Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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The Right to Fail

I’m thinking about this in terms of parenting, but I think it’s bigger than that.

My daughter is 21. When I was 21, I had been on my own for 2 years, having been orphaned when I was 19. I knew a lot more than when I was 19 but I still knew almost nothing. My daughter, well, she’s had a hard life and she knows a lot, but she seems to make bad decisions. It’s okay, she’s young and has time to recover from an stupidity she may commit.

I have to keep reminding myself of that. She is an adult. She has the right to make her own decisions, good or bad. She also has the right to bear the consequences. I keep wanting to save her, to make her life easy, to rescue her. She, of course, does not want this from me. So I have to remind myself, she is an autonomous being, she has the opportunity to succeed, and also the right to fail.

We don’t think of failure as a right, but if you want to make your own decisions, failure is simply going to happen from time to time. Some decisions are bad from the get go, others are reasonable at the time but turn sour, some are positively brilliant. If I rescue her from negative consequences, she never learns. She is never fully autonomous, she is simply a human avatar for my ego. And at the end of the day, I want her to be a functional adult. After all, she will outlive me, she has to be able to get along without me.

I got to thinking of this with regards to mental health. So often we who have a diagnosis are treated like children. We have decisions made for us, supposedly in our best interest, but without our input. We lose agency by admitting to our difference. We are seen as so impaired that we cannot decide whether to take medications that have such dangerous and unpleasant side effects.

Now I take meds and I am happy with them, but there was a time when the dose was too high and it flattened me. I had long pauses in conversations before I responded, and I was so slow that I didn’t even know it. Freaked out my friends. I felt fine, but they were worried. Then I had a family member die and I couldn’t cry about it. I told the doctor and he tweaked my dosage. I have the right to cry when things are sad. I have the right to be miserable, actually, though I don’t choose it.

I, however, have never been suicidal or psychotic. Both of those are potential states I could experience with bipolar. So I have been up and I have been down, but I haven’t been truly out of my head. I have mild symptoms. I’m lucky.

But even if I had intense symptoms, I don’t know that someone should be able to take agency away from me. If I am dangerous to other people, sure, but we do that with anyone who becomes dangerous, like the guy who robs a convenience store with a gun, or a mugger with a knife. If I am simply not in consensual reality, well, does that require forced medication? I mean, we as a society assume it’s a sign of health to acknowledge the same reality as everyone else, but maybe it’s not a necessity.

Because for us with a diagnosis, success is seen as partaking in society as it is, as the constituents agree it is and opting out is failure. The person has failed to adapt, to present as typical. There is no suggestion that there is a failure of society to accommodate the other experience. Or that adaptation to an unwell society is not a sign of mental health. And make no mistake, there are aspects of our culture that are not healthy. Which is true of any culture.

So the standard of success is how much I can pass for neurotypical. If I can’t pass, I must be medicated, even though many of the medicines used are no more effective than placebo. I must be medicated until I comply, then I am a success.

What if I don’t comply? What if I am happy with my ups and downs, my creativity and deep thoughts, my highs and lows? Then I would fail to pass. And I have that right. I have the right to fail. I have the right to make my own choices about my health. I have agency over what happens to my body. Or I should.

Except that I am mentally ill, so I must pass as “sane” or “normal”.

We call them “average people”. I am not insane. I am not abnormal. I am not typical. But I might be average. I might have higher highs and lower lows, but you have ups and downs and nobody feels the need to medicate you out of a range of emotions. Average people have the right to fail. I want the right to fail.

I fail miserably at 40 hour a week jobs. I simply don’t have the stamina to keep it up beyond a certain length of time. I want the opportunity to make other choices. I want the right to choose other paths even if it means I fail. I don’t want to be medicated into compliance. I don’t want a job that I need to take happy pills and valium to go into an office every day. It doesn’t sound like a life, even though it would look successful. I want the right to fail.

So here is my daughter, with all the drive of a young person, all the fire, all the dreams. And the best I can do is let her go, and hope she fails gloriously.

Don’t conform, daughter, unless it’s a game you enjoy playing. Do your best. Make different choices. I hope you succeed, but you have the right to fail.

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Steak and Chai Tea

Wednesday (yesterday, today is Thursday) was a busy day for me.

I started the day with a COMI meeting. Basically it’s a forum where local mental health services meet up and share their information. I found out, for example, that Dallas has closed 3 mental health hospitals in the last 2 years, and no one has replaced the beds. So there are that many people who need to be hospitalized who can’t access services. That is a crying shame. There are so many of us who need respite and there is no facility for that.

I made a contact to a group called BattleBuddies, which works with veterans, and that led to a project called Stop One. What is important about this is that they offer Mental Health First Aid for free to the community. In my work in disaster relief with the government, I often see people who are distressed and a little training on how to help them would be a good thing.

Then I met up with my daughter for coffee. I like to see her regularly but she does live with her boyfriend. They only have one day off in common so I try not to take up that time. Coffee is a good thing. Daughter made coffee for me and we hung out for a while. She gave me some gears for my art, so that was very cool. And some buttons. We spent about an hour together then I took her to work.

My next stop was lunch with my insurance ladies. We all started at the company at the same time and were in the same training class. Usually there are 4 of us, but T was just back from a family trip so she didn’t make it. We went to Outback and I had steak which was wonderful. I don’t often get meat that’s rare to medium. Meat at our house tends to be fully cooked, which is not my preference, but I don’t have to cook so I’m not complaining. I also had cheesecake, something I don’t do very often. It was very good. We sat in the restaurant for almost 3 hours just catching up on life.

After leaving the ladies, I texted my friend K. I knew she was still at work but since I was in the area I thought I could stop by. I went to Barnes and Noble to kill some time. I took a few books off the walls and a couple of magazines, and I went to the cafe for a coffee. Well they were having a sale on chai, hot or cold, any size, for $2. You don’t have to tell me twice; I got a grande hot chai. So good. I didn’t buy a book, though, I don’t need anything more to read. I need more light in the house so I can read more.

I did go see K. She needed some help turning the mattress on her bed. I know it sounds like an odd activity, but us ladies need to help each other out when there’s nobody else around. There are many of us over a certain age who are single. Wonderful people, just not meeting the right other person. Or like me, divorced and wounded. Or, yanno, just not interested in having a relationship. Not everyone wants to be coupled up. We must band together and be there for each other.

I got home about 11:00, which was quite late for me. I slept well. It was a good day.


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Asian Night Market

I went to an event today at the Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum. It was a very cool event.

First of all, Asian. It makes my inner weeaboo so happy. To me, it’s as close as I can get to an alien culture. It seems familiar in so many ways, but then there’s a twist. I don’t actually want to be Asian, but I enjoy being able to experience something different from my norm.

Then night. A night market is interesting because it’s not the usual daytime event. I am a night person, though I have become more of a sunlight person in recent years. There is something romantic to me about night events. Romantic in the literary sense, not in the relationship sense I’m afraid. I’m not terribly sentimental so romantic activities don’t tend to have the desired effect with me.

So there were about 20 food booths set up. We – that is, my daughter and I – tried a little bit of everything. We tried steak skewers, pork sandwiches, boba tea, a noodle bowl, and a thing called Tofu-Fighters which of course was made with tofu. We also tried something made with jackfruit, which I never had before. It wasn’t bad, but I preferred the tofu. We had a thing called a SnowBaby that was creamy and icy and pumpkin pie flavored. Daughter got a cocktail called cucumber lemonade. I asked her what kind of alcohol was in it but she didn’t know. What is always interesting to me, is how strong a flavor cucumber is. You would think cucumber would be so mild as to be invisible but instead it is the strong note.

I would have liked to see some vendors selling souvenirs and craft items. Maybe that’s just me, wanting shopping at everything.

The highlight was the lion dancers. There’s 2 men to a lion and the heads are huge. They have manes and glowing eyes that blink. There were 6 lions all together: black and red, white and red, white and blue, white and green, and 2 purple ones. The men do acrobatics in the costume so it looks like the lion is standing up or leaping. The blinking eyes were so cute! The dancers came down off the stage and played with the audience, eventually dancing all the way around the room, with confetti cannons going off every few minutes. It was very fun.

Always a good day when I can try something new.


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On My Way

I’m deployed.

I’m halfway between excited and nervous.  I’ve been waiting for this so I’m excited to finally be called.  Yet I don’t know what I’m going to find, and that makes me nervous.

Roommates are concerned that I will be overwhelmed by the victims’ emotionality.  F took me aside tonight and told me to protect myself.  I know he means to build up a psychic shield, surround myself with white light kind of thing.  Mostly he kept saying for me to remember it’s not my fault, there’s only so much I can do, and take care of myself.

I have packed, unpacked and repacked.  I want to get down to one suitcase.  I figure, they’re going to give me equipment to manage as well as my suitcase and purse.  I don’t want a ton of stuff.  I mean, I do want a ton of stuff, but I can’t manage it all.  I’ll bring my computer, headphones and all.  And my sketch book.  And a glue stick.  I think I’ll throw a pair of scissors in my luggage, since I’ll be checking a bag.

Meds are in my purse.  Contacts and glasses will go in my purse too.  As did makeup.  I did look for another purse and couldn’t find one I liked.  Now I’m glad to have the extra room.

I got to see my daughter E today.  We ran some errands and I gave her my car to use.  I’m not sure about this.  I think, it’s not in good shape, what if something happens while she’s using it?  It gets towed and I can’t get it back.  Then I’m without a car.  I don’t know how long I’ll be deployed, so $25 a day for storage times who knows how many days.  I’d lose the stuff that’s in the car, some printed material, some knitting, all my stuffies.  It would make me very upset.  So I told her, no using the car.  She can use it to get her stuff from V.  But no joy rides.  And tonight she had K pick her up to go visit a friend, so she is trying to respect my wishes.

Charli the kitty is all over my suitcase and she yells at me every time I come into the bedroom.  She is upset that I’m leaving but I can’t take her with me.  F and L will look after Charli and Momo so that’s something I don’t have to worry about.

I made sure F, E, and my cousin all have each other’s phone numbers.  If anything happens, I want them to be able to contact each other.  Not that anything will happen.  It’s a precaution.  I should text them all from my work phone too so they have that number.

I think I’ve got it all covered.   One last load of laundry in process.  Extra suitcase packed in case I’m there more than a month.  I think, I really do think, I’m almost ready.


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Meeting People and My Work

I have decided that I’d like to date again, even have a long term relationship.  This is huge for me, this is something I never thought I’d do again.  Truly it has been 10 years since my last relationship.  I figured I was on my own until the end of my life, when I would move back in with my daughter.

The biggest problem is, how do you meet people?  When you’re young, you just meet.  You go out with friends and meet their friends.  You meet people at school or at work.  Then you settle down and family life takes over.  I was single into my 30’s so I lost a LOT of friends to marriage and family.  I don’t begrudge that, I think it’s to be expected.  Family takes energy and time so you just don’t have it for outside activities.  That’s okay.  But it does mean that your single friends move on in different ways and maybe you aren’t that close any more.  So you’re on your own more and more and eventually you’re used to being alone.  How do you get out of that rut?

I asked my friend B.  The first thing is, he had to clarify to me that even though he was dating someone and is not now, that he is not looking for a relationship.  I must be a real dog in that any time I talk to single guy friends about relationships, they feel a need to be clear that they aren’t interested in me.  I don’t assume they are.  And I’m probably not interested in them.  After all, if there was mutual interest, we’d already be more than friends.  I just figured, if you want to meet single guys, ask a single guy where he goes to meet women.  B did tell me two places:  church and online.  I’m not churchy, so online it is.

My friend K has been looking for a partner for some time now.  She has had good luck with online dating sites so I asked her what she thought.  She told me a little about the ones she’s used — which ones were more hook up sites and which ones were more relationship oriented.  So now I’m on a few websites, seeing what I find.  (If you’re reading this and you want to know me, I suggest contacting me in the comments.  And I’m talking about friends, not just dating.)  Now K is beautiful so she gets lots of responses, I am middle aged and plain so I get fewer responses, but I have noticed a few patterns.

Yes I have a job.  No I am not working at the moment.  My job is an on-call disaster relief position so I only work when there is a disaster.  There is not a disaster at the moment so I am not working.  I don’t have a call-back date because disasters don’t come on a schedule.  I will not be going back to work on Monday, this is not a vacation, it is a furlough.

Having said that I am not currently working, I want to clarify that I don’t expect you to support me.  I can support myself.  I am not a gold digger.  I am not looking for a man to take financial care of me.  To balance that, I don’t make enough money to support another person (if I did, it would be my daughter), so don’t expect me to pay for your life.

I don’t want to go dutch.  I don’t have extra money at the moment, so I can’t afford to do a lot of activities.  But even if I was rich, I would want the man to pay for dates.  Unless I asked, in that case I would expect to pay.  The thing here is, I have had a number of serious relationships where all the resources went to the man’s benefit.  Now if you want my interest, you need to be willing so spend a little money on me too.  Not for my necessities, I can pay my own rent and utilities, I am an adult; but gosh pay for dinner or bring flowers or something that makes me feel like you think I’m worth the effort.

Please take the time and pay attention to actually know me.  If I have told you three times that I am furloughed, don’t keep asking how my day at work is going.  If you asked me when the last time was that I flashed someone and I stopped talking, accept that this is not going to be a hook up.  If I don’t ask you about your blow job comment, don’t send me a dick pic.  If I say I read Charles de Lint, don’t recommend John Grisham.  Or at least ask me what kind of books Charles de Lint writes.  Know that my taste runs to steampunk industrial and don’t buy me american traditional.  Even though I love Frank Lloyd Wright.  I am smart and open minded and unfortunately I don’t have a sense of humor.  I am what I am and it’s not going to change much at this point.

So here I am venting.  I don’t think I’m unreasonable, just a little worked up at the moment.  Frustrated.  And trying to make it work out.  Because I don’t want to be alone any more.

 


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Home and Homeless

My daughter E has been on a month-long road trip.  She went to Rainbow Gathering in Georgia, then Naples, Florida.  I believe I posted about the incidents in Pensacola in another entry.  She’s been in New Orleans for several days and is finally back in the Dallas area.  I have missed her and I am glad she’s home.

The problem is, the place where she was staying is no longer available for her.  Apparently the homeowner decided that before E left, but nobody told her until she was on the way home.  Considering what a vagabond she is, they probably didn’t expect her to come back.

I rent a room from someone else so I don’t have a place for her.  Her dad has passed away so he’s not an option.  She won’t stay with my extended family.  So there isn’t even anything I can do for her, she’s on her own about this.

It does make it more likely that she’ll hit the road and work renaissance faires though.  She was loving being on the road and we’ve talked about her working ren faires before, this might be just the thing for her.  I’ll have to figure out paying for her phone and her meds, but other than that she can figure it out herself.

I can’t tell if I am being reasonable as a parent or neglectful.  I mean there’s only so much I can do for her, she’s an adult now.

I wish I could fix it though.


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What I Did Today

Today has been a rather eventful day. Especially considering it was supposed to be a relatively slow day.

The plan was to start the day about 8:30 or 9:00, take a shower, go to Recovery International, and have lunch with a friend. I did actually wake up at 8:45 but it all went to hell after that.

It started with a text message from my daughter: “Dude the last 12 hours have been ridiculous and a waste of $100.”

I knew she was serious because she doesn’t usually call me dude. It took a few messages, and you need some back story to know what was going on.

Daughter is on a road trip with some friends. They went to Rainbow Gathering in Georgia, then spent a few days in Naples, FL and were headed to New Orleans. At 5 in the morning they hit Pensacola and decided to stop. They were going to sleep in the car under a bridge but they found out that someone else had tried the same thing about 10 hours earlier and got shot dead. Now we are talking about 3 girls in a car who don’t know anybody. That means some random person — and in my head it’s a homeless guy bumming a cigarette — told them this story that made them uncomfortable. They decided to rent a hotel room instead. This is the $100. Check out time was 11:00 so they didn’t even get showers.

Then before hitting the road again, they went to a dog park. One of the girls had brought her 2 dogs which seems like a lot but personally I’m glad they had the protection. One of the dogs got off the leash, and someone pulled a gun on the girls. I asked my daughter about this, because I thought the whole point of a dog park was to let the dogs off their leash. She replied, “THAT’S WHAT YOU WOULD THINK, HUH?” And followed it up with, “Fuck Pensacola!”

The problem of course was that they had no money and no food. Uh huh. I’m surprised I didn’t get this call sooner. I’m on unemployment right now and I hadn’t gotten paid for the last two weeks yet, so I said there was nothing I could do. My roommate F gave me $60 to send her. We spent an hour trying to figure it out, and finally I paypal’d it to her. She is in New Orleans now, no further incidents.

The girls lucked out in New Orleans, too. They got an Air BnB a couple blocks off the French Quarter for 3 days for under $150. I might be jealous!

All of this took the hour I had for getting to my meeting. I still had to take shower before I could go and get dressed. I made it to RI but I was an hour late.

What is RI? In this case, Recovery International. It’s a sort of rational recovery program for mental health issues. Dr. Low developed the method back in the 50’s, so that was early days for psychiatry in a lot of ways. He referred to his patients as “nervous” rather than ill. He believed that getting worked up was an expression of either fearful or angry temper. He defined fearful as internal and angry as direction outward. His method is basically to have people talk themselves down using sayings and adages that he calls tools. They might be as simple as “peace is our goal” or as complicated as “people do things that annoy us, not to annoy us,” or even as pithy as “Try not to take your own dear self too seriously”. We meet weekly as a group and talk about how to use these tools in our daily lives.

I was so late, I missed the reading for the day and about half the discussion. At least I got to check in with everyone.

Afterwards I caught up with my friend R. He is the president of the local chapter of DBSA ( Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance )and he was delivering flyers around town. He wanted company while he did it, and basically he bribed me with lunch. It was a good day. I met several people in the mental health field, ranging from EAP workers (employee assistance plan) to the folks at Prism Health (AIDS Arms) .  I really feel like, when I get done with the government, I can find a place in mental health, which is where I want to be.  Eventually.

Lunch was at a place called Henk’s which does German food and has a European bakery and chocolate shop in the restaurant. We got the lentil soup, which was amazing. I also got a salad. R got a side of sauerkraut and a beer with his. Turns out the bakery provides the treats to the Black Forest Cafe, a coffee shop that’s in my favorite bookstore, Half Price Books. Later we stopped for coffee. I had an iced cold brew which was very refreshing. R paid both times, which I thought was very kind of him. Basically, it took us all afternoon.

On the way home, I got a message from my roommate. His meds were ready at the pharmacy so would I pick them up? I ended up going to the pharmacy, the grocery store, and a local chicken joint. I stopped at the mailbox because I was hoping either my new headphones or my book had arrived but alas, no such luck. I finally got paid my unemployment, so I ordered some stamps online. I really like the current round of stamps, they are becoming very creative.

It is finally bed time. I have group tomorrow afternoon so I can sleep in a little. The cats are sitting on the bed waiting for me. All I need to do is take out my contacts. It’s been a busy day, but a good one.