Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What I wanted to say

Dear Tootie,

You are no longer suffering, and for that I am grateful.

I've gone through so many feelings since you left this world Saturday. Grief, relief, rage that you had to go through so much during your 82 years on this planet.

What I should have said to you is what I have only realized in the past few days: you were brave.

You raised five children and catered to a demanding, grumpy, negative, and often demeaning spouse for more than 60 years.

You had one psychotic break and hospitalization after another, one medication failure after another, one that finally worked and had terrible side effects. But you kept going. You didn't give up.

You didn't give up when the rest of the family felt ashamed of you, hid you during your times of illness. They told us you fell down the stairs again and would be in the hospital again. We worried. We finally figured out they were ashamed of something they didn't understand, something that was not your fault.

Yet, later on, you were open about living with bipolar disorder, which affected you so much since you got diagnosed so late.

You were not ashamed. You were strong. You inspired me. I should have said so, and would have said so, but I didn't recognize it until now. I was so focused on being angry at everyone who continued to marginalize you, to fighting for and speaking up for "the cause," that I was blind to what should have been more important.

It takes an exceptionally strong person to persevere when the people who are supposed to care for you most say they "wish you weren't so weird."

You weren't weird to me. You made me sugar cookies when I wanted them on a whim. You took one step at a time with me on the stairs to match my pace, when I was afraid of falling down them. You told me, when I was upset about my mother getting remarried to an awful man, that it was important that you knew how I felt on her wedding day. No one else wanted to validate a 9-year-old, but you did that for me.

In fifth grade, I naively asked you for a red velvet pinafore, not knowing your medication made your hands shake. You still made it for me.

*Ninja edit: Speaking of brave, I just remembered how you chased off a bear from your cabin porch in Minnesota.

You were just five feet tall, but you said you shook a stick at him, and told him not to come back, and he ran off!*

You were the only grandparent I connected with. It isn't an accident that you were the first person I hugged. (Meanwhile, I refused to go sit on my grandfather's lap, telling him, "I don't like you!" What can I say, I was born with good people sense.)

You continue to inspire me not to give up. I have so many more choices than you do. For that I have both gratitude and sadness.

You lived with so much shit you never should have had to live with, and now you are free.

I only wish I had told you how strong you were.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


I'm surfacing. 2017 was the most challenging year of my life, and I wanted to thank all of my friends in the blogging community for showing me so much wonderful support.

I want to send a message to anyone out there reading this who lives with depression or suicidal thoughts and tell you it gets better. To all of the survivors, you are stronger than your abusers. Getting well and carrying on and healing is the best revenge. It can be dark and horrendous and it can feel like not waking up again is the only way out, but it does get better. I swear. You do not have to die.

In the meantime, this organization saved my life. My boss allowed me to keep my job and believed I could recover even when I did not, and when a previous therapist wasn't sure. (Incidentally, note to former therapist: thanks for nothing. I'm stubborn and stronger than I thought.)

I'm raising money again this year for an event I'm in charge of in May with renewed focus. We never give up hope on anyone. I thank everyone who did not give up on me. If you feel so moved, I would love to have your support.

More to come - being able to be upright and go to work every day is a blessing, and there is much going on. I'll visit your blogs soon!

Thank you all again. I'm so grateful.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


I keep apologizing for not posting often when I do post, and then feel bad when I don't post, so here it is: I had a traumatic experience in January that basically stole some of who I am. It's hard to do just the day-to-day stuff. It is a slog sometimes to get out of bed and get to work, go to the grocery store, or what have you.

I'm not sharing this looking for sympathy, but I feel like I need to vent with my thumbs and writing helps. And maybe it will help someone else going through the same thing.

All trauma is hard to talk about. Some types more than others. Having tried everything else I usually do to try to get well, and having nothing work so far, I started doing group therapy. The second meeting involved check ins, and one woman (everyone in the group is female) said she hates it when people tell her how she is - e.g., you're an angel, you're this, you're that - even if it is meant to be a compliment.

And the word that came into my mind was theft. We are all in that group because something was stolen, some part of us, that none of us are sure we can recover.

Some experiences make our brain short circuit. Do a Google search for complex PTSD and see what you think. On the surface, academically, I know this makes sense. I know things take work and effort and time.

Still, my brain acts up. Why can't I do this on my own? Why can't I cast one day and one night aside as a 24 hours, and move on?

It is hard not to give up. That is exactly what my boss told me not to do when I burst into tears talking about this a couple of months ago. He is not a really expressive guy but he said, I know this is frustrating. And I know nothing has worked so far. But keep trying. Don't give up.

I'm trying not to.


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Cancer, you're a dick.

Dear Cancer,
Fuck you. With a capital F.
I get that death is the cycle of life. What I do not get is why, despite pouring billions of dollars into research, we can't eradicate you.

I do not get why you keep robbing us of people suddenly and unexpectedly.

I understand that death is a part of life. I do not get why you have to come in and swoop down on those who are just beginning a new part of theirs. Like the fates snipping the thread.

You took someone who spent his entire life providing comfort and a voice for those who are most marginalized. And he planned to do it after retirement, yet you couldn't wait to get your hooks into him.

I am told anger is part of the grief process. I'm fucking angry. I am also sad, because I emailed someone yesterday about meeting whom I will never meet again - at least in this life. Because having watched other two people very close to me die of your filth, slowly and painfully, and having lost others when I was too young to know what was going on, I just feel helpless.

I would never wish you on anyone. But why do you go after the saints among us?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Thanks to strangers

Sorry to be MIA again. Depression sucks, and it's hard to write when you're depressed. I'm sure a lot of writers get that.

We lost two people recently who vastly improved the quality of my life, and, I imagine, countless others. Sheila Michaels single-handedly led the campaign to use an acronym/prefix, Ms., that didn't indicate a woman's marital status. I emailed my dad, who is the first feminist I ever met, her obituary and he replied: "Why haven't I heard of her?"

Like so many others, she was lost to history. I hadn't heard of her, either.

When I was little, I asked my grandmother, "What does 'ms' mean?"
She replied, "That's if you can't decide if you want to be a 'miss' or a 'missus.'" I found that pretty amusing, but then realize now that in her generation, those were the choices. Period, end of story.

Sheila Michaels created a movement nothing short of revolutionary - the idea that a woman had an identity outside of her legalized romantic relationships.

To children's book author Michael Bond I owe much. I read the Paddington Bear books as an adult during a time when my world was so stressful and chaotic that I could only handle reading something light and fluffy - or so I thought. There is a gentle humor in these volumes and a deep emphasis on lasting friendship. And, the idea that you can accidentally flood a house, or cover important papers in marmalade and still be loved is a pretty damn decent one.

A few months after I started reading those books, I was hospitalized for a week. Paddington - a stuffed one - was the only bit of cheer in my room.

The Paddington books create a safe, happy place, one that we can sometimes only find in our imagination.

Distraction can be a lifesaver. I imagine that isn't just the case for me, but for many others.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Love and resist

This is going to be a raw post, because the mood here in and around Portland is raw. Bear with me. I have to get this out.

How are you? has become a loaded question. No one here is asking, How was your weekend? Because I live near, and work in, a city where senseless hate claimed two lives and impacted so many others last Friday.

It's not OK. We're not OK. And it feels personal when it happens where you live.

I rarely get angry, but I am angry. Sad, raw, and angry. It takes the White House until Monday morning, and being nagged on social media by a member of Congress and Dan Rather, to respond and say this is wrong? Any previous president in the past couple of decades would be here, meeting with the families and the survivor, calling for unity and condemning the hatred and violence.
Not this one. This one had to be badgered into condemning senseless hatred and violence, and even then, didn't respond personally, but did it in a staff account on Twitter.

This one and his ilk bear responsibility for inciting the hatred and violence that has become a pattern, that has emboldened those want to live in the America of 100 years ago.

What is heartening is the fact that I believe most of us don't want that. We may disagree politically, but most Americans are, I feel, reasonable. We don't think it's OK to shout racial or religious slurs at teenage girls on the train. We don't think it's OK for people to be afraid just because of the color of their skin, how they choose to worship, or who they choose to love.

Some people chimed in immediately, saying this guy must be mentally ill. As someone who lives with major depressive disorder and some other things, I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of the time, people living with mental illness are more likely to be crime victims, not perpetrators.

I saw a great headline from a column: "Racism is not a mental illness."

It is heartening to see the outpouring of love from the community here. More than $1 million has been raised for the families of the victims; more than $20,000 has been raised for the girls, in case they need mental health and/or counseling services. I know I would.

So maybe, as John Lennon says, "Love is the answer."

I say, love and resist.

Friday, May 12, 2017

I do not have a fix for you!

I've been waiting to do another good rant, and here I go!

As some of you know, I'm in charge of a several-thousand person event this month. I love my job. I love being paid to agitate at work, and since I work in mental health advocacy, it is a very scary time right now. People are worried that they won't have coverage or won't be able to afford it...don't get me started.

Anyhow. I do some policy work as well, but the event I am in charge of is the largest mental health event in the region of the country where I live. Our organization is leading the fight to protect coverage and this is a civil rights issue. However, I do not want to be leading the charge to be the IT-person-in-chief for all of the people who try to sign up for this event.

And apparently there are quite a few people who just realized that 1. the event is in 10 days, and 2. have no computer skills, and 3. don't know how to read, and 4. expect me to fix #2 and #3.

Bloody hell, people!!! One woman has emailed me literally 20 times, and called two of our organization's offices, trying to fix things on her team page, including her own name, which she misspelled when she signed up. Lady...I do not have a fix for you.

I have gotten texts about event shirts on weekend nights. I have had my name incorrectly listed in a news article as person who signs people up for this event (I don't - see the part about how we have thousands of people?)

Here is a typical email: "Do you have five minutes before 11:30 a.m. to help me figure out X, Y, and Z?" (Sent today at 10:55 a.m.)

But my favorite email came from someone who asked me for help planning a mental health event to be held on the same day as our event.
"It would be great if people from your organization could be there," she wrote.

Yes, really.

Every previous person who had this position and ONLY did events and fundraising had an assistant. For better or for worse, I have OCD tendencies (yes, that is the official diagnosis), which makes me extremely organized.

My boss: "You are organized enough that you don't need an assistant."