Friday, September 26, 2008

Day 1: tales from suburba-land

Looking across the park I watch the happy people. The moms, the one dad, pushing the kids in swings or on teeter-totters.

The tennis ball smacks back and forth across the net – hit better by the man in fluorescent green. Perhaps because he matches the ball.

The giggling gets louder; the partial nuclear families are flocking. 11a.m. – outdoor time.

The one dad looks out of place and a little disheartened as middle class moms take over the park – some with Starbucks in hand others just have it in their blood stream.

Is there a coffee cart in this park? This suburba-land? A station for an IV hook up where you can still see the swings?

_____________________________________

He looks at the woodchips, his stomach starts to hurt. He feels like he is flying, faster covering more ground. And then a sudden jolt – a stop. His mother tugs at his sweatshirt and makes him place his feet on the ground ruining his swing experience. He can no longer be an astronaut and must now be an average 3 year old. So like mothers to spoil our dreams.
_____________________________________


Inside there is a voice nagging that asks, will I be a mom like this? I won’t live in the multi-million dollar homes that surround this park, but it is only one neighborhood over from my apartment – a short stroller’s walk. Would I ever fit in? In my clashing cry of anti- & longing- (for) suburbia, can I truly join the community? Can I wear velour or soft cotton matching zip ups? Can I watch the 3 year old, hold the 10 month old and be cold because I’ve forgotten my sweater? Or must I be someone else? Would we be at coffee shops with the many pierced lips and watchful eyes? Will the onesies all be rock bands and hand painted? Where will we fit? Left of suburbia? Out in a country setting? There in the city? Or in the sub-city, sub-suburbia fringe? Will my little girl wear rainbow tights and half pig tails, run and squeal across uneven grass towards deep red swings? Will her 10-inch tall legs make it across the path? Will we need our own park?

________________________________________

There are many dads now. One so clever as to carry the bunny doll in hand, the frisby-ish device in the other hand and the ball to bounce in his sweatshirt hood. The older kids are getting here. Will there soon be a parade?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Bipolar Puzzle

Yeah, so I come into the coffee shop (oh my gosh I have to say my coffee at home is certainly not this good - oh tasty Italian Panache goodness in a cup!) and there lay New York Times Magazine with the cover of a blurred raged (or so it seems) child behind the words: The Bipolar Kid.

I have mixed feelings on diagnosing kids with bipolar. I do sort of prefer the earlier view of things - the depressive disorder as a teen, not considered truly bipolar til like 20 following a major episode. . . but what do you call it then? How do you treat it? I just don't know.

What did bother me was the "label" they used. The "Bipolar Kid" because there is no differintiation between the kid and a potentially HUGE and possibly debilitating disease/disorder. Nope it is just who he is. I have struggled for years to not be my illness.

For so long I tried to hide it - in fact no one could tell I was really bipolar. I was a little off-beat, depressed, passionate. Depends on what age I was, how you knew me, the setting. I was "eccentric" but sometimes I was just sick. I don't know, can bipolar be like a really bad cold? Or like consumption? Or some sort of illness that acts up every now and then? No. It is ever present but it is not who I am. What I am.

But it sure felt like it. Manic for months, major depressive episode, rapid cycling -also known as 2005-2007. I am so lucky for the people who were there through most of it. For the people who literally saved me from me. I felt like there was no more, that where I started and where I ended was enmeshed within an evil disease. BUT if I still lived that way, how could I live?

I used to want to be a great advocate. To travel and lecture on the fact that not all bipolars are crazy. But after I had that huge break down (again, 2005-2007) I lost my faith in that. I wanted to show how normal I was and that the face of bipolar could be a normal girl. The more people I know with the disorder, the more I lose faith in that. It is ugly, it can kill a marriage, frienships or take a life. But it still gets a bad wrap. No wonder people who struggle with bipolar struggle so hard and feel so isolated.

Bipolar was / is a buzz word. Someone acts abnormal they are probably "bipolar" like someone coughs they have the consumption, not a cold. Yes I realize I have used that term twice.

Okay, I have to go to work and work with the "schizophrenics" oh, no, wait. The men who have schizophrenia or something like it.

It's a crazy world covered in diagnosis, labels, identity theft (in the figurative way) and strange egos.

This sounds crazy doesn't it? Well, I am bipolar. . . (that's a joke).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Oh manic monday . . .

I started a fire. I should be banned from the kitchen.
Nothing burnt down.
But, that was the downside of my afternoon.

I knew we should've bought a fire extinguisher!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Academic Madness Ensues . . . or is it Insues?

Questions, like that above, are why I had to change majors in undergrad. English Lit was just wrong for a girl who can't spell.
Oh George Fox . . . somehow in my infinite wisdom I have managed to (sort of) fall behind in my studies. How is this possible? It is because both I, and my school, syllabus and professors, are disorganized. How hard is it to make a clear time line? Or to tell us what books to read when? I like structure - they like chaos. CLEARLY!!
So last night I finished my first treacherous paper and it was at the cost of finishing 2 books for tonight/tomorrows class (that' right, 2 weekends in a row and this is Fri. night 4:30 to 9:30 AND Sat. 8-5). Ironically I discovered that the interesting parts were really in the last 200 pages! Who knew? And now I just have to skim 150 more of the other book . . . but first I think I will go to the doctors, go fight with the pharmacy for the third time this week, call work and go to the gym.
I think I need more coffee for this - I might need an I.V. or to follow in the footsteps of Meagan and give it up all together and rely on natural energy (what?!). Apparently if I did this, on the rare occassion that I might drink coffee it will send me through the roof. That is unlike my current experience where the coffee serves as a tease to my tiredness, pretending it will wake me up and then falling asleep itself. Your caffeine should NOT take naps.


Okay, off to work!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Graduate School Troubles Reach Level Orange

It is my second full week of school and last night I had an unfortunate melt down. I was working on this annoying APA conversion thing and sort of flipped out resulting in two rather important pages torn out of my APA manual and a lot of crying. Was it really just the APA? No. I am sort of in a mild career crisis - trying to quickly think if this is what I really want. I realize one should think of that BEFORE they spend quite this much money but it is only in the actual Graduate School experience can I ask: Is this what I want? Can I even DO this?

I looked at my stuff from Azusa and apparently I was kind of smart. Ok, I am smart, I know that. But I took these hard classes with what I considered to be (mostly) amazing professors and did really well. And even though I had my doubts about my ability to make it, I never doubted that it was where I belonged. Never doubted that it was RIGHT.

Is it still where I belong? I guess in some ways it is a means to an end but it is just hard because I had such an amazing experience at APU. I miss the "trinity" and the set-up and even the campus. I miss it more than I can explain. This school is not well structured and makes questionable academic decisions, there is no consistency and all in all is not what I had hoped for. I guess that is saying that I had hoped. Wasn't it in part an escape from a miserable job?

I don't know. I am trying to put this in perspective. I can probably do it - it is just hard. I mean I look at my work from 2005 (APU) and it's good. For some reason I don't remember any of it (oh right, mania is a funny thing, like a mental eraser). I see that I have written things about topics I studied last Spring here, topics that I thought I was studying for the first time - weird.

Anyhow I am in class now studying my professors: Theological Anthropology of Human Nature. It is interesting, I promise. Confusing, but interesting.

Oh maybe this is where I belong . . . who else would find this stuff interesting? Hmmm.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Day 1 - Not an Office Job

People are interesting. Some people strive to be, "normal" and people who qualify as "normal" take for granted what it is like to not have to try. I shadowed at my new job yesterday and met some of the guys I'll get to work with. They all have some sort of diagnosis in the schizophrenic realm. We get stuck - you, me, mental health professionals - on how people with such a diagnosis must be "crazy." And we imagine crazy to fit inside a certain sort of box. There was a guy, that I didn't meet but was told about, who has an alternate universe, a Utopia where everything is better. He firmly believes that it exists and is learning to reconcile it with this reality. The woman who was telling me about him said this: Who are we to really say it isn't real? To decide that there isn't something that we just don't see.
Logic tells us that we are to say, but our brains are wired in all kinds of funny ways. That guy is on all the meds that it should take to get ride of delusions, voices etc.; but they are still very real for him. That is what led to that statement.
One guy talked about how he processes the things that aren't real - how talking about them when they are happening can help distance him. Hearing how he works through this was fascinating. Listening to him and realizing how desparately he wants to not be noticed as different was, well, it's hard to say exactly what it was. See, he's the sort of guy that you would NEVER notice was "different." A handsome kid, energetic, bright and he happens to be schizophrenic. I guess when things get bad for him they are terrible, but otherwise you would never know. Unfortunately for him meds require cycling a lot, meaning they don't work as long as you would hope without you needing to alter them.
With my bipolar I can relate, not in the same way exactly, but generally speaking. If only doctor's would listen though (they don't because if I am not actively trying to kill myself and am still able to function when I have to so clearly the meds are working JUST fine).
Crazy isn't what you think. It is different for each of us. It is real for each of us. What some of us used to say in the crisis center and people I've known who have working in locked mental health places: Sometimes the biggest difference between us and the kids in there is that we have the keys.
We aren't all so normal - and other's aren't all so crazy. I mean it isn't the same but you should be thankful for your good mental health. We should open our boxes a little too.

Always the Cute Girl

There she sat - pig tails in her hair.
She was 21 years old.
She was a grown up - she kept saying.
Almost 22.
At work every morning and school most nights.
She was getting married someday.
She was always a cute girl. Always adored.
She was always a cute girl, sometimes little more.
Flashes of red, black, grey and deep blue -
The cute girl was almost 22.
She dreamed things would be normal.
One day they would feel fine.
She curled up at night and balled her hands tight.
She was always a cute girl, sometimes little more.
She cried in bright red. She screamed in deep blue.
Her floors were hardwood and windows closed tight.
The draft was strong, the comforter light.
She painted. She sobbed. She'd spin in her room.
Her home was so small - but enough room for her dancing feer.
She was always a cute girl, just a little off beat.
Soon things would be normal.
She bought a pretty white dress.
Found the right man.
Painted the right life - with her brush.
No more finger paintings for this grown up cute girl.
She hung flowers in doorways, a perfect day.
She was always the cute girl - and well on her way.
She was a grown up - less bohemian than before.
She had new things and wore button down shirts.
She combed her hair straight.
She wore pretty girl skirts.
She forgot how to dance.
She forgot how to cry.
She lost the cute girl - there was more inside.
She'd always been the cute girl.
Where is she now?

Monday, September 8, 2008

And so it begins . . .

Today I had the HR orientation for my new job - don't be mistaken with this meaning I was oriented in the slightest about my actual job, I just did fun paperwork. Oooodles of fun.

It is funny, I feel really overwhelmed. You see, I went from famine to feast as far as responsibilities go. I had NOTHING for a long while and now I have 2 jobs and school and just thinking about it sort of stresses me out - which is really silly.

I think I am very afraid of on-call work, which is what I will be doing, because I love stability. I mean, I am happiest when I have a full time job. It is predictable and it is scheduled and for a rather chaotic girl (internally at least) I love me some structure. Today when I went in for my orientation I saw the people in the building, stopping into one another's offices and I thought, "(sigh) I wish I worked in an office." What?! How did THAT happen. I miss a desk and wouldn't mind some paperwork and a place for my coffee mug. Sigh, apparently I long to work in an office with recycled air, deadlines and bad florescent lighting.

As for the struggle with on-call, I work best when I am confident, of course. And I am confident when I am well indoctrinated and know what I am doing and who I work with. Change really, really, really scares me.

Oh well. Time for a lot of it.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Coming soon to She's a Work in Progress' blog: "How John Hughes Can Ease the Politically Ravaged Soul"

"How John Hughes Can Ease the Politically Ravaged Soul"

Soon I will share tstory of heart break (Sarah Palin and the lady from ebay) and restoration . . . (The Breakfast Club at the replay house in the Clinton district, SE Portland). Like Xanax for the politically ravaged soul, John Hughes restores my faith in America (sort of).

But for now I have 425-ish miles to drive . . .

Friday, September 5, 2008

Trees and Desert and more trees then . . . a prison town?

Here I am in the Hilton Garden Inn in good old Redding, CA. Actually, who knew? Redding is beautiful. From my hotel window you can see the river (the . . . River, named after the . . . tribe). Anyhow, Kyle and I drove down here to meet my Dad and his brother, Albert, to change cars. I have officially inherited a 1984 Mereceds named Mel, it's yellow and apparently has more issues than I thought - but I'm thankful for it. At least it doesn't need a new transmission . . . yet. Not like Tommy the Tank who is on his way to LA as I type. Why do I not like the 9 year younger and better car? I just don't know. Some iron deficiency in my brain maybe . . .

So it was only 425-ish miles to get here, which in my head did NOT translate 8 hours (7 driving, a good lunch and gas and one rest stop due to dizzy car sicknessy feelings), but in reality it did. But Southern, OR is lovely, albeit freakishly long. From Portland to the tip (I live off of i5 exit 301) to Oregon and down to exit 675 in California. Growing up I don't remember the exits being numbered, if I had I would've had a better idea of how big the state was or where we were located in it. In Oregon the names of the exits are far less useful than the numbers.

So, I still don't have the internet at home since I am waiting to find out if everyone will be evicted since the building sold - or if our rent will just go up. I never thought I would hope for my rent to go up . . . but I prefer it to moving! Thus I have forgotten how to be interesting in a blog.

On the road again . . .

Monday, September 1, 2008

A New Kind of Post . . . a new blog to accompany it

Here are some thoughts I have had of late in regards to faith, the church and life. I will post my first of these blogs here and then I am going to have a blog that is more spirituality specific, it can be found at: http://themessinessoffaith.blogspot.com/

I wrote this last week in response to some readings I had for school:

Roots

I want for tradition, I long for roots. In my life I have craved many things, but none so true as these: the peace that I have experienced in the presence of God, my need for true community and the taste for history in my faith. As a Christian I am tied to millions of people that I do not know. As a teenager I found great comfort in this – I knew that no matter how alone I felt that there were kids in other cities, in other youth groups, schools, homes that had similar struggles, but that also shared the same hope and faith. When I was lonely this brought me a strange sense of community.

Now I am 30 and I still long for community and roots; those in friendships and in worship. I have not attended church in a long time, and lack in community. My lack of attendance has much to do with my decision to claim myself as a non-practicing Christian, though not a non-practicing believer. This is a matter of practicing in the public sense, I felt that since I do not exemplify what I have been taught, and have in turn taught others, that I should not attend a church because I would feel dishonest. I preferred to abstain from church unless I was living by the rules that I have prescribed to fit God, though many of these rules are based in the tenets of Christian biblical teachings –they are also to fit man’s incarnation of God in the modern church. Which leads me to this question: Would God have me be separated from His people (through my own actions mind you) because I do not than abide by these precise rules?

Some have deemed this an act of self-condemnation; because I believe that I do not meet the standards that I once set for myself. But the question is: Are those standards or are those legalistic rules? Having previously lived in what was possibly a relatively black and white view of the world and of Christianity I have struggled greatly with what it means to experience the different colors of the world in light of the pure beauty and light of Christ. I was asked today why I thought things had changed for me and I said that I feel I once lived in a safe box, things made sense. In that box I knew right from wrong and could define the difference – it was not supposed to get this messy. “Why then,” she asked, “did you not go back into that box?” And the answer is both simple and true, “Because I no longer fit.”

For the last few years I have found that when I crave God I also crave community and history. It is as if there is a call for tradition woven into my bones. I blame Madeleine L’Engle for bringing into focus my want of something more ritualistic, for craving something liturgical. And now this desire for something with a calendar and prayer book, something of an active history in a living church has grown and the more I read the more I long for it in my life.
The problem? I have always misunderstood the practices of what I defined as “traditional” churches. I was brought up to believe, or at least with the room and often guidance to interpret, that the role of Saints in a church, for example, was usually an act of idolatry. Perhaps in some cases this is true – but in many cases it is not.
When my sister began to attend All Saints, the “mecca of liberal” (I quote) Episcopalian Church(es) there were a few things I did not like about it. First was the liberal stance of the church, the churches permissiveness (or what I viewed it as). Second was what I perceived as the role of politics in the church – essentially mixing church and state in a way I was uncomfortable with. The third and final reason, it seemed painfully boring. The rising and the kneeling, the script that was handed to you when you entered (25 pages! Detailed, word for word outline of the service!!). And if that was not enough, communion that felt forced and condemning instead of freeing and that, well, used real and relatively bad wine. I could not see any imagination there – I did not feel alive. But I also did not want to see anything I liked there, which may have had an influence on my experience.

That aside, at the heart lay this: My longing is for roots. Now, I don’t mean to say that the contemporary protestant church is lacking in roots because it is not, but perhaps those I have attended are lacking in what I desire to practice. In reading Kathleen Norris’ book The Cloister Walk she discusses the saints and their presentation at the Institution in the monastic community. Sharing the story of Saints is anything but idolatry. It is an example of God’s work in the lives of His people. They are people who lived with such depth that sharing their stories is a beautiful opportunity.
I want an ecumenical calendar. I want a prayer service. I want a Sader. I want a community of imperfect people that I can love and who, despite my poor and improper practices, will love me.

Negative capability . . . [is being] capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries,
doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. – John Keats

About Me

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Portland, OR, United States
I am a daughter, sister, friend, wife, counselor and colleague. I am a work in progress. There may be some pieces out of place and things might be messy, but it's okay. I would rather accept that I am still unfinished than think that this is it. You can find my comments on faith and spirituality on my blog: http://themessinessoffaith.blogspot.com/ And my comments and anecdotes on life at: http://sheisaworkinprogress.blogspot.com/

Books That Matter. Well, some of the many that matter.

  • Magical Shrinking: Stumbling Through Bipolar Disorder, Chris Wells
  • Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • An Abudance of Katherines, John Green
  • Dave Pelzer
  • Franny & Zooey, J.D. Salinger
  • I Was Told There'd Be Cake, Sloane Crosley
  • The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris
  • The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, Daniel J. Siegel