Archive for October, 2012

I wish I were a hobo.

The term ‘hobo’ often holds a negative connotation nowadays. We all have hoped the stoplight would turn green before that ‘hobo’ comes up to the window for money. However, in the past ‘hobo’ often referred to migratory workers. It referred to a nomadic people who labored when they needed to, devoting sweat, blood, and tears for their livelihood as opposed to bums, begging for money. Many people overly romanticized the concept, picturing the stereotypical hobo catching a train, riding off into the sunset to a new life. I just always admired the freedom to follow your heart wherever it took you.

People often tell me that I must have been a nomadic Native American in my past life. Why? I have a restless soul and always seem to be leaving. Throughout my youth, I randomly disappeared with nothing more than the clothes on my back and the lint in my pockets. I often got out of school or woke up in the morning and just felt the need, the urge, to go and never stop. I biked hours upon end with no destination in mind. Countless nights I just didn’t go home, instead sleeping in the woods, on the dam on the other side of my hometown, or in a park. Sometimes, I even bunked up at a friend’s house if I was feeling social. When I could finally drive, my wandering had a wider range. I’d head south to the shore or west to different cities on a whim.

However, I never strayed more than four hours away from home. Like a puppy on a leash, I needed to run, stretch my legs and race the sky, but the leash was always there to pull me back. There was only so far I could run before I found myself back where I started. My love kept me tethered. Simultaneously a cage and a purpose in life, the family and friends I love gave me reason to return no matter how desperately my heart felt the need to roam. Often they were the reason I wanted to roam, causing enough emotional trauma and drama to  drive anyone across the country. My bipolar mother constantly pulled me back to her craziness, stuffing me through an emotional wood chipper. But every single time, my feelings of responsibility and love overpowered my need to escape.

At age ten, I backpacked from Georgia to Virginia on the Appalachian Trail. That was the closest I have ever come to being free. I woke up every morning and admired my ever-changing environment. Then I packed up and left for the next night’s home. People came and went from my life, some sticking around longer than others, but all leaving lasting memories. I found hikers more interesting as well, displaying their heart on their sleeve instead of conforming to society. We traveled with vegans, crazy ex-firemen who wanted to be on Survivor, college aged students, and grandparents. In our mutual quest to survive, live, and laugh, everyone we stumbled across merged into our family. Life was fuller.

Ever since then I have wanted to turn myself loose, give in to my inner hobo. I wanted to pack up and cut all ties, letting my feet take me where they will. Not completely naive, I intended to work in towns when necessary to fund my wandering, only staying put long enough to stock up and survive. At one point, I thought the perfect compromise would be to become a gear tester for backpacker magazine. In my mind they would provide my gear and all I would have to do is write about it, combining two passions of mine in a financially stable manner. I mean, who wants to be broke when they’re old and can’t work?

Currently, I’m a stereotypical college student, just trying to settle down enough to find a career. I never stay put, constantly traveling to see friends at the drop of a hat, often in the middle of the week. However, I keep my grades up and stay on track. Why? Because I want to be financially stable enough to be there for the ones I love.

Some days it’s hard to stay strong when every fiber of your being is saying “Screw them, you shouldn’t have to deal with this.” For instance this weekend, I was home. That was where the trouble all began. The end result was me crouched on the carpet, picking up broken glass and mopping up the cereal that the bowl originally held. The whole time I had to fight off the dogs who wanted to lick up the shard-laden milk and listen to my mother stand behind me and scream at me. Ironically enough, she was screaming at me for cleaning up her mess. I wasn’t about to leave it for the dogs to cut up their tongues though, so as usual I stayed silent and ignored her. My blatant disregard for her command led her to start smashing more dishes on the ground. Thankfully, this time the dishes were neither smashed on the carpet nor thrown at me.

I wish I were a hobo.

Elle is sad.

Elle is incredibly homesick and I meant to cheer her up with a visit. I call her every day, but she is still lonely and struggling and I was more than ready to drive the eighteen hours each way if it meant seeing a smile on her gorgeous face. However, my colorado trip was cancelled because my dad called me last minute and told me I had to come home to take care of my mom and sister and wolf. He forgot he was going out of town that weekend.

This has been a recurring theme throughout my life: cancel on friends and be unreliable to them because I have to take care of my family. Sometimes, it can drive me crazy to be forced to let down others to be home when needed. It can be frustrating to have a mentally unstable parent, but I love her.

Sometimes priorities suck.

My mom sobbed uncontrollably in my arms when I went home for the weekend. This is normal.

My mom started a food fight at the dinner table. This is normal.

My mom threw a tantrum because her favorite show wasn’t on. This is normal.

Or at least all this is normal for me. I read somewhere that children of bipolar parents often find themselves in the role of parent. It’s backwards and unfair, but just a fact of life. By the time I was nine, I was well used to comforting my crying mother and curbing the effects of her temper tantrums. I tucked her in to bed each night. I made her lunch every afternoon when I got home from school, otherwise she wouldn’t feed herself. I prevented her suicide countless times. I read her books when she was sad. I brushed her hair free of tangles every day. I raised my mother, my sister, and myself. My mother hasn’t been a parent for as long as I can remember.

If I put it this way, people understand to an extent. They understand that I never had a wiser adult to go to when I had a problem. People might get that when I had my first car crash I handled it on my own, as terrified as I was, because if I had called my mother, she would have made a scene in front of the police officers and I wasn’t old enough to bail her out of jail. They might know that I lacked guidance I needed. People can more easily comprehend neglect to a child than they can see the good that came out of it. When I explain how I grew up, I immediately see pity spring to people’s eyes.

I hate pity. I don’t pity myself so why should I take your damn pity? Concern and care is different; those I will gratefully accept.

There were good things about growing up the way I did. Yes, it wasn’t much of a childhood. Yes, it was emotionally traumatizing and scarring. Yes, it was HARD. But I found happiness.

Some days, my mother was my best friend. She movie hopped with me. We had food fights at the table. She put on crazy accents and threw water at me out of nowhere, claiming I had something in my eye. She would just get in the car with me and go, not knowing where we’d end up. We’d have pillow fights and movie marathons. We’d make mud pies and bake colorful cakes. We gushed about gorgeous movie stars and argued over which characters would win in a fight. We’d lie in the grass and find shapes in the clouds. She was spontaneous and fun.

Even in these positive situations I was still my mother’s mother. It always felt like I was humoring a willful child. I had to keep a constant eye on her emotions and behavior to make sure she didn’t get out of hand. Things often tipped in an instant from fun to fury; my mother was only pleasant to be around when she was in a partially manic state, but this all too easily slipped into a full on manic episode.

Even though sometimes the bad overshadows the good, one fact remains:

My mother is my beloved daughter.

Mortifying Mistext

Posted: October 22, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Meet Sydney.

Sydney is a college freshman walking across campus alone at night. She would really rather be back in her dorm packing to go home for the weekend, but Sydney promised to do her friend, Jenny, a solid. So on she trudges, making sure to step on all the crunchy leaves for personal satisfaction. She smiles a little at a crisp breeze blowing in and thinks of her jacket, hanging uselessly in her room.

Sydney soon reaches the all-men dorm and slips her phone out of her pocket, quickly sending a text.

Sydney: I’m here. Which door should I go to?

Chris: front entrance

Sydney: k

Sydney walks confidently to the door, ignoring the butterflies in her stomach at the thought of meeting Chris without knowing if he is trustworthy. Chris lets her in the dorm with a smile and they slide into a side room with a ping-pong table. Chris chats amiably, putting  her at ease. Then they get down to business.

Chris: “So I didn’t quite understand what Jenny wanted me to buy. She said something about rum and whiskey. What am I getting?”

Sydney: “I think she just wanted a bottle of Malibu but if you can’t do that then any type of whiskey is fine.”

Chris: “Do you want to come with me or do you want to just give me the money?”

Sydney: “I think I’ll just go back to my dorm and you can drop it off there.”

As she hands over the wad of money, Sydney’s friend Mark comes in and starts playing ping-pong with Chris. The three of them chat for a while and knowing that Chris is Mark’s friend makes Sydney more trusting of him. She almost wishes she had gone with them to buy the bottle. Instead, she pulls out her phone as she walks away, hoping to make the encounter sound funny enough to make her best friend crack a smile.

Sydney: Getting something good for tonight. #awkwardnightimedeals

She tucks her phone away and lets her mind wander the rest of the way back to her dorm room. She crawls onto her bed and looks through her texts, absently wondering if her best friend, Amy, had texted back. Sydney’s eyes widen and she groans before letting out a stream of very unladylike curses.

She had sent that text to Chris.

Sydney could feel it coming: the rush of mortification. The feeling of being a failure. Logically, she knows these things happen to everyone. Logically, she knows she is normal. But her heart is still susceptible to falling into the trap of feeling useless and bad. Her bipolar mother didn’t mean to, but in the past her cruel words decimated Sydney’s feelings of self-worth socially.

However, Sydney is stronger than she used to be. She taught herself how to cope. She taught herself how to not fall into the trap of sinking into her memories. She taught herself how not to become that scared, verbally abused, little girl. Sydney calls up Amy and explains what just happened. Amy is silent for a moment…

But then, the two of them burst into uncontrollable laughter that seems to never end. With every second more of laughing, Sydney comes to appreciate just how entertaining the situation is. Sydney is thoroughly enjoying herself now, and feels almost no awkwardness when picking up the Malibu from Chris. Sydney knows she can always rely on Amy to laugh at her. She counts on it, really, since a good chuckle is always her chosen path for handling life.

Lighten up and learn to laugh, people.

Seriously.

To do or not to do? That is the question.

A post by another blogger that I read recently got me thinking about the internal battle we all fight when  deciding between what we should do and what we want to do.

One of my biggest pet peeves about my mother was her addiction to strawberry ice cream. She quite literally does not eat anything else. A few weekends ago I went home and watched as, in the course of two days, eight gallons of ice cream were consumed. Eight!

It also didn’t help my annoyance that she just piled all the empty ice cream containers on top of each other on the counter and spent the rest of the weekend complaining that she is fat.

I think her inability to resist the immediate pleasure of ice cream can be attributed to her bipolar disorder in some way. Many people with bipolar disorder drink as a way of self management, especially when manic. My mother eats ice cream. I believe the sugar high helps her when she is depressive and when she is manic it seems to help her to have that ritual to turn to, something constant when her mind is flying out of control.

My mother is an intelligent woman, or at least she used to be. She knows eating nothing but ice cream will make her fatter. She knows that at this rate she will have all sorts of health problems in the future. But, for some reason she just can’t stop.

In that way, I am extremely similar to her. This thought scares me. I have always feared being like my mother. I have always feared developing bipolar disorder when I am older. This condition is genetic and I am susceptible.

I tend to be stubborn past the point of rational determination and onto the slippery slope of foolhardiness. The most outwardly visible example of this is something that has my friends smacking their head on a regular basis: my continual disregard for my own bodily safety.

So essentially, in February I sprained my ankle in a bad landing in volleyball. The weight of both me and my friend came crashing down on my ankle as we ended up tangled on the floor. I wanted to play volleyball and hated admitting defeat, so I strapped on an ankle brace and kept playing for the next two hours. Then I went home.

The next morning, I forgot my ankle was sprained and rushed off to school. By third period my ankle was the size of a grapefruit and the color of a grape. I iced it, then ignored it. I didn’t want to admit defeat, even to myself.

About three weeks after that I ran a 5k. I just strapped on an over the counter ankle brace and considered it good enough.

Throughout the next six months I continually chose instant gratification over self preservation. I jumped off the ten foot sea wall by the beach, only to remember upon landing that my ankle was sprained. I swung off a rope swing into a two foot stream. I played soccer. I played more volleyball. Most recently, I went rock scrambling barefoot.

In regard to other injuries, I have chosen to play tackle football with clearly broken ribs. I have chosen to go to theme parks while extremely nauseous.

I knew perfectly well that I was in no condition to do any of these things and even tried to convince myself to be reasonable. But somehow I couldn’t help giving in to what I wanted as opposed to what I needed. I make stupid decisions out of competitiveness, stubbornness, and a hatred of not being capable.

We all function this way to some extent. But at what point does a decision surpass passion and feisty determination to land in the realm of foolhardiness?

The post that inspired this entry can be found here:

http://overwhelmedbyjoy.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/stretched-to-the-limit/#comments

Step 1: Analyze the situation.

Observe the bear in its natural habitat.

Is it rational or irrational? Is the bear behaving aggressively? Is the bear merely agitated? Is the bear pacing through it’s domain? Is the bear a danger to itself? It’s cubs? If you take charge, will the bear feel that it’s power has been usurped or snatched?

Recognize all warning signs. Draw on previous experiences of the bear’s animalistic reactions to play out all possible outcomes in your head. Surprises are messy; nobody wants to be torn apart by a bear.

Step 2: Declaw your bear.

Subtly remove anything that could be used to harm you or your bear, especially glass items because in the course of a bear attack, you don’t have time to get out a broom and sweep. Glass shards hurt feet. My bear leaned towards overdose, however there were some Drano and antifreeze problems. For some reason the silly bear thought Drano would unclog its throat.

An important part of this step is removing cubs you care about from the danger zone. Seeing people you love cry hurts you as well as them. Collateral damage causes a whole new mess to clean up afterwards as well as some problems you can’t fix.

Step 3: Placate.

Okay so you analyzed your situation. You prepared your surroundings. Now you are ready to placate your bear.

Essentially you want to avoid any behaviors that might alarm or egg on your bear. At this point their rage is not directed at you, however you need to keep the level from escalating.

If we were dealing with Yogi, you could just shove a picnic basket under his nose. However, this variety of bear responds better to slight affection and vague agreements. Essentially: nod and say “yeah”. This allows the bear to continue growling and feel supported and loved. Do not blatantly agree to anything said! You will be trapped! They will try to coax you up a tree with them! At this point the bear is a stranger to you! Stranger danger!

Step 4: Play dead.

Chances are you will be attacked. When being verbally attacked, respond to all growling with an impassive face. Convince yourself you don’t care to make the face realistic. Never run or leave the vicinity.  At this point, the bear gets a high from holding power over you. Power makes the bear feel strong and right. So essentially, emotion is weakness. Weakness provokes bears.

If the bear physically attacks you, do not cower! Jump out of the way and put a piece of furniture between you and the charging bear. Maybe they will trip on it. Keep impassive face to ward off further confrontation.

Showing weakness guarantees that the bear will proceed to ravage you. But, hey! It’s your limbs and your choice! Just remember that wild creatures are not to be taken lightly.

Step 5: Chuckle, giggle, chortle.

Not out loud of course …the bear will hear you. But, it is still important to comfort yourself through humor. It doesn’t matter what method you use since this event is all in your head.

You could keep a running commentary, substituting celebrity names for all involved in the bear attack. Oops! She did it again! Britney smashed a few dishes! 

You could use your imagination! For instance, if your bear starts throwing bananas at everything in sight you can picture it as a rabid monkey. Or something always entertaining is to imagine the bear dropping the attack to follow it’s passion of dancing. I think a coffee table would make a solid stage.

Or you could go out of your way and visualize life as a comedy show. Some of the things a crazy bear does would make hilarious Saturday Night Live skits.

If you are optimistic enough, you may be able to find humor without using silly tricks.You might be just one of those people who takes life in stride.

But no matter how you manage it, make sure you uplift yourself. Otherwise negatives emotions such as desperation, frustration, and anger will invade your mind like an army of ants. And once it’s in there everything will hurt more. It takes longer to recover from emotional trauma than to protect yourself in the first place. And letting your emotions run free will cloud your judgement and efficiency in Bear Control Services.

Step 6: Sleep with one eye open…if you still have it by now.

And by ‘sleep’ I mean track down caffeine and don’t sleep a wink. I’m serious. Bears can quickly slip from manic to purposefully committing bearicide. Judge your bear’s calmness level. Do not believe them if they tell you they’re drinking honey! Your bear is not innocent, little Winnie the Pooh.

Even if they are asleep, it doesn’t mean they’re safe. Manic bears tend to wake up randomly all throughout the night. Plus, if you go to sleep, you are leaving yourself vulnerable and giving the bear the element of surprise. This negates the effort you put forth earlier to declaw your bear.
Step 7: Map it out.
So if you reach this step, you are a very devoted bear caretaker. But motivation can still be misplaced somewhere along the way. Right about now you need to reset your moral compass to point north.
You are not doing this to be a good person. You are not sacrificing so much for some brownie points. You are obviously someone who cares a great deal about your bear. This is where you need to remind yourself of all the positive things you love about your bear.
When you act with a clear purpose in mind you won’t fall into the trap of regret. You made a decision and gave the cause your all. Even if you change your mind in the future and choose a path as a non-caretaker, your time with your bear was worthwhile since your cause mattered to you.
Out of the hundred acre woods:
This post was interesting for me to make. It highlights some of the actions I had to focus on and struggle with when my unstable, bipolar mother was at her worst. Growing up, I kept the essential points within this list in the back of my head, adding items through trial and error. It helped to have a few concrete concepts to keep in mind when all hell broke loose and rational thought seemed to vanish.
I never followed it as a to-do list, but thought it would be the best way to portray this since my audience was not my own head for once. Trying to figure out how to explain to others how to live such an intimate portion of my life forced me to analyze the situation from an outsiders eyes.
The metaphor of my mother as a bear was partially meant to keep the mood from becoming depressing and partially to try and help people not familiar with the effects of bipolar disorder to understand the transition from human to animal. When particularly bad, my mother suffered a complete loss of reason and control. She gave in to primal instincts, letting her emotions think for her.

I think one of the loneliest parts about having a bipolar parent is when they forget all the things they do to you.

Mom used to corner me in the closet, tear me apart verbally and occasionally get physical. Even though it always devastated me, in the morning she wouldn’t even remember a single moment of it.

I

have

never

felt

so

alone.

At least when someone at school got in a fight with me or insulted me, I wasn’t alone in the experience. They may remember a different side of the event. They may hate me for what happened. They definitely have a different perception of it. But at least what happened exists in them as well as me.

But Mom always forgot so my memories seemed false, like a dream. I’d feel like I’m not allowed to feel sad over something that seemingly didn’t happen. I’d feel almost at fault for not forgetting too, or for holding things against her that didn’t exist to her. But if I forget then they never were. The responsibility for remembering the true extent of our relationship and all the feelings that come with it rests solely on my shoulders. When making new memories with her, the old memories made them contain different meanings. So even the memories we both remembered became lonely because my experiences and thoughts would be so vastly different from hers.

Imagine if your best friend or your family couldn’t remember half of your experiences together. The ones that were heart wrenching or the ones that were good. Imagine if half of your life with them existed only in your head. Wouldn’t you feel alone too?

These thoughts were brought up by this girl I am distant friends with. At a party last night, she got completely wasted, walked up to me in the crowd and slapped me across the face with everything she had. I ended up literally carrying her home and watching over her as she puked her guts out for three hours, rambling on about her deepest secrets. This morning she didn’t remember any of it. She didn’t even remember seeing me last night.