Fallacy of Normal
Nothing about my life as a parent has been especially easy or completely normal. Even getting pregnant came with fertility issues, morning sickness, cramping, pre term labor, multiple hospital stays and a carbon monoxide detector going off at 1am.
Once the babies came after my first pregnancy, I really believed I was done with the bad stuff, that I could go on my merry way into the normal sunset. But even that, wasn't meant to be. I gave birth to twins and even that couldn't end on the right side of happiness. Kids aren't born that way. While I had one healthy twin my other was born with a neuromuscular disorder. Her life was hard, with hospitals, multiple medical procedures and a feeding tube. I lived with nurses in the house for 8 months. If there was no nurse on duty, I was it.
My daughter Stephanie Paige died at 11 months old. It was a painful life for a small body, it was a stressful time for the family. We knew the outcome, regardless of what we did, and when she died, we thought, foolishly I might add, that we would soon be ushering in something more normal.
While children don't come with instruction manuals, they also done come without issues. My oldest, twin to Stephanie was diagnosed with ADHD, severe anxiety and OCD. Over the course of her young life, she had Theron's Disease in her left eye, Gilbert's disease with her liver, scoliosis, torn ligaments in her right wrist. I took her to therapists, psychiatrists, the pediatrician, an orthopedic.
My youngest was happy, athletic, social, busy. While I dealt with my oldest and her issues, I relished in what appeared to be normal, easy. But at 12 she came out as gay and with it came depression, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem. This round came with drugs and therapists. And in the end the announcement that my youngest daughter was a trans male.
It brings on sleepless nights, as I worry about an unkind world and how it will affect my children. No parenting book guides me through these issues.
We all buy into normal; we live for it on Facebook where we put our best foot forward, our pride in our families and children, in our bragging, look what I have. But that's not life, it's certainly not normal. It's a fallacy.
Life is messy and hard and sometimes it sucks beyond the telling of it. My life oftentimes feels like I'm a roller coasters as I'm up and down, upside right, and just when I see the end of the tunnel, when the ride will stop, it drags me along and pulls me upwards to the next, newest, problem, more complicated than the last.
I move forward in a fog, still hopeful that I will see the light at the end of the darkest tunnel. Right now, all I see is more dark. To keep sane, I write, and today I start draft 6 of my fourth book in The Wizard Hall Chronicles called Prophecy. It's where I can feel normal because I can write about something “normal.”
When we move past the fact that nothing in life is normal and will never be, we can strive for acceptance, act with compassion, and live as humans without labels. It's far better to live for happiness than normal. Only one is achievable.Continue reading
My writing reflects events in my life; cross roads, decisions, my horrible feelings of coming disasters. I've been incorporating all of these in Annie Pearce's journey. She's on a big journey this time. Full of adventure she didn't ask for, questioning her purpose, and feeling as though she's failing miserably. Much like I feel like right now.
It's the end of the school year, a time when decisions need to be made. I have an 18-year-old embarking on college next year and a 21-year-old who's struggling to finalize her major and what that means for her future. I have a writing career that feels as though it's spinning in one place and am struggling to fix the issue.
I always remembered J.K. Rowling discussing her depression and how she wrote about it through the use of dementors. It stuck with me. While I'm not creating a new demon to characterize a mental health issue, I am using the story and Annie's reaction to the events in the plot to work through my own life's situation.
Has it helped? I'm not so sure.
My life's issues might be a little unusual, but I am certainly not the only one who has events that weigh me down, that make me rethink my life's choices that make me sad and want to throw things. I'm dealing with that now.
It's not what we overcome but how we overcome that's important. Do we hide our heads in the sand or do we stand strong, carry on, make choices that get us to where we want to go.
I'm trying to overcome, I'm just not sure how much more I can do.
So what do you do when all seems lost, or you feel you lack control of the situation, or there's not enough time to do what you need to do?
We all struggle and rather than beat ourselves up about it, or troll others and shame them, we need to lift each other up. Read and author and review, comment on a post or like a picture. Share how you overcome and offer support.
I'm not alone and I know that I'm not. I have a friend who's going through something big too. All I can do is ask how she is and she asks that of me.
We can be compassionate, understanding and help each other. And most importantly, be kind to yourself.
A few years ago with a lack of confidence, I joked about dying my hair red and calling myself Lola. My plan was try new things, reinvent myself, pull up and out of the mire, regain my confidence.
I came up with a list of things I wanted to try. It didn't quite work. I still find myself spinning my wheels. Desperate to figure out how to sell my books, to find a better job, to not work so hard for so little reward.
You see, I send out resumes nearly everyday, I join book groups to make contacts, go to book workshops to learn how to handle the business of writing. I plan my social media. And yet every morning, I dread the drive to work, the long hours doing what I don't want to do, and the having the knowledge that book two is so much better than book one and not being able to get it out to the masses.
The therapist told me that maybe I needed to approach the problem in a new way.
So how to you climb out of the funk and change your life when there are so few options because you have responsibilities and little time.
I started looking for ways to change the strategy, the viewpoint, and the outcome.
I stopped forcing myself to write on week nights when I'm so exhausted from a full day of work. Instead, I work on social media, blogs, and other business and if there's time I write. My goal, 500 words. Sometimes I get them in, sometimes, I fall asleep on the couch at 8:30 at night. I always write on the weekend.
But now I stop at 9 pm. I cuddle up in bed and shut out the world with a book, an easy read that allows me to meld into a different world and think of nothing else. It leads me to a more peaceful sleep.
I've been applying to jobs I otherwise might not have. Making a change in hopes that there's a freelance gig that's right for me. Less hours in order to give myself time to do what I really want to do–the thing that actually gives me confidence–Writing.
Most importantly, I decided that I physically feel horrible all the time. Stomach aches, headaches, cramping, bloating, and tight clothes.
Sometimes with all the problems, the kids with issues, law suits, jobs that make me unhappy, the last thing that gets taken care of is myself.
I can do this. I'm re-starting the eating and exercise plan that I've had a lot of success with in the past. It balances the food groups, it balances exercise, and when I've done this in the past, I feel strong and healthy.
I'm looking for new opportunities. Different types of jobs and applying anyway. Just in case. I'm writing because it makes me happy.
I registered for a book workshop and signed up to meet agents. Because maybe in person, I can be heard. It might be good, it might not, but it's interaction with people in the industry.
I'm building a following, a list. Following others. Sharing. A slow sell, encouraging others to read book two. Maybe finding others who like the same things I do.
It's not about reinventing myself, becoming someone I'm not. It's about remembering who I am and where I want to go and never loosing sight on that. To do that, I have to try new things, look at the problem with different eyes and all in all, take care of myself. Give myself a break and live a little.
Day one. I've eaten all the good things I'm supposed to eat. Without hunger, without guilt. I finally crafted a blog and worked on social media. I even took a nap.
We always have it within ourselves to pull ourselves up and out. We just have to let go of the fear and just say go.
The high cliff overlooks a river that snakes through the countryside. It’s nestled into the valley, covered in trees and the water, it beats roughly against the rocky coast. I stand on the highest hill, a silent observer to the water as it splashes and swirls before dropping several feet into that whirlpool at the bottom of the waterfall.
The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever. Mom she’s gone. I hear myself say that over and over again in my head, on a loop that I can’t shut off. My voice lacks all feeling, a reflection of my true self, because it was one more piece of news than I can’t absorb, interpret or accept.
WIP 2016, Sheryl Steines
I've been afraid of deep water, (I'm 5'3″ so it doesn't take much), since I was six years old. Before six, I had no issue with the water, stick me in a blow up ring and let me float on by. At six, I took swim lessons, in a lake. I will never forget the day we jumped from the floating dock into the water, water that was definitely deeper than the top of my head.
Not the first one in; I watched others jump in; it seemed that the others before me, were immediately lifted out of the water to sun dry on the wooden dock. When it was my turn, I jumped and stared up and through the greenish, cloudy lake water, I could see the sun in the sky and I remember thinking, “When am I going to be lifted out of the water?” I panicked, the panic seeped inside and from that time, water was the enemy.
I've taken swim lessons at an adult, trying to allay those fears, not wanting to pass them to my children, but the fear and anxiety is so deep within me, I've given up hope that I will ever enjoy the water.
I've been writing poetry and essays of late, writing my memoirs in a way that's pure emotion as I discuss the life I've led so far and why it might be important to another person. My theme for the bad times seems to be the churning water. How it pulses, undulates and suffocates, much like I feel when I'm in a large body of water.
JK Rowling wrote about her depression in Harry Potter through the dementors, the life sucking creatures that ate your souls and left you as merely a shell, much like depression does in real life. She didn't write a literal interpretation, choosing instead to give you the image, in a beautiful, grotesque way.
Water, for me, is the perfect representation for the emotions that envelope me through several past life experiences. It swirls and comes alive and batters me against the edge of the lake.
Eventually the water will flow down river into a quiet pond, but right now, it undulates, rumbles and terrorizes.
I work on my autobiography because I hope, someday, somewhere, someone will read it and gain perspective and a sense that in the end, it will get better. The river eventually ends.Continue reading
I'm writing my memoir, sort of. It's not an exact retelling of my life and the low, very low experiences that have eventually brought me to this point. It's a lot of poetry, a lot of essays and a lot of imagery.
That's not so remarkable. JK Rowling wrote about her depression. She made it a character in her books. Remember the dementors? They were an embodiment of the depression she experienced after her divorce. Mine is an image, its water. Water, something that I bathe in everyday, that I drink all day and use to prepare meals. And yet, since I was about six years old, I've been terrified of the water.
I learned to swim in a lake. Dark and dirty, I couldn't see the bottom. I had a loss of control during one class, the day we jumped off the dock and the instructors kept us under water for what seemed like an eternity. I can still see the sun through the greenish water, a dull ball in the sky. I remember the panic waiting for the teacher to lift me out of the water. From that day on, I never liked being in the water.
I tried to learn over the years. I took the classes in high school, but my fear was so gripping that my teacher, while holding me in the deep end, told me, you are too afraid, I can't teach you here.” She proceeded to swim me to the shallow end, where I spent the rest of the two-week unit, walking. As if that's not a waste of time.
As I write about my life, about the death of my daughter, I find myself using water as a representation of that horrible time.
“it beats roughly against the rocky coast.”
“The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever.”
“I can no longer breathe as the water pummels me, suppresses me, I try to scream but my voice can no longer be heard amidst the roar.”
I found myself writing the second entry and the images waters contained my sorrow, my heart-felt apologies, my fear and anger.
The water doesn't just scare me. It terrifies me. White knuckle terror. When I took swimming lessons after the birth of my second child, I remember swimming in the deep end of pool. I climbed out still wearing my life jacket and stood above the pool. My teacher told me to jump in. My head understood the command, but my legs were grounded to the pool deck. I couldn't move. I was paralyzed.
This is the imagery that describes the ups and downs. The white water rapids that describe my life. the way I can deliver my message and have others understand how I view my life.
Water terrifies.Continue reading
I spent the last day of 2014 and the first two days of 2015 crying. Partially because I dislike my job and would prefer be doing anything other than what I am doing, but mostly because I'm emotionally exhausted.
There is this idea that the new year is a great time to reflect and resolve to change something, improve on ourselves. I don't necessarily make new year's resolutions, but this year, the bad stuff that I endured during 2014, hit me hard and left me feeling as though I had just flown into a brick wall.
I'm no stranger to bad things. I gave birth to twins 16 1/2 years ago after enduring fertility issues and a bad pregnancy. one twin, was born with a neuromuscular disorder that claimed her life at 11 months old. I thought after the stress of caring for a terminally ill child and the pain of watching her die was my stumbling block, my brick wall, my pain that I would move on from and live my life.
But life is chaos and you can't necessarily be certain that you only have one hell to live through. As it turns out, I was still to live through post partum depression and to come out it to endure with my second daughter debilitating anxiety. Light breezes to stormy winds, had her hiding in the basement. She spent time with the social worker, a therapist and a psychologist all in the hopes of helping her come out into the open. It was hard, being present for the temper tantrum at the zoo, people watching my 10 year old child screaming because the wind was too much. It's hard planning for the future when she choses not to live it thinking we'll take care of her long past becoming an adult and having to teach her everything so she can deal with her future.
And when we finally came near the light at the end of the struggle, hell opened up once more. The youngest child, the one that found the joy in life, the one that was the happiest, tried everything and enjoyed herself, was depressed. Not the blues, not situational, but seriously depressed. She was going through something more than the average teenager as she navigated her world and came to conclusions about who she was. We all have those moments and most of us scrape by and move on, but when the pain is so overwhelming you need help through it, whether it be alcohol, drugs or in her case, self injury, it more than just average.
It's the process of doctors and drugs and therapy. I've done it all before, but this time, it was protecting my teenager from herself, trying to keep her healthy and not trusting her with her own safety. It's beyond stressful, and it's exhausting.
I know I'm not alone in this journey. I've met several other parents through our work with the outpatient program who are living the same nightmare as me. And with every hell I've found myself in, I move through it by taking one step at a time, baby steps. As long as I'm moving forward, I will eventually come to that light.
But this new year was almost too much to handle. To much sadness and too much feeling as though I've failed my kids somehow. Did I not read to them enough, was I too lenient? Too much feeling that I'm inadequate and not qualified. And after having my temper tantrums the ones that I so needed because I have never given in to them before, I realized it was time to really take stock of my life and see what it was all about.
I'm always five minutes away from shutting down my website, closing the Twitter account and removing my author page on Facebook. I almost decided to delete my novels from computer or at the very least store them elsewhere. Because the realization that I'm not good at any of this or not even a good writer hit me as did everything else.
And as I thought seriously about everything, I decided quitting wasn't in my nature. Not this time. I can't quit on the kids as much as I can't quit on myself. Writing and creating is who I am, and at least with that, the writing is my therapy.
I can only hope that 2015 is a better year. That my kids grow into healthy young adults and that I no longer grimace as I hold back the tears. Maybe this is the year that I have a truly publishable book that I can proudly sell and that I start winning a few.
There's only quitting or there's pushing through whether we obtain our goals or not. We have one life and we need to do the best that we can with it.
There's no woe is me and I expect no pity, only understanding that right now, it's hard and I'm entitled to an occasional moment of doubt and the inevitable breakdown.
With everything, I find the positive. And I expect that 2015 will be better.
Depression; you either know what if feels like or you've been lucky enough to weather life's storms without that intense pain and sadness that sometimes grips us during those dark times.
As an onlooker watching a loved one live through depression it's not for you to understand what it is to be depressed or what it feels like to breathe underwater, scream in whispers muffled by the weight of the water. Its not your job to fix it. It's for you to offer unconditional love and support, not give suggestions or answers. Depression isn't black or white. It's a light gray, dark gray and every shade of gray in between, and there is no one single answer that can make it go away.
There is a standard of care, between drugs and therapy that can be applied but no matter how good that medicine or therapy is, depression just doesn't go away. There is always an underlying cause of the pain. Only time and therapy will ease the pain. The medicine, it can only ease so much.
We don't chose to be depressed, we can't just get happy, like we can't change our eye color or change our sexual orientation. Some things we are just born with. And sometimes we're born with a chemical imbalance that tugs us in opposite directions. It feels like a violent storm, like we're falling and flaying and grasping for something. And you can't pick yourself up because you're paralyzed by fear or overwhelmed by feelings you can't understand.
Sometimes you dull that pain, hide in the shadows, masking those feelings with drugs, alcohol or self injury. But the pain is only knocked out for a brief moment. It will always come back.
I've been depressed before and I understand that turbulent storm, the pictures that flash in your head because it can't slow down, it can't relax, it can't heal. But this time, I'm on the outside looking in. I'm forced to relive my struggle as I offer unconditional love and support. And my heart breaks because there is nothing I can do to ease the pain for someone else.
If this is you seek help. Start with your doctor. If it's your child start with their pediatrician. There is help.