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Time Flies, Make It Count

Just did some spring cleaning and deleted all of my Facebook messages.

The oldest messages I had were from Michael, who was a good friend to me.

Sadly, he passed away a few years ago and I regret not making the time to get together again, and I’m sorry that I didn’t know he had passed until over a month after it happened.

Here’s the trouble — We always think we have time.

Time for that catch-up coffee get together, time for that dinner/ drinks night with that person we bump into at whatever store in town, and we’d really like to take the time to properly nurture that friendship, but we’re busy, so busy! — we’re working, we’re getting married, we’re catching up on our favourite TV shows at home, we’re doing household chores, we could be raising families, and we’re tired, we’re worn out, we’re run down, and we’ll get around to it, we truly will, just —– later.

We might have that family member or friend present on the periphery of our lives, somebody with whom we haven’t always had an easy relationship, and they’ve got stuff going on that complicates things further, and one day, in the future, we’ll patch things up with them properly, we really will, we truly mean to do so. Except we’re busy, we’re so busy, and we’re tired, and we might have our own messy stuff to deal with, and it’s not easy or convenient right now, but we’ll do it, we will, we mean to, at least. Just… not at this moment.

And then suddenly, it’s gone, that window of opportunity to make amends, to say hey, let’s grab that coffee, let’s catch up, let’s grab some emotional spackle and mend the cracks in our strained relationship. Either too much time passes, and the opportunity is lost, or the person passes, and, well… y’know. We’ve missed our chance indefinitely, and we’re left behind with complicated feelings and some weighty emotional baggage that we’ll get around to sorting through — one day.

—- Virtual high fives to anybody who has read this far. You can’t feel ’em, but they’re there.

My mother passed away in February of this year, and I never made a post on here expressly stating so, because condolences are so, so hard. And I’m not looking for them now, either.

Timing-wise, it was inconvenient, as I was 7 days away from starting a shiny new job for which I had really high hopes, and working full time at a “training wheels job” that was getting me re-acclimated with being an active part of the workforce after 8 long months of job-seeking. So I never properly dealt with the unfortunate occurrence, that emotional luggage that I’m sure is still sitting on my shoulders and weighing on me in subtle, almost imperceptible ways. I’m not sure how to go about addressing the feelings that I have. Most days, I’m unable to even completely sort out what those feelings are, and how they might be impacting my daily interactions now without me even knowing.

I know my mom loved me, and even though I didn’t say it often enough, or make enough of an effort to show it, I loved her, too, and I should have made it more apparent, and loved more freely and openly, and made more time to display it properly — not just on days that are societally-designated “love fests” like Christmas and birthdays and Mother’s Day and whatnot.

If any of this resonates with any of you, please, pick up the phone and call whomever you’re thinking about right now, if you can… while you have time.

Didn’t know that your phone can make phone calls, too, and not just send text messages and e-mails? Didn’t know that it’s not just a business tool, and not just it now. It might not be easy, or convenient, but it could be the only opportunity you will ever have. Make it count.

Didn’t know that your phone can make phone calls, too, and not just send text messages and e-mails? Didn’t know that it’s not just a business tool, and not just for emergency purposes, y’know, like calling your loved ones only if you get a flat tire on the highway, etc. etc. etc.? Phone calls can be made without occasion and sometimes the unsolicited ones (not from telemarketers, though… blech) are the most meaningful and memorable.

Do it now. It might not be easy, or convenient, but it could be the only opportunity you will ever have. Make it count.

How Did We End Up Here? A Story About Growing Up With a Toxic Mother

My views regarding my mother have changed in recent years.

Presently, she is someone who exists as part of a story in my life, catalyzing a significant examination of myself and those who surround me. I often contemplate whether that was her purpose, but intertwined in those thoughts; there is guilt. Parents make sacrifices for their children, and perhaps hers was the loss of our relationship, forcing me to embark on a new path.

However, I don’t think she’ll ever be cognizant of that.

I have fond memories of her, times when she was a picturesque, doting mother, ferrying my friends and me to practice, taking us to the mall, and covering for me when I exceeded my curfew.

Those untainted recollections haunt me because I’ve realized that for every good deed there was a price tag. The cost was never evident, as though you had found a one of a kind item at the store. You stand alone in the aisle, puzzled while turning the object over and back again in an attempt to locate that small, sticky, square sliver of paper that gives something its value. You approach the register, convincing yourself it isn’t a lavish novelty—until the cashier regrettably informs you that the item exceeds your price range. After an internal battle, you purchase it anyway because you falsely believe that you need it. That’s how it was with her. She’d give, I’d take, and then I would later have buyer’s remorse. I felt liable during those exchanges on many occasions, but they’ve taught me that I shouldn’t give more than I’m willing to lose–whether that be time, money, or respect.

I did and said things throughout our strained relationship that weren’t fair, correct, or appropriate. There were times my behavior was unquestionably harsh. In other moments, I yelled too much, was self-absorbed, and at times wrongly manipulative.

Even as a child, I innately sensed that she was not capable of truly loving anyone. Her affections were an unmarked, dead-end road; I never knew where the pavement faded into the dirt until I found myself in the mud. She tirelessly helped people (and probably still does), but would then complain when her efforts didn’t garner adequate appreciation or her deeds weren’t reciprocated.

Through watching her perform this soliloquy of martyrdom and the innumerable encore performances, I uncovered another meaningful piece of knowledge: If you’re giving to fill a void within yourself, stop giving and fix yourself because no one else will. And to me, that is her downfall—she never fixed herself. Perhaps she didn’t know how—or was unable to recognize that she needed mending. It was always easier for her to blame her short-comings on others. Usually, it was my dad, the man who worked seven days every week to provide for his family and allow her to do as she pleased.

He was flawed, but not any more than the rest of us. My dad had a temper, was overly strict, and could be perceived as controlling at times, but he expressed an abundant amount of love and dedication to his family. Yet somehow, my mother always found a reason to make him not good enough for her, or for us. She would shout from the proverbial rooftops to whatever audience was present: family, church people, or her friends—it didn’t matter. If they had ears and minute of time, she would begin Act I of her tragic play. Her behavior reminded me of the game in elementary school, aptly named telephone.

The story at the end was never the story at the beginning, but no one was able to decipher what that ever was because true to her victim mentality, “She would never say that!” And so it went throughout my teenage years, her speaking half-truths, my dad getting mad, and her tear-soaked, half-hearted apologies.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I’ve surmised that’s where my lesson on people began—with those years of trusting, then not, and the gray area twisted between the confusion.

It’s strange to look back on it now, coldly removed from it, emotionless. Or perhaps it’s still anger; I’m not sure.

I vividly recall frequent conversations with my dad and his constant reminders to, “Not be like your mom.” At that specific point in time, I always thought he meant weak because that’s how I perceived her: sad, depressed, and angry. She attended a private masquerade, a façade tuned so finely that she is still unaware that she’s wandering through a false reality.

During those times, I didn’t know that life was preparing me for something I would never see approaching—the Trojan horse of life’s fuckery right in front of me. I was oblivious to the depth of her wounds and subsequent actions, until one day I could no longer deny the existence of her illness.

For many people, the term mother is synonymous with love, compassion, and devotion. An upstanding matriarch fiercely defends her children from harm and zealously supports their endeavors. I have spent countless nights awake thinking about the perfect incarnation of a mom, and I’ve concluded that my mother will never embody those characteristics.

The greatest, albeit most difficult thing about life, is that it imparts everything you need to know if you pause momentarily, pay attention, and don’t allow your ego to get the best of you. If you’re repeatedly finding yourself in the same situation, it’s because you haven’t mastered the lesson those particular circumstances are supposed to teach you, or maybe you have, and you’re too stubborn or stupid to recognize them.

I fell into the latter category because that’s just who I was then, optimistic and dumb enough to believe I could right any wrong.

Writing that now is ridiculous, but that’s how it started—the relationship with a price tag so high, it almost destroyed my credit, and me. He was charismatic. Funny. Handsome. He said all of the right things at exactly the right time. Looking back, I guess he had to, or someone would peel back the thin layers that encased his dysfunction and see a hollow vessel, devoid of empathy or compassion unless it was for selfish gain.

My mother, however, adored him. She thought he was fantastic. The words of praise for him gushed from her mouth like a broken faucet. She insisted he was perfect for me. I initially agreed until I saw through the shroud to what was underneath.

It was like my internal GPS had lost signal on life’s journey and now it was too late to turn back. The scenery was beautiful at times. There were days filled with sunshine, laughter, and hope. Those times were my favorite because most days were dark and tumultuous. It seemed as though I was trying to outrun the rain, but I never knew when lightning would strike. The storm always seemed to clear at the exact moment that I was ready to relocate to a better climate.

And of course, there was my mother, clearing wreckage, and negotiating an insurance policy—or so I thought. What I failed to realize is that insurance agents love disasters. Disasters wreak havoc and chaos while convincing policyholders that they require more insurance so that they are better prepared for the next catastrophe. I purchased an abundance of insurance from my mother. I talked and confided in her, while she manipulated the weather to her liking. In return, the weather repaid the debt by providing her with a temperate climate.

From my mother’s perspective, it was a fair exchange. She was never one to forgo a “diamond of a deal.” She received the attention and adoration she was so desperately seeking, and he received another layer of protection.

Together, they were a perfect storm and were moving toward the coast at an alarming rate.

He and I found ourselves at the beach on that road trip from hell.

By that point, I was preparing to change routes and terminate my insurance because I could no longer afford the premium; however, the best-laid plans always go awry when the atmosphere becomes unstable. That day began calmly and seemingly beautiful, but the bright sunlight obscured the horizon as it beamed through the car windows that morning. We were exploring on that trip. Laughter and conversation filled the air like particles of pollen—invisible and damaging. I thought that maybe, just maybe, the sky was going to remain clear.

If I only I hoped enough, had enough insurance, I falsely believed everything would be okay.

I was absolutely wrong. He—the weather, became erratic and violent; I was stranded in the current, drowning while trapped in a car until I suddenly saw the eye of the hurricane approaching. Those few moments of relief granted me the clarity to see daylight. I suddenly became aware that I couldn’t regulate the weather, but I could control my reaction to it. There was an open road, but it had been hidden by the debris from the frequent storms. That day I began driving. I drove away from the downpours, evaded the lightning strikes, and put miles between the constant uncertainty of whether I had purchased enough insurance.

When I called my mother, the insurance agent, to discontinue my policy, she didn’t answer.

She wasn’t available that night or the next day.

She was too busy attempting to manage the self-made disaster that she didn’t care about me—her daughter. S

he turned away the child she had known for 32 years. She abandoned me, the daughter that she was supposed to unfailingly love and support.

I don’t know what he promised her exactly, but whatever it was, it was enough for them both to attempt to pursue me down that new, secret road I had discovered.

They attempted to detour my journey through phone calls, texts, and at times, unnerving threats and yet, I kept driving farther and farther away.

She revived the soliloquy that had served her well and performed it for a multitude of audiences. The new version had added a few additional scenes, and they served to convey how terrible I was. She was heartbroken that her child could just walk away from her.

It was then, that my dad’s words from over a decade ago reverberated in my mind, “Don’t be like your mom.”

The statement had been a clear warning that I was unable to comprehend at the time because I didn’t understand that she was mentally ill. I was too naïve to fully perceive the environment that tarnished my childhood and too self-centered to evaluate my contribution. She and I were and always will remain remarkably different people.

She will forever be the insurance agent feeding and creating disasters for her own personal gain. I hope that someday her catastrophic business will close and she will have placed a vacant sign in the window. Although, I think the absence of orchestrating calamities would force introspection, and the disasters we harbor on the inside are usually far worse than those we create.

My lessons in this life are far from over, and I hope that they’re never complete because if I stop learning, I cease to evolve into a better person.

The chapter about my mother has been painful, dangerous, yet exceedingly valuable. I’m grateful for the destruction and nearly being swept away because I was compelled to change routes. I began a migration to a new destination that I plotted and chose on my own. My mother and I will forever be traveling in opposite directions, but we were at the same starting point for a brief time. She may never fully grasp the reason or the outcome of our sudden departure in life, but I hope that one day her course becomes calm and clear instead of winding and uncertain.

Despite the pain she has caused, she unknowingly and unwillingly sacrificed her happiness for her child’s—and that’s the worst punishment of all.

When Your Hometown Is Evil Incarnate

I don’t say “I’m from Detroit” unless:

  • someone tries to bullshit me on what repairs my car needs
  • I’ve just been told “go to Hell” (the implication being, been there done that)
  • people are having a grand time trying to place my accent — for some reason, no-one has ever guessed right, so I just give up after a while and tell them this is 30 years of living in and around Detroit talking.  Thank you for guessing that I’m maybe Irish, but the truth is gonna make you make an “Ugh” face.

Saying “Detroit” makes everybody make the “Ugh” face. If you live there, it’s your resting face: Either you’re constantly consciously aware of how much of a deliberately-constructed torture-machine of poverty and racism and environmental awfulness it is, or you’re unconsciously aware of it and your Ugh face is hiding a half-inch behind a desperate Midwestern smile.

It took two years after I moved away for my face to reconfigure away from the constant pained expression of a person trying to live a life among a seething ruin after rubbing shoulders every day with people on the absolute edge of desperation. And no, I don’t mean the homeless and the addicts. There are far more, and equally desperate, people in southeast Michigan who are still, for now, managing to live indoors. You won’t notice them unless you live there, and they outnumber the ones wandering the street by a wide margin.

Since I was a tiny child, I’ve been trying to say, “Oh my gods y’all — This is where the whole country is headed if we don’t wake up…this right here is industrial capitalism’s next phase!  Let’s stop and change while we, while anybody, still can!”

But after you grow up a while, you realize that telling people doesn’t matter: they either know it full well, and think it’s worth it  – probably because they’re wealthy, or privileged enough that they think they will be one day – or don’t simply don’t care (because, I’m guessing, it feels inevitable…or maybe I should say “they’ve bought the lie that it’s inevitable”).

I’ve now lived in Boston almost a decade, and while my inner Cassandra will still come out in heated discussions, I’ve mostly given up on sounding the warning-siren of Detroit.

It’s tiring and depressing, and if I’ve ever opened anyone’s eyes to what Detroit’s absurd segregation, its grotesque violation of one of the most gorgeous natural environments in the world, or aggressively anti-human city-planning means to the rest of us, I’m not aware of it.

If you’re not from Detroit, you don’t think it could happen to you, and/or you’re buying the perennial line about how “making a nice expensive spot in the middle of downtown will fix it.  And if you are, you’ve probably given up – or will soon.

I’m an expat / refugee of Detroit, and I gave up SO MUCH to get out.

After 30 years I finally realized that if I ever wanted to be mentally “okay” (never-mind healthy, just…okay), I had to get away from the constant background scream of hopelessly-flailing-against-awfulness that is the D.

The biggest thing I gave up was being near my family — my only family in this world; we’re a small handful and we’ve always been very close. I had high hopes that I could “get them out” too, once I was established here, but my older parents and mentally-disabled brother (who, I stressed, could have reasonable health care here — hell, if they were homeless in Boston, their options would be better than in Michigan) just weren’t up for that kind of life-change, and they’ve decided to stay.

I talk to at least one of them every day on the phone. I travel back to D-town four or five times a year (my spending every holiday in Detroit is a fun “you’re so hardcore” joke for my friends here), and every summer they take a vacation (their only one) to come visit me and Boston. The pain of that separation is a little easier now, for the most part, but not really.

I have survivor’s guilt.  I miss them like crazy, and I hate that if something bad happened I’d need to make an 800-mile journey to reach them. I struggle with the moral implications pretty much daily:  Is it okay for me to have done this, to have found myself a home that makes me incredibly happier and miles healthier, and to have left my loved ones behind in Hell, USA?

I’m not going to talk, here, about the details of growing up in Detroit; about what the background of intense violence, racism and poverty does to a person – though maybe I will later. This one is about getting out, and where that leaves you…partially because I’m sick to death of the sensationalism around it, and can’t quite handle yelling about the realities of it yet.

I hate Detroit, still, the way you hate an ex-lover; instead of Ugh-face I now have Rage-face, but at least it’s not a constant thing.

It’s SO difficult to have your hometown, the place you grew up and will forever know best, be the embodiment of modern evil; to feel like you’re walking into Mordor every time you go back; to have a wonderful family Christmas and then gasp with relief when it’s over and you can leave, even though your chest burns because you won’t see your family again for months.

I left my daughter there too, Band. My only child. I’ve always shared joint custody of her with her (thankfully awesome) dad, and when I left I had to decide if seeing her every holiday and having her live with me here in the summer would be enough for both of us…and that, I think, is probably the worst and hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.

But eight years on, I still feel like I made the best decision I could. Her situation is pretty well-protected from the worst of it: She lives in a rural area safely far outside the city, in a nice house, and goes to a great school with her three half-brothers, and again, we talk almost daily (she’s a teenager now, and getting too busy for daily :P) — and we have a great relationship. She loves Boston, and I’m SO glad she gets to have more and broader experiences than I did…my hope is that she won’t feel trapped in Michigan, and won’t have to make a decision to either stay in shit-town forever, or rip her life in half to get out and have a chance at happiness. Also, she isn’t stuck there with one of her parents being a miserable, grotesquely depressed mess, like she would have been if I’d stayed. That was definitely my experience — my Mom hated Detroit too, with every breath, but she never could stomach the hard change of leaving, so we never did.  And now she seems resigned to dying there and just…hating it the whole way.

I guess we all do whatever we can to do better, to provide better for ourselves and our kids, any way we can. Sometimes that means cutting your own roots, and giving yourself a chance, however much a long-shot it is, to grow in better soil, to be nourished instead of constantly poisoned by where you live.

It’s important to say this, before I wrap up this topic (which I’ve needed to get off my chest for so long now; THANK YOU BAND I’M SOOO GLAD YOU’RE BACK) — and that’s that I carry a dark fear with me always, a terrified certainty that at some point, I will likely have to give up my better life here and go back to D-town.

Everyone in that place is precarious, and like I said, my parents are aging and my brother needs pretty constant care and support; and we’re all we’ve got, really. I’ll be in a better place to help them thanks to the good career and vastly better health (physical and mental) I’ve been able to cultivate here in Boston — but I very well might need to give up all my progress here in order to give them that help, and I know that if they really need me to, I will.

So every time I walk back into Detroit, I know that I might get trapped there again someday. If I think about it too long, I’ll start shaking and crying, so I try not to. But that’s another angle that may be helpful to remember for all survivors of nasty situations:  A lot of the time, you don’t just get to leave your Hell.

People who got stuck there for a while can get out and never look back, but those of us who were born and raised in Hell can sometimes never get free.

Detroit is a place I’ll live with, even if I don’t live in it, for the rest of my days.

And it’s so hard to write that, because the rage, the ungodly anger at everyone who caused it and is keeping it going and is punishing all of its people with it every day, has never let me go.  It’s even somehow scarier, now that I’ve gotten some reprieve from having that rage as my resting-face, to contemplate being immersed in it again…but it’s not a dragon I can slay; it’s too big.  It’s my hometown.  It’s in my blood and my voice and my life, no matter how hard I work to cut it out of them.

Fuck you, hometown.

Infertility Is…

As we have traveled (and travailed) through our journey (ha!) with infertility struggles, I’ve learned a lot from the infertility blogs that I’ve read, and from our family and friends. While I do have to put myself on hiatus from infertility blogs on a regular basis, I am so thankful that we have not been alone through this continuing nightmare.

I had a conversation recently with my mother about my blog, and why I choose to make such a private issue so public by putting it all online. Well, if one person finds the Lord, learns anything about their own infertility and what to expect, or is helped in any way whatsoever, then this has not been in vain. That may mean just helping someone who is not infertile to understand what the people around them are going through.

Or letting someone several years into this roller-coaster know that they are not alone, either.

As others have done for me, I will do for them. This post is in that vein….

Infertility Is…

Depressing. There is no end to the feelings of failure, shame, and envy. Every Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or any other important holiday that passes without a baby in our lives is a kick in the teeth. Some days simply getting out of bed is too much effort. But we do it, so as to appear normal.

Frustrating. To not be able to do something so simple is incredibly frustrating. We cannot do what our bodies were designed to do, and everyone around us can.

…Humiliating. Everyone has seen parts of me that should be private. Everyone knows intimate details of our sex life and feels that discussing them is totally acceptable. Our pharmacist is nosy. Our doctor asks questions that make me blush, and I am not easily embarrassed. There is no modesty in infertility. Even at our very thoughtful clinic, I am stripped from the waist down and given a sheet roughly a half yard wide to “cover” up with. My bare butt faces the door.

…Learning to laugh. A man who loves you when Clomid makes you grouchy and when you have to prop your hips up afterward will love you through anything. If you can discuss cervical fluid and peeing on a stick, he’s a keeper. If we don’t laugh at the absurd, we will cry over everything.

Isolating. Even though over 10% of all couples in the US experience infertility, you may never meet or talk to another. None of your friends can fully understand, and your family may not try. When your infertility is all you can think about, they may not feel comfortable talking about it at all. Our infertility is never mentioned for the prayer requests at church. It is the elephant in the corner at every baby shower. In the waiting room of our fertility clinic, no patients make eye contact, ever. Infertility is not something you tell folks about unless you know you can trust them with your heart.

…A learning experience. Not many things give you the chance to learn to self-inject medications and learn words like hysterosalpingogram or ovarian drilling.

…Painful. Physical changes make my body hurt. Side effects cause aches, pains, and headaches. Injections and blood draws hurt, internal ultrasounds and hysterosalpingograms are very painful. Childbirth actually sounds like a cakewalk after some of this.

…Strengthening. If I can handle this, I can handle anything. So can my marriage, and my faith. Infertility is not for wussies.

…Taxing. “Trying” or “practicing” sounds fun, right? Try it for about two weeks and see how romantic you feel. Don’t forget to time it just right and to prop your hips up afterward.

…Disappointing. Every holiday without a baby, every month with a period, every new check up at the clinic because last month was a bust is a huge disappointment. Telling my husband we’ve failed again is miserable.

Scary. Words like premature ovarian failure, premature rupture of membranes, incompetent cervix, and intrauterine fetal demise are terrifying for anyone to hear, especially when it’s your ovaries, cervix, or baby.

…Hope. Hope is new again each month, thank God.

…Expensive. Having to give up on your dream to have a baby or having to plan your baby around your credit line is just sad. Especially when you’re paying good money for useless insurance.

…All-consuming. If you don’t learn to stop and find other outlets, infertility will eat you alive.

…Unfair. 14 year old junkies have babies they don’t want. People who lock their kids in closets get pregnant all the time. Why can’t I?

…Eye opening. Many men will leave you when they find out you can’t have babies. The extra-awesome one will stay, look you in the eye and say “That’s okay.”

…Finding a way to trust God and His timing even when I am on the floor, crying and broken.

A Letter I Can’t Send: A Letter to My Natural-Born Brother

Dear Bro,

The last time we talked, you had so much blame. So much disdain for my decisions and actions. You had guessed my motives from the biased stories told to you from people who were angry with me at the time.

At no point did anyone say to me, “Katie, these things we’ve tolerated from you are no longer acceptable to us. It needs to stop or you need to leave.”

I respected the boundaries Casey gave me without any realization that my behavior was triggering Hali. Why would I think that Billy’s appearance would trigger her into a panic?

After several weeks of living peacefully – with both Lee & Hali’s permission to live in their backyard, coming inside only to shower and heat up microwave meals… suddenly, I received notice that I’d violated their boundaries.

I’d been coming by to shower in the dark of night, and I always announced myself when I arrived during the day. Rationally, I explained the reason for each person that I’d invited in. You thought that I didn’t deserve the opportunity to fix it so that I could ease Hali’s mind. I did not even garner enough of his respect to let me know by text, call, or taking a moment to walk into the backyard to tell me to my face that my presence was creating panic in his mom. He acted without taking into account my feelings, situation, or ability to show respect WHEN ASKED TO.

He says I disrespected him and his parent’s house. Did I? Partially, yes.

I acknowledge that I did not understand that my actions within my surroundings (and the authority to bring guests (even short-term ones) in) were triggering others, but I was NOT incapable of rational understanding. My behavior was deemed unacceptable by Casey who never told me.

I am deeply hurt that everyone around me was so offended, angry, and unable to deal with my choices, yet too afraid for my sanity (or lack thereof) to confront me from a place of care, love, concern, and protection.

I am hurt by your actions and inactions as well, Sir.

You talked to people who knew me without explaining my version of those events and should have told them that my motives shouldn’t be impugned, as I wasn’t being malicious.

And when you diagnosed my “irrationality” to Casey, you didn’t tell him that we had had a conversation a while later (after my rational ability to understand had been restored by the State) when I explained my ACTUAL intentions and acknowledged that I could see now that people did not trust my ability to make sense at all.

I was hurt that you made no effort to tell Casey that I had given reasons/excuses as my actions were based on a skewed and warped sense of reality at the time.

EVERY ONE IS THE PROTAGONIST OF THEIR OWN STORY AND HAS A BIASED PERSPECTIVE.

I cannot accept that you understand me “better than anyone” because NOT A SINGLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION YOU SOUGHT HAD ANY CONTACT WITH ME AND AT NO TIME DID ANY OF THESE *IRREFUTABLE* SOURCES actually understand my motivations.

They cast me into a pile that they deemed “unacceptable to have any contact with” and I was left even more alone.

You resent that I – from your perspective – manipulated Mom & Dad into giving me money that I should have been ashamed to ask for?

You actually have the nerve to tell me that you love me and care about me SO much that you MUST protect yourself from any contact with me. Those two statements are BOTH true I understand that, and I’ve respected that – you’ll notice that I haven’t asked for anything from you since.

You are NOT a professional psychologist trained to diagnose whether or not I was, at the time, able to understand reality. You said that your experience shook you so badly and made you believe that I cannot appreciate any viewpoint but my own. This is not true.

What I find ironic is that you actually believe that you have SUCH a powerful brain that you – taking Casey’s word for what happened – are the SOLE AUTHORITY of your Sister. That is SICK AND OFFENSIVE.

You have no understanding of any person’s story but your own. This summer, I tried to understand the motivations of people around me and compare motives with actions.

Was I naive and taken advantage of?

Yes, however, I learn from my mistakes.

Unlike the people I was hanging out with, I had no problem acknowledging my mistake, explaining the reason for it, and promising that would not do so again. I truly believed that ALL people have dignity and value in this world and I believed that everyone’s decisions MAKE SENSE TO THEM at that moment.

I’m able to see others’ actions, disagree with them, but acknowledge that their perspective makes sense to them, even if I find their logic or assumptions wrong. Validating their actions were reasonable to them and then offering a minor change of perspective or asking a question to clarify their motivations and feelings at the time. Unfortunately, people began to think I was manipulating them. They distrusted who I was; they began to treat me as a a threat to their understanding of the universe.

I was very much hurt that my *only* natural sibling was incapable of contacting me for the 18+ months that I found myself homeless.

You offered no indication of care – or acknowledgement of gratitude – that you’d lived with me for 2 years without any income, you understood and appreciated my explanation for wanting you to stay – that I couldn’t live with my only brother homeless – while it was in my power to prevent it. I’ve strived to make you feel as though you were family and I’d always do all I could to ensure that you were safe and loved. You threw my generosity into my face. When I expressed ANY expectation that you contribute to the well-being of the household, in the form of dishes, other cleaning, money (when you had it), or an indication that you had any interest in adding to the comfort and happiness of the people around you, all I got was silence.

How did your sense of “honor” survive when presented with the *exact same* circumstances, but reversed? When I became homeless, you found yourself incapable of allowing me anywhere near you for longer than a few minutes at a time; you insisted upon resenting me for my inability to take responsibility for my life.

Throughout, you happily took Matt’s side. Your sister’s understanding of reality was so far removed from any you could comprehend based upon your limited experience and NO training or treatment experience. You disregard any external wisdom I have learned from talking to others about their experience.

You are so terrified of mental illness that you hide in your monastery of ceramic and Sony PlayStation and justify that being without any responsibilities to anyone – not even those (you say) you love and value – somehow makes you a superior judge of the human condition and supremely qualified to pass judgement upon those who fail to meet your standards.

I accept that my actions have landed me in this situation, and I am aware that your response to stress and drama is escapism and distress-avoidance. You run the fuck away from a situation you cannot fit into the neat little compartments that you believe all humans should conform to. Any deviation from those neat little boxes you quickly label, categorize, then promptly disregard terrifies you. You become a shadow of who you want to be, and my insanity terrifies your sense of the destiny you believe you control.

You are disappointed in me; that I did not meet your expectations for what you “expected” from me. It’s as if you felt no guilt about fucking off all of the family because Mom & Dad could fall back on me – a child they could be proud of.

Somehow you believe that I’d had some kind of idyllic life for a small moment. This meant that you were absolved of any guilt for your own lack of ambition and sloth, because you avoided confrontation and uncomfortable emotions your entire life, and sunk into early drug use to escape your feelings.

You don’t understand my life and my choices. You’ve never asked me (without accusations) about my life.

The only real message I got last month is that you do love me and were aware of my existence and the lifestyle I had fallen into. You had so much anger and disappointment in me, but honestly, you weren’t acting like caring family member reaching out to see if he could help, without approving of my choices I’d made, but that my behavior was so frightening that you avoided me. You wanted an acknowledgement that I hadn’t made good choices and an apology for the pain you’d been through because of it.

You take my choices very personally, Mike, though I’ve never held you responsible for my fuckups. I have respected your desire for distance and no contact. I had no desire to make you uncomfortable. I’ve only experienced your encouragement and care after I’ve made a mistake and you believed it wasn’t your place to say so, though your mindset is truly remarkable. It’s too bad you’re a coward for not speaking up.

You’re a smart person, Brother, but you don’t show respect to me.

Respect is believing what I tell you – or at least giving me the benefit of the doubt that I am not lying. Your experience of living through my mania is valuable to me, especially. However, you expect me to understand events EXACTLY the way you do.

I don’t.

I had my reasons and I went through enough hell – without any indication that you cared. You took over ten years to find a full-time job and never asked for anything that would inconvenience anyone else. That is your code. But you have NEVER even ASKED me how I define right and wrong –  because your understanding of the world is rigid, all or nothing, black and white, and while you understand that other people have different needs and desires, you have no respect for my choices because I don’t adhere to your rigid belief system.

You have no interest in understanding me or my story, Mike. You’ve never asked me for my motivation behind a choice you didn’t like, you only told me I was wrong after I’d done it. Life isn’t easy and I don’t have all of the answers.

You say I destroyed you. If this is true, I sincerely apologize that my crazy was so traumatic that you feel I have irreparably damaged you.

What I don’t understand is how you continue to internalize and make my choices ALL ABOUT YOURSELF.

Do you understand that my choices were made without you?

You are not my victim, Brother. And I am not yours. People do change over time – we heal and grow or we stagnate and stop learning because we are comfortable and complacent. I don’t know at what point you stopped believing that you were capable of change, growth, or positive change for yourself.

i don’t know when you decided that YOUR experience was the only one with meaning or value. I don’t know when you decided that you were too far removed to add any perspective or for your insight and opinion BEFORE I made decisions. We are evolutionary ultra-social creatures designed to live in community with one another. But researchers are wrong, in your opinion, because the fittest survive what?

Hell. And come out stronger.

The strongest people I have come across over my plethora of identities and lifestyles, the strongest are those who’ve been through the kind of hell that I put myself through. But they made a choice not to be victimized by their life story. They found the lessons and found ways to contribute – I have struggled with this.

Leslie asked me on the phone in January, which was “what does Brody (my boyfriend) give you, Katie?”

I paused briefly and answered: he gives me an interest in the future and a vision for what kind of life I want. He gives me a reason for the struggle and value for the journey that brought us together. He’s the smartest man I have ever known and the only man whose perspective I use; his viewpoint is a barometer of my ability to interpret reality.

He gives me safety and respects my viewpoint. He’s the only man who’s EVER told that me I was wrong and why. He cares about me and loves me – not in spite of my crazy, but BECAUSE of it. He has no reservations or “despites” in his love for me. I love, accept, and understand him in of fundamental way that NO ONE has ever done.

But you don’t care about that.

You believe that you’re “destroyed,” but that was not my doing, Little Brother.

The only control we have is in our response to the things we perceive. You’ve never had an interest in anyone else’s perspective. You don’t care what anyone thinks. You don’t get value from painful reflection.

Fine.

You are dead.

Because you don’t value any other person’s existence, and because you have declared yourself the sole arbiter of Morality and Honor without any interest in what others might think, you are, indeed a God to yourself.

And I have my own understanding of how the Universe operates. You have no use for my concept of God and your memory of me is not what you heard or were told about.

Sorry to disappoint you.

I’ve learned and grown and changed and I have more understanding than you EVER will of the way people DESERVE to be treated. I find value for their experiences and perspectives. You aren’t interested in my experiences and I think you’re terrified that the role you’ve put me into isn’t accurate, that you cling the me that you valued but never treated with any dignity.

Goodbye, Brother

I will always hope and pray that you find some growth, happiness and/or reason for your existence beyond your pain and escape from it. I will always hope that any report I get of you will be positive. You don’t believe in Luck either, so I hope you find what has eluded you.

–Your “Big” Sister

Psychiatric Hospitalization

In June of 2017 my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. She passed away in November. My husband and I have custody of our 11 year old granddaughter. Grieving is taking it’s toll. Last month I was admitted to the hospital for being suicidal.

I think about my daughter all the time. I spent every minute in the hospital with her for 5 months. Telling my granddaughter that her mom was dead was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. Whenever I go outside for a smoke, I think of my daughter. Whenever I drive the car, it reminds me of the drive to the hospital.

My mind won’t stop thinking suicidal thoughts. My brain constantly hammering me with negative thoughts. I’m hopeless, sad and feel out of my body. I don’t recognize my thoughts or myself. I am so lost. The emptiness is everywhere and I don’t know what to do.

I’ve been treated for depression for years and have had suicidal thoughts the entire time. I spent 2 days in the psych ward. I slept most of the time. I attend an outpatient program and went to a new psychiatrist today. He said my bipolar diagnosis was incorrect and adjusted my medications.

Broken

Me. Briefly.

The first time I used, I was 9. I stole some of my mom’s appetite suppressants. For the first time in my short little life, I felt like I could do anything. I forgot that I felt like I didn’t belong. Don’t ask me why I felt that way. I am an adopted child raised by a good family, so I should have felt fine. I truly believe that addiction is genetic. With dope, at long last, I belonged. I wasn’t afraid.

Life went downhill from there. I gradually branched out to other drugs. At 14, I was stealing my parents’ cigarettes and booze and smoking pot. At 18, I got introduced to what would become the great love of my life-meth. I really could do anything on that stuff-no job was too big, and my mind worked like a pinball machine with an electrical short-thoughts careened around so fast I never held one long enough to examine it, so I never really thought about feelings of inadequacy or fear.

Or shame.

At 19, I was tired of trying to make it on my own, so I found myself married to an abusive bastard; anybody who’s ever been through that can understand what I mean when I say that it destroyed any shreds of self-worth I had a chance of having. By then, I knew how to fix that-I used more dope. It didn’t matter what kind as long as it helped me shove those feelings of worthlessness into some dark, forgotten corner of my soul.

After 3 years of being smacked around, I fought back, left, didn’t look back, and didn’t quit fighting for a long time.

I went through a string of failed relationships for a couple of years, until I met “the one.” He actually started to redeem the male of he species for me. For a year and a half, I somehow managed to limit my drinking and drugging. Life was pretty good. I was living the suburban American dream.

In the end, untreated addiction always wins. I got involved in some unsavory business, running drugs up and down the interstate. For each time I got arrested, I made it through at least a few more times. I guess sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good, or I’d still be in prison.

My second husband finally had enough, and I got sentenced to prison knowing that divorce awaited me when I got out. Looking back, I can’t blame him. At the time, I was just enraged.

In prison, in a state far from home, I didn’t have drugs but I still had that fight in me, and the ability to stuff my emotions into some dark corner of myself and forget them. It allowed me to survive in a cold and lonely place. When I got out, I did what I always did. I got high. How else was I supposed to deal with my situation? I was 4 states from all I knew, being held against my will by a parole officer who wouldn’t let me move home.

Fast forward to 2005.

I’m on probation for yet another drug offense, headed for an inpatient drug treatment center at the judge’s (and probation officer’s) suggestion. I had reached that point where I used dope to become that static-y snow on a TV with no reception. I didn’t want to feel. I didn’t want to deal with the mess my life had become and I damn sure didn’t want to deal with the mess that I had become.

I muddled along for a while until I had a using experience so horrific I will never forget it. I had finally used so much dope, trying to kill my feelings, that I had used myself into a corner and it was that dark corner of my soul that I had been avoiding for 27 years.

The dope had led me right into the hell I had been denying from the time I first discovered dope at the tender age of 9.

I got clean, finally. It hurt. Detox can kill, and I guess I considered myself lucky to be alive, considering the way I had used my body for a toxic waste dump.

And I grieved the loss of the drugs. I grieved the loss of the numbness. I was FEELING shit again and it was ookie and I didn’t like it.

The human psyche is an amazing thing, with a remarkable talent for self-preservation. I managed to avoid the real problem: here I was drugless, and the big shitty mess inside was still there. Denial became my best friend. I felt no emotions (or so I told myself.) I damn sure didn’t show them.

For the first two years I was clean, I was involved with another abusive bastard. Got a busted eardrum out of it. During that two years, I did a good job of not allowing myself to feel much of anything, partly out of determination to deprive that bastard of the satisfaction of knowing he had affected me, and mostly because I didn’t want to look at that big shitty fucking mess in my mind and soul.

I did all this while calling myself a member of a twelve step fellowship.

Two years into my abstinence, the pain of my living situation became too much. Denial, toughness, bad attitude-none of it was working anymore. Without the dope to numb my soul, the big shitty mess in the darkest corner of my heart began to fester. So I got honest. Well, a little bit, anyway. Six months later, I was out of the abusive relationship. I was healing.

At least that’s what I told the world.

Until the physical aftereffects of the corrective surgery on my eardrum became unbearable. They also became a physical representation of all that was wrong with my psyche.

Broken.

I could no longer use those old defense mechanisms. I could no longer be the hardass, the tough girl who didn’t give a fuck. I gave a fuck and I was tired of being broken.

Aunt Becky, I cried. Like I don’t think I have ever cried before.

I cried for all I wasted. I cried over all the wasted potential, the wasted years, the wasted lives I destroyed with my sick spirit.

I cried for a little girl who never felt like she belonged. I cried for my mother who couldn’t fix her child. I cried for what was left of myself and for the parts of me that were lost forever. I screamed. I cried until my throat hurt, my rib cage hurt, my head hurt. I cried until my entire head was so congested I couldn’t breathe. I cried over all the sadness I had never cried over, I cried over all the pain I never cried over, I cried over all the fear I never cried over. I have no idea how long I cried. It seemed like forever.

And then I slept. I slept the sleep of the damned. Because as I cried, screaming about how I was tired of being broken, I realized that nothing could fix me. I was doomed to this existence of knowing I was broken and the only thing that ever made me feel whole was dope and I couldn’t have it anymore. It had been killing me while it killed my feelings, except it wasn’t killing the feelings anymore. I couldn’t stop using once I started, and once I used I became this horrible beast who got arrested and burned bridges with the people in her life. So dope was out.

I was, finally, alone with the truth. I was rotten inside and nothing could fix me.

At 40 years of age, I’m glad I can say that a lot has happened in the 3 years since I cried that night and screamed my frustration at being broken. I started working the 12 steps of recovery from addiction. I have a sponsor. I have 5 years clean. I have a reasonably good relationship with my mother these days. I am now in a very serious and mostly healthy relationship with the man who held me the night I cried-he is truly a good man. I am in my first senior year of college. I have been well trained in the work I do and have been working the same part-time jobs for 5 years now. I’m good at my job. I have a few friends-true friends.

Aunt Becky, I wish I could give you a happy ending. I wish I could say that I have finally progressed through the 5 stages of grief. I think it’s safe to say I have passed through denial.

Yet I still can’t let go of those old defense mechanisms. It is so fucking hard to express emotions. It’s just as hard to live through them. So I shop. I eat chocolate. I find things to distract me. Often, I stick my feelings in that dark corner of my soul. Even the good ones. I still miss the ability to deny their existence. I don’t know what to do with them, so it’s easier to deny them.

I guess it’s progress, being able to admit I have emotions.

Some days, I get so angry. Why the fuck can’t I be normal? Why oh why do I always seem to feel inadequate, less than, afraid? At least the rage can be empowering, motivating me to get up and try one more day to find a way to heal my sick spirit. If nothing else, rage feels good. It’s so primal.

Some days, I’m depressed. The possibility of spending the rest of my life knowing I am irretrievably broken saddens me beyond belief. This is where I am grateful for my adoptive mother-she’s my REAL mother. Nothing ever stopped her, and rarely did anything slow her down. She always kept going. What an amazing example; I believe it’s the only reason I keep going on my depressed days.

Bargaining. Yes. I do that. I make bargains with whatever’s out there-if you would just fix me, God, I would try to touch another life so some other woman doesn’t ever have to live with the pain I lived with for so long. Just please fucking fix me so I am not afraid, ashamed, and insecure. Make me not hurt and I will try to share it with someone who needs to know it is possible to not hurt.

Acceptance. Not so much. Today, I refuse to accept that I am irretrievably broken. Maybe that is where the twelve steps are beginning to work in my life.

And maybe that’s the happy ending after all.

Depression And The White Guy

I admit it.

I am a white a guy.

Alternately, I am half-Hispanic if I need to be, but really I am white – I have been all my life.

In high school, I refused a scholarship to a certain college because it was given to Hispanic (or half-Hispanic like me) students. I refused it because I am light-skinned and have always “passed” for Caucasian. I didn’t feel I was ever discriminated against due to my race, so on principle I declined the scholarship, deferring it as I felt it should go to to someone “more deserving.”

This one only one of many mistakes I made when I was younger. You might think this has nothing to do with depression, but you would be wrong. I declined the scholarship on “principle,” but it really was my best chance to go to a “real” college. I spent the next few years in a job that, although I was great at it, I hate. I got married and had kids way too young (not a coincidence) all while battling a depression that started when I was very young.

I made race (white) an issue in the title because white men are generally very privileged and should have no reason to be depressed. I won’t get into the specifics of my childhood here, but suffice to say that race played no part, but things that happened to and around me would cause anyone to develop depression. I singled out white guys because I knew a lot of white guys growing up and not one of them had depression, at least as far as anyone knew. Which Is really why I am writing this. That and the fact that I can make a kick ass margarita and don’t have to get up in the morning..

Men in general, and especially white men, are trained from birth to keep their shit inside. If you are happy you can smile, but not too much. Never dance with joy, never get giddy and above all, never fucking cry. If you HAVE to cry it better be because of some major happy shit, not you are sad or any weak shit like that. This is what you are taught form grade school on up. When I say taught I don’t mean in school –  it’s that every male influence in your life imparts this to you overt and in subtle ways throughout your whole life. You are not allowed to not be strong. For your siblings, for your girl, for your parents and grandparents, for your classmates, etc…you are the rock. You have to be the strong one. Period.

Fuck your own personal shit; if you feel sad, cry in a pillow when no one is around ,and then buck up and be a man, for Chrissakes!

All of this only matters because if you are a man (or boy, ergo, man-in-training) you are not allowed to be anything but strong.

Depression is not on the table. Only. It is. It is a real thing. Without going into my personal shit, I had stuff happen when I was young that didn’t necessarily cause my depression, but it sure fed it. It fed it really well, until that beast  grew bigger and stronger than I could handle but oh, I did handle it. I was a man, after all.

I doubt anyone who knew me as a very young man would ever think I was depressed. But I was. Some days it took more strength to get out of bed than I thought I had.  This on top of being married, a new father, and just barely out of my teens (I’d just turned 20), oh, and I was a MAN so I couldn’t show any sign of weakness.

So when the darkness came, and the darkness always comes, I just had to “suck it up buttercup…” and not show it.

At all.

Eventually I grew up. I wised up and divorced the woman (girl) I never really loved, battled with depression, the pain of not living with my kids anymore (that hurts me to the bone), and I got over stigmas of gender roles and all that stupidity.

When I got remarried years later, I even cried at my wedding!

I have lived most of my life with depression and dealt with it many ways, not all of which were healthy. I am just writing this to let any one else out there know It’s Okay. Whatever you are feeling, no matter how down, how black things are, you are not alone.

Reach out and vent to someone.

Me, Aunt Becky, anyone you know. Just let some of your shit go. Medicate, self-medicate (responsibly, of course!), do what you need to do to get by. You are not alone, not by a long shot. Things DO get better. I know some days you can’t see it, but it always does. nothing is ever too much. You are stronger than you know and worth more than you could ever imagine. Sometimes life, the world, everything is too much. Nothing I can do can change that.

Just ride it out. It’s a few hours, then you can let shit go, and deal with whatever you need to. Those that love you (and me and lots of other people in your boat) will understand and accommodate however we can.

Shit gets bad, but shit gets better.

I promise.

Welcome (Back) To The Band!

Hey, The Band,

It’s been a spell, I know, and it’s primarily my fault.

Let me explain: when I became homeless after getting sober, I had no money. I had LESS than no money after all the medical bills added up together. When that happened, I had to let go of most of my sites – unlike other sites, The Band was built on Django, and required about 30 bucks a month. Sounds pretty measly, I know, and if you can believe it, that cost was FAR less than the previous server which was 90 bucks a month – I’d been paying for it for several years out of my own pocket and I didn’t and don’t care.

My server guy paid for the site for an additional three months, and then, not hearing from me, he closed it.

No backups existed.

(As a sidebar, there were no missing Go Fund Me funds: the money I’d gotten went back and forth to The Band and Mommy Wants Vodka’s account, which is why this site was up as long as it was, even after I began my downward spiral. The bank account for The Band over-drafted, then closed, mostly due to the sluggish sale of the calendars we’d made. So, I paid the server out of my money. It sounds more complicated but it’s really not. The money always went to the right place.)

As  I healed from addiction and worked my recovery, I knew that I wanted to get The Band, whelp, Back Together. Unfortunately, with no backups of the site, it’s an enormous task.

Some of our volunteers (click to join), including myself, have been tirelessly working to get the site back to its previous life. It’s quite tedious, actually: we are copying and pasting the old data from the Wayback Machine. This would be why you see my name on a great number of comments and posts – I didn’t write all the comments and I certainly didn’t write all the posts.

The user data from the old site is gone, so each post is anonymous. I’m sorry about that, but trying to replicate that data would be an unnecessarily challenging event, as I don’t even have a list of emails for the old site.

When you’re ready to share your stories, you will have to make a new login (http://bandbacktogether.com/login) and here is a page about HOW to use Band Back Together.

The site, I’m aware, is a bit funky looking right now, but that’s just because we’re trying our best to get the site as user-friendly as possible.

Resource pages, like posts, must be recreated for the site, and as many of the pages were written ages ago, need to be rewritten and audited. I think I’ve done around 90, but there are HUNDREDS more to go. Here’s the master Resource Page, which may be a bit challenging to use at the moment, but will be easily accessible…eventually.

We have hotlines as well, tho they must be tested as they are also old.

If you’re new around here, welcome. If you have no idea what we are, let me make this plain.

The Band Back Together Project is a group weblog and nonprofit* organization that provides educational resources as well as a safe, moderated, supportive environment to share stories of survival.

Through the power of real stories written by real people, we can work together to de-stigmatize mental illness, abuse, rape, baby loss and other traumas so that we may learn, grow, and heal.

All are welcome.

When I say all, we do mean all, people are are welcome. We’re not a narrowly focused site, rather accept all stories – happy and sad. About love and loss, life and death, illness and health, mental illness, and addiction. If you’re story doesn’t fit into a boxed category, know that we will make the category for you.

September is A Letter I Can’t Send month, and October is Loss month. This doesn’t mean we’ll only publish these types of stories or these particularly stories will only occur once a year. We are always open and we are always accepting submissions – no matter the topic.

I cannot wait to see what stories you are going to share!

Any questions? Please email bandbacktogether@gmail.com OR becky.harks@gmail.com

Love,

Aunt Becky + The Band

*another thing lost to homelessness is our 501c3 status. We are working to build a board and achieve our 501c3 again. However we do operate not for profits – every cent goes back into the site and promotional material.

Danceband On The Titanic

There is a picture of me, somewhere out there, probably still on my dad’s phone unless they’ve turned into Christmas Card people, in which case, the picture is most definitely out there in the world for all to see.

I hope it is not.

I didn’t see the picture until I was 5 months sober, staying in the unfinished basement at my parents house, grateful that I was no longer homeless, while I hunted for a job. Before this, I’d been staying there after a stint at a ramshackle, rundown motel, the kind of place you probably could dismantle a dead body, leave the head on the pillow, and no one would think anything of it. But it was my room, and despite the lice they gifted me, I loved it. Until money dried up and suddenly I was, once again, homeless. I’d moved in there after I was discharged from the inpatient psych ward, in which I was able to successfully detox after a suicide attempt. Got some free ECT to boot.

(WINNING)

Despite what you see on the After School Special’s of our childhood, I didn’t take a single Vicodin, fall into a stupor, and become insta-addict – just add narcotics! No, my entry into addiction was a slow and steady downward spiral of which I am deeply ashamed. It’s left my brain full of wreckage and ruin, fragmented bits of my life that don’t follow a single pattern. Between the opiates, the Ketamine, and the ECT, I cannot even be certain that what I am telling you is the truth; what I’ve gathered are bits and pieces of the addict I so desperately hate from other people who are around, fuzzy recollections, and my own social media posts.

About a year and a half before I moved from my yellow house to the apartments by the river, Dave and I had separated; he’d told me that while he cared for me, he no longer loved me. While we lived in the same house, we’d had completely separate lives for years, so he moved to the basement while I stayed upstairs. I’d been miserable before his confession and after? I was nearly broken. Using the Vicodin, then Norco, I was able to numb my pain and get out of my head, which, while remarkably stupid, was effective. For awhile.

Let me stop you, Dear Reader, and ask you to keep what I am about to say in mind as you read through this massive tome. I’m simply trying to make certain that you understand several key things about my addiction and subsequent recovery. I alone was the one who chose to take the drugs. No one forced me to abuse opiates, and even later, (SPOILER ALERT) Ketamine. This isn’t a post about blaming others for my misdoings, rejecting any accountability, nor making any excuses for the stupid, awful things I’ve done. I alone fucked up. My addiction was my own fault. However, in the same vein, no one “saved” me but myself. There was no cheeky interventionist. No room full of people who loved me weeping stoically, telling me how my addiction hurt them. No letters. Nothing. It was just me. I was alone, and I chose to get – and remain – sober.

The delusions started when I moved out, sitting in my empty apartment alone, paralyzed by the thought of getting off the couch to go to the bathroom. Always a night-owl, I’d wake at some ungodly hour of the morning, shaking. It wasn’t withdrawal, no, it was pure unfettered anxiety.

It was the aftermath of using so many pills, all the fun you think you’re having comes back to bite you with crippling anxiety and depression.

Which is why I’d do more.

Yes, opiates are powerful, and yes, I abused them, but things really didn’t become dire until I added Ketamine to my life.

Ketamine, if you’re unaware, is a club drug, a horse tranquilizer, and a date rape drug. You use too much? You may wake up at some hipster coffee bar, trying to sing “You’re Having My Baby” to the dude in the front row who may or may not actually exist. In other words, it’s the best way to forget how fucked you are.

The delusions worsen as time passed. I could see into the future. I could read your mind. I was going to be famous. I was super fucking rich. In this fucked-up world, I could even forget about me, and the life that I’d so carelessly shattered. I remember sitting in Divorce Class at the courthouse, something required of all divorces in Kane County, weeping at all that I’d thrown away – using a total of three boxes of the low-quality, government tissues. I left with a shiny pink face and completely chapped nose and eyes that appeared to be making a break from their sockets. I went home, took some pills, took some Ketamine, and passed out.

I retreated ever-inward. I didn’t talk to many people. I didn’t share my struggles. I was alone, and it was my fault.

The hallucinations started soon after Divorce Class ended and my ex and I split up. He’d left my house in a rage after a fight and went to live with his sister. I got scared. His temper, magnified by the drugs, the hallucinations, and the delusions, grew increasingly frightening. Once he’d moved out, the attacks began. I’d wake up naked in my bedroom, my body sore and bruised, and my brain put the two unrelated events together as one – he was attacking me. It happened every few days, these “attacks,” until I found myself at the police station, reporting them. I was dangerously sick and I had no idea.

My friends on the Internet (those whom I had left), sent me money for surveillance cameras. I bought them, installed them – trying to capture the culprit – and when I saw what I saw, I immediately called the police and told them the culprit.

The videos in my bedroom captured an incredibly stoned, dead-eyed, version of myself, violently attacking myself, brutally tearing at my flesh. In particular, THAT me liked to beat my face with one of my prized possessions – a candlestick set from our wedding, take another pill or hit up some Ketamine, then violating myself with the candlestick. It lasted hours. I’d wake up with no memory of events, sore and tired and unsure of how I’d gotten there.

I’d never engaged in self-injury before – not once – so the very idea that I’d hurt myself was unbelievable, but right there, on my grainy old laptop, was proof of how unhinged I’d become. Charged with filing a false report, I plead guilty.

In early September of 2015, I decided to get fixed, and made arrangements with work to take a few weeks off to do an inpatient detox, and, for the first time in a long time, I woke up happily, rather than cursing the gods that I was still alive.

It was to be short-lived.

Several days later, sober, I was idly chatting with my neighbor about her upcoming vacation (funny the things your brain remembers and what it does not), standing by my screen door, when karma came calling. It sounded like the shucking noise of an ear of corn, or maybe the sound that a huge thing of broccoli makes when you rip it apart – hard. It felt like a bullet to the femur. I crumpled on top of my neighbor and began screaming wildly about calling an ambulance, yelling over and over like some perverse, yet truthful, Chicken Little:  “my leg is broken, my LEG is broken!”

I don’t remember much after that. I woke up in (physical rehab) and learned that my femur (hereafter to be called my “Blasfemur,”) had broken, fairly high up on the bone, where the biggest, strongest bone in your body is at its peak of strength. Whaaaa?

The doctors and nurses shrugged it off my questions, with a flippant “It just happens” and sent me home, armed with a Norco prescription, in November, to heal. I added the Ketamine, just to make sure.

A couple of weeks later at the end of November, I was putting up the Christmas tree with the kids and my mother. It was all merry and fucking bright until I sat down on the couch and felt that familiar crunch. Screams came out of me I didn’t know were possible, but I’d lost my actual words. My mother stood over me yelling “what’s wrong? what’s wrong?” and I couldn’t find the words. I overheard her telling my babies that I was “probably just faking it” as she walked out the door, my screams fading into an ice cold silence. They left me alone in that apartment where I screamed and cried and screamed. Finally, I managed to call 911 and when they asked me questions, all I could scream was my address.

I woke up in January in a nursing home. When I woke up, I found myself sitting at a table in a vast dining room, full of old people. For weeks to come, I thought that I’d died and gone…wherever it is that you go.

This time, I learned, my (blas)femur and it’s associated hardware had become infected after the first surgery, which weakened the bone, causing it to snap like a tree. They put me all back together like the bionic woman, but the surgery had introduced the wee colony of Strep D in the bone into my bloodstream, creating an infection on meth. I’d been in a coma for weeks. Once again, I learned to walk, and once again, I was sent home in late January with another Norco prescription. The nursing home really wanted me to have someone stay with me to help out, but I insisted that I was fine alone. In truth, I had nobody to help me out, but was far too ashamed to tell them.

The picture I referenced above was taken some time in May, as far as my fuzzy memory allows me to remember, after my third femur fracture in March. This time, I’d been so high that I fell asleep on the toilet and rolled off. Glamorous, no? Just like Fat Elvis. Luckily, my eldest son was there and he called 911 and my parents to whisk him away. I remember my father on the phone, telling Ben that I was a liar and I was faking it. I was swept away in the ambulance for even more hardware, and finally? A diagnosis:

HypoPARAthyroidism.

It’s an autoimmune disease that leaches calcium from the bones, resulting in brittle bones. It is managed, not treated. There is no cure.

But, I had the answer. Finally.

After my third fracture, I once again was sent to the nursing home, and quickly discharged with even higher doses of Norco, when my insurance balked, I’d used up all my rehab days for the year. By this time, I’d lost my apartment, my stuff was in storage (except the things that we’re thrown away, which my father gloated about while I was flat on my back) and my parents let me stay with them, which was about the only option I had. They couldn’t really kick me out if my leg was only freshly attached. I feel deeper into a depression, self-loathing, and drug abuse as I realized what a mess I’d made with my life. How many bad choices I’d made. How many people I’d hurt. How much I’d hurt myself. How much I loathed myself. How I once had a life that in no way resembled sleeping in my parents dining room. How I’d been a home owner. How I’d been married. How lucky I’d been. How I threw it all away. My life turned into a series of “once did” and “used to.”

The only one who hated me more was my father.

While we were once close confidants, in the years after my marriage to Dave, his disdain had become palpable. My uncle had to intervene one Christmas, after my father mocked me incessantly for taking a temp job filling out gift cards while I was pregnant with Alex. It may seem normal to some of you, this behavior, but in THEIR house, NO ONE was EVER SAD and NOTHING was EVER WRONG. WASPs to the core, my family is.

When I moved back in, broken, dejected, and high, our fights became epic. For the first time in my life, I stood UP to one of my parents. Then, I was promptly kicked out.

Guess I’m not so WASPy after all.

I want to say that the picture was taken around May of 2016, but my estimate may be thoroughly skewed, so if you’re counting on dates being correct and cohesive, you’ve got the wrong girl.

This is a picture of me, though you probably wouldn’t recognize me. I am wearing the blue scrubs that you associate with a hospital: not exactly sky blue, not teal, not navy, just generic blue hospital scrubs. These are, I remember, the only clothes I have to my name. I was given them in both the hospital and the nursing home, a gift, I suppose, of being a frequent flier, tinged with a bit of pity – this girl has no clothes, we can help. Whomever gave them to me, know that you gave me a bit of dignity, which I will never forget. Thank you.

I am wearing scrubs, the light of the refrigerator is slowly bleaching out half of my now-enormous body, as opposed to the darkness outside. There is a tube of fat around my neck, nearly destroying any evidence of my face, but if you look closely, you can make out my glasses, my nostrils, my hair cascading down. My neck is stretched back at nearly a 90 degree angle from my body, my head listlessly resting on the back of my wheelchair. My mouth gaped wide, which, should I been engaging in fly catching, would have netted far more than the average Venus flytrap. I am clearly, unmistakably, and without a single shred of doubt, passed the fuck out.

It is both me and not me.

High as i was, I don’t remember a thing about the photo being taken. But there I was, in all my pixelated glory.

By the time I saw the photo, I was once again in my “will do” and “can do” space. I’d kicked drugs in September 2016 and had found a job that I enjoyed. I stayed with my parents while I began to sort out my medical debt and save toward a new car and an apartment of my own. My spirits were high, my depression finally abated to the background, and I was tentatively happy. I’d apologized until my throat was sore, but my fragmented memory saved me from the worst of it, but I was not forgiven. I don’t think I ever expected to be. And now, I never will.

It’s okay. I can’t expect this. I know I fucked up.

My father, who’d actually grown increasingly disdainful of me, the more sober and well I became, confronted me when I came home one day after work, preparing to do my AFTER work, work.

My mother shuffled along behind him, Ben, the caboose. All three of them were in hysterics, tears rolling down their cheeks as I sat down in my normal spot on the couch. After showing them a video of two turtles humping a couple of days before, I eagerly waited to see what they were showing me.

What it was was that picture. Of the not me, me.

They could hardly contain their laughter, my father happier than ever, braying, “Isn’t this the best picture of you?” and “You PASSED OUT, (heave, heave) IN FRONT OF THE FRIDGE!” punctuated, with “I’m going to frame this picture!” The tears welled in my eyes while my teeth clenched, they laughed even harder at my reaction.

Like I said, if they’ve become Christmas Card sending people, this will be the picture of me they show, expecting others to laugh uproariously. Before I moved out, in fact, my father made certain to show the picture to anyone who came over. “Wanna see something hilarious?” he’d ask. Expecting memes or a funny cat playing the piano, they’d agree. I could see it when they saw it, my dad chortling with laughter, nearly choking on his giggles, the looks on their faces: a mixture of confusion and pity. Even in my drug-hazed “glory,” I’d never felt so low.

Maybe that picture is splashed all over the internet, in the dark recesses I don’t explore, and maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s hung on their wall, replacing all of the other pictures. Maybe it’s not.

Maybe we’ll meet again.

Maybe not.

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