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Letter To My Younger Self: You Can Do Better

Dear Little-Kid Me,

Please appreciate being a child.

Take the time to inhale your grandfather’s scent – he’s the last grandparent you have and you won’t have him much longer.

Embrace the Puppy Love at age eleven with that boy who you will still think you love.

Try to remember every second of dying Easter eggs with your Mum – when you dye them with your own kids, every year, you will question how she made them so beautiful.

Don’t take your big brothers for granted – they have taken care of you since you were born, and not all teenagers would’ve been so willing to let their baby sister tag along as much as you did.

Embrace your whole childhood – when you get older and watch your nieces suffer, you will realize how very lucky you were.
———-
Dear Pre-Teen Me,

Don’t “dump” your boyfriend five-hundred times. At twenty-eight, you will still regret being such a jerk. Also don’t take him for granted – he was a decent, patient, kind boyfriend for an eleven-year old kid. Take the time to look at each of your boyfriends in a different light; one day you will learn they could’ve been more, but you were too blind to realize it.

Realize that just saying you think you will have big boobs doesn’t mean it will happen.

At least not naturally :-).
————
Dear Teenager Me,

Don’t be such a bitch.

As you get older, you realize that having bitchiness ingrained in you makes it difficult to have friends. People aren’t as accommodating as your teenage friends were.

Don’t let that one man pressure you into something you’re not ready for – sixteen really is too young to make the commitment you made. You will always question that decision.

When you are nineteen and fully disgruntled with life, you will meet a man who will make you realize that life outside of this still exists. He will be there for you, no matter what, for the next ten years (and counting). You did good not pushing him away.

Also, physical abuse is never okay. It gets better – it stops, but you should’ve spoken up when it happened.
Life could’ve been so different for you.
———-
Dear Twenty-Something Me,

DON’T sleep with that man.

Even though neither of you wanted to regret the act, you both will. An affair is never okay – regardless of how “in love” you are, regardless of your reasoning.

It will ruin your friendship for awhile, it will ruin your marriage for awhile (although, not enough to make you strong enough to leave), and it will ruin your soul forever. Even when everyone else has forgiven you, you will not have forgiven yourself.

IT IS NOT WORTH IT.

Please realize that your husband will never change. He will change long enough to keep you around whenever he senses you may be gearing up to leave, but he will not change.

He can’t be someone he’s not, and you can’t either.

Stop trying – just being you is enough for someone, even if it’s not for him.

Your twenties aren’t all bad.

Your two children will be worth it – you will see so much of yourself in your daughter. Know that entire first year of constant crying, up five+ times a night, constant demands to be held does get better. She will not be the angelic infant your son was, but you will see her fighting spirit every second of the way.

Embrace their differences – this will be difficult sometimes, but overall, you are doing a decent job.
————
Dear Current Me,

GROW SOME BALLS AND LEAVE ALREADY.

That man you met at nineteen still feels like he’s The One.

He’s still your support, your encouragement, your confidante, everything that your husband isn’t – and never will be.

Every ounce of your being (his too) screams that you belong together.

Act on it – make it happen.

Don’t keep letting fear hold you back. Don’t waste another ten years without that love. Your excuses aren’t particularly valid, no matter how you package them.

And quite frankly, an innate desire or moral conviction to only get married one time isn’t worth the unhappiness you’re causing yourself.

Sincerely,
You / Me

Unbearable Guilt That Isn’t Mine

My ex-husband’s wife had a stroke yesterday. She’s a year younger than I am. Mid-thirties is too young for a stroke.

I’m angry for her. I know what is happening to her right now. She’s in the hospital, she’s scared. Scared isn’t the word – she’s terrified.

I know what he’s doing. He’s sauntering around acting like things aren’t a big deal. He’s showing up and being caustic and sarcastic. He’s making comments about how much it’s going to cost him and how much of a fuss she’s causing. He’s acting like he doesn’t mean it, but she’s hurting because she’s JUST HAD A STROKE AND HE’S MAKING JOKES ABOUT IT!

He took a stranger up to her room today. She was crying because she didn’t know him and it scared her. He didn’t ask the guy to leave, he just let him hang around. Then he went to smoke with the guy for forty-five minutes.

Then while I’m having a nice rant about this, my mother told me that I shouldn’t tell my boyfriend things that would cause him to dislike my ex-husband.

She turned around and said, “I remember that time you cried all weekend because he took off and left you to go visit his old friends in his hometown right after y’all got married and wouldn’t wait for you to get off work.”

I really wanted to say, “Right, and then there was the time I was in the hospital because an ovarian cyst had ruptured, and he wouldn’t come see me because he said I WAS FAKING MY OVARY EXPLODING!

Then there were the times he forced me to have sex with him because I lived in ‘his house.’ Oh, and the time I said I was depressed and felt like dying, and he said I should go ahead and get that over with because he had things to do.”

All I really said was, “You know, he has to know what happened to me or he’s never going to understand why I’m COMPLETELY PSYCHO sometimes.”

Now I’m hanging out, not telling my boyfriend any of these things because, apparently, I can’t use my mouth to tell him things – I get a mental block with words because I’ll cry.

I’m so ashamed of myself for putting up with it, too. Plus, how do you tell the person you love that the person they accidentally introduced you to nearly fifteen years ago did all these things to you? Yep, my boyfriend introduced me to my ex-husband.

And there’s the part where someone I know just had a stroke, and I’m feeling sorry for myself. Oh, I’m feeling bad for her too; I have enough guilt and pity for the both of us!

I’m just going to lay here for a while and determine what feeling to feel next.

My Person

Recently someone came back into my life.  This person was my whole entire world for about three years.  They loved me.  Completely.  All my flaws.

This person made me feel whole. This person calmed every single negativity I had going in my life.

This person held me when I needed to cry. They listened when I needed to yell.

This person sat behind me and picked head lice out of my hair for eight hours when I cried because no one else in my life would help me.

This person was so beyond good for me.  Then I started letting the negative creep back in, I let the people who were supposed to care talk me into believing them instead of this amazing person I had in my life.   You see, I always knew I was a failure.  I always knew I would never amount to anything.  This person believed in me and my worth and well… I really don’t know. I have no excuses except I was young and dumb, and influenced easily by people who should have been supporting me, but weren’t.  I longed for THEIR approval and love, and if I didn’t have that, why should I deserve anything else?  I left this amazing person with a heavy heart but headed in a direction I was being basically shoved into for many years.

I married, had kids, was verbally and emotionally abused before I finally left.  Even after I left I tried to make it work. After all, no one else would want me.  During this time I searched out my person from before.  They were far away in another land.  They seemed happy and from what I could see across a computer screen, didn’t want me anymore.  I did reach out, I called, I emailed, I basically stalked this person.  But they had moved on.  I was just a memory to them.  And that was okay. After all, I didn’t deserve them.

Fast forward a few more years.  I still watched my person from afar.  I was friends with their family but still had not contact with my person. That was okay. I was happy knowing they were happy.  I met someone, dated for a few years, got married again. And I am finally HAPPY!  At least most of the time.  My old thoughts are all still there but I try and push them away, and am mildly successful.

A couple weeks ago, my person showed up in my life again.  Like a whirlwind.  They have never been far from my thoughts. I still watched.  But here they were in my inbox!  We have been talking and it’s like the last 20 years disappeared.  And I am right back where I was, where we were. My person and I.  And I am so much in love.  I always was.

And I am torn.  How can I love two people this much?  What do I do?  I need this person in my life, it’s like a part of me has been missing for so long.  Literally, it feels like I got my right hand back.  I need them to know I love them. Because I do. But we can’t be together.  I love where I am in my life.  I love the person I have chosen to share my life with. I love my home and my job. There is a half a country between us, and 20 years and a life.

But I still need them in my life.

I find my mind wandering a lot lately. The what ifs.  I find myself wanting to wake up in one of those stupid romcoms where everything is different, but it just seems right. I want to find a damn Delorean.  I want to go back and not be a stupid kid.

Dose of Happy Monday: Fresh Haircuts

Good morning!

Happy Monday, y’all!

Sometimes I look at my kid and he looks all grown up, and I can’t believe it. I think there’s no way that my 7 year old looks like he’s 10. He’s growing up right before my eyes and it hurts.

But then I realize his hair is really, really shaggy and I make an appointment for him to get his hair cut.

And just like that? Within a few minutes of cutting and thinning, he looks like my little 7 year old again. Young and innocent.

My baby. My happy.
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What’s your Happy?

Don’t think you have one? Look harder. Something will make you smile today.

We want to know!  Find a bit of happy in this Monday!

Ask The Band: How Do I Explain My Battle Wounds?

Between 2 and 3 million people in the US alone self-injure.

This is her experience.

I just want to start out by telling you about the gift God has so graciously provided me: I have an awesome, incredible, beautiful, rambunctious three-year old named Libby. She is my everything. Her smile, laugh, voice, everything about her makes me wake up in the morning with a smile on my face. She is my best friend, my ally, my stepping stone to true happiness.

We were sitting on the couch watching TV, and she was holding my arm with her hand.

She asked, “What happened, Mama?” when she saw my scars. I was in shock. I quickly changed the subject because she has the attention span of, well, a three-year old.

But I couldn’t get it off my mind. I know if you’re my friend or have ever been around me, you must have seen them. They are pretty noticeable. I’ve never tried to hide them; there’s no point.

I started cutting myself for the first time when I was 18 and a senior in high school. I was in a bad spell. This was before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder.

I lost almost 20 pounds in three weeks, I cut all my hair off, I spent hours locked up in my room, and I felt so… numb. Lost. Hurting so badly inside. I felt stupid that I was so upset and depressed. I thought I was crying for no reason, that I was being a dramatic girl.

So, I tried self-injury one night. It felt like a world full of black and white suddenly went colorful. I finally felt the pain on the outside that I was so desperately feeling on the inside.

I continued cutting.

It felt good and I loved doing it to myself, as narcissistic as that sounds. I didn’t do it for attention, necessarily. Maybe sub-consciously I did; I can’t really be sure. I didn’t do it to try and kill myself, either. It gave me reason for hurting. It gave me actual scars instead of the ones on my brain and on my heart. Real battle wounds instead of the ones I could only speak of. I used to hide in my closet for hours and self-injure a little at a time.

The closet is my safe haven in my brain. Whenever I’m super upset about something – when it’s really bad – I hide in my closest, most of the time with no lights on, and I cry. I try not to, but the reason I go to the closet is that is where I used to hide when my father would beat the hell out of my mom. I would go in there, ears plugged, eyes closed, and cry.

I stopped cutting after I found out I was pregnant with Libby. I didn’t do it for over three years, until July of this year.

I’d called my then-boyfriend one night, freaking out. I was so lost, in such a dark place, so afraid of myself. I collapsed mentally. He had to carry me out of the closet because I was shaking so hard.

I don’t know how to answer the question to Libs when she asks me again. Honestly, I’m afraid: I’m not supposed to be weak. I’m supposed to be her mom. Her protector. I’m supposed to be her knight in shining armor. How do you explain that to a child? I don’t want to lie to her, but I don’t want her to look at me differently when she’s finally old enough to understand.

Are they battle wounds or are they just a crazy girl’s self-inflicted scars?

A Letter To My Younger Self: Love Yourself

I wish I could write like our Aunt Becky, but I can’t. My words will be misspelled, my commas will be out of place, and there will definitely be run on sentences, but I swear like a trucker, so somehow I think I will fit right in.

So the back story is this: BAD shit happened to me when I was a kid. You know, the dad was an alcoholic, “show me on the doll where the bad man touched you” (I never told my parents, by the way), sister got preggo at 14, and eventually my Mom could no longer deal with it all, so I had to take the bulk of the bad shit. There were days I didn’t know if I would make it. Some days I wasn’t able to deal. I would burn myself or punch a wall just to feel…something. Still, it’s not as bad as some have dealt with and not the purpose of this post. I made it through, bruised but not broken. I just wish I could tell the young girl who dealt with all of that what I know now.

I have been talking to a friend who is quite a bit younger and going through so much in her life right now. She (like me) puts up a strong front, but if you dig just beneath the surface, you can see the hurt and self doubt. She sometimes reminds me so much of my self that it’s scary. When asked, we will both say we are “fine.” Every time she says it to me, my heart cracks just a little. You see, I know when she says “I’m fine,” what she really means is ”This hurts like hell!! My heart is breaking. Somebody please just take away the pain.” But no, it’s always “I’m fine.” I just want to give her a hug and tell her it will all be OK. I won’t, mind you, because that would make me seem weak or soft, or whatever my fucked up mind thinks.

Still, talking to her I got to thinking what would I tell my younger self? So I wrote myself a letter today. Maybe it will help her or some other young girl who needs to know it WILL BE OK.

So, here it is.

Dear Tonya,

I know it’s hard right now, but experience brings knowledge, adversity brings strength.

None of that makes a damn bit of difference when you’re hurting, but faith gives you hope. The hope that there is something greater brings a small amount of peace, even in the darkest times.

When you find love, it calms. Love doesn’t hurt, it heals, it comforts, it expands. Love gives, it should not take away.

If life seems to be spiraling out of control, find solace in the small things. Family, friends, music, words. These are your armor against all that will stand against you.

Remember that the lessons learned from the mistakes we make, and the paths we choose, make us who we are. Never regret them. To do so would mean you doubt yourself. Nothing or no one should make you doubt your worth.

Though it’s sometimes easier to forgive others than yourself, YOU ARE ONLY HUMAN.

Be as kind to yourself as you are to others, and love yourself as much as you do others.

Stand tall without being cocky and be proud of who you will become.

I know I am.

Tonya

P.S. If none of that shit works, there is always vodka.

The Adventures Of Alzheimer’s – A Humorous Approach

Over 5% of Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease.

This is her story.

Alzheimer’s is one crazy bitch, just like my mom.

Don’t worry; I’m not an evil daughter, I just decided to take the more, shall we say, “optimistic” approach to my mom’s disease than some people would. Also, I have a very warped sense of humor, which has helped me get through quite a bit throughout my 40 years on this planet.

I’ve already been through my dad’s stroke in my 20’s, Mom’s stroke right after, followed by the death of my first husband when I was 27, my dad’s death when I was 28, my mom’s slow decline into Alzheimer’s Disease, and so much more.

Humor has been my savior and my go-to tool for as long as I can remember. So, please keep that in mind as you read what I’m sharing. Because believe me, my heart breaks into thousands of tiny shards of broken glass when I really allow myself to think of the shell of a person my mom has become.

I miss my mom terribly.

It pains me to talk to her now; our weekly phone calls have drifted into bi-weekly and crossed over into monthly conversations, simply and selfishly because it hurts me to hear her so confused. There is nothing more that I miss than being able to talk to her – really have a normal conversation with her – one that I know she was comprehending what I am saying to her.

Even when I was at war with her in my teen years, I’d take that over what I have with her now. I wish I could have those times back, but I can’t, so instead of being hurt and mortified by mom’s words and actions, I try to find humor instead. Although there are times I hang up the phone and just allow myself to cry for her, for me, for us.

I have decided to blog various stories about mom that have made me chuckle over the years. It’s okay to laugh, I do.

——–

I should have known Mom was drifting toward Alzheimer’s when we went out to eat one night. While the cashier was ringing up our check, mom grabbed a peppermint from the large bowl of candy on the counter. She must have really loved those peppermints because she grabbed another one and shoved it quickly into her mouth while the cashier handed me my change.

I unzipped my pocketbook and Mom unzipped hers. I put my wallet back in to my pocketbook; Mom dumped the whole bowl of candy into her pocketbook and walked out the door.

I was mortified! I asked the cashier “How much for candy?” She just looked at me, shocked, and said “Don’t worry about.“

———-

One day I was lounging around, soaking up the sun, half watching my children swim in our pool and half daydreaming. The phone rang, bringing me out of my semi-comatose state.

“Hello,” I mumbled into the mouthpiece.

“Ma’am,” a Southern gentleman drawled, “is your mom named OCB?”

“Yes, who’s this?” I asked, my suspicion aroused. Who the hell was this guy asking about my mom? How did he get my unlisted number?

**Side note: even in the depths of her Alzheimer’s, she’s never forgotten my home phone number.**

“I’m Clyde, from the Pottery Mart? Over here on Airline Lane? You know it?” he asked.

I could see the big red building clearly forming within my brain. It was located in the town where my mom lived, about fifteen minutes away. They had a large statue of a rearing horse on top of their sign and I often wondered how they had gotten it up there. “Yes, I know it. What’s going on? Is my mom alright?” My suspicion had now turned to concern.

“I reckon ma’am. We don’t want to call the police…”

Police! What the hell is this guy talking about?

“…but it seems your mom has gotten into someone’s car, and she won’t get out. The owner of the car has been real nice and all, but your mom insists it’s her car, but it clearly ain’t; her keys just won’t fit into the ignition. She told us to call you. Can you come down? She seems pretty scared and, well, pretty mad.”

I was dressed and out the door with the kids in record time. On the drive over, never once did it occur to me that my mom had Alzheimer’s. I figured she was merely having an ‘off day,’ which happened from time to time since her stroke several years prior.

I arrived to find my mom sitting in a white vehicle (hers was red), with a gentleman standing alongside and another gentleman sitting on the ground looking a wee bit pissed. I thanked both men profusely, apologized countless times, and sent several thankful prayers up to God that they didn’t call the police or the EMT’s. I was even thankful that we lived in the South at the time and not New York. I managed to talk my mom out of the man’s car (I don’t recall what I told her), and I drove her home. My friend drove her car, and that was the last time my mom ever drove her car, or any other vehicle, at least that I know of, anyway.

This event led me to take her to the doctor for a full work up and her first official diagnosis of Stage One Alzheimer Disease.

———-

Now that I’ve brought you full circle, this fun phone call I had with Mom the other day prompted me to write this novella in the first place:

After going round and round with Mom about my weather on the east coast versus her weather in the central United States, and having that same conversation several times, she asked how things were with my family. She always remembers my boys’ names, but has trouble remembering Peanut’s name because she came along further into Mom’s illness.  We talked about the kids for a few minutes, then I shared with her that I bought myself a car.

Out of the blue, Mom remarked, “A car? It must be nice to have a car to drive wherever you want. I wouldn’t know since you took mine away. You know you did. I remember. It was red and I loved it and I shopped in it and I went to the VFW in it. I danced at the VFW on Saturday night. You took it away. Why did you take my car? I went to the craft store in it. I used to go…”

I could sense she was building up steam so I cut her off at the pass and said, “As a matter of fact, I do remember that car, Mom. I gave it to my brother. Aren’t you going to see him at lunch today? You should ask him what he did with it!” I snickered into the phone. I could see my brother now, sitting across the table from my mom and getting blindsided by this conversation. It would be a classic! He gave that car to his son almost ten years ago; who knows how long it’s been out of the family now.

“Really?” Mom replied, “He’s coming up here for lunch. I’m going to ask him about my car!”

Crisis avoid.

Buck passed.

Soundcheck 3/12/19

Hey The Band!

I’d been meaning to push this out on Fat Tuesday (could there BE an awesomer day?), but life did what it always does – ignores my plans. So here I am, Aunt Becky, rocking you from the suburbs like the Quiet Riot.

It being March already, I hope that you are having a good one, and hey – what’s the weather like where you are? Here, in the suburbs of Chicago, it’s vacillating from low twenties (heat wave!) to subzero temps. Perfect way to breed microbes, as evidenced by 1/2 the schools around here being empty – looks like the Influenza A virus.  Damn kids are petri dishes (OF LOVE).

One of the things we’re always (always!) looking for on this site is new content. I know some of the stories you could tell aren’t “as bad” as the others, but that doesn’t change them from being important – we’re not running the pain olympics and as far as we’re concerned, if you have a story, tell it. I know, I know, it’s hard to do, but it’s a task I’m making myself do, because it matters. All of it. It all matters.

You can even do it anonymously, if you so desire.

We do understand that it can be tremendously hard to know WHERE to start on any given story, so we’re giving you some writing prompts (aren’t we kind?). Feel free to add more into the comments.

This month, we’re featuring the always-popular Letter To My Younger Self and we’d love to see what you’d tell your younger self. Bring ’em on!

We’re also doing a Spotlight Series on brain issues – damage, accidents, congenital issues, genetic diseases, viruses that cause encephalitis, stroke, you name it. I’ve had several requests for additional posts on the site regarding coping with or living with brain problems.

And as always, we’re expanding. I know that a lot of the links and other things around here aren’t working like they should, but our very own Matt is helping us to fix this site and start it with a new look and ease of use. So please bear with us!

If you don’t already follow us, you can find us out and about on social media!

Twitter

Facebook Page

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Pinterest

We are always looking for new volunteers, so if you’re interested, please fill this out and we’ll holler at you!

Love and Pyrotechnics,

Becky

Dose of Happy: Almost Broken Habits

I painted my nails two weeks ago in honor of Susan Niebur and her almost-5-year battle with inflammatory breast cancer.

I’ve never had a period of time where I stopped picking my nails.

I don’t bite. I pick. I did realize a long time ago that biting them was pretty gross. But I pick. And pick. And pick.

Ugh.

I know it’s anxiety. And maybe even a little OCD.

But I painted my nails and wanted them to be perfect. For Susan, who would never see them.

I haven’t picked at my fingers in TWO WEEKS, y’all!

I changed the purple sparkle polish twice and now it has clear/silver glitter polish. They’re so pretty I can hardly stand it.

I want to pick. But I’m not.

My Dose of Happy this week is that I’m able to tap my fingernails on my computer and THEY MAKE NOISE!!

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

What’s your Happy?

Don’t think you have one? Look harder. Something will make you smile today.

We want to know! Just find a bit of happy in this Monday!

Ask The Band: Are Mentally Ill People Responsible For Their Actions?

So, The Band, I need your opinion:

Can a person be held fully responsible for her actions if she is not of the mental capacity to understand her actions? Can the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) wife be held accountable for her uncontrollable rage? Can she be held accountable for manipulating someone when she has no idea she’s doing it?

According to our court system, a person who is declared insane does not receive full accountability for a crime she commits. But does that line of thinking apply to mundane day-to-day actions?

Should I no longer hold my husband accountable for his emotional breakdown? The one that lead to him to order me to quit my job years ago, leading to a long period of poverty, near homelessness, my own breakdown and our thousands in debt?

Are we being too tough on those in our lives who have obvious limitations? Or is insanity simply a convenient excuse to the affair between a BPD woman and her white knight lover?

Right is right and wrong will always and forever be wrong, after all.

What do you think, The Band?

Archives

Welcome to The Band! We’re so happy you’re here. We are a group blog open to all. We put a voice to the things left unsaid – not for want of a teller, but for lack of an understanding ear. You now have our undivided attention. Please, pull the things kept in the dark and bring them into the light. Alone, we are small, together, we are unstoppable. Join us.