Friday, December 25, 2015

An open letter to doctors everywhere

It could have been a lot of things—you may have a bad day, or you may have formed an opinion about the patient beforehand. But it’s important to remember that doctor-patient interactions are human interactions. That’s important for both doctor and patient to remember.
Wednesday I sat in the specialist’s office for the 4th time for the same problem, because my primary care doctor wanted to be sure we weren’t missing anything. Rather than look for a reason why I’m still having problematic symptoms, this specialist chose to intimate I was at best exaggerating, at worse faking my symptoms. She also told me I’d gained so much weight that I was almost unrecognizable compared to the photo they had of me from my first visit. Then she proceeded to tell me that she no longer needed to see me, that if my doctor had any questions she could call—but it was no longer necessary for me to return to the office.
Almost five months ago I got a concussion at work. Despite rest, medications, and following all my doctors’ instructions I am not better. I still can’t drive. I have pain every single day. If I don’t recover I’m looking at a future devoid of many of my favorite things. It’s changed my life irrevocably. I can’t go to Disneyland with my family anymore—the crowds, the rides, it’s all done for me if I don’t get better. I’m a writer who can barely stare at the computer for more than a couple hours a day. I’m a mother who can’t attend her daughters’ concerts or her son’s basketball game. Car rides that last more than a few minutes are torture. Even the crowds at church freak me out, thanks to my new anxiety.
Beyond all of that, I’m a person. A fellow human being. But I wasn’t treated like one that day. I was treated like a problem. A dark smear in her otherwise perfect record. She made a point of telling me none of her other concussion patients had symptoms that lasted as long as mine, as if I was not being wholly and completely honest about my experience.
I wish I could have said these things to my doctor that day. I should have, but I was honestly so taken aback by her words that I just wanted to get out of there. I’m glad I don’t have to see her anymore. Apart from the visit itself, the hour long drive there (and then an hour back again) is miserable. At least I know that my primary care physician hears me.
I know the world we live in. I know too many people fake injury or illness to live off disability or workers’ compensation. I know there are people who defraud the system. But I’m not one of those people. If you knew how much this stupid injury has changed my life you wouldn’t doubt that I am in daily pain and misery. I’m failing my family every day. I’m on a ton of antidepressants for pain, and guess what? I’ve gained quite a bit of weight due to the medication and the fact that I can barely move. I can’t exercise without sharp, shooting pain in my head. I’ve tried. I try regularly. I want to be better, but after so many weeks of this my fragile optimism is fading fast.
The last thing I need is to feel like my doctor doesn’t even believe me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December Fifteen

We're basically halfway done with December 2015, so I'm looking ahead to January. 2016. It's going to be a huge year for us.

Epic, really.

First of all, this is happening. 
Elder Brandon Chesley reports to the Provo MTC January 27. You know, basically 6 weeks from tomorrow. No pressure, right? ;)

It was a hugely emotional, exciting day yesterday. It was almost like Bry and Chris's wedding day, where afterward we all went back to our friend's house and collapsed, we were so exhausted.

Because, not only did we get Brandon's mission call, we also got to unleash more good news into the world.

Yup, you read that right. I'm going to be a grandma. Bry called us a week or so ago to tell us the news, but they waited until everyone in their family circle was told personally before going public with the announcement. So even though we knew already, being able to announce and brag about it publicly yesterday was HUGE. I didn't expect it to hit me that hard, but it did. So amazing, so happy. it's the greatest news.

Like I said, yesterday was pretty epic, and looking forward to 2016 has all new applications. Brandon going on his mission is a big deal for us. Having a grand baby is a big deal for us, too. It was like Christmas came early, and I'm totally set now. I don't need more gifts.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

It's December...

...and the holiday blahs are here.

This isn't really news to anyone since I go through it every year. Although every year I hope it's going to be better. Nobody wants grumpy mom for Christmas.

We planned ahead this time. Over Thanksgiving break, Bryan and I decided when we would put up the tree as a family. He likes to do it about 2 weeks before Christmas. Some years I want it up sooner, other years I don't want it up at all. We put it up yesterday, and ideally it was the perfect time. Bryan didn't have to go to work until after bedtime, Brandon didn't work at all, and everyone would be home. No concerts, no games, we could all do it together.

Reality was that Bryan was still groggy from sleep and sat on the sidelines and directed more than participated. Brandon is getting sick and was beyond exhausted and had been home all day. Baby Girl was also not feeling well, I was miserable with this stupid headache and did way more than I was physically able to do. And the twins wanted to be silly and goofy when all I wanted was some cooperation. So, it was less than perfect. Though we did wind it all up with cinnamon rolls, so there's that.

I woke up today so sore from everything I did the night before. I've been taking it easy today, thinking of all the things I should be doing. I have gifts to make, a book to edit, etc. But I had no energy. And now, even though I've been staring at the tree all day, I'm hostile and downright angry. I don't want to be around anyone. And I hate Christmas.


I know this is my depression rearing its ugly head and shouting for attention. Stupid depression.. And maybe it's hitting extra hard this time because of my head injury. I don't know. I can't even say it's disproportionate to what I experience every holiday. The worst thing is that I can't even pinpoint why I hate holidays so much--why they're such a trigger for my depression. I've been with Bryan for 20 years. Half my life. And every year we've had a great holiday, despite our less than glorious circumstances. (in his words, "why are we always broke at Christmastime?!") But the day itself is always great. The kids are happy with what they get. We have a nice, quiet day at home. Sometimes we've had snow. Sometimes not. Some memories are better than others, like the time the kids unwrapped our Disneyland trip for Christmas. That was fun. And, naturally, the Christmases we've had Sissy have always been favorites.

I know Christmas isn't about what's under the tree. I know it's about family, and living a Christ-centered life. It's about celebrating the birth of our Savior. This week has been such a roller coaster for me. I've been so grateful for getting a new roof, so blessed that the cars have held up and my kids are safe, so glad that my kids are so awesome. But at the same time I've been fighting my dark holiday mood swings. I want to just crawl in a cave and not come out till spring. Oooh, maybe I'm a bear.

Okay, maybe not.

There's no denying 2015 has been hard. Rough. My concussion and pathetic, ongoing recovery. Bryan going months without a job and then being underemployed. The house falling apart and being unable to do anything about it. Same with the vehicles. But there's been a lot of good in there, too. Brandon graduated high school. He's waiting now for his mission call (any day). All the kids are doing and have done well in school. Jeffrey's having a great basketball season with his team. The roof got replaced and looks awesome--and just in time for some big weather. The cars haven't given out on us. Inigo has started catching and killing mice. All the animals have been healthy and injury free.

Sure, we still have a lot of needs that require tending. And right now I have no plan to make them happen, aside from waiting for our tax refund. I don't know if some of our issues will wait that long (looking at you, Durango). Today's been bad. Far more negative than positive. That's been difficult for me, and by default hard for the family. (If mama ain't know the rest) I try so hard not to break, but yesterday I snapped at Jeffrey and today I got rather grumbly at my daughters. It's hard to hold it in, and I fail sometimes. I know they don't deserve it, and I'd love to be better. But I don't know how. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

My Beautiful Daughter and World Opinions

My 14 yr old daughter came home from school yesterday and proceeded to tell me about cultures around the world who embrace and even revere people of larger sizes. They consider skinny people to be sickly, unappealing, unhealthy.

But we live in America, where Twiggy set a standard 50 years ago that nobody can shake. Today I read about a lingerie company that has announced they won't photoshop their models anymore. Yay? I guess.

Why did they start doing it in the first place?'re all familiar with this quote attributed to Harry Potter author JK Rowling. And, for the most part, we believe it. I mean, wouldn't you rather be told you're fat than vindictive or cruel?

Our instinctive behavior would indicate otherwise. Anyone who grew up on a playground of any kind heard it. The heavy girl is called fat. When insulting one another, the popular girls call each other fat. How is FAT the worst thing we can think of?

I was "big boned" in middle school. Translation: I grew taller faster than my petite friends. I dieted at age 13 to wear a borrowed dress I absolutely loved to my 8th grade graduation. Looking back, I don't know what I was trying to prove. (truth probably had more to do with the fact that I couldn't afford a new dress, and this one was the only nice one I had access to)  I weighed 125 lbs from age 13 to age 21, when I got pregnant with my first child. In that time I grew 5 or 6 inches in height. 

Think about that. 125 lbs on a girl who's 5'3" or even 5'4" might look a little heavy. But on a girl who's 5'9"? My favorite pair of jeans to wear on dates with Bryan was a bright red size 5. I kind of had to squeeze into them, but they were my "wow" jeans. I was maybe a size 8, which his perfectly healthy and even a little slim. For a normal human being. But you know what? I was ashamed of my "belly." It wasn't washboard firm. It was embarassing. I tried to hide it from my husband after we got married. (Yeah, didn't work. Turns out he didn't care, but that's another story)

Back to my daughter. She struggled with weight issues in 5th thru 7th grade. Interestingly enough, she was also horribly bullied during that time. I worried about her health (and mine at the time, still do) because she has a major sweet tooth and abhors any physical activity that might lead to sweating. I mean, seriously. She's the only child who complained at Disneyland. So we discussed things with her and with her doctor, we implemented healthier eating habits and she got healthier. As a side effect, she also lost some weight. She also grew like 3 inches, so that took her off the "obese" charts at the Dr's office. 

I just want to point out that our obsession with thinness is a societal thing--not a health concern or even a world problem. Sure, other societies do embrace thinness as the ideal, but many many societies DON'T. 

What I'd really like to see is a focus on healthy, if you're going to focus on the appearance of a person at all. Healthy is good, and it's DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE. Eating smart is a great idea whether you're 5 or 55. Moving your body is good for your body--physically and emotionally. The food industry is there to make money, not to help us be healthy. 

We have to be our own advocate and shop and eat smart. It would also be great if the side effect was a society-wide departure from fat-shaming and other horrid behavior. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Vanishing American Work Ethic

**This is not based on anything other than my personal observations**

Do we not raise kids to work anymore?

I got a job delivering newspapers in my early teens. I often substituted for other carriers if they had to go out of town, or were sick. My brothers had routes for a while. My mom drove me sometimes and I got really good at throwing the papers up the driveways on both sides of the street--from the sun roof.

I still had the paper route when they started transitioning to all-car routes, basically eliminating the classic bicycle riding "paper boy" in the name of safety. And I get it. I got it then. But it meant I was being phased out.

Because of my work ethic, I took over two other routes as they let more paper boys go. Because they could rely on me getting the job done. Then, finally, my routes were taken over too.

That was my first job. 3 years ago I put my notice in at the local Dollar General because I needed to concentrate more on my family. The job was literally taking up ever moment of my life. I left on such good terms I can go back at any time. They offered me the manager job of that store, but I turned it down. They wanted me because of my work ethic--my willingness to actually do my job. I'm not talking about going above and beyond. I'm talking about the minimal basic requirements of the job. When I was at work, I was at work. Not at home, or on Facebook on my phone. I was working.

Bryan is working now at Walmart while he goes to nursing school. And they love him. Why? Because he's the same way. When he's at work, he's working. I don't call/text and pester him. He doesn't goof off or loaf around. He comes home from work and needs a shower because he actually worked.

Brandon has his second official job working at Long John Silver in Duncan. They are constantly calling him to pick up a shift some other employee didn't show up for, or asking him to come in and do some work because it has to be done and they're short staffed. They love him, why? Because he actually does his job.

My oldest brother and my mom visited this past July. Jim expressed his frustration that so many of their newer hires at work don't work. He told me stories about people logging in to work and then going away. It happened when I worked for the company, too. And it just seems to be getting worse.

So what's happened? I find myself longing for the "glory days" of America--when people were responsible, reliable, and honest. When did we get so lazy? Why do we have college kids who expect to have their hands held all through school? (I'm friends with a professor and he shares)

Where is the work ethic?

I'm happy to say that I don't know people who are irresponsible at their jobs. My kids understand what it is to work. Me and my husband do as well. But I've worked with--face it, we all have--a growing number of individuals who seem to expect to be paid just for showing up.

That doesn't even begin to cut it, people.

So where is the break down? Where is the idea that they are privileged and entitled come from? Because we really need to set the record straight.

Knowing what you DON'T Know

The internet has been on fire this past week. There's been lots of name calling, lots of accusations, lots of mud slinging, etc. And that's just on my news feed.

The internet is a wonderful thing. You can keep connected with far away loved ones. You can learn and improve yourself both spiritually and intellectually. Yes, the internet has it's bad side--not the least of which are soul and relationship destroying sites and general time sucks (facebook, twitter, instagram, etc). But using it with wisdom can make your online experience a positive one.

Here's my current problem with the internet (and, it's not even current--this is a large overlying issue): it gives far too many people a "platform" with which to express their opinions. Social media is the worst about this, because anyone can say anything and they're basically untouchable. And it has the potential to rile up even the calmest of people.

In short, there are far too many people expressing their opinions at the top of their lungs--or, fingers in this case. Opinion is not fact, but listening to one side or the other can skew your world view. Ideally, we would all appropriately educate ourselves about each issue and then, if we felt compelled to enter into a debate, express our views rationally and allow the other person or people to do the same. Instead, opinion-expressing on social media is basically like parking a live explosive in your front yard.

And it's easy to forget that people are expressing their opinions already skewed by the circumstances of their lives. I read this morning about a girl who lives in a $900k home, went to private school at $32k a year, and is griping about wanting college to be free for everybody. It calls to mind the heiress I invited to my wedding, and then sent her a hand made thank you--that she complained about. "I know money's tight, but..."

Each of us is colored by our own experience. That's the crayon we use most. Money being "tight" to you likely doesn't mean the same thing as it does to me. And it doesn't mean the same thing to the person who lives down the street.

But instead of allowing for these inherent differences in one another, we resort to name calling and verbal abuse--simply put, we start acting like primary school children.

There are many things about the world I don't know. I haven't personally experienced them, I don't have a frame of reference, and so I refrain from stating an opinion. I'm human--of course I have an opinion, but I know what I don't know, and I'm not going to spout off like an idiot about something I can't more fully understand.

What's more, I don't hit back and abuse people who disagree with me--regardless of how childishly they do so.

Can we just remember that we're all human? And supposedly adult? Because the playground monitor is off duty here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Making Your Happy

I know I've said this before, but I'm not sure where I've said it. I hate this house. When we chose to move back to OK I told Bryan I will live anywhere but the Broadway house. It's been in the family forever, I know all of its problems and issues, and I don't want any part of it.

I didn't get my way. When I got a house for my birthday in 2011 I got the Broadway house. With it's bad plumbing, bad roof, and too few rooms. But I chose to be grateful and make the best of it for the time being because it was so much better than the 3 bedroom apartment/duplex we rented in UT. The rental options in Duncan were too few, and I liked the idea of being closer to Bryan's mom in  the nursing home so the kids could visit her regularly. I figured I could make it work until we could get into something better.

If you've followed our journey out here at all, you know that we've had some incredible financial speed bumps. Just as we start to get our sea legs we're either hit with a major expense or job loss. The idea Bryan had always held onto that his Class A CDL driver's license always meant he could get work fell apart. We've had stretches of unemployment and under employment. Periods where I had to work out of the house, at times to the detriment of the family, and then my personal health crisis, which is now in its 90th day. I pray you never know how awful it is to be faced with bills and expenses and be physically unable to do one. Single. Thing. about them.

Over time, we've revisited the idea of staying in or moving from this house. In the mean time several things have happened--the mice invasion of 2014, the roof fail of 2015, buying the lot next door and taking down the drug shed. Most of the kids choosing to go to school in Duncan. The cars. Ugh. Not all of them have been bad, you see. And, right now, we are owners of this house paid in full.

But it's still awful. It's going to take at least $20k to get it in proper order, so that the bedrooms don't rain and the bathroom floor doesn't cave in. And that's nothing to do with the cosmetics of the house, my coffin-sized master bathroom or the face that 90% of the property's fencing won't hold anything in or out. I've joked to my friends the best thing we can do is to bulldoze the property and start over.

Of course, that's not in the cards. Yesterday Bryan again revisited staying in this house. Now that we own it outright, we can get a loan and do the much needed repairs. Yes, that would mean a mortgage, but the other option is to piece together the money to do the repairs over time. Sure, in 2 years we'd have the roof fixed and the bathroom floor redone--but the repairs can't wait two years. It's an ox in the mire situation, and has to be fixed asap. So that means a mortgage. That means staying in this house until we've paid it off. If we're careful that could be ten years, but more likely 15.

When faced with the idea that we were staying in this house because we had no other option, I felt myself shatter. Our lives are in Duncan--jobs, school, church, doctor, dentist, etc. Our cars are not up to endless commuting back and forth. They're both about to die, and we haven't been able to do needed repairs on them all year. The most pressing part of the repairs this house needed I didn't even know about in the summer. I had no idea it had gotten that bad.

So I was faced with an impossible situation--the realization that I was stuck for an indeterminable period of time in a house I despise. Without the option to move, I was left with only two choices. I could either immerse myself in bitterness and regret for the things I can't have, or CHOOSE to make the best of a bad situation. I'm not going to lie. Tears were shed. And I recognize it's a process. But I am choosing my happy. I begged Bryan to be patient with  me as I process and come to terms with this change. It's not easy, but I refuse to live my life in bitterness and regret.

And, if I can truly make the most of it, then maybe I can finally make this house my own.

Christmas Lists

I have two things on my mind today, so I'm probably going to waste all my writing minutes on blog posts. (I learned last week I can write for about 1200 words before it hurts to much to go on)

Because we spent so much time this year unemployed and job hunting, Bryan has come up with a pretty ingenious method for getting the Christmas shopping done. It's not going to be a big Christmas, but we've gone light before, and Brandon can't even think of anything he wants. I told him we'll probably have more to add to his list once he gets his mission call, and until then I'm okay with waiting.

But we asked the other 4 kids to come up with wish lists for Christmas this week, so we can get started on the acquisition part of the exercise. Every year we do this, and every single time I'm humbled and amazed by my children.

The twins took all evening, brainstormed together, and could barely come up with much of anything. Though the things that made the list were pretty practical, and some just for fun.

My Rose came up with the longest list. She never has had a shortage of things she wants, you know? But I like long lists because they give us plenty of options.

My youngest, of course, made me cry. Her list starts with an English to German dictionary (what 11 yr old asks for that?!) and ends with a miracle. Among the other things she listed are help for stress and a gallon of milk all her own. Mind you, when it comes to food that's the only place where we haven't had to scrimp and take shortcuts. These kids have no shortage of food. But she misses chicken thighs and lettuce (lettuce goes fast and Bryan doesn't always think to buy it) and wants a gallon of milk she can put her name on. We had a long conversation about the stress thing. I know most of her stress is self inflicted, like mine, but that doesn't lessen the impact any. And we're going to talk more. It's been a rough year for her, for all of us. People who never experience stretches of time with no income really can't understand the emotional damage it can do. And I hate it most because it impacts my kids in ways I can't always control or mitigate.

So, in a nutshell, even when life is all uphill and blind cliffs my kids are awesome. I love them so much, they teach me every day and I'm so glad to be their mom.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


I have none.

I guess it's better to take to this blog to gripe than to post it all over Facebook. I had a long post all typed out and I realized I don't want to sound whiney. But, seriously, I am SO over this stupid concussion recovery.

My mom had a rather stunning epiphany regarding my condition that I hadn't considered. She'd gone to the temple last week, and had been praying about relief for me from my pain. As she sat pondering it occurred to her that without the pain, I'd be doing all the things--shopping, dr/dentist appts for the kids, work, etc. In the long run, not resting and relieving my brain would cause more damage than I did when I hit my head on the counter.

Because duh. Of course I would. I would do all the things. If I was physically able you can be darn sure I wouldn't be sitting here and letting everybody do things for me. And what damage would I cause to myself? What further injury?

Do you realize that means the PAIN IS A GOOD THING?

It helps me recognize my limitations. It, of course, took my mom saying it until I realized it. I've just been griping about how limited I am right now. Grumble. Mumble. Grr.

Think about it like having a pulled muscle in your arm. You have to rest it. You have to be careful with how much you extend it. Naturally you want to use it, need to use it, but you have to be patient with your recovery because, if you push, you can cause more damage than your initial injury.

The problem is that resting my mind is basically resting my entire self. And after two months of being down, my muscles are starting to atrophy. I'm becoming weaker. We've been talking to my Dr about my moving more--taking it easy, of course, but working on rebuilding my strength. Because, right now, today, if I went to work I'd never make it. Maybe I'd last an hour if I moved slowly.

So yesterday I walked 3/4 of a mile. And it was hard, but I was being careful. I went three laps around the track After the second lap I felt like I could go on, but in the middle of the third lap I was done. I finished it because I was equidistant from the entrance either way. Today, not wanting to lose the ground I'd gained physically, I got on the treadmill and went a half mile. It was hard. My head started aching about a third of the way in, but I wanted to do at least a half mile because that's hardly anything.. I've walked 4, 5 miles in a day. Over 20 miles a week. A half mile in a day?

Yeah, no. Right now my head is pounding, the pain is not responding to my medication, the computer hurts (why am I typing this long thing if it's hurting me? I dunno. I just want to get it off my chest). I'm nauseated because of the pain.. I feel pretty much how I did in the days after my injury.

And that's ridiculously frustrating all by itself because I want to BE BETTER NOW. I know, and you know, that patience is not my best quality. But, seriously?

Okay. I'm done.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nobody's Looking

I sneak over here sometimes when nobody's looking to express my thoughts in peace. I know I'm safe because this blog has hardly any traffic, and I really love the people who do visit.

Where to begin? I'm still down, in month TWO, with this stupid concussion recovery. Improvement is happening, by degrees, but just when I realize something is better I get slammed down by something that's not.

For instance: The week before last I had a couple of good, almost pain free days. I started getting excited. Maybe I could start rejoining the living world again. Just to test my recovery level I tried to go a day without pain meds. It took me over three days to recover, and I only lasted till noon without them. The week that followed that one was the sharpest reality check I've experienced to date--full of pain, forgetfulness, and horrible bouts of dizziness. I've had a few real scares of falling, and I'm telling you nothing scares me more right now than hitting my head again.

So last week was awful. But toward the end I started feeling a little better. Sunday night we got a surprise visit from some friends who happened to be in the neighborhood. I was feeling pretty good, but the more the conversation progressed (my kids were there and there was a lot of talking over one another in an animated fashion) the harder it was for me to bear. By the time they left my head was pounding and I went to bed almost immediately. (**super important--I so very, very much appreciated their stopping by I don't want you to think I'm upset that they did. Even with what it cost me in the long run)

If I can't handle a conversation of 6 people in the room together, what happens if I try to go back to work?

I know I'm not there yet. The idea of driving still terrifies me. I can't focus on more than one or two things at a time and that's just not safe behavior for a driver. And I stress out easier, too, than I used to. Than I normally would.

I can't even tell you how disheartening it is to be two months into this recovery and still have so much more to go. I have guilt for not working, for making my family pitch in and do my part, for missing out on incredible and fun community events. And, ya know, let's not forget how much weight I've put on and how awful that makes me feel.

So, yes. In a nutshell, I'm sick of being sick. I'm tired of not having control over my pain, my balance, or how much longer I'm going to put all of you through this crap. I'm more than aggravated by the tremors in my hands. You'd think, if I couldn't go back to work yet, I'd be able to make better use of my time by writing. But no. My hands tremor so badly some days I can't even do a blog post. (currently taking advantage of a less tremor-y moment so I can get this out, but my forearms are aching with the effort to keep my fingers in line)

I want my life back. I'm fighting a veritable bear of depression right now, and I don't know when it's going to get better. I am trying to keep upbeat, but the longer my symptoms persist the harder that becomes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I Know What I Am

 **This is a repost from my AUTHOR BLOG**

After more than a month of struggling with my concussion recovery, I've finally figured out what I am.

I'm a one year old with burned hands.

Just over 6 years ago, while I still had my day care in UT, I received a phone call from one of my day care moms. "What do you do about burns?" she asked.

The conversation evolved. Her sweet little girl, who I tended from her first weeks of life, had put both hands on the hot barbecue grill while Dad was cooking outside. Both of her hands suffered second and in some places third degree burns. They took her to the local hospital where her hands were treated and then tightly bound.

The next time I saw her with her mummified hands, it was all I could do to keep from crying. I love that little girl so much. She stole a piece of my heart and has carried it around with her all this time. But back then, we had practical issues to figure out.

Remember I tended her every day. She was just over a year old, an early walker, and fiercely, FIERCELY independent. She wouldn't let me hold the bottle for her. She figured out how to do it herself. She wouldn't let me feed her. She had to do it herself, or she'd really get testy.

Mind you, there are certain things you just can't explain to a one year old. Like how she should relax and let people do things for her while she healed.

I wasn't long before her parents took her to the children's hospital where they were given proper care instructions for letting her hands heal. That involved changing the dressing at least three times a day. When I had her, I did it twice a day and her parents did the rest. We were in this together--doing everything we could to help her heal. (I want to add here that she did heal with almost zero scarring and full use of both hands)

It took weeks. She adapted to her new reality and dealt with it as best she could--but she was still a baby and did too much.

And now we're back to me and my "post concussion syndrome." I've struggled with my new reality, tried to keep doing regular things, and tried to adapt to my new limitations.

In doing so I've learned that one year old baby was not the only fiercely independent girl in the equation. My injuries aren't visible, and you can't see them, and I know that makes it harder for people to be patient about them.

Still, for all intents and purposes, I am a one year old child with burned hands.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Dialogue That Needs to Change

*Disclaimer* These are my thoughts based on my own personal train ride. Yours will, and probably are, different. But that doesn't invalidate mine. This is going to be pretty raw, so if you've a weak stomach, you may want to skip this post.

I am not a victim of depression. I refuse to be labeled with the term victim--because, to me, it means that I am helpless to control my circumstances or my reactions to them. That is simply not true. I was a victim of an armed robbery--to a point. I am not a victim of depression.

I was diagnosed with depression at age 16. Growing up was kind of rough and it affected me deeply, profoundly, in ways that I could not control. My doctors put me on medication and I balanced out a bit. The medication came after the suicide note, the realization that I could not make myself better, and the asking for help.

I was lucky--and I don't deny it. Too many kids don't ask for the help they need because of the negative way depression is characterized in our nation. They either don't recognize what they're going through for what it is, or they are too afraid to voice it aloud because of what people will think of them. Or they fall into the trap of believing that they can just "get better" on their own.

I'm here to tell you that it doesn't happen that way. I've struggled with depression for 23 years. There have been good bouts, long stretches where I'm doing pretty good, and other moments where I have considered blowing my brains out. I'm not exaggerating--rather, I wish I was. In dark moments I imagine the sweet relief that would come from ending it all. In dark moments I think that my loved ones would be better off without me dragging them down. That they don't need me, or that they would be far better off without me.

But I can't talk to anybody about those moments because they're scary. I tried once, to open up to my husband about how those thoughts do creep into my mind. It freaked him out, rightly so, but it confirmed my harbored suspicions that this was not a 'safe' topic that we could discuss. We can talk about our kids, the right and wrong choices we've made, we can over-analyze to death everything else in our lives.

I cannot talk about the Darkness. Darkness is off limits.

And while I understand why, because it *is* frightening to hear someone you love occasionally entertains thoughts of suicide--even for a fleeting instant. We all know that no action comes without first being a thought.

Before you freak out too, let me clarify. My life is beautiful. I love my life. But for me, and I suspect millions like me, Darkness will ALWAYS be there. When things get super challenging, or we face yet another huge life upheaval, Darkness is there, whispering, taunting, urging. It was there when I lost my baby. It was there when I got my first publishing contract--on the heels of foreclosure. It was there for that year and a half we crammed our family of 7 into half of a duplex and I felt like a colossal failure as a wife, mother, and provider. It's there now, looking at my two beat up cars and a future of part time jobs and schooling, near adult children, and not knowing when I can provide better transportation--or if the cars we have will last long enough for me to save the money.

Darkness is there. In all of us, really. It's just got a louder voice in some than in others. Here's the dialogue that needs to change.

People, individuals, those you love, need to know that they have a safe place where they can express even their darkest thoughts without judgment. Without condemnation. Sometimes we just need to get them out. Darkness is less scary when exposed to light.

We need someone to talk to. We need coping skills for when the Darkness speaks. When I'm having a good day, it's easy for me to tell the Darkness to shut up and go away. When I'm having a bad day, the Darkness's whisperings are comforting and difficult to pull away from. It would be great to have a therapist, or a psychologist, to meet with once a week or so and talk it out. But not everyone can afford that, and many insurances don't cover it, or enough of it.

We need to talk about depression. We need to be open about the fact that we can't control the Darkness--it's there, inside of us. All we can control is how we react to the Darkness, and, sometimes, we can't even control that.

I don't talk about my depression much. I don't admit to people that I'm on medication for it. I'm a private person, and I don't feel it's anyone's business. But, again, that's part of the problem. If we always keep it a secret then we risk missing opportunities to help one another.

Denying the Darkness, trying to pretend it doesn't exist, is exhausting. Eventually we just can't run anymore, so people choose to turn and embrace it instead. So many of us are afraid that if we share the deepest parts of ourselves, those we love will turn away. They will leave us. They will prove our darkest fears true.

We aren't freaks. We aren't losers. We can't just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and soldier on. We are wives, mothers, fathers, husbands, parents, children, doctors, lawyers, writers, artists. We are neighbors, friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings. We are worthy. We have value.

Sometimes we struggle to get out of bed. At all. Sometimes we struggle to go to work. Sometimes we struggle to have a conversation. But we are intrinsically tied to your human experience. We are family. We are part of you. We are you. We.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

At Sixes and Sevens

Stress is a killer. We all know this. But, I think we tend to underestimate the many, many ways stress wreaks havoc with your life.

Bryan lost his job at the end of April. He got another one right away, so I didn't worry too much. But then they kept stringing him along, taking their time, and then ultimately said no thanks. After almost a month of thinking he'd be starting any day now, he found out he needed to keep looking.

That really shook his confidence, as did the "thank, but no thanks" rejections he got from two other places. So, at the end of two months, he was still jobless, still waiting to hear on applications, still whittling down his options--and trying to figure out how never to be in this situation again. Because you know, if you've followed our story at all, that this happens every few years. And it totally stinks.

Right after he lost his job I got sick. Stress. Then, just when I was thinking I needed to start job hunting myself, I got sick again. That was about the same time he got the official *no* from the first place. After I got better, I put in applications. Then my grandma died, and my brother paid for me to go out for the funeral. I got the first interview call while I was in Utah, and had to explain to a total stranger why I couldn't make the interview that day.

Contrary to Bryan's experience, I've been offered every job I've applied for so far. I had to turn down the video store job when being there gave me a continual creeped out feeling. Not a good indicator for a job. Then I worked at the second place for about three or four days, if you count the day they sent me home because their computer systems didn't recognize me as an employee yet. I can only describe that incident as soul-sucking. It felt damaging to even be there. I'm still piecing that together in my mind. But I only quit AFTER I got another, part time, job cleaning 3 nights a week.

Today, I got another call for an interview for a full time day job. I'm going for it. We need it. Bryan and the boys are working part time at a ranch, which is great (right now anything is great), but it's not enough to sustain the family. We've lost our car. The other two cars aren't going to last much longer. The dogs need their shots. Things are basically falling apart.

All of this chaos has wreaked havoc with my creativity. I want so badly to be writing, but the stress is killing me. I'm speeding headlong into my deadlines with nothing to show for it. And I don't know how to get back on the wagon. I'd been doing so well these last months--finishing projects, getting edits done, publishing completed works. And now I'm stagnate. I haven't done anything since I finished the edits on Birthright and put it up on Kindle Scout. I don't know how to reactivate my writer mojo.

I know that you know that I'd rather be writing and publishing. But, right now, those pesky survival needs come first. We've got to pay rent, utilities, keep our kids clothed and fed, etc. I haven't given up on my writing, but for a while it may have to take a back seat. Again.

And that really hurts my heart.


I quit a job last week. Pretty sure I know what you’re thinking. How could I quit a job when I was the only one working?! After 2 months of unemployment? I got a job, barely gave it a chance, and quit.
The good news is I got another job, which is why I quit the first job. 

Have you ever worked at a place that made you sad just to go inside? I’m not even sure I can properly explain the way it made me feel to go to work, or plan to go to work, or get ready for work, or think about going to work. 

It wasn’t the job itself—everything they asked me to do I was willing to do, and I did it. I worked hard. Tuesday I was stocking and facing shelves. Nothing I haven’t done before. It’s not like I felt like the job was beneath me—when your family is struggling to make ends meet you’d be surprised what you’re willing to do. I guess I’d have to put it down to the atmosphere. I knew when I took the job that it was wrong for me. One might argue, if I knew that, why did I take the job in the first place? I didn’t have to accept it. Again, family needs, dire straits, no job for over 2 months. 

I kept my ear out, my applications moving. I looked into every alternative I had, and one quickly presented itself. When I got that job (the second one), I was so relieved tears came to my eyes. I’m not even exaggerating. 

Sometimes you have to go through a situation in order to learn how deeply you feel about it—for good or bad. I had no idea I was so deeply opposed to working for this company until I accepted a job from them. Are they evil? No. Are they bad? Not that I found. I just knew with every fiber of my being that the job was wrong for me. I wish I understood why, exactly. I’m still trying to work it all out in my head.