Dear Dad, I’m 44

Hey, Dad. I wish you were here.

But I’m hoping you’re up there, is that even right? “Up there?” Maybe you’re beside me? Maybe that’s why sometimes I don’t feel as alone, as if I could reach out and hug you, and maybe that’s why other times I have an overwhelming feeling of just wanting to go home? Happiness with you was my home. Anywhere, up there, beside me, whatever, I hope Heaven is a groovy place. I hope you’re watching the Cowboys and the Rangers, maybe playing Spades or a game of catch. The latter is difficult to think about because of the way and circumstances in which you died. Died. Passed on. I think I like “passed on.” Passed on to something better. It still rips my heart apart knowing you were playing baseball and enjoying life, no idea you were about to take your last breath. It seems unfair, in a way, the lack of a warning. No family with you. Just playing a game of baseball, falling… and gone. Just gone. People can say “passed on,” but you’re gone. That’s what I know for certain. Everything changed on September 8, 1992.

Sometimes, I become quite angry we didn’t get to say goodbye to you, but would I really prefer you to have had a longer type of illness, and wither away, seeing you in pain? No. It’s best to know you left doing something you loved. You were only 44 years old.

I’m 44 years old today, Dad.

And I’m scared. Honestly, I didn’t even expect to make it to 44. Now, here I am, and I have this dread. I’m scared of 44 because of your early death and that of your own Dad’s. Maybe you tried to be a great Dad to us because you lost your Dad far too early as well? I wish our youngest sister remembered you better. She was only 4 years old, though. I’m glad our other sister, closer to my age, has day to day memories of you as well.

I’m scared of being 44. I’m scared I’ll leave my son far too early. And who would take care of my Mom? I’m afraid of the pain, I’ll be honest. Mostly, I’m afraid of the unknown. Whatever fills that vast unknown, I know that someday, many days and years from now, after I see my son marry and have his own children, I know you’ll be there waiting for me, welcoming. And if it should be sooner that I show up, please be there to hold me and tell me everyone I leave behind will be okay.

I can’t wait to hug you again.

I miss you. Send me a sign if you’re able. Love you.

RESET DAYS

RESET DAYS ~ 4.4.18

Here’s a thing. Well, here are a few things.

There are a few things I notice when I’m starting to tank. Tank, as in, I’m so overwhelmed, it’s a danger to myself.

1. Everything I read on social media infuriates me, even when it’s perfectly nice. It makes no sense, but unfortunately, despite BP being a brain chemistry problem, it affects my emotions. Skews my perception. When my best of friends are saying things that plum piss me off, I finally notice I’m tanking. And by the way, I say piss me off because that’s the truth. Saying it makes me angry doesn’t cut it because “piss” relays that dirty, mean-spirited, nasty factor.

2. I don’t want to get out of bed. Okay, so most days I don’t wanna get outta bed. Like 95% of days. But when it’s so bad I’m afraid to move, even to use the restroom, or feed the cat who we all know I love dearly, then I recognize that, “Houston, we have a problem!”

3. I hurt more everywhere. Physically, I’m discussing here.

So, what do I do now?

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First, I try to maintain a low profile on social media. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but sometimes I fail at this.

Next, I do extra stretches, extra walking outside in the backyard.

I pray and read devotionals.

I listen to my “Peppy Make Me Wanna Move” playlist.

Finally, I call a RESET DAY.

During said reset day, I get lost in a book, as of late an audiobook, and color while listening.

And my loving, supportive family here in the home respects that I need to take the day as I need it. I love them for that.

Then, start over tomorrow. Reset.

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Take His Hand

I think the hardest part of being a mom to a son, both of us with Bipolar Disorder, is the utter inability to take away his pain. All that pain I know has existed, currently resides and will strike in the future.

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So, I resign myself to knowing that holding his hand as he makes his way through is the best I can do. I hope he feels that love in my touch, and I thank the Lord that He is carrying my son through all he has faced and ever will encounter.

Yo! Read the Letter!

It’s hard for anyone to sit and wait for the opportune outcome during times of crisis.

For me, suffering with Bipolar Disorder, I have heightened and amplified feelings of anxiety, fear, paranoia, depression, hyomania and mania. When there is uncertainty, these feelings kick into overdrive.

Major overdrive.

My personal BP experience is largely affected by anxiety. Recently, something happened concerning someone in my immediate family. We were, and still are, awaiting news about a serious, possibly life-altering, decision that could change the course of our lives. We have a fair idea at this point that things are going to be okay. Difficult, but okay. Not as earth-shattering as it could have been. My sincere hope is an important lesson was learned.

So, how do I wade through the oppressive tide of worry and fear while awaiting happy endings?

First, I have to rely on God. He really is the bottom line. However, with my mind firing an array of bad ideas, possibilities and potential unwanted outcomes, my feelings tell me that I have to fix this. I must fix it!!

It is exceptionally hard, I’d argue impossible at times, to quiet the random and racing thoughts, or break away from the obsessive thinking.

So, next thing, I must try to follow logical steps that I set for myself when I am feeling well and at peace. Basically, the sane and rational Jen has left a letter for the chaotic, frightened, fracture-minded Jen. It’s a letter I must follow when things aren’t making sense, when I’m hyperventilating and when all I see is absolute worst case scenarios unfolding.

The letter mentions grounding techniques. Move to a different environment, such as a new room, or the back porch. Then, the idea is to engage all senses. Smell the air – fragrant like a candle, or freshly cut grass? See the ceiling fan whirl or various shades of green in the trees. You get the idea. Feel. Hear. Taste, but only if it’s okay to taste it. Let’s not test out the freshly painted walls or bite into a shrub recently fertilized. You get the point, though. Be present in the moment. Focus on something other than the big problem.

Distraction can be a good thing, as long as you are not flying a plane, or something important like that. I shake up my routine and instead of catching a tv show I usually watch Tuesday night at 8:00, I listen to a book and color.

Art therapy. Possibly sounds like it might require too much effort or talent? I’m not saying I paint a piece ready to instantly grace the walls of a museum. You can journal with finger paints. There are Bibles now that have images to color with favorite scripture and columns of free space so that you might draw or doodle what you feel reading a particular scripture. Paint by number with watercolors, like we did in Kindergarten. Working out feelings with sidewalk chalk.

Music. Definitely art. Music is art. Definitely distraction. Definitely release. Definitely a huge help. Listening to music. Singing. Dancing. Music can light you up, or help calm.

Light exercise and stretches. It serves as a healthy distraction, and endorphins are released, which cause a feeling of well-being, and you can begin to concentrate more on your breathing.

Guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation help as well.

These are only a few things I use, a few suggestions. Another thing you might wonder, yep, sometimes PRN (as needed) anti-anxiety meds do help.

What I mentioned earlier that might be most key is this. Will frazzled, frightened Jen listen to the wisdom of non-present, rational Jen?

I’d like to say that because I’ve fought this for…well forever, that I’ve found a good medication combo (with my doctor’s help) and have been in therapy, again, forever, and therefore I have it licked. Or at least well under control. Or hey, at least half the time, no doubt. Surely?

Nope.

Turmoil and bedlam are, more often than not, nearly impossible to overcome. There is such an energy-zapping effort to work my way through a frenzied mind with numerous demanding voices because I’m not doing something fast enough to hasten the desired outcome.

I’m going to be generous and say 15% of the time, I nail it. I beat it. I remember the letter from the experienced and wise Jen. Cue the song of angels and light of Heaven.

That said, 85% of the time, I can almost smell skin burning, scorched from the flames of what can only be described as hell.

Heaven or hell…

Bipolar Disorder battle.