All the time, just the same

Sometimes, the hardest part is just beginning.

Just deciding to start and deal with the hurdles as you go. Because you may not even know what they are if you never start.

But being brave all the time is exhausting and sometimes I just can’t do it. Or I think I can’t so I don’t and then I hold all that anxiety inside for too long where it simmers and boils around and then spills out on my husband’s poor unexpecting soul and then.

Then we just have a mess to wipe up off the linoleum.

And then we’re just back where we were anyway, if I would have just kept on being brave all the time, every day, even when it felt like too much work.

Laziness never got anyone anywhere.

I had influenza a week and a half ago and it kicked my psyche into some corner of some room of this new house that I didn’t know existed. I was the only one there (thank God), but, man, was it intoxicating. In that dangerous, crack-heroin sort of way.

For a few hours on a few days, I thought to myself, “I’m never going to get better.”

And I was so feverish sick and my head was so full of crap and the bubble I was existing in so thick, I believed it.

And that didn’t help my mood or my temperament or the way my family felt about me at all.

Or so the crazy thoughts told me in my head.

It was a few days after the bubble burst and I climbed out of that dank corner that the mess spilled out onto the kitchen floor and across the K-Mart table where we dine and the husband reminded me he loves me all the time, just the same, whether I’m living in a corner of self pity and doubt and anxiety or not.

But he has more fun when I’m just me.

So, shit, man, what now?

Well, right now, today, yesterday, too, and even the day before that, I’m trying to chill the fuck out. What’s wrong with my life anyway?

Not one thing.

What’s so great about Omaha anyway?

I don’t know. For the first at least half of my time there, I wanted to leave. To come back here.

Oh, goddess of irony, I will name you Daffodil and Scotch-tape a picture of you in your vintage crew-cut cardigan onto the wall above my dresser. So there you can mock me.

And I can be reminded.

That maybe I don’t need that as-of-yet unopened bottle of Celexa in my medicine cabinet. That there’s no reason I should feel sad about a website for moms that, yes, played a huge role in my life. Back then. Not now.

That my friends who are my friends will always be my friends. That my friends who aren’t my friends won’t.

And I can miss them, or maybe more specifically, I can miss the way my life with them as part of it was back then. But now?

Big deal.

I’m the secular version of blessed in every sense of the word. I have an amazing man who loves not only me but also my kids who are varying degrees of nice to him, depending on the minute. I have a home that we own in a just-as-nice-as-anyplace-else town. We are not poor or sick or hungry or ugly or mean.

Our babies are beautiful as they come.

We have friends and family and cats and pasta and swimsuits and words and coffee and beer and wine and acoustic guitars and sun on our faces and hikes just waiting.

And beauty. In so many things.

We have people who love us. We have people to love.

What else, really, does anyone need?

Not Omaha. Not momaha. Not women who I still care about but who maybe never liked me that much anyway.

Not even the yellow house in Dundee.

Today and yesterday and so many days before that … and tomorrow … and next month … I need what I have.

Drink the sweet syrup of the simplicity of that.

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Guest post: It’s my fault what’s happening to my daughter

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from a woman I know, who needed to write and needed to do so without attaching her name to it. She asked me if I’d publish it. While the journalist in me says “no anonymous sources,” this is different. This is her story. And it’s scary and brave and all sorts of other things, and it might resonate with some of you. I know she isn’t alone. So I decided yes, her story should live somewhere and why not here with all of you? I decided maybe it might help someone else. Maybe someone else might help her. So here it is.

The house is quiet, as everyone sleeps soundly.

Everyone but me.

Sleep eludes me, as it does every night. My mind just won’t stop thinking.

About everything.

I feel the anxiety in my chest, tightening its grip with every minute that passes.

Part of my story is this: I was diagnosed years ago with mood disorder NOS (not otherwise specified). Before treatment, I experienced periods of depression and periods of great enthusiasm and energy.

But always sleep eluded me.

Thankfully, now, I feel almost “normal” with antidepressants, a mood stabilizer, anti-anxiety pills and sleep medication. It’s a cocktail I take every day.

Because it works. Because it allows me to live my life.

But as I lay awake this night, every night, the feelings of intense guilt invade my thoughts.

It’s my fault, you see, what’s happening to my daughter.

I believe I have passed on my mood disorder to her, to my 10-year-old baby girl.

My love for her is indescribable. That’s a given, right? A guarantee.

But recently her extreme moods have escalated to the point that I am 99 percent sure she has early onset bipolar disorder.

One side of my beautiful daughter is sweet, extremely intelligent, caring, funny, talented. Loving.

But on the other side of my amazing little girl, her moods are explosive. They change without warning.

One day last week, she became agitated because a tiny speck of carbon from the water filter made its way into her drinking glass.

She came unglued.

A horrible, unspeakable rage erupted from this little girl like you wouldn’t believe. The screaming was piercing and never-ending.

It was MY fault, she said, that the speck of carbon ruined her drinking water.

The water glass, of course, was thrown across the kitchen.

I tried my very best to calm her down – I just want so badly for her to find peace.

But it continued.

She tried to tear the blinds from the window. She raked her fingernails across the leather couch. Books and toys went flying.

I sent her to her room, where the destruction continued. Everything was knocked from her desktop and dresser; her brand new iHome smashed against the wall. Her desk chair thrown across the room.

And always this shrieking, this piercing scream that seems to never end.

Sometimes, these “fits” or rages continue for two hours or more until she can’t scream any longer and her voice is all but gone.

I am always incredulous when, a few moments later, she emerges from her room, seemingly unaffected by what just occurred.

She is even cheerful as she goes about her chores or completes her homework. After this, she may run laps through the house with boundless energy.

Other days, she may come home from school and retreat to her bedroom. I will find her in her bed, in complete darkness.

For hours.

I turn on her light (how can she not want light?). But she always goes back to the darkness. She prefers it somehow.

She has even told me she feels this world would be better off without her.

And so sleep eludes me this night, as it does every night.

I am aching for my daughter, for this little girl who has lost her way and doesn’t know how to find the light.

I am ready to face this long road of intense psychotherapy and medications with her. But it is scary, oh-so terrifying to know she may have to cope with this illness for life.

I just keep assuring her there is nothing she could do to cause me to love her any less. Ever.

Yet sleep eludes me.

The guest author would appreciate comments – of support, encouragement. Of hope.

Why stepping on the scale might be for mad women

Dear Body Weight,

I don’t understand you.

I don’t understand anything about you.

Sometimes, I don’t even like you. I don’t like the way your numbers look when I step on the scale. I don’t like the way the old you teases me on my driver’s license. I don’t like the way I just can’t comprehend the way you work.

Your erratic behavior is beyond me.

Though I realize I look just fine considering, I’ve been working out. For you, for me, for my husband, for those jeans who have grown lonely in my middle dresser drawer. I’ve adopted a pretty smart workout regimen, if you ask me. It’s the most total-body conditioning I’ve done in a long time, years. Body Weight, do you hear me?

My weeks look something like this: Monday – Run, 4 or 5 miles. Tuesday – Bike, 20-30 miles. In spin class. Taught by an instructor who could beat anyone in a fight and look great doing it. Wednesday – Swim, 40-45 minutes. Laps. Swimming laps. With a swim cap on. Do you get what I’m saying? Thursday – Bike. Spin class. Intense. Same as Tuesday. Friday – Run, 4 or 5 miles. Saturday and Sunday are for resting if I need to, running or yoga if I want to.

I’ve been doing that for the past three weeks. And, sure, it’s not the most intense workout regimen in the world. I’m sure I should be lifting weights on a regular basis and spending more time on my core. I know these things.

But… I feel good.

I feel healthy and more energetic. I even feel stronger and a little firmer. I like the exercise. I like the variety. That one day in the pool every week seems to heal everything. Though I’m not a great swimmer and swallow more water than I should admit slogging through those laps, I feel great afterward.

It’s taken time and effort, but I’ve decided the exercise is worth it. My health is worth it.

Yet, when I step on the scale the numbers are all wrong. If I was charting this shit, the line would be climbing in the WRONG DIRECTION.

What the @!*$%* is up?

Why, Body Weight? What did I ever do to you except pay attention? Why are you the biggest number I’ve ever seen on the scale (aside from pregnancy, which doesn’t count)?

I don’t understand you.

Is it possible I’ve put on nearly 10 pounds of muscle? In three weeks?

Is it, Body Weight? Is it?

I didn’t think so either.

Well. Maybe this is thanks to 33. What do you think, Age? Is this your fault?

Love/Hate/Sigh (but onward anyway),

Veronica

I can only imagine

There is this couple, back home, who used to be my friends.

They used to be our friends really, but when my marriage split up, they went with him.

So it goes.

One of the (many) lessons I’ve learned in the last four years is that no friendship is guaranteed and that they are much more fleeting than I’d like them to be.

It is what it is.

A different old friend once told me to figure out what you can expect from every person in your life. And then expect no more.

That way, she said, you won’t be disappointed.

That wisdom has stuck with me (though I’m sad to say the friendship has not).

So this couple back home … we spent quite a bit of time together. Dinners, play dates … we even went on a much-needed weekend getaway once. They weren’t the best friends I’d ever had, but we got along and I cared about them.

After my divorce, I lost touch, but I heard the news anyway: The woman, my old friend, had cancer.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that, about her, about the surgery she had to try to save her life, the surgery that would forever alter her body, her self-esteem, her confidence, her who-she-is .. or that’s how it played out in my head.

I wanted to help, to do something, to make that all go away. For them. I wanted to bring them a dinner.

But I didn’t. I stayed away because they had asked to not be friends anymore. They had taken sides, and it wasn’t mine. That didn’t mean I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about them, hoping they were doing OK.

I heard later that she was better, that her cancer was in remission. I imagined how that sort of relief must feel, how that sort of thankfulness must roll around on the tongue, in the heart.

I went back to living my own life, filing that family away into where ever we put people we no longer know but one time cared about.

A few days ago, I heard her cancer had returned. Oh, no, I said. What does that mean for them? I asked. It means lots of chemo, lots of money, my ex-husband wrote in an e-mail.

Lots of worry, lots of pain, lots of upheaval and awfulness and why-me-why-again, too, I’m sure.

I can only imagine. And even now, though we’re no longer friends, I can’t stop hoping they’re OK.

A woman I’ve never met and don’t really know is also battling cancer right now. She writes a blog for a website I run for my job. She has two sons; they’re little. And this week she wrote about the way it feels to know you won’t be able to make any more babies because the chemo she’s about to undergo kills that part of her body, that part of her soul.

She’s brave. She’s not taking any moment for granted and she’s realizing she’s not guaranteed even one more breath. She’s encouraging me to do that, too. Us. Everyone.

Plans are only to make us feel better, she says. They’re really not worth much of anything. At all.

I hate that anyone has to know that.

I miss my friends back home every day. Not the couple who long ago were my friends, but my true, do-anything-for-me-including-going-to-my-divorce-hearing-so-I-don’t-have-to-do-that-alone friends. The friends who picked me up, the ones who still do.

I have two girlfriends here, in my new home, and while it’s not the same (yet) as my friends back home, I love them for their place in my life right now.

One of those friends has cancer in her life, too. Her mom.

She’s had it for six years, and nothing is the same. My friend’s world was turned upside down, and while she’s adjusted to a new normal, it’s a new normal. On a crazy tilt that sometimes must feel like it will never end. It’s a normal nobody asked for, nobody wanted, nobody deserves.

And it’s not fair and it’s not right and to those people who believe in God, it’s his will. And somehow that makes it better for them, easier to cope, and I understand needing something to put your faith in, your trust in, your hopes, your worries, your anger.

But I don’t really get it.

And I’m scared.

Health is such a precious thing.

What can we do? What can any of us do?