Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What is real?

One of the many things I have learned from working with people with Alzheimer's disease, is that our perceptions of our lives are real to each of us. When I work with someone with Alzheimer's I am called to enter into their reality, pull up a chair and join them there and listen to their stories, ask questions, comment, engage....not correct them, nor try to convince them of the truth, not "set them straight." I get to just be with them and allow the process to unfold. Sometimes they have moments of clarity and they realize, "I was somewhere else wasn't I?" I can assure them its ok, it was a nice place to visit and maybe we will visit there again. Its ok to just be present with them. This process and my work with these precious people has probably been one of my greatest teachers about calming the heck down and letting situations play out as they will. Being present to be a support, a facilitator, but not a construction foreman.

Our fears and pain are all relative. Recently a co-worker told me she had a lot on her plate and couldn't help out with a client because her 17 year old cat died last week and her husband has the flu. I had to be quiet for a minute, I had to choose to not compare our journeys, not judge, not roll my eyes, I had to choose to say, "Ok, I understand." For her, her reality was that she was handling all she could manage. Its not mine to decide whose struggles are worthy of real care and whose are silly. Because, I am just petty enough that I can go there.

 I have always been very rooted in reality. The cold hard truth. Even as a young child I was not good at pretend play. I was not a fun pretend play mom. We didn't present Santa or the Easter Bunny as real, they always knew I was the tooth fairy, I feel guilty to this day that my kids never experienced the mischievous antics of the Elf on the Shelf. (I recently saw a FB picture of the elf dressed in red, saying, "Seriously, this asshole is back again?!" My guilt mysteriously evaporated! lol)  For the record we didn't banish these things either, but they knew they were pretend. Life has always been serious business, tumultuous, and I needed to know what was real and where I stood in the big picture.

So in my early years as a caregiver I really struggled with the "pretend" world my clients often lived in. I struggled with "lying" to them. I had to work at learning how to say, "Oh your husband is out at work, but he will be back soon." Knowing full well that her husband had been dead for the past 8 years. The greatest gift I can give my client who thinks the President of the United States is coming for an afternoon visit, is to join her in her reality for that moment. To be in the moment with her. "Well gosh if HE is coming over, lets make sure your hair is brushed and lets paint your nails with that shimmery pink polish that you love!" Soon that idea will drift away and there will be something new to focus on, but her hair and nails will be done.

I find myself often wondering what is real in my own life right now. Is my girl really as sick as I feel she is? Am I just catastrophizing? Maybe I am crazy! Is this really happening? Is her journey just always going to be hard? What am I really seeing right now? What is the truth in all of this? Is there sobriety? Is there not? What is my part? Do I have a part....I think my part is to be quiet most of the time, to be as present with her as much as she needs or wants me to be, and to help her through the mechanics of the parts that she can't manage on her own. To not judge her efforts and to just let them be.

I will say, I am only mildly successful most of the time. I have begun thinking of her like my clients whose reality I need to enter into with them. I can hold space for her.

"When you hold space for someone, you bring your entire presence to them. You walk along with them without judgement, sharing their journey to an unknown destination. Yet, you're completely willing to end up wherever they need to go. You give your heart, let go of control, and offer unconditional support." From The Sweetness of Holding Space for Another....a Huffington Post blog post.

I recently spoke with a mom whose child has some significant mental health struggles. She explained that to have this young person follow through on chores, they have to walk along side and remind and prod and encourage....." wipe that far corner down, pick up all of the wrappers and put them in the garbage, ok pillow cases on the pillows." More than 2 directions and this young person gets lost and nothing gets done. Friends tell her it shouldn't be that way....."No it shouldn't, but it IS." I could tell a million stories when I have been told "it shouldn't be this way."

"Yeah, I know that." LOL I know better than anyone how it should be. How I would like it to be.

Thank God for the other mom's who understand that the reality "is what it is." Who come into my reality with me and can sit for awhile there and not judge if I am enabling by providing a safe drug free place for my sick child to live. Who hold space for me. They don't tell me I am doing it right or wrong, they just be with me.

Maybe you are wondering how anything changes, or gets accomplished with all of this "being" with one another. lol Things naturally have a way of playing out. Sometimes for the better, sometimes in ways we wish they hadn't. We are fluid beings... always moving in some form. Sometimes in the quiet times, our brains can receive the messages our spirits have been trying to convey but we have been too busy to listen. Its amazing when I stop trying to steer the journey, when I take my hands off the wheel, how things change. Its my fear that pushes me to hang on with white knuckles. Living in a place of trust in God is my sustenance. Trusting in His direction, His power, His direction. Its not all up to me.

I used to think that once the drugs were gone, then she could really begin to work on getting healthy. That she would be bright and shiny and able to get a job, able to go out into the world and be ok. That is not our reality at this point. Its not her reality...and as sad as it is for me, it is even more so, a million times more so, for her. I keep saying to myself (not out-loud lol) "just because something is hard does not mean its wrong."

So I choose to embrace our reality. Most days.

In the spirit of honesty....I will share this. Recently my girl balked at some paperwork requirement to hopefully get her some services in place. I replied to her sass with, "Well, you can always live under a bridge."

I regretted it the moment it came out of my mouth. It made her mad. Hurt her feelings. I felt ashamed of myself. Cruel. We worked our way through it. I will never be able to do this journey perfectly. Ever ever ever. I will make mistakes and so will she. And hopefully we will be able to extend grace and forgiveness to one another during those times. Hopefully we will have people around us who hold space for us, who pray for us, who walk with us...and allow us to do those things for them.

God bless us all.....please.
Annette

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ive missed being here.....

I have really missed being here. I have started several posts that are tucked away in my drafts folder...I will get back to them eventually, but for today I just wanted to check in. I have an unexpected day at home and I have several things I want to accomplish, but checking in here was at the top of the list.

I hope the holiday was good for all of you. It is such a challenging time for so many.  So many expectations and hopes for "just this once, can we all hold it together?!" At the end of the day, the dad said, "This was the most "normal" holiday we have had in a long long time." He was thrilled, but I wanted more. That seems to be my nemesis. I always want more, better, always striving for perfection, the best that everything can be. Total abstinence, total sobriety, total sanity, accountability, brutal naked honesty...I set the bar way up here in the stratosphere and I only manage to discourage everyone. I have to work so hard at accepting what *is,* as enough for today. Remembering that we are in a process. That our lives are a process of good days and bad days and how we will navigate each.

I am coming to the conclusion that for some long term, hard core addicts, total abstinent sobriety is a long term process and may never actually be attainable. Things here are better though. I dont live feeling that death is imminent. I am accepting things as "good enough." Progress...and I am learning how to be content there for today. I have been given the most beautiful and bizarre life filled with vibrant imperfect people. And they have been given me.....vibrant, imperfect, wired a little tightly, a little too intense, impatient, pushing for change all the time, craving connection, and always always always their fiercest advocate... Together we make up this big "mess" of a family!

We just finished turning in everything for the SSI process. That whole experience almost killed me. I can only imagine what it felt like to my girl. Filling out numerous packets for all different entities, documenting over and over again all of your most private and humilitating ways that you are not ok,  needing to outline in big black sharpie all of your flaws to convince a stranger that "Yes it is true, I am unable to manage my own care." It was demoralizing, painful to watch. Once again, all I can think is that there has to be a better way to reach out and help people. A way that lets them hang on  to whatever dignity they can manage to hold in their trembling hands.

Molly is pregnant, and now has a fiancee. : ) Such a sweet couple. He proposed Christmas Eve at his  parents house. We all were there together, such a wonderful event, such a wonderful family. Down to earth, real, comfortable.....I just love them.  For Christmas Molly, and lets see what can I call my future son in law..."Grant." That is good. Anyway, Molly and Grant gave his mom and myself gift cards for a pedicure, massage and coffee that we can go to together, for a mom bonding day. I am so looking forward to it.

It has been suggested by my quiet Little One's dr. that she be evaluated for Aspergers. She was livid and now feels that her dr's "intelligence" is in question. She does have many characteristics...and I think the only positive in confirming or eliminating it is that it will explain a lot of who she is and how she does things and what her needs are and how to meet them....and most of all that its all ok! She agreed to the assessment as part of the process of elimination. To "prove its not true." She is such a sweet unique girl who brings us so much joy with all of her interesting interests. There is a big part of me that feels like, "So what."

The one positive with having active addiction in your life for so many years is that everything else pales in comparison. Tattoos....who cares. Pregnant before getting married....we've got this. Autism....big deal! Long lines.....gives me a minute to breathe. Its pretty hard to rattle me anymore.

I read a great book called On Living by Kerry Egan, who is a Hospice chaplain. She was given a medication during her first child's birth that caused a mental break that it took months for her to recover from. She talks about that time, but also her work with the dying. I just loved all of her insights and her realnesss. My current caseload of clients is one very elderly woman who is an absolute joy, and 3 youngish paralyzed people. I love my Hospice work but currently my schedule is too full to add anyone else. After reading this book, I have been wondering what it would take to become a chaplain. It would be similar to what I do now, minus the heavy lifting and personal care. I think I would love it. I mentioned it to The Dad and bless his heart, he said, "I think if you want to go back to school, you should." I feel so old, and where will I get the time and the money? But I am thinking about it.

Ok, Im off to put away all of my clothes that have been piled on my wicker rocking chair in my bedroom for MONTHS!! There, a true confession so you can all know that you are probably holding real life together pretty well in comparison.

Love to all and thank you to those who have reached out privately. That has meant so much. My break from Facebook and blogging and most online life was really needed and so refreshing.

Always praying for us all....
Annette


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Im finally in the club!!

These two sweet things.......

Are bringing me this special little someone in July and turning me into a g-ma!
This feels so joyful and like something so very very good is happening in our family. These two are such neat people and will be such wonderful parents. Any of you who have shared this journey with me, who have been my co-travelers as we have navigated so much uncertainty and fear and hurt together, know what I am saying. This is just good. Happy, normal, life going on, and we are blessed.  

Hoping that Thanksgiving was peaceful for all....
I am savoring my down time and trying to protect it and keep it simple. 
Praying for us all.....
Annette

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Solitude vs. Isolation

I am pulling back these days. I have never been in this place before and I can only think that it is a tribute to the emotional health that I have been able to piece together through the years. I am a "never give up," "we don't quit," "I will forge on ahead even if it kills me," type of person.

However these days I just don't have it in me and I am finding that it's really very comforting, quite lovely actually, to step back and let others take over, and even....to care for me. I don't have to manage and be in charge or be participating in something that is useful every single moment of every single day.

Let me tell you that I am a doer. Doers, at least this is true of me, are afraid of being let down, so they do everything themselves. I should just speak for myself really, but I have a feeling, I might not be the only one and at the very least my true confession will let anyone else know they aren't alone. It is a little vestige of fear and control that I have not been able to let go of....and it all looked so nice. Lol I was the hero, the one who could do it all, who everyone could count on....until I wasn't. The problem with this is that we, I, rob other's of their chance to serve, to feel good for helping, to feel like they are a necessary part of something. It put me on top and you beneath. My need for this sort of affirmation has been so all encompassing that I have not been able to scoot over and make room for anyone else to be the hero, the shining star, the one that is needed.

The dad, bless his heart, has always just stepped aside and allowed me the freedom to pursue whatever I wanted, to fill this deep chasm of need that I have been compelled to fill...he was content for the most part to let me bull doze around doing a million things, while he played board games with the kids. My guess is that he was wiping his brow in relief that I knew enough to not seek all of that positive affirmation from him. My analytical, problem solver, linear thinker of a husband would have stared back at me, wide eyed, and wondered where to begin.

What me stepping back and acknowledging that I can't do it all, that I NEED help, that I NEED my family to rally around me for once, that I don't have the answers that we need....that maybe no one does and we just need to keep on moving forward doing the best we can....what this has given to me is a chance to rest and a chance for those I love to rise to the occasion. And they have. A hug here and there, a foot rub, a TV show chosen to share with me because they think I will like it (I NEVER watch TV and it's a source of pride with me that I do more useful things than zone out watching TV... I can really be awful,) a text saying that they love me, help around the house, help with all the driving we do, help with cooking and cleaning, taking over some of my responsibilities so that I can just be.

I have stepped away from some volunteer positions for a minute, I left Facebook for the holidays....a friend once called me "The Mayor of FB land." Not funny. I feel the need to focus on the here and now, the concrete of my daily life, be present in today with those closest to me. I'm keeping our holidays simple. They are an incredibly challenging time for me. I knew that watching everyone's "perfect" holiday FB moments played out over my iPad screen would be too painful this year, so I walked away until after the new year.

Not to mention all of the election awfulness going back and forth. For the record, I didn't vote for either of our top candidates so I knew that my "by default" pick wasn't going to win....but I couldn't in good conscience in all of my glorious freedom vote for either one. So for today I feel that we all need to live by being true to who we are, in love and kindness with one another, and let's see how things play out. I know.....simplistic. But it's all I have right now. If we all conduct ourselves in love and care for our fellow children of God, how can we go wrong?

So if I'm not around for awhile, you will know that I am just resting. Trying to take it slow. Trying to get through the holidays with some joy and a semblance of sanity. I am reachable through email though....Lv4gves@comcast.net Thank you to those of you who have reached out and checked in. That has meant so much to me.

Bless us all. May each of you, my readers and friends, find your way to peace and good will toward all men. Much love to all.....
Annette


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Still kicking.....

I'm still alive! Some of you have emailed me to see if all is ok.....which is so very sweet and makes me feel good. I'm just super busy. I will try to write soon. In the mean time here is an old post, written several years ago, that some one recently referenced in the comments... I see a continuous theme through my years of blogging. I am always "busy." There is something to that I am sure, but I am too busy to figure it out right now.
Love to all......I will be back soon. I miss being here. 
Annette

Hinds Feet On High Places

Life has been stress-fully busy lately. I have been to 2 meetings in the past 4 weeks...both I was incredibly grateful for. At one a sheriff came to the door and stood there looking in. My heart took off racing and I began to feel sick. Someone asked him what he needed and he was looking for someone inside the church where the meeting meets. I asked if that had produced anxiety for anyone else...every mom in the room nodded their heads. It was like an immediate anxiety attack or post traumatic stress reaction. It just showed me that inside me is a deep well of a lot of emotion, fear and feelings that are all still there. I have learned to live above them and they don't rule my life anymore, but given the right circumstances they can still be triggered and rear their ugly heads. 

The second meeting was a parent meeting and the topic was on the 3 C's. I have heard lots of meetings on the 3 C's before, but this mom shared on the 3rd C...she didn't cause it. She talked about all of her "if only's"...if only she hadn't worked, if only he had gone to private school, if only she had been more strict, if only they hadn't lived in an affluent neighborhood, if only she had homeschooled him, if only he hadn't been an only child. She said she learned that to each of her "if only's" she knew someone who had done the opposite but was still in the same boat as she was. Amen Sister. It just happens. 

I had a counselor explain it to me this way as I went on and on about all that I had done wrong as a mom...."If you think its your fault then you have some hope that you can change something to make it better. If its not your fault, you have no control over the situation. Its almost easier to bear the responsibility of it being your fault and having hope of change, then to acknowledge it was nothing you did or didn't do and be forced to acknowledge your powerlessness."

At that same meeting I heard a mom say that she wouldn't share her son's story because that was his to share. She could only share her's. That resonated with me and reaffirmed my goal to keep the focus on myself. I only have charge over my own recovery.

Lastly, I am reading an old book that has been one of my favorites for 30 years, with one of my clients. It is called Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. It is a Christian book, an allegory, about our journey with the Shepherd to the High Places. Not as in dying and going to heaven.....but while alive and the suffering we encounter and how as we make our way through each obstacle we become stronger, more filled with compassion, gratitude, and more surrendered to our Shepherd's will for us. Below is an excerpt from the preface that was very meaningful to me. Feel free to exchange Christ's name with Higher Power if that makes it more palatable: 

From Hinds Feet on High Places pg 11-12
But the High Places of victory and union with Christ cannot be reached by any mental reckoning of self to be dead to sin, or by seeking to devise some way or discipline by which the will can be crucified. The only way is by learning to accept, day by day, the actual conditions and tests permitted by God, by a continually repeated laying down of our own will and acceptance of his as it is presented to us in the form of the people with whom we have to live and work, and in the things which happen to us. Every acceptance of his will becomes an altar of sacrafice, and every such surrender and abandonment of ourselves to his will is a means of furthering us on the way to the High Places to which he desires to bring every child of his while they are still living on earth.

The lessons of accepting and triumphing over evil, of becoming acquainted with grief, and pain, and ultimately, of finding them transformed into something incomparably precious; of learning through constant glad surrender to know the Lord of Love himself in a new way and to experience unbroken union with him-these are the lessons of the allegory in this book.~

I know that in my journey in recovery I have often found myself at a point of such deep gratitude for the journey we have been on. Sadness, heartbreak, fear, and all that it has included this far, because it stripped away all of the yuk. All of the facades of trying to look better than we were. It brought us down to the bare soul of who we are, where we are. It was real. We get to look head-on at the good and the bad of who we are and deal with it accordingly. Through this journey I have found a loving God, a God that accepts me unconditionally and loves me despite my imperfections and mistakes. I don't know how I would manage if I hadn't found Him along the way. 

Continuing on my journey just for today, because today is all I have. 
Annette



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Seeing more clearly today....maybe

I am feeling better today. ( Mood swings anyone?)

A few things happened.....I have had two entire days off, I got to meet a friend for lunch, and another for coffee, I have gotten to cook and bake, I filled my bird feeders, little one and I walked the dogs and let them play in the lake. I went to a wonderful meeting where I heard what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it...the topic was concept 8. 

"The Board of Trustees Delegates Full Authority for Routine Management of Al-Anon Headquarters to its Executive Committees. " 

Who goes to meetings on the concepts?! Lol It just happened to be what we were talking about though and while that particular concept isn't what resonated with me.....it was all of my faithful co-travelers comments that poured over me like cool water on a blistering hot summer day. It led to a lot of discussion about control issues, and *delegating* responsibility, our own self-importance that we can't allow anyone to do anything without our involvement or oversight. I slip back into that space sometimes, especially when I am feeling a little fearful. A lot fearful. The strange thing is that the more I manage and control, the more afraid I become. The more I let go and trust the process (and my kind and gentle HP) the more calm and at peace I feel.

My trigger this time was helping my girl to make the appointment to file for SSI. We have put this off for years, hoping, believing, that she will get better. We haven't wanted to admit or accept that it might *need* to go this way. We have in no way wanted to convey to her that this is it, there is no hope for more or better living, that she is irreparably broken. As we filled out the volumes of paperwork, that she needed extensive help with filling out and getting back in the mail within the required time frame, it was like a slap across the face. What we have allowed to be our norm, accepted, was made glaringly apparent by this process, how limited she really is. We hang onto the idea that it's a stepping stone, a bridge, to something more. 

You know in this journey of addicted kids and mentally ill kids, there is a grieving process. I have gone through it at different stages as things evolved and changed through the years and I have had to let go of how I thought things would be....this was just another level of that. A much deeper, guttural, level. This is NEVER in my wildest nightmares what I envisioned as part of my mothering journey. 

I think the above, the aftermath lull of the wonderful wedding weekend, the political sh*t that is being flung all over our every waking moment, that our country has been reduced to these two choices as our fearless leaders, the God-awful videos of overdosing addicts and the observers laughing and saying such cruel things and *videotaping* rather than offering help....I feel like I am living in a world that has gone crazy and its weighing on me. All of it. It's oppressive, scary, and it all, every dot and tittle is.....OUT OF MY CONTROL. All I can do for today is fill my house with the wonderful smell of roasted vegetables and potroast cooking, listen as my little one practices her Japanese....she asked me to help her to make up flash cards. What a simple joy. One of my kids needs me, is requesting my involvement for something as simple as making up flash cards! THAT I can do. After Canada's ruling to not allow bully breeds and to euthanize all pit bulls we are studying breed discrimination and she is writing an opinion piece later today after we watch the movie Beyond The Myth. I can savor THESE moments, I can trust that God has a plan...even when I don't understand it or see it. It's there and I can trust and believe in its wisdom and perfection and not concern myself with having to figure everything out. 

Thank you for all of the very kind comments. You all are my people! I know that some of you are right here with me, you get this like many other's can't. Just know that I appreciate your words so so very much. 
Always praying....
Annette

My big boy "Jake" who would be illegal in Canada. The sweetest goofiest protector of all.
                  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Co-occurring disorders

This month marks one year since I spent the day with my girl for her birthday and realized in a very conscious way that if someone didn't intervene, she would probably not survive another year as she was. She was in such bad physical shape. I offered a therapist, an olive branch, an open door for her to go through that would lead out and away from her toxic existence. 

So what happens when the drug use is drastically reduced, but they aren't really getting better? We've had several months of "near" abstinent sobriety....but she remains frozen, paralyzed in her abilities to cope, to head out into the world and create a semblance of a life for herself. Very minimal progress in the realm of life building, but significant progress in changing her substance use. 

I will be honest....this scares me. 

How long will this take? Am I just being impatient? Will it get better? We are only getting older. Maybe time will make things better....but that has not been the case in the past. 

Every bout of sobriety is like this for her. She does not get sober and feel release and free and hopeful. She feels miserable, frozen, uncomfortable in her own skin, and afraid. I totally get that early sobriety is fragile and painful and uncomfortable. I know this... But can she stay sober long enough to get past the discomfort? I don't know. I just don't know. Can she ever get past the discomfort? 

Mental health care in America for the uninsured is non-existent. Mental health care for people WITH insurance is terribly lacking. I am not feeling hopeful for our future today. The dad's and mine and our girl's. I'm sure things will get better, more progress will happen. It has to. I can't fathom it not. The eternal optimist has hit a speed bump and it's thrown me head over heels catapulting down our pathway. 

Pray for me. 
Annette 

PS: Things I'm doing to take care of myself:
1. Raising my antidepressant 10 mg! 
2. Going for a walk today with my big dog Jake to look at the fall colors all around where I live. 
3. Reading a real book.
4. I bought my favorite custom scented lotion.
5. Praying.