Life can be serious business.

Silent Roots.

My family tree is not tall nor strong, but gnarly, with roots that weave, bend and hide. There are blank pages and missing words in my heritage. And now, there is no one left to fill in the gaps or unearth the secrets.

I learned last night that my uncle, my mom’s brother, died back in January. I never knew him. Yet, I felt oddly stricken at hearing he was dead.

family roots

They’re all gone.

I never met my grandmother. I believe I was around the age of four when she died. All I really know about her is that she had her first child, my mom, at the age of 14, and she was a respiratory therapist that died of lung cancer in her 40’s.

Only a few years after that, her youngest son committed suicide. A son, brother, uncle, husband and father to four young children. He was 35. The same age as his youngest daughter is now.

Fast forward to 1995. I’m 14 years old. After a young lifetime of day dreaming what it would be like to have a mom that didn’t disappear– a “normal” mom, I got to live with my mother for the first time since I was two. She was finally of sound mind and heart. But her story began to lie too heavy on her chest. She died of lung cancer a year and a half later. She was 46.

I was 17 when my grandfather died. I arrived in Florida after his funeral. I have a bullet shell from the 3-volley salute he was honored with at his funeral. Other than him being in the navy, being an avid outdoorsman and a talented saxophone player, I know nothing about him. He was 67 when he died.

And now, the last son and only remaining member of that family of five is gone. He was 62. He had no family near him. No one knew where he was. Nor did any one go looking. From what I know, he was often times delusional and only reached out when he needed money. Last anyone heard from him, he claimed he was working for NASA.

Dissolution of the chase.

My uncle’s death has hit me hard. Not because I was ever emotionally attached to him, but because he was the last one. I don’t believe he could have ever filled the hundreds of missing pages from this family’s story, but knowing there is no longer a living connection to them–it’s sad. It hurts. There was so much pain wrapped up in the short time they all got to live. Alcoholism, physical abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, mental illness, domestic abuse, and eventually failing hearts and bodies.

Our identity is more that who and where we come from, but it’s a part of it none-the-less. The lack of connection I have to either side of my family, especially the maternal side, causes me a lot of grief. I’ve tried to put pieces together for years, in hopes of “solving” the mystery. In hopes of understanding where the pain originated, why it manifested it’s ugly face with abuse, broken lives, mental illness, aching souls and young deaths.

Our fate is not bound by the legacy of our families, but a level of understanding who they are and what contributed to the choices they made, offers a degree of insight I’ve craved most my life. My uncle’s death sent my wheels spinning yet again, with this mission at the forefront of my brain. I feel, at times, addicted to the chase. As if some day, I’m going to stumble upon a record or piece of information that is going to make it all make sense.

I’m starting to learn that my pursuit for a linear family picture, is just a way to avoid processing the grief I carry. The particulars don’t matter. I’m probably better off not knowing anymore details than the few I have learned. The option to connect the dots, is not really an option at all. The story is as broken as the people within it, and I need to accept that. That is difficult to come to terms with, but necessary.

Change of shift.

I think my determination to investigate my family has always been fueled with love, fear and sadness. Love for a family I crave, fear of becoming like the family I am a part of and sadness that their story can’t be told. I don’t know that my curiosity will ever dissipate, but my focus is shifting.

The shift is in how I view my family–that gnarly tree with roots that bend, weave and hide. I’m coming closer to an understanding that I don’t need to prove anything, or make excuses for their choices with explanations. Searching for reason will not change history or prevent history from repeating itself, nor will it avoid predisposed genes from running wild. Only I, and the other children of this broken family can do that. We can both honor our family and grieve them by turning the focus to the roots we are responsible for lying down.

It’s time for me to accept the pieces I know, honor the few stories that can be told and allow my grief to help me move forward.

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Fiction

Uneven Frequencies.

“Hi Kenneth. How are you today?”

Kenneth gently rocks on the plush loveseat.  His clothes are heavy with the scent of stale cigarettes and look as though they haven’t left his body in a week -an unmistakable symptom of his maddening disease. His hoodie over his head, he looks at the floor and speaks rapidly.

“Doc, I can’t shut them up. They constantly argue about who’s side I should be on. I wear the headphones like you tell me to but I hear them yelling over the music.”

Dr. Shannon Green had been seeing Kenneth, a 22 year old budding schizophrenic, for three months. Shannon could tell he was on edge today. His posturing from the new medications, the eye tics and rocking, are much more pronounced. Eye contact seems to be out of the question. He keeps nervously glancing towards his tattered book bag on the floor.

Shannon puts effort in to being still and keeping her voice neutral when she speaks to Kenneth about medications. She knows he doesn’t like the idea of taking the anti-psychotics, especially as an injection.

“Did you meet with the nurse for your injection after our visit last week?”

“No. The voices kept screaming at me to just keep going. They are so loud and keep telling me that you can’t be trusted. I’m scared. I don’t know who to believe.”

Kenneth’s rocking has become vicious, his feet leaving the ground every time he tips back. His lips are moving, forming only slightly audible words. She has never seen Kenneth this agitated. She again notices his attention being drawn to the bag on the floor.

“Kenneth, is there something in that bag that will help you calm down, something that comforts you?”

Kenneth begins pacing around the office, his head shaking back and forth as he quietly repeats, “No! She is here to help me!”

He circles the room and stops by the bag. Kenneth’s shaking stops. His head hanging down, he is still before speaking. He raises his head, making eye contact with Dr. Green for the first time since entering her office. His voice carries an uncomfortable, controlled anger.

“I don’t think I’ve been on the right frequency, Doc. I’ve been fighting the wrong side. They tried to tell me. I couldn’t hear them because you distracted me with your lies and used the music to drown them out. Why am I letting you continue to poison me?”

Shannon nonchalantly slides her hand under her desk, searching for the panic button that will summon the police to her office. As she presses the button, Kenneth quickly reaches for the bag. His ramblings become incoherent. He tears inside and pulls out a knife. Hearing the footsteps coming down the hall, he wedges a chair under the door handle.

“Kenneth, I want you to put that knife back in the bag and talk to me. The voices are…”

Kenneth doesn’t let her finish.

SHUT UP! I can’t take your lies anymore. I can’t keep doing this. I’m hearing the truth now, I know. I finally understand there is no place for me here. None of you guys are the real enemy. I’m the enemy. It’s time for me to go, Doc .”

Shannon realizes she is wrong. Kenneth was turning on himself, not her. He begins shouting about letting the poison out, just as two police officers bust through the door. Kenneth quickly slides the knife against the thin flesh, covering his throat. The officers take him to the ground.

Shaken, Shannon stands staring at the young man pinned to the ground, covered with his own blood. Drowning in helplessness, her mind unconsciously drifts to the paperwork – an incident report, violent act report to the Office of Mental Health. She starts to cry, knowing he is now a statistic and the bureaucracy of “treatment” will begin to take over.

If Kenneth survives, sterile, mandated procedures — involuntary commitment to the psych ward and a petition to medicate against his will — will own him. Protocol of the broken system, no longer choice, will now dominate his tortured future.

*******************************************************************************************************************

 

 

 

Don't take life too serious.

Ding! You’ve written 50 posts. Whu WHAT?

fifty

This morning I surprised myself with a short yet brain tickling little post on resiliency.  A short time after, my notification *ding* brought to my attention that I had accomplished writing 50 posts.  I didn’t really every start out with a goal of how many post, in any certain amount of time, I wanted to write but Wow!  That’s cool.

As the day went on, it occurred to me that I’m actually kind of shocked I have written 50 posts in three months.  I have managed to wrap words around 50 different of my very own ideas.  I was all “Go Me” for a second.  It also made me want to dig into my archives a bit.  Is it bad that I cracked myself up on several occasions?  Does the fact that I literately rolled my eyes at myself too kind of balance that out?

I pulled up the stats on my overall most viewed posts and I kinda am, but not really, surprised by the results.  A naughty toddler and vulnerability seem to bring the noise for me.  Here’s the top five most viewed:

trent1

Little Man

Tom Gauld
Tom Gauld

Depression and Motherhood: This is My Truth.

drawing_old_boots

Walking in my husband’s worn out work boots.

blog pics

Nat Geo Boobs: A “perk” of being Mom.

Life changing words.
Life changing words.

Happy Re-Birthday To Me: A Sexual Abuse Survivor’s Coming Out Story.

It’s pretty apparent the things that are most important to me are my kids, my husband, my boobs, my story and my brain.  Are you surprised?  Either way, I think it reflects a pretty good glimpse in to my big, beautiful brain.  Thanks to all the bloggy friends that have stopped by, commented and shared their own stories with me.  You guys seriously rock.  And a huge smack on the cheek to my family, personal friends and Facebook friends.  You guys encouraged me to take blogging on and then helped support my ego enough to get elbows deep.  Much love.

Do you have a favorite post I’ve written or one that stand outs the most in your mind.  Is it a funny one or one where I get my deep thinking on?

Cheers to 50!

Life can be serious business.

Alice In Her Own Wonderland.

While searching for blogs related to mental health awareness, I stumbled upon A Canvas Of The Minds via  Twindaddy at Stuphblog.  I’m so grateful I did.  This blog is exactly what we need to see more of in our everyday lives.  Combatting the stigma in order to treat the minds of those that carry a mental health diagnosis is crucial to our society.  Especially in a time like now where random acts of violence are mistaken for an opportunity to vilify anyone with a diagnosis and attempts at suicide are  labeled “attention seeking behavior”.

I want to do my part in raising awareness so I am taking the “Blog for mental health pledge” and will continue to make my own struggles and knowledge on the matter transparent.  Here is my pledge:

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

Here is a story I wrote just about a month ago that I will use as my introductory piece.

My mother was bi-polar. I don’t have the paper trail to prove this but I know in my heart she was. My educational background is in psychology and I started my career and continued to work with the mentally ill before resigning to stay home with my young children. I share that not as if to say I know what I know because of my educational or work history.  It’s relevant because I’m starting to understand that my focus on furthering my education and understanding of mental illness was really a quest to love my mother not a career choice.

I can’t tell you how many times I saw my Mom in the tired lines imprinted on female patient’s faces I worked with both on a mental health unit and of those I worked with in their homes. It’s like they were all pieces to the puzzle that was my Mom. She was in and out of my life so much through out her life that all I really have is pieces. I became a motherless daughter in 1997, when I was 15 years old.  The stories from my older siblings, all of whom are at least 12 years older than me, are a part of figuring it all out. Understanding where she came from, what she went through and the decisions she made is another.

It’s both a beautiful and some times disparaging thing when a daughter idolizes her Mom. Especially when, despite the mother’s best efforts, she could not be the kind of Mom that she needed to be. It’s so conflicting to want to be like your mother both because of and despite her faults.

I have had my own bouts with clinically diagnosed depression.  At times, I have questioned whether it is actually the uncompromising pulls of high and low that strangle me and not just the low.  Either way, the force that is my entangled brain has, at times, left me fighting the urge to run away.  To escape and embark on an anonymous life.  A life free of my current self.  In a sense, a life void of authenticity that allows more choice in how I can be perceived.  My mother did this.

According to my sister, Mom would sometimes be gone for weeks at a time only to return wearing a waitress uniform adorned with a name tag that read Alice.  My mom’s name was Connie.

A few years ago, I googled my Mom’s name because I was that desperate to find clues about who she was.  I surprisingly stumbled upon an arrest record in North Carolina from January of 1985.  At that time, Mom lived in Florida and my oldest sister was due to give birth to her first child.  My Mom had been arrested for larceny, impersonating someone else and somehow ensued a police car chase.

I was conflicted with anger and jealousy.  Her choices hurt her family.  Still somehow I craved to go on my own “adventure”.  That is the problem with glorifying someone.  Their actions are excused.  Especially when that person is your Mom and part of you is her.  I know that it was her untreated illness that helped fuel her disappearances.  I just wish I knew where she was on that polar line that ran through her mind when she would choose to leave.  And just how much of it was a choice.

When I first considered starting a blog, I thought about using an alias. I finally decided it would defeat my purpose. Writing is a cathartic experience for me and I no longer want to experience that in hiding or alone or in search of answers I have no real way of knowing.  I can’t keep chasing the missing pieces of the puzzle.  It’s best left unfinished but placed in a frame and hung to be honored anyway.  The whole picture isn’t really necessary to me anymore.  The love is in the pieces that are connected.

I am finally seeing Connie for who she was – the un-romanticized version of her life as a child, a daughter, a sister, a woman, my Mom.

http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/

Life can be serious business.

A Distorted Mind.

I was hit last night.  I didn’t know where it came from or the cause but it was a blow that shook me.  I’m still shaking.

8

I can’t understand why depression seems to creep in and take such an oppressive hold, at times that seem so incongruously wrong.  It feels like years worth of building myself up has crumbled down today and it has left me desperate.  Desperate for an air I can breathe back in to my usual full of life mind and body.  I’m running on discouraged fumes today.

I am reaching for a layer of strength so that I can mother my children through this somber day.  My arsenal for hiding my broken pieces is running frustratingly low.  The art of distraction, for both them and myself, is vital today.  I need room to decipher how to react to them when I feel like this.  It’s difficult to recognize.  It’s hazy at best.

Just as the energy to find humor has completely left me today, so has my relationship to any familiar emotion.  I am indifferent to all of it.  Love is there.  I can feel it.  I just can’t access it.

This is my truth.  I have these days.  I have variations of these days.  I have no way of knowing when this particular occurrence will lift or at least ease.  My body usually recognizes the break before my mind does.  I’ll be in motion again.  I’ll move forward and up word in thought.  My brain will react less critically.

Time is the only prescription that works.  Time and the will and ability to connect my flesh to the moment.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/daily-prompt-forward/

Life can be serious business.

Let’s Just Not Talk About It.

http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=wiOsLS5RBrtH5M&tbnid=7yOQGYBbhHJ6EM:&ved=0CAgQoC0&url=http%3A%2F%2Fprofiles.google.com%2F100221989008466982359&ei=ZXDJUoXZAtXesAT5y4C4DA&bvm=bv.58187178,d.eW0&psig=AFQjCNELCIin4dUr4gAo79jJoD9bg47TmQ&ust=1389019576271378
Charolette Philby

I’ve spoke about being a one in three statistic before.  Being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse isn’t something that you file away somewhere and dispose of the negative affects.  In time, I’ve learned how to manage the unwanted flash photos and broken record moments that plague my mind but it still, and probably always will, influence how I think about things.  I can’t help but feel I’m being disingenuous if I didn’t admit the origin of some of my thoughts that occur because of that experience.

I’m sitting here, trying to write about a topic that I sort-of, kind-of know what I want to say about and an ASPCA commercial, high on drama and Sarah McLaughlin, comes on the tv.  I rolled my eyes.  Not because I don’t feel for stray, hungry, abused little pups but because it’s odd to me to see a campaign so heavily supported regarding our pets but nothing of that level or even close is done about the one in threes that are right in front of us.  The younger me’s that are disregarded.

Could you imagine, and why aren’t there, commercials that show children who are hit, neglected, raped?  Ugh … it’s hard to even type those words let alone consider the need to watch something like that.  In comparison though, it just seems odd that we can stomach one televised version of neglect and abuse but not another.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m too close to the issue or just because I’m simply human.

A study conducted in 1986 found that 63% of women who had suffered sexual abuse by a family member also reported a rape or attempted rape after the age of 14. Recent studies in 2000, 2002, and 2005 have all concluded similar results.  This is reflective of a breech of trust.  A misrepresentation of value.  How is a child, a being that is in the midst of learning the value of trust and love, suppose to value any part of her mind or body when a person that is recognizably a part in teaching her those values, violates and negates the ethics being “taught”.  Like respect.  If a girl or boy is taught to disrespect his or her body by it being disrespected against, they will certainly fall victim to those that are inflicted with the need to perpetrate them.  It’s a toxic cycle that I can’t understand how has fallen so far off the radar.

The affects of the epidemic that is sexual abuse are basically ignored.  People shake their heads and say things like, “Pedophiles should be hung by their balls” and “How could anyone do that to a child” but the truth of the matter is the people that violate children get a minimal punishment and very little, if any, psychotherapy to address why this perpetration happened in the first place No one wakes up one day and decides to be the kind of person to violate a child.  That kind of dysfunction is bred from somewhere.  I’m not making excuses for an abuser or placing direction of blame by any means.  I’m just saying that the identifiable parts we have come to know as a convicted sex offender are ignored almost as much as the invisible scars that they leave behind.  And that is part of the problem. 

I previously worked in a community that is plagued with sexual offenders, most of which are level 3s.  When you look this particular city up on the convicted sex offender registry, it is hard to differentiate how many actually exist in one single area because there are so many red dots.  I’m not exaggerating…click here.  But lets not talk about that because it makes our skin crawl.

Why don’t we see the sort of magnitude of awareness around the issue of childhood sexual abuse that we see regarding neglective/abusive pet ownership?  Is it a cultural lack of value for the well being of children?  Is it a higher empathetic nature for animals over children?  I can’t believe that. It feels ridiculous even suggesting it.  Is it because it is just simply too hard to recognize that perpetrators are both the skeevy alcoholic, dirtbag you see within your own circle of friends and/or acquaintances and the “upstanding” members of our communities that go to church on Sunday and hold higher education degrees?  I really don’t know.

We will sit through and absorb commercials that list things like “loose stool” and “oily gas” or “nipple leakage” as a side effect to something that is suppose to make us feel better but we wouldn’t be able to sit through a 30 second block of time that gives us the warning signs of a child that is being sexually abused.  They are far less disgusting.  A list would probably read like this:

  • withdrawn
  • low self esteem
  • possibly engages in self harm
  • prone to depressive symptoms such as crying spells, abnormal mood swings, thoughts or attempts of suicide
  • overly complacent
  • experiences violent outbursts

That’s not a list I pulled off of Wikipedia (I resisted the urge), just my own educated guesses.

We are bombarded with visually stimulating charity requests for children with cancer and rightfully so.  I’m not disregarding the epic need to find a cure for a life depriving disease such as cancer.  I’m just wondering why the epic failure to recognize the lasting affects of sexual abuse with such compassion and vigor.  PTSD is a cancer on the mind if you ask me.  I don’t know why that is so hard to understand.  I just don’t get why there is such a lack of response and outrage to something that could be prevented if we would just admit it exists.

If anyone needs big pockets and/or grass root efforts to help fill a need, it is the local mental health clinics and those that work in the communities to support mental health services.  The additional social workers these places need to address the “side effects” of abuse is astounding.  It is an epidemic in this country that is evaded mostly due to the population that is predominately conflicted.  This population contributes less financially to the economy and votes less.

We are visual people and I understand marketing enough to know the visual effect trumps all.  It’s pretty hard to profit off of damage you can’t see.  That’s the thing with sexual abuse.  There are usually no visual effects.  No heart wrenching physical scars.  No observable damage.  The damage lives and wrecks havoc inside of you.  And the small amount of people that devote their lives to verbally bandaging those wounds are not supported enough.

I have worked with wounded adults.  By the time I, as a mental health Intensive Case Manager, entered their lives’, the damage had been done and it was my job to assist them in adapting to it.  There are far too few people to accommodate the need to prevent the children from getting to the point that I helped manage as adults.  It’s senseless really.  The enemy and the environment that breeds them could become so easily recognizable.  But the opportunity to expose it just isn’t.  Because it makes people uncomfortable.  How disgusting is that?

I didn’t tell my story for nothing.  It is a part of my being. It needs to be acknowledged to understand other perspectives I share.  I will from time to time talk about this topic.  It’s not easy and it’s next to impossible to put a humorous twist on.  But for me, putting it out there initially has shed the shame in talking about it openly.  I feel like if I have a thought that derives solely because of that major and unfortunate experience in my life, than I need to speak up.

Life can be serious business.

Alice In Her Own Wonderland.

My mother was bipolar. I don’t have the paper trail to prove this, but know in my heart she was. My educational background is in psychology and I started my career and continued to work with the mentally ill before resigning to stay home with my young children. I share that not as if to say I know what I know because of my educational or work history.  It’s relevant because I’m starting to understand that my focus on furthering my education and understanding of mental illness was really a quest to love my mother, not a career choice.

I can’t tell you how many times I saw my Mom in the tired lines imprinted on the female patient’s faces I worked with, both on a mental health unit and of those I worked with in their homes. It’s like they were all pieces to the puzzle that was my Mom. She was in and out of my life so much through out her life that all I really have is pieces. I became a motherless daughter in 1997, when I was 15 years old.  The stories from my older siblings, all of whom are at least 10 years older than me, are a part of figuring it all out. Understanding where she came from, what she went through and the decisions she made is another.

It’s both a beautiful and some times disparaging thing when a daughter idolizes her Mom. Especially when, despite the mother’s best efforts, she could not be the kind of Mom that she needed to be. It’s so conflicting to want to be like your mother both because of and despite her faults.

I have had my own bouts with clinically diagnosed depression.  At times, I have questioned whether it is actually the uncompromising pulls of high and low that strangle me and not just the low.  Either way, the force that is my entangled brain has, at times, left me fighting the urge to run away.  To escape and embark on an anonymous life.  A life free of my current self.  In a sense, a life void of authenticity that allows more choice in how I can be perceived.  My mother did this.

According to my sister, Mom would sometimes be gone for weeks at a time only to return wearing a waitress uniform adorned with a name tag that read Alice.  My mom’s name was Connie.

A few years ago, I googled my Mom’s name because I was that desperate to find clues about who she was.  I surprisingly stumbled upon an arrest record in North Carolina from January of 1985.  At that time, Mom lived in Florida and my oldest sister was due to give birth to her first child.  My Mom had been arrested for larceny, impersonating someone else and somehow ensued a police car chase.

I was conflicted with anger and jealousy.  Her choices hurt her family.  Still somehow I craved to go on my own “adventure”.  That is the problem with glorifying someone.  Their actions are excused.  Especially when that person is your Mom and part of you is her.  I know that it was her untreated illness that helped fuel her disappearances.  I just wish I knew where she was on that polar line that ran through her mind, when she would choose to leave.  And just how much of it was a choice.

When I first considered starting a blog, I thought about using an alias. I finally decided it would defeat my purpose. Writing is a cathartic experience for me and I no longer want to experience that in hiding or alone or in search of answers I have no real way of knowing.  I can’t keep chasing the missing pieces of the puzzle.  It’s best left unfinished but placed in a frame and hung to be honored anyway.  The whole picture isn’t really necessary to me anymore.  The love is in the pieces that are connected.

I am finally seeing Connie for who she was – the un-romanticized version of her life as a child, a daughter, a sister, a woman, my Mom.