Saturday, July 16, 2016

Left Behind (A Poem)

Left Behind 

We found each other, both broken, shadows of ourselves.
Together we clung in the darkness, buttressed against the cold.
Slowly we built ourselves stronger - a pebble here - there a cobble
And we stretched with our new strength, a beautiful arch of shining stone.

But I did not know how to build myself. I could only see the holes in you.
And you took what I gave, and rarely a stone came to the side that was me.
You shone brighter as you took what I had to give
And darkness still shone through my gaps and shattered self.

You grew stronger and brighter as I sagged and waned
And finally you transformed, stones made into wings.
And the wind and light caught you, drawing you away
And my wobbly arch, its keystone ripped away, fell to pieces.

I see you still as you float upon the breeze among the stars
Your smile, your laugh echoes through me as you soar, wings entangled with hers.
I wonder if you see me, a pile of shattered rocks weathered and covered in vines
But in truth I am no more than the cracked pavement beneath your feet.

I try to gain strength from the moss that grows upon my skin.
I try to find solace in the darkness and shadows we once feared.
The vines wrap around me, strangling but also giving support
And so with no help but what would try to destroy me, I build something new.

There will be no shimmering towers or soaring arches for me.
Not even a wall will be built, or even a bench to sit upon.
I have not the strength to rise that high, not without your strength.
I can but crumble further, and offer soil for a flower to grow in the sun.

And then, with the stones and shards that remain, I will shift and turn.
I am pavement still, but not just a cracked sidewalk like all others.
I will make a blossom of stone around my flower, a mosaic of my former self.
And the moss and ivy will hold me together - a hard-earned beauty.

And now, as you fly above, the starlight shimmering on your wings
You will see me, and wonder at the harsh strength of the earth.
~ Kathryn van Roosendaal

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I'm Not Getting Better

Published to Tumblr February 10, 2016

September 26, 2012. That was the day I finally couldn’t take any more. I left work in the middle of the day and never went back. The straw that broke the camel’s back had actually fallen months before, but being the stubborn Taurus I am I kept crawling forward. Then I just couldn’t any more. I had more than a broken back, I was completely shattered. 
I started seeing my psychiatrist very soon after that. It was a good thing, too, because I was suicidal, delusional, stressed, and basically a hot mess. I was very lucky in that the psychiatrist most qualified to handle my combination of mental illnesses donated his time to the Doctor’s Volunteer Clinic. Since I had no insurance - and it took 2 ½ years for my disability claim to go through and for my Medicare to kick in - this was the only way I could see anyone. After about 6 months I started seeing my therapist, Shannon. She is wonderful and she has helped me through a lot. 
In the past 3 /12 years, I have seen my psychiatrist about once a month and my therapist every other week. I have been hospitalized twice, once for a psychotic break and once because I was suicidal. We have tried different medications and different therapies and coping strategies. I finally found a regular doctor who understands and knows how to handle my physical illnesses, which are chronic and painful. Looking at the numbers, I should be doing great. I should be well on my way to recovery. 
But I’m not. I have days, even weeks, where I feel like I’m doing great. Then something happens and the delusions flood back or I start getting anxious at every little thing. I look back and the good days were pretty much days where I had nothing to stress me. If I push myself - like last week I tried driving several miles on a busy street and having coffee at a coffee shop to test my social anxiety - I will feel OK at the time, but the next day I will be a total mess again. 
Yesterday drove home to me just how far I have to come. It was my Dad’s first day back at work after the winter break and my Mom had a doctor’s appointment. She can’t drive, so I had to take her. This is nothing new, nothing I haven’t done before, but it always causes me stress. Yesterday I got her in the car, got her to the doctor’s office, then I sat down in the waiting room and had an anxiety attack. I was panting and dizzy when she came out and trying to direct her to the car didn’t help one bit. She kept listing to the side and almost falling, and me with my cane almost went to the ground with her. I had to sit in the car for several minutes just breathing before I drove us home. Once I finally got the anxiety calmed down, I had the depression hit harder than it has in quite a while. I ended up just curled up in bed crying. 
This is just the beginning of the long months of my Dad working. I am expected to be the adult, and although I thought I had recovered enough to do that, obviously I still can’t. I don’t know what to do. My brain is a mess, I’m hallucinating, and my knees hurt. I have to be able to do this, but I don’t know how. 

Struggling to Float

Published to Tumblr February 8, 2016

This is actually the perfect analogy for me - because I don’t float. I had swimming lessons as a kid and it was the most frustrating thing because I had to struggle every moment just to stay on top of the water. The teacher would be right next to me while I did the dead man’s float and she was as frustrated as I was that I would end up in the perfect pose, only about a foot below the surface. 
My life is the same way. If I try to just take it easy and float along, I drown. Every single moment of every single day I have to struggle to stay above the surface. 

A Needed Reminder

Published to Tumblr February 7, 2016

I needed this reminder today. Sometimes it feels like all I am is a diagnoses of some sort, especially when I have a week with multiple doctor appointments. I sit there in the cold, clinical room and they do the rundown: White female, age 43, single (I have no idea why this is ever relevant), schizophrenia with both positive and negative symptoms, clinical depression, severe anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, trichotillomania, chronic pain disorder (possible fibromyalgia syndrome), progressive osteoarthritis, recurring autoimmune reactions (possible systemic lupus erythematosus), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Raynaud’s disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, and psoriasis. Then they look at me and ask “so, what is your issue today?” ALL OF IT! 
At least when I see my therapist she focuses on me. She never mentions any illness or diagnoses unless I do first. She sees ME. We all need that. 

Frantic Today

Published to Tumblr February 2, 2016

One of the most frustrating things about my mix of chronic illnesses is that I will feel fine for days. Sometimes I’ll even feel great. I’ll have a day where the weather makes my arthritis act up, but it doesn’t trigger anything else. There are days where I feel well enough to go shopping and I’ll come home tired and a little anxious, but a quick nap makes me feel better.
Then there are days like today. I had trouble sleeping last night because I was anxious and jittery, and I have no idea why. I am still feeling frantic and I have run my “self diagnostic” and can’t find a reason. I am not in excess pain, which is one common trigger. I don’t have a doctor’s appointment today. My bills are paid. It is an inexplicable flare up. 
Not being able to find the cause makes it worse. There are days when I am depressed and can’t find the reason, which makes me even more depressed. The same happens with anxiety. I will go for a week with no schizophrenia symptoms, then I wake up one day unable to communicate and plagued by voices and shadows. And there is no real way to predict when it will happen. 
This roller coaster can be deadly.

My Mom Laughed At Me

Published to Tumblr January 27, 2016

Yesterday my mom laughed at me. And I really don’t know why.
I overdid it a bit yesterday. I went out to run an errand and afterward I still felt pretty good so I pushed it and went to the grocery store. That is always a trial: It is a study in sensory overload and is physically exhausting to boot. I got home and rested for a while, but I was still feeling a bit rocky mentally.
My dad was making dinner for him and my mom. I started making dinner for me. My mom was sitting at the kitchen table doing something - I don’t remember what - and she was talking non-stop. The excess of input finally made me overload. I couldn’t remember why I had gone to the pantry and all the background noise was turning into a meaningless buzz. I stepped to the side, put my hands over my ears, closed my eyes, and just stood there taking deep breaths until I felt more stable. 
When I took my hands down and opened my eyes, my mom was laughing. Then she commented “I’m not really laughing at you, it’s just that we’re so much alike.” 
At that moment I didn’t really comprehend what she said. I was still trying to function. But it sank in and I really didn’t understand. I almost let it pass, but I have been trying to stand up for myself and communicate more, so I told her “If you really knew what was going on with me, what was going on inside my head, you wouldn’t laugh.” 
Her response was to repeat: “I’m just laughing because we’re so much alike.” I told her that I really didn’t know what she meant, that her comment made no sense to me. She started to laugh again and then started to say something, but my dad made her stop. He, at least, had noticed that she was causing me distress.
I didn’t push it. I didn’t need to. I had said my piece. But I really don’t understand what she meant. I have no idea how she can see me in the corner with my hands over my ears and eyes closed trying to breathe and find it funny at all. I guess what it really says is that she doesn’t understand me at all.


Published to Tumblr January 12, 2016

I tried to find the artist of this beautiful piece but it seems everyone on the Internet stole it from someone else on the Internet. Anyway, it is a beautiful sentiment put together in a beautiful way. For me, it is a reminder that there is beauty in every season of the year. 


Published to Tumblr January 11, 2016

I saw my regular doctor today to check in on how my chronic pain and autoimmune issues are going. He had a student with him and the student tried that “someone else has it worse than you” line on me. I called him on it. He admitted that he had never really thought that it could be taken as a negative and promised to never use it again.
Then he told me that no matter what, I had to have hope. Just hold on to hope. That I can try to do.

Schizophrenia (A Poem)

Published to Tumblr January 4, 2016

How loud does the music have to be to bring silence?
Is there ever quiet?
Is there ever a moment of peace?
Only what I can touch is real
And even then it moves, changes
And whirls in strange colors and sounds.
How easy it would be to lie down,
To close my eyes and just listen
And let the worlds merge into one.
But I have miles to go before I sleep
And I have many promises to keep.
I will not give up; I cannot give in.
I will stumble on.
By Kathryn van Roosendaal

One Of Those Days

Published to Tumblr January 3, 2016

It’s one of those days where I don’t know why I got out of bed. Except I needed to pee really bad and once I was up I decided I might as well get coffee. I’m still in my pajamas and browsing through social media. Most of it is driving me nuts with the political stuff, Happy New Year crap, and the continuation of the vapid, overdone encouragements that everything in life will be OK. I blame Disney and the multitude of Romantic Comedies for our cultural belief that no matter how bad things get, there is always a happy ending. That is, of course, a bunch of utter bullshit.
On the plus side I think this new blog is going well. I’m a little frustrated with the limitations of a secondary blog: I cannot follow other blogs or reblog directly. I have to post links instead. But I have done the two primary blog thing when I was still working and was running the office Tumblr and logging in and out to switch back and forth between them was a pain in the ass. At least others can follow and reblog this one. I guess that’s all I really need.
It’s dark and gloomy outside and I really want to go back to bed, but the cats have taken it over and I don’t really want to move them. They have that cuteness thing going for them. I guess I’ll stay up. Maybe even get dressed. That might be as far as I’ll get, but it’s something.

Another 365 Days To Go

Published to Tumblr January 1, 2016

I survived the first day of 2016. And thanks to it being a leap year, I have another 365 days to go. 
I was actually feeling OK at the end of 2015. I know logically that the changing of the calendar is pretty irrelevant, but there is still a feeling of accomplishment at having survived another trip around the Sun. Then the new year begins and a new long, long road stretches out ahead of me. 
I actually had to get off of Facebook earlier today because I had a panic attack at all the well-wishing for a wonderful New Year. 2016 will be great. All will be wonderful. Think happy thoughts and they will come and nothing will go wrong all year long. 2015 was crap, but the new year will be great. It was sickening and just wrong and It made me feel stifled and cramped. My daily routine that keeps me going suddenly feels like a trap. Alarm goes off: time to take pain meds. 1 p.m.: time to eat lunch. Alarm goes off: time to take anxiety meds. Don’t eat anything after 8 p.m. because it interferes with the 9 p.m. meds. I just want to scream. It’s OK if I take things a day at a time, but the thought of 365 days of the same thing is terrifying.
I can’t help but think of Sisyphus, a character in Greek Mythology. He was condemned by the Gods to eternally roll a large stone to the top of a mountain only to have it roll back down so he could start over again. That’s how I feel: my stone has rolled back down to the bottom and I face the very long, hard road back to the top. 
Don’t tell me the year will be wonderful. Don’t tell me it will be awful. Don’t tell me it will be anything. Just tell me about today and maybe tomorrow. I can’t think any further than that. 

New Year

Published on Tumblr December 31, 2015

Well, it’s time to break out the new calendar. 
I know this is supposed to be the time of resolutions. It always seems so shallow to me, though. Lose weight. Stop smoking. Go to church more. Read more books. Watch less TV. Go Vegan. I know these may not seem shallow to most people, but to me they are just superficial. 
This year I hope to not continue my trend of one stay in B-Med (the Behavioral Medicine wing of the hospital; it’s not proper to call it a psych ward any more) per calendar year. 
This year I hope to stay alive until the next one. I’ve been able to stave off the suicidal tendencies so far. Let’s keep that up!
This year I hope to not add to my scars. I have resolved myself to keeping my hair in a buzz cut because I have trouble controlling the trichotillomania, but let’s keep the cutting under control. I’m actually hoping to get some tattoos on my arms where I usually cut to help me resist the impulse. 
I don’t know what else to hope for. It is all so out of my control. I could care less if I lose weight or watch less TV or any of that. I just want to live something vaguely resembling a normal life. Unfortunately I think that’s beyond my grasp. 

What is in a brain?

Published on Tumblr December 30, 2015
I have known most of my life that my brain works differently than other people’s. I look at things differently. I analyse things differently. I find some things funny that others don’t and vice versa. 
But, of course, I couldn’t let anyone know. My early therapy - first when I was diagnosed with depression at age 11 and then again when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 19 - was all about learning how to blend in to “normal” society, not how to deal with the mental illness. If you looked and acted OK on the outside, then everything would somehow fall into place on the inside. 
Well, that was a bunch of bullshit. Over the years I learned the roles and wore the masks and slowly but surely the inside was falling apart, not coming together. It is probably no surprise, then, that when it finally fell completely apart I was unable to put it back together again. At least not yet. At age 43 I am on disability and living with my parents. I am a virtual shut-in because of my anxiety and physical limitations. And even with a wonderful therapist and a life-saving psychiatrist, I am still having trouble opening up about what really goes on in this brain of mine. 
I am hoping this blog will be a start.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Useless Fucking Platitudes!

Published to Tumblr January 24, 2016

Who says things will turn out well? I’m not being pessimistic, just realistic. Would you say this to someone who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer or a chronic, debilitating illness? Hell, no. Well, don’t say it to people with a mental illness, either. 
Our society has been brainwashed by Disney’s sanitized versions of the old Fairy Tales, romantic comedies, and action movies where the hero always wins. I hate to break this to you, but it rarely works that way. Yes, life has its ups and downs, but there is no guarantee at all that everything is going to turn out great, let alone be the “best”. 
Which, of course, brings us around to all these new age crap “healing” groups and trends. If all it took to be healed and happy was positive thinking and rubbing a few crystals I’d be 100%. They are just expensive versions of chain letters.
January 24, 2016

How Do They See Me?

Published to Tumblr January 17, 2016

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother. I try to be open about my illnesses, both physical and mental. I try to communicate. I’m not looking for sympathy, just acknowledgment and maybe some understanding. But it doesn’t happen.
A couple of days ago I posted an article on my Facebook page about being open about mental illness. I added a fairly long not about my own illnesses and how hard is has been to come out as schizophrenic. I put it out there and ended up feeling naked and exposed. I have had to resist the urge to delete the post multiple times.
Do you know what? It has been viewed a bunch of times, but no likes and no comments, not even from my closest friends and family. And now my anxiety and paranoia kick in. What do they think of me now? Are they scared of me now? God knows the media has painted an ugly, scary, and wildly incorrect picture of what schizophrenia looks like. But is that how they now see me? 
I know it shouldn’t matter how others see me. It only matters what I think of me. But the screaming silence is kicking in the worst parts of my mental illness: Paranoia, doubt that past experiences and supportive conversations were real, feeling separated from the rest of the human race … I’m trying to not let it take over, but it’s hard. 
So much for trying to educate people. 

I am not my diagnoses

Published to Tumblr January 16, 2016

I really wish people understood this. Once I tell someone I’m schizophrenic they assume the movie version of a paranoid living in a trashy apartment with a foil hat on their head. There are as many types of schizophrenia as there are types of people. It is different for every single person. 
Oh, and that whole foil hat thing is bogus. Remember when we used to wrap the TV’s rabbit ears in foil to boost the signal? Yeah, foil amplifies radio and other types of EM radiation. A foil hat would just help the aliens read your mind - and would probably microwave your brain on top of it. Try parchment paper instead, or a beanie lined with lead.