Tag Archives: mental illness

Mental Illness Doesn’t Discriminate, but People Do

I just left a group I had recently joined, under the impression that people who were intent on erasing the stigma of mental illness would be, well, more open-minded. I am a somewhat naive person in some respects; I will admit that. Possibly because I’m hopeful. Possibly because I’m gullible, to an extent, and I want to believe the best of people. Especially ones trying to erase the shame associated with mental illness because, after all, it’s not something a person can help.

I was surprised, then, to find a posting after the shooting at the recruitment centers, describing the shooter as having an “extremist personality” and one of the women who’s daughter had bi-polar saying, “her daughter didn’t act that way.” I was furious. And very disappointed.

I responded that if the young man hadn’t been Muslim, this wouldn’t even be a topic of conversation, and apparently the idea of mental illness being a stigma was based on race and religion, not the reality of mental illness, which doesn’t tend to pay attention to those lines. It doesn’t discriminate. And as for the woman whose bi-polar daughter not acting that way, I said knowing one person with mental illness is knowing one person with mental illness. If we were all the same, one pill would magically cure all of us and yay, the world would be a happier place. But it doesn’t work that way. We are all individual chemical factories with unique brain chemistries and genetic predispositions. That’s why there are so many drugs out there that don’t work for so many different people, or cause paradoxical reactions (the complete opposite of what they’re intended to do).

I said I didn’t want to be associated with people claiming to want to erase the stigma of mental illness, selectively. What do they think society is doing to them? Exactly what they were doing and patting themselves on the back for. Oh yes, “Extremist Personality,” my therapist pointed out, isn’t in the DSM. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, which is what the United States uses to diagnose people. I should note the DSM-V has been highly criticized. Which doesn’t have anything to do with this. I asked how do they expect to change things when they are being so close-minded themselves?

But what do you do when the people claiming to try to make things better for people with mental illness, and I should add that at that point, it was only a few people who were agreeing with this anti-Muslim sentiment, hardly the whole group, are spouting the sort of nonsense that some people do against any person with mental illness, that keeps the stigma alive? I should have not left the group in a huff, I should have seen if what I said actually made a difference. I was hasty, but I doubt what I said made a difference. Because people’s beliefs are ingrained, and that’s the sad thing. “We don’t want our children with mental illness to be stigmatized, but if you happen to belong to a religious group we normally label as terrorists, don’t expect any sympathy?”

We need a lot more love, and a lot less hate.

p.s. I realized I should add an addendum here. I met some really great people in the group, and I hope they know who they are, because I still communicate with them, and I really admire them and what they are doing, so it isn’t as if the experience was a loss–hardly. I learned a lot about schizophrenia, as well, which I didn’t know much about. It was this one exchange that upset me.

Advertisements
Image

@Wit’s End

I just became aware of a really awesome and very necessary project on GoFundMe–@Wit’s End. It’s a web resource for parents to find the necessary mental health care and treatment for their children by entering in the type of issues their child has, and the web page matches them with appropriate agencies. It’s truly awesome! Tricia Slavik is the creator, a mother trying to help other parents.

This is the link to help fund this project:

http://www.gofundme.com/wit-send

Here’s an example of the interface:

witsend-infographic-side2

And this is what the creator, Tricia Slavik, has to say about it:

@Wit’s End will be a first of its kind resource for the millions parents who struggle to find appropriate care for their child suffering from a mental illness.

Finding help for a child with a mental illness is challenging at best and heart breaking always.  I conducted a national survey in which 87% of parents say “it is difficult or impossible to find appropriate care.” 17,100,000 children in the US have had or have a mental illness  – that number represents 34,200,000 parents. Parents desperate to get their children help.

Did you know that only 1 in 5 children with a mental illness receives treatment?  I want to change those unacceptable statistics;  I want to do it before one more child ends up in prison, addicted or hurts themselves or someone else.

Read the new Children’s Mental Health Report from the Child Mind Institute here.

Image

Be Stigma Free

mhm-stigmafree-badge

To Narcissistic Mothers

From a daughter.

Why try? Nothing is ever good enough. That’s why I said whatever I thought, because you didn’t listen. It didn’t matter, I always had to apologize, even if I was right.

“Why do you argue with people who aren’t capable of thinking rationally?” my best friend asked, and it dawned on me why. Because I used to do it every day. It’s just a habit I never got rid of. A piece of baggage I still carry. No one stuck up for me then with you, no one does now. Because you’re still always right.

Did you ever think that you may still be ill because you think you know more than the “doctors” you see? You don’t see them long enough, because as soon as they say something you don’t like or disagree with, you switch to someone else. You need to see a rheumatologist, not all these other people. They’re fine to go along with traditional Western medicine, but they don’t seem to be working too well on their own.

But I’m “too sick” to know how sick you are. And your illness has become like a pregnancy; “since we’ve been sick,” dad says now. What will the product of this be? An enlightenment of sorts?

Why now, when I’m down and ill myself, tell me what a difficult child I was, colicky and hard to deal with. Because I said we had a narcissistic family structure? Why now, when I was pushed from all sides to have children, tell me you really support my decision not to have them? Twenty odd years later? I’m “too sick” to be a good parent? I stuck to my decision myself because I didn’t want to pass on any mental illness. It was a good decision, and I did it without any encouragement from you then, I don’t need your praise for it now when it sounds like a backward compliment.

I am still looking for my mother, and now you’re swallowing my father too. We are getting over the flu, we have been tired, we have just been so busy, busy. We fill up our time with DVDs. How are the Roosevelts these days? We are one unit now. I can still have good conversations with dad unless we talk about anything medical. Which is everything, just about. A life consumed by illness.

Is this all because one doctor told you it was in your head? Get over yourself. Thousands of women have heard that, from more than one doctor. Yet they persevere until they find an answer. I try to fill out a medical history form and I don’t know truth from self-diagnosis. Your flights of fancy about what you cannot possibly know are possibly killing you. You know nothing about what your insides look like, just what your imagination tells you. But you don’t listen, because I don’t say what you want to hear, and I’m tired of apologizing. I live under death now from someone who made the decisions you have been making. Thinking you know more than the doctors. That you have the right to do what you will with your own body, which is true. But it effects more than just you.

And I know it’s hard, to feel crappy and tired and achy, and to not know how you’ll feel from one day to the next. But I’m not too sick to keep from trying to see the right doctors to try to fix the problem. Or problems.

The thing is, I know it’s not your fault. I know it has to do with your upbringing. But your hatred is so strong, and there are so many unresolved issues that you have, I don’t know how you’ll work them out. But that’s for you to figure out, not me. I have my own issues to work on, to recover from. Ones you were too sick to notice were happening, or to understand truly when I talked about them. So I don’t talk about them, because there’s no point.

The thing is, I don’t know that we will be friends, that I will be able to talk to you about things. Because you haven’t been there. Your personality changes. You’re lucid, then you’re not. You’re not rational. You can’t be reasoned with. I don’t know why. No one is ever good enough, really. But there’s nothing I can do about that. That’s your issue, or issues. I see someone else’s life being ripped up by a narcissistic mother, only she’s strong enough to stand up for herself and fight back, and her mother isn’t passive aggressive the way you were. It doesn’t just all wash away, water under the bridge, forgotten. There are scars, behaviors, adaptations of behaviors that I’ve done for years without knowing why.

I write this out of frustration for the other daughter whose narcissistic mother makes her cry every time she’s with us, and I ache with the inability to do anything for her except listen, because the pain is too raw for her to offer advice. But she’s leaps and bounds ahead, because she wants a therapist now, and knows what the problems are. But I hate that she says the same things I still do thirty years later, that they’re already ingrained, how easily the damage is done and how hard it is to repair.

Women already have strikes against them in society, how to look, how to behave, asshole misogynists who think it isn’t rape if you have sex with your unconscious wife, standards of unattainable beauty, men who want to control your body with religion. Why does it have to be this way with our mothers?

A look behind the scenes of the dysfunctional Mental Health System

Reblogged from takingthemaskoff.com

This is an excellent post on one scenario of how two people, simply due to the circumstances of their birth, end up on two separate paths. I know that sounds trite and like every other story, but please read this one

A look behind the scenes of the dysfunctional Mental Health System.
A look behind the scenes of the dysfunctional Mental Health System
November 30, 2014 125 Comments

1

“You know in this hotel room they have food every day and I knock on the door. Every day they open tha door to let me see the party, let me see that they throwin’ salami, throwin’ food around telling me there’s no food. Every day. I’m standing outside tryin to sing my way in- “We are weak, please let us in. We’re weak, please let us in.” After about a week that song is gonna change to, “We’re hungry, we need some food.” After two, three weeks it’s like “Give me some of that food! I’m breakin down that door.” After a year it’s like, “I’m pickin’ the lock, comin’ through the door blastin.” It’s like, “I’m hungry”

– Tupac Shakur

It is my hope that we have a silent army building. The revolution will not be televised. But I see the replies I get, and it gives me hope.

I saw an article in the New York Times basically saying there would be less shootings if the mentally ill had less privacy and were more easily forced to be hospitalized. This is the New York Times! Who are the sick ones?

I’m going to tell a story. 2 stories, of 2 different people. They are both true stories. Then you can see how this all begins and becomes a problem. I’ll go back and forth between the stories until their paths meet.

Here’s Dusty, I don’t know, age 3 to 5. Happy kid, plenty of love. Just loves everyone and loves the world. He doesn’t see color, sex, religion. He has nokind of discrimination, all he sees is love.

Here’s the second story. This is my cousin Donald. The man he is with is my father. Donald also loves the world, he sees no race, sex, and discriminates against no one. He is a very loving and giving kid.

Dusty gets older. He still loves everyone and everything. However, Dusty grew up in a home that was infested with cockroaches, and had been condemned 2 to 3 times. There was about 7 or 8 kids living there, they had no food. Dusty was the kindest of the group. He got beaten by his brothers, picked on, and thrown around. He was told “You are a loser, give me your money, do my work.” He did not understand, he gave whatever he had to others.

When I met Dusty he was about 8 or 9 years old. He had 4 brothers and sisters, they all smoked pot, drank, and never went to school. Everyone walked around this place with almost no clothes. They had only 2 bedrooms. The house was full of smoke.

Cockroaches were all over. They had no shower, and a bathroom with only a curtain covering it. The old guys would come around drinking, smoking weed, and getting physical. The older kids were getting worse also.

There was something special about Dusty, his heart. He was born with an amazing heart. He loved everyone, and gave all he had. To tell you of this kids strength, words won’t do it justice. As a 9 year old, he was growing up in a house in which every adult was punching, smoking weed, drinking, and stealing. Also, the gangsters knew where the weed was. THE house, that’s where they were. But Dusty, at age 9, he refused to smoke weed or drink or do any of that. However, being sweet and sensitive, he was an easy target. He did not stop loving though, he still loved them all. He saw through it, through everything, even as a kid. So what happens when you are extra sensitive, caring, and loving? You get pushed down, forced to create a mask, his was the goofy guy. This is the same house where I met Joe. Dusty and Joe were cousins and best friends.

Here is Donald. He is my cousin. He was a great kid. His father was a doctor in a small town, he made lots and lots of money. That doesn’t make Donald bad, and he is not bad. In fact, he’s a wonderful human being. I know this story puts him in privileged category. But, that is not his fault, he is still a caring, kind, and considerate human being. His father, my uncle, was once in jail for stealing cars and grew up to be a doctor. The thing about Donald was, he was born gifted, and extremely smart. He was above the genius level. He may have skipped a grade, I can’t remember. He was and is not a bad person.

However, while Dusty was seeing what he saw, Donald was going on trips, and getting the best life had to offer. He worried for nothing, he could be a kId and thrive.

Thrive he did. He is a talented, smart, and funny guy that had charisma. He didn’t have to worry about gangsters, getting food, getting raped, or having mice and cockroaches sleep on him. He had a huge bedroom, went on vacations, had all he ever wanted. He had great parents. Now another thing I noticed about Donald was that when I went to spend 2 weeks with him when I was 12, was that in this small town everyone drank, and did drugs, at age 12. Which is common for a small town. They were 12 and flung this. All of his friends.

One time we went to his friends house, the kid was sleeping and the kid woke up, and lifted his pillow and there was jack daniels. They all smoked and drank, except Donald. His parents taught him this.

Dusty did it on strength of character. Donald friends said “man your dad is always getting thanked in the paper.” That was true, small town legend.

Donald’s pressure was to follow his father, and that is a different kind of pressure. One that is often not considered a problem, the gifted child.

However, that is just as hard as raising a troubled child. People don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. What they both had in common was they were gifted.

Dusty then ended up going away for a while after missing so much school. His brothers would go just enough to not get sent away. Dusty was the extra sensitive one, he didn’t care. Me and Dusty and Joe had a bond, we all loved each other and saw behind each other’s masks. One time, on the phone, Dusty had called his mom and said, “tell mike I lo, well never mind,” he wanted to tell me he loved me, but he was afraid. I stopped hanging out there.

That’s another story, this isn’t about me. Dusty eventually surrendered and started using drugs. Then, they had a guy from Arizona living at the drug house, his name was Carl. He had packages of drugs delivered to the house all the time. The police got involved, and a sting was set up. So the package is delivered, they all have Dusty answer because he is kind and wants to help. So he always does, and he did on this case as well.

Well, he signed, and he gets arrested, and now he has a felony. They knew it was not him, he gets interrogated, and interrogated. Does he give Carl up?, nope, never. This was when Dusty was 19. That’s his booking photo. He went to jail, then he just got off probation recently.

This is someone you may see in jail, or at the shelter, or with the dirty clothes. That’s what you see, but this is what you’re missing when you make that judgement. These are the kids that come into our neighborhood, come to school, to church. We say get them out, those dirty kids with no manners. We don’t want to look at them, it’s like clutter in our clean house. We don’t want to deal with it, we want to pretend it’s not there. Then we may have to do something. So we ignore them and label them and call them losers or dirtbags. That’s much easier, isn’t it?

But that is how we all are part of the problem and we ask are co responsible for the inequality. You see these kids, these people, and no action is am action. Silence is consent.

Here’s Donald at age 19. He had a child. Now that’s a disaster if he’s in Dusty’s situation. However, Donald had great supports in place. His mom and dad helped the teenagers adjust, made sure everything was taken care of.

Donald was able to go to school and while Dusty was in jail, Donald was excelling. He finished college in 3 years and went on to medical school and finished. He’s a doctor. Now again, he’s not bad, not a superstar yet, I don’t think.

He is now starting to isolate, he is on a different level than others and he gets told that alot. So he believes it, so does his wife. So now the good doctor moves and starts dominating the medical profession.

They told me his iq is 156. I’m sure they told him too. He then joined the army like his father and got lots of medals and accolades.

Which is not bad. This is simply to show how we start to label and separate.

Here is Dusty taking care of his dying mother. He gets out of jail, meets a girl, and they have kids. He didn’t know how to have a relationship, he is on his own with no college, no skills, no understanding of life. Just love.

Then you have Donald with his 500 thousand dollar house that got egged.

How do I know this? Well his wife posted on Facebook that someone egged their 500 thousand dollar house but she wasn’t worried because they had security cameras all over the house. You know, to keep the “bad criminals out.”

Like clutter, she didn’t want to see that.

I also saw her post once that she was very upset with the mayor in the town they live in because he allowed a Wal-Mart to be built by their house. Her quote was “who else has to look out their 500 thousand dollar house and see a Wal-Mart, someone needs to stop this guy, do not vote for him.”

See as the separation is almost complete. What did dusty do to be placed below donald?

Nothing. But we see them each walking down the street and we treat them differently. That’s how we all contribute.

Dusty getting older, he split with his kids mom. He suffers from depression, severe depression. He feels rejected all the time, he smokes weed to forget, to not be himself.

He talks about suicide all the time. He misses Joe more than anyone. His heart is broken. Dusty and Joe spent all their time together. They even moved 2 blocks down from me for 2 years. I would drive by and wave. Really? Yes. I was no better than Donald. Even worse, because I drive by, and we still talked from time to time, but I was trying to get my life together. I could have said hi.

The doctor and his family. Now this is not an attack in Donald at all. It is about how we create separation. He worked hard, he’s caring, and he is a good man. He just started to believe he was different and better. He got told lies.

Lies we all believe, like, you need this huge house, cars, medals, and everyone to see how awesome you are.

So he fell in the trap. Here we are, the “look at us” photo.

You know how the native americans defined mental illness? They said anyone who lives in excess of what they need is mentally ill.

The doctors wife at the ritz.

Dusty and his kid at the laundromat.

The doctor and his boat.

Dusty at the playground. Having fun.

The doctors daughter with one of her trophies, she had special tennis lessons, beauty pageants, and she going to Oxford college on scholarship.

Same thing as Donald, smart talented kid. No fault of her own, the cycle continues. She is being brainwashed like he was.

He had a mask on as well. Still does.

Dusty being a dad and loving. He never knew life would be so hard when all he wanted to do was love.

The doctor is now continuing to serve and get accolades. To bad it’s all a lie.

Now this part is not real, but an example of what would likely happen from what I’ve seen in my years being in both worlds……

Now what happens if Dusty walks into Dr. Donalds office? How in the world can the doctor understand what Dusty is saying. Dusty says “Life isn’t worth living, I need to smoke weed.”

The doctors response is usually, “He just doesn’t care, he doesn’t want to work, he wants disability.” The thought process I’ve seen a million times. All the time, it’s the rule, not the exception.

So, let’s say Dusty had attempted suicide 2 times, and keeps coming back. He has to in order to get benefits and to get housing for himself.

The doctor is frustrated, in his mind he’s trying hard. That’s what life is, you just don’t behave like that in his opinion. In his world, you get up, work hard, and get it done. He can’t understand why Dusty complains that no medications work, yet continues to use drugs, and goes to the hospital.

He thinks Dusty has children, and he’s not taking care of them, he’s a “Predator” or a “Manipulator” or “Gamey.”

This is when I hear things like, why do they get free healthcare and we don’t. Almost a resentment at the patients. This is something that I see daily. The caring staff keep their mouths shut in fear.

So now Dusty has to be forced to take meds. He doesn’t get it, we have to help him. So we will put him on meds, and we aren’t going to listen to his side effects stories. We are going to force injections if he doesn’t comply with orders.

He can’t take care of himself. We have to in the doctors opinions.

Oh and, let’s charge insurance about 1500 dollars a day to do this. If the drugs give him diabetes, that’s too bad because he needs to be safe.

Good job young doctor, you’re saving the world.

Now Dusty has not been without weed for years, so asking him to stop is asking him to feel all these feelings that he has never felt before. Forcing him to take his mask off without support. The feelings he had been told to block his whole life, the feelings that have made him an outsider and not accepted.

Then give him a med that makes him feel no better for at least 6 weeks. Then it might not be the right medication, so we may have to start all over.

He will have side effects like drooling, sedation, diarrhea, and tremors. That occurs right away. Plus feeling all these emotions. Then when he sleeps too much we say that he is lazy, or non compliant with his treatment.

So we force him out of bed, and we make him go to groups with someone explaining all these “skills” he needs to use. Then he can’t participate due to the meds, the side effects, being off drugs his brain had coffee to rely on, and now having to freak with all these suppressed emotions.

So he is said to be non interested. So we need to give him more medications.

Of course we do.

Now he’s angry. No one listens, he’s sensitive, but he has had enough. He explodes from this and other patient’s likely taking advantage of him, and staff telling him when he can shower, piss, and treat him like a criminal.

Because, we say, look at his record, he is a felon. No one asks why or what happened, and they won’t believe him anyways, he’s a “manipulator.”

True story…

We had a young man admitted to our place the other day. I’ll call him “kev.” Abused age 1 to 3. A ward off the state at age 3. Picture a 3 year old being abused and taken from home, then a 3 year old in a privileged home, they’re is no difference, why do we seem to think as adults that there is? He was in foster homes his whole life, sexually abused, and beaten.Then at age 19 he committed an armed robbery, and he was shot 3 times. Then he Went to max security prison for 7 years. In prison, he cuts himself enough to need surgery, he has been known to swallow glass, and toothbrushes requiring surgery.

The assessment by “the team.” Is that he is “smooth, and manipulative.” He swallowed these things to get to go to hospital, a trip out of jail.

This is dangerous to call him manipulative. If I think you are manipulative then everything you do I take as a con. If we instead think of him as this kid who has a desparate need for acceptance and love, you will treat him differently. Then he will react differently. Then he gets better treatment. Our staff are young, impressionable, and eager to learn about psychiatry since it is romanticized on the media at times.

However if you work in government, they need to save the taxpayers money, they don’t want us spending “their” money. We have to hire inexperienced staff, because they are cheaper. We train them by what they see. The cycle continues.

So why would someone like Dusty shoot his doctor? It’s not so black and white if you look deep enough.

What’s the difference between…

This 19 year old young dad.

And this…

This young dad? (This is Joe and Anthony from last post)

The answer is nothing. Until we divide them. When we divide, we create class, uppers and lowers. When really we are all connected.

It won’t end. It can’t. Until people start fighting back. The battle is not going to be easy, we won’t see the end. We won’t see the victory. That will come after we’re gone.

But there is going to be a fight, we know that there is going to be a fight because we are going to start it. We will lose some, as we lost Joe. We won’t stop. Love always wins. Always.

If I’ve made you mad, then I’ve done my job. Happy people don’t create change. You have to be angry, you must have discontent to create change. So be angry. Then do something about it.

If 1 person reading this gets 1 thing and does something, that’s perfect. The ripple effect will be huge.

Love you Dusty.

The end.

If you want to see this in video.
Here it is..10 minutes I think.

 

The Way Media Portrays Mental Illness Prolongs Stigma

So it has happened again, unfortunately. Another shooting at Ft. Hood. I am deeply sorry to the families of everyone involved. Everyone.

The first thing the military does is pull their trump card. He was being treated for depression and anxiety, and according to one source, other mental health issues. Another source came right out and said it, that he was being tested for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after spending time in Iraq. At least someone named something a straight line could be drawn to from the military. Of course, he had not yet been diagnosed, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if he did have PTSD. The number of troops coming home with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, among other things, is high.

But, the military quickly rebuts, he had depression and anxiety. If Lt. Gen. Mark Milley of Ft. Hood was aware of just how many people do have that diagnosis, he might think (at least to himself) again before pointing the finger at mental illness. Was the soldier who committed the shooting, who was in Iraq but supposedly saw no action, yet who thought he had a traumatic brain injury, put in one of the Army Wounded Transition Units upon his return? His TBI was self-diagnosed, and granted I have more experience with this kind of thing, but I would have thought his self-diagnosis of a TBI was his way, the only way, he knew how to say he was having mental problems without “stigmatizing” himself. Being wounded is one thing, confessing to mental problems is another, one that the military doesn’t deal very well with, but they’re going to have to, because of the number of military personnel having these issues.

And one thing that is never really mentioned is that he may never have actually seen action, but he was sent over with the expectation he would, I’m guessing, unless he was was part of some unit who had a specialized unit, and even then, you’re not going to escape the realities of what the situation was there. You are sent over primed to kill. When you come back, are you unprimed? There may be a process for this, I’m fairly ignorant of the procedures. but once that is in you, as an instinct, it must be extremely difficult to get rid of. I sort of imagine their response to, “How are you,” is a little like the one below.

The really sad thing is that no one will know what type of man he was, that’s not what he’ll be remembered as. Not what kind of husband or father he was. No one thinks about that, either. His widow and children have been stigmatized by association. His widow will be interviewed by the investigators, his home searched, and they’ll “examine whether his combat experience caused lingering psychological trauma,” according to an article from USA Today. Do you think so? Lingering psychological trauma not being treated in one of the four special units he should have been assigned to.

Part of what continues the stigma against mental illness are incidences such as this, where the first statement out of anyone’s mouth implies “he shot and killed those people because he had a mental illness.” That is simply not true. The number of people who have mental illness is simply so high, along with the predisposition for weapons in society, it’s inevitable the two should meet.

Despite the fact this happens, let me just say this once

MENTAL ILLNESS SHOULD NOT BE A STIGMA

MENTAL ILLNESS IS AN INVISIBLE DISABILITY

MENTAL ILLNESS DOES NOT MAKE US INTRINSICALLY DIFFERENT

MENTAL ILLNESS DOES NOT MAKE US INTRINSICALLY DANGEROUS

What it can do, if we let it, is:

  • Lower our self-esteem
  • Lower our confidence in ourselves
  • Make us extremely sensitive to offhand remarks
  • Make us extremely sensitive to criticism
  • Make it extremely difficult if not impossible to attend social functions
  • Isolate ourselves from others
  • Make us socially awkward
  • Numerous other things

And then there are other people who can get along just fine, outwardly, with a facade so perfect you would never guess. That’s why it’s an invisible disability. It’s not obvious, like a physical disability. You can’t see it, It’s not actually real, is it? C’mon, you’re having me on! There’s nothing wrong with you, you look fine. Yes, I may look fine, I may sound fine, I may be sitting here at this moment with you looking perfectly fine. Do you know what fine stands for? F’d up, Insecure, Neurotic, Empty. It’s easier to say “fine” than to tell you how I really feel, because you actually don’t really want to know.

Because there’s a stigma attached to me. For people who know I have severe depression and an anxiety disorder, among other things, who aren’t very closely acquainted to me, they may wonder, what’s she capable of? She seems so nice. She makes teddy bears. She a writer, but not a very successful one…oh, no one bring that up, that might set her off. She was talking about that movie, Dead Again, the other day, and how much she liked it. Someone go through her area and take away all her scissors when she’s at lunch and give her kiddie scissors instead…

Now, all of the above is purely hypothetical, since I’m working at home now (working is a dubious term) — I finally have everything I need to start (including an awful lot of pairs of scissors), so really, that is a moot point now. But when I was at work, I was honest about my depression and anxiety. I thought if I was open about it, I could help break down some of the stigma. I was incredibly wrong about that. Sadly, for an organization that worked with children with disabilities, they didn’t do well with employees with disabilities. How’s work? Fine.

index

 

 

Thinking about Brains

No, not about zombies, sorry. Though, if current statistics apply, one in four zombies may suffer from a mental illness, and may want to seek help.

It occurred to me that today is a sort of interesting and complicated day emotionally, travel-wise.

My boyfriend is flying back home today, where he went for the weekend to see a brilliant man. A man who used to be as loquacious as I am (believe it or not) and would talk to everyone he met. Talk and really listen to what they had to say. He enjoyed my sense of humor, which made us cohorts as soon as we met for the first time. He was witty, quick, and curious about everything. And if we were someplace and what he was curious about was local, he would ask until he found someone local and ask them about it. It was an endearing and sometimes embarrassing trait, but when he wanted to know something, he didn’t mess around. He always wore two pair of glasses, three if he had his sunglasses on as well, and inevitably lost the pair he stuck on the top of his head.

What does this have to do with brains? Summer before last we took a vacation together in Victoria, B.C., in July 2012. In was unseasonably cool. The weather always does strange things when we visit. This was only the second vacation in my life where we’d gone somewhere either in another state or out of the country, so this was a big deal. For me. My three traveling companions had been all over the place (well, many more places). He (I’ll just say S., it’s easier, and L. is his wife) had been having a little trouble with his memory, L said, so we were keeping an eye on him a little.

There were only a couple of times he got turned around or a little flustered. Even then, at one of those points, his sense of humor and remembering the situation makes me giggle. We were at the Royal BC Museum, and the loudspeaker came on and called my boyfriend to the information desk. S. had gotten separated from the rest of us, and instead of getting flustered, went to the information desk. He told them that he seemed to have misplaced his son. They asked how old his son was. S. replied, “41.” Apparently he had a nice conversation with them until my boyfriend got there, and no big deal was made of it, but S. did tell the story as a funny thing.

We returned home, me hopelessly in love with British Columbia, and not just because it was the first place in Canada I’d been–I’m not that kind of girl. Ah-hem.

By September of 2012 S. had been diagnosed with a type of dementia I had never heard of. I know people don’t like to use the word “dementia.” But it wasn’t Alzheimer’s, and I’m not going to put the two in the same category. It was a rapidly degenerative kind, the cruelest part for him, I think, when he knew what was happening when he was forgetting things and the anger and frustration that came with that. I know to a small extent what that feels like, but nothing like he must have experienced. L is a sweet, loving, caring person, one of the nicest people I have ever met, and her husband was falling apart in front of her. I can’t imagine that. I can’t imagine the strength she’s had to have, to live with a man you still love who lives in his own world. The family decided it was finally time to move him into a home specifically met to meet his needs.

As my boyfriend flies home today, I don’t know how the visit went. There were only short visits with his father. I just know that he’s quiet, keeps to himself, and doesn’t talk to anyone very much. He can’t walk without help, and they’re getting him a wheelchair. It’s only a matter of time. Less than two years since that vacation in Victoria.

At the same time, my best friend is on a train to where he’s having an interview at the Clinic he is trying to get admitted to for his difficult to treat diagnosis. Not a physical illness, a mental one. A 7 hour trip for an interview tomorrow. This clinic has the kind of treatment he needs, and I’m not sure if the interview determines that (along with all of his paperwork) or not. It shouldn’t. He needs the therapy they offer, in that environment. He’s a brilliant man as well; I would say he’s a genius but he’d probably refute me. He’s an artist–he can do anything he touches. Theater directing, set design, costume design, drawing, sculpture, animation–he did that for a longer while, restore signs on buildings, make puppets… painting is what he thinks he’s like to do, he’s an excellent photographer. He is amazing with words. We understand each other, don’t have to explain things. This is a diagnosis that, with a good treatment regimen, the symptoms can go into remission for years. That amazes me, and I want this so much for him. More than I want anything for me to get sorted out mentally. I’m okay, I get along, except for the not having a job thing. I have episodes every now and then. Usually when my meds are off. His diagnosis is very resistant to medications. He needs hope that this really will get better someday.

But compare the two. One brilliant man fading, who has touched so many lives. Another who has so far refused to fade, also a brilliant man, who needs to start this therapy and stick with it. And to continue on doing whatever wonderful thing he decides to do next, which will come to him in time–you can’t rush ideas.

There are things other people can do, things that can help. Stop making mental illness a stigma. If you can, give money for research on issues like these. Yes, the brain is relatively small, but exploring it is like unlocking the secrets in the ocean, or the universe. New things are discovered every day. New paths can be formed in time to perform functions thought lost. Nerves are amazing things, and the brain tells all of them what to do. Recognize there are invisible disabilities that are just as difficult for a person to live with as other disabilities. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

And most importantly, love. If there’s someone in your family with a mental illness, learn about it. It doesn’t change who they are. They are a person with (          ), not the other way around. Love them the way they are, because that is the way they are. They are not their mental illness. Love them and don’t hold them at arm’s length. Know that sometimes they have very low self-esteems, and don’t believe when you give them a compliment, but don’t stop. Tell them specifically what you like. Sometimes they are perfectionists. Tell them whatever they are doing looks great. Sometimes that’s a part of the diagnosis. Talk to them about what they’d like you to do in specific situations. Every person is different. My advice here, the specifics, other people could think is really stupid. That’s okay. It won’t stop me from loving people the way they are, or trying to learn how to help. This is a weird paragraph, I don’t want to end on this.

So instead, my almost getting eaten by a bear in Victoria. Not really. And for those who know the sign “DO NOT TOUCH THE BEAR” is there…well, sometimes I’m just a rebel, what can I say?

Undisclosed Location Tall, Dark, and Handsome

Undisclosed Location
Tall, Dark, and Handsome

I was just barely, barely holding his paw. While watching for security guards. Bearly holding his paw?

 

If S’s family, as this was a spur of the moment thing, thinking about both people traveling and why, would rather this not be up, I understand, and I’ll take it down.

 

 

 

 

 

Peridot Dragon Garnet eye

 

 

Susanne Atanus: “Everybody knows that God controls weather […] God is super angry[.]”

I didn’t think it was possible that a woman of such extremism her own GOP opponent regarded her with an extended expression of disbelief during their “debate.” Because how do you have a debate with someone who just repeats, “God is angry.” I know, because I tried, but more on that in a minute.

So, if this last winter has been “God…super angry,” what’s he like when he’s really pissed off? Sounds like we’re talking old testament God here. The one before sharknadoes and…rats, I forget the other one. We’re having a heck of a time with moths right now, so let’s just combine the two and call it a mothzilla. Or was it a grizzard?

I haven’t had any personal conversations with God lately, nor am I in any specially ordained position in a church, temple, or bakery (sorry, that’s Jesus, chip off the old block?) or, apparently, congressional candidates to receive the word of God. Normally when people hear the voice of God, he tells them to go out and build a big boat and collect things (like Pokemon), take their child to the top of a tall hill and kill them, or turns people to pillars of salt. Now, I take that one personally, as someone with a chronic kidney condition. That’s just not funny. (snerk) But I’m still not going to blame God personally for the fact I do. I just do. It’s not progressive. Hopefully. And that’s it.

God also isn’t responsible for my having severe depression, a generalized anxiety disorder, a slight cognitive disorder (fish oil helps a lot for that, but it was Jesus with the loaves and the fishes–see, something helpful?), or mild ADD. Nope. I was just born that way. God didn’t decide to make people who are gay the instruments of all demonic evil and destruction. People who are gay were born that way too. People with autism were born that way. Ask an adult with autism if they would change the way they are. It’s not easy. It’s not easy for anyone who is different. But ask them if they would completely change who they are.

And hear this, Susanne Atanus, if you are saying that there is something intrinsically wrong with people with disabilities, will you please explain to them what that is? Because some of the best, most honest, most loving, and most caring people I have ever met in my 45 years on this planet have had disabilities, from mild to severe, and if you tell me any of these people have a problem I would really like to hear what you have to say. Officially I have mental disabilities, and I will tell you without a shred of doubt in my mind I certainly didn’t get this way because of the existence of gay people in the world. Oh, I’d like to hear what you have to say to the parents of these people with disabilities as well. And the young woman I worked with in a Life Skills Special Education Classroom in high school, now in her early twenties, who is now living on her own and doing a kick-ass job of it (you go, girl!). Is God angry about that too? I don’t think so. I am incredibly proud of her, and so is everyone I know who ever worked with her. I feel honored to have worked with her for a year, to have been a little part of her life.

The weather is messed up because careless human beings have screwed it up. That’s not something you want to own up to, is it? It’s easier to blame it on God. I don’t think he’s sitting around melting the ice caps. I’ll tell you who’s super angry. Penguins. Polar Bears. Seals. They’re pissed. We’re destroying their home. And I tell you, when these Penguins decide to do recon, it’s not going to be the happy little “Smile and wave” Penguins from “Madagascar.” Since the Industrial Revolution we’ve been fouling up the air with coal smoke. Nasty stuff. If you don’t believe me, look at the reconstruction they’re having to do in high coal-use cities in Europe and even older cities here, the ones where statues and buildings are coated with it and black. That wasn’t God. Unless God told us where the coal was because he was already angry at all of us, and since the boat didn’t work the first time, he decided to get the ball rolling on a nice big weather disaster again. The Titanic didn’t work either.

There is no reasoning with you because everything you say is a circular cycle of blame leading back to “God is angry.” That isn’t an argument. That’s your personal belief. Which you are clearly entitled to have. It is not however, a political platform. I think we had this conversation. Church, state, two different things.

At this point, I would like to relate what I mean by trying to have a reasonable conversation. This is an email conversation with Susanne Atunus at the time she was a declared candidate for office, and I emailed her at that address, asking her questions about her position which anyone could have asked her. I do not see an problem posting them here, as I have not altered a word either of us wrote. I did not actually think she would continue a conversation with me, so I was surprised she continued it as long as she did. She thinks it’s okay for our security that the NSA monitor email. I think it’s okay for our security that everyone have access to this email. At that point, I also had no idea she would actually win the candidacy. I thought people might be more reasonable. This is not a libelous statement, as the words she wrote are her own. My words are my own. I have removed email addresses. Anyone wishing to contact Ms. Atanus can look up the candidates for the 9th Congressional District of Illinois.
———————————————————————————————-
Wendy Clements

Jan 26
Dear Ms. Atanus,

I believe that when our forefather created this country, they had several things in mind. One of the primary and most critical was the separation of church and state. This means, that as a representative of the 9th District, you do not represent God, you represent your constituents and keep your personal views regarding religion to yourself.

You have to make a decision which is most important, religion or politics, because they are supposed to remain separate matters entirely, one never entering the floor of Congress whatsoever. If that is an impossibility, then I would trust where your true passions lie and serve either church or state, but not both, as that is not only violates the constitution, but treads on morally and ethically shaky ground.

I do believe in global warming, and that it is caused by all humans, not just a select few chosen as targets. Zealots do not belong in congress, but there is a home for them in the church. Love thy neighbor, and practice Christianity as it was meant to be practiced. I haven’t seen any bolts of lightening striking anyone down, so I don’t think God has any issues.

There is a revolution in the Ukraine. There is a crisis in Syria. There are crises in the education and economic systems of our own country. Congress needs to pay attention to these matters and stop playing a shell game of distraction.

Thank you for your attention,
Wendy Clements

 

[From Susanne Atanus]

Jan 27

to me

Freedom of speech. We have exteeemeeely cold weather today. God is angry and I cannot look the other way. How can you?

 

From: Wendy Clements
Sent: Monday, January 27, 2014 1:37 AM
Subject: Congressional 9th District Seat

Jan 27

to Susanne
Which God? In war, how is God always on both sides, both sides believing with equal fervor that God supports their cause. God has better things to do than care about whether two men or two women marry, or love each other. Love thy neighbor, be unto others as you would unto yourself, the golden rule, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. That one isn’t in the bible–that one is let the one without sin throw the first stone. What is religion without self-examination? Self-righteousness, bitter hatred, claiming to speak in God’s name, setting yourself on a pedestal above all others, those are things God wouldn’t approve of. There is no place in a secular position for a person who acts in the name of God–freedom of speech does not mean church and state should mix.

I would concern myself about whether or not the constituents are angry, about the economy, with the employment rates, and the unemployment rates. With the dismal conditions our schools are in, and lack of funding to both education and social services, to programs that serve Veterans who have fought for this country, in the name of God, and are now homeless and having their benefits cut. Stop using trivial matters such as same sex marriage to try to divert people from the true, serious issues at hand that impact everyone in a very real, very tangible way.

Sincerely,
W. Clements

 

Susanne Atanus
Jan 27

to me
I am running for daily positive returns on stocks; with more income and gov’t. revenue we will purchase more goods and services, and this will create more jobs; all this without raising taxes! I did not use the word punishment I cannot ignore we have extreemeely cold days and 24 tornadoes in 2 hours that hit 3 counties in IL on a Sunday afternoon around noon that was catastrophic, horrible with lots of damage.

God is angry and provoked with sin including gay and abortions. Please pray for cures for newer diseases, too. Please pray that God will heal our land.

 

From: Wendy Clements
To: Susanne Atanus
Sent: Monday, January 27, 2014 6:07 PM
Subject: Re: Congressional 9th District Seat

Jan 28

to Susanne
Where does the money for these stocks come from, and how can you guarantee a daily positive return? The budget is being cut, not increased, how can you count on more government revenue? I assume the more income is from the stocks? I don’t see how more goods and services will be purchased from that, thereby creating more jobs, with no other source of income other than daily returns from stocks (which would have to be high risk stocks to give you daily returns). The foundations for the fiscal support system for your whole district would be based solely on income from stocks? I don’t know if a financial adviser would recommend that for one persona, unless they had money invested elsewhere, but for an entire congressional district? Good luck.

It is extremely cold because not only are we experiencing global warming, weather tends to occur in patterns. Around here we hear a lot of older people saying it hasn’t been this cold since 1972. That sounds about right. Every 30-40 years the weather pattern changes. If you look Illinois up in Wikipedia, it has had the most weather extremes of any state in the nation, due not to God but because of its “length and mid-continental placement.” Also, according to the same source, the deadliest tornado on record in the United States was mostly in Illinois (in the tri-state area) and killed, Wiki reports, 613 people. That was in 1925. Nature is nature, and prone to do unexpected things.

Nothing to do with God. All normally occurring things. Which newer diseases are you referring to? The ones that people have been refusing to get their children vaccinated against? Those are the old diseases making a comeback and causing small epidemics. That’s human ignorance. Our land has been destroyed by us. We have strip mined it, logged it, polluted and poisoned it with toxic pollutants from corporations being dumped into the water, and biohazardous waste being dumped where it shouldn’t be. There are all things humans have done to the earth. Why should some greater entity be expected to come in and fix the mistakes we continue to make? Look at the sides of our roads–littered with garbage from fast foot restaurants, food that is making the people of our nation overweight and susceptible to heart disease and chronic kidney disease. Did God come up with those recipes? No. Humans did, from companies with CEOs who are billionaires while their workers struggle to get by on a day to day basis.

Will those daily positives returns on stocks help those people? The ones who have to work double shifts and still don’t make enough money to support their families? They’re not being lazy by any means. Give them the dignity they deserve by paying them what they deserve.

We need to heal our own land, instead of waiting for God to fix everything for us, because it isn’t going to happen.

Do you personally know anyone who is gay? Have a friend who is? Because you know what, they are just like everyone else. Do you know about Alan Turing, whom Queen Elizabeth just gave a Royal Pardon to years too late, far after his death? He was imprisoned for being homosexual. He was also a brilliant man who more than likely saved the Allies during World War II. He was a mathematician and code breaker, and managed to break the Nazi’s code. He is also one of the fathers of modern computing.

When you don’t know people, out of ignorance or fear, how can you, personally, make any judgment on them. We have brains because we’re supposed to use them. Do we really want to act like little Hitlers in the United States, persecuting people simply because of their orientation, which, truthfully, is none of our business anyway?

This is what bothers me the most, is when people simply say, God says to do this, God says to do that, Jesus said I can discriminate–wait just a minute. That’s just simply not the sort of thing Jesus would either condone or do. He preached love and acceptance. When people follow religion to the point they are blinded by reality and the ability to think for themselves. I think if God were to be angry, it would be at how unevenly wealth is distributed in this country, how greedy the rich are while so many people live at the poverty level while resources to help them are cut. After all, the way you can really tell the nature of a country is in how it treats its poor, its disabled, its elderly, the ill, and its animals. There is a complete lack of communication between many of the millionaire congress and it’s constituents. These are the things people are concerned with. Will they get enough time on the dialysis machine when they go in? Why do the rich kids get away with driving onto the sidewalk drunk whereas if it were a poor kid they’d be going to jail. The gap is growing, and so is the disconnect.

I’d be more worried about the people being angry. The ones who can’t afford to buy enough food or pay their heating bills. The ones with disabilities who are having trouble paying doctors bills. God is not angry and causing more children to be born with disabilities, for any reason other than we’ve poisoned our environment and pregnant women don’t get the neonatal care they need. Enough of that rhetoric. Life happens.

Building a future on stocks is a risky proposition at best. I think it might be good to have a couple of back up plans.

 

Susanne Atanus

Jan 28

to me
Publicly traded corporations and large banks have billions and Chase Bank has five trillion in assets, and does not have a “down” day. I am running to fix the economy with daily positive returns on stocks so the l% will not get richer and richer. With more income, we will purchase more goods and services and this will create more jobs-the Greatest Economic Stimulus! It will also generate more gov’t. revenue so we don’t see higher taxes-a very important agenda.

I never used the word punishment. We need to pray for diseases, and newer diseases. Sin angers God including abortions and gay. I am concerned with newer and more diseases, aren’t you? If we pray and humble ourselves, God will heal our land.

I cannot ignore our severe winter. God is angry at many people. I never said diseases were punishment. But, God controls health and the weather. Don’t take it personally. It needs to be discussed in the public. Sickness is in every family.

 

From: Wendy Clements
To: Susanne Atanus
Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 9:59 AM

Jan 28

to Susanne
I never used the word punishment in either of the cases where it sounds like you’re correcting me. You came up with that yourself. So, you must be thinking of punishment, as this is the first time I’ve said it. You’re even twisting what I say to your own benefit. I don’t see why God has to be so angry and malevolent. That’s your interpretation of the bible. Just like you somehow managed to get punishment out of my email.

Don’t you think that if it were that easy to fix the economy, someone would have done it already?

I’m more concerned with current belief systems that people follow blindly and preach hatred toward our fellow humans. There is no reasoning with someone who has a message in their brain on a loop: “God is angry, God is angry.” I’m sorry you have to live that way. I take nothing you say personally, because I do not prescribe to your beliefs. I believe in love. I believe there is nothing wrong with loving someone of the same sex. Love is love. I believe in a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. I am not concerned with newer and more diseases, I am concerned with people who think we can pollute the planet and God will make it all better. Sickness is where you find it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people who are gay. Some of them are the best people I have ever known are gay or lesbian or trans*. Frankly, you’re completely ignorant of your subject, so you don’t know what you’re talking about. God is about compassion and forgiveness. Who are you to say “God is angry at many people?” Personal telegram?

You never said diseases were a punishment, but Got controls health? It sure sounds like you think they are, as well as the weather. It’s pointless to try to reason or use logic with people like you, because you don’t listen.

How do you know God isn’t telling you the exact opposite of what you’re doing? Turn the other cheek. What harm is anyone doing you? Psychologists would say you create your own issues, such as believing that God is angry.

When people first came over to the Americas in the 1600s from England, it was to escape people like you. I’m thinking we may have been better off if we’d just stayed under the Monarchy in the first place and had a more dignified Parliament.

 

Susanne Atanus

Jan 28

to me
Pray and repent.
—————————————————————————————————————-

So there we have it. Pray and repent. I’ve not really taken that too seriously. Also, by no means did I mean the matter of gay marriage is trivial in and of itself, I simply feel that it is such a no-brainer of a decision that lawmakers should have made it legal years ago and all of this now is ridiculous. It isn’t anyone else’s business and there really are serious things going on around the world–congress should be discussing Putin and just make gay marriage legal in the whole US and tell everyone to stop fussing about it. What do they want more, to fight same sex marriage or possibly have a Third World War? I mention Hitler in one of my communications with Ms. Atanus, ironic since I also mentioned the similarity of what Putin is doing, even more so now than back when I wrote the posts, to what Hitler did before the beginning of WWII. By distracting people with the issue of same sex marriage, which is right here in the US and thus more noticeable, politicians keep attention away from Europe (I don’t watch TV, so I have to confess I don’t know how the news is covering it). But this isn’t about Putin.

Or maybe in a way it is. It’s about keeping people like Ms. Atanus out of office, the ones who want to drag the country backward. That’s what has happened in Russia. Putin still thinks it’s the USSR and the Cold War is still in full play. He’s also very good at circular arguments and deflecting blame elsewhere.

I wasn’t planning on writing a post tonight. I just saw the headline that Ms. Atanus had won the candidacy and was a little in shock. But we do have our answers to the worlds’ problems: ‘pray and repent.” Catchy, but you can’t really dance to it.

From There to Here; Maps for the Inner Child

This post is a project of a sort. A path through the first five years of my life. If someone had asked me if I would ever post pictures of myself as an infant on the internet, my answer would have been a quite vehement no. I’m not even sure why it occurred to me to do this–maybe thinking about my inner child started the process, I don’t know. Because really, who else would your inner child look like other than how you did when you were young? I don’t think it morphs into another person. It’s just a smaller, less experienced you, learning more every year.

There aren’t many people in these pictures other than me–my middle sister figures predominately. She was in a lot of the pictures I found–I was actually looking for a picture I have a vague memory of to compare to one of her two-year old daughter’s expressions, which I remember as distinctly looking like a look she used. I got sidetracked–that’s how this happened. I think the only adults are my Great-Grandparents, not through any intentional neglect toward excluding anyone, I just remember them a lot from when I was this age. Not a lot of kids I knew had Great-Grandparents, so I thought that was pretty special.

These photos are fuzzy. Some worse than others. I used scanning software on my phone to take pictures of them, so they’ve been through a lot. I thought that was appropriate as well, once I saw them on my computer. My memories aren’t clear, either. These are from loose photos I received after the death of my paternal Grandmother–I have albums, but I found these more interesting, and who really wants to see baby pictures of me attempting to eat my stroller? There’s one of me attempting to eat my hand. That’s good enough.

1 March 1969, 3 months - Oct 13, 2013, 7-55 PM 2 March 1969  Fang - Oct 13, 2013, 8-00 PM 3 June 1969 - Oct 13, 2013, 8-04 PM 4 March 1970 - Oct 13, 2013, 8-08 PM 5 February 1971 - Oct 13, 2013, 8-12 PM 6 Business card - Oct 13, 2013, 7-50 PM 7 Business card - Oct 13, 2013, 7-52 PM 8 Doc - Oct 13, 2013, 7-22 PM 9 Business card - Oct 13, 2013, 8-15 PM 10 August 1974 - Oct 13, 2013, 7-18 PM 11 November 1974 - Oct 13, 2013, 7-25 PM 12 Business card - Oct 13, 2013, 7-43 PM 13 Kindergarten 5 years old - Oct 13, 2013, 7-27 PM The first few are in the Philippines. Maybe my parents were right about me being born talking, since it looks like I’m about to in the first one. Fang, the ginormous dog, is labeled as my protector on the back on that picture. The next ones are either at my dad’s parents or at my Great-Grandparent’s house, in San Diego. I’m confusing myself a little, because I know at some point we moved to Oklahoma for various reasons–my Great-Grandparents had also moved back to Oklahoma from California. I believe I attended kindergarten in Durant, Oklahoma.

While I couldn’t find the one I was looking for of my sister, she really developed a thing for sticking her tongue out at the camera later on. I don’t know if I’ve seen my niece do that. The funny thing is that my sister in these pictures and her daughter now are roughly the same age. My Great-Grandmother and mom made my clothes–my grandmother? I don’t know. She’s the only grandparent I have who’s still alive.

Whatever the purpose I originally had of putting these together, my mind has finally gelled on something. At 44, I am full of issues, both physical and mental. My five year-old self is happy, has an uninhibited smile (okay, except for where I look serious and my sister is sticking her tongue out–it’s the tummy shot–my future pop star self), and is genuinely in the moment. She’s cuter than I remembered. I was even beating up the appearance of my inner child.

For those of us struggling with mental illness, maybe it is pointless to try to narrow out lives down to that one moment–and how can it possibly have been one moment? It must be more than that. We have a tendency to beat ourselves up, too, and are more than willing to give a long-winded self-deprecating spiel. We have a hard enough time with the illness itself, why can’t we give ourselves a break? Because it’s not just depression lurking in that Gordion knot–it’s anxiety, worry, fear, anger, resentment, blame, paranoia, sadness, hurt, betrayal, loss, grief, mistrust, and any other self-loathing behaviors we can think of tossing into the maelstrom. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to cut the damn know open until of it unraveling? The knots get looser, but they cling together for dear life because they’re the patterns we’re used to living. The ones that refuse to let us be kind to ourselves. Now, looking at all these pictures of myself that I spent so much time putting together, I see something in them. I didn’t know why I did this to start, now I do. This little person, this child, is me. If I saw that child on the playground, would I treat her the way I treat myself? No. Never. It would be hurtful, cruel, and compassionless. So why do I treat myself that way? I don’t deserve it. I can’t help the fact that I’m mentally ill; no one can.

We need to treat ourselves the way we’d treat that inner child. If it helps to get out pictures and look at them and remember, see for ourselves that yes, we really were that child once. It’s easy to think of our inner child in an abstract, invisible way. But looking at these pictures of myself, I know I really do need to be kinder to myself. Have compassion for myself. So many of us can do that for others but not for ourselves, and we need to try, because we are valuable, important, worthy, deserving people who should have kindness and love in our lives, and the first people we should get that from is ourselves. We need to give ourselves forgiveness and absolution, or we won’t heal. It’s easy for me to say all these things, because I have just as hard a time doing what I say for myself. It’s easy for me to tell other people and encourage them, but loving myself?

Maybe a start is remembering that little girl, and that she deserves love and kindness. She’s still in here, she hasn’t gone anywhere. I have a bumper sticker on my car: “Listen to Children.” I need to start listening and remembering that this little girl is here with me. Inner children don’t disappear, they just become silent. She’s just waiting for me to catch up and listen for a change.