Crazy Real

the official blog of author and poet Jennifer Wilson

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 2)

A fable of sorts

Once upon a time, a man strode across his acreage with single-minded purpose.

He had things upon his mind, this man did. He was busy, with many distractions. His job as an executive in an oil corporation kept him consumed from morning until night with responsibilities and duties; he was, after all, expected to find oil, above and beyond all else, in the unrelenting earth that surrounded him and those who occupied the world at large.

If he did not find it, then his existence was in jeopardy, or at least his subsistence, which to his mind was almost the same thing.

He strode upon the earth that was his: the earth that he had won–hard won, mind you–in an auction where other voices had matched his tone for tone and caliber for caliber (urgent and wanting) and yet he had prevailed above all others and now it was done. The ground was his, the dirt was his, the hard-packed Oklahoma clay that yielded little and yet would (perhaps) give to him what he wanted, awaited his touch, only his touch, to bend to his will and give up its secrets. Perhaps even now it was germinating the same idea that he had–that of provision and affluence.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps it designed to keep from him all that he knew it could yield. One factor–the amount of sunshine, or the quantity of rain, the chemicals in the soil, or the infinitesimal creatures that inhabited its granular substance, could interfere with prosperity and happiness, and all his work would be for naught. No matter how many times he circled on his Massey Ferguson tractor, no matter how fluffy he yielded the hard packed soil, there were no guarantees…and yet…he would try…for the desire was less a desire and more an obsession.

Alongside his obsession, there were small people who complicated matters.

He told himself that all of this was for them–all the endless circling, all the churning and strife–but he knew that, ultimately, it was only for himself that he did it, for he loved the solitude that the tractor afforded him, and as the setting sun cast its golden rays upon the sculpted field, he knew his suspicions were correct and the urges were for him alone. Then, falsely rested all the arguments upon his mind, and restlessly did he sleep.

He had a small daughter, he did.

She looked upon him with adoration and fear and nothing less, that much was true. It frightened him, the awareness of her adoration, and so he buried it, as he buried so many things, deep within his psyche where there rested a million unresolved feelings and expectations and desires, and he told himself that it didn’t matter, not really. Not really.

But it did.

Because that small girl, she looked to him for comfort and solace, and found instead a vast chasm of nothingness to greet her questing heart.

And one day, as they strode upon the red clay, her small legs churning to keep apace with his strong, adult limbs, that she noticed the seething storm that gathered on the eastern horizon, the darkening billows that built ever larger upon the skyline, and she panted as she sought to keep up:

Daddy, what if lightening comes?

And her fear was answered by his strong, sure voice,

Why, then we will be with Jesus, in Heaven, and we’ll be all right

And for that, no matter how much error was in him, no matter how fraught with terror his presence was, no matter even if he himself believed the words he spoke, he had gifted her with the feeling of reassurance, and the thought that things might be–just might be–better in the great hereafter, and so she trusted that they would be.

So the child clung to that reassurance and tried to make her way in the world, for no matter how improbably it played out, she could not, would not forget those words, nor the assurance that accompanied them. She could not forget the feelings of joy that had flooded her small frame at their utterance, nor the peace that they had given her heart. For that, she would always love him, for all his horror and hideousness. For that, she would always crave his approval, for all his flaws and foibles.

For that, and for that alone, perhaps, would she cling to faith.

Matt. 7:11

 

 

 

In Which I Speak of Myself in Third Person

She had not planned to be depressed. As a child, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, ‘morbidly despondent’ never factored into her answer. Yet here she was, standing apart and marveling that her friends could dance to the discordant music of the universe with such abandon.

When had the darkness moved in? She couldn’t say. It was a slowly creeping cancer, stealing the light ever so stealthily from the room and engulfing her before she noticed. People looked at her sideways when she mentioned she was on antidepressants; they became suddenly wary, as though she was an elephant carcass and they the poachers, approaching carefully lest she rise up suddenly and rend them with her tusks.

She was also diagnosed as bipolar, which was terribly trendy but not nearly as exciting as Hollywood made it seem. Bipolar meant that sometimes the darkness took her to new levels of emptiness that she had previously not thought possible. Or, contrariwise, to levels of hysteria that propelled her to dangerous and damaging pursuits.

It would be great to write The Great American Novel in a weekend, she thought. Or a symphony. Or a masterpiece in oils. Like those other bipolar folks. The ones who do it right. The Poes and Hemingways and Mozarts and Van Goghs and Munchs. Nevermind that they came to violent ends. That was part and parcel with the disease; the uneasy bedfellow to genius was madness, it would seem.

Even at being crazy, she felt like a failure. Not quite mad enough to be brilliant, but too unbalanced to focus on living life successfully. The small white pill she took every night seemed only to confirm her suspicions that she would never vault to the heights required for immortality, and it mocked her with its soothing promises of peace. How would she ever know where the mania could take her if she didn’t give it a chance? The encroaching darkness threatened ominously enough to keep her swallowing them, however; into the pit was not a place she wanted to venture again, and so she felt like a coward as well as a failure, and walked through the days cloaked in a veil of multiplying sorrows.

 

 

 

Wounds

The injury is dull and crusty, peeling up at the edges, blood dried hard by the passage of time. The recollection of it is sharp and vivid, bright with pain and horror.

When the damage occurred the plasma flowed freely and unbound for but an instant before coagulation began, collagen sending out the distress signal, fibrin threads catching platelets in a web of criss-crossing proteins, cells springing into action without any thought or due process required on the part of brain or nervous system.

The response was immediate and unqualified, the action of preservation. Whatever the distress on the part of the larger being, the internal machinations were no less measured and precise. Damage control was the aim, and such was attained, the scab now evidence of nature’s precision.

It is a magnificent scab, too–hard and impenetrable, keeping out pathogens and other debris, allowing the new skin to grow beneath its protective shelter. Cells knit together and form a tender covering over the damaged dermis, slowly growing and thickening to replace what was lost. Time is all that is needed for healing to come. If nothing disturbs the clot, all will be well enough.

But how can such a thing be resisted? Pluck the edges ever so slightly and it lifts, pulling at the epidermis, nerve endings twanging ever so slightly in alarm. Let it be the brain urges, ineffectively.

Maybe this time it will be different. Maybe this time it will not bleed again. Maybe this time it’s ready to come off in one piece, revealing only the beauty of the healing process behind. Maybe it won’t hurt. Maybe it’s ready.

It’s not ready.

Once more the cells spring into action: collagen, fibrin, platelets, etc. Once more they do their work and the bleeding is staunched.

Again the scab grows.

 

Unfortunately

Serpentine
the thoughts uncoil
like ribbons of smoke
from dark nostrils

alcohol numbs
uncoils the knot
in my stomach
calms
whispers peace
be still
let go

and so I do
in that moment
when the sharp heat spreads
across my chest
and I grimace

the pills in white bottles
sit
on my shelf
I take them daily
my last link to sanity
but it is alcohol
the constant friend
who puts his arm around my shoulders
and whispers ribald jokes
in my ear.

 

Black Scribbles

That’s my brain right now. Just a black scribble. Like in the cartoons, when there would be a thought bubble above someone’s head but only a black scribble instead of thoughts. That’s my mind. I’m just…scribbled.

I mean, I have thoughts. I have thought processes. But they don’t amount to much. They don’t give me any truth, or answers, or even fragments of peace. There’s just a big, black nothing where my soul should be. Like in the Police song, King of Pain. That’s me right now.

My children are going through tribulations. I feel every bit of it, but have nowhere to put it. No handy pockets or spare pair of pants where I can stash all the excessive amount of turmoil and fear and doubt and anxiety that is overflowing onto me from every corner of my life. Every corner. I don’t know what to do with it all. I try to pray but I get no relief. I lay awake at night, staring into the darkness, hoping for some respite but none ever comes.

I know nothing about trust. I freely admit that. I don’t know if I ever have. I trust no one and nothing. Not myself. Not God. I thought I understood surrender, but I feel like I got raped and beaten when I put my hands up, so I’m not doing it anymore.

And that’s how I’m doing. On the verge of a breakdown, or a breakthrough? Your guess is as good as mine.

 

Friends, Schmiends.

Maybe I don’t make friends easily. Maybe I’m part of the problem. Maybe I’m too standoffish, too real, too blunt, too in your face, too needy, too crazy, too weird, too earnest….just too. Something.

I don’t know what the problem is, but here in north central Oklahoma, I never found a place to fit in. I always felt like an outsider. Always felt like the one who was trying too hard. When we first moved here, eleven years ago, we fell in with a family or two that seemed like they were sympatico with us and that we could be besties.

We weren’t.

It was the first in a long string of disappointments. People who didn’t need you. They liked you well enough, sure, but they had enough friends of their own. You were an afterthought, if anything. Somebody who might be fun, or maybe not, who knows? Who cared? Nobody, that’s who. People here had known one another for decades, and they had no room for anyone else in their very tight and constricting circles.

I’m not sure that the Houston area will be any better. It’s hard to say. You carry your issues with you wherever you go, that much is certain, so maybe it won’t be. But I’m going with a willing heart, and one that believes that if you are honest, other hearts will follow, if they are brave and true and willing to lay it all on the line.

So here’s to the crazy ones. The ones that don’t fit in. Here’s to us. Don’t stop trying. Don’t give up. People are out there who will appreciate your specific talents. Maybe it’s just a talent for calling out bullshit, or calling a spade a spade, or getting jiggy with it on a Friday night when nobody else is around. You’re awesome. You matter. You feel alone, but you’re not. Keep plugging away. You’ll make it.

I’ll make it. Somehow, someday. I will. I’ll bet my life on it. The end. Good bye, Bartlesville. You are weird and cliquey, and I’m the first, and maybe the last, to say it. You’re awesome, but not THAT awesome. Nobody is. Really.

What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting Any More

We all know where to find advice when you’re expecting. The tried and true books, the best friends who’ve gone before you, the mother whose advice you’ll ask and never follow, etc etc. But as someone who was always the one expecting, the one who was pregnant for most of her adult life, there was a dearth of advice to be found for what happens Next. After the children stop coming. When you’re Done with a capital D.

Everyone seems to think that finishing with childbearing is a welcome relief, that when the door closes there are blasts of trumpets and wild applause and clicking of heels. Which there are, don’t get me wrong. But there are also unexpected tears and bursts of longing and horrible emotional meltdowns that no one warns you about.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I don’t think so, though. I suspect there are more women than myself who struggle with being Done. It’s not that we want more children, it’s just that we can’t seem to figure out who we are without a baby in the belly or at the breast. Our identity is all wrapped up in being the Fertile Myrtle, the goddess, the One With the Bump. I didn’t want it to be so, but it was in spite of myself.

I never enjoyed pregnancy, but I always have loved the end result, that squalling bit of wrinkled humanity that was laid upon my chest just moments after emerging from the dark netherworld of my guts. Everything about them was intoxicating, and I miss it. Sometimes terribly. So that’s my first point.

1. Expect to miss it. There is a definite period of mourning that goes on when one closes down the baby factory. Like all mourning periods, one person’s will be quite different from the next person’s. No one can tell you, or dictate to you, when you should be “over it”. The longing for various aspects of childbearing will almost certainly hit you with a wallop when you least expect it. Carry tissues at all times.

2. Expect people to be clueless and insensitive. This holds true for almost every situation in life. People are clueless and insensitive. Expect it.

3. Expect to have sudden desires for small fluffy things, like puppies and kittens. I’m still certain that I need a dachshund in my life. Something to coddle, and perhaps dress in small clothes. Yeah. That’s it.

4. Expect to hate your period. After not having more than a dozen periods for years, suddenly I am confronted with this hideous thing that happens to me once a month. Good God, what is that all about? Wait, now I remember. It’s a constant reminder that I am NOT pregnant; a monthly telegram telling me that it’s All Over, in more ways than one. All over. Get it? Yuck.

5. Expect your Significant Other to be confused by you. Wait? You’re crying? You want to be pregnant? No? You don’t? You just want a baby? No? A puppy? What?

6. Expect to baby your last baby to the nth degree. It’s okay. Let him/her have the damn pacifier and blankie. Forget about potty training (it will happen eventually, right? RIGHT??). Share your bed way longer than you did with any other; after all, there’s no newborn coming in to take their place. Breast feed til they’re five, what difference do they know?

7. Expect to confuse yourself. Like so many things, perspective is everything, and grief takes many forms. The waves of emotion will pass, and you can learn to ride them without being driven into the surf by them. But when you fail to maintain control and you are flat on your face with a mouth full of sand, be gentle with yourself. It’s hard. Really hard. Eat some ice cream, and cry. It helps. Borrow a baby from somebody. They’ll enjoy the reprieve, and you might satisfy some of the worst cravings. Just try not to look like a half-crazed baby maniac in the process or they might not hand them over.

So that’s my take on Ending Childbearing. I’m sure some of you have advice as well; feel free to share it in the comments!

Dream a Little Dream

How long has it been since you spent time dreaming about something you’d like to do? Were there things you thought you would have accomplished by now, but you haven’t? Have you given up on old dreams, or simply stopped thinking about them? Have you ever made a bucket list (a list of things you’d like to do before you kick the proverbial bucket)?

There was a time in my life, not long ago, when I was so consumed with day-to-day survival that I never dreamt about anything. Everything I ever hoped to be or accomplish was so far on the back burner that it was on another stove entirely–the broken one in the corner of the garage that was waiting to be hauled to the dump, to be exact.

I had decided my dreams were impossible and silly. I had decided that they weren’t meant to be. I had decided that it was best never to think about them again rather than dredge them up and look at them, which would only lead to feeling discontented.

Instead, I felt broken, empty, discouraged, fatalistic, resigned, and depressed. But at least I wasn’t discontent!

When I finally had the nervous breakdown that I deserved (ah, a week in the loony bin, what a vacation!), I took time to reevaluate where I had been standing for so many years. As it turns out, the space I thought I was giving God to move was actually just me, giving up. It was me, deciding that I didn’t deserve any of the talents and gifts that God had given me. I decided, somewhere along the way, that they must not be for me after all.

And along the way I committed the grievous sin of saying it was what God wanted me to do, that he wanted me to be an empty shell, devoid of personality, that it was what He meant when he said “deny yourself…”

I don’t believe that anymore. Now I believe dreaming is crucial to one’s mental health.

The first thing my husband and I did during my recovery was begin to talk about what we would do after the children were out of the house. In the past, I never thought about it because, hey, these kids aren’t EVER going to get out of the house, right? Wrong. They will, eventually, and refusing to even think about that day contributed mightily to my feelings of discouragement, like there was never going to be anything for me but Wal Mart and laundry, forever and ever, amen. Dreaming about a little camper and traveling to all the states in the continental USA got me excited for the first time in decades about the future. And if you’re not excited about the future, you’re in trouble.

Making a bucket list is a good way to start if you’re out of the habit of dreaming. Think about what you’d like to do, if only you had the time. And then, MAKE TIME. Here are a few things on my own list:

  • banjo lessons
  • hang gliding
  • scuba diving
  • see the Redwoods
  • go to Puerto Rico
  • make pottery
  • get published

I believe that the ability to dream is a God-given gift to the human race. Without dreams we only have nightmares, and so dream, baby. Dream big, and dream a lot, and then get busy working to make them happen. Don’t wait for God’s “permission” to perform the stuff He put in your heart in the first place! It’s an affront to His goodness, His abundant love, His great big imagination, to think that He would give you talents and then not let you use them.

He’s waiting to see what you will do. Make it good!

10 Ways to Alienate Someone With a Mental Illness

I posted about how to help someone with a mental illness yesterday. I’d like to explore the flip side of that post here.

LOWAMI = Loved One With A Mental Illness.

1. Imply that they’re not working hard enough. Believe me, mental illness is exhausting. Telling a LOWAMI that they need to pray more, meditate more, try more things, speak to more people, read more books, or go more places is straight-up overwhelming. Encourage movement, but let them go at their own pace. Chances are, they’re doing all they can just to keep their heads above water.

2. Speak nothing but platitudes. “If He brought you to it, He’ll bring you through it!”, especially when spoken with an excessively chipper air and an enormous smile, is reprehensible. Words are not magical incantations that solve problems. Pithy sayings do not bring healing. “God has a plan”, when said to a person who feels like the bottom has just dropped out of their life, is not comforting. Asking how you can help is.

3. Assume they’re stupid. When you find out that someone has a diagnosis, don’t decide that every decision you ever disagreed with in the past must be a result of that mental illness. Just because we’re crazy doesn’t mean we’re idiots. Our lives still have validity, and that includes our judgments, even when you don’t agree with them. Don’t use a diagnosis as a chance to say “I told you so.”

4. Blame their circumstances. Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It has nothing to do with the circumstances of someone’s life. A person is not driven crazy by children or husbands or wives or pets or jobs, no matter how common it is to say so. A clinically depressed person is going to be depressed no matter what their circumstances, because something is wrong in the brain. Don’t blame the stresses of a LOWAMI’s life for their illness.

5. Act like it’s a personality defect. Personality disorders are not the fault of the person suffering from them. I know this is hard to accept but contrary to popular opinion, you can’t actually do anything you want to do and be anything you want to be. Sometimes you simply don’t have the tools. It has been said that coping with a mental illness is like trying to peel a potato with another potato. Everybody tells you that you’re doing it wrong, that you need a peeler, but then they just keep handing you potatoes, expecting them to get peeled. Somebody just hand us a damn peeler, please.

6. Discourage treatment. Unless you are a complete asshole, you would never think of telling a sick person to go off high blood pressure meds, or stop taking insulin, or rip out their heart catheter. Mental illness requires treatment, and discouraging it because you think mental issues are separate somehow from “physical” issues (tell me, since when is the brain not a physical organ?) is dangerous and foolhardy.

7. Offer to help, and then don’t. Just stop offering. Please.

8. Constantly suggest alternatives to prescription drugs. Vitamins are good. Acupuncture is good. Essential oils are good. Nutrition is good. Prayer is good. Meditation is good. Voodoo witch doctors are good. Okay, maybe not so much that last one. The point is, these things are good, but we are tired. We are tired of everyone being certain they have the ONE THING that’s going to fix us up, FOR GOOD. Please don’t view our illness as the perfect platform for your latest MLM. We don’t want to be the poster child for “Manny’s Soul Wax” or whatever it is you’re selling.

9. Compare their progress with someone else’s. Just because someone else who is depressed has made a spectacular recovery on drugs X,Y or Z does not mean that another depressed person will have the same results. The brain is a complicated, squishy, sometimes mysterious organ. Everybody’s synapses fire differently. Everybody’s receptors react differently to different stimuli. Different people have different side effects. No one drug is going to solve all the problems for everybody. If your LOWAMI has switched medications it’s probably for a damn good reason. Don’t second guess.

10. Avoid them. We’re devastated, we’re floundering, we’re wondering who we are, we’re lost and afraid and uncertain. Now is not the time to bail. You don’t have to be our savior, just keep being our friend.

 

My Definitely Not First Post

This is not my first blog post. Contrary to appearances, this is probably somewhere in the five-hundreds of blog posts that I have made. I don’t remember when I first began blogging but it was a long time ago, when nobody knew what a blog was and skinny jeans did not exist.

That was a long, long time ago.

However, for novelty’s sake, let’s say that this is my first blog post. I would probably be trying to dazzle you with my wit and my originality, to coax you to subscribe and not miss a single moment of my unique take on life.

Yeah. Not gonna do that.

I have started this blog because I cannot seem to NOT blog. I have a desire, and a will, and a strange need to blog, so here I am. If you want to read, I welcome you. If you want to spread the news that a wacky woman with thirteen children and a bipolar diagnosis is writing about her life, then go for it. If you want to inundate me with questions about how I do it all, refrain.

I don’t do it all.

Whatever “it all” is. I don’t do it. I categorically avoid it.

My life is strange. That is the truth. I deal with sticky substances and sticky issues all day long. If you’re looking for advice, move along. I don’t give much. I can’t remember how I survived having six children all under the age of ten. I can’t remember what I did with the little ones while I was trying to homeschool the older ones. I seem to remember quite a bit of yelling. And crying.

Yelling and crying are not what most people would categorize as excellent parenting tactics, but here we are. I have thirteen children and I think they are all eternally fascinating, abundantly creative and fantastically gifted people. They are interesting, and constantly evolving. I like them a lot.

My diagnosis of bipolar worked like a lightning bolt of revelation in the middle of my life; I had known for decades that something was desperately wrong but didn’t know what to call it. Dealing with the aftershocks of untreated mental illness after years of ignoring it and burying it will be talked about here. It might get raw.

So there you go. This is me. Thanks for reading. If you stick around I will be grateful, although I will try to act cool about it.

 

 

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