The baby who wasn’t 

I have three gorgeous children, aged 8, nearly 5, and 1.5. I love them more than I can fathom, and they drive me to the brink of full-on lunacy every day. I have three gorgeous children, and I have had seven pregnancies. 
My seventh occurred a few months ago. After my husband left for his most recent romp with the Navy, I realized I was pregnant. We have talked extensively about having a fourth child, and we both agreed that another baby just isn’t something we can do. With that in mind, I was at first afraid to call him and break the news. I chose to wait and process the situation for myself. 
For a few weeks I quietly prepared myself for the conversation I would have with my husband, my children, and then my family. I stayed up at night looking at options for a second vehicle, a bigger house. I started taking prenatal vitamins, and without realizing consciously, I was becoming exited. I talked with my sister about it, and my best friend, and decided that I was ready to tell my husband. 

At week 9, I miscarried. 
I have had SAB before, as well as late term, and what I have learned is this: it doesn’t matter if it’s week 2 or week 22, when you miscarry you lose a piece of your soul. The hopefulness that pregnancy can bring is ripped away from you, and all that was left was a crippling sadness, a feeling of worthlessness, and a rapid descent into an ugly depression that is all-consuming. The hint of joy inside of me is gone, and no matter what, it can never be replaced or recreated. When a living person leaves you, they take a piece of you with them. You grieve, you wonder if you could’ve done something to help. When someone dies inside of you, the guilt of having let this person-to-be expire, to deny them their right to life, it is a pain that stays fresh inside of you for as long as you live. Whether or not it was my fault is inconsequential, because no one will ever be able to convince me that it wasn’t. I’m a statistician and an historian – I am an entirely logical person. However, for me, miscarriage defies logic and understanding. Perhaps it’s not meant to be understood as a whole, because everyone’s experiences causes them to forge their own reality to cope with the unyielding pain that comes with unconscionable loss. 
My soul is ripped in seven pieces, but I am not immortal. In fact, with every tear my humanity is amplified in my own consciousness. Three pieces of my soul live on in the beautiful children I have helped create, and four live on in the annals of my heart and mind, never to be known by anyone but me. In my heart they have names, faces, and the sadness that I feel for them has shaped who I am, and who I have yet to become. 
On top of this furious flurry of emotions, I am still very much bipolar/BPD/major depressive. The demons hiding in my darkness have come out to play in full force, and at times I feel as though I need to scream to silence them. But silence doesn’t come no matter what I do. I hide, I cry, I hug my babies, I carry on as usual, I eat too much, I can’t sleep, I read the same page of the same book for days, I get dressed and force myself into normalcy. No matter what I can’t win. There’s no version of this story where I come out a better, more evolved human being. I leave this essay just as broken as when I started writing it, but feeling infinitely more exposed having vocalised what I have been trying so hard to hide. 

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The lines you amend 

*addiction, compulsive behaviour, and any other symptom can be substituted for the one I’ve chosen to write about. Pick your poison.*
How does one make amends for all of the horrible things that they do in a day? How does one recognize when their actions are underhanded? Is there a line between succumbing to your symptoms and being malicious?

Bipolar comes with some very unique symptoms, some of which are compulsive spending, and habitual sneakiness (I have refrained from using the word lie, because it insinuates a conscious decision to deceive). Usually accompanied by these symptoms is regret, self-loathing, and sometimes, thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm. When you are involved in a partnership, you are expected to, and want to, contribute to said  partnership. Whether it be a roommate, a spouse, an employer, you want to succeed at being normal. You hope and pray and beg yourself to make this the partnership that changes everything. You set your sights high, and you start out with a clarity you’ve never experienced before. More often than not, that clarity is delusion. Your glorious brain telling you that it’s finally got a grip and is going to behave itself. 

Everything is hunky dory until your first regression. A trigger, known or unknown, presents itself, and you panic. The light switch is clicked off and you are left in the darkness of your disease, groping for anything that will help pull you out. What’s the first thing you grab? Your debit card. 

Impulsive spending is a very slippery slope that destroys more than your credit; but how do you curb it? How do you avoid these destructive behaviours that can cause myriad problems for you and the people you love? You don’t do it on purpose, it just happens. For those around you who don’t live with bipolar, this is not a good enough excuse. How can spending money be a symptom of anything, aside from vanity and arrogance? 

Unfortunately for all, this is a well documented and very real problem that the majority of us don’t know how to deal with. We don’t know why we do it, how can we possibly ask for your understanding and forgiveness? 

We can’t

So we hide it. We find ways to bring things in without notice. We shop online, we overspend on things we consider necessity, until we get called out on it. We don’t have the forethought to cover our tracks. Hindsight is usually found on the way home from a panic shop, when you have to consider how everything will get in the house undetected. When the panic has passed, the guilt comes knocking. If you don’t catch us we feel the guilt of being dishonest, but we’re also afraid of having to tell the truth. What will be the straw which breaks the camel’s back? If we do get found out, we have a very quick decision to make, though it’s not entirely conscious decision. We must decide if we will defend, or amend. 

If you are in defence mode, it turns into a battle royale. Our magical brains come up with excuses at the speed of light. It is expert at telling us why you’re at fault. Why you’re the one causing our problems. If we decide to make amends, we must admit freely that we are wholly in the wrong, and that even though it is a  symptom, it is not an excuse for destructive behaviours. 

The wish of those struggling with compulsive/impulsive spending is of  course, to permanently stop those behaviours. The knowledge that we cannot completely eradicate ourselves of these short comings amplifies the self-loathing, which can lead to harmful thoughts and behaviours. 

Mental health/illness is a cycle. You are the hamster running on the wheel of illness, powerless to stop and get off. You are exhausted, you don’t remember why you’re running, but here you are

So you keep spinning the wheel, every rotation presenting a new obstacle. Sometimes the hardest obstacle is progress. The longer you succeed at ‘wellness’ the more steep and rapid the descent becomes. Every few rotations you slow down enough to ask yourself if any of your triumphs have been worth it. Is anything worth it? Is continuously punishing your loved ones worth it? You know that you’re ruining their lives. 

Like many of my posts, I don’t have the answer for how to fix this. I struggle with this symptom almost daily, and there have been many low points where I’ve had to defend or amend. Luckily for me, I have an unreasonably understanding husband who refuses to give up on me. Does that make our rows over finances any easier? Hell no. More often than not I would prefer if he yelled, or threw in the towel. The self sabotage finally works, and I am left alone to deal with my psychosis. That suicidal grey area that tells me he’s better off without me is a very scary place. It doesn’t tell me that I don’t love my family, it tells me that if I truly loved them I would free them from the burden of my existence. 

 However, as of right now, I have chosen to accept my defects, make amends, and work with my loved ones to be an effective and valuable partner. I won’t ever stop running on my wheel, but I think the struggle is worth it, and I would rather be their burden in life than their burden in death. 

Empathy from the Devil

I am vexed and perplexed, confused and unsure. I am an emotional enigma, and not even I can crack the code. I have been called narcissistic and sociopathic by more than one doctor (and several layman’s), and I have felt and identified with these diagnoses at certain points in my life. I am treatment-resistent bipolar, prone to spending sprees, delusions of grandeur, and thoughts of suicide. As if that wasn’t enough, I was have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, the cherry on the psychotic sundae. 

I am also an empath. 

Wait….what?

How can I be a sociopathic narcissist and an empath at the same time? It doesn’t make sense, does it? 

I feel. I feel so deeply that the weight of my emotional load is crushing. I never tune out or turn off, while I’m supposed to be sleeping I’m reliving everything that’s ever happened to me, in vivid detail. Do you remember the time you told me that my makeup didn’t look good? No? I do. My mind is a highlight reel of everything that helps me to hate myself. Perhaps you were the one who told me my thighs are too thick for corduroy. Don’t remember? I can fill you in. 

I am not a doctor, but I would like to amend my original diagnosis – I am a hedonist. Yes, I have narcissistic tendencies, I have long periods of introspective self-involvement, although what I see as quiet regrouping others see as pathetic lagubriousness. If I’m not feeling as though I’m conquering the world, I am desperately maudlin. There isn’t an in between. That doesn’t mean that I’m a narcissist. In fact, most times I find myself to be quite the opposite! I will do anything for anyone…once. Dick me around and i’ll wash my hands of you. At least on the outside. I don’t have the ability to forget. Once you stick your knife in, it stays put. You move on, I do not. That’s the empath part. 

So how is it that I identify with all of these traits? Honestly, I  have no fucking clue. But if you have any insights, please feel free to share!

I cut apart my favourite book today. That act is what spawned this post. I felt more emotion about tearing pages out of a book than I do about most people. I relieved it of its loquaciousness with good reason; to make a book bouquet for my sisters wedding. My poor book is missing the first two chapters, stained with tea, folded and dilapidated. It still hurt to take my scissors to it. I painstakingly sought out my favourite passages and cut the delicate pages away from the spine. In rereading these snippets I found myself overcome with emotion. I know every inch of each character, and can imagine how they look, how they smell, but they can never know me. What a beautifully tragic relationship to have! To know everything without revealing anything. I love these characters because they hold pieces of me that I can’t let others see. They live inside of me, never changing, always existing exactly as I need them to. The only relationship I’m good at maintaining…

But I digress. 

What was my point? 

That if I can’t define myself, how can I ask anyone else to. 

Perhaps that was it. 

The downside of happiness 

On December 1st, our eleventh anniversary, my husband and I finally got married, surrounded by friends and family. The day was everything we wanted, and was a beautiful recognition and celebration of how far we have come together. 

In the months leading up to the wedding I was in peak condition. Big Daddy was sailing, and I was planning. I made a lot of things myself, including decorations, the bridal party’s shoes, the cake, the ring box. I worked alongside the caterer to create the perfect menu, helped the commisioner create a ceremony that best reflected our personalities, booked hair and makeup appointments, made all of the wedding favours. I felt a sense of purpose that I don’t feel very often. I was creating something, and it felt good to be the driving force behind something that meant so much to me. 

 The day was a huge success, and it meant so much to us that so many people put in the effort to be with us. 

   
 My bouquet 
   
 Our cake
  Mashed potato bar!!

  One of the favours 

  Ring box

   
  
  Happiness 

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With all of the excitement over and all of our guests gone, I am at a loss for what to do with myself. I was so busy with wedding prep that I couldn’t feel the sting of my depression in the background. It never left me, but waited patiently in the shadows for the perfect time to re-envelop me once again in its cold cloak. I wasn’t expecting it for once. I was legitimately very happy, and proud of what I was accomplishing. The weight of depression has crushed me. I can’t stay awake, I’m cold, my head hurts. I have so much to do in my every day life, but lack the energy and the focus to complete anything. I have gained 10 pounds from irregular eating and poor food choices. I’ve picked my face and arms raw. My brain and my body are no longer lining up, like a poorly dubbed kung fu movie. I watch my life happening around me, but cannot participate. I can see that I am no longer thriving, and the judgement from my mind increases, and the cycle repeats. I don’t want to be an illness, but if not that, what am I? 

I literally cannot focus enough to finish this post. 

Ad Hominem

For the first time in my life I am choosing not to attend a Remembrance Day service, and I have received a lot of flak because of this decision. I would like now to explain  myself, in the hopes that for those of you who have judged me may understand what I am thinking and feeling. 

I have never missed a service. I have sat with dignitaries, laid wreaths alongside veterans, marched in parades, and cried while holding photos of my loved ones. I have drank with légionnaires, and argued with my husband over wearing his uniform. I have held hands with  strangers, shaken hands with people who served alongside my grandfather, and argued with people who celebrate Christmas before commemorating Remembrance Day. 

Each year I put on the equivalent of my Sunday best, do my makeup, pin poppies on my  daughters, and carry a photo of my husband and my uncle, to the service at the legislative grounds. I have gone in every kind of weather imaginable, and have tried my best to present the façade of the strong, elegant, cornerstone of the military family that is the military spouse. It is exhausting, and this year I am too tired to carry on. 

This year I will sit on the couch with my daughters, and the photos of our loved ones, and we will watch the Ottawa service on tv. If I feel like crying, I will cry. I will hug my babies and we will talk about our loved ones, their daddy, and why this day matters to us above all else. We will talk about all of the mom’s and dad’s of my children’s friends who are currently deployed or away for various reasons, and we will count every one of our blessings, made possible by all of these heroes. I won’t put on makeup, I will not present myself as anything that strangers or friends expect me to be. I will watch the service from the comfort of my home, where I am free to feel and express myself without feeling as though I have to “keep it together” for the sake of those around me. 

After the service, we are going for a walk. Maybe we will go to the park, or perhaps the lagoon. From there we can see where their daddy works when he is alongside, and we will count the days until he is home, together. This year I am not doing this for anyone but my family. For too long I have placed too much importance on  appearances, and trust me, keeping them up on a day like today is more exhausting than running a marathon. 

After a decade of being a military wife, and a lifetime of being a military family member, I think I have earned the right to observe this day in a way that is healthy for both me and my girls. My love has missed countless birthdays, holidays, moments that cannot be recreated – including the birth of one of our daughters. He will spend the next year away from us, and I will be strong while I wipe the tears away from my daughters’ eyes, check their homework, take them to lacrosse, doctors appointments, and read them emails from their daddy. I spend 364 days of the year being strong, today I would like, even if only for a few hours, to let my guard down, and feel what I try to avoid the rest of the year. 

So no, I’m not going to a service today, and if you disagree with my decision, I respect your opinion. I am not a bad wife, I am a tired one. If you don’t agree that I deserve to observe how I choose, I suggest you reread this post, or any of my posts, until you feel empathy for what I have to do to survive. If that doesn’t work, I will politely ask you to mind your own damned business – but I’ll only be polite once. 

Reflective Fragments 

The first time someone called me delusional I was seventeen. The librarian called said that I must be delusional because she was positive that I hadn’t returned a book that I was positive I had. 
The first time I questioned my mental health, truly, I was sixteen, and was largely rebuffed by the professional I confided in. I was lazy, ungrateful, ambitionless, and angsty. Get out of bed, brush your hair, show up to class on time. You’ll feel better. You have so much potential. 
The first time I wanted to die I was fifteen. I had a panic attack over having to tell my mother that I had failed math again. I had myself in such a lather that I began cleaning out my closet, and I had every intention of hanging myself in it with a belt. A pink belt with green stars that I bought at Forever 21, the only souvenir from my school band trip that I could afford. My mother called and asked me to do the dishes before she got home. I missed my window. That feeling of wanting to end would simmer in the recesses of my mind, bubbling over at different times later in life. 

The first love of my life came at fifteen, and has remained my only love. He nurtures the good parts of me, and forgives the bad. I owe him my life. 
The first novel I remember reading was Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. My dog was my best friend, and the book helped put my emotions into words. It also destroyed me emotionally for a few weeks after finishing it. Being able to read independently (i was in the third grade) offered a method of escape that would save my life more than once as I got older. 
———————————–

On the foggiest days I can reach out and touch the ragged fabric with which my reality is created. It’s frayed edges like worn burlap glide through my fingers as I struggle to grasp something tangible. As the mist coats the flora in the early morning, so does my fragmented reality coat my mind. My thirst for normalcy never quite sated from such a thin layer of moisture. 

When the wind picks up I am carried into the lives of others. Today I’m a parent volunteering at the school. When the wind changes I am an acquaintance in a tattoo shop, a fraud in a bookstore, a friend via text. I can never commit enough energy or attention to any one person or thing for too long. Lights flash in front of my eyes, I want to entertain all of them but instead cannot focus on even one. 
I feel so many things, yet I am paralysed by the thought of expressing them. Truly feeling them. It would be more apt to say that I think about feelings. If I start allowing myself to feel, I won’t be able to stop. I am an emotional implosion waiting to happen. The only thing I feel is fear. 

Fear of loss. Fear of change. Fear of success. Fear of self confidence. Fear of finding out who I really am. Fear of failure. Fear of faith. 
I couldn’t tell you who I am if I had all of the words in the world. I am a collection of grand ideas, half-truths, fears, and open wounds. The embodiment of an overactive imagination. I am an actual metaphor. Or is it a simile? I could never keep them straight. 

Affairs of the Mind 

With suicide prevention in the news, I thought given my somewhat intimate knowledge of the subject, I would throw my two cents in. While I believe in talking openly about suicide, I do not, necessarily, believe that it can be prevented. In my  experience, if a person is in the mindset that they need to take their own life, they will make that attempt regardless of how many people try to intervene. For those who have attempted to die, many will say that they needed that experience, for many different reasons. 

I will speak only on my own behalf; each person’s experience is as intricate and unique as a snowflake. For me, my attempts on my own life came at various stages. After the murder of a  friend, after attempting to seek help for mental illness was rebuffed as ‘in my head’, after a quiet but tumultuous battle with PTSD, all very different situations that resulted in the same self-loathing, shame, disgust, rage, and confusion. Each attempt I made was in earnest; I didn’t want to survive and receive treatment, I wanted to throw in the towel. Tired of fighting, battle worn, I needed sleep. I needed to sleep. 

No one could’ve prevented what my body was telling me to do. So how, as bystanders, care givers, do we help those afflicted by suicides disease?

Here are my suggestions, based on what I did and didn’t receive during the aftermath of my attempts. 

The person who wakes up from a failed suicide attempt is not the same person who made the attempt. It is naive to think that your loved one will emerge with a new zest for life, ready to take on the world with a new appreciation for all of the sights and sounds that the world has to offer. Shame, anger, regret, frustration, more anger: that is what is felt when you realise that after your best efforts to end the terrors in your life were not successful. The hate that consumes you cannot be abated with get well cards, flowers, or whispered conversations between family and medical staff. You don’t need to understand, but a little bit of empathy can go a long way. 

Make freezer meals. 

Bring books. 

Make horribly inappropriate jokes. 

Stand up against anyone who plans to lecture or belittle the fragile psyche of your almost departed loved one. 

In a shitty situation, Nibs always help make things better. 

In short, be who you’ve always been. No one is made of porcelain (except perhaps Tilda Swinton). Being handled with kid gloves only accentuates the above mentioned feelings of shame, guilt, anger, etc. Yes, things are different, your loved one has changed, but by offering a steady hand you are providing an incredible feeling of unity and support. As survivors we know that nothing about our situation is easy for anyone. We know the fear, the anger, the burning desire to grab us by the shoulders and shake us; we feel these things too – amplified exponentially by the demons inside of us that got us to the point of suicide in the first place. 

I’ve said it before, and I will say it until I’m blue in the face, suicide is a disease. The only cure is death. No matter how many good days we have, suicide is always lurking, waiting for a vulnerable moment to hit us from behind. Remember this:

Suicide. Is. Disease. 

Suicide. Is. Disease. 

Find the balance between constant vigilance and being over bearing. That’s where we need you. Always be on the lookout for ‘signs’, but don’t make us feel guilty. The bomb is ticking, but no one knows when the clock will stop. Remember this:

We love you. 

We aren’t punishing anyone. 

You can’t prevent something that has been preordained. 

Your patience means more than you know. 

We will work on prevention, we need you to work on acceptance. 

Suicide is disease. It cannot always be prevented. Like a cancer it can be aggressive, all consuming. Some strains have cures, some are fatal. In the end, making those afflicted feel normal, valued, unashamed, wanted, needed, those are the things that will make the periods of remission better for all parties involved. 

Continuous Thunder

Days and weeks and months go by with my mind racing, my palms sweating, heart pounding. I can’t ever get away from myself, and it’s terrifying. I’m an out of control merry-go-round, if I stay on I spin until I’m sick. If I let go, I fly out of control, leaving behind what little reality I was clinging to. 

I have been bubbling over for a few weeks. I could see the meltdown coming for miles, but have felt powerless to stop it. Last night after particularly trying day, I walked to the lagoon to try and slow myself down. It wasn’t as helpful as I thought it would be, in fact I found it to be greatly over-stimulating. Dogs barking, vehicles rushing, sounds from the naval base echoing, people laughing…I walked home disappointed, and fell into angry and scary nightmares that left me feeling exhausted as soon as I woke up. 

Today, while trying to paint the play structure we got for the girls, the wind picked up, the clouds burst open, and we all laughed at our luck as we rushed to get everything inside. 

Then the thunder started. We never have the right weather systems to warrant thunder. The sound of it stopped my mind in its tracks. I was transported home, to sitting on the porch with my mom, tea in hand, blanket draped over us, silently delighting in the miraculous weather. 

So here I am. Sitting on my porch, no tea or blanket, just me and the rain. Today, I this moment, I am at peace with myself. 

Idiot’s Eden 

I have decided to give my time to an orphanage in Romania. The location and organisation are not up for debate, nor are my intentions. I have been working to advertise, and for the most part, the reactions have been positive. I have a restless soul that is yearning to do good on a bigger scale, and I truly believe that this will be a life changing opportunity for me. 

This next part of the post is for anyone that has been less than supportive. 

Dear soapbox preacher:

Please enlighten me as to what you have done for the world. You can think of better places for me to go? More worthy causes? Then why don’t you champion them? Trying to make me feel bad for wanting to help somewhere that it is needed is beyond ludicrous. I know that there are other places that need help. I know that kids in my country are suffering. What you fail to recognise is that there are government programs that can help these kids. I can’t fix the government. I’m not Superman. I can’t fix everything. I have chosen to do this because children with mental or physical defects in Romania are literally thrown in the garbage. I would love to be a philanthropist and help everyone everywhere, but I can’t. I am one person who wants to help a few kids have better days while I can. If you don’t support me – fine! That’s your prerogative, but don’t you dare shame me for wanting to do a little bit of good. I am trying to be a better human being, how is there any shame in that? I shouldn’t have to justify wanting to good. 

Now, for those people who are interested in knowing about my quest, here is some information. 

I am fundraising to spend 6 weeks at an orphanage in Romania with the organisation United Planet. I have a fundraising page, a Facebook page, and I also tweet about it. You can click on the links in the text if you would like to learn more! 

It’s not you…(just kidding, it’s totally you.)

I don’t normally associate the word home with Victoria. I rarely see eye to eye with this city and the image its residents try to project. I am not hip, I am not liberal, and I don’t eat quinoa. I like driving trucks, I believe in the pipeline (Fucking sue me), and I don’t wear anything ironically. I could go on for hours about all of the reasons I feel as though I don’t belong here, but I digress.

However, on days like today, the beauty of this incredible city reminds me how invariably lucky I am to live here.
Today was my perfect day. Cloudy without raining, windy but still pleasant, colourful clouds painted like chunky brushstrokes across the sky. We took the girls into the city and then beyond, into the Cook Street Village. We walked through trees, over moss, tromped over dirt trails. Ate lunch at our favourite restaurant, and went to the girl’s favourite park. We played until our cheeks were rosy and our fingers needed a tea to warm up. We meandered back towards the downtown, and I decided to take photos of all of the beauty that the city has to offer.
Cherry blossoms, moss covered stone work, breathtaking architecture. Some of the photos turned out, others were meant only to be remembered in the mind’s eye. The smells of the journey were incredible, and if there’s an app for capturing scent that I don’t yet know about, please let me know!

The moral of this little story is this: the attitude of a select group of people does not make a city. Just because I may not fit in socially, does not mean that I can’t be enamoured with the beauty of this amazing little city, my incredible little island home. I don’t need to open my mouth, I needn’t engage people in mindless arguments over private beliefs, I need only take a deep breath, and drink in the majesty of the mountains pressed against the ocean. I live a three hour drive from a ski resort, and a three hour drive from a rain forest. I can wear flip flops every day of the year, and I live across the street from a forest that is home to wild animals, and loud waterfalls. My children are experiencing a lifestyle that is native only to this island, nowhere else can they experience so many different landscapes in one city. We swim in glacial pools in summer, go hiking in winter, and go to the beach whenever we damn well please.

I love this city.

I could care less about having a friend here, I need only to smell the ocean every morning from my doorstep to feel at peace with who I am, and where I live. Although I may never be able to call this my home, I can say with certainty that a piece of my heart will always remain here.

Tomorrow, when faced with dropping my child off at school and being forced to interact with people I feel no connection to, please remind me to first re-read this post, and then take myself for a walk in the woods. I’m not sorry for being anti-social, but I am sorry that I sometimes let that social anxiety cloud my ability to appreciate where I am and what I have.

Soundtrack of the day?

Smoke + Mirrors, the new album by Imagine Dragons