10.02.2014

Dear Middle School Teachers,

Dear Middle School Teachers,

                I just received Sam’s mid-term grades, and I just wanted to say ‘Thank You’. I had some anxieties about Middle School, organization, time management. I’m assuming you’ve all seen this manila folder, Sam’s file. In my mind it has this large, red stamp across the front that says, ‘ADHD’. Inside are old Clearview nurse forms with medication instructions – first Ritalin, then Adderall, then, (frankly a lifesaver- screw me anti-pharma extremists) Strattera. But nothing for the last year, as my blossoming boy is med-free (screw me over-prescribing psychiatrists). The world is not black & white. Find your grey.

                The diagnosis you won’t see in that file (which if you had a hot minute to spare among your spread-too-thin, under appreciated time, you probably reviewed on a screen, but in my head it is a manila folder with a red stamp.) What you won’t see is his Asperger’s diagnosis.

                You know how I have to annoyingly ask you to send two copies of every important paper/calendar home at Back to School night? That whole 50/50 thing? Well, it’s not just where they sleep. It’s something called Custodial Custody. And it’s shared. And if his father, who loves him very much, doesn't feel it’s in his best interest to  sign the release, he’s not going to sign the release. And he has as much right to that choice as I do.

                So you’re in the dark. You may not know that Sam will absorb information well if you present it in a straight-forward manner, but if you make an analogy or use hyperbole to make your point (which is exactly what will engage 80% of your class, and I get that) you will lose Sam. Your concern is the class as a whole, and my concern is one out of your thirty students, and this will sometimes put us at odds.

                So I don’t expect miracles. But – that is what I got. I got a mid-term report that sent me over the moon. Much of that is Sam, and much of that is you, and I just wanted to say Thank You.

                                                                                                                Jeanine Pranses
                                                                                                                (Sam Carr’s Mom)


P.S. – you haven’t heard from me yet, because I spent most of elementary school micro-managing Sam’s education, trying (sometimes succeeding) to pick his teachers, his reading group, his disciplinary system. I called it “being an advocate”, and sometimes it is. But I didn't want to ‘warn you’ or ‘advise you’ – I think you know what you’re doing, more than I do as I didn't study the science of education – I wanted you to meet Sam with open arms and find your own way to him. And you have shined, and I am always happy to partner with you when you think it will be helpful. You can reach me at ________________________________.

9.30.2014

I could...

Well I need to write about something.

I could write about what I suspect is the unnatural amount of anxiety I feel every time Sam walks on the football field. How my mind flashes to scenes from Varsity Blues. How I can see, in perfect detail, CT scans of his brain after repeated concussions. (Or, I could write about how my heart soars when I see him on the sidelines, slapping helmets & exchanging high-fives with "the boys". I could write about he started middle school with a built-in social circle, and how all the anxiety I had about him not having anyone to eat lunch with was in vain.)

I could write about my new job. I could write about how licensure hold-ups have meant I can't prospect, and instead I'm just renewing current customers and doing a lot of administrative stuff, and have needed to take time off for family reasons and have a lot of anxiety about it's perceived. How I'm lacking the opportunity to do the kind of work which will knock people's socks off and how, really, knocking people's socks off is what motivates me at work, and I feel I'm failing. (Or, I could write about my boss called a meeting to tell me how great a job I'm doing. How I've renewed every account I've been assigned, and how happy management is with the job I'm doing.)

I could write about Matty. About how I miss him and I hate seeing him come home, exhausted, after a twelve hour day. How every two weeks I have to swallow unswallable pride and ask if he can spare an extra $100 bucks for the never-ending bills. (Or I could write about how much it means to me that he sacrifices like this. His time, often his body & well-being, almost always his sleep. Just to ensure that me, and our kids, can eat & sleep in relative peace).

I could write about my Mom. A whole post about how I wish she would take better care of herself, how I selfishly feel that not doing so demonstrates a lack of compassion or interest in me and my children. (Or I could write about how amazing it has been to have her live with us. How wonderful it is that she gets to interact with me and my kids every day, and how happy I am that they know her so well. How much I appreciate that she makes dinner, and does laundry, and keeps my kids out of daycare. How very lucky I am, every day, to have the privilege of her company.)

I could write about drinking, On second thought, let's not.

I guess the point is - maybe there's something to this whole positive thinking thing. To the idea that you can choose to focus on the bright side of life or the bleak side, and what happens next - WHAT HAPPENS NEXT - might actually depend on which you choose. It sounds useless to me, honestly, on the surface. It sounds like some bullshit I don't buy mostly because I can't afford it. But what the fuck? It can't hurt.

8.22.2014

The Middle

I like the idea of there being a middle. I know there is a beginning...oh how I see it coming and recognize it at the Arrivals gate. So if there's also a middle and there's a beginning then clearly there must be an end. Which is a nice warm fuzzy to curl up with at night.

I'm being dramatic. Of course there's AN end. But is there ever a The End? An end not followed by a uspecified period of "okay" and then, inevitably, another beginning? Another middle...another end?

I actually kind of like The Middle, though I'll have to backtrack to explain why. After an end (yes, its fucked up. There is stuff after an end, always). After an end there is a process. Sometimes - not always - a small moment of triumph. If it was short-lived, or not so...sharp, as usual. There are hours (usually days) of introspection. I had a customer service job once, where after every fuck up the team would sit down and have "an autopsy". What went wrong? How, in hindsight, could we have avoided it? Fucking process improvements, that's what I need. A workflow chart for my interpersonal relationships. So that's how I think of these hours/days of introspection...an autopsy. My team leader used to call them, "Come to Jesus meetings."

Was I exercising? Were there changes in my sleep pattern I could've identified earlier, and if I had could I have cut it off at the pass? What were the external factors - added stress at work, children having difficulties, some conflict with my family or partner? If so, how could I have utilized my self care practices to get through them without a spiral? (This process usually ends with something like "I should do more yoga" or "Why aren't I drinking the recommended 8 glasses per day of water?") Sometimes I think this autopsy is helpful, and sometimes I think it's an ingenious torture device, and sometimes - okay usually - I vacillate wildly between these two options for a time that, at the time, feels endless. The line between introspection and rumination is razor thin.

After THAT fun fest I generally convince myself I've learned my lesson and comfort myself with the knowledge that climbing back on the wagon - any wagon - burns a lot of calories. But then...well, then the doubt creeps in. I start thinking about Icarus or some crazy shit from a 101 - any 101 - Mythology, Literature, Religion, Science. Neural pathways and whatnot. Peer-reviewed studies. Centuries-old meditation practices. The best knowledge our world has to offer on easing the suffering of Depression. Now this is where the crazy comes in. Because these thoughts seem on the surface to be completely reasonable, and the time and effort it takes to eek out just how much is reasonable and how much is crazy...eventually I say 'fuck it' and go about my life. Every time. But now there is doubt. Now that I've had my end...it simply becomes time to await my next beginning. My next spiral. The Triumphant Return of the Tally Marks. Hours slept. Drinks imbibed. Voices Raised. The never ending search for Red Flags. The endless, exhausting self-care that is little more than Keeping Score.

The beginning can sneak up. The end is generally easily recognized & quantifiable, but fraught with anxiety about the next beginning. But the middle...

The middle I know like the back of my hand. I can recite it like poetry. Sometimes it recites me; we're that close. I don't enjoy the middle - that's the wrong word - but it is in a strange way very comforting. Because the middle is where the work is. The middle is "If I exercise every morning I'll feel better" and managing to half-ass it a couple times a week. The middle is no coffee after 3:00pm, even if that means I'm frantically pouring a mug at 2:59. The middle is a yoga DVD before bed more than 50% of the times I made that a goal. The middle is committing to only one glass of wine, having three, but feeling pretty good about not having five. The middle is progress. (Incidentally, the middle is usually blog posts)

I'm learning that I have some small measure of control over the middle. The beginning and the end seem arbitrary...I wait for them. In the middle there's really no waiting.

5.22.2014

From Float to Flight

It seems counterintuitive, waking up to the same beep-beep-beep alarm on your phone while on vacation. The first few days I simply allowed the sunlight to stream in to my room at 6:00AM, and it did battle in my mind with the lulling pound of the waves until the light won out and slumber was lifted. And it was lovely.

But, for fear of future regrets and mindful of the dwindling days here in the Outer Banks, set my alarm I did so I could be waiting for the sun on the beach. In my mind of course this took place with me sitting Lotus, blissful and unthinking and unaware of flies, wind, or the discomfort of sand on sunburn.

Beep-beep-beep, and I briefly consider turning the alarm off and snuggling in closer to my man (who is 3 leagues away in the ocean that is this King bed). But future-regret-avoidance pulls me up three flights of stairs to the kitchen, where I start the coffee. I make half-hearted attempts to awaken my children, "Do you want to watch the sunrise with Mama, or keep sleeping?" Yesterday they were very excited about this idea, this morning they have chosen the proverbial 'snooze' button. But getting to smell them all sleepy and sunny with remaining hints of sunscreen and new freckles growing was...sacred.

I am impatient and pour my first cup of coffee before it's halfway done brewing, making for a stronger start to the day than usual. I head back down the many stairs - these houses are beautiful and long and skinny and full of steps - and out the sliding glass door, grabbing a beach chair on the deck and heading to the sea.

Things are rarely as I picture them ahead of time, which is probably why I've tried to stop picturing things ahead of time. The sand is too abrasive on my red skin for Lotus, so I assume the Low Beach Chair Position instead. The winds insist my hair fly itchily about my face, and I think, "tomorrow I'll remember a hair tie" but almost simultaneously acknowledge that I probably won't. I curse my racing mind and attempt to focus on my breath, but my cigarette of course makes this difficult. I see myself clearly - not the zen princess sitting Lotus being one with the world, but the harried mom, clutching coffee & cigarette and cursing the wind as I try to grab a few child-free moments before a day of corralling sun screens and sand toys and swim rings and bickering siblings. I'm more than a little bitter about it, and desperate to leave this image behind, always, always aware that there is only three days left...only two days left...only one. I feel like Peace is something I came here to achieve, and time is running out. I feel desperate.

But still I sit. It's cloudy, and the clouds have mercifully given me extra time before the grandeur. I sit. and I sit. and I sit. I have internal dialogues about dolphins playing and pelicans dive-bombing for breakfast, at the same time wishing for silence in my head.

The pelicans though - they've stuck with me. They seem to have two modes - coasting effortlessly across the water, skimming the waves with the tips of their wings - and diving for fish. When they come up, they cock their gullets back and swallow whole. Then they take off - but here is where the effort comes in. Going from float to flight looks like an awful lot of work. Not like the coasting at all. Like lugging beach chairs, not like sitting Lotus. And I think maybe the float prepares them for the flight, and the flight prepares them for the float. And I am smiling when the sun comes up. Effortlessly.

5.07.2014

It's a Trap!!

Avoiding a serious (read: sober) talk with a loved one about criticism. Because, really, who am I to criticize someone for being critical? I'm not exactly on solid ground, here, because the go-to answer for the long-suffering loved ones of The Depressed is "You're so depressed & fragile that there's never an okay time or way to offer criticism without being insensitive." And that's, ya know, a little bit of bullshit - but if I'm perfectly honest it's probably a currency I've traded in.

Here's the best time to offer me criticism: A decent day - not the Best Day Ever because then you've ruined it, and the Worst Day Ever When Everything In The World Is Stressful because, yeah, then I'm likely to blow a gasket. (Okay, I'm likely to stomp off silently and go to bed, but that's to avoid blowing a gasket which I assure you is less pleasant.)

Now, this seems like a reasonable request on the surface, but (secretly) I know that it is not. It is a trap wrapped in an excuse. Because for me & my ilk, "decent days" are few & far between. Most days are either Zen Goddess Euphoria Winning At Everything And In The Present Moment or Jesus Life Sucks Make It Stop Now. So, clearly, my expectations include some eggshells to trod on.

And I am, cognitively at least (and always in hindsight) aware that this isn't fair. If there is no appropriate time to criticize me, than providing appropriate methods of criticism is pretty irrelevant, and there's a good possibility I push people to spew my many disappointing habits spontaneously for lack of a better outlet. Which, of course, makes Everything My Fault, or feel that way, making me defensive and incapable of responding to perfectly legitimate criticism in a constructive way.

See? It's a trap. BUT - here's what most people forget:

I didn't set this trap, and I am just as stuck in its jaws as you are.

2.11.2014

Save the Date

Some habits are born without thought. Being thoughtless is of course a defining characteristic of 'habit', but not all habits begin in thoughtlessness. Some begin in over-thinking.

I have developed a habit of not thinking about my future. Now, you know, depression blah blah blah...but there's a loooooooooong history there. Therapy from the ripe old age of twelve. Anti-depressants on & off since my early twenties. And this lovely blog for going on six (yeah, holy shit) years. And a lot - I mean really just if you could measure it it would be mind-boggling - a lot of thought. Thoughts about how to think, mostly. Whole years spent trying to learn both how not to think, and how to not think. (read it twice, it makes sense I swear) Long story short I have thought a lot about thinking. And in thinking about thinking, somewhere along the line I thought that the future was something I would be well-served to avoid thinking about. And that became a habit.

The reasoning, in a nutshell, is that a lot of "actively managing" depression (which is something I do, you know) has to do with managing expectations. One doesn't wish to be bleak, but at the same time one must keep constant guard against the kind of hope that can be detrimental, that can lead to unrealistic expectations and thus disappointment (which, in depressed folk, spirals out of control easily). This is well-traveled ground on this blog, I know. Bear with me.

So this constant, ever-present, ever-conscious search for the happy medium, this quest for balance, this vigilance...its exhausting. Have you ever been punished (or just challenged - boy, use of the word 'punished' here sure is telling!) by kneeling on your knees and holding your arms outstretched with books in your hands? (I have - camp, 1989, pretty sure it's illegal now). Anyway, its that kind of exhausting. And so, at some point, like, mile 6 1/2 on the treadmill when you're hungover, you just decide you can't do it anymore. Thus - i don't really think about the future much.

If you look for it, by the way, you'll see this approach everywhere. In self-help books, in proverbs, in Facebook memes, in cliches all the world around. "One day at a time." "Babysteps." "Don't bite off more than you can chew." That whole God-closing-doors-but-leaving-windows-open-because-he-doesn't-give-you-more-than-you-can-handle thing I never quite figured out.

This approach has probably served me well in more ways than not. Perhaps not professionally, and definitely not financially, but in relationships, friendships, parenting. Sometimes its becomes 'one hour at a time' and sometimes, frankly, 'one minute at a time' and I can say for sure that there have been days that it was the only way.

But what happens when all of the sudden you have something to look forward to? Something you should look forward to? What if, say, someone proposes?

People keep asking. "Have you set a date?" Given all I've stated above, you can imagine how insanely debilitating this question is.

I'm striving to sit with this feeling without judgement. My first wedding - I was really into planning it. The photographer, the florist, the venue...it was fun. (Who knew I should have been planning my marriage?) I focused on the event; perhaps it was a needed distraction.

This time around I'm ecstatic and comfortable (at the same time! Its a crazy-great feeling) about the marriage, but the wedding? The planning for that? That requires...dreaming. And dreaming, I have learned/internalized/completely woven into every aspect of my being...is perilous.

What next?

Aaaahhhhhh...the mix of dread, adrenaline, and preemptive disappointment that is contained in Blogger's little orange "New Post" button...where to start? We'll skip the obligatory "sorry I haven't blogged as if you care" thing, and instead begin with a heavily edited list of the many things that have made me think "That should be a blog post" these last months:

  • 734th post about meds, this one focused on how fucking ADORABLE it was that I used to worry about whether or not meds were a personal failure instead of worrying about how I cannot afford meds.
  • post about a recently perceived addiction to outrage, in myself and in the general public. Have you noticed how much people enjoy getting pissed off these days? We are some controversy-loving mother fuckers, sucking on the snark teat like there's no tomorrow. (This included a grand scheme to have the word 'teat' appear in my blog, perhaps with some consideration to page view stats)
  • annual post about New Year's Resolutions, and how they're still a good thing even when you don't keep them, and baby steps, and "find your gray", and lots of other things you've already read my take on.
  • post about money, because money is more or less what is stressing me out these days. It will cost $2.75/view to read this post. Pony up. (Fun fact - if everyone who reads my blog pays for this, I can afford a $12 bottle of wine!)
  • post about other things I could be doing for money. (read: new jobby job is no dreamy dream)
  • post about getting engaged, which has no place on a blog about depression as it is super happy fun time for real, but which is important to me and feels weird to not write about.
  • post concentrating on the anxiety aspect of depression, in which i recount my least favorite cub scouts meeting every year, where kids take turns using TABLE SAWS to cut pinewood derby cars while other kids PLAY BASKETBALL in the same room (gym) while I try really hard not to lose my shit imagining a finger-severing bloodbath.
  • post about hating snow, trying not to hate snow, and being disappointed in myself for failing at not hating snow.
So...those are the front-runners. Stay tuned. I got a box o'wine and am riding a serious snark spiral, so...the need to purge is strong!

P.S. - "Need to purge" reminded me, also maybe a post issuing sardonic response to super-crappy "Yay I'm celebrating how healthy i am" post from back when I was doing the gym rat thing three hours a day.