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ISOLATION BREEDS DISCONNECTION

Hello Friends,

First, I want to thank all of you who support me emotionally in my writing and art.  I appreciate it more than you could ever know.  I enjoy bringing a smile, a laugh or even tears to you.  This is another long post and a little you may know already…but this is where I’m at.

I have been going through a lot of emotional upheaval in the last few months – losing my brother to suicide, trying to figure out exactly what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, and both of our kids leaving the nest temporarily (tomorrow.)  Our son is gone during the week living and working with friends, but he likes to come home some weekends to spend time with us.  He will be going out on an 8-day trip with his crew from the California Conservation Corps.  Also, our daughter is going to visit a friend for a while, possibly the rest of the summer!

So…because of all of the things I just mentioned, I decided to do two things:

1)  Go back to counseling for a while

2)  Go to suicide survivors meetings

Last week I did both which I will continue a few more times.  I do not feel at this point that I am going to need to go to either for a really long time.  I have been in a good place mentally for quite some time now since recovering from some significant losses three years ago.  What is really great is that my counselor can see me in the hour before my meeting starts on those two Mondays every month.  Also, I met some great women at this meeting that I want to get to know.

Here’s what I learned at my first suicide survivors meeting:

  • I am not alone – suicide has touched almost every family. Survivors feel angry, sad, abandoned, and wish we could have said or done something to prevent it.
  • We feel guilty to some degree that we couldn’t stop it or didn’t see the signs.

Some people find their loved ones who died.  I can only imagine how emotionally traumatic that would be to a person.  Just hearing how my brother killed himself and hearing how people did CPR on him for at least 20 minutes, puts images in my mind that I will never forget.  Finding out that his best friend had brought my brother a wheelchair the day he died and didn’t see the signs of suicidal thoughts in him, helped me understand why my brother may have made this choice.

When he called me a few weeks before he chose to die, the last thing he told me was that his legs didn’t work anymore.  He said he could barely stand up or walk.  I always knew that my brother was a prideful man.  He never wanted to show weakness.  He was always sensitive, loved animals (whom he knew could love him back,) and I think he just felt out of place his whole life.  He was not a follower nor was he a leader.  He was determined to go his own way which he always did.  He didn’t confide in me or anyone else in our family about anything.

I can relate to some of this.  I have felt this way for most of my life.  Some may think I am projecting part of who I am onto my brother.  However, I would disagree.  He and I were a lot alike in many ways that I just never really thought about until now.  I will always miss him even though he never did let me get close to him.  For some reason I’ll never know, things were just always intense between us.

The difference between us, though, is that I hit bottom at 27 years old, reached out for help, and eventually began taking medications for depression and anxiety.  My brother self-medicated from his teen years on, what I believe, was some type of mental illness.  Thinking back over a lot of his behavior – his anger, impulsiveness, pride – makes me wonder if he had extreme anxiety which is why he drank.  Alcohol is a depressant, though, and he was not one to sit around feeling depressed, which is why I think he became addicted to speed.  All of this stuff can really mess up a person’s brain which just complicates mental health issues even more.  It is a vicious cycle!

The saddest part of all of this for me is that about three years ago he called me to apologize for how he had treated me most of our lives and tell me he didn’t deserve forgiveness; he said he wanted to quit the drugs but couldn’t.  He felt stuck, scared, and defeated.  I think he just had not hit bottom yet – until he saw that wheelchair.  Unfortunately, hitting bottom for him didn’t mean reaching out for help.  I believe he may have thoughts like:  “I am not going to become an invalid.”  “I will not become helpless.”  “I will not become dependent on anyone to help me with everyday things I can no longer do for myself.”  I knew my brother well enough to know that this is very close to what had to be going through his mind that last day.

Yet I believe human beings are made to need other human beings.  As much as some of us may not want to admit we need people – we do.  Isolation is not a solution to relieve anxiety.  Desiring to get away from people is natural – for a time.  But to stay alone for weeks, months, or years is to disconnect.  Disconnection from healthy relationships leaves a person in their own head where they can deceive themselves so easily into believing lies such as:

  • I’m ugly.
  • I’m not worthy of love.
  • No one will ever love the real me.
  • How can anyone love me when I am such an emotional mess?

These were some of my very thoughts, along with many other negative tapes playing in my head, from a young age.  Some of it came from emotional neglect and abuse that my brothers and I went through from our alcoholic dad.  I know now that our parents were probably both mentally ill, (my dad was depressed and my mom most likely had anxiety to some extent) but they did the best they were capable of in parenting us.  I think on some level my brother knew this, too.  I just wish he could have asked for help.  He lived in a trailer park and had some friends, but only one of them knew how depressed he was, yet he didn’t even recognize the suicidal signs that were there.  So…

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, do what could be the hardest things you may ever do – pick up the phone and call your local suicide hotline or the Suicide Prevention Services of America at 1-800-273-8225.

Lastly, please do not allow yourself or anyone you know to stay isolated.  Try your best to reach out.

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug.   🙂

 

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MENTAL HEALTH: Getting Well is Possible.

Hello Friends,

Over the last few days I have been deciding how I plan to deal with my brother’s suicide and how I would like to be involved in a large community near where I live.  I met with a woman on Tuesday at the open house for a new mental health facility that opened in Redding, Ca.  Here is a link to the article:   http://anewscafe.com/2017/05/25/county-officials-mental-health-professionals-and-public-attend-open-house-of-new-mental-health-facility-in-redding/

It was exciting for me to hear about all of the many services this group of people is going to offer to Shasta County.  I knew then that God was showing me how my life is going to change real soon.  I signed up to be a volunteer.  I will start out doing simple things at first such as answering phones or e-mails or helping with mailings.  I also plan to begin attending meetings facilitated by the woman I met with.  She facilitates meetings for friends and family members of people who completed suicide.  It has been many years since I went to any kind of open recovery meetings such as this, but I am looking forward to it.  I remember back in 1988 when I went to my first recovery meetings after I stopped drinking and using drugs.  I felt very nervous and afraid.  However, I am not that person anymore; I know what I need to deal with, I have good boundaries, and there is no pressure to share.  I think just meeting new people and hearing other people’s stories will help me begin to deal with the unfortunate choice my brother made.  I will have no problem sharing or talking, though, so I am sure I will.  The next meeting isn’t until June 5th so I have some time to process all of it some more before then.

I have my first counseling meeting set up for June 2nd with a therapist I met a couple of months ago.  I am also looking forward to talking with her.  It has been a very long time since I went to a woman counselor which will be different.  When I first went to counseling in 1988, I went to a woman.  However, after several months, I felt really uncomfortable with her for some reason.  So I stopped.  I kept going to the ACA meetings, and then found a male counselor at the church I was attending at the time.  I went to him for several years, and he was encouraging, safe, and the first man I ever felt connected with emotionally whom I knew I could trust.  I grew a lot in those years, and he helped me through the transition of entering a second marriage which has been healthy and loving.  My husband and I have been together since December of 1994.  It has been quite a journey!  And now we are looking toward the future when our nest is empty and he retires someday.

So as far as working with Hill Country Care Center, I am planning to take some time to get to know people, get a good feel of all of their services to the community, then possibly go through their Shasta Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Academy which is a “FREE 65-hour certificate training program…designed to help people prepare for entry-level positions within the public mental health field and/or prepare them to become Peer Mentors.”  (That is a quote from their brochure.)

It has been many years since I have taken any kind of classes, but I had already been thinking about something along these lines for the last year or so. I just had no idea I would find out about this wonderful care facility this way.  So hopefully, as I said in my last post about my brother, something good will come from his death.    It is possible that I may eventually get to use my writing and art to contribute to the creating of flyers, etc.  So that is exciting for me, too.

Thank you to all of you who read my last post about the suicide of my brother.  I appreciate all of your support, prayers, and comments more than you know.  I am planning on keeping you updated on what I will be doing and learning as a volunteer in the mental health community.

I am still doing art and still plan to keep working on the picture books I’d like to write and illustrate, but for now it is just for fun.  I am feeling like this other work is going to become more important to me for the time being, but the facility does also have a program where they train people to go into elementary schools and talk about suicide.  Who knows?  Maybe somehow, all of this will meld together into something beautiful.  I sure hope so.

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug!  🙂

 

 

SUICIDE: Don’t Make That Choice!

Hello Friends,

I have been feeling a little reluctant to write about this, but honestly, I don’t see how I can NOT write about it.  This will be long; bear with me, please.

On the morning of May 5th, I learned that one of my brothers committed suicide on May 4th.  In a way, I wasn’t surprised when I thought back on the last time I had spoken with him.  He called me out of the blue about a month before this and asked me if I knew where his daughter was.  I thought this was a strange question since I have not seen her since she was three years old!  She and her mom left California in the early ’80’s when her mom and my brother divorced.  Anyway, I asked him why he needed to find her.  I asked him if he was sick.  He said he wasn’t sick, but he couldn’t hardly walk anymore. He said he wanted her to be able to have all of his part of the financial investments that our parents left us “just in case something happens to me.”  In the back of my mind I had a flash of what he may have been planning.  However, I did not ask him if he was feeling suicidal.  I wish I had.   I was actually surprised that he even called me.

My brother and I had a very rocky relationship for most of our lives.  I never really understood why.  I am the youngest.  He was the middle sibling.  We were four and a half years apart.  He would have been 61 this July.  He always seemed closer to our other brother.  However, throughout our lives we all really went our separate ways.  The closest I ever felt to either of them was when we went through the death of our mother in 2006.  Our father died three years later.  So our eldest brother had to handle all of the inheritance stuff.  It was a very stressful time for all of us.  Since then, we have all lived separately; my oldest brother left the area and my other brother and I never knew where he was until about three years ago.

That was when my middle brother decided to call me and apologize for everything he had ever done to hurt me.  He was crying and truly sorry.  This was something I had been praying for since 1987 when God had turned my life around.  I had tried many times to make amends with him, but he was just not ready.  Needless to say, I was thankful for that call.  I told him I had forgiven him many years ago and had been praying we might be able to have that conversation someday.  I told him I had always wanted to know him and I loved him.  I asked him if we could just start to have a relationship then, but he said he didn’t want to.  He was addicted to drugs and couldn’t get clean.  He was living in a trailer park where he had been for the last 20 years.  He didn’t know how to change, and he didn’t ask anyone for help that I know of.  I felt helpless, but I let him be.  I called him a few times just to see how he was doing, but he just didn’t know how to connect with me.

I believe he suffered from mental illness his whole life; most likely anxiety and depression, just as I have since I was at least 15.  Looking back on my childhood, I now believe my dad suffered from depression and this was why he drank.  I also think my mom had anxiety issues not just because of his drinking, but because of her own chemical make-up.  She was always worrying about everything and everyone.

I went through my drug and alcohol abuse days from about 1980 to 1987.  That was the year I quit everything and got help through counseling and an ACA (adult children of alcoholics) meeting every week for a couple of years. However, both of my brothers kept using drugs and alcohol for the rest of their lives.  My brother who died was hurt on a job many years ago and was getting pain medicine through the veterans hospital.  He was in the Navy for four years when he was right out of high school.   Apparently, though, his back became so bad, he could hardly walk anymore.  I believe that he just chose to die to escape the pain that was consuming him.

I have been that low many, many times myself emotionally.  However, I am thankful to have a loving husband and two children who love me and would never ever want me to make that choice just to escape any pain I may go through in my life.  It doesn’t solve anything, and it leaves those whom the person left behind in shock, angry, and sad.

When I learned of my brother’s suicide, I was definitely shocked.  Then I was angry for a few days.  Then I had to begin dealing with the aftermath of what would happen to him and his stuff.  At the time I didn’t have a clue as to where his daughter was.  Then his best friend found my brother’s ex-wife’s phone number.  She was contacted and then my niece was.  Yesterday I spent most of the day on the phone with my 37-year-old niece whom I do not even know.  It was strange, but good.

Hopefully, just getting in touch with her will be the blessing that comes out of his sad choice.  My brother and his daughter were estranged from each other for most of their lives as well.  I always felt sad about that, but hopefully she and I can build a relationship with one another now even though we live very far apart.

To this day I have no clue as to where my other brother lives.  We became estranged after our parents were both gone eight years ago.  He left the area and has never wanted to come back.  However, our brother who died did have a best friend who knew where our oldest brother was.  So the same month that my brother called and apologized to me, he also went and found our other brother to make amends with him as well.  However, I have no way to find our eldest brother to try and do the same.  He is living off the grid which is what he always wanted.

I know this has been a very long post; if you stayed with me, thank you.  I wrote this to encourage anyone who is thinking about suicide or knows anyone who is, to tell you to please reach out for help.  There is lots of help to be found!  First, try to talk to someone you know.  If that doesn’t help, call a local suicide hotline.  Or call 1-800-273-8255.  This is the number for Suicide Prevention Services of America.  Their website is http://www.spsamerica.org if you want more information.  I have never used their services, but I am sure there would be someone there to talk to.

Well, friends, I am definitely going to be reaching out for some help myself in dealing with this.  I have talked with someone locally whom I am planning to meet this afternoon.  Perhaps this is going to be the start of something good.

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug!  🙂

Depression Watercolor Painting

A while back I was in a really dark place. I am not always sure what brings on these moods. I am on medication for depression, but once in awhile I feel sucked down into a whilrpool of scary thoughts. My art helps pull me out of this place when it hits me.

Also, friends help, too. Recently I shared where I was at and my idea of painting my mood with a friend, and he encouraged me to do it. So, Steven, thank you. It helped tremendously! 🙂
http://moodsaplenty.wordpress.com/

In this painting I was thinking about the raw feelings of loneliness, fear, darkness, and for some, suicidal thoughts. I hope this comes across. I have actually thought about doing a series of paintings depicting depression since it is an illness that affects so many, many people. For anyone who is experiencing any of these feelings presently, talk to someone. Get help. Every life is worth more than its weight in gold. Never give up on yourself!

Have a great day, and give someone you love a hug. Or ask someone for a hug if you are in need of one!

twenty one pilots

OKAY, DON’T LET THIS IMAGE SCARE YOU AWAY!! It’s just part of his act.

Lately I have been listening to this American duo out of Ohio. They are Tyler Joseph (singer, piano, etc.) and Josh Dun (the drummer.) My daughter, Grace, told me about them. I admit the first time I saw them do “Car Radio” was on a television show she recorded, and I was a little freaked out. BUT I put the two albums on my iPod and began listening to them. I got hooked….by Tyler’s amazing piano playing. I have been trying to learn the song “Truce” on piano lately which is a great challenge!

Where did they get their band name, you might wonder? Here’s a quote from Tyler about that.

band name meaning
“Ok so, I (Tyler) was in theatre class and we were studying a play called “All My Sons” written by Arthur Miller in the 40’s. It was about a father who ran a company that provided parts for airplanes used in WWII. He then found out that his parts were faulty, so he comes to a moral crossroads:1. He can take the parts back and not send them out, but he will lose a lot of money in a financially tough situation. He would also taint his business and his name and be known as ‘unreliable’ in his trade. But this would ultimately be the ‘right’ thing to do. or,2. send the parts out, make the necessary money to provide for his family, not taint his name, etc. He ends up sending the parts out and twenty one pilots died because of it. His son was a pilot in the war who had lost his life. There was no evidence to prove that it was directly related but his daughter blamed her father for her brothers death. He ended up committing suicide at the end of the play. Here’s how we make it relevant: I feel like we are all constantly encountering moral crossroads where the decisions that benefit the “now” will have consequences down the road; but the decision that might seem tough and tolling right away will ultimately be more rewarding. What is our purpose for playing music? We are constantly asking ourselves that question. The answer can change all the time, but for right now we are just going to stick with something as simple as “we want to make people think.”

And for me, I think…..I can relate to “Migraine,” because of how I sometimes struggle with where my thoughts go. Depression is an ugly thing even when we are on medication for it. Thankfully, I have a few friends who help me through my darkest episodes. (And the music of twenty one pilots.) 🙂

http://www.twentyonepilots.com/video/migraine-captured-live-room-33111

This is what I love about Tyler’s lyrics. He has made me think. I admit that sometimes I think too much, but I love these two young men’s creativity, their musical skills, and their unique music. He has a singing voice that grew on me. But what really got me with them was this video of two little girls interviewing them.

This band may not be to your liking, but like I said, they really grew on me, and now I find myself gravitating to their music more than anyone else’s at the moment. Check out their videos and their website at:

http://www.twentyonepilots.com/

“Routine” – A Short Story

(REVISED VERSION)

He opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling. Sunlight peeked through the slit in the curtains making a bright line across the bedspread. Taking a deep breath, he let out a heavy sigh. Lying there he began to think about how to do it. “Razor blade to the wrists? No, not enough strength in my hands to cut deep enough,” he thought. “The throat? Go for the jugular? That would be quick and easy, but messy.” In his mind he could hear his eldest son cursing at the top of his lungs while he cleans up the blood. “Blood pressure pills?” He reached over to see how many he had. His shaking hands rattled the bottle as he picked them up. It took forever to get the lid off. He poured them onto the night table and counted – “1, 2, 3, 4…” until he reached 15. “Damn! Not enough. Would they even work anyway?” he mumbled in his rhaspy morning voice. “Who knows? If I could drive, I’d go out to the ocean road and go flying off a cliff. But what if I didn’t get enough lift to actually hit the ocean water? Knowing my luck I’d survive the jump. Of course then I’d die of hypothermia eventually. But I hate the cold. My bones hurt too much when it’s cold,” he said, as he rubbed his arms up and down.

Swinging his legs over the side of the bed and pushing up with his right hand, he sat up with a groan. Then he began thinking like he did every morning. The same thoughts, a different day. “I can’t step up on a chair to hang myself. Hell, I wouldn’t even be able to tie a decent knot in the rope. It’s hard to believe I was ever a Marine. Young, buffed, me against the world. Now the world is against me. Everything is against me. Everyone is against me. No one loves me. My son’s just waiting for me to die to get my money. Ungrateful good-for-nothing. Barely worked ten years in his whole miserable lazy life. I worked my finger to the bone for him and his mom my whole life. Why did she have to die first? I just want to be with her again. What is the harm in that?” he asked no one.

Gripping the night table and holding on, he slowly stood, pain shooting through his back, legs and feet. Reaching over to the table again, he grabbed the pee bottle. He unscrewed the lid, but shaking overtook his hands. “Oh hell!” he cursed. The wet and cold made him jump, and his pajamas reeked. His shoulders began shaking. His bottom lip trembled and tears filled his brown eyes. He refused to call out to his son or ask him to for help anymore. His son just complained and cussed in return. Picking up the bottle from the bed where it had fallen, he opened his pajama bottoms and soon felt the relief of an empty bladder. Instead of trying to put the lid back on, he just leaned over and put it on the table.

He craved a cigarette as he did every morning ever since he had stopped smoking right before his wife died. However, he didn’t have any cigarettes or a lighter anywhere in sight. His son made sure he didn’t have a lighter anywhere in his room, because he was afraid he’d do something stupid like set himself on fire with it. “The way I’m feeling right now, I just might,” he thought to himself. “Why?” he thought. “Why did I have to be the one to live without her? She would have managed so much better without me. I don’t know what to do anymore.”

Deciding to go forward with his daily regiment, he slowly raised up to his feet again. Shuffling to the dresser, he pulled out a t-shirt, clean underwear, and picked up his jeans off the gold upholstered chair in the corner. He slowly made his way across the hall to the bathroom. His shaky hands unbuttoned his pajama top and after a few minutes he laid it on the counter. He had to pee again already, so he walked slowly to the toilet, lifted the lid and peed. Like most days, the toilet bowl showed a red tint. He ignored it and flushed. Getting back to the sink, he undressed, picked up his washcloth, ran the water until it was warm and wiped himself off. Then he dried himself. He rarely used soap anymore. His son complained about his stench, but he just didn’t care. Rebelliously, he thought, “It’s my body, dammit. I’ll do with it what I damn well please!”

After getting dressed, he opened the door to make his long trek down the hall to the kitchen. He timed himself once, and it took a full ten minutes. Plus, he was usually huffing by then and feeling thirsty. Every night before he went to bed he prepared his coffee and set the timer. He could smell it wafting down the hall now. He sniffed in the aroma thinking, “nothing like the smell of coffee first thing in the morning.” About ten minutes later, he reached the dining room. He grabbed the wall and sat down on the tall brown stool by the phone desk before moving on. The nutty aroma was calling him, though, so he rested for just a minute longer.

He rose up and shuffled over to the counter. Then he stopped again, his chest wheezing and rattling. A few more steps later and he was getting down his coffee cup. He turned toward the coffee maker, set his cup down, and grabbed a spoon from the drawer. He scooped his teaspoon of sugar into his cup. Then he waited a couple of minutes for his hand to stop shaking so he poured. Lifting the coffee pot carefully, he poured the dark hot liquid carefully, making a small puddle on the counter. Then he clanked the pot back in its place and picked up the silver spoon. Metal against ceramic, one of his favorite sounds, began to mesmerize him. His son hated how long he stood there and stirred his coffee. If his son walked in the room while he was stirring, he would just frown and shake his head, letting the back door slam behind him as he left the kitchen to go out to the garage where he sat for hours.

Opening the blinds over the kitchen window, he looked outside at the dead flowerbed where his wife used to grow geraniums. She loved her flowerbed and was proud of their son for how hard he worked to maintain it. She would be so sad to see it now. She would hate this house that had become a tomb since she died. When she was alive, their son never seemed to mind doing anything for her. He still complained or criticized the way she wanted things done choosing to do things his way anyway, but at least he still did what she asked. “I suppose he learned all that from me. God, what have I done? I raised an angry man. It’s a wonder he hasn’t killed me yet.

After pouring his second cup of coffee, he walked as slowly as he could to the table, coffee sloshing over the rim of the cup. Rarely did he have more than half a cup left by the time he reached the table. He set his cup down, walked to the dining room window, and opened the blinds. Sunlight warmed his face. Then he turned around, pulled out his chair, and sat down. It took him a few minutes to catch his breath, chest heaving up and down.

Years ago, when he first retired, he and his wife read the paper together every morning. He started with the sports section and she the comics. “Family Circle,” and “Peanuts” were her favorite comics. If one struck her funny, she shared it with him. They sat there at least an hour, switched sections of the paper when done, drank coffee, and made small talk. Small talk was all that was left in their marriage by then. They bickered often, but mostly ignored each other. They didn’t even sleep together any more. She had her own television in her room where she retreated after dinner each night. They didn’t hug, kiss, or hold hands, but they had not been affectionate much anyway. He wished things had changed after he had stopped drinking, but nothing had. She told him the damage had been done; there was no going back. Instead, they tolerated each other; divorce was not an option.

After he finished his coffee, he took his cup to the sink and washed it out. He stood staring out the window. Then he went to the family room, sat on the couch, picked up the remote and turned on the television at its normal blaring decibel. A few hours later, he drank his Boost, then went back to watch more t.v., dozing most of the day. Sometimes his son came in to use the bathroom, but he recently heard his son say he didn’t even want to be in the same house with him any more. He heard his son leave every night to buy takeout food since neither of them cooked.

A few hours after dinner, he turned off the television, painfully raised to his feet, made his way to the kitchen to get his water, then shuffled back down the hall to the bathroom. He brushed his teeth, then took them out and put them in their container. Reaching the bedroom a moment later, he shut the door behind him. He put his water glass down on the night table, moving over the one from the night before, and sat down. The craving for cigarettes came again before he laid down. Tears sprang to his eyes as his thoughts raced frighteningly through his head.

The next day it was about noon when his son came in the house. Everything was dark. The coffee smelled burnt. He scowled, and stomped down the hallway. His dad’s closed door stopped him suddenly. “Get up, old man!” he yelled as he turned the door knob. As he burst in the door, the smell of urine nearly knocked him over. Holding his breath, he walked over and shook his dad to wake him.

“Daddy, wake up,” he said. His dad didn’t stir. “Daddy!” he said more emphatically. Nothing happened. “Jeez! What the hell?” He picked up the phone receiver in the room and dialed 911. When the operator came on the line he told her something was wrong with his dad; he wasn’t waking up. After she asked him some routine questions to which all his answers were “no,” she said paramedics were on the way.

He was frozen with fear and began shaking his dad yelling, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Wake up, wake up! I was a horrible son, I know. I’ll change! I promise!” But nothing happened.

When the paramedics arrived, they did CPR, but nothing happened. It had been too long. Time of death was estimated at 7:00 that morning. “Seven?” the son asked? The paramedic nodded. The son recalled waking up about then thinking he heard his dad’s voice saying, “good-bye, son.” He had just scowled and fallen back asleep.

Now he fell on his knees, held onto his dad, and cried. A few minutes later one of the paramedics asked, “Son, did your dad take blood pressure medication?” as he held up the empty bottle. Just then a voice in his head said, “It was just enough.”

© Patsy H. Parker

RECOVERY AGAIN? SERIOUSLY?

Sorry I couldn’t think of a better title! I am done with the art book questions that I was posting from. The rest of the questions and things to do in there have to do with coming up with a business plan for my art which I currently don’t have the mental energy for right now!

But a new book I began three weeks ago is called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.

I didn’t look at it too closely when I picked it up at the library. Also, if I want to finish it, I’ll probably have to end up buying it since it is a 12 week course in recovering your “artist self.” But I honestly had no idea it had to do with “issues” that many recovery programs have to deal with. UGH! I’ve been through all of that already. But unbeknownst to me, I think I needed a refresher course and didn’t realize it. For instance, there are some things she says to do that I have been doing which are helpful. But this week she says not to read for a whole week! Sorry! Not gonna happen! I guess it is so a person can get more in touch with their senses?? So I’m just doing the other stuff in the chapter. I read a lot, and I could never just NOT read! So instead of criticizing her methods of recovery, I am picking and choosing what I want to do. The daily journaling which she calls “Morning Pages” is helpful. I had stopped journaling for awhile, so it is nice to be back at it. It helps me keep things in perspective. The other thing she says to do is go on an “Artist Date” once a week. That’s working out well, because my kids are doing a gaming day with their friends in town once a week, so that is the day I do my artist date, too. Also, it is on Tuesdays which is the same day I was already having a day out for myself during the school year. 🙂

So here’s a little more of my background that you may or may not know. I honestly hate talking about this stuff, but it’s where I’m at right now, and if it helps someone, GREAT! I went to a 12-step group for years when I first quit drinking and doing drugs in 1987. Well, actually, I didn’t go right away. I started about a year and a half later when I realized I wanted to go to counseling. My counselor at the time encouraged me to go to one since at that time I was still married to a very active alcoholic, and we were still hanging around with the same friends.

I began going to church that year, because God called me to Himself to save my soul. But of course that decision also created conflict with my first husband. I kept going anyway; I enjoyed it. Then I found a 12-step group that was for Adult Children of Alcoholics since most of my problems stemmed from being raised by an alcoholic dad and a co-dependent mom. Wow, did that set me on the very painful road to healing! I stayed in that group for a year or so, but being in church at the same time and growing spiritually, I felt I was receiving more healing there than in the ACA group, so I left the group. I tired of hearing people talk about the same things and people in their lives but not seem to be trying to make changes in themselves or their lives. It felt like listening to all the unfruitful complaining in my home of origin. I began to feel suffocated. Leaving the group was one of the best decisions I made at that time. I also stopped counseling for awhile, because at the time my counselor was a woman, and I never felt I could fully trust her. I always thought that was strange since most of my issues had to do with men! But I soon discovered why, and I won’t go into it. Another day, another post perhaps!

In about 1989 or so a full-time counselor came onto the staff of the church I was attending. By that time I knew I needed help working through some tough stuff that was coming up for me emotionally. I stayed in counseling with Bert on a regular basis until about 1993. Then I met my husband I’m married to now, and I began going back every week for a couple of years. I was terrified of a new relationship. I wasn’t sure I ever really wanted to marry again. But when we began dating, and we became serious, I asked him if he would go to counseling with me. He did and with no hesitation which amazed me. Bert loved him, and he thought we were developing a healthy relationship. My husband worked through a lot of my crap with me.

He is still working through my crap with me. After almost 20 years of marriage, having two teens in the house now, and seeing changes peeking around the corner when the kids begin college, and his retirement is looming on the horizon, I am suddenly feeling terrified again! We also have other changes that are coming in about a year that I’m not sure I’m going to like, but I think our lifestyle may change quite a bit. Hopefully, it won’t be as stressful as I am anticipating, though. I hope it will be for the better.

I guess that’s what this is all about. I really hate certain changes, especially ones I have no control over! Trying to get my art out there for others to hopefully buy is a desire that is getting pushed to the back burner for me now. Fear of rejection? Yeah, I admit I have that. It’s how I felt during the art show when people just glanced at my work and kept going, not even commenting on anything! I honestly wasn’t expecting a lot that day, but I was hopeful that it would be a better experience than it was. However, there were much more experienced artists there who are well-known and selling their work. I am just not sure I want to even try to do things that way now. A guy I met said he’s gotten work just from having some of his pieces hanging in certain places, not necessarily galleries. But he has his contact information along with it, and people call him to inquire about commissions. I think that is what I may try. So that means I have to pick what I think is my best work and take them with me to some places. A guy at church gave me a business card of a bed and breakfast place nearby that is run by a nice lady. He said she might be interested in hanging some work there, but he wasn’t sure. I never called her this week, though, because I got preoccupied with this recovery crap!

Okay, it isn’t crap, but it feels like crap! 😉 I just haven’t thought about some of the habits I’ve fallen into as not being so great for me. Well, that’s not exactly true; I’ve thought about it, but haven’t done anything about changing them! So facing these issues has stirred up feelings I have not wanted to feel and issues I have not wanted to deal with, but it’s time. I feel stagnate in my growth these days, and that is not a good place for me to be.

I may or may not share some of my journey with you, but all I know is I have to get back to drawing and painting again, because it helps me channel all this negative energy into something positive. Hopefully, I’ll have something new to show you soon! Obviously, I needed to write on my blog sooner than I thought I would need to. Also, I have started my first sea turtle story, but am not sure where that is going or how long I want it to be. Just pray I finish it! I want to illustrate it, too, but I’m not great at drawing people on a real small scale, so I’m not sure how that will go! But since it is Saturday now, I think I need to get to work!

Give someone you love a big hug, and have a wonderful day! 🙂

Virginia Woolf

I THOUGHT I HAD PUBLISHED THIS POST LAST MONTH, BUT APPARENTLY, I HAD LEFT IT AS JUST A DRAFT. SINCE THAT TIME, I HAVE RESEARCHED VIRGINIA WOOLF A LITTLE AND FOUND HER LIFE STORY TO BE PRETTY SAD.
TODAY, WE ARE HAVING OUR ANNUAL COMMUNITY THANKSGIVING DINNER IN THE LITTLE TOWN OF MANTON WHERE OUR CHURCH IS. I AM THANKFUL FOR OUR LITTLE CHURCH AND ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO SERVE IN IT. I AM THANKFUL FOR MY HUSBAND AND CHILDREN. AND I AM THANKFUL FOR MY FAMILY OF ORIGIN EVEN THOUGH I HAD MANY THINGS TO OVERCOME FROM GROWING UP IN THAT FAMILY. PLEASE THINK ABOUT ALL I AM ABOUT TO SHARE.

Virginia Woolf

I have read a great deal of books in my life, but I have to say I have never read anything BY Virginia Woolf. My local library doesn’t have any of her writing available; neither does the Barnes and Noble bookstore which really surprised me. I don’t know much about her really, except that she wrote a lot of books, but for some reason committed suicide. I did a little research about her life. To me it sounds like she was perhaps manic-depressive. But I’m no expert. She did have many challenges in life. And I find it sad that she took her own life.

I find it interesting that so many artists and writers struggle with depression. Why is that? In my own experience I have found that when I am so focused on my art or writing that I am not staying connected to people, it’s easy to become depressed! Focus on self is just the natural thing for any of us to do. However, taking care of or focusing on the needs of others can be balanced with our focus on ourselves. Community is important. Giving truly is more blessed than receiving.

Mostly, though, I find that if I neglect worshiping God, reading His Word, and praying for others, I am neglecting everything that my life is about. He is the One who gave me the gifts that I have. He has given me my very life. God has given me purpose. He is my incentive to get up in the morning! He is the love of my life. And I am here to tell you that He is real, He is love, and He is the ultimate Judge of all I do!

Before God chose to give me salvation, I was lonely, depressed, lost, and had no direction in my life. Growing up with an alcoholic father and being in one of the most crazy homes ever didn’t help matters much! In fact, my environment had a lot to do with the choices I made. However, the choices I made were MY choices. I have no one to blame for anything I’ve done in my life. I have no one to blame for situations I got myself into that brought me needless pain and suffering, like all the years I chose to try and numb my pain with drugs and alcohol, for instance.

I began feeling suicidal when I was about 15. But that is not an “answer” for anyone! It solves nothing. Several years ago someone very close to my husband and I committed suicide. He appeared to be one of the happiest people I had ever known. He was always joking, smiling, and just seemed to take life as it came. What was so broken in him that he felt suicide was the only choice he could make to escape where he found himself at that point in his life? We will never know. He didn’t leave a note, and he didn’t call anyone before he did it. In fact, he was missing for a long time before someone found him somewhere far from where we lived at the time.

Needless to say, everyone was completely shocked!! Why? Why did he end his life? We will never know. So I struggled with that for a couple of years, the mystery of loss. I wasn’t really close to him, but he was someone special to my husband. It took months for the shock to wear off. Then the anger came. I expressed mine more readily than my husband did. But his came out in certain ways: irritations about work, stuff going on at church, friends, etc. That’s just what happens. For those people who don’t talk about their feelings much, but bottle them up, they come out in all kinds of ways. Yet sometimes they are the last ones to know how they really feel.

I have always been fortunate to have somewhere to turn. In high school, I began keeping a journal and writing poetry. I didn’t keep writing in my journal, though, after I met my first husband and got into the alcohol and drug phase of my life. But once God took hold of me and told me He loved me and would never let me go, I began going to counseling. My first counselor, a woman (because I hated men at the time,) suggested I start keeping a journal. I was having all kinds of wacky dreams which I wrote down, and I wrote some poetry in them, too. Mostly, though, I wrote about all the feelings I had bottled up for years. The anger at my dad for ignoring me most of my life, the sadness about other things I couldn’t control that happened to me along the way, my need to control everything and everyone around me, but admitting that I couldn’t any more. I learned to take care of myself, own my feelings, and express them in healthy ways. Believe me when I say that recovery is a process!

I went through a divorce when I was 30. I was back at home living with my parents when it became final. It was Halloween of 1990. Someone knocked on the door. Thinking it was an early trick-or-treater, I opened the door only to be “served” divorce papers. I remember just staring at them, feeling defeated and lost. But God was with me. He was reassuring me that His plans for me were for good. He had a purpose for me to fulfill. He was holding me and would never let go!

I still struggled with depression, and suicidal thoughts hit me from the left and right in the months, even years, that followed. But that’s when I found my second counselor. When I began seeing Bert, God used him to help set me free from all the crap in my past. It took many years, but God did it.

I still struggle with sin, because I am a sinner and always will be until I get to Heaven. And because Jesus paid the price for my sin on the cross, I am set free from its penalty. God’s love surrounds me and fills me every day. He is my reason to live. He is my reason to serve others. He is my reason to step outside of myself and think about what is important to others. He is my reason to encourage anyone I meet that they, too, have a purpose in this life. Despite what anyone else believes, I know we only get ONE shot at life. Make it count!

God bless you richly everyone.

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath

I’ve been reading a biography about Sylvia Plath for the past few weeks. I find her life story sad. It seems she was devastated by her father’s death and felt controlled by her mother to a great extent. So I understand the things that drove her to write and try to get her writing published. But honestly, if I had not read her life story, I would never understand her poetry. I still cannot get into her poetry even now. I’ve also tried reading The Bell Jar, but alas, I guess I am just not a fan of her work.

However, I do want to say that I find it very sad that a woman so young took her own life. It seems she was mentally ill, perhaps from early on. I understand feeling that depressed and desperate, though. But to all my artist and writing friends, I just want to say, we only get one chance at life. Don’t let it pass you by without trying to leave something of yourself behind. Something encouraging. Something good. Something others will want to share and pass on. We only get once chance to leave our mark.

Make it a beautiful one.

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