growinghumans


DEAR AETNA,
April 15, 2017, 12:40 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

 

One of my dearest friends received this letter in the mail from you today.

“We found a way that you may be able to improve your health! You may want to share this letter with your doctor”

Huh. That doesn’t sound right, does it? How did an insurance company find a way to improve her health without a doctor?

Oh, they just go through all of the data from your prescriptions, doctor’s visits, and lab results and then draw an algorithm based on that information.

What did my friend’s insurance company have to say about her health?

That she MIGHT have bipolar disorder. That she is taking an antidepressant but if she is bipolar she should also be taking a mood stabilizer with that antidepressant or it won’t work because they know that she has bipolar disorder and they also know how to treat her as an individual patient.

They then urge her to talk to her doctor about the medication routine she has been on.

A PRINTED OUT PIECE OF PAPER FROM AN INSURANCE OFFICE IS TELLING MY FRIEND THAT SHE MIGHT HAVE BIPOLAR DISORDER AND THAT SHE IS TAKING THE WRONG MEDICATIONS.

You know what my friend’s PSYCHIATRIST says? She takes an antidepressant because she suffers from postpartum depression. She takes an anti-anxiety medication because she has anxiety.

She has been screened for bipolar disorder several times. She does not have it.

So, let’s review because there’s a lot here:

You are sending out pieces of paper that are not based on actual medical opinions telling people that they are suffering from a mental disorder that they are not and then trying to get them so paranoid that they march into their actual doctor’s offices and demand yet another medication to pay for –through your insurance–that will not help them at all.

I DO suffer from bipolar disorder. I take a lot of medication every day including an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer. Do you know which is the most expensive out of all of my medications? My mood stabilizer.

I’ll just say that.

Also–if a person is not confirmed in your DATA to have bipolar disorder and is not taking the medication for bipolar disorder but medication for another disorder…is it possible that she is taking the medication for something else? Major depression disorder? Manic depression disorder? POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION? Does your data show that she has a history of PPD? That her youngest child is still young enough that it still plagues her? Do you know anything about how this disorder works? Does your data show the hospital stays she endured battling this disorder? The therapy she went through? How about all of the self help books and holistic attempts to make herself feel more like a worthy mother?

No. I’m sure it doesn’t.

It seems to me, Aetna, that you pulled random bits of information about my friend and decided whether she could possibly maybe have bipolar disorder.

Do you know how many people suffer silently because they are misdiagnosed with mental disorders? How many people go through their lives thinking that no medication will ever help them only because they have been taking the wrong ones? Do you know how many people succumb to their disorders because of this?

No. I’m sure you don’t.

I wonder how many of these letters went out in the mail, with no confidentiality warning on the envelope and so blatantly breaking down a person’s mental health with bullet points on the back. This isn’t information everyone wants to share in their own household. Some may be keeping their struggles to themselves, from their children. Some may not live in a safe environment for this information to become known. Did that thought ever pop up in your minds over there on Aetna Drive?

No. I’m sure it didn’t.

 

I hope that every single person who received a letter like this is just as enraged. This is a personal violation and an abuse of power.  No one is going to make an appointment with their psychiatrists and say “Well, Aetna thought maybe I’m bipolar”. No psychiatrist is going to take that seriously and honestly you’re going to step on a lot of their toes by trying to micromanage their patients in this manner.

Didn’t think about that either, did you?

Get out of our medical files and leave our bodies alone.

Do your damn job.

 

Sincerely,

Someone who does take a mood stabilizer and you better be glad I do

 



Little Darlin’
March 10, 2017, 7:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I am reading/coloring Jenny Lawson’s new book, You Are Here. Mostly 100% of it is hitting me hard. Really hard. But I just saw a line while flipping through the pages to find another coloring project. It said “You can always see the sun”.

I remember when I was in such a dark place that it physically felt like someone was standing on my back as I sank deeper, face first into the mud, that I would never see the sun again.

I don’t mean the actual sun.

I mean light.

The thing that always strikes me about my own battle with depression is that it feels like my heart has turned into a stone, and a very heavy stone at that. It felt impossible some days to carry it around, some days I wouldn’t even bother. I would stay in bed, in a dark room with my dark heart and my dark thoughts, waiting for the lightness to arrive. I was waiting for the weight of my heart to be light again, I was waiting for my thoughts, my mind, to feel light again.

It took a year, dear readers. It took a year for the light to find me, for the sun to find me.

But it never occurred to me that I could always find it–it didn’t abandon me. It never left. The sun may set on a certain part of the world, but it rises in another. It never occurred to me to chase the light.

I don’t mean buying plane tickets and running along the horizon to feel the sun on your face at all times (but maybe I am), I am talking about getting out of bed. I am talking about opening your curtains. I am talking about making yourself stronger so that while your heart is still made of granite, the burden will seem less. You will make it lighter. 

You will make it lighter.

I am a visual person when it comes to listening to music. Whenever I hear “Fix You” by Coldplay (which tends to be on repeat sometimes, because I am a masochist), I see a girl in the darkness while little circles of light appear around her and she keeps trying to jump into them, to stand in the light. She can’t do it; she is moving too slow and the light leaves before she can get there. Then, suddenly –and you can hear it in the song–she somehow does it. Maybe the light finally shines on her but what if, just what if, it’s because she finally ran fast enough towards it?

Run towards the sun.

If it feels like your body is made of cement and that all you want to do is hide in the darkness.

Run towards the sun.

If it feels like you will never feel that lightness of the heart again.

Run towards the sun.

If your thoughts feel so heavy that they drag you down beneath the waves of a stormy sea and you kick and flail but you get so tired of trying to not drown.

Run towards the sun. Swim towards the sun.

You can always see the sun.

Move, shift, run, get in a car and go somewhere where you feel the sun, where you feel light.

Lights will guide you home.



Long Fingers and Missing Nails
March 7, 2017, 1:02 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I was born with very long fingers.

“Piano playing fingers!” my father would exclaim to me. He said his grandmother had the same fingers;

the great-grandmother that I am named after;

the great-grandmother I never met but everyone always tells me I am so much like;

the great-grandmother that I share a birthday with (which was discovered only after the name had already been given).

Piano playing fingers.

My parents sure did try with that one. I think I lasted a year in piano lessons. Tried the flute, the clarinet, the guitar. Literally, any instrument that would take advantage of the fingers that hindered my fine motor skills for too long as a child. I still struggle with buttons.

What do you do when you are given things you can do nothing with? My name, these fingers, my emotions–they don’t do what they are supposed to do. I should be a great pianist, I should be better at math, I should be tall and artistic, I should have better control over emotions but it appears I was born with too much of them, as well.

We are all born to do things. We are all born with the capability to do great things if we are brave enough.

We are given tools when we are born and people will EXPECT things from you based on those tools. The only baby that should have ever been born with expectations is Jesus. The rest of us make ourselves like little lumps of clay. We can reinvent ourselves as may times as we want, just spray the clay with water and start from scratch.

Start from scratch.

I like to think that if my great-grandmother had been around when I was born she would have told me to forget about trying the piano. She never even played. She was an artist. An amazon. A matriarch.

She took her long fingers and wrapped them around the world and pulled it into her, like gravity. She used her tools in a greater way than could have been imagined. She became more than just piano playing fingers; she used those fingers to hold a paint brush, to raise my grandfather and his brother, to be a grandmother to my outrageous father, aunt, uncle. To be the name that falls between my first and last.

I am saying, don’t feel pigeon-holed, friends. If you are short, try out for basketball . If you are pale, wear a bikini to the beach. If you have a speech impediment, audition for a play.

People will not judge you. People will not point and say that you cannot do it. This isn’t Rudolph and there are no reindeer games. This is life and people will admire you. They will admire you for being brave and different and DEFYING ODDS.

Start from scratch.

Look at those fingers, imagine what you can do with them. Think about how you can use your fingers to make a better world for you to live in. Don’t pick up a hammer, miss the nail, and then put the hammer down. Keep trying or find a different project. It’s as simple as that–try harder or move on. Don’t spend your life missing nails, reaching for keys or piano strings.

Use those long fingers as a weapon. Use them to sit down at a laptop each night. Use them to pour yourself onto blank pages on the screen in front of them.

I chose to use my piano playing fingers to write a novel. I am done missing nails.



The Lighthouse
February 26, 2017, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

There are many different types of people, of souls, out there. Everyone treats their hearts and the hearts of others differently, but I am from the coast and I always liken things to waves and ships and storms.

But, there are also some people out there who are lighthouses. These people are content–that is the best word and far from a slight–they are content in being kept. A lighthouse usually only ever has one solitary keeper. When that keeper dies, another moves in and takes his place. There is always a keeper. There is no interim where the lighthouse is expected to do anything on their own. They wait and then they are kept. And this makes them content.

All they are expected do to, with the help of their keeper, is to shine their light out for others; to help others find their own ways, keep them safe, protect them from being dashed against rocks. These people, these structures, they stand on their cliffs or piers and shine their light out sometimes just searching for someone to save. What good is a lighthouse if it cannot shine light for someone else? Without that, they are just a silent, one room tower, showered in sea salt on a daily basis.

But as there are some people who are these proud and content beings, there are also those who are the ships. Ships cannot always tell where they are going and sometimes even with the help of a light, they still find themselves being dashed against Plymouth rock, their insides constantly being shattered.

But, they keep sojourning into their hearts, searching for new lands and still landing on the same damn rock each time.

At the end of the day, though, they always find themselves in America

and that is a feeling a lighthouse will never know–the thrill of crossing that choppy sea that they watch day after day with reservation and fear and instead barreling head first towards something they don’t know anything about.

Both sorts of people, both sorts of hearts and souls are well needed in this life.

We need responsible people who are willing to place their needs before others to keep them safe. We need people who will be a beacon to others around them; “Come here”, they will say. “Lay your problems at my staircase and follow my light.”

But, we need those brave and reckless souls that take to the sea with no compass, too. We need to know that there are people out there who live completely and happily on exhilaration and following the stars for navigation and then finally the land-ho’s.

A person may find  at some point in their life that they have been resigned to one or another–usually the lighthouses. I am a lighthouse. I have been a lighthouse.

But here is the secret, dear readers.

Boats and lighthouses are made of the same stuff–wood and nails and love. You can be both, my friends. You can remake yourself as many times as you need to.

You can be reckless and exciting and you can also be that beacon to everyone around you, but remember to turn off that light sometimes and take to sea yourself.

Find your America.

Find your very own new lands and then turn that light back on and guide others to follow you across those same uncertain seas.

 

 

 

 

 

 



The Thing About Tulips
February 19, 2017, 1:03 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Here’s the thing about tulips–

When you first get them, they’re all closed up, two little lips, set firmly in a line across a face. You can’t tell how many there are, even. That is, until you start trimming the stems and arranging them in the vase. What you thought may have been a dozen turns into two dozen and then you have thirty tulips sitting in your vase. It’s hard to arrange them because as you take them out of their wrapping, they arch forward–or I guess backward, depending on where you’re standing. They droop in an elegant way, though. You can’t be too mad about it.

You arrange your thirty bowing tulips, fill the vase up with luke-warm water and stand back and smile. Because that’s the thing with tulips: they make you smile. They are bright colors, they have long stems like the long neck of a lady you can’t help looking at.

(Has anyone seen Under the Tuscan Sun? The English woman who rubs baby ducks on her face and eats all of the gelato? It’s that woman. That’s the woman you can’t stop looking at with the long, arched neck of a tulip.)

You walk away from them, eventually. Maybe you go to bed. But that’s the thing about tulips: when you wake up they will look changed; not in a drastic or dramatic way. But they will be a little more open, a little more upright. Not so open that you can see their centers but enough to tell you that you have done something right–given the right kind of water, arranged them correctly, smiled at them enough. You will gently rearrange them in their new state, making sure the yellow ones –your favorite– are prominently showcased in front of the dark and light pink ballerinas sharing their space.

By the end of the day, the water is all but drained. That’s the thing about tulips: they are very thirsty. They aren’t like your common Walmart bouquet where you can trim those stems as much as you want but those cheap artificially colored daisies are not going to drink that water and they are going to die as soon as they would have if you had not even bothered with water. Tulips appreciate the time, the effort. They pay it back with their beauty that will still make you smile even on the second, third, eighth day.

Soon after, they will open completely and you will see the secret they have been keeping so tightly locked inside of them. The thing with tulips is: they all look different in their centers. Dark pinks have dark purple circles, the light pinks have white, and the yellow still remains a mystery…they have remained shut still. Some people are like that, though. Some are open and want to show you all of them and some still need some time, a bit more water, a bit more smiling.

Some day, a shockingly long time after the other colors had opened, the yellows finally give it up. Isn’t that the thing with tulips? They know their own beauty and some are stubborn about it purely for the dramatics of waiting. But oh, when the yellow ones open it will feel like spring has finally, finally arrived. Their little black circles peer up at you like a darkness we all hide deep inside, shut in tight. But it’s okay, yellow tulips. We get it. It takes time and we are just so happy to be with you.

Eventually though, they will start to droop again and no amount of water can make them perk back up; petals start to fall and you sense the end of a relationship that you didn’t even know you were having with each individual bloom. You will pull out the ones who have only a few sparse petals left, throw them in the garbage bin; put them out of their misery. The bouquet grows smaller and smaller and you should probably just dump the whole thing but you can’t bring yourself to do it. Those yellow ones are still alive. They are still there and they worked so hard to open for you– why would you cut them off before their time?

That’s the thing about tulips: they feel a lot like the inside of your mind.



The Little Urchin Girl
February 9, 2017, 1:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Let me tell you a story, dear reader.

Once upon a time there was a town; a dusty old town that was falling apart. The houses needed new roofs, the inns were lice infested, the library barely held any books.

All of the men of the town, everyday, would meet in the center of the town, by the fountain that had long gone dry.

They would argue for hours. They would blame one another for the dilapidated state of their town. Some days it would get violent, there would be shoving, pushing, punching. Every evening they would drag their bruised egos back to their sad little houses and dream about how they might come up with ideas at tomorrow’s meeting.

One very non-eventful morning, one very ordinary morning, the men were at it again. One was suggesting they just leave the town how it was and move on to find a new place to live. Other’s seemed to tentatively warm to this idea. “Yes”, they said. “Let’s set this place on fire and start all over again.”

It was then, it was in this very insignificant moment, that a small voice tried to cut through the loud buzz of men making plans. “Excuse me,” the small voice said. No one even turned their head. No one even seemed to hear the voice. A second attempt, men being pushed aside until it sounded much louder and in the center of the conglomerate, “EXCUSE ME”, the small voice tried again.

This time it worked. The men stopped talking and looked around at one another to see  who had made such a racket. Then, their eyes cast down to where a very small girl was standing. There was nothing remarkable about her. Her cheeks were rosy, her hands were dirty, and her dress was torn and a size too small. Silence fell over the group for a few moments. No one introduced themselves, no one asked her to introduce herself.

Seeing that pleasantries were not going to be a luxury for her, this small girl cleared her throat and said in an unwavering voice, “But won’t you eventually ruin the new town the same way you ruined this one?”

Silence. Dead silence.

The men looked at one another. Obviously this thought had not crossed anyone’s mind.

But, surely such a revelation couldn’t come from a small, dirty girl and not one of the prestigious and respected men of the mob.

They all, silently, decided to pretend they hadn’t heard her. Conversation picked back up, perhaps a bit louder to make a point to the little urchin left standing in the dust kicked up from the shuffling feet.

Setting her jaw very square and very strongly, she climbed up onto the top of the fountain, gripping on to the vines that sprang from it now, instead of clean water. She carefully balanced herself, and enjoyed the view for a moment.

These men, this clump of clods, looked like a group of pigeons or hens, wandering around aimlessly, pecking here and there, and making an awful racket of it.

Clearing her throat again, she thought for a moment what to say; she knew they had to be important words. Loud and powerful words that she would have to dig from deep down inside of her. Words from a girl who, even at such a young age, had grown tired of depending on this group of pigeons, this mob of men.

“You can fix it!”, she cried.

One or two of the men looked up at her, pausing a moment and then turning back to their conversations.

“I SAID YOU CAN FIX IT.”, she tried again, so loud that she almost lost her balance.

One of the more rotund men shot a look at her, brow furrowed. “Silence, girl.” The emphasis was on the word “girl” but all she heard was the command for silence.

She crouched down for a moment on her perch and baffled at the concept. How can anyone be silent? How can anyone even command that of a person? That’s like telling someone to stop breathing, stop scratching an itch, stop thinking and wishing and planning. She was enraged, inspired, indignant and proud all at the same time.

She jumped down from that fountain, back onto the ground in the midst of the men. She tried again and again to get their attention. She yelled, shrieked, jumped up and down. “SILENCE” was the only acknowledgement she got, over and over and over again.

Nevertheless, she persisted. She placed two fingers between her lips and let loose a shrill of a whistle.

The men, alarmed, stopped and looked at her again.  Before they had a chance to turn back, to ignore or dismiss her and bellow “SILENCE”, she tried again.

“You can fix this. This is your town. You just need leaders. You need to assign jobs. You need to make men responsible for work and then allow them pride when they do a job well done.”, she said, maybe a bit too quickly–afraid to be silenced yet again. She breathed a sigh of relief when she was done speaking.

The men –suddenly the group didn’t seem so large, so ominous–blinked at her, jaws on the dusty ground. Then, quietly from the back of the group, a pigeon uttered, “It could work”.

How could this be?  They didn’t know how this small little thing…a child, a girl…could have saved their town within minutes.

One of the men stepped forward, taking off his hat and kneeling down before her so they were eye to eye, spoke loudly, for all to hear, “What is your name, child?”

The girl’s lips parted into a smile, showing teeth that were missing, but promised to appear some day. A perfect smile. A future.

“My name is Elizabeth,” she said proudly, looking around at all of the men who had ignored and dismissed her.

“And I will not be silenced.”

 



Love lifts us up where we belong
February 7, 2017, 1:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It can happen at any time, when you least expect it. You will be folding laundry, watching Netflix alone in your bed, trying to get it together enough to find something to feed your kid for dinner, not even thinking about feeding yourself.

For me tonight, it happened in the steps it took from the bottom of our stairs to the refrigerator. Tiny Human was curled up on the couch, folded but neglected laundry all around her, giving her some sort of security that her own mother refuses to engage in. I asked her what she wanted for dinner–the fridge full of ready to go meals that her father had prepared all weekend in anticipation of his wife feeding their six year old daughter cereal for dinner. She picked one of her lunchables. I wasn’t sure if this was allowed. I wasn’t sure if they were just for lunches. I decided I didn’t care and let her do it anyway.

As I was pouring her milk, she came up behind me and wrapped her impossibly long arms around me, at the very top of my rib cage. I turned around and leaned into the hug, barely having to bend down to return the embrace. Her grip tightened around my shoulders and I felt her legs bend and prepare to leap. I braced myself for the launch and caught her in my arms as she wrapped her impossibly long legs around my waist. I stumbled back for a moment but soon we were standing in the middle of the kitchen; wrapped around one another. She was heavy; I wondered how heavy she was now (we don’t own a scale). Her legs kept slipping from my waist down to my knees.  I felt the rest of her slipping, too, but I held my grip firm.

She still smelled the same way she did when they handed her to me for the first time in my hospital room. I remember being baffled by the smell; she smelled like me. I have no idea how I knew this because no one really knows how they smell, but in that moment with my newborn in my arms and in that moment with my 6 year old in my arms, she smelled like me, a biological reminder that I am, in fact, her mother.

When I still lift her up in this manner with people around–family, friends, people in Target–there are always remarks about how she is getting too big for me to lift like that. No, I always say. I will lift her up and hold her to me until her feet no longer leave the floor when I try to lift her. I don’t care how heavy she gets, or how weak I become. I will always pick up my child because, one day, I will put her down and never pick her back up ever again.

The magic broke and she slid down my body like an avalanche. Standing straight up against me, her head has reached my chest already. There’s only a short few feet left before we are eye to eye, with puberty no where in sight. My amazon girl.

She brings her dinner to the table and I stand there, willing myself to sit with her, talk about her day, go through some of those flash cards her father has made for her. It all feels so foreign to me. It all seems forced at this point still.

I remember when I brought her home, I would put her in the swing and sit across from her, curled up on the couch and just watch her. I had no idea with to do with her. I felt nothing. I knew she was a baby–my baby–and that she must be cared for, which I managed, but the bond between her and I was and always has been a strange thing.

She calms me. She will crawl into the bed–I am always in this damn bed–and she will curl up against my stomach like how I carried her for one millions months. She holds my hand if I cry. If I lock myself in the bathroom, when I finally emerge, there is usually a picture or a card on the floor waiting for me with a happy face and whatever sight words she could string together to make a sentence that day.

I talk a big talk.

I tell people that it’s okay to open up to your children about your mental disorder. I tell people that children have a right to know what is wrong with their parents, they have a right to know about the different sorts of emotions out there and that sometimes you get so many in your head that you simply can’t take it and you have to ask for help.

It looks brilliant on paper.

I used to, maybe even until last year, see my relationship with my Tiny Human as symbiotic. I would take care of her and she would take care of me and it would go on and on and never change. But there’s a rift. I am ashamed to ask for my 6 year old daughters help with problems that I should be able to handle myself. She walks around in sad moods for days and refuses to tell me what the matter is. I sit in this bed, clawing at myself for possibly already messing up this perfect little person who was brought into such an uncertain and hesitant world. She has to be the happy in my life. And she usually is, but those days where I cannot reach her, all I think about is that I SHOULD BE ABLE TO REACH HER….and then I think wow maybe people think that about me…that I should be reachable. I have been. I went a long stretch of being reachable and able to talk about what I had gone through for that year and a half nightmare of a time. But when I get into this bed, with the curtain drawn and pillows hiding me from reality, there’s nothing even left here to reach.

Sometimes Tiny Human is sent in, as some sort of bomb specialist. Cut the red wire, Tiny Human. Not the green. She always cuts the red and is able to extract me safely away from the crime scene.

 

But how is that suppose to feel? How can I possibly feel like a good  mother at the end of these days? I sit at the top of my stairs and watch her watch her evening TV shows. I should go down and sit next to her, but I am afraid that the chasm would still feel equally large and I could not bear that right at that moment. That moment, this moment, all the moments. I need to get a hold of myself. Calling myself a bad mother solves nothing because guess what, at the end of the day I AM STILL HER MOTHER. Good or bad, doesn’t make a difference. If I don’t do anything and just watch her evolve at a distance, like a museum exhibit, those are years I will never get back. But I will still be her mother.

(Try harder, people will say. Go for walks with her. Do puzzles. Do a craft. These are the same people that think going for a walk, doing puzzles, or doing a craft will cure my depression. Easily dismissed.)

So, people who half jokingly say that I am too small to lift my quickly growing not so Tiny Human, I am going to pick her up, an hold her to me and and rock back and forth with her chubby little cheek up against mine until my arms are sore. This I can do. This is what comes natural.

Mothers– perhaps mothers like me who feel like they belong on the island of misfit parents, pick yourself up from that floor. Give your kid the damn lunchable because it’s better than cereal. Slowly get closer and closer to your child before you find yourself next to them on the couch without the help of Klonipin.

And pick that child up.

Rock your baby. Rock your baby and know that all over the world women are doing the same thing. You know why? Because you cannot fail at it. In that moment where you are holding them as close as you can get without them getting back into your womb, you are not a bad mother.