Nostalgic

This time of year tends to make me nostalgic. There’s not much else to do in the cold, dark winter than reflect on the past. I wrote this poem sixteen years ago when I was first away at college.

antelope island 034

Nostalgic

A firm bed in a small, but comfortable room.
Beaming faces of friends and family.
Rough, wet tongue from the dog washing my face.
Splashing in curbside puddles.
Dancing barefoot over old, crusted snow
in the chill November night with the fingernail moon.
Bathing in tingly, salt-scented raindrops
that feel like millions of little kisses
smothering the bare parts of my body.
Romping through the knee-high, amber grass
while drinking in the warmth of a sunny June day
that tastes of freshly squeezed lemonade.
Listening to a solitary bird sing from the silence
while watching the sun lay her head
to rest behind distant western peaks –
the sky above a mixture of swirling pastels.
Gulping down the brine shrimp odor
of the Great Salt Lake on a gray-clouded March afternoon…

Clinging onto memories – letting them make up
for a current life of mere survival.

antelope island 048

The Way My Mind Works

messy-1459688_1280

I hate doing things wrong, and I hate disappointing people. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist. Yes, the picture above is an accurate depiction of what my house looks like most of the time! I do, however, like certain things done in a certain way, and I like them done right. I have often been that mother who corrects her kids’ grammar, though I’m trying harder not to because no one likes to be corrected. I don’t like to be corrected—because if I am, it means I’ve done something wrong or I’ve disappointed someone, and that causes my own feeling of disappointment and guilt.

Classic example—yesterday I made a mistake at work. I did something wrong. It wasn’t entirely my fault. My boss could have communicated better, sooner, exactly what she wanted or meant, but as her employee I have a job to do, and I’m supposed to do it the right way. I felt terrible when I discovered my mistake. Like knife-in-the-gut terrible. I tried telling myself it was an honest mistake, that it wasn’t really my fault, but the lies didn’t work. I continued to obsess about it, to feel bad about, to think about what I should have done differently, and wondered what my boss must be thinking of me. That one is the worst—to go over all of the things she could be thinking about me and what a bad employee I am. In reality, she’s probably not. She probably understands it was just a mistake because she’s a really great person, but . . . what if? What if she regrets hiring me? What if she is disappointed in me? What if she despises me? How could I have done something so stupid and wrong? These are the thoughts that plague my mind when I don’t do a job the right way.

More on OCD

In my last post I talked about my struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is so much more than what I wrote. One reason I started this blog was in the hope of helping other people come to understand what mental illness is and what it does. So I have to say even more about OCD.

One of the other things that consumes my mind, that I obsess about, is bad things happening. This is something I’ve heard others with OCD say happens to them, as well. I often fear the worst case scenario. Any time something out of the ordinary happens, I just know it’s going to end up in some horrible way. I have often let fear drive decisions in my life because of this. It’s something I have gotten better at controlling lately, better at recognizing, but it still flies into my mind and makes it hard to make a rational decision.

A recent example was from back in September. I was going out of town to visit a friend for a few days, so my ex-husband took the kids. He decided to take them to Southern Utah (about a 4-5 hour drive from the city we both live in) for a fun little adventure. At first I thought it was a great idea. But as time went by I kept getting these images in my head of bad things that could happen. I imagined them getting in a horrific car wreck where my kids died, my ex died or they all died. I imagined my son slipping and falling in the lava tubes they were going to visit at Snow Canyon State Park and cracking his head open. I imagined a shooter coming to a restaurant they might go to and shooting them. I finally decided I needed to tell my ex that he couldn’t take the kids, that if it meant me canceling my trip to keep them safe, I would do it. Luckily, by this point, I can usually recognize when it’s my OCD as opposed to reality. I calmed myself down, told myself that everything would be fine and didn’t mention a word of it to my ex. I went on my trip, they went on theirs, and we all came back safe and sound.

In the past, I would have given in. I would have gone to extreme measures to stay in control of these thoughts I’d had. This shows you what OCD can do to a person’s life. But it also shows you that there is hope. OCD doesn’t have to control every second of every day of your life. Like many things in life, it can be extremely difficult, but like I always say, you can do hard things.

Explaining Some of My OCD

mental-1389919_1280

It’s only been about five months since my first post on Breaking the Silence. Since then, I’ve been amazed at how many other people I’ve found who have similar blogs, other people who are trying to educate the masses on mental illness and help stop the stigma. I felt so alone as I started this journey, wondered if I really would be able to make a difference. Now I see that there are others, and if the many of us can affect even a few, a difference has been made, and that makes it all worth it.

I recently read a post on another blog from someone who doesn’t have mental illness, but was grateful for someone she knew who had been open about it and educated her on what it’s like to have OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I’m grateful, too, that people are coming to better understand, to see, to be more compassionate. Yet it’s such a big hurdle to jump, I’m not sure we’ll ever really be done. I’ve written about my depression and anxiety, and I had a friend share what it was like for her to live with OCD, but I haven’t gone in depth about my own struggle with OCD. I guess it’s time.

Despite understanding that has opened up about OCD, I think it is probably still one of the more misunderstood forms of mental illness. Someone hears OCD and the immediate image that comes to mind is a germaphobe who won’t touch anyone or anything and constantly has to wash their hands throughout the day. Or you may think of someone who won’t step on cracks, someone who has to do a certain thing a certain number of times each day. While this may be true for some people who have OCD it isn’t that way with all of us.

I’ve never cared much about the germ thing. I do take precautions when I go out, like wiping down a cart at the store before I use it, sanitizing my hands after I put gas in my car, washing my hands before I cook something, but I don’t obsess about it. It’s one of those things I just sort of throw from my mind. For me, OCD hits hard in the “obsessive” department. One of the biggest things I obsess about are things I say. I’m a somewhat socially awkward person. I definitely express myself better through the written word than the spoken word, and I feel like I say stupid things in conversation with others all of the time. It’s one of the reasons for my social anxiety. I often try to give myself excuses to stay away from social functions, not because I want to be alone or because I don’t like other people, but because I’m so afraid of saying something that I will later obsess about. Now I’m sure everyone says things at times that they regret, but I think about those things for weeks, months. Not just think, I obsess about it. I replay conversations or things I’ve said in my mind over and over and over and over again. I worry about what the person I was talking to thought of what I said over and over and over and over again. Did I offend them? Did they understand what I meant? Do they think I’m stupid now? Do they think I’m weird? Do they think I’m a bad person? Do they hate me? Will they ever talk to me again? Do I need to try to explain myself the next time I see them? Did I completely screw up my entire future because I said the wrong thing to that man in the grocery store? (Yep, that happened once.) The way I try to combat the obsessions, the compulsion, you could say I use, is to imagine up a different conversation. I imagine what I should have said, how they would have replied, with all ending in a much better scenario. But then I obsess about that for weeks and months as well. It’s like my brain thinks that if I think about it enough, if I replay it in my mind enough, it will make it true, or it will make it so the original obsession stops bothering me.

It might not sound so bad, but these obsessions mess with my life. I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking about them. I often miss turns or exits when I’m driving because I’m so focused on the obsession. I don’t pay attention to my kids because all I can see and hear are the obsessions. That, in turn, makes me feel like I’m a horrible mom, and I’m wracked with such intense guilt.

It might be hard for someone who doesn’t have OCD to grasp just how intrusive and debilitating this illness is. I have, at times in my life, been able to manage my depression and anxiety, but OCD is one thing I still haven’t completely figured out. Maybe one reason I haven’t taken it more seriously is because of other people I have known who seem to have it so much worse, so I think mine must not be that bad. Yet I feel that it’s getting worse as time goes by. Perhaps this should be a new goal for me—to learn what I can do to get help for my OCD. Pesky goals. I just hope I don’t fail at this one.

What Makes Me Special

child-1298137_1280

I recently watched the movie, Hope Floats. I’d never seen it before, but an old friend had told me it was one of his favorites, so I decided to watch it. Towards the end of the movie the main character, Birdee Pruitt, tells her daughter, Bernice, “You know, I always thought I was gonna be, I don’t know, special. But I’m not. I’m just . . . I’m just an ordinary person. And that’s okay. Because . . . you make me special. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that you’re everything in this world to me? And we’re gonna make it through this because we are a team. Birdee and Bernice, the coolest chicks in Smithville. So don’t you ever think about leaving me again . . . because I need you. I love you.”

This quote really hit home. I used to think the same thing—that I was going to be special or that I already was special. I don’t know why. I guess because my grandma told my mom that the first time she held me after I was born. “I can feel there’s something special about this one.” My mom would tell me the story like she believed it, like she knew it was true. Maybe I thought I was special because my dad used to tell me I could do anything I wanted to do, be anything I wanted to be. I never believed him, but he seemed to believe it. I thought I was special or would become special because of what I’d been through with my mental illness, that I could one day make a difference in kid’s lives. I thought being a writer made me special. Then this guy I started dating and totally fell for after my divorce always told me the reason he liked me was because I was special.

Well, my grandma probably said the same thing about all of her grandkids. I found out my mom manipulated and lied to me for years. My dad changed his tune recently. The last time I saw him he told me what a horrible, awful person I was. My “boyfriend” broke up with me without any discussion and then completely ghosted me. Writing doesn’t make me special. There are a lot of writers out there, some who even make it big unlike pitiful me who’s never quite good enough. And I’ve never become that inspirational speaker I thought I might be for other youths struggling with the same challenges I faced as a teenager – am still facing today.

I no longer believe I’m special. I’m pretty ordinary. Really, I’m not sure I’m even ordinary. I’m less than ordinary. Except what Birdee said is true. I look at my daughter and son and know that they are what make me special.

baby-37519_1280

When my son was born, several people told me he was blessed to have me as his mother, but I saw the truth. I was the one who was blessed to have had him come into my life. My children are the blessings. They are what make me special in that one, single way. And I suppose that one, single way is good enough because it means they are mine. And I need them, and I love them.

Dark and Light

morning-2243465_1280

Sometimes it feels like the whole world is collapsing in on you, like anything that can go wrong does go wrong. When it rains it pours. And then, sometimes, right when it feels like it can’t get any darker a ray of light breaks through and shines down on you. Then another and another until your world is filled with light again. It’s not that the bad things have gone away, but it’s easier to deal with them because you can see again. I wish I could thank the people who have brought this light back into my life, but some people do kind things without feeling the need to be known or praised. Anonymous friends have blessed my life lately. I thank them for the light and strength they have given me. I hope I can do as they have done for someone, someday, as well.

Remember the Good

My writing has been random, sporadic and emotionally driven lately. That’s because life has been crazy. I’ve received renewed attacks on my character, who I am as a person, how I’m living my life and raising my kids. I’ve been dealing with this harassment for over a year now, from members of my own family. Most of it has come in the form of emails, texts, messages, comments on my blog, even a letter in the mail, though there have been in-person harassment as well. I’ve been threatened with physical violence. I’ve been judged and condemned. I’ve feared for the safety and well-being of my two children. Despite the fact that this cycle has repeated every few months I kept thinking and hoping it would end. But it hasn’t. And it still hurts. It still drags me down. It still makes me wonder if it’s all true and I deserve to be treated this way.

gift-2918982_1920

Today, however, I’m reminded of the good in the world, that there are good people in this world. As I was pulling out of my driveway to take my son to school this morning I noticed a big Christmas bag on my front porch. When I got home I brought it in and discovered three gifts inside, one for each of my kids and me. I don’t know who they’re from. It was just signed, “A Friend.” But it means so much to me. It’s good to remember that, despite the fact that the world is full of people who hate and want to destroy, there are also good people who want to lift and do good. It inspires me to try to be better. I want to be that example to my daughter and son, the example of good in the world. I’m certainly not perfect, I have many flaws, and I will be the first to admit that. But I always seek improvement, strive to make myself a better person so I can be that example.