Pill Box

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What’s Happening?

We Are!

Dearest Friends,

I have a wonderful story I want to share with you.  I was at The Container Store with my sister and niece.  It was my first time ever to The Container Store.  I am thinking that The Container Store might be a glimpse into heaven!  Don’t hold me to it but, I think the odds are there.  As soon as I stepped into the first aisle, I was completely mesmerized.  My world had just become consumed with growing ideas for the use of every container!  Oh, before I move on in the story I have to mention that my niece was NOT excited about having to go into The Container Store.  I will give you one guess as to who was the first person to put something in the cart?  That’s right, my niece!  She became extremely excited when she found a wall full of all different colored hangers.  She thought it would be “the bomb” if she had colored hangers that matched the décor of her room.  My sister tapped into my niece’s enthusiasm and allowed her to choose some colored hangers.  My sister was encouraged by the enthusiasm.  She envisioned my niece’s clothes hanging-up in the closet rather than piled up on the floor!  Win!-Win! 

I am still standing in the first half of the first aisle, when my sister sweetly reminds me that we are only in the first aisle and if we want to we can come back.  She was right.  She is always right.  They have every type of storage container known to mankind.  The containers are plastic, wood, and steel, fabric, undivided, divided, small, and huge, with lid, without lid, even collapsible or solid.  I was not prepared for all the excitement.  I told my sister I needed to take inventory at home and measure some of the spaces in order to purchase the correct size containers.  Don’t fret!  I still wanted to shop.  And, since I didn’t have an agenda, I was able to peruse the store and focus on spending time with my sister and niece!  It worked out just like it was supposed to!

I told you that the store had every possible container you could need.  They even had some containers that made us wonder what it was supposed to store.  While walking around the store, we would look at things and ask each other “Why?” a lot!  Now and again, my niece would find something she thought was cool and she would bring it over to show my sister and me.  We came across the travel section and once again, there were containers galore.  Of course, in the travel section the containers are small.    My niece became fascinated in this pop-up plastic cup!  The container looked like a yo-yo.  The yo-yo twisted.  The twisting opened the container causing one of the sides of the yo-yo to come off.  What is left is a pop-up cup and saucer.  After the 300th time, my interest in the pop-up cup had faded.  I moved on to the next row.  Soon after, I heard my name “Aunt Janet”.  I said.  I’m right here!  Next thing I know my niece rounds the corner with two different styles of pill boxes.  She says I found these in the next aisle and didn’t know if I needed one.  She went on to explain them to me.  This one is bigger and is for the whole month.  This one is smaller, it is only for a week but the days are divided into am/pm.  I just thought I would show them to you.  I cannot put into words how much that meant to me!  She did not show the pill boxes to me as a joke or to make fun of me.  She did not yell from the other aisle so, everyone around us would know I take medication.  She saw them.  She chose two of them.  She brought them to me.  She explained the pros and cons of each one to me.  And left, saying I’ll put these back.  They have a lot of different styles if you need one.

A Pill Box:  A symbol of unconditional love and an item to cherish!

More Research

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What’s Happening?

I hope that every time you see “What’s Happening?” it brings you smiles.  You do not need to get out the pom-poms, jump all around and yell “We Are” every time.  Every once and awhile is fine and would be appreciated.  The exercise is good for everybody.  I want to remind you, the answer is always, “We Are”!  When we are experiencing a good day and when we are experiencing a bad day, “We Are”!

Just like every morning at our house, this morning the TV was tuned in to The Today Show.  Did you know that the first 20 minutes of The Today Show are dedicated to the news and are commercial-free!  This was one of my Dad’s many revelations after he retired.  Now, it is a standard running joke in the family.  During one of the Today Show’s brief news segments that run on the half hour, I overheard Ann talking about mental disorders.  I ran to the TV to listen intently.  I found out that a new research study is reporting that 1 in 5 U.S. teens has a serious mental disorder.  Ann went on to say that less than half are seeking treatment.  My reaction to this two sentence acknowledgement of the research findings was both sadness and confusion.  Did anyone actually pay attention to the seriousness of the study?  Was the reporting on the study just used as “filler” because they had extra time?  Were the results considered mere words to be typed into the teleprompter?  I am told I should be glad that the study was mentioned on TV and that it is always good when mental illness gets some “air time”.

After my morning interaction with the Today Show co-hosts, it was time to walk the dog.  Zoe always makes me laugh because no matter what is going on when she hears the rustle of a plastic bag, her poop bag, she starts running in circles and whining.  She knows – It’s Walk Time!  We were strolling along peacefully until Zoe heard dogs barking in a neighbor’s garage.  Then the walk turned in to a tug-fest.  No worries.  We made it back with all body parts attached!  After our morning walks, it is time for me to go to the Racetrac.  My world doesn’t function very well if I don’t get my “Sippie Pop” in the morning.  The nickname “Sippie Pop” was lovingly given to my 44 ounce Diet Coke from the soda fountain by those who I believe are jealous of my enjoyment from the simple things in life!  As I was getting in our car to go to the Racetrac, I noticed that the people on the radio were talking about Bipolar Disorder.  I have to admit I thought it was very strange.  I can go weeks without hearing anything about mental illness via the airwaves.  This morning I not only hear about it twice but also, on two different forms of airwaves!  I continued to listen to the radio program and realized that the DJs were talking about a gentleman with Bipolar Disorder who shot his TV set.  The discussion went on to reveal that the gentleman saw his daughter dancing on TV.  He did not approve of the way she was dancing so, he shot his television.  Immediately, one of the DJs said “First, I want to know why a person with Bipolar has a gun”.  I really don’t have much to say about what I heard on the radio.  I’ll just say that, it provides a good example of the most common way I hear about mental illness in public.

I felt compelled to write today.  I do not believe these 2 incidents were coincidences.  I like that last sentence, try to say it 3 times fast.  I believe there is a purpose to what happened today.  For a long time, I have been of the opinion that we spend all of our time talking.  We need to spend our time doing.  We, as people who are living with a mental illness, need to use our voices.  We need to tell our stories.  We know best about mental disorders, we live them.  We know best about medication, we take them.  All of this became even more apparent as I reviewed some of the news releases on the research study referenced on the Today Show this morning.  I wonder what the reaction of the public would have been if they heard the whole story?  Underneath the headline stating 1 in 5 U.S. teens has a serious mental disorder is a “tag line”.  The tag line reads “severe emotional, behavior disorders more common than physical disorders such as asthma, diabetes”.  If you read a little further you will notice that the mental disorder, in which the study is referring, is severe enough to impact their daily activities.  Almost 40% of the participants (10,123 adolescents, ages 13-18) with one class of disorder also met the criteria for another class of disorder, at some point in their lives.  The response to the findings of the research by the National Institute of Mental Health was More Research!  The researchers say more research is needed to determine the risk factors for mental disorders on adolescence, and to see whether these disorders will continue on to adulthood.

I recognize the importance of research.  I realize it plays a vital role in our understanding and healing of mental illness.  But….people can’t connect with research.  People can’t interact with research.  When people are hurting they can’t appreciate the findings of research.  More Research does not relay hope, comfort, and encouragement.  We need to concentrate on people like the 1 in 5 U.S. teens suffering from a serious mental disorder.  We need to provide them help now.  It is a tall order.  I think it is our purpose.  I think we are being asked to do it and I think we are being prepared to do it.  This feels a bit overwhelming.  It is a lot to consider.  I am going to put this entry in my prayer box and revisit later.  I am inviting you to think about this also.  This is not a job, it is a ministry and it is not a job for one, it is a ministry for many.  Let us pray for direction, strength, and good health.  Now, go and do!

Stop! Look! Listen!

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Dear Friends,

First, I want to let you know that I think about you all the time.  I have not been blogging because I have been overwhelmed with “events”.  I am going to therapy and it has been life-changing.  I can’t wait to share my experiences with you.  My mom came to visit and we had an awesome time together!  We solved all the world’s problems in 2 days!  I am flying to California tomorrow by myself.  I am so anxious about going that I have felt paralyzed for about 4 days!  Doug left 4 days ago for California and I am meeting him there.  My plane leaves tomorrow at noon.  My stomach hurts, my teeth are clenched, my shoulders are tense and my hands are shaking – these are only my physical symptoms.  I am not afraid of flying.  I am afraid of leaving home and traveling alone.

As usual, I became side tracked and went off on a very long tangent.  I did not write to let you know about my dilemmas.  I wanted to share with you what I just experienced on my walk with our dog, Zoe.  I was telling you, I have been preoccupied with the “events” happening in my life.  Sometimes I become so focused on the “events” I miss the whole world going on outside my own.  Actually, I can become so overpowered by my emotions that my emotions rule my life.  Yesterday, when I was trying to get yard work completed, a plague of love-bugs attacked.  For those of you who are not familiar with love-bugs, they are 2 black bugs stuck together that fly around for 24 hours and then die.  I don’t get it either.  Today, I wanted to wash the car and a second plague of love-bugs attacked!  It is so gross!  I am beside myself and I am not quite sure how to handle it!  I have become so overwhelmed with the preoccupation of how I am going to get the car washed, I can’t do anything else.  I must wash the car because it is covered with dead love-bugs.  I have been told that if the love-bugs are left on the car too long they will take-off the paint.  After agonizing for hours, I decided to wash the car in the garage this evening after it cooled down.  It makes me so anxious to wait to wash the car that I decide to walk Zoe. 

Zoe does not usually go on afternoon walks.  I think she was appreciative.  Zoe is an anxious dog and gets very loud when she encounters people or dogs.  This afternoon we walked during the heat of the day so, we didn’t meet anyone.  It was nice.  There was no need to chastise her or pull on her leash.  We were on our way back to the house when across the street I saw a bird swoop down low across the field and then disappear up into the trees.  I yelled “Zoe, that was the bald eagle!”  It is not uncommon for us to see a bald eagle.  There is a bald eagle’s nest on top of a cell phone tower adjacent to our neighborhood.  Our normal view of a bald eagle is through our binoculars.  I had never seen one this close.  It was breathtaking.  As I stood in the middle of the street and watched the bald eagle swoop down and soar away it felt like everything I had been worrying about was swept away with him.  I stood motionless.  I was in awe of this majestic creature.  All of a sudden, I heard a rustle in the trees and from the trees emerged the bald eagle carrying a large tree branch in its talons.  I watched as he struggled to fly back up to his nest.  I imagine he was struggling due to the weight of the branch.  I correlated his struggle with mine.  The image of his struggle provided me a picture of how much I have allowed my preoccupations and emotions to weigh me down.  As the bald eagle made it back to his nest, I watched as he transferred the branch from his talons to his beak before landing!  It is an experience I will never forget. 

In the past, I have received signs from God.  I admit that my preoccupations are the cause of ‘static’ in my reception of God’s signs.  My preoccupations can not only delay my realization of God’s signs but also my interpretation.  Today, I believe God revealed to me life without ‘static’ or without preoccupations.  I can recall every detail of those few moments that I stood in awe of the bald eagle.  I actually stopped moving.  I stood looking in disbelief.  I tuned out all my worries and anxieties and listened to my surroundings.  Today, I realized and interpreted God’s sign.  My interpretation is that my preoccupations and anxieties are overwhelming my life.  I need to learn to ‘Stop!’ and be present, I need to learn to ‘Look’ and not let the world pass me by, and I need to ‘Listen’ and acknowledge what I hear.  Stop!  Look!  Listen!

Priceless

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What a day!  I have spent the day trying to answer two questions.  What is the cost of “real” honesty?  What is the value of the blog?  I wrote an entry the other day titled “Hoover Dam”.  Instead of “sugar coating” my thoughts and feelings, I decided to share my reality.  I explained what I was experiencing with true emotion and without censorship.  When I finished the entry I felt a little sense of relief and pride.  I had never been that honest before and it felt good.  Full disclosure:  I haven’t even been that honest with a therapist.  My sense of pride came from believing I was beginning to let go.  I felt like I had done the right thing.

When I started the blog I was very naïve.  The blog had been up several weeks before it dawned on me that extended family and friends could read the blog.  I was so focused on reaching out to people who suffer from mental illness, I didn’t think about the blog being accessed by anyone else.  I was wearing one huge set of goggles!  After my revelation, it became difficult for me to write openly.  My focus shifted from reaching out to those who are hurting, to impressing people.  The content of the entries became irrelevant.  I spent most of my time trying to produce a polished story.  I provided very little depth and when I referenced my journey I only skimmed the surface.  As time passed, I noticed that my entries had become extremely vague and superficial.  I knew this was wrong but, it felt comfortable.

Last week, I began to recognize the importance of being authentic.  I realized that the blog was not intended to be a collection of essays.  I was reminded of the purpose of the blog which is to provide a safe place for people who suffer from mental illness to share their real thoughts and feelings, their real trials and triumphs, and their real experiences and stories.  I knew it was time for me to open up and share my “real” story.  I began to write with honesty and sincerity.  I was frank and candid.  I wrote from the heart and it felt comfortable.     

I never planned for my writing in “Hoover Dam” to be hurtful.  My straight talk was to be constructive.  My “real” honesty was to be helpful not harmful.  After I posted “Hoover Dam” and I realized I had caused my family a tremendous amount of grief, I asked myself how much is “real” honesty worth?  If the price of “real” honesty is too high then what is the value of the blog?  These questions were causing me great concern.  Mental illness came into my life and my family’s life 10 years ago.  We live with the complexity and the frustration every day.  We have gone through the pain together and celebrated in the triumphs together.  “Hoover Dam” made me aware that “real” honesty can cause discomfort.  The discomfort reminded me that my family and I will continue to go through the pain together just as we will continue to celebrate in the triumphs together.  “Hoover Dam” and in essence “real” honesty has made me appreciate my supportive, caring, loving, and understanding family even more.  Priceless.

So, does the blog have value?  I hope so!  It has been of benefit to me and my family but, that is not the purpose of the blog.  I continue to hope and pray that the blog will help people who are suffering.  Even if the blog aids just one person, it has value.  A blog that provides people with mental illness support, comfort, and relief.  Priceless.

Hoover Dam

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It is 7:30 a.m. and I am going to attempt a feat I have not met.  I am going to write without notes, without forethought, and without editing.  OK, yes I must admit there will be some editing but, there will be no overhaul.  I am going to write from the heart.  I am going to write about the conversation I had with Doug last night.  I am going to write while it is still raw!

Yesterday was an interesting day.  It rained all day which is very uncommon.  I usually spend a couple of hours outside working in our yard.  I really enjoy the quiet-time and the sunshine, both are very uplifting!  Our puppy enjoys the sunshine, too.  She does not like rain.  She doesn’t even like the sound of rain.  It causes her an enormous amount of anxiety, which includes shaking and whining.  When she realized the rain was here to stay, she was off to the closet.  Unfortunately, the rain also causes potty issues for the puppy.  Now get this, she will go outside when it is raining.  But when it is not raining, she won’t step on wet grass!  Along with feeling cooped-up, I was also feeling jittery.  I was feeling uncomfortable and I was on edge.

In the past, I have used analogies to try and help my family better understand me.  I have often used the analogy of standing on the edge of a cliff to explain my feelings.  I will give you an example.  I feel like I am standing alone on the edge of a cliff.  I can feel tiny rocks beginning to crumble below my feet.  I am so afraid.  I know that one wrong move will send me tumbling to the pit below.  I am terrified.  I am paralyzed because I do not know what wrong move will cause me to fall to the pit below.  I have been to the pit and I do not want to go back.  The pit is a very dark, lonely and frightening place.  It is a place where you can easily misjudge things and make bad decisions.  I hope the previous statements are helpful.  I have used them several times to explain how I am feeling and to explain where I am in the process.

Last night, I was having difficulty explaining to Doug how I was feeling and my analogy of standing on the edge of a cliff was inappropriate.  I was having difficulty because I had never felt that way before.  I stated earlier that I had been feeling jittery.  I was feeling jittery but, I was also feeling extremely tired.  At first I told Doug that I was feeling like I had all of these things going on inside me and the only thing keeping everything in was my skin.  This morning that sounds like a pretty goofy statement.  Now I realize why Doug said that he didn’t understand.  I then used the idea of a dam, the Hoover Dam.  I thought about the movie Vegas Vacation when the Griswolds go to the Hoover Dam and take the dam tour.  During the tour, Clark Griswold tries to stop a tiny drip coming through the wall of the dam.  When he plugs up the hole to stop the drip other holes pop open, the water starts gushing out from everywhere and chaos ensues.  This was the illustration I was trying to use to help Doug understand how I was feeling.  Through my tears I was telling him that I was afraid of what was going to happen when the pressure became too much and my dam broke.  I am really afraid because I don’t know how to cope with this new feeling.  The last time I didn’t know how to cope; I took a serrated knife from our kitchen, went into the closet in our bedroom and cut myself.  In that moment it felt good.  Today, I still have scars on my legs and I can’t remember the last time I wore shorts or a bathing suit.  I only cut myself that one time and a few days after it happened, I told Doug.  I can’t remember much of the conversation Doug and I had except he asked if he needed to take me to the hospital and I said ‘No’.  He then said if there is a next time we are going to the hospital no questions asked.

I believe the use of the analogy of dam to explain my feelings was helpful.  The analogy helped explain HOW I was feeling like a dam but, did not explain WHY I was feeling like a dam.  Unfortunately, this happens a lot.  How am I supposed to explain why I am feeling like a dam when I don’t know why I am feeling like a dam?  This is one of the reasons why Mental Illness is so frustrating!  If I can’t understand why, then how is Doug supposed to understand why!  I know I was not making any sense last night but, Doug sat across from me and listened, anyway.  I told him I feel like a disappointment.  I told him I can’t finish anything.  I told him I am tired of being different.  I told him I am the one who ruins plans.  I told him I am the one who people are afraid of.  I told him I am tired of living in fear.  I live in fear of the doorbell, the phone ringing, neighbors asking us to dinner, walks with dog (who are we going to meet?), and the list goes on and on.  I told him I am terrified people are going to find out who I really am.  Doug always asks who ‘people’ are.  People are anybody.  I told him I know I am not easy to live with.  At the beginning of our journey, Doug admitted that it is difficult to come home sometimes because he is not sure what he is going to find.  I can completely understand that because I don’t know what he is going to find either.  I told Doug I am exhausted.  I told Doug I don’t want to be me and I wish I could get away from me.  I even told Doug that I think I have been trying to plug up that tiny drip in my dam by doing some on-line shopping.  Even the purchase of a purse or purses is not “heeling” how I am feeling.

After my meltdown, I told Doug I was going to bed.  He grinned, nodded and said OK.  When I was in bed, I began to sob which is what I needed to do.  As I began to quiet down, Doug walked-in.  He did not say anything.  He just laid down next to me and put his arm around me.

Blogger’s Block

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I have been sitting in front of my computer for the past several days starting and stopping entry after entry.  I have so many things I want to share with you but, I can’t write.  I will start to write on a specific topic and immediately, I’m off on a totally unrelated tangent.  I will start writing and gain full momentum, only to find myself going back and editing out almost all I had written.  I am second guessing everything that I am writing.  I am censoring myself even before I start.  I have become increasingly worried about what I write in my blog.  I don’t want to disclose first names of family members and friends because I’m afraid they will get upset being correlated to my mental illness blog.  I have become preoccupied with trying to make every entry a story, so I am finding it difficult to just sit down and write.  Every time I want to post something I make it a project.  Of course, Doug asked me why I couldn’t do a little of both!  Why can’t I just sit down and write about what’s going on at that moment or what happened that day.  It makes perfect sense.  I’m sure it would be a relief to you, too.  Who wants to read a whole big story all the time, not me?  OK, I’ll do it!  I wish it were that easy.

For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that there is more to my blogger’s block than my writing issues, preoccupations, and idiosyncrasies.  I have been excited about the blog since my family and I discussed it last December.  I started to write down titles for entries, topic ideas, and rough drafts almost immediately.  If you remember, I watched the movie “Julie and Julia” to prepare myself, too.  I felt like I had everything under control when the One Mind Mental Illness Ministry website went ‘live’ and the blog was activated.  I had stories ready, they just needed to be entered and posted!  I was prepared.  I had it all handled.  I was in control.  What I have learned in these 2 short months is that I cannot control everything about the blog, and that scares me.  I feel safe when I am in control.  I make the decisions about what to write, how to write, and when to post when I am in control.  I feel safe when I am in control.  I am in control when I am feeling well.  Unfortunately, when I am not feeling well, I am not in control.  When I don’t feel well, I do not have the strength to fight my illness.  My masks fall off and I revisit the pain of mental illness.  The feelings of being overwhelmed by life, by feeling worthless to society and family, by feeling hopeless, lonely and afraid all resurface.  During these periods of times, all I want to do is retreat back into a hole and come out when I feel better.  I call it hermitting.  There were times in the past when I would tell Doug that I was leaving to stay in a motel.  I would tell him that I did not want him to see me like this and that I would be back when I was feeling better.  He would talk with me and try to figure out why I felt like I needed to leave.  Ultimately, Doug put his trust in me and let me go.  Through the years I have stayed in a motel twice, both times Doug knew where I was staying.  Now, if I feel like I need to retreat I stay in a different room in our house for a few days.  When I am not feeling well, I need to be alone for a while.  When I say I need to be alone for a while, it includes the blog.  I apologize for my blogger’s block and not posting for several days.  I was hermitting.  I’m working on getting back into control.  I was thrown down a little harder than I have been in recent months.  I know this is what I am meant to do.  I believe God has guided me here to participate in this blog.  Now, I believe he is challenging me.  He wants me to let go of the control of the blog.  He wants me to write-through the times of feeling well and not feeling well.  He wants me to put trust in him and in the process.  That is all I need to do to eliminate my blogger’s block.  OK, I’ll do it!  I wish it were that easy.

B is for

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I don’t like the ‘B’ word.  I don’t like it because I’m horrible at it.  My husband’s middle name should be ‘B’.  He knows how to ‘B’ his life very well.  I believe you have to be born with the capability to ‘B’ everything.  I blame it on my Mom because she’s not very good at it either; however, she is getting much better!  I seem to be getting worse.  I am not sure if my mental illness heightens my inability to ‘B’ anything in life or if it is my anxiety or both.  All I know is that it is something I struggle with all the time.     B is for BALANCE!

I thought I would write about this right now because it’s very timely.  I have had 2 very interesting weeks.  I believe I am being challenged with a lot of new things and I don’t really know how to deal with them.  Unfortunately, I live with a high amount of anxiety during this time.  I do not get very much accomplished because I start things and never finish them.  I move on to another project thinking that it is more important than the last one.  Of course, I can only do this for so long and then I fall apart.  My husband knows this cycle very well so, he is vigilant in trying to keep the ‘to-do’ list reasonable and spread out over time.  It is very hard to slow down an anxious person in overdrive.  I have a lot of practicing to do!

The ‘B’ word is important at all times in life not just when you are trying to deal with new things.  My parents and my sister’s kids are coming to visit at the end of the week.  I am very excited; however, it is always difficult for me when people come to visit.  It is also difficult for me when we travel.  I feel so much turmoil because I do not want to miss out on life; yet, home is where I am most comfortable!  I am so blessed to have a family that understands.  They are all very patient and are willing to work with me.  My parents and the kids were supposed to come on Tuesday but since I was having a challenging week they offered to come on Thursday.  They will stay with me 2 days instead of 4 days.  I’m so glad that they were able and to change their schedules.  May I consider balance?  I know it can be very difficult to tell people how you are feeling.  My family continues to tell me that they appreciate knowing how I’m feeling.  My family is going to laugh when they read this because I have a terrible time with it but, it does not have to be all or nothing!

I’ve also learned that it is OK to say that you need to lie down.  I do this all the time.  My niece and nephew have become very familiar with Aunt Janet’s naps.  They’ve been keeping track on how long the naps are and what time I get up in the morning.  I should clarify that this is only when we are together!  Now, my nephew is less than a year away from being a teenager!  I don’t think I am going to be the one sleeping the most anymore!!

Take care of yourself.  The sooner you let people know what is comfortable and what the limitations, the sooner you can find ‘B’ in your life!