Tag Archives: Mental health

Reclaiming Myself

After a far too lengthy “sabbatical” from my blog, I am planning my return on the New Year. For those who’ve befriended, followed & supported me along this path, I am deeply grateful. After the “When the Map Flies Out the Window” & “…the Crazy Lady Entered”, I kicked my reclamation of self into high gear! WOW!

I fled my shrink- not without a certain amount of trepidation- and began a new path. My time and my energy, often hindered by Fibromyalgia & the accompanying “Fibro fog”, was spent on this massive and challenging new path of my journey through this world. Thus far, the choice has proven excellent, if not a bit strenuous; somewhat emotional and containing a little side of “grrr” at the previous years wasted in a stupor of meds and non-productive therapy.

I am now ready to return.. a few short days away..and hoping that I find my voice has gained clarity. A part of me feels my words may have come from one pill or another and that it is no longer there. The reality check comes from loved ones, who’ve retained writings of mine from so long ago, unfettered by a fog-bound mind & spirit. Again, thanks to all who’ve stuck by me and to those new people who’ve found me & not been acknowledged.  I haven’t checked in for awhile, so I didn’t realize you were out there. My lack of acknowledgement, though out of ignorance, is nonetheless rude.

See you in a few days! Happy New Year…and dare to throw that map out the window, it’s an incredible journey when uncharted!


..and then the crazy lady entered

Just like moons and like suns,         
With the certainty of tides,                                           
Just like hope  springing high,                                                                                                             Still I’ll rise.

                                 Maya Angelou        

I have ruminated on the things that I once loved about being me, just me. More than anything, it was a spirit of adventure, of following the journey wherever it led….and it led to some amazing places.

When I left that little town  back east, roaring into the night on a 1942 Indian  motorcycle  in which  I had  been at least halfway responsible for rebuilding and restoring with my own  small sixteen year-old hands, I never looked back. We rode hard for New Hampshire, a child’s romantic teen dream of escape from a world in decline and into a marriage about which I’d no concept. Small town New England held no charm for me. I was a high school drop-out with a mechanic husband and a little second floor flat in an old duplex. It was comfortable enough and I tried to teach myself the rudimentary tasks of being a housewife. I was a far better mechanic. The town itself was picturesque, with little squares, a diner where the locals held court and the fresh mountain air was foreign to my New York and New Jersey nostrils and lungs. I actually missed the smell of bus exhaust, the noise of traffic and the anonymous hustle by which I’d survived. I was not accustomed to being Mrs. (fill in the blank), the friendly and all-too-familiar local charm. It was 6 months before I demanded that we return to the world I preferred…not that dreadful little town that my parents chose but something more familiar. We again embarked on a night’s journey, this time towing the vintage bike behind a newly restored vintage car. My husband…a term so ridiculous in retrospect, considering my age, obliged me in every way possible. Three months later, a friend of his introduced me to pot…in my mind, akin to heroin! It was not.  It was good and I began to look at the world around me and realize that it was 1968 and everything was changing. There was an excitement in the air that had never been and I wanted to know , to be part of it. I did the only thing I could..I called my mother and her fiancé and requested refuge. My mother was delighted to accommodate me and sent Charlie, her soon-to-be husband, to get me quickly, lest I change my mind. It didn’t take long to realize that I had no forgiveness in my heart for the past and the situation with my mother grew untenable. My step-father was the only buffer in a simmering war between us. I had no money, no prospects, no aim but I left.

I wandered back into New York where I found everything imaginable happening! Being born in Brooklyn, it was always home to me and my love affair with New York has never waned. I love the noise, the people, the 24/7 life that I’ve never found anywhere else. At that time, movements of all sorts were afoot: civil rights, women’s rights, anti-war and everything in-between. I attended the first Earth Day in Central Park! I still look at old news footage of marches, so many in New York, knowing that I was among the thousands of faces in the crowds. The reality, though, was that I needed money of some kind, so I found a receptionist position in a county office, which led not to the drudgery I feared but to more freedom. I worked for brief periods but most of my time was spent on activism, hanging around college campuses, experimenting with minor drugs and living on and off in a commune. When I grew restless, as was my habit, I would hit the open road with my thumb out and off to parts unknown. During one of my trips to see my family for the holidays, I happened into a store where I met a Puerto Rican conga drum player, all looks and charm, living in Hoboken,, N.J. and there I was again. I had a great apartment on the first floor of a brownstone, the park featured in “On the Waterfront” across the street. I took a job in the garment district and spent six months in a crazy life of playing it straight by day and spending nights in Latin clubs with my heroin addict and barely English-speaking lover. Then I woke up. He disdained my politics, my commune past and my feminist ways and I abhorred his drug-addicted, womanizing failures. Again, I left. Back to the farm in Canada, to heal my wounds, regain my wits and grow restless for more travel…and yearning to be free of the sub-zero temperatures and hip-deep snow. The farm was spectacular in other seasons but winter was brutal and I was not made for that…nor am I a farmer. So, I rolled some cigarettes, a little weed, donned my hiking boots and layers of clothing and headed to the Trans-Canadian Highway with the first person willing to drive me the 15 miles out. On it went…

More trails than I could have imagined, more people who became friends, still fondly remembered, more impulsive but priceless experiences. I met another love: he on his post-college summer and me with my thumb out. We married in Los Angeles and, lo and behold, I once again ended up in suburban New Jersey! What were the odds? I tried my best to be a suburban working wife, converted to Judaism and had cocktail parties for people who I considered vapid and annoying. I lied my way into a management position at a chain bookstore, where I worked for several years…my respite from the Short Hills Mall women by whom I was surrounded. I soon found a guru fresh from India and that, along with my ongoing consumption of pot, kept me there for six years before the dam broke. It was an emotionally wrenching time: I was leaving a man I did not want to hurt but staying was worse; my father was dying a long and slow death from a broken heart which he drowned in alcohol and my company had me under pressure for transfer to the second largest store in the chain…in Los Angeles! My divorce was final in March, my father passed away in May and I took my transfer in July. I left all I knew to begin again. Success was short-lived. I was still grieving, trying to fix a business that I was sent to troubleshoot and one day, I tossed it all. I ended up living in the desert, trying my hand at alcohol. The party didn’t last long and I did get and stay sober for many years. Life settled into a pleasant groove.

I figured it was time for that G.E.D., followed by college and an Engineering degree. I acquired a nice vintage (of course) restored Mercedes, had a townhouse at the beach  and , best of all, a great group of people in a 12-Step program. I married again, moved to Oregon where I found love at first sight in Portland. It was the first place since childhood that felt like home to me. My marriage didn’t last but life in Portland did.

I made wonderful friends, took up activism on other fronts, returned to college and then university. I majored in Political Science, minored in Journalism and Creative Writing; transferred on to another school and left to work full-time on a major political campaign, followed by a stint in the Senate Majority Office. When I left, I went to an art school.I was independent, outrageous, self-appointed “Hostess at the Party of Life”. I worked and lived among many dear people who were at the center of the HIV/AIDS crisis and lost many friends to this still ongoing plague. I still thrived until I made one last, really bad choice.

I returned to my family of origin, thinking I had a place at the table. The results of that have been recounted in earlier posts. I am back in my beloved Portland now, blessed with an exceptional man who loves me as I am, a cat and a companion dog round out our little family. As I’ve noted before, it has been a decade if curses and blessings, about evenly split. I am still healing, the emotional and physical toll remains and while my spirit rises, my body has taken on the burden of the trauma. My material possessions are few and I teeter on bankruptcy, living below the poverty levels, but I am alive and blessed. I have regained extended family that I believed lost to me forever and these things buoy my spirits on the days when I think I cannot face another sunrise under these circumstances. Gradually, in spirit anyway, I am re-entering my own. I try not to look too far ahead, but stay close to present. It is what I must do if I am to succeed.

Oh yes, and laugh..more at myself than others, often irreverently, sometimes sardonically, but laugh nonetheless. If I lost that capacity, I would truly be mad. The jury is still  out on that.

They Like Me! They Really…wait, I’m not Sally Field here.

“I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.”                    

                                                               Katherine Hepburn

This is my best friend, Harry. He is awesome! We are inseparable, it was love at first sight & he is my “companion animal”. Harry is unfailingly present, loves without condition, is without judgement, listens to me whether I’m complaining or recounting some good news..yes, we have long conversations. He doesn’t care what I look like and is always happy to see me. It’s hard for we humans to live up to that kind of Buddha-nature. I know I don’t and I’ve been terribly disappointed when other people fail as well.

Many of the good people who lived around me when I first moved into this area and found my world crumbling have since moved on. That’s okay…it’s what we do. They were more than just neighbors. They were friends. Self-appointed, at first; guardians in my grief; entertainment when I needed a laugh and social directors when I cloistered myself. Over the years, it became give and take and we shared holidays and special occasions, laughter and tears, life’s trauma and drama and all the other things that go into friendship….and professed our love and bonds with each other. To me, that means something and I assume it does to others. So, where did that all go when each moved as close as shouting distance or as far as a 3 hour drive? I’m still here, but they’ve all but vanished from my life. Yes, I’m hurt.

One who lives nearby comes around at what seem  moments of opportunity or crisis. Visits usually finished with promises of a girls’ night out or some other activity that we once enjoyed. They never come to fruition. Much in the same way, my friend who retired and moved farthest…to a dream place for me…spent years begging me to join her on her pre-retirement weekend jaunts. I eventually did and loved every moment. It is a wonderful place! When she left for good upon retiring, it was with many heartfelt words  to me, I cried and she made me promise to use the open invitation she had extended. She even broke down and got a pc to keep in touch with her friends here. I’ve received exactly one email in 4 months and saw her on one occasion when she had an appointment in town and dropped by the apartment to see her son, who still lives here. We had an all-too-rushed visit,  loaded some things into her car, I cried again and she drove off. I, of course, agreed that I would come to see her soon and she assured me that her door was always open. Not an email or call since. I did call her last month on a whim, asking if I could drop in for a couple of days. She agreed that I could take the bus out…4+ hours…spend the night and return home the next day! Now, why would I spend 8 hours total riding a bus, to spend maybe 6 hours total visiting and the rest sleeping? I wouldn’t and I didn’t. To say I felt out off would be an understatement.

So, what’s the answer? I don’t know. I find myself caught between being reluctant to open up to new friendships and finding new friendships…albeit, online…that seem more meaningful than the ones I spent years living with daily. As in love, so it is in my friendships: I try to give of myself, be present, drop what I’m doing if needed, work at overcoming my fear of not being as good as those around me. I am left to suppose, that as it says in the little picture on the left, just take another shot. The world is full of amazing people who do have the capacity to be good and honest friends, to not feel obligated to pretend or speak in empty platitudes, wo can even enjoy each other’s silences. My dearest and truest friends have either passed away or are geographically out of daily reach. I find myself lonely for the company of those with whom I can share…good talk, new books, something newly discovered,maybe a little gossip and always a laugh or two. That’s when I realize that I have limited in common with those in whom I feel such disappointment. With one, it is books & the sea; with another, it is hip-hop and being rowdy girls. Overall, not well-rounded and deep relationships that will span decades….hell, they’ve faded as the saying goes: “out of sight, out of mind”. Yet, I cared and do care enough about these people to feel pained by their actions..or lack of.

Again, I ask myself why I should be so disappointed. The answer remains the same: I don’t exactly know. I guess I believed these people worked hard to open me up, to bring me back into the world, to be my friends even when I was not particularly loveable. So getting dropped on one’s ass, as it were, makes it all seem so senseless. For all of my attitude, for all of my armadillo-like exterior, I am still that shy little girl who never wanted to be noticed, lived through a fair share of bullying and didn’t believe anyone would really like me if they got to know me.

Life doesn’t come with a handbook, so we’re all just winging it…some better than others.My dog hasn’t run away, my cat still loves me & my fiance has the patience of Job, so I must be doing something right. I know I have qualities to bring to the table and, at my age, I can’t believe I’m still trying to figure out how to meet new playmates! We grow, the scenery changes, but it’s still the schoolyard and many are still finding their niche.

Taking Charge of My Own Roadshow


It’s taken only about a decade and wondering where “I” went to begin putting the pieces back together. It was a case of Dylan Thomas being right, for me literally: I could not go home again, but I tried and ended up very broken.

letting go

The hardest part is acknowledging that I set myself up for the long fall. I can grasp the concept of having a certain respect for my birth parents for being the vessels by which I arrived here. I could not grasp what they found so objectionable as to deeply disrespect my presence.I am beginning to accept that their issues were not my business. The fact is that I do exist and am obliged to live the best life I can. I have not been doing so. The past decade was one of brutality to myself beyond what another could commit.  

At every turn, I chose incorrectly, recklessly and in doing so, I  paid dearly. The Laws of Attraction, as one new friend reminds me, are there for our higher purpose. My own Laws of Attraction were bringing moving through ...tragedy and trouble from all corners and I became mired in my punishment. How can one expect the greatness that is all around to penetrate a prison of our own design? The answer is simple: it cannot. The prison becomes a solitary cell built on victimization and deceit. I became a victim of circumstances and deceived myself as to my part in the building of the cell.Choice was always present. I walked among the living but remained untouched by them. I had all the world to travel the good road but I stayed in the increasingly darkening alleys until the only safety was the cell..or as told by physicians, PTSD and Panic Disorder.

I believe that all emotion, all choice of action come down to two emotions: fear or love. The capacity to live in love has long been lost to that of fear. Fear manifested as judgement, lack of compassion, unkindness to the point of cruelty and a plethora of other negative manifestations…I gave as good as I got and then heaped more upon myself. Lack of compassion for oneself is as egregious as lack of compassion for others. One cannot offer what one does not own.


Love and Fear
Love and Fear (Photo credit: SavingE)

I have turned a corner and begin healing. Instead, I regressed and my world grew smaller, thinking it was me. Then I found the compassion, beginning with myself, as I believe one must. For many years I trusted others…mostly medical providers…to point me the direction of  healing only to be moved  in the opposite direction. Recently, a bell went off in my head. For all the years I wanted me back, I was taking all the wrong roads. “I” was not  to be found inside the blue-green, blue or white pills. Nor was my compassion, a commitment much beyond my own four walls or my soul. That little shaft of light creeping through the crack of my cell was a lifeline and I grabbed it. Soon, I was researching, prying at the door, finding myself stepping out onto the dark paths that led here…and as I took my first tentative steps, I found more light ahead! I kept moving towards it. I was soon at a crossroads and I chose the lighter one finding the tools  I’d been dropping along the way.

I began to research and found that many of my symptoms could be exacerbated by the very medications that were intended to help. After extensive reading and comparisons, I called the prescribing doctor and advised that I wanted to begin the delicate path back by being properly withdrawn from these addictive and dangerous pills. This option, in itself, is apparently a long and very carefully plotted process. Though I had brought this option up before,it was as though I had never mentioned it! I began to feel resentment: that I wasn’t fully apprised of the ramifications; that they could have played a hand in my worsening symptoms; that I may have been better served by being referred to a more specialized provider and, above all, that my previous attempts to discuss  options of stopping these substances had not been heard! I, however, have neither the time nor the luxury for resentment…they could only worsen things. Next, I contacted my family physician to review my current physical challenges as well as to discuss my mental health treatment decisions, She was delighted and helped me find the next turn in my path. I was elated, especially at having some validation of my new decisions.

I look forward to this new path. I am to meet with a new provider, be re-evaluated and then move on to someone who can help me to acquire the coping skills I’ve studied up on, be weaned off the pills that have taken me from a world view to a pinpoint of vision and take the baby steps that will lead me back to myself…only better. I would say 2.0 but I’ve already been through too many changes to count.

Now, I’ll get to return to me and back on the path of aspirations that I held before the tragedies set in, the downward spiral picked up enough speed to bring the meltdown and I was medicated into near-somnambulance. For the first time in a long time, I am excited about life and what’s ahead. I’m as excited for those around me to finally meet the real me and be part of my progress.Blessed with amazing people and I look forward to being among them and not just being in need of them. I’ve got a lot of giving back to do!

The Warrior I Forgot

The warrior I forgot was me; my guardian whose name is part of mine; whose images  inked on my arms. Morrigan…fierce, Celtic, not  taken lightly. I come from a long line of a warrior clan, survivors in the “old” world and the “new”.
In my last 2 posts, I opened up my own Pandora’s Box in public.

It's All Coming Back to Me Now
It’s All Coming Back to Me Now (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Public being outside of a select few people; a couple of therapists and, long ago, in closed courtrooms. To share this with the world was meditated upon for some time & not done lightly. Turns out, it was one of the most freeing decisions. I come from a long line of a warrior clan, survivors in the “old” world and the “new”.

 Beyond all the therapy, one-on-ones with friends & family, etc, this affected me more than all combined. It reminded me of who I once was before PTSD, Depression, Agoraphobia & Panic Disorder set in a few years ago following a long period of multiple trauma. I was fierce, unafraid, a warrior. I’ve wondered where “I” went after all that and would I ever get “me” back. I began to reflect on this: the physical disabilities that plague my body daily & the mental health issues that can rear their ugly heads at any time. As if the sun broke through the fog that I feel surrounding me, an answer came…and with it, the “me” that I’d missed began to come through. The Warrior!

I am not ungrateful to modern medicine and. certainly, my physical issues benefit from them. Now I do, however, take issue with the often well-meaning members of the Psychiatric community. I realize that the reasons I felt lost are complicated and multi-faceted. The first being that I was a member of 12 Step communities, which served me well until I stopped serving myself; the next was listening to a therapist with whom I have had a long-standing and seemingly positive relationship. In retrospect, I believe that all good intentions went awry by one who did not deal with a patient who had problems of this magnitude. I talked, the good doctor listened, when sessions ended, I was given prescriptions to “help” ease the symptoms. The problem was, we spent 6 years never addressing solutions. I suddenly came to realize, and verify through research, that I have been consuming 2 highly addictive medications for far longer than recommended. I had, over time, discussed “stepping down” from them, understanding that one could not just stop them. I never realized the depth of their addictive qualities nor the lengthy process involved in being done with them.

Modern drug ampoules
Modern drug ampoules (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I asked my provider a few days ago if we could please begin this process & he stated that he was happy that I was willing! Where was he on the other occasions I had broached the subject? What else had I talked about that he did not hear? I began to realize that I rarely got any feedback, just a $275. an hour listener. It both saddened and angered me. Hello? Was I merely a voice in the wind? I tried to make sense of why someone would let me go on that long if I presented issues not within their scope. I tried to understand how someone could speak to me of addiction and at the same time dole out addictive substances so readily. Was it for lack of an answer? I like this person very much but I am also enraged at the years I feel were wasted. I am now in a fog, stepping down my dosages of the meds in question. I am taking back my power on all fronts, but especially with my doctors.

I am seeing my general practitioner this week to review my physical issues and request further testing as I suspect there is more than currently diagnosed. Symptoms that don’t make sense. I pray it is not so, but if it is, I want to be present in my care. As to my shrink, I guess I can follow instructions while I debate how to bring closure and find someone more suitable to my needs. There are groups I would like to enter but I must be off of the addictive meds first.

This is not so grim as it sounds. I am elated that I have some answers…that I am on the road back to “me” with an explanation of where it all got lost. I know that I will still suffer bouts of PTSD and all of the other issues, but I am learning new tools to deal with them. The only fog I may feel from time to time will be Fibro Fog & that I can deal with. This is one Pandora’s Box that deserves to be opened….not scary, but exciting. I am looking forward to sharing this journey…

English: Pandora's Box
English: Pandora’s Box (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Letting Go & Moving Forward

English: A view of Mount Hood from the Rose Ga...
English: A view of Mount Hood from the Rose Gardens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Portland at dusk, looking east to Mt. Hood and the moon rise….it doesn’t get much more beautiful than this! After a lengthy period of change, leaving me with some challenges to face daily, I am prepared to move on to acceptance, not resignation; to change that which is within my power, not dwell in powerlessness.

It has taken a long time to reach this place and it began, as with most change, unexpectedly. The new year brought me one challenge and that was to start this blog, using the “mantra” of fearlessness to bring my writing to light. I did begin in January but circumstances found me stepping back into the world of my journals, Netflix and solitude. I mourned the loss of a friend while also mourning physical issues that demanded major life adjustments which then triggered PTSD, anxiety & Agoraphobia issues anew. I spoke openly on FB and to loved ones of these things and knew I must present myself as the most negative person , all the while unable to stop. There were even those who, though well-meaning, could not understand that what I faced did not even offer satisfactory medical answers. This increased my frustration with those around me until isolation from them was easier than explaining myself ad infinitum. After all, if there were no satisfactory answers for me, how could I explain to others? Frankly, I would have preferred to slap the crap out of te more witless among them…better to discourage them from imposing their trite suggestions or the infuriating implications that I was making much ado of nothing. I was newly diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain & Osteoarthritis….the first two without clear medical causes and almost no solutions and the last, a condition which has no cure, just limited treatment and the hope of slowing progression. These do not live in my mind but in my body: the inability to get a good night’s sleep due to pain; the pain & swelling upon waking & throughout the day, moving to different points in my body. Who the hell wouldn’t be upset? Who would compare their temporary and self-induced aches & pains to a chronic, non-stop travelling demon? The National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Centers provided a response I wish I could tattoo on my forehead:

I am especially fond of the far right, center box….a whole lotta dumb going on.  Not that there aren’t honest and thoughtful offers of advice & support but I’ve a low threshold for stupidity and my verbal censors are often absent, often to my amusement. 

At any rate, this served to only exacerbate my emotional issues, which I have tried to address for the last several years. Where the medical community offers little to treat the various diagnoses, the psychiatric community is more than willing to dole out medications with impunity. It is easier than admitting that  coping with my particular issues is not within their ken and referring me on to someone who can offer tools and skills needed to live with the earlier stated mental health issues. Better I should become addicted to some serious prescription drugs than talk it out or learn needed techniques ! That’s what I need is a treatment program to recover from my treatment! In the immortal words of Dr. Frank N.Furter of Rocky Horror fame:

                   So I’ll remove the cause……….But not the symptom

 It appears  up to me to deal with the symptoms and deal with them I shall. I want my life back & I want me back….the raucous, age-inappropriate, adventurous me! As one cousin thought of me, “like a pirate or something”. I also want to speak my passion aloud: I am a writer. It has been the one constant in my life.

As stated earlier, I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the country, with a host of arts & entertainment; green space, such as a length of downtown area named the Park Blocks, each block with statuary & trees & benches on which to sit and enjoy the city from a serene point of view;  the Rose Test Gardens or  sipping cappuccino overlooking the Square or the Chinese Gardens.

Portland Chinese Gardens
Portland Chinese Gardens (Photo credit: Darin Barry)

I fell in love with Portland from the moment I saw the night skyline as I drove in from L.A., where I’d spent 7 years living a mostly beach lifestyle; where I became alcohol & drug-free & went to college for the first time, becoming a “Flintstone-era” techie and the rare female engineer in a male-dominated environment; I learned to roller skate & weight lift…let’s face it: if you live beachfront in L.A., you have to look good  or so I thought. It was fun but grew tiresome, all of it. I wanted seasons-not extreme but some change; I wanted a city not a sprawl where one spends an inordinate amount of time in a car. I felt the new chapter open the moment I made that late night arrival along the waterfront and along the edge of downtown. I was in love again and felt at home for the first time since my teen wanderings began. I settled in, enrolled in the university in the middle of downtown, studying Political Science, Journalism and Creative Writing. I volunteered on a gubernatorial campaign & ended up with an eye-opening career in campaigns and the Oregon State Senate! Who would have thought  the freshman high school drop-out, commune-dwelling, hitchhiking girl would find her way here? As they say, you can’t make this stuff up.

Given the money to do so, I would likely spend the rest of my life between school and travel..there is so much I want to learn and even more I want to see. That is the person I seek to recover. Though I will have the physical and emotional disorders to balance, it suddenly seems less daunting than it has in years. That could change with the weather, the pain or a PTSD-triggering event but, overall, I feel more optimistic than I have in years. As one fellow blogger told me, the one thing we do have control over is the use of our time here. I want to use mine well: being in love with my fiancé & our 4-legged kids; having new experiences & meeting new friends as well as reuniting with long-lost family & , maybe, living out on the coast where I feel most alive and recognize my very small place in this grand world. Baby steps, I know, will be what it takes. I will need to learn patience to pace myself, for my health; for my serenity; for my pleasure. I do not delude myself into thinking I’m well on the way but, like the cave in the header, I see the horizon and , for now, that is a joy in itself!