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Three Years Gone

20 Nov

Today is bittersweet for me. It’s the anniversary of my father’s death, which, 3 years later, is still a painful thing to think about. I know I’m not alone in this pain. My little sister and brother share in it just the same. I hope somewhere, some time, they get to read this and understand that I’m thinking of them and love them to pieces. Luckily, I have a very good reason to be very happy as well: my best friend gave birth to her first son, whom I call Bowser, on this same date two years ago. It’s a strange situation for me. I love Bowser, he’s one of the coolest semi-new humans ever. He gives me reason to smile today,but I miss my dad.

It wasn’t until yesterday that I really realized that even though I haven’t  been deliberately dwelling on the approaching anniversary, it still affects me. It’s painful to deal with, even though it’s not in my conscious thoughts. It’s interesting how depression can sneak its way into your life. Little by little, it puts a shadow over your existence. Before you know it, you’re in a hole. Sometimes that hole is so deep that the sky is nearly invisible. I want people to know that they’re not alone with this.

For this reason, I feel it appropriate to re-visit a post from way back. It’s one of my favorite posts because I believe depression is a topic that is easily brushed aside by many because they don’t understand, and obscured by those affected by it. It’s not something that we can recover from unless we face it. So, I’m shining a light on it once more. I hope it helps.

The following is from Tired of trying, sick of crying. I know I’ve been smiling, but inside I’m dying…

Depression isn’t an easy thing to talk about. It lurks in the darkness of our soul, eating away at our hearts, consuming our will to continue searching for happiness. It’s an invisible ailment that many experience, but few understand. For some, it’s a fast and dramatic response to an event such as the death of a loved one, or a major failure of some sort. But many times, depression has no clear cut cause; there’s no singular traumatic event that starts the seamless progression from disappointment to sadness to depression to hopelessness.  Sometimes, the advancement is so slow and subtle; it goes unrecognized by even the person experiencing it. And therein lies the problem. How can you tell someone that something is wrong, when you yourself don’t know or can’t explain what it is? I may be alone in my stubbornness, but I find it difficult to admit to someone, let alone to myself, that there IS something wrong when I don’t even know what IT is. How am I supposed to ask for help, when I don’t even know what I need?

What we need to do is talk. We need to identify and admit the fact that depression is not only a mental problem. It is a condition that reaches far beyond just being sad. It can affect your appearance, drain you of energy, kill your appetite, and kill your social life, among many other things. If we just continue to hide or ignore that depression is a physical condition as much as a mental one, we’ll just continue to sink lower and lower. We also need to stop surrounding ourselves with people that only add to the sickness. We all know drama mongers. They peddle their crazy to anyone and everyone that will listen. I’m here to tell you, when crazy comes knocking, you don’t have to answer the door.

Depression never affected me as a child or teen. So you can imagine my surprise and serious denial when it hit me in adulthood. Come to find out, I have a predisposition to suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts/tendencies. My mother attempted to end her life as a teenager. My cousin committed suicide when I was in high school. My paternal grandmother committed suicide when my father was a teenager. I have done some research and have found that my Austrian/German decent makes me more likely to make an attempt on my life. For some reason, people from these countries have a high rate of suicide and depression. It’d be easy to look at the statistics and family history and use it as an excuse. I could put the blame on genetics. Who in the world would argue with science and facts?

The problem with accepting that you have a predilection, especially a biological one, for something, is that we often use that as an excuse for giving into it. We let go of our power to the thought that we are destined to be this or suffer from that. Instead of telling ourselves, “yes, I am more susceptible to (insert condition here), but I have the power to avoid it”, we tell ourselves “I am more susceptible to (insert condition here); I don’t have any control in it”. We give the blame away to our genetics (or whatever variable) and in doing so, we give away our power to make real and positive changes in our lives. It’s this negative thinking that perpetuates depression, not our genes. If you think you’re worthless, then guess what? Perception is reality. The amazing thing is that you have the ability to change your perception, and in turn, change reality.

Here comes story time. I’ve talked a little about my father’s death; I think I’ve even mentioned the death of my grandma. But, to illustrate my point a little better, I’m going to tell you the whole story…the big points, anyway….

I met my ex a week before I turned 19. We were married two and a half years later. Even though I was young, I gave it everything I had, and then a little more. But getting little in return, I started to give up. I’d been unhappy for a very long time, and I was tired of being used, tired of being lied to, and tired of waiting. I blamed my husband for the way I felt. I resented him for everything I gave up to support his goals and dreams. I felt worthless because nothing I did for him was ever enough for him to value me as I once thought I’d deserved. Despite the way I felt about the way my marriage was going, we decided at one point that we were going to try to start a family. Wanting to be sure I was healthy enough for a pregnancy, I consulted my doctors. My rheumatologist cautioned me against it, saying that even if the inflammation in my feet from my rheumatoid arthritis was under control (at this point, it was not); I would almost certainly spend at least my third trimester on bed rest. I was 25 years old, and my doctor was telling me I shouldn’t try to have kids? I’m 25 years old; I should be able to get knocked up without the “ok” from a doctor…right?

Already unhappy with where my life was at the time, I received a phone call that would put me over the edge. I left for work one morning, and on the drive, I got a phone call from my supervisor’s boss telling me I was to report to him before I began my shift. My heart sank. I knew this was bad news, I thought I’d be fired, though I had no idea for what. I stood at his desk and he informed me I was being put on administrative leave and ordered me to surrender my badge. On my drive home that morning, my thoughts raced. I had decided that when I arrived home, I was going to take every pill in my bottle of Vicodin, and anything else I had. I got home, went upstairs, grabbed the bottle and popped the first pill in my mouth. I tried to swallow it. I couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, it just wouldn’t go down. This was the beginning of what my ex and most everyone else would see as my decline. The truth is, all those little things with my marriage, the lies, the resentment, my health…that was the real beginning, but it was invisible. It wasn’t even until about a year or two before this incident that I had even noticed it myself.

The sad part about that first pill is that not being able to swallow it had very little, if anything, to do with how I valued my life. I never thought, “I can’t do this because I have so much to live for, so many things I still want to do.” As I tried to swallow that pill, I thought about my parents, the tears, them thinking that they failed at something because they weren’t able to save me. I thought about my nieces. I thought about being thought of as too weak to handle what God was dishing out to me. I even thought about my poor pup. I didn’t want to hurt the people I loved. I told my ex what had happened, and asked him to take all my medications and hide them from me. I called my doctor and got an appointment with a shrink who referred me to a program that literally saved my life.

Because of my suicidal thoughts and my attempt, though failed, my only choices were being committed to a mental facility or the Intensive Outpatient Program, or IOP. I chose IOP. Though I am not and never have been an advocate for “group therapy”, I have to say, it worked. After two weeks of talking about the things I’ve been through, how I feel, listening to others, discovering that although the causes of what brought us all to that room were very different, we were all feeling very similarly. I learned that I am not something that is broken and needs fixing. I learned some very important coping skills and started to re-learn simple truths about myself that would ultimately hold the pieces of my heart together when I thought it would fall apart.

The next couple months brought my grand mother’s decline. She was constantly in and out of the hospital. My family, especially my aunt, who was my grandma’s primary caretaker, struggled with the burden of dealing with the impending loss and the day to day wear that caring for stricken loved ones brings about. Finally, we had a family meeting with the doctors who informed us of our choices. My aunt was not ready to let go. She wanted to believe that her mother wanted to keep fighting. Eventually, we all agreed that she should be put on home hospice care.

The night my grandma died, I went out with my cousins. I got drunker than I’d ever been, at that point. I fell apart. I’d never cried harder or for such a long time. Her funeral was the most beautiful service I’d ever been to. (I’ve been to quite a few) She was buried next to my grandpa, who’d passed away a few years earlier. At the graveside service, someone had booked a mariachi band to play songs that my grandpa used to sing to his wife. It was amazing.

The next day, my phone rang. It was my dad, and he was telling me that he has cancer. Stage 4 cancer to boot. For those who aren’t familiar with cancer, stage 4 means that the cancer is very advanced and has metastasized to other organ(s). In the subsequent months, I flew back and forth from my home in southern California to northern Washington, when my father lived. In the midst of this, I was ultimately fired from my job. Meanwhile, I helped re-model the house, I cooked, I cleaned, I took my father to many of his appointments. He had a prognosis of 2 years. The cancer took him in 3 months.

Two weeks before he died, I decided to make a book for my dad. I wanted to have him write down stories about himself, about growing up, about life. I had so many questions to ask him. I worked hard on that book, trying to make it perfect. Unfortunately, by the time I was done with it, he was no longer speaking, and barely moving. I ended up with a very beautiful, but very empty book.

If you’ve noticed anything in my posts, you’ve probably noticed my propensity to relating my life to music. Today is no different. As it turns out, there is a line from a Social Distortion song that is cold hard fact. Mike Ness sings, “Reach for the sky ’cause tomorrow may never come” (By the way, that song is called Reach for the Sky.) I decided that this empty book was not going to be the story of my life.  Losing my father so quickly prompted me (after a great deal of wallowing in grief and self-pity) to evaluate my life and the way I was living it.

The fact is that it’s easy to give up. It’s easy to put the blame for our disappointments and misery on everything and everyone around us. What’s not easy is taking a look in the mirror and realize that we are the only thing standing between us and bliss. It’s not easy taking responsibility for our unhappiness and depression. The way I felt about my life and my marriage was no one’s fault but my own. As soon as I took ownership of that fact, I got my power back.  I decided that I can’t wait for happiness. It’s not just going to walk up to me one day on the street. I have to actively seek it. My book will not be blank, it’s going to be filled with all the awesome things I am going to do, all the adventures I’m going to take on. I’ve been doing all the things that made me who I am. I’ve been doing all the things that make me happy, all the way down to my shoes.

I also began to understand that everything, and I mean everything, happens for a reason. If I had not been married to my ex, I would not have come to understand how little I actually loved myself. If I had not ended up with rheumatoid arthritis, I probably would have ended up with children with a man that I did not love, a man who didn’t truly love me. My suicide attempt led to me getting the help I really needed. If I hadn’t gone though the Intensive Outpatient Program, I wouldn’t have learned the tools that would later keep me from spinning out of control with the subsequent tragedies of losing my grandmother and my father. If I hadn’t been put on administrative leave, I would not have been able to spend so much time with my father before he passed away. If my father hadn’t been taken so swiftly, I probably would not have had the courage to finally take my life into my own hands. I would have continued being miserable, and blaming my ex for it. Like I said, perception is reality. My reality is a happy one, because I perceive it to be.

While I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time, I still continue to struggle with depression. I’m not going to lie. There are days that I feel just like vanilla ice cream: white, plain, nothing special. But then, I Googled vanilla, and I learned that vanilla is actually one of the most complex flavors on the planet (another scientific fact). So, while I may just be feeling like vanilla, I am actually quite special. This gives me hope that though I’ve been battered by storms, I’m not quite destroyed. Little by little, I begin to strengthen and bloom again.

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It Might Have His Spirit, But This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Country…

18 Apr

I know that this must be said by every generation…but, what the heck happened to music? Where did the soul go? I came across this meme (don’t ask me why it’s called that, because I don’t know…and more importantly, I just don’t care enough to find out why.) and I really think that it fits this enigma perfectly.

This meme got me thinking about what really did happen to music. I wish I knew what exactly happened that made music like Frank Sinatra, Bad Religion, or Earth Wind and Fire sang, obsolete. When I think about music, I think about one of my favorite genres: country.

I know more than a handful of people who cringe at the idea of listening to Garth Brooks. But country’s growing popularity is evidenced by hordes of not just the older people, but also the younger crowd that clog the dance floors at my local honky-tonk. (honky-tonk=country bar)

Country music as a genre has evolved over time. It’s taken cues from societal changes and has been able to adapt without losing is original spirit. Country music has stayed true to its roots without becoming a thing of the past. The roots I’m referring to is the subject matter that songs are written about. Country songs are written about real life, things almost all of us as humans can relate to.

Granted, there are other genres of music that share the same roots. But in comparison, I can’t think of one variety that has shown the kind of successful evolution as country music. Country music is one of the last popular genres left that sings about things that actually matter, things that make us feel something. Someone lie to you? There’s a song about that (listen to You Lie by The Band Perry). Are you in love? Got that covered too (listen to Honey Bee by Blake Shelton). Feel like kicking back and saying screw the world? You’re covered. (listen to Eric Church sing Smoke a Little Smoke) Thinking about a one-night stand? You bet you’re tookus there’s a few about that too (listen to Wanna Take You Home by Gloriana). Sure it’s nice to go out every once in a while, dancing to some mindless beat. But have you actually listened to the lyrics of most pop music these days? It’s the musical equivalent of junk food. The fact is, people can relate to what most country music is about. People want  to listen to music that makes them feel something, other than some guy trying to rub up against you.

Speaking of which, one of my favorite things about country music and going to a honky-tonk is not feeling like a piece of meat at the market. Men ask women to dance. I’m talking actual partner dancing none of that bump & grind crap. Women don’t have to worry about getting felt up just because they said yes to dancing with someone. Country bars are some of the last places where men behave more like gentlemen and treat women respectfully, I suppose it’s just the kind of environment country music breeds.  There’s rarely anyone being kicked out for fighting. They don’t pat you down for weapons or drugs at the door…which is nice.

The bottom line is this, people want music that means something more than how much money you make, what stupid crap you buy, how many people you’ve iced or how many women you’ve slept with. Sometimes you just get burned out on fast food. You start craving a home cooked meal because it feeds your body and your soul. This is why country music has become so popular. Some of us are just tired of junk food. What do you think?

So Fresh and So Fresh and So Clean Clean….(ain’t nobody as dope as me)

4 Apr

I know it’s Wednesday and you all must be wondering where this week’s Wreck is. Well, I’m interrupting my previously scheduled Wreck in celebration of a very special occasion.

It happens to be Lent. It is the commemoration of the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert, being tempted by Satan. For us, it is the season of sacrifice, charity, fasting, atonement and forgiveness. Lent gives us a fresh start, spiritually, and is the foundation for positive growth. “Cleaning” and “de-cluttering” the soul and spirit is not always easy. It can be painful, confronting your past transgressions and mistakes. Airing out those skeletons can come with consequences. There are times that even with forgiveness, relationships cannot be saved once the truth is brought to light. I think this is one of the hardest parts of the season. I also know, however, that without this season of atonement and forgiveness, we cannot grow and become the happy people that we are meant to be.

I’ve thought for a long time that life has a funny way of placing things, situations or people in your path at the exact moment you need them. Whether it’s an opportunity to exercise your ability to forgive, or to love, or maybe it’s an opportunity to understand what it really means to have faith and perseverance–it’s a message meant to help you grow. The reason I mention this is because I’ve just been reading a manuscript for a book called Through the Eyes of Another by Karen Noe. I will be posting a review for the book in the coming weeks, but for now, the premise of the book is to receive your “Life Review” before making your transition from this world to the next  (or whatever you believe lies after life) by writing letters. Though the topic might seem strange and arbitrary, it turned out to be a very inspiring book. It encourages the reader to write letters to various family and  loved ones, telling them why and how much you care about them, and acknowledge the things that you are sorry about, ways you’ve hurt them or caused pain. The next part is apologizing for the things that you’ve done. The purpose of these letters, more than anything are meant for emotional and spiritual healing. In my opinion, I can’t think of anything better that could have been put in my path to bring my attention to the fact that, while I have not had soda like I promised on Ash Wednesday, I have kind of neglected the whole contrition and atonement part of Lent.

Deep down, we all know deep down that these letters do need to be written or these conversations need to be had. We don’t reach out to those we love and those who love us to tell them how much they mean to us. We don’t tell people enough that we are blessed to have them in our lives. We don’t see clearly how our actions have caused hurt or pain in other lives. We certainly don’t always apologize for causing that hurt. God has given us this season as an opportunity to become better people, to be a little more like his Son. It’s not about Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday,  Easter Sunday, hardboiled eggs or even delicious ham. It’s about His only Son sacrificing his own purely innocent life for us sinners to have life eternal. All that’s requested of us is to live our lives with love, humility, honesty. He doesn’t even care that we all commit sins daily. Contrition and repentance is the key. Doesn’t sound like such a hard thing to do. Right?

Tomorrow isn’t going to be a better day to let those people in your life know that you love them. Next week could very well be too late to make amends with that friend you’ve neglected. Today is the day. Make it one that your Father can be proud of.

 

You gotta let me know…should I stay or should I go?

1 Mar

Today I want to talk about love and relationships. Most of us have been there, right? Well, I recently read the February issue of Psychology Today, and wouldn’t you know it, the cover article is about love. The title of the article is Are You with the Right Mate? by Rebecca Webber.

Well, are you?

Being a fairly young person, and divorced, I found this article particularly interesting. In the article, Webber states that, “Our marriages are not always a source of satisfaction. Sometimes they bring pain and sorrow. That’s necessary for growth.” Now, for anyone that has been married or even in a committed/long-term relationship, the first part of that statement is old news. The interesting idea is the last part: pain and sorrow is necessary for growth.

We all experience pain and sorrow, however, we all experience it differently and we all deal with it differently. Some people ignore it, some people withdraw from the world, some folks get pissed off and lash out, and others grieve and move on. One could assume that the ways that we confront (or don’t) adversity would account for the success (or failure) of not just marriages, but relationships in general. Based on this, one could also assume that if we focus on improving the way we meet challenges, we will in turn improve our relations with others.

While it is true that there sometimes people who just flat-out do not belong together, how many marriages and friendships are thrown away just because one or both people gave up, blew up or was just indifferent? I, for one, can vouch for how sad it is to lose a friend or significant other because one or both of us just couldn’t get our acts together. It’s a shame when we get so caught up with petty differences that a good friendship goes sour.

Let’s not let that happen. Let’s nurture and fight for those relationships that are worthy of treasuring. Opposite that, let’s finally sever those relationships that are incompatible and detract from your contentment. Take a look at those you surround yourself with. Do they contribute happiness, joy and abundance to your life?  Take a look at yourself, do you offer happiness, joy and abundance to those you call friends? If you answered no to either of those questions, you might want to consider why. Is this relationship worth fighting for? If it is, fight. If it’s not, then maybe it’s time to say adios, amigo. It might not be an easy thing to do, but in the long run, it could save both parties a lot of heartache  and energy.

It’s not often easy to be honest with those around you about your needs and wants. It’s certainly not easy to tell someone you care about, but just can’t seem to keep things together with, that you feel you would be better off just moving on. You’ll soon see what a blessing it is to be free from the burden of tending to the needs of others before your own. Someone once told me, that if I don’t take care of myself, no one else will. That, my friends, is what they call a true story.

On the other hand, once you’ve identified relationships that need work, but are worthy of the effort, you can get started growing that relationship into something truly beautiful.

If you would like to read the full article, and I suggest that you do, you can read it here http://psychologytoday.com. while this post has just a little bit to do with the actual article, it did serve as a jumping point. Webber did a really excellent job examining the complexities of marriage and the idea of finding the right mate. Her ideas are certainly helpful for those who have been, are or thinking about getting married. Marriage isn’t always peaches and cream, but if you throw in the towel, you could be missing out on something really amazing.

Tired of trying, sick of crying. I know I’ve been smiling, but inside I’m dying…

1 Feb

Sound familiar? If it does, we need to talk. Get ready because this is gonna be a doozy of a personal post. (a reeeeeeally long one.)

Depression isn’t an easy thing to talk about. It lurks in the darkness of our soul, eating away at our hearts, consuming our will to continue searching for happiness. It’s an invisible ailment that many experience, but few understand. For some, it’s a fast and dramatic response to an event such as the death of a loved one, or a major failure of some sort. But many times, depression has no clear cut cause; there’s no singular traumatic event that starts the seamless progression from disappointment to sadness to depression to hopelessness.  Sometimes, the advancement is so slow and subtle; it goes unrecognized by even the person experiencing it. And therein lies the problem. How can you tell someone that something is wrong, when you yourself don’t know or can’t explain what it is? I may be alone in my stubbornness, but I find it difficult to admit to someone, let alone to myself, that there IS something wrong when I don’t even know what IT is. How am I supposed to ask for help, when I don’t even know what I need?

What we need to do is talk. We need to identify and admit the fact that depression is not only a mental problem. It is a condition that reaches far beyond just being sad. It can affect your appearance, drain you of energy, kill your appetite, and kill your social life, among many other things. If we just continue to hide or ignore that depression is a physical condition as much as a mental one, we’ll just continue to sink lower and lower. We also need to stop surrounding ourselves with people that only add to the sickness. We all know drama mongers. They peddle their crazy to anyone and everyone that will listen. I’m here to tell you, when crazy comes knocking, you don’t have to answer the door.

Depression never affected me as a child or teen. So you can imagine my surprise and serious denial when it hit me in adulthood. Come to find out, I have a predisposition to suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts/tendencies. My mother attempted to end her life as a teenager. My cousin committed suicide when I was in high school. My paternal grandmother committed suicide when my father was a teenager. I have done some research and have found that my Austrian/German decent makes me more likely to make an attempt on my life. For some reason, people from these countries have a high rate of suicide and depression. It’d be easy to look at the statistics and family history and use it as an excuse. I could put the blame on genetics. Who in the world would argue with science and facts?

The problem with accepting that you have a predilection, especially a biological one, for something, is that we often use that as an excuse for giving into it. We let go of our power to the thought that we are destined to be this or suffer from that. Instead of telling ourselves, “yes, I am more susceptible to (insert condition here), but I have the power to avoid it”, we tell ourselves “I am more susceptible to (insert condition here); I don’t have any control in it”. We give the blame away to our genetics (or whatever variable) and in doing so, we give away our power to make real and positive changes in our lives. It’s this negative thinking that perpetuates depression, not our genes. If you think you’re worthless, then guess what? Perception is reality. The amazing thing is that you have the ability to change your perception, and in turn, change reality.

Here comes story time. I’ve talked a little about my father’s death; I think I’ve even mentioned the death of my grandma. But, to illustrate my point a little better, I’m going to tell you the whole story…the big points, anyway….

I met my ex a week before I turned 19. We were married two and a half years later. Even though I was young, I gave it everything I had, and then a little more. But getting little in return, I started to give up. I’d been unhappy for a very long time, and I was tired of being used, tired of being lied to, and tired of waiting. I blamed my husband for the way I felt. I resented him for everything I gave up to support his goals and dreams. I felt worthless because nothing I did for him was ever enough for him to value me as I once thought I’d deserved. Despite the way I felt about the way my marriage was going, we decided at one point that we were going to try to start a family. Wanting to be sure I was healthy enough for a pregnancy, I consulted my doctors. My rheumatologist cautioned me against it, saying that even if the inflammation in my feet from my rheumatoid arthritis was under control (at this point, it was not); I would almost certainly spend at least my third trimester on bed rest. I was 25 years old, and my doctor was telling me I shouldn’t try to have kids? I’m 25 years old; I should be able to get knocked up without the “ok” from a doctor…right?

Already unhappy with where my life was at the time, I received a phone call that would put me over the edge. I left for work one morning, and on the drive, I got a phone call from my supervisor’s boss telling me I was to report to him before I began my shift. My heart sank. I knew this was bad news, I thought I’d be fired, though I had no idea for what. I stood at his desk and he informed me I was being put on administrative leave and ordered me to surrender my badge. On my drive home that morning, my thoughts raced. I had decided that when I arrived home, I was going to take every pill in my bottle of Vicodin, and anything else I had. I got home, went upstairs, grabbed the bottle and popped the first pill in my mouth. I tried to swallow it. I couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, it just wouldn’t go down. This was the beginning of what my ex and most everyone else would see as my decline. The truth is, all those little things with my marriage, the lies, the resentment, my health…that was the real beginning, but it was invisible. It wasn’t even until about a year or two before this incident that I had even noticed it myself.

The sad part about that first pill is that not being able to swallow it had very little, if anything, to do with how I valued my life. I never thought, “I can’t do this because I have so much to live for, so many things I still want to do.” As I tried to swallow that pill, I thought about my parents, the tears, them thinking that they failed at something because they weren’t able to save me. I thought about my nieces. I thought about being thought of as too weak to handle what God was dishing out to me. I even thought about my poor pup. I didn’t want to hurt the people I loved. I told my ex what had happened, and asked him to take all my medications and hide them from me. I called my doctor and got an appointment with a shrink who referred me to a program that literally saved my life.

Because of my suicidal thoughts and my attempt, though failed, my only choices were being committed to a mental facility or the Intensive Outpatient Program, or IOP. I chose IOP. Though I am not and never have been an advocate for “group therapy”, I have to say, it worked. After two weeks of talking about the things I’ve been through, how I feel, listening to others, discovering that although the causes of what brought us all to that room were very different, we were all feeling very similarly. I learned that I am not something that is broken and needs fixing. I learned some very important coping skills and started to re-learn simple truths about myself that would ultimately hold the pieces of my heart together when I thought it would fall apart.

The next couple months brought my grand mother’s decline. She was constantly in and out of the hospital. My family, especially my aunt, who was my grandma’s primary caretaker, struggled with the burden of dealing with the impending loss and the day to day wear that caring for stricken loved ones brings about. Finally, we had a family meeting with the doctors who informed us of our choices. My aunt was not ready to let go. She wanted to believe that her mother wanted to keep fighting. Eventually, we all agreed that she should be put on home hospice care.

The night my grandma died, I went out with my cousins. I got drunker than I’d ever been, at that point. I fell apart. I’d never cried harder or for such a long time. Her funeral was the most beautiful service I’d ever been to. (I’ve been to quite a few) She was buried next to my grandpa, who’d passed away a few years earlier. At the graveside service, someone had booked a mariachi band to play songs that my grandpa used to sing to his wife. It was amazing.

The next day, my phone rang. It was my dad, and he was telling me that he has cancer. Stage 4 cancer to boot. For those who aren’t familiar with cancer, stage 4 means that the cancer is very advanced and has metastasized to other organ(s). In the subsequent months, I flew back and forth from my home in southern California to northern Washington, when my father lived. In the midst of this, I was ultimately fired from my job. Meanwhile, I helped re-model the house, I cooked, I cleaned, I took my father to many of his appointments. He had a prognosis of 2 years. The cancer took him in 3 months.

Two weeks before he died, I decided to make a book for my dad. I wanted to have him write down stories about himself, about growing up, about life. I had so many questions to ask him. I worked hard on that book, trying to make it perfect. Unfortunately, by the time I was done with it, he was no longer speaking, and barely moving. I ended up with a very beautiful, but very empty book.

If you’ve noticed anything in my posts, you’ve probably noticed my propensity to relating my life to music. Today is no different. As it turns out, there is a line from a Social Distortion song that is cold hard fact. Mike Ness sings, “Reach for the sky ’cause tomorrow may never come” (By the way, that song is called Reach for the Sky.) I decided that this empty book was not going to be the story of my life.  Losing my father so quickly prompted me (after a great deal of wallowing in grief and self-pity) to evaluate my life and the way I was living it.

The fact is that it’s easy to give up. It’s easy to put the blame for our disappointments and misery on everything and everyone around us. What’s not easy is taking a look in the mirror and realize that we are the only thing standing between us and bliss. It’s not easy taking responsibility for our unhappiness and depression. The way I felt about my life and my marriage was no one’s fault but my own. As soon as I took ownership of that fact, I got my power back.  I decided that I can’t wait for happiness. It’s not just going to walk up to me one day on the street. I have to actively seek it. My book will not be blank, it’s going to be filled with all the awesome things I am going to do, all the adventures I’m going to take on. I’ve been doing all the things that made me who I am. I’ve been doing all the things that make me happy, all the way down to my shoes.

I also began to understand that everything, and I mean everything, happens for a reason. If I had not been married to my ex, I would not have come to understand how little I actually loved myself. If I had not ended up with rheumatoid arthritis, I probably would have ended up with children with a man that I did not love, a man who didn’t truly love me. My suicide attempt led to me getting the help I really needed. If I hadn’t gone though the Intensive Outpatient Program, I wouldn’t have learned the tools that would later keep me from spinning out of control with the subsequent tragedies of losing my grandmother and my father. If I hadn’t been put on administrative leave, I would not have been able to spend so much time with my father before he passed away. If my father hadn’t been taken so swiftly, I probably would not have had the courage to finally take my life into my own hands. I would have continued being miserable, and blaming my ex for it. Like I said, perception is reality. My reality is a happy one, because I perceive it to be.

While I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time, I still continue to struggle with depression. I’m not going to lie. There are days that I feel just like vanilla ice cream: white, plain, nothing special. But then, I Googled vanilla, and I learned that vanilla is actually one of the most complex flavors on the planet (another scientific fact). So, while I may just be feeling like vanilla, I am actually quite special. This gives me hope that though I’ve been battered by storms, I’m not quite destroyed. Little by little, I begin to strengthen and bloom again.

 

 

Brown Cow update….

23 Jan

For anyone who enjoyed Brown Cow: The Verdict, here is a very brief update.

I’ve officially wandered from the cherry vanilla flavor. I am happy to announce that the maple flavor is equally as delicious and creamy.

I was skeptical at first because I’m not a huge fan of syrpy sweet yogurt, but this cup did not disappoint. It has a distinct, yet not overpowering maple flavor without the tooth decay. It delivers the delicious flavor of pancake syrup with a satisfying bit of tang. Texture-wise, it still has that same cream top like the cherry vanilla. It looks a little funky at first opening, but mixes effortlessly into a smooth creamy delicious treat.

Brown Cow certainly has not disappointed. Tomorrow, I’m gonna take another one for the team and review the PEACH flavor, so stay tuned, if you’re curious.

Stop to say, “Thank you”.

18 Jan

I picked up today’s San Diego Union Tribune, my hometown newspaper. On the front page, I found an article about a very young Marine who died August 26th, 2009 in Afghanistan, after saving his brothers-in-arms. I’m not going to get into the article or explain how he died or how he saved his brothers. If you would like to see the full story, you can view it here: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/jan/17/marine-who-sacrificed-his-life-others-honored-navy/

What I would like to do today, is say Thank you. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it. Thank you so much to all of our military personnel who have sacrificed their lives, and those who continue to sacrifice their own freedoms, in order to protect ours.

Thank you to the families left of the men and women who are killed in action overseas. There isn’t really anything that can be said by anyone that could replace your loved ones. The only thing we can do is say thank you, offer our love, support and comfort, and most of all, live in a manner that would merit such a sacrifice. Live a life that’s worth saving. Pass on the values and morals to your children that keep this country worth defending. Not allowing these brave and selfless men and women die in vain is the best “thank you” that you could ever give.

The last thank you I would like to give, is to all the families and loved ones here at home, who support our heroes. Thank you for writing those letters, waiting around for those Skype calls, sending those care packages. Thank you for giving them those seemingly little reminders that they are loved and appreciated, because they are. Also, thank you to those who open their homes to local service members, giving them a little piece of home while stationed away from their families.

If you love someone who is in the military, please tell them that itssunnyinmysoul appreciates their service. (That includes you, HeadOvrHeels)

No, soup does not come from a can…

11 Jan

Soup comes from the kitchen. But apparently not yours.

I once brought left over Chicken Tortilla Soup to work for lunch. A co-worker asked what brand it was. I laughed at their response to me saying it was homemade. “What do you mean? Doesn’t soup come from a can??”  What do you think I mean? I made it at home. Duh.

Considering how food-obsessed this country has become, it’s amazing to see how many people actually do not cook. With all the magazines, newspapers and blogs nowadays that write articles dedicated to the review of food, you would think that we lived in a country where basic culinary skills were a necessity in every household and something taught to our children much like brushing teeth before bed. Apparently that’s not the case. Until recently, I had no idea that so many people don’t cook for themselves. I also had no idea how many young adults had no idea how to wash their own laundry until I went to college and lived in the dorms…but I digress.

Since we all must be the change we wish to see in the world, I’ve decided that the Itssunnyinmysoul household will entertain more. I will have friends and family over for a home cooked meal as much as possible. We will sit at the dinner table (that’s how it got its name after all, isn’t it?). We will turn off the television and enjoy each other’s company without the sound of the Kardashians cackling and fighting or the news telling us the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Together, we will bring back the tradition of family dinners, and not just for special occasions.

The end game? We will all share our culinary experiences and recipes. We will raise our children (for me, possible future children) how to chiffonade basil or how to french their own fries. We will spread our tradition to others so that they too can be more self-reliant and understand how much better a meal tastes when it’s not from a can, styrofoam container or cardboard box, zoned out and sitting in front of the tube.

Take Me Back

27 Dec

Remember a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I would eventually write a little something about Audio Time Travel? No, you probably don’t. But I did, and, well, here it is.

No, I’m not talking science fiction from a bad ’80s movie. I don’t even mean physical time travel. When I say Audio Time Travel, I’m referring to the mind’s response to an auditory stimulus. This stimulus could be a noise or music, natural or manmade. The mind’s response could be to trigger a physical reaction such as flinching and fleeing at the sound of a gun shot, or it could correlate the stimulus to a specific memory and transport that person, mentally, back to the moment it happened. The latter response, the ability for a sound to make it’s listener travel back in time, mentally of course, is what I’ll be talking about today.

We all know that our sense of smell is hugely powerful in stirring up memories. But what about our ears? Our ears have the ability to transport us to another time, without leaving the room. (If you don’t think this is an amazing feat, you should stop reading this post right now.) Case in point, my last post was a result of Audio Time Travel: I was listening to Tim McGraw sing Live Like You Were Dying, and it reminded me of a conversation that I had with a good friend of mine. I remembered feeling his sadness from my response to his question about what I would do with my last day on Earth. I remember that whole month surrounding the conversation as well, which made me recall the details surrounding my father’s death. This reminded me of the last song I listened to with my father and in turn, having realized I’d just gone back in time in my mind because of a song, dug up my memory of a conversation I had with that same friend about Audio Time Travel. At this point, it’s become a little convoluted, but the point is that this whole chain of events was triggered by my brain’s response to a single auditory stimulus: a song by Tim McGraw.

Have you ever found yourself in the car with a friend and a song comes on the radio that made you turn to your friend and say, “hey, remember that time…” or, “this song reminds me of that one time…” If you have, you know what I’m talking about. Now, maybe it didn’t happen in the car, but it happened somewhere, and music was involved. This example is kind of weak. Only reminding you of something that happened in your past is just a fraction of what your mind can do. It can really take you back and make you feel the emotion, and everything else as it was in that one memory. It can make you feel the chill in the air, the way something felt on your tongue or smell the fragrance in the air. For example, when I hear When the Levees Break by Led Zepplin, I’m sitting right next to my father’s bed. I see my little sister on the other side and my little brother at his feet. My dad had been bugging me for weeks to play that song for him every time we got in the car. I kept telling him that I didn’t have the song on my iPod. It was at this moment, at my father’s death-bed, that it occurred to me that I could find the song on YouTube. I remember feeling so stupid for never having thought of it before this moment. So I played it for him. I can feel his hand in mine, and the coarseness of his hair as I stroked it. I’m thinking the same thoughts in my head, wishing that I could hear him sing it, that he would open his eyes and I could ask him why was this song so important? Did this song hold the key to unlocking a memory for him? I can hear the sound of his labored breaths and the increasingly longer pauses between them, in the background, the oxygen machine. Shortly after the song had finished, he took his last breath. That was it. The song ended and so did his life, just like that. When the Levees Break will forever be my ticket back to that moment.

I believe that most people are aware this occurs in their own minds from time to time, but I don’t believe that most understand just how deeply their lives are affected by the noise around them, music in particular. There’s a reason that so many scientific studies are conducted on this subject, from fetal development to what kind of music facilitates learning. If you attend a symphony or an opera, you will notice the audience is mostly silent and very calm. In some instances, the audience might be so calm that some may be asleep. On the other end of the spectrum, go to a punk rock show, and you’ll more than likely find yourself swept up in the middle of a mosh pit, being pushed around by the frenzied audience. Time travel isn’t the only thing music can induce. It can completely alter your state of mind. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re stuck in gridlocked traffic, about to go postal, try listening to something a little more calming and soothing than The Offspring’s  Bad Habit.

I’d like to point out that I am no scientist. I’ve done no actual research into this topic. I’m just a quasi-college-educated girl. All I have are my experiences and my memories. While, it feels as though it’s been an eternity since I’ve seen my father, I know that he’s just one song away.

This post is dedicated to my father, an amazing man who overcame an abusive childhood and became a loving, caring, creative and hardworking father. This is also dedicated to his little brother, my uncle Peter, who passed away about a week ago. He wasn’t as fortunate in overcoming his past, but is still deeply loved and sorely missed.