Friday, November 20, 2015

Well, Crap.

I just wrote a blog called "Running for a Reason" in which I told y'all about my marathon fundraiser for the American Red Cross. I had several lovely people donate and then one mentioned something about the recent funds allocation scandal.

Funds allocation scandal? Bwah?

I did a little research and was properly horrified and ashamed of my lack of preparation. Apparently, the American Red Cross has been investigated for lack of response during Hurricane Sandy and raising enormous amounts of money for Haiti earthquake relief that are largely unaccounted for. They're accused of such heinous acts as driving empty trucks around impacted areas just to make it look like there was a Red Cross presence in the area. ICK.

I cannot apologize enough to those who have already donated. If it's any comfort, I do believe the organization does good work, just not as much as it should. Lesson learned: good intentions must be paired with careful research!

I have shut down the original fundraiser, removed all links to it from my Facebook page and started a new fundraiser for Save the Children (after investigating it on charity watchdog sites). This organization works in the United States and across the world to support children's unique needs in various ways. They provide disaster relief services such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care as well as educational services such as their Healthy Choices program that teaches children how to eat healthily and stay active. They have a child literacy program here in the United States that provides resources to increase literacy and have excellent HIV and AIDS prevention programs. Basically, if a child is in need, they're there.

No charity is perfect, but I do believe in the work this one is doing and I feel prepared to stand behind it. If you believe in helping children in our own backyards and around the world and in humiliating me with run dares (oh yeah, if you donate, I will do the silly/bizarre/meaningful activity of your choice on my next training run :) ), then please consider donating. Again, I apologize for the false start. My heart got ahead of my head!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Running for a Reason

Hi all! So some of you may have seen an odd little post from me on Facebook informing you I'm running a marathon to support the American Red Cross. Those of you who know me best may remember that after running a marathon this past March I stoutly declared my intention never to run another. "One and done," quoth I, "This marathon business is for the birds!"

Well...yeah...I still think it's for the birds, but...let me tell you a little story...

Most of you probably know I've struggled with PTSD, anxiety and depression. My anxiety is really well-controlled now on medication and I've done a lot of work in therapy to exorcise the demons that were driving my PTSD, but depression, that ugly black dog, has been nipping at my heels all along.

The most important thing I've learned about depression is that it lies. It tells you you're worthless. It tells you that there's nothing worth getting out of bed for. It eats your hope. It leaves you with a sucking black hole in your chest consuming all of your joy and motivation.

I was stable for awhile on two terrible medications (they should have been named Fatbilify and Lasnoozeda as far as I'm concerned), but eventually I couldn't stand the side effects and I went off of them, and a few weeks later, boom, hello depression.

Part of my depression is chemical, but part of it is situational. My life did not turn out the way I expected it to. I thought that by 32, I would have a successful and rewarding career. Instead, well, I have IEP meetings and specialist appointments and 7 years worth of dirty diapers to apologize to the planet for. Let me be very clear: Rylan is a gift from the Universe. I am a much better person for having been his mother these past 7 years and I am very happy to be able to advocate for him, teach him to advocate for himself and learn from him. He is an amazing human being.

Depression, though, tells me I'm worthless because I don't have a career. It tells me nothing will ever change and that I'll continue doing the same household chores and going to the same appointments for the rest of my life. It tells me there's no point in having dreams because my life will never be my own.

My therapist has been encouraging me for months to find something, anything, that I'm passionate about. She insists that if I'm able to carve out a little space for something that I care about, I'll feel more like my own person again. I've known she was right all along, but I was so lost in the web of depression's lies that I couldn't find my way to a passion. I couldn't even remember what it felt like to care about something. I was numb.

Then, this past weekend, I woke up and it hurt. The terrorist attacks on Paris and the Syrian refugee crisis woke me up. I saw people suffering, really suffering, not merely feeling bored and unfulfilled, but absolutely broken apart in every way by destruction. At first, I just cried and donated money and cried some more. I became addicted to the news and read countless stories about people all over the world victimized by bombings, shootings, natural disasters, famine, drought. I felt connected to each suffering face that I saw and guilty for my own privilege and helpless to stop the tide of suffering.

And then I remembered my therapist's advice. Find one thing. One small thing. Do it. That's when the idea to run a marathon for the Red Cross was born.

The Red Cross helps people on the worst day of their lives. Some of them have been having the worst day of their lives over and over again for longer than we can imagine. They need shelter, medical care, food, safety, but most of all they need hope, and I, in my pitiful, hopeless, self-involved state, can help give it to them. I can do this one small thing and it will have meaning. I can't travel to dangerous regions and feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and treat the wounded, but I can lace up my running shoes and put in the work it takes to cover 26.2 and I can pester my friends and family to support my efforts to bring people hope.

I'm posting the link to my fundraiser here: . Please consider donating. If you were going to give me a Christmas gift, give to the fundraiser instead. If you read the news and feel sick and helpless, donate if you can. Let's do this small thing together.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

10 Years

10 years ago today, my parents paid a ton of money for an event I barely remember (which they told me I'd barely remember and they were right and I wish we'd just taken my dad up on his offer of cash and a nice quiet elopement and I'll probably say the same thing to Pippa in 20 or 25 years and she won't listen to me, either).

Here are the things I do remember:

1. It was hot. Like effing surface of the sun hot. Okay it was like 105, but that is plenty hot enough, thankyouverymuch, especially when the dressing rooms aren't air conditioned and your friggin' eyeliner keeps melting.

2. I got stage fright as we lined up to go into the sanctuary and thought, "Why on earth am I doing this?! I could be on a beach somewhere with a pretty piece of paper saying I'm married to this person without having to talk in front of everybody I know!"

Gaaaaaah! All the peoples!

3. Dylan was short (he's still short, though he prefers the term "of average height", but let's be honest, that's only true if half the male population kneels). Because of Dylan's...ahem...average-heightedness, I could see all of his groomsmen over his head and while I don't remember anything Dylan said to me during the ceremony or how he looked when he said it, I remember his groomsmen's expressions vividly. Particularly intense are the memories of his brother's goofy smile and our friend Nolan's extremely solemn look, which was hilarious and nearly had me giggling because I'd never seen Nolan look the least bit solemn about anything.

4. Our caterer was, well...she was a bitch. There's really no other word for this woman who yelled at everyone from her own staff to the church's property manager to my own mother and served things at the wrong time and generally caused a ruckus when she should have been invisible (I'm not going all Downton Abbey here, I was a catering assistant for a spell and we were taught to be invisible).

5. Dylan's brother gave a toast that I was certain would never end. Poor kid. Owing to the fact that Dylan and I got married right out of the cradle and our siblings are younger than us, I think he was not quite 16 at the time and asking a not quite 16 year old to give a toast is kind of cruel. Nevertheless, I remember the looks on the other groomsmen's faces (but again, not Dylan's. What was I doing staring at his groomsmen this entire wedding? The only explanation I have is that he was squished in right next to me at the table and I had to turn my head at an awkward angle to see him at all, whereas I had a clear line of sight down the table) like, "Dude, wrap it up already."

6. I didn't get any of the lemon cake that I specifically requested. Dylan didn't get any of the other flavor (I can't even remember what it was, though we carefully chose it after tasting a dozen other flavors) that he specifically requested. This seems like some sort of vague metaphor for marriage. We both got cake but it was the wrong kind.

7. The DJ completely ignored my playlist and do not playlist and pretty much went with generic white people wedding music. I remember glaring pointedly at him when he began playing "Blister in the Sun" and him shrugging his shoulders like, "Gotta give the people what they want". No. Gotta give the bride what she wants. Humph!

And that's it! This happened, although I don't remember it:

Hey Dad, sorry about the whole having to buy a suit and every-friggin'-thing else in this room when I'll have forgotten every detail by tomorrow.

Also this:

I'm glad you're not shoving this cake I didn't want in my face, but where the hell is my lemon cake?
At some point, we left in our rented car and went back to my apartment, took a shower and took off for our honeymoon and that was all she wrote.

My parents told me when I got engaged that the wedding is only one day and it's the marriage that counts. A decade full of great and not-so-great memories after that day I don't really remember, I'm inclined to agree with them. In case this isn't blatantly obvious to everyone I know already, I'm going to say it now: I got very, very, oh-so-unbelievably lucky. It is often said that marriage is work - hard work, even - it's never been work with Dylan (okay maybe occasionally when we've tried to play board games together, but other than that it's been pretty smooth sailing). I suspect that that's because he's doing all the heavy lifting. I cannot be the easiest person to live with. Heck, half the time I don't even want to live with myself. I've been lucky enough not to have found the end of his patience and kindness yet.

Also, the phrase makes me want to vomit with it's clichedness, but I really did marry my best friend. We pretty much only ever want to talk to each other. That's hampered us a bit in the extramarital socialization department, but it means that there are plenty of evenings we happily pass just chatting on the couch. We've discovered that it's a hell of a lot easier to pick up someone's dirty socks for the umpteenth time or drag someone kicking and screaming out of bed in the morning if that person is your best friend and you remember just as you're about to murder them that if you do no one will ever make you laugh as hard or find random tidbits about biology interesting.

We are statistically even more likely to divorce than the average couple because we're raising a special needs child, but I feel very confident saying that that ain't gonna happen. We're a team. We almost always agree on a strategy before even talking about it. We take each other's needs into consideration when making decisions without even thinking about it, and we just plain like each other.

Happy 10th Anniversary, my love! Here's to the next 10 :).

"Oh my God I'm so hot right now." "I know, right?"

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The One I Didn't Want to Write

Hey guys, been awhile. How are all of you? The clamor for new blog posts lately has been deafening (okay a text and a Facebook comment totally count as deafening), so I thought I'd try to resurrect the old blog and bring back the funny (I was funny, right? I find myself terribly funny.)

Before the funny, though, I have to write about where I've been. And I really don't want to, because it was a scary place and I still find my feet on the path toward it on bad days. I'm certainly not the first person to blog about mental illness (see the excellent for a big leagues blogger's interpretation of it), but it would feel totally disingenuous to skip right over what was a major rift in my life and the lives of those around me and dive into anecdotes about my children (and cats) falling down air conditioner vents (see earlier blogs, I am far too lazy to link them, of course).

I've struggled with anxiety since I was a kid. I internalized so much that I don't know what my parents saw or didn't see, but I remember feeling like my stomach was going to eat my body whole and spit out the bones sometimes. When I was 7, my baby brother died in a crib accident during my sister's 5th birthday party. I don't know if my issues stem from this tragedy as I remember being a nervous kid before his death, but I know it didn't help.

After I had Rylan, I was anxious all the time. On the rare occasions he slept, I couldn't sleep because I was sure the moment I fell asleep, he would wake up. I was afraid to take him places. I was convinced that someone was going to break into our house and hurt him. When I did leave the house, I would pull over frequently to check and make sure he was breathing. I just knew he was going to die. His birth was dramatic and ended with nurses running him down to the NICU before I'd so much as touched him, so, again, I'm sure this had something to do with it and the hormones didn't help.

I hid as much of this as I could from everyone, including myself. I rationalized with the best of them. Something could happen to my baby. People did break in to houses in our neighborhood. He was medically fragile.

After I had Pippa, things calmed down somewhat. It sounds so hippie/Earth mother/pukey-gross, but her natural, uncomplicated entrance into the world was very healing for me. It set up a nice dynamic for our relationship. I don't worry about Pippa. Pippa is robust and brave and all good things. She will follow her own path and be just fine and she'll probably stop to help a few others along the way.

When Ry started having seizures, things were suddenly not fine. But they were so suddenly not fine that I completely shut down. Every negative emotion I felt was locked up tight. I was MOM. I didn't have time for fear. I completely threw myself into caring for him so much so that each time he went to the hospital I refused to leave his bedside. Ever. If nobody brought me food, I went hungry. If nobody came to watch him for 5 minutes, I didn't brush my teeth.

Anyway, so it's clear I've had "issues" for awhile. Fall before last, though, I started having panic attacks while driving Rylan to therapy. They got so bad I would lose most of my field of vision and I wanted to open the window and crawl out of the car (obviously a completely irrational solution to my problem, hello I was bit mad).

I finally "came out" when I got stuck halfway to Powdersville. I had a panic attack that lasted for over an hour. I couldn't drive and ended up sitting in a Hardee's in the middle of nowhere while my husband had a very understanding colleague drive him out to pick us up (interesting side note: I got hit on twice at that Hardee's. I conclude that middle-aged men in Liberty are attracted to apparently single mothers who give off the aroma of sheer terror).

I went on meds and began going to therapy. It took over 6 months to find the right med combo and during that time, things just kept getting worse. A friend of mine lost her son who was just Ry's age following a car accident. I don't mean to in any way appropriate her grief but that was a catalyst for my issues. It just shattered my brain. I got horribly depressed. I lost interest in my husband and children and all of my hobbies. Food had no flavor. I ate when I had to and stopped as soon as I could.

I began having flashbacks. Suddenly I'd be 7 years old, hearing my mom scream my dad's name as she found my brother. This scene would play over and over and I couldn't stop it. I'd be 25, completely alone and scared and numb from the waist down watching people in scrubs wheel my baby away. I'd be 28, sitting in the back of our car next to a seizing Rylan watching him turn blue, unable to do anything but cry and pray, "Baby, baby, baby, no."

For several months, there were a lot of very, very bad days. I could do nothing but lie in bed and listen to music. I slept all the time. I got really skinny. Some nights my poor, bewildered husband would force me out of bed to take a walk with him. I'd shuffle along and he'd talk. Eventually, through sheer power of will he could usually get me to talk back. My mom came to stay with us several times to watch the children, as did my in-laws. They'd ask me what they could do and I couldn't tell them. I forgot how to live. I didn't want to die, exactly, but everything else seemed like so much work.

When I was at my lowest I wrote some very dramatic poetry. This one, I admit, is a bit much, but I felt very, very raw when I wrote it.

Questions I Couldn't Answer in Therapy

1. "How would you describe yourself? Who are you?"

It's the wrong question.
I am not a who.
If I ever was, the who
has been ironed out of me (an inconvenient wrinkle)
by Sunday night hymns,
by years strung together of 3 a.m.s
when I could find no cork to stopper the screams --
mine -- or his -- or hers,
by others and their kind misunderstanding,
their cheery bigotry,
their goals and plans and "So what do you do?"s

I've slipped out of who,
the straps hanging like
spent umbilical cords,
the hem sagging like an empty belly.

I'm when now.
A tiny when.
The whisper of a when before a 64 car pile-up
(27 dead on I-40).
The hanging heartbeat of a when
before Guinevere's lips brushed Lancelot's.
The when of the inhale held
before no pulsating star appears
on the ultrasound screen.
The underworldly zephyr of a when
before Orpheus' head began to turn.

2. "Describe your perfect life. What do you want?"

Desire does not exist in a void.
A black hole may eat planets and stars,
but does it want them?

At the bottom of a dark well
looking up at the night sky choked with clouds,
what is there to want?
A ladder to climb from one blackness to another?
A lamp to throw a brave, gold circle of light
that illuminates nothing?
A bowl of ice cream
when there will be more hunger?
A pill to sleep in darkness
and wake to it again?
An end?

When doesn't want.
Void isn't a who.
Give me a map --
please God --
when is the day?
Where am I?

This is me at the height of my depression. That is not my "real" smile.

So, what is the point to all of this ranting? I swear this isn't a woe-is-me tale. If anything, I want to tell you that if you feel the way I did when I wrote that god-awful poem, it's okay. I mean, obviously, it's not okay. You need to get help, but it's okay to be depressed. It's okay to be so anxious you think your organs are eating you. It's okay to have PTSD. You haven't done anything wrong. You're not weak. Your brain has just betrayed you. They do that sometimes, they're sons-of-bitches.

Call and get a referral to a therapist. Or hell, have someone else help you call if you're really, really anxious like me. See a psychiatrist. You don't have to take drugs, but it helps to know your options. And please know that you won't always feel this way. Depression feels like an endless grey tunnel. There is hope with help and a whole lot of work. I am eternally grateful to the people who helped pull me out of the tunnel, but I did a lot of climbing on my own, too. I had to face things about myself that were ugly, unlovable, repulsive, and accept them. Accepting them made them lose most of their power and now I'm...not totally out of the woods, but I can definitely see the sun :).