summer

Always Gone Til November

I've been thinking a lot about the rhythms, patterns, and cycles that exist in my life lately, particularly those related to my mental health.  After years of living off and on with depression and anxiety, I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder type 2 in July 2011. Looking back 4 years later, the significance of the timing of such a critical diagnosis isn't lost on me. Since I was 19 years old, July has consistently been a month of conflict or strife either in my relationships with others or my relationship with myself. It is also THE month where definitive moments or events take place that transform my life on some level. 

Some examples include...

  • July 2002: I enlisted in the United States Air Force at age 19 while being estranged from my family. 
  • July 2006: Found out I'd be raising my first, Brennan, on my own without his father. 
  • July 2009: Conceived Alex, shortly after beginning to date my husband. 
  • July 2014: Read my piece "America's Not Here For Us" as a VOTY honoree at BlogHer 14
  • July 2015: Took part in my first art exhibit + Moved to California

I don't really know why Life decides to show up exactly in the middle of the year and begin rearranging everything I've spent the first half of the year building...or sometimes just getting through. I don't understand why it feels the need to test the bonds and boundaries of my relationships with others either. Seems like kind of an asshole thing to do in my opinion, growth and forward movement notwithstanding. What I do know is that once August arrives, I'm reeling from the impact, my mind and mood thrown off kilter. What adds to this particular rhythm of mayhem and fuckery is my annual onset of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. I'm not really sure why my SAD symptoms get triggered as early as mid-August. I think some of if it is due to stress from whatever was kicked into motion in my life the month before, and I think it's just my body & brain chemistry's natural response to Fall's impending arrival. Whatever the case, it descends and stays, triggering the rapid cycling aspect of my illness until the end of October. I also notice a similar pattern with milder symptoms when Winter starts to near its end, and Spring begins to awaken. 

While medication has helped stem the frequency, some days the cycling between hypomania and depression still occurs hourly once Fall kicks into high gear. Others it's daily, but usually I just find myself in what they call a "mixed" state: hypomanic and depressed. Only my hypomania doesn't manifest as boundless stores of energy that send me skyrocketing through the stratosphere, and rarely does the depression have me sink so low into its gravity well that I become enveloped in a darkness I can't see my way out of. For me, a mixed state usually just results in my living in a daily state of agitation and unreconcilable tension. The weight of it rests in spread eagle fashion across my shoulders. The pressure causes migraines. Bearing it means I'm exhausted but sometimes unable to turn off my brain enough to sleep before midnight. Thoughts buzz incessantly and noisily around. My focus and concentration fragment into abstract bits and pieces, leaving me to sweat from anxiety while I stand in the bread aisle in the grocery store and try to remember why I'm there and who these kids are calling me "Mom". My productivity goes down, way down, throttling my creative practice and output. I become withdrawn, selectively social, unable to tolerate the noise of social media, and the desire to disappear from it rages strong. I want to accomplish all the things and then abandon them for someone else and some other life where I'm only responsible for myself. It's this constant see-saw action that I am the first to admit renders me a less than pleasant person to live with...but I fight to contain it. I spend so much of my time working to keep its grubby paws off my relationships with my husband and children, I have little energy to keep it from impacting the one I have with myself, and that's what always winds up suffering the most. 

Then as quickly as it shows up, it leaves, dissipating until the next shift in season, until the following July. Literally overnight. I awake on November 1st and feel the fog that was clouding my brain lifting. My body suddenly feels lighter. Simple bodily movements like lifting my arms, extending my legs, and turning my face toward the day are easy again. My mind is busy but calm, quiet but ALIVE with ideas, focus and concentration locked in on exactly how I should structure my day, my mothering, our living. My desire to create roars voraciously. Words return to dance impatiently upon the tip of my tongue waiting to be brought to life, and my eyes turn back to viewing my world through paint and color. I become introspective and hyper-focused on dreams and life goals, asking intuition to guide me on where to head next. I go back to being the more congealed, fuller and more embodied version of myself. The one I like and recognize when I look in the mirror. 

I went to bed Saturday night with a flailing, disjointed brain chemistry, and woke up on Sunday morning with it having fallen back in step with a much steadier rhythm, working more fluidly in conjunction with other components of my treatment plan. I woke up feeling alive and released from Fall's vice like grip. It hasn't been the worst Fall I've experienced, but it has still forced me to accept it's the one time of the year I'm the most vulnerable and susceptible to my illness, and that is why when I woke up on Sunday, I took full advantage. I threw myself into the tasks that in weeks prior triggered overwhelm: cleaning the house, meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, yard work, preparing us for the week ahead, cleaning up my workspace in the garage. 

 It was a relief to feel the desire to thrive coursing through my veins, pumping in rhythm with the hope beating wildly in my heart again. Hello, November. I've missed you. 


I Will Bloom Where I'm Planted

A couple of summers ago, Bertski & I took the boys to the Grounds for Sculpture garden up in Hamilton, New Jersey. It's an expansive garden full of lush vegetation, intriguing contemporary art, and some amazingly creative sculptures. Camera in hand, I was inspired to snap away while Bertski & Brennan ran around exploring and Alex slept in the stroller. I took close to a thousand pictures that day, so many different aspects of the garden captured my attention. My favorite part of the whole trip is evidenced by the large number of pictures I took of a pond in the corner of the garden....it was full of  some of the prettiest flowers I had ever seen, I couldn't take my eyes (or my camera) off of them. They were tall, with long, strong-looking and thick stems that seemed to push them straight up out of the water and above the surface...boldly standing out from the lily pads and thrushes that surrounded them. Their petals seemed to unfurl as they bent themselves back and curved their way up toward the sun, leaving their innermost part, their circular seed pods, exposed to the sun, wind, and eyes of the world around them.

I'm quite illiterate when it comes to plants & flowers, so I had no idea what they were until I did a google search later that night. I had no idea that what I learned about lotus flowers that night would wake me up two years later, shouting at me to pay attention to an important life lesson.

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You see lotus flowers are gorgeous. As they stretch themselves up and over the water, your eyes gaze upon the beauty and unique design of each one-whether they're in full blossom or just starting to open up. What you don't see, are the conditions they grow in. Lotus flowers are admired and loved because they can grow in the darkest and harshest of conditions and survive. Despite having to grow in a less than ideal environment, these flowers thrive and bloom where they are planted.

Bloom where you are planted....

I woke up with that thought and this information about lotus flowers shouting in my head this morning. As I laid there trying to understand why today of all days this was on my mind, it occurred to me that it's June 1st.

A new month. New season. 6 months until a new year arrives (can you believe it?! ) and 5 months until I turn the dreaded 30.

Or do I have to dread turning 30? Let's go over this again: new month, new season, half of the year left, and 5 months away from having lived 30 years on this Earth.

30 years. Of pain. Of abuse. Of brokenness. Of not knowing or understanding who I am, of living my life under the rule and control of others and their expectations, their standards. Of living my life based on the opinions of others, trying like hell to please them because I thought I needed their approval. Of having my life dictated by circumstance instead of choice.

30 years. Of heartache. Of shame. Of disappointment. Of misplaced guilt. Of misguided decisions. Of regret. Of loss. Of hating myself. Of wishing I could be like the women I secretly envy. Of compromise. Of insecurity. Of lacking confidence and believing the words of those who said I'd die or they'd kill me before I made it to becoming anything of worth and value. Of illness. Of excuses.

30 years. As I laid in my bed this morning I made a choice.

"I will not spend the next 30 years of my life like I have the first. I won't spend the next 5 months like I have. No I won't.

I've been through a lot of things in my first 29 years of living. I've had to see and endure things no one should, and yet I'm still here, I didn't have it as bad as others. People have looked at my history and expected me to be a drug addict, an alcoholic, or dead. My psychiatrist says the fact that I only have a mental illness as a result of my genetics and trauma is something to be grateful for....and as illogical as it sounds, she's right and I am. It's not ideal, and I don't like it, but in the grand scheme of things, I could be far worse off than I actually am and that's nothing but a testament to how graceful God truly is.

30 years. I can't change how the first 29 1/2 years of my life have gone. I can't do anything about the darkness I've had to live in, or change the fact that I have to live with a darkness from an illness that threatens my well being daily.

But I can make a choice to grow above and beyond the environment I was forced to grow in up until this point. I can choose to live above and beyond the dark, murky waters of the last 29 1/2 years. I can choose to let go and push past. I can decide to stand tall like a lotus flower and bloom for others to see. I can choose to use the environment I've grown in to reveal what lies within my innermost parts-a woman with an authentic, compassionate, and whole heart to connect with others who are hurting and struggling to make it out of their own dark waters.

Yes. I can choose to let it all go and break forth and embark upon the next 30 years with fresh determination to live my life and not just survive it.

Today I'm choosing to bloom right where I've been planted. My beauty may have been broken by what happened beneath the surface, but my hope is that it brings something out of me that encourages and inspires others to reach toward the sun, like I am.

Making Lemonade Without Sugar Having Joy Without a Reason

Soooooooooo as if the current pile of stress in my life couldn't get any heavier or wackier, it just did this morning. On the first day of a very crucial "I'm praying and hoping things I need to work out, work out" kind of week. The day after God told me, "Hey, I got this-just do what you can and I'll do the rest. No worries. Just trust me kid." The day after a much needed 2 day break from my boys that left me feeling relaxed, and ready to get back in the ring. And then....another ingredient was added to the stew, another brick on the load added to see if I'm going to let the pot boil over, or buckle under the weight. Well guess what, LIFE? I'M NOT. (And yes, my hands are on my hips and I'm sticking my tongue out at you)

I have no internet so I can't work, no car so I can't drive, and the little money I have is for emergencies, not fun. The Earth and the Sun have launched their evil plan to scorch and choke us to death with heat and humidity, so going outside might not be an option. And I'm moving this weekend.

That's a lot of lemons folks. Enough to make your mouth pucker. But I vowed to myself that the boys and I were going to have a good summer, one that we enjoyed before I got back into the full-time student grind this fall. It hasn't gone the way I planned or thought it would, it hasn't been what I expected. But I see how through it all He's been teaching me the difference between happiness and being joyful, and how to pursue the latter inspite of the circumstances.

So, I'm just going to take this latest round of events as a chance to just take a little vacation and focus on joy. A vacation. In my apartment. From everything. No internet & no Facebook, Google +, & Twitter on the Blackberry. Not even the Bible on my Blackberry. Not even blogging. Maybe a phone call, maybe a text here or there, but that's it. I'm going to spend the week finding a way to keep two wild boys occupied, writing/journaling, reading, building forts, coloring and creating some meals on a serious shoestring budget.

I'm going to make the best tasting lemonade EVER this week. It won't be easy to sweeten without any sugar, but I'm sure He'll show me a way. So, I hope you all enJOY your week, try your best to keep the heat from evaporating you, and are productive in whatever it is you do in your corners of the world.

As for me and my house-we on vacation ya'll. Blog you next week! ;)

“Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes, even if the olive tree fails to produce and the fields yield no food, even if the sheep pen is empty and the stalls have no cattle — even then, I will be happy with the Lord. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

addyeB

Summer BookWorm List

Growing up I read all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. Nonstop. My dad would make me go sit outside and I'd sit on the steps or on the porch, book in hand. Out of the hundreds of kids in my junior high, the librarian knew my name-we practically talked everyday. I would check out a book, take it home, read a chapter here, a couple of pages there while I did my homework, and if it was too good to put down, I'd sneak a flashlight under my blankets & read when I was supposed to be sleeping....and return most of them the next day.
Books provided a way of escape from the madness I called home, and I devoured them as such.Crazy as my dad was, he actually encouraged & supported my reading habit. Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, Swiss Family Robinson, Journey to the Center of the Earth, THE ENTIRE Little House on the Prairie series (I was an avid Laura Ingalls & Rose Wilder fan...correction: I was OBSESSED), The BoxCar Children, you name it, I read it growing up. Even the books my dad would forbid me to read like The BabySitters Club & Nancy Drew (why he didn't want me reading them, folks, I have NO idea ok? No wait, that's not true...I do remember him saying that reading BabySitters Club would make me boy crazy, because Stacey, Claudia, Kristi & Dawn were, and I would turn into a slut. I only wish I were making that up) My appetite for books waned when my life got super crazy between the ages of 17-20 and I fell off the bookworm wagon.
Well, now that I've got a major accomplishment under my belt and can relax a little this summer, I decided to get back on NERD status and begin a quest to fall back in love with reading. Over the past 9 months I've either a) found a book I just KNEW I had to read or b) someone has sent me book THEY just knew I had to read. I've amassed quite a collection as a result. Some of these are audiobooks, a couple I've read once but want to dive into again, and one is my favorite book of all time. All of them cover various subjects and span a range of authors.
Trying to carve out the time to read this summer is going to be quite a task, but I'm hoping that instead of stealing moments to Facebook & Tweet between taking care of my boys, I'll steal those moments to read a couple of pages, if I'm lucky a chapter.
My therapist told me a couple of months ago to try and remember the things I loved to do before I had kids and do those to help cope with my anxiety & depression. So...I've gathered my stack and I start my first one tomorrow.
Wish me luck.
  • Power Thoughts: Joyce Meyer
  • Battlefield of The Mind: Joyce Meyer
  • Start Your New Life Today: Joyce Meyer
  • Never Give Up: Joyce Meyer
  • The Love Revolution: Joyce Meyer
  • The Confident Woman: Joyce Meyer
  • God's Leading Lady: T.D. Jakes
  • The Lady, Her Lover, & Her Lord: T.D. Jakes
  • The Cause Within You: Matthew Barnett
  •  Completely Forgiven: Shannon Ethridge
  • Having a Mary Heart in A Martha World
  • Made to Crave: Lysa Terkeurst
  • Return to Love: Marianne Williamson
  • Gift of Change: Marianne Williamson
  • Eat, Pray, Love : Elizabeth Gilbert
  • I am an Emotional Creature: Eve Ensler
  • The Happiness Project: Gretchen Rubin
  • Reviving Ophelia (Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls): Mary Pipher
  • The Social Media Bible: Various
  • Captivating: John and Stasie Eldredge
  • Committed: Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Death by Love: Mark Driscoll
  • Crazy Love: Francis Chan
  • The Dream Giver
  • Fearless: Max Lucado
  • Get Out of That Pit! : Beth Moore
  • One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Freely, Right Where You Are: Ann Voskamp
  • You Were Born for This: Bruce Wilkinson
  • The Gifts of Imperfection, Letting Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be & Be Who You Are: Dr. Brene Brown
  • I Thought it Was Just Me (but it isnt) : Dr. Brene Brown
  • The Beauty of Different: Karen Walrond (Don't have it yet, but it's on my Most Wanted list)
  • Too True For Lies, A Child's Story : Stephen D. Matthews
  • Gone With the Wind (My all-time, most FAVORITE book EVAAAA!)
  • Cleopatra: Stacy Schiff (I don't have this one yet, but it's on my Most Wanted list)