Monday, May 14, 2012

The Irvine War Zone: Bed, Bath & Beyond

In nine and a half years of marriage I don't think that Walt and I have ever gone to Bed, Bath & Beyond without getting into a fight 3/4 of the way through the store.  We don't go there that often - but when their coupons for 20% off a single (overpriced but quality) item arrive we can't resist acting.  And, since we don't go there often we forget that we fight EVERY time we go there.

That is part of what went on today.

The other part is the situation around holidays that this nomadic lifestyle puts us in. I have adjusted to most of the challenges that living like this brings but I have not yet figured out how to do holidays and be okay without being with my family. And it is Mother's Day today. My own mother is no longer alive and the people that I am mother to are 3/4 of the way across the continent and none of us has the means to make visiting possible at this point.

I approach every holiday with grand plans of making it through it without sinking into a funk.  I have yet to make it through a holiday, besides maybe Halloween, without sinking into said funk.

So today....Mother's Day 2012....and my sister Sherone's birthday (Happy Birthday Seester :)....started out in the grand plan mode.  Here is your late Blogcard:

We slept in until 10:30 am and then went to breakfast at our favorite little, local, coffee shop - Cafe Perks.  They gave me flowers there.  And Walt gave me a beautiful singing card that plays "I Will Love You Forever and Ever" along with an Adele CD/DVD set.  This all made me happy at one
level but that undercurrent of forlorn sadness of missing my mom and my kids was still there, lazily floating underneath everything..

And then we innocently went together to Bed, Bath and Beyond.  Someone should have turned on the "Jaws" movie music when we walked through the doors.  Bed, Bath and Beyond should have facial recognition that alerts fellow shoppers that a serial marital drama is about to play out, even if the leading man and leading woman didn't realize it.

There are two movies that turn on when we walk through the BBB doors:  His movie and Her movie.

His movie goes like this:   He is in military mode as the superior officer  and I am the underling.  He has a mission outlined in his head, parts of which are top secret and not to be shared with a lowly underling.  Parts are so obvious that they don't deserve discussion.  Either way, very few of the mission details are discussed in any kind of succinct, battle plan way.

In his movie called "Walt's BBB Quick Strike" - we are to enter the store with the target clearly defined (today the 'target' was a queen size fitted sheet).  Sheets are always in the back, right corner, so after entering the store we take a quick right, then a quick left - rush forward, taking no prisoners and ignoring the indigent population and local authorities (ie: other shoppers and store personnel).

When we reach the back of the store we search quickly to acquire the target (with as little discussion as possible about color, thread count or how it fits with existing decor).  Then we retreat where we use the in-store 20% off bait coupon at the cash register, avoiding ALL impulse buys and interacting with the store staff at check out as little as possible.

After checkout we go out to the car and rush to the next target location where we quickly and systematically run through the list of things that HAVE to be done today by such and such an unknown time because it seems as though the world might end by then and we need to have this stuff done.  The End.

My movie, called "Char's Excuse to Finally Go To BBB" goes like this: Rules of the game:  I don't go to BBB unless I have a coupon.  When the coupon comes in the mail or email I have my chauffeur - whose name happens to be Walt, drive me to BBB.  He follows me into the store where I refuse to get a basket because I'm only getting one thing (this time, again, it is a queen size fitted sheet).

I know from my many previous battles - uh, visits - that the sheet section is in the back, right of the store.  So upon entering, I turn to my left to strategically wander through every aisle between the store on my way to the sheet  section, looking for items that will improve the quality of life for myself and my chauffeur - uh, I mean, husband.  This level of scrutiny is more imperative than ever since we live in the RV because space management ideas are of key importance and new things are always being developed to help with this. My intent is to scope but not purchase, but I usually find things that I see are a good deal or would not be available somewhere else and get those.

By the time I get to the sheet section my arms are full with these special finds (because I refused to get a basket) and by now my chauffeur is carrying my purse.  Because my arms are full he has to sort through the sheets himself to find the right one and he has to carry it to the rest of the way to check out.

After finding the sheet, we will then wander through each of the remaining aisles, continuing to look for "ideas" and "opportunities" to improve our quality of life.  At checkout I will present my official BBB certificate of appreciation coupon of 20% off any single item, ask that it be applied to the most expensive item in my arms, pay and leave for the next task.  The goal is to get as much done in the day as is comfortable (for me - the narcisisstic part), enjoyable (for me - another narcisissitic part) and useful (for us - yes this is the co-dependent part).  The End.

What happens in the reality TV show that is called "Walt and Char's Real Life", my movie starts to play out when we walk through the door and our reality show starts right then as Walt walks in front of me, usually walking backwards, facing me, to try to coax me through and draw my attention away from the items in the store.  I will somehow stop several times and have "discussions" (ha ha) with him (but really with myself) about this item or that item and by the time we make it around to the sheets he is tense and panicked and I am tense and frustrated.  We get the sheet and I will try one, last ditch, time to get him involved in the problem solving dilemmas that all these options provide and he, with fully 1/4 of the store left to "explore" or "conquer", depending on who you're talking to, will lose his temper.

This usually happens, not for any reason other than its unfortunate location in the store, in the mattress pad section.  I then lose my temper and call a halt to all joint shopping ventures for the rest of our lives with the familiar, (to him by now), "I'm Done"and I march to the front of the store, where he pays and then we go out to the car and I ask to be taken home.  The End.  Well, it isn't really quite "The End" because there's usually a kind of stinky fight that takes place after that on the ride home but I won't bore you with the details of how that plays out.  Here is proof that we survived the battle:

Today, Mother's Day 2012, it didn't play out well.  The underlying sadness and disappointment that I am feeling from being away from my family bubbled up and caused, as it usually does now on these nomadic holidays, a complete, eventual meltdown on my part.  I retreat to try to pull myself together, talking to people on the phone when they call, lightly discussing the days events for those who have the capacity or interest in hearing it.  And then the day comes to a close.

Tomorrow I will wake up and start re-absorbing the sadness and disappointment.  I will get ready for the next holiday that will be difficult in less than a month, June 8th, which happens to be my daughter Kaycee's 30th birthday.  June 8th was my mom's birthday as well.  The next week will be Father's Day - which will be difficult as well.

There are sacrifices that we make to live this lifestyle and this is the major one for me really.  I hope I get better at it but I doubt I will.  I have struggled with sadness during holidays since adulthood even when I lived closer to family.  This was always made worse though when I could not be with them.  Walt admitted tonight before bed that he struggles with it too so at least I know I'm not making the sacrifice alone.

This grand adventure, this Curious Journey, doesn't come without some struggle and pain.

The moms in my life that I am missing tonight:

My Mom:  Sylvia Anna Griffiths Dotson - passed September 4, 2010

This was taken in Bend, Oregon in the summer of 2009 when Mom & Dad came to visit us and explore the Oregon coast.  This was the last time I had a conversation in person with my mom. I was just getting over a severe case of shingles so don't remember much about it but I'm grateful someone snapped this picture.
My Mother in Law:  Carla Dalton - Katy, TX

Carla, Walt & Chad

My StepMom in Law:  Kye Irvine - Warner Robins, GA

Kye, Walter & Logan

My Daughter:  Kaycee Mackley - mom to Henry Johnson - age almost 4 - Northglenn, CO

Henry Johnson & Kaycee

My Stepdaughter:  Amanda Falso - mom to Logan Falso - age almost 2 - Junction City, KS

Brandon, Amanda & Logan

My Daughter In Law:  Kelsey Mackley (Matt's wife) - mom to Memphis - age almost 2 - Thornton, CO
Kelsey & Memphis
Shane Mackley's (age 10 1/2) mom Rachael - Wales, UT
Cadence Barney's (age 6 months) mom Adrian - Provo, UT

(Shane and Cadence are Adam's kids)

Happy Mother's Day ladies. Thank you for being in my life.

Copyright (c) 2012 - Chardale Irvine.  All rights reserved.  You may not publish or reprint this article without permission of Chardale Irvine.  Thank you.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

If it quacks like a duck....

Today I had a much needed and long overdue pedicure. My feet had taken on a Shrek-esque look. When I walked into the salon they, as usual had me select a nail polish color. I selected a nice red color and gave it to the technician who is Asian.

I went to the restroom and when I got back to my seat she had selected a different nail polish for me. She said she did this because the one I had selected would quack.

I said, "Quack?"  Huh? So I'm repeating it back to her - "It is going to quack?!"

"No", she says. "It will QUACK."

I'm not repeating it now because I don't want sound challenged but I'm having a difficult time acting anything other than incredulous.

"What?!" I ask with a bit of screech in my voice.

Again she repeats it, except this time veeerrrry sloooowwwly and a bit louder -"The color you picked will quack."

I'm still looking at her. Stunned into silence. My mind is racing trying to figure out what she is trying to say. Then she makes a crinkly sound in her throat and mimics crumpling up a piece of paper. And then I get it!

The color I chose will CRACK (crackley nail polish is a fad now). We were both so relieved when I finally understood her!

The place is called Connie's Nails. I got a great pedicure for $25. I have diabetes so am very picky about who I let do my pedicures. This place was very clean and the price was right.

And there were no ducks anywhere in sight.

Copyright (c) - 2012 - Chardale Irvine.  All rights reserved.   You may not republish or print this article without permission from Chardale Irvine.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Bryan

"What lies ahead and what lies behind are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

It has been a very difficult couple of weeks for our family, and the family and friends of my daughter's boyfriend. He passed away on Monday, April 17th of causes related to mental illness and addiction. He was 29.

This is really my daughter's journey and pain so I won't write much about him. What I did want to write about though is depression and suicidal thinking.

I have found that amongst people like me who struggle with constant suicidal thinking that even with all the sadness, anger and pain that happens when someone dies like this, there is the thought, at least for a moment, sometimes longer, that they were the lucky ones.  They made it out.  I don't get to say that out loud often.

I have been working for many months now on not feeding these thoughts.  When they happen I acknowledge them but I don't invest any energy in them.  I don't let my mind play out the possible scenarios.  I started doing this because someone in my life started expressing their own thoughts about suicide.  This was someone who was never suicidal before they started hanging around me and I thought, hmmm, I think I might be a bad influence.

I have always made it a point to share when I'm feeling suicidal because I thought if I was talking about it, it was taking the power away from the thoughts.  That wasn't actually what happened.  What happened was that by doing this I was creating a safe environment to fantasize about killing myself or dying, and although prior to this person's ideation I would have defended my need for this myself, when I saw it being there for someone else it seemed very dangerous.

It was because of the way this person talked about it with no Affect.  It was how I talk about it and think about it. For me I am apathetic about it because I know I'll never have the courage to do it but I also am relatively certain the thoughts will always be there, so I speak about it with apathy.  It bores me and at the same time comfortable and familiar.  But this person was talking about it, not with apathy, but no affect.  It is alarming when someone starts ideating out of the blue. I thought they really ought to be alarmed but they weren't and I thought they weren't because they were modeling their experience after mine.

Upon examination I decided that as an 'Old Timer' in the suicidal ideation realm that I have an ethical responsibility to keep working on my own challenges with people who won't be triggered by my behavior or discussions.  I need to be processing with people who are healthy enough to listen but not absorb what is going on with me.  They don't have to be professional, necessarily, but they do need to be healthy and detached or at least neutral.  I still will be there to support this person, and anyone else in my life with this struggle - I just won't be creating a safe, comfortable place for them to habitually fantasize about death.

So...that is when I started to step back from investing in my own thoughts and what happened was surprising.  As I intervened on the usual process I noticed that thinking like that had become a habit for me.  It was my go to place when I was stressed, sick, lonely, fearful, hungry, tired, and on and on ad nauseum.

When I noticed I was feeling suicidal because I was 30 minutes late eating I realized that it was a habit - a ridiculous one at that, and what I was now doing was changing the habit.  Of course, when I'm faced with something a little more challenging than being hungry, like mind boggling, never ending pain or endless, untreatable fatigue or days upon days of not being able to sleep or worse, a couple or all of these happening at the same time - well we'll see how far I've truly come with breaking the habit.
I developed a serious condition called Tardive Dyskenesia as a result of taking psychotropic drugs for many years.  If any of you watch the TV show "Good Wife", the opposing attorney played by Michael J. Fox has TD.  It causes involuntary movement in one or more parts of the body.  For me it causes my tongue to move about my mouth nonstop making it difficult to sleep and creating painful sores in my mouth.  It also causes restless leg and arm movements on my left side while I'm trying to sleep.  Because of this condition I have been off all of the medications to treat my Bipolar I except for a very mild anxiety medication that doesn't trigger it if I take it in the morning.

I am learning how to live life without medication and the cosmic timing of this decision to change the way I invest in my suicidal ideation has made it so that I feel like I can make it.  It is scary to think there are no medications to rescue me now.  I have to have a strong spiritual base.  I have to make sure I have healthy, strong, people in my relationships.

I have a lot of experience about how to live life with a serious mental illness.  I don't live the traditional life of being fully invested in the career and social express lane but I am fully invested in each interpersonal interaction that comes my way.  Our life out here on the road is complicated and yet I feel like I'm on vacation every day because there is no rut to get stuck in out here. 

Last night Walt was sharing with our neighbor some very specific information about our struggles with mental illness and suicidal thinking.  The neighbor seemed to absorb it without judgement which was comforting but I did come inside feeling vulnerable, and that feeling stayed with me for about twelve hours.

Now here I am writing this and putting that vulnerability in writing and on the internet.  I haven't shared much about my struggles with mental illness but Bryan's death has made me realize that something has to change.  I don't know what needs to happen to get things to change but I know transparency from me might just help some person who feels completely alone who is dealing with this or something similar.

I am open to having a dialogue with anyone who wants to know anything about this subject.  I relate from so many angles:  as the person with the mental illness and suicidal thinking; as the mother of a daughter dealing with the suicide of her boyfriend; as a parent who has had to deal with destructive behavior by adult children, and I have experience in addiction recovery.

I think the people that I least relate to are the ones that just can't imagine being suicidal.  Are they for real?  I am suspicious.  I hope they truly do not ever feel suicidal but what I find is that these people struggle the most in supporting someone who is suicidal - they tend to be judgemental and very critical.  I just know it is a lot easier to judge from the outside looking in than it is from the inside looking out.

Here is a link that speaks about the different kinds of loneliness that we, as humans, encounter.  Being suicidal is the worst kind of loneliness.  It can feel impenetrable looking out or observing.  Perhaps this article might help someone who is trying to name what they are feeling.  It is titled - "Will I Go Crazy?"

I am posting another link here for a resource related to suicide.  If it is pertinent in your life at all, I hope you'll take a few minutes to peruse it.  This particular link will take you to a video about someone who failed in their attempt, which is a valuable conversation to engage in.  The key reason I am posting it though is that below the video there are several discussion topics where people are exploring the various challenges and dilemmas that accompany this issue.

Today I live in gratitude that I am alive and that I am here to support my daughter.  The thought of her going through this alone makes my heart ache.  I am so grateful to Bryan's family too, for including her in the family activities and service.  It wasn't something she was expecting but I am certain it makes all the difference in how she heals from this.  This has created a lifetime of questions that will never be answered and the challenge of how to find the silver lining from this tragedy = these are the things she will be working on.  And if the universe is willing I will be around for a long while to walk beside her as she does.

I send out healing energy to anyone who's soul is hurting.  I have had a lot of different kinds of pain and that kind is the hardest to deal with.  Remember to hug the people in your life, notice when you get the gift of joy and take nothing and noone for granted.

Copyright (c) - 2012 - Chardale Irvine.  You may not publish or reprint this article except for educational purposes without the permission of Chardale Irvine.  Thank you.