Update: Happy Halloween and Some Creepy Flowers

I am feeling a lot better and hoping that this is the light at the end of the tunnel. I worked every day I was scheduled last week.

While I haven’t been writing much, I did spend the last few days drawing some pretty creepy flowers — enjoy!


I hope you all had a nice Halloween! I’m not sure which was more exciting to my daughter – the candy or the snow.

Did you do anything to celebrate?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a wonderful weekend! I will write more soon!

Thoughts on Fear

What makes something truly frightening?

Last night I was really scared. This post isn’t just for Halloween, but considering it happened last night it seemed fitting.

I have shared with you some of the strange beliefs I had when I was younger and struggling with psychosis. Sometimes I was just afraid of the dark and had to have every light in the house on. Other times it was a little more bizarre such as thinking the vacuum cleaner angered my hallucinations or that a man stood next to the piano as I practiced for my lessons. 

(If you are new to my blog, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in my 20s and have been on medication for nearly twenty years now. Psychotic symptoms have not impacted my life for a very long time.)

One belief I had was that ghosts would become active in my house at 3:48am, so I always had to be asleep by then. (Again, this was a very long time ago.)

Fast forward to last night. I have a habit of waking up once or twice at night to get a drink of water and use the bathroom. Well, last night I woke up at 3:38am thirsty and panicked. I was awake and it was almost that time. It was like the last twenty years of recovery never happened.

After a few seconds, I realized I was half-asleep but safe. However, a few doubts tend to linger after experiences like this so after getting a drink of water and using the bathroom, I went back to bed, covered my head with the blanket leaving a small hole to breathe, and tried to get back to sleep as fast as possible. You know, just in case. 

Obviously, I was fine in the morning but that fear hit me like a ton of bricks. I was really scared. 

I had this fear based on past experiences. Psychosis was frightening and confusing. I spent every day thinking my hallucinations were real.

So what makes something scary? Is it uncertainty? Is it the possibility that it could be real?

I’m sure fear is very personal, but what makes people scared? I always seem to be a little confused at Halloween as to why people want to be scared. How does that somehow become fun?

Last night surprised me because in the last few years, I’ve developed a fascination with the paranormal despite my experiences years ago. 

But Halloween doesn’t feel like a fascination. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of fun dressing up and trick-or-treating with my daughter, but I just don’t understand wanting to be scared. Scary movies fall into this category as well.

 

What do you think? Do you like scary things? Explain it to me.

Update: I’m still here!

I apologize for the lack of posts. I am still dealing with health issues and haven’t been able to do much. I’ve missed a lot of work and it has been hard trying to make any progress on art and writing projects. 

Last weekend my family took a little overnight getaway and it was a distraction I desperately needed. I’ve been to work twice so far this week and today I felt really good. 

The last few months have been grueling but right now I am trying to rest and stay patient while my medications get figured out. 

I will write more soon as I get my life back on track. Thank you for your kindness and support.

Embracing Traditions

Have you ever watched the show, My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding? I’m home from work right now. My daughter doesn’t feel well and didn’t go to school, so I’ve been watching it all day. Our streaming service keeps challenging me by asking, “Are you still watching?”

The show is over-the-top dramatic making me wonder if that’s really how American Gypsies live. I am not familiar with their culture, but if you are, I would love to hear from you. What is it like? I’m so curious.

One thing that I think is very interesting about the show is the lengths the American Gypsies go to to preserve their centuries-old traditions. I am just so fascinated by it.

This makes me think about my own family and culture. My family has been here long enough to be very assimilated into American culture, but that wasn’t always the case for older generations.

Like many Americans, I’m a bit of a mutt – mostly German with some Czech and Dutch thrown in. My husband is also mostly German with a little bit of English and Scottish. I think that makes my daughter a surprising amount of German for a family that has been here for so long.

My grandma was a first-generation American. Her parents had immigrated from Czechoslovakia after the First World War. I don’t know all the details because it was so long ago, but I know assimilating into American culture at that particular time must have been very difficult. Old traditions were even a little embarrassing for my grandma as a child.

Fast forward to my childhood, I grew up in a rural area where most people were of German heritage. Some of the older generation still spoke a little German. There were even a few church services in German.

Polka was popular where I grew up. Our local radio station played polka and at an annual Summerfest, polka music rang out late into the night. We (the younger generation) all made fun of it of course, but now I really regret that.

My grandma and grandpa were an adorable couple and they were so cute and sweet to each other when they danced to polka music together.

However, I feel those traditions died along with all of our grandparents. I never learned to polka, but now I kinda wish I did.

Would it be too late to teach my daughter how to polka when I never learned myself?

 

I would love to hear about your family. Have your traditions fizzled out or are they still alive and well?

Do you harden with age?

I know I’ve asked a similar question before, but this is weighing on my mind.

I’m not saying I’m a good person or bad person; like everyone else, I am both. I think my worst quality is that I’m a very anxious person and oftentimes my anxiety manifests as anger. I am aware of it and I try so hard to control it, but it just comes out – especially in the grocery store or other crowded spaces.

But I think my best quality is that I’m empathetic. I’m an intense person and feel very deeply, and that often helps me connect with others. It’s a good attribute to have as an artist and writer.

One thing I’ve really noticed is how I’ve changed from a very positive, upbeat person to someone a little more negative. I’ve been hurt in the past making me more than cautious.

Was it just the naivety of youth that made me upbeat? Does the world harden you as you age? How do I return to the positive person I once was? Is that even possible? I don’t have a time machine and it’s impossible to erase trauma and negative experiences. It really does add up.

Still, even though I am asking these questions, lately I’ve considered myself more optimistic than pessimistic. I’ve been through a lot of shit recently, but I am hanging on because I truly believe things can get better.

Is anyone else asking these questions? How have you changed with age? I would love to hear your best and worst qualities. 

Personal Responsibility: The Devil Isn’t Your Scapegoat and God Doesn’t Deserve Credit

Since I had been sick the last few weeks, I had been camped out on the couch and watching a lot of TV. Confession – I love reality shows. One particular show I was watching had cameras set up in the homes of three families at turning points in their lives, and of course, let the drama unfold.

One of the families had very devout Christian parents, and every time their kids misbehaved, they blamed it on the devil. Even the kids said it was the devil. The kids were young but I think they realized they had a very easy excuse.

This annoyed the crap out of my husband. My daughter was in the same room and my husband decided to have a talk about personal responsibility right then and there.

My husband told my daughter if she bullied someone at recess that that was on her. It’s not the devil and you have to take responsibility for it.

But my husband also acknowledged the flip side. My daughter is a talented artist, and he told her if she won an art contest, that’s all her. God does not deserve credit. She did that. 

Have you ever had a conversation like this with your kids?

She seemed to grasp what we were saying, but just a few minutes later, she was helping my husband carry some laundry up from the basement and she said it was heavy – like carrying the cross. Where the hell did that come from?

My husband thought she saw something on TikTok.

Here’s where I have a couple of questions. I’ve brought this up before – do you always supervise your children when they’re watching videos online? And how do you do that? My husband and I are not fans of censorship and we certainly don’t want our daughter to be sheltered or naive. 

When it comes to belief or nonbelief, we don’t want to push our daughter into anything. We just want her to ask questions and think for herself. Obviously, we don’t want others pushing her into anything either.

Maybe this is all easier said than done, especially considering we live in a conservative area. How have other parents approached this subject?

We have bought a couple of David McAfee books, but I’m afraid they still might be a little over her head. Do any other parents have experience with these books?

I apologize for the rambling. This post started out about personal responsibility but so much more came up the night we had the discussion with my daughter. I would love to hear from other parents/guardians/relatives – anyone taking care of littles. How have you dealt with these topics?

The Worse Relapse I’ve Ever Had and the Start of My Comeback Story

As I posted several days ago, I recently suffered kidney failure which was most likely caused, or contributed to, by years of taking lithium. Lithium has been a major part of my treatment for schizoaffective disorder, but given my current health situation, I had to stop taking it. This led to the worst relapse I’ve ever had. I’ll be honest, I was pretty scared.

I have started a new medication to replace the lithium, and am feeling a ton better. Since medications can be a trial-and-error process, I might not be out of the woods quite yet, but so far so good.

The last few weeks have been grueling both mentally and physically, and I want to share my story. Mental illness is so common, and I hope others can see the light at the end of the tunnel like I have.

A little about the symptoms of my relapse…

My thoughts were rapid-fire snippets. I’m normally not much of a talker, but I just couldn’t shut up. I randomly switched from topic to topic and could laugh and cry in the same sentence. Through all of my rambling, I kept telling my husband, “I’m still in here!” 

It was exhausting – an up-and-down rollercoaster ride. I felt confused, a little disoriented, and out of control. It was like I had symptoms of depression and mania at the same time which I had never experienced before. I also had a few panic attacks – another first for me – and it was absolutely terrifying.

I got to a point where I let my hygiene go. I smelled, I couldn’t remember the last time I washed my hair or my body, and I apologized to my husband for my sasquatch legs (although he really didn’t care). 

A little confession – It was kind of funny because I wasn’t sleeping and I was writing blog posts in the wee morning hours, but I was too afraid to post anything in case it didn’t make sense. I was aware that I was symptomatic. Unfortunately, I did embarrass myself on social media and am now in damage-control mode. It hurt but the only thing I can do now is look back with a sense of humor.

When I started to feel better, it felt like a fog had been lifted, like the last few weeks were a dream and never really happened. I’m not quite 100 percent yet, but I’m getting there. I plan on returning to work this week.

The Wonderful People in My Life

My relapse was embarrassing because most people in my life now have never seen me so symptomatic – including my husband. I have been on medication for twenty years and for the most part, they’ve done a good job of managing my symptoms.

Despite this being a new experience for him, my husband was amazing – nothing but patient and supportive – and my daughter made me laugh easing the pain and heaviness of the situation.

My daughter is only seven, and while I don’t think she totally grasped what was going on, I still felt guilty. Part of me was hoping my daughter wouldn’t remember this when she’s older, but let’s face it, she probably will. I can only hope that this will be a lesson in resilience. When you need help, help is available, and it is so important to value and respect our minds and bodies.

I couldn’t function and missed quite a bit of work. I was already low on PTO, so if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Ouch.

But I want to talk a little about my work. I work for the most amazing organization and my boss and coworkers have been nothing but kind, understanding, and accommodating. I am so inspired by the people I work with – both staff and clients. I have worked in direct care in the mental health field for seventeen years, and have had so many different experiences. Currently, I work as a peer supporter and art teacher for a local mental health organization. I have seen people struggle and seen people heal. I appreciate the people who have shared their personal stories with me as well as those who have listened to my story. Sometimes you can form the most powerful connection during your darkest hour.

Obviously, my psychiatrist and therapist have been invaluable, but I have to admit while being stuck at home, our kitties and guinea pigs have been pretty good therapy, too. It’s really amazing the emotional connection you can form with your pets. It’s like they know when you’re down, and by wanting attention, they are also giving you attention.

Making My Comeback

I am finally starting to feel like myself again. It might sound weird to say I feel like myself by putting chemicals in my body, but taking medication to treat my mental illness is all I’ve known for half of my life.

This whole experience just reinforces how important it is to take care of yourself. I got the help I needed and now I’m ready to move forward. I am so grateful for all the kindness and support I have been shown both on and offline. I am one very fortunate woman.

 

If you’re up for it, I would love to hear your own recovery story – from whatever it may be. Let’s connect with our darkness and be inspired by our light.

The Cost of Keeping Our Bellies Full

I was a little iffy about writing this post since I struggle with an eating disorder and often try to avoid the subject of food, but this topic is definitely worth discussing and I could use some new ideas.

Let me start by reiterating something I’ve learned in recovery – there are no good or bad foods. It’s just important to eat a variety to get what you need. This is something I’m trying to work on, but it’s difficult when money is tight.

Is it even possible to spend less than 200 dollars on your weekly grocery trip anymore? Many weeks we spend more than that.

What’s worse is my husband and I don’t like to cook. I tried so hard to cook after I left treatment, but it’s just not something I’m into. Maybe I’m a little lazy but I don’t like the process or hassle, and I definitely don’t like the pile of dirty dishes after dinner. Sometimes I’ll cook simple things like spaghetti, a roast in the crockpot, or hot dogs. I think one of my favorite simple meals to make is taco salad. 

This means my husband and I depend a lot on take-out and delivery. Pizza once a week. We are also familiar faces at the nearby Chinese restaurant and Subway. As much as I want to eat a variety, unfortunately, when we’re struggling, fast food is the cheaper option. I know there’s nothing wrong with eating fast food, but when choices are limited, it can get old pretty quickly. 

The price of different foods leaves me flabbergasted. There’s a grocery store next to the office where I work, and I walk over there every day to grab something to drink. I often buy a twenty-four-ounce bottle of Faygo pop for just a dollar, but when I want to switch it up with flavored sparkling water, it comes in a much smaller fancy glass bottle and is nearly three dollars. I don’t understand why water is more expensive than pop and why does it have to come in a fancy bottle? What’s up with that?

Even produce is expensive when we go to Kroger. Bananas and grapes for my daughter’s lunch box. Romaine, basil, carrots, and yellow bell peppers for our two guinea pigs, Nibbles and Nugget. (Have you ever had a guinea pig? They are eating and pooping machines!) Watermelon and sweet corn are definitely family favorites when they’re in season. But why does it cost so much?

It’s no secret that people struggle where we live. In desperate times, my husband and I have had to visit the food pantry at our daughter’s school. The food at the pantry isn’t the most appetizing but it doesn’t matter. You do what you gotta do and I am grateful for their help. This is very common where we live. Even the school’s parent’s page on Facebook lists locations and times of local food pantries. I love this community because maybe we’re struggling, but we also help each other out.

My daughter’s school offers free breakfast, most of the kids qualify for free or reduced school lunches, and after school kids can go to the library a block away from the school and get a free sandwich, fruit, and milk for dinner. The library offers food to every single kid who walks in – no questions asked.

My daughter is a picky eater and we always pack her lunch, and when we can we send her to school with extra food – extra packs of Goldfish and fruit snacks and an extra applesauce – so she can give it to her friends if they want it or need it.

With the cost of food where it is, do you guys have any money-saving tips or very simple, cheap meal ideas to share? I’m sure the real solution is to overthrow the capitalist pigs that run this country, but does anyone have any ideas in the meantime?

A little health update…I am on a new medication and there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s like a fog has been lifted and for the first time in a few weeks, I have a clear head. I am not 100 percent yet, but I’m getting there. I will post more about it soon.

Update: When It Works So Well Until It Doesn’t

I apologize for my absence.

I have been on lithium for years and years to treat my schizoaffective disorder, but it may have negatively impacted my kidney functioning so I had to stop taking it. Lithium was probably the medication I depended on the most, and while my doctor is working hard to find something to replace it, I’m not going to lie – I’m pretty scared to go without it. All I’ve been doing for the last few weeks is lying around the house and going to doctor’s appointments, and I really, really hate it. I just have to keep telling myself that this isn’t for forever. I think through this experience I’ve developed a healthy respect for my medications because while all of my medications help me and give me a somewhat normal life, I am still putting chemicals in my body, which can have some nasty effects. I will not stop taking my medications – I know I need them – but I never want to go through this again.

I’m trying to get back in the swing of things by submitting my art to a gallery in Cleveland later this week. It might just be the motivation I need.

I will be posting again soon. Thank you for all of your support.

How do you show empathy to someone who has wronged you?

How do you go from viewing someone as malicious to seeing them as a person in pain?

How do you move past anger?

This is more for me than them.

I want to be able to walk away from people and situations in my life and feel peace. I don’t want to hate anyone for the damage they’ve caused because they are in just as much pain as I am.

How someone treats others directly reflects how they feel about themselves – the whole “hurt people hurt people” thing. But that’s hard to keep in mind when you’re on the receiving end of mistreatment.

How do you protect yourself and keep moving forward when you are also a hurt person?

An even better question – As a hurt person, how do you prevent hurting others in the way you were hurt?

Giving myself distance has done wonders for my growth and recovery, but is it really to right answer? On the other hand, how much is a person expected to tolerate? I hate the phrase “keep the peace” because usually, that’s not peaceful for anyone.

It’s a tough realization to see that you have so much in common with the person who wronged you.

I don’t want to be like them. It’s really motivation to take care of myself, be present, appreciate the supportive people in my life, and respect the world around me. I’m trying my best and I wish the same for them.

Through therapy, I am learning to become a more empathetic and introspective person, and this blog has been a part of my growth. I always appreciate your support and feedback. I learn so much from you and I feel a sense of validation knowing others can relate. I often feel powerless, but here I have a voice.

Coming from a red state in the Midwest, Freethought Blogs is the only place where I am surrounded by like-minded people – even if it is just online.

Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your stories. Can you relate? Have you been in a similar situation?

 

Also, I am dealing with some mental health issues and medication changes right now, so if I take a little break or post something weird, that’s what’s going on.