minutes. Everyone is probably talking about me. But this is not right! None of this is true. I must record this before it slips away completely.

I just want to scream and bang my fists on the floor of the subway– “It’s not fair! I’m not done enjoying this yet! My kids still need me!”

I finally had a sense of myself. I thought I’d at least be able to keep a hold of that. I had ups and downs but they were related to things that were actually happening and most importantly, they didn’t make me question my self worth. I didn’t question whether or not I exist, or if I deserve to. I just lived. It was nice.

I want to scream and bang my fists on the floor of the subway– “It’s not fair! I’m not done enjoying this yet! My kids still need me!”

Whatever. It probably doesn’t matter anyway. I probably wasn’t that different. That’s not true! I was different! I was better. I was more real. I was able to cope.

I looked in the mirror yesterday and I noticed my eyes. They looked clearer, more focused, more alive. I’m worried they may be getting cloudy again.

How am I supposed to make any sense of this?

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Found my mind! …but then I lost it again…

Last weekend, my husband told me to write on my blog, “You only write when you’re not feeling well.”

He wanted me to write about how great I was feeling and how well I was doing. He wanted me to write about how quickly my sense of self changed from laying on the floor in an “I’m losing my mind for good this time and no one will notice” panic attack on Friday to being a wonderful mother making a really nice birthday party for my daughter on Sunday.

I told him that I didn’t need to write about feeling good because, how could I forget that I feel good? What kind of mom forgets on Tuesday that she did wonderful things with her children on Sunday? That would be so weird. Of course I’ll remember. Besides, now that I know how to be happy, I don’t need to worry about trying to write notes to my crazy self anymore. She’s not coming back. That depressed girl is really gone for good.

But then, guess what happened?

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Depression!
o.

It’s a very odd thing to understand that you can’t quite control your state of mind. (I feel like I write this in every post.) It’s like the only predictable thing about my mood is that it will change. Quickly. Randomly. It’s not even distinct moods. Like I can’t say, ok, I’m depressed now, I’ll be depressed for a few weeks, I’ll figure out a routine to work around it and then it will change and I’ll have some time to adjust to something else. (Isn’t it weird that my ideal situation would be to be depressed for a few weeks? Perspective…weird.)

Instead, it’s like, gee, I’m a bit tired. O wow, I feel like I need to cry right now. Now I’m furious about a Purim costume party that told kids that they had to be a princess or a super hero. (Are people really so dumb as to not see how limiting that is to our kids imaginations?). I must immediatly start a movement to save the children. Maybe I should make a music video? Wait, I need to cry again. It’s only 10am. This might be a long day.

There is really no point thinking about what could have triggered it. There’s actually no point in thinking at all when it’s difficult. I just need to keep going through the motions that will protect my life. Keep my job, care for my kids, eat healthy food, be kind to my husband, get enough sleep.

One day after the next. Some moments I feel the life, some moments I don’t. But as long as I keep going through these motions, I’m doing what I need to. It’s not really a very good way to live. But I guess those good moments are worth fighting for. I’ve been having more of those lately.

So, I should probably write down something good because I am starting to forget…

I have seen a new/old smile in my husband lately. He’s been more relaxed around me, taking my advice sometimes, following my lead with the kids and having fun with me… I’ve also seen my son come to me for comfort more often and expect that I will be there for him… I’ve also seen my daughter be silly, confident, outgoing and creative. I think that these are the external clues that tell me that I’m caring for myself and my family right now. I guess this means that things have been generally good.

Someone told me the other day that she thought it was so interesting that I am using logic to manage my bipolar.

It seems to be the only thing I can trust.

It's hard to be a person, but you're doing a good job.