Kiss5Tigers

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


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Define Normal

I have been having a hard time getting myself together the last several weeks.  It’s hard to talk about because there isn’t always a specific reason.

I did have stomach pain for several days which resulted in a call to a specialist, but it seems like it has resolved itself without much input from him.  Or at least, I moved my tummy meds from morning to bedtime so I don’t wake up with pain.  I have a follow up with him tomorrow.  To me, it feels like this is legit, it’s something actually wrong.

Other stuff doesn’t feel like it should be such a big deal, but it is.

Sometimes the hardest thing is just to get going in the morning.  The alarm goes off and I hit snooze.  It only snoozes 3 times, so I actually have multiple alarms set 15 minutes apart.  It shouldn’t be that hard to wake up when you need to, but for me it is.  It’s uphill the whole way.  Most of the time I just kind of power through it but every now and then I can’t.

And I feel like a failure when that happens.

Starting about a week ago, I’ve been having issues with getting to work.  One time I actually got to the train stop but my ears were ringing and I was just all freaked out.  I actually rode past my stop and called in sick that day.  The ringing stopped after I passed work again on the way back from the end of the line.  I don’t like that.  I don’t know why I couldn’t just get off the train and go to work.

I also saw my psychiatrist again.  I told him about a day when I tried to run a simple bank errand and ended up shopping.  I had to call my daughter to come get me, just to interrupt myself.  I didn’t need to spend that money.  I can still pay my bills, don’t get me wrong, but it was money that should have been saved not spent.

I told him about the first night I was housesitting for a friend.  I couldn’t sleep at all that night even though I tried.  I went to work expecting to be extremely tired at some point and never did.  I went to bed at a more normal time that day and slept just fine.  I also told him about the day I spent just laying in bed.  That was the day my stomach hurt the worst.  Just taking my morning meds and vitamins made me nauseous.  I didn’t eat that day.  I laid in bed with the cats napping on me, didn’t get on the computer, didn’t watch any videos or work on art, no shower, just laid there in my pajamas.

And you know, I could do either one of those right now.  I could get interested in something and stay up all hours to pursue it, or I could get into bed and lay there for 12 or 14 hours.  The obsessive part seems saner than the doing nothing part, but either one seems feasible at the moment.

The doctor changed my diagnosis.  I am no longer having bad pms, I now have bipolar disorder.

I feel like he told me, I’m no longer in the range of things that are normal, I’m actually crazy.

The day I went shopping, I actually felt crazy.  I felt out of control of myself,  My therapist tells me that’s the manic part but I thought there was supposed to be an element of euphoria in mania, and I certainly didn’t feel euphoric.  I didn’t feel bad either.  I felt like it was okay to buy a few things that I want, that I deserve to spend some of my money having fun.  Maybe that’s not true.  Maybe I don’t deserve to enjoy having a little cash.  Maybe it should be all paying bills.  I don’t know.  What do normal people do?  Do they spend money when they want things, or do they just suck it up that there’s nothing left after necessities?  I’m not normal any more so I don’t know.

I feel like my whole life is now up for grabs.  Everything is analyzed and second-guessed and reconsidered.  I’m playing a video game and I get caught up in it and lose track of time.  Do normal people do that?  Do they realize what’s going on after an hour, or after 3 hours?  Why do I feel like I have the energy to visit a friend but not the energy to do laundry?  Is that normal?  Do normal people struggle with daily tasks?

The game is to pass as normal.  We changed my meds, and it makes me less normal.  I sleep through my alarm clock now.  I am late leaving for work and my roommates ask  how I’m doing.  Kinda crappy, thank you.  I’m doing my best and I can’t pull it together.  Everything is big and overwhelming and I am alone.  I want it to be okay to be overwhelmed, and it’s not.  It’s not because it affects work and accomplishment and motivation.  People get bothered when I don’t act like other people.  Folks who are inclined to help me start to feel like I’m taking advantage of them.

What it looks like from the outside is not how it feels from the inside.

Give yourself grace, says my therapist.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Really?  The people I live with are freaked out that I’m there at 8:30 in the morning because my shift starts at 7:45 and I need to be out the door between 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning to get there in time.  Only apparently I woke up enough to turn off the alarm – which I don’t remember – then slept until 7:30.  The new meds do this to me.  What they don’t do is make me look normal with only 1 or 2 doses.  They take time to build up.

My next step is to call HR and see if we can change my shift.  Right now I work 4 10-hour days and when you add in lunch (which my employer does not count as part of my day) and the 2-hour commute each way to work, well, I’m often out of the house 15 hours at a time.  I come home, eat, and go to bed.  I need enough time in the morning to get dressed etc.  I don’t sleep 8 hours most work nights, more like 5 or 6.  So maybe I can get HR to shift me to another position or at least another shift that isn’t quite so early and is 5 8-hour days instead.  It’s a big company, there are other jobs.  But I don’t want to say too much to them either and have it used against me.  See, there’s the second guessing part.

Give myself grace.  I’m crazy, what does that even mean?  That it’s okay to be crazy?  My crazy freaks people out, why would I want to give that grace?  I feel like I’m going to end up a street person, because I don’t make enough money to get by on my own but I don’t know if other people can live with my crazy.

I need to tidy my room.  That will help.  It won’t resolve anything, but tidy looks more normal and I do need to find my winter clothes so that’s a good excuse.  Tear it apart and put it back together.  Wash the sheets that are covered in black cat hair.  I don’t know how that cat does that, I believe there is more cat hair in my bed than on the cat.

And I need to make art.  Making art feels normal to me.  Making art makes my heart happy and my soul shine.  It seems to eat up the crazy and make all things possible.  Make the room tidy so I have a place to make art.  That’s a decent goal for tomorrow.  That and seeing the doctor again.

One day at a time, just get though today and have a plan for tomorrow.  It’s all I can do anyway.


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The Lucky Iron Fish

This is very cool.

Low iron is a very real health problem. And it’s systemic, by which I mean it affects the entire system of the body. It’s not like a broken bone where one part doesn’t function well, it actually causes problems throughout a body.

Here in the US, doctors used to prescribe “nail tea” to people with anemia. You took a couple of iron nails, boiled them in water for several minutes, and drank it down. The water, not the nails.

Cast iron cookware is another solution, since microscopic bits of iron get mixed into anything cooked in the pan.

This is a lovely, elegant, culturally sensitive to a very real health problem.

Check out the video.

Oh, and after I posted this link in social media, I found out that a friend of mine is the admin for their main American office. I knew what she was doing, I just didn’t know for whom.

Lucky Iron Fish


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On Being a Mother Hen When Your Chick Needs an Eagle

My daughter is approaching her 19th birthday. Seriously, next week she’ll be 19.

For most of the last year, she has talked about how she doesn’t want to handle things on her own, she wants a parent to do it for her, she isn’t ready to adult.

She says it that way, with “adult” as a verb. I think, but don’t say to her, that most of us are still figuring out how to adult! A lot of us are still faking it until we make it, and are a little nervous that someone might actually discover we don’t really know what we’re doing. At least not all the time.

Now, on the cusp of her 19th birthday, my daughter came to me shyly and asked if she could tell me something. She hemmed and hawed for a minute, then started with “I’ve been thinking about some things . . .” which kind of trailed off. So I cut her some slack, since I am impatient sometimes, and told her to just go ahead and blurt it.

“Would you still be okay if I didn’t live with you?” she asked, all eyes and uncertainty.

No, I thought, no I will not be okay. I haven’t had nearly enough chance to be your mother. I haven’t loved you enough. I haven’t bought you everything you ever wanted. I haven’t been your best friend. I haven’t sat at the dining room table and done homework with you. I’ve been a crappy role model because all I can do is take care of today so you’ve never had someone show you how to plan for the future or pursue a dream. I never even taught you to drive. And when you go, I will be all alone and my world will be smaller and darker and emptier. No I will not be okay.

But that isn’t what I said, because even though it’s true, it isn’t exactly true. For most of her life, she lived with her dad, not with me. I have lived without her before. I will go to work, hang out with friends, go away on weekends, go shopping, read books, feed the cats. Life will go on pretty much the same as it always has, I will just live alone. I’ve done it before. I’ve done it most of my life in fact. It’s normal for me. I’ll be fine.

Plus, well, I’m not young any more myself. I’m 50. It’s not exactly old but I outlived both my parents who were 47 when they died, so this is kind of a milestone. I’m entering the second half of life, and at some point there will come the time when I won’t be able to live alone any more. When that happens, I’ll be back at her door telling her she needs to put her life aside at least a little and make room for me to come home. Not right away, but maybe in 25 years or so.

It sounds like a long time, but when you’re busy having a life, it’s surprisingly short.

I’m looking at my bucket list, culling the list simply because I’m not sure there’ll be enough time to do all of it any more, deciding what adventures I must have and which ones I won’t regret passing up. I’m thinking about, what are the last things I want to get done in life, to be sure they are complete and I am full of memories and experiences. Some of them I need to do now while I still have energy and ability to do them, so I’d better get on with it.

My daughter? She’s just starting out. She’s at the other end of this process. She has a whole wide world out there waiting for her and she doesn’t even know what she wants to do with all the time she has. Not yet fully, anyway, even though I think she has a basic plan.

Tell her to stay here with me, to be limited by my limitations which are only going to increase in coming years? Clip her wings so she can’t see what’s over the horizon? Not a chance. This is her time to go and do and experience. Have adventures. Fall in love. Change her mind. Whatever it is she needs to do to be a full person and a citizen of the world.

“Would you still be okay if I didn’t live with you?” she said.

This is not asking permission, even though it’s phrased that way. This is a declaration that after a year of saying she’s not ready, now she’s ready.

Now she’s ready and I want to fluff my wings around her and say, “No, no, you’re fragile and it’s not safe, and you need to stay here with me.” Instead, I keep my hands in my lap and I don’t get emotional.

“Of course I’ll be okay,” I say.


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Haters Gonna Hate

A large number of people feel the need to motivate me.  Okay, maybe not a large number, maybe just a few people who are really persistent about it.  “You just need a kick in the ass to get you started,” they say.  You think so?  Let’s talk about that.

I live in an uncomfortable situation.  The people I am staying with do not want me there.  They have not wanted me there for a long time now.  However, I have no place to go.  So now, they are working at making my situation increasingly unpleasant, clearly so I will leave.  Leave and go where?

But besides that, what is being accomplished here, by acting like this?

Based on rental guidelines around here, I need to be making about 50% more income per month than I am right now.  Has kicking my ass caused my company to give me a raise or increase my hours?  No.  Has it changed rental guidelines?  No.  Has it lowered rents so that I could afford something?  No.

I should get a full time job.  Hmmmm.  I have been, and continue to be, looking for a full time job but lets be clear about this.  The jobs I have heard from want to pay me about 2/3 of my current hourly rate, maybe a bit more.  When I multiply that amount times 40 hours and subtract taxes and health insurance, guess what?  It’s the same dollar amount I make now.  Why would I work more hours for the same pay?  That doesn’t make sense.  I need a full time job at the same rate of pay, give or take 10%.  That would increase my income.

When did working 40 hours become the standard for judging suitable employment? I get that it’s considered full time and in theory we all want to work full time. However, it isn’t the only criterion for a good job. I mean, you can take home $400.00 a week. Would you rather work 40 hours for it, or 25? Having less time to pursue my interests without gaining income doesn’t seem like a reasonable trade. What happened to “work smarter, not harder”? Oh, that only applies to folks working 40 hours, the rest of us are slackers. (Please recognize sarcasm, it doesn’t come across in print sometimes.)

Has kicking my ass changed the available jobs?  No.  Does it change the pay on those jobs?  No.  Does it make me complete more applications?  Well, I have already applied for everything I can find that I might be remotely qualified to do, and a few things I know I’m not at all qualified for. I am limited by actual hours and location, because I am on public transportation. I can’t take a job that starts at 7:00 am or ends at midnight simply because there is no bus in my neighborhood at that time to make sure I arrive on time or get home safely.

Oh, transportation is a problem? Then buy a car! Uh-huh. So right now I have barely enough dollars to pay bills and support myself and my daughter, but I should take on greater debt? Mobility and freedom? Better jobs because I am not tied to buses and trains? Maybe. If someone wanted to sell me a working car for say $500, I’d do it in a heartbeat. “Working” for me, in Texas, would mean engine runs, it has air conditioning so I don’t arrive at work all sweaty, and hopefully a working radio. But people want $2000 even for cars they know needs a major repair (major = $400 and up) which would totally wipe out my savings which I need for the downpayment to get into an apartment.

I could maybe get a loan and buy a newer, more expensive vehicle, maybe. There’s no repair coming up but instead there’s a recurring bill for a couple of years. Plus there would be the ongoing costs of insurance and gas. I figure I’m looking at close to $400 / month for a used car, maybe more depending on payments and gas prices. Any increase in pay is going to be eaten up by increased transportation expense. Not sure that gets me ahead at all. By which I mean, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. Makes it easier to buy groceries. $400.00 a month so I don’t have to tote cat food or laundry on the bus? Seems, well, almost frivolous.

Surely there is low income housing in my area. I’m not the only person with low income after all. Well, there is, and I don’t really qualify. I have talked to both city and county housing. City has a 2 year wait list, county is 5 years. I could move up the list if I was elderly or disabled, but I’m not. Or I could get up there if I was in a homeless shelter. Okay, let’s see:

Most local homeless shelters want you to check in by 5 in the afternoon and be out by 8 in the morning. I suppose that makes sense because it’s around regular working hours which are 8 am to 5 pm here. I work 4 pm to 8 pm, so I can’t check in at 5. Can I check in early? Some places say yes, but then you can’t leave. If you leave, you lose your place in line and there is a limited number of beds. By the time I get out of work and make it downtown, it’s close to 9:00 pm or maybe later. The shelters I’ve talked to so far are either full or locked down by then.

Besides, I have pets. And I love my pets, I don’t want to put them in a shelter or on the street. And I have this computer. I haven’t always been poor; I bought the computer when I had a job that paid more (more dollars per hour, full time hours, and I had a car back then). I already own it, I’m not gonna get rid of it just because it doesn’t fit people’s idea of what poor folks own. I also can’t leave it or my phone unattended in a shelter when I use the bathroom or take a shower. Most of us are honorable, but there’s always someone who isn’t. I hate saying that however my experience suggests it’s true.

So why didn’t I try to get help from this place sooner? I’m sorry, I’ve been struggling with this issue for 2 years now and you think I’m just now looking for help? You think this is my first round of calls to social service agencies who have nothing for me? You think I’ve been sitting on my butt for the last 2 years doing nothing because clearly the fault has to be with me personally and not with the way the system is set up or people’s perceptions of who needs help compared to who actually needs help? Not saying other people don’t need help, just saying there are more categories of people out there than fit the criteria for many agencies.

All of which is to say, I don’t need you to kick my ass. Life is already kicking my ass. I am close to the point of learned hopelessness, you know, where you stop trying because whatever you do is wrong. I could use a hug. I could use a lead to job that will actually support me. I could use a little hope and encouragement.

But by all means, feel free to continue telling me I lack motivation and I’m not trying hard enough.

Just don’t be surprised if I have no sympathy for you when the tables are turned.


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Keep a good thought

 

So easy to assume that I and my mind are one, but we are not.  Thinking is the function of mind just like breathing is the function of lungs.  I can control what I think the same way I can control my breathing.  I can literally change my mind by choosing what I feed it.  Where thoughts go, energy and effort go.  Think about what you think.