Welcome to My Bumpy Ride.......

Before you all read on, I guess it is best to introduce myself to you and let you know a bit about myself. I am Susan, and first and foremost, I am a mother to a wonderful young man. Though he is grown, he will always be that three year old little boy, that asked all those questions and expected answers to them all. Though I will tell you much about myself in this blog there is no one or nothing that is as important to me as him, even if I don't discuss him much, because he kina likes to remain private.

For years I was actively trying to find myself, but that was a big waste of time, since by doing so I was not living. All my life I have always known that I was "different", but was unable to know why that was. I first thought that perhaps it was because I was adopted, but that was not the case. Turns out, I am bipolar and pretty much have been all my life. This was explained to me about nine years ago when I had a major melt down. I tend to be more on the depressive side, but have on occasion been quite manic. My last episode was early thru mid 2008, with full blown depression. For five months, I bearly left my house, let alone my bed. Why am I telling you this? I just want it out in the open and let you understand that I discuss my illness from time to time.

Present day, I am currently a full time student, studying social work. At the end of 2011 I was approached by a mentor of mine, who mentioned a new program that was going to launch here in Rhode Island. This new program called the Peer Wellness Coaching, was something that I had always wished would become a reality and to add even more excitement was the fact that this mentor was inviting me to train for a position as one of the Peer Wellness Coaches.

So currently (spring 2012) I am part of the three phases of training and should be employed by the fall of 2012. What is even more excellent about this program is that they are aware of my education goals and are willing to work with me on maintaining those goals.

Also you might hear me mention NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), because I am actively involved with them. I am a facilitator and state trainer for the NAMI Connection groups (peer run support group) here in Rhode Island, and I also help teach high school and college students about mental illness through NAMI RI's Inside Mental Illness program.

So with all that being said...I hope you read on to my daily activities and thoughts and such.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 19, 2012 Everyone Leaves

Tomorrow is my sister’s birthday.  She would have been fifty-two years old.  I can remember her last birthday like it was today.  I lived far away so I called her and the first words out of her mouth were, “Suzy, don’t start. I can’t handle it right now.” You see since she was seven years older than me, I always teased her on her birthdays.  That birthday was the first time that she actually meant for me not to joke about it.  I knew instantaneously that she seriously didn’t want me to kid around.  That day instead of joking back and forth, I sat at my kitchen table drinking tea out of the cup that she gave me for one of my birthdays, and listened to her tell me that she was really upset about that birthday.  I felt for every word she shared with me, and I so wanted to climb through the phone and reach out and hold her, but all I could do was listen.  Sometimes I wonder if she knew how much I wanted her to know I was there for her.  I never did get the chance to find out and I never will.

Right now I feel as though I am surrounded by death.  In the last three years I have lost my gram, my aunt Gloria, and my mom.  Dad is next and there is nothing I can do about it, except sit and wait for it to happen and to let him know that I love him and it is ok for him if he wants to go. 

This weekend I am going to visit him, but I am not going alone.  Denny is going to drive down with me and try to make it so there is down time as well.  I know I said I wasn’t going to go back, but there are things that I have to do that I didn’t know needed to get done while I was there.   Another reason that I am going to go is because of a woman that used to go to the support group that I facilitate.  I found out that she has stage four breast cancer.  You might wonder why that makes me want to go back to New Jersey. I can’t answer that, well maybe I can.  She is alone.  Lives alone at a senior living place and is not the kind of person to get to know others really well.  All her life she had suffered with anxiety and depression.  I wonder how she who suffers like my parents had, could she be all alone.  Maybe it was because she didn’t self-medicate like my parents.

She told me about her cancer in my voice mail and I can’t bring myself to call her back.  I know that is horrible of me, but I am finding it really difficult to do.  I think she was the first person that had me saw that I can really help another.  When she first started at the group, she was so quiet and within a few months she opened up so much that I had to remind her that the rest of the group members needed time as well.  She never got disappointed that I had to remind her and at one time she told me that was thankful that I had done that.  Maybe tomorrow I will call her.

So why do I say I am surrounded by death, because that is all I can think about right now.  I look at old pictures and find that in most of them, more than half the people in them are dead or dying. Than because of that, I think about my own.  I wonder if I will die naturally or will it be from my own hand.  Right now I am ok, but there are so many times that I am not and can think of nothing else but ways in which I could really do it.  I envision myself so much that it feels like I am really doing it.  Well I guess that is something that God can answer.

Today I had to write a recovery story for the training I am in.  I did a good job on it, I think, only thing is I wonder if it was really me that I was writing about.  I mean I know it is about me and all, but can I stay that way.

Anyways I know this is a long blog already, but I am going to add my recovery story here, so if you have had enough of reading my stuff just finish this paragraph. Also to let you know, the picture above is one of the last of my sister before she died.  If you stop at this sentence…TTFN

If you are reading on, here is my recovery story so far…

As early as I can remember, I have always felt like a spectator of the world.  Never did I feel as though I belonged anywhere.  I felt as though I didn’t have any control of my behavior, thoughts or feelings.  In my mind I always thought that I was like that because I was adopted and felt as though I was missing something.  I remember that while I was in my early years of school, I got into to trouble for the actions that I felt were out of my control and when I tried to explain this to people, they just told me that was crazy, because everyone decides how they will act.
It was not until the beginning of my tweens did I realize that some of the actions acted upon me were not what everyone else had to deal with.  I just thought in my mind that everyone had to go through the same traumas that I was enduring.  By the time that I realized that it was not normal I was too ashamed to let anyone know what was going on.  Because of the shame I felt, I lived in the prison I had created in my own mind throughout the rest of my childhood.
My moods were all over the place, but I was able to learn how to hide it, and I managed to hide it well enough through most of my early adulthood.  During that time I was in an abusive marriage and being that I felt lousy about me as a person, I felt that I deserved what I was living.  When I finally spoke to my sister about the life I was living she told me that she would figure out how to get me out of the situation.  Within the month of our discussion, my sister had a heart attack and eventually died from it three months later.  Because I have illogical thinking at times, I held guilt that somehow God was punishing her and me for sharing my secret. 
After the death of my sister I experienced symptoms that I could not control any longer and was in full blown mania.  Most of my symptoms before that time was depression and when mania hit it was mostly talking loud and too much. Within two years I managed to spend day and night online in chat rooms thinking that I alone could save all the children from online predators and needed to be on the computer all the time.  Mind you I had a ten year old son at the time and needless to say he was raising himself at that point.  I don’t remember much of that time and I don’t even remember leaving my son with his grandmother and taking a bus six hundred miles away.  I do remember that his father had threatened to kill me when he got home from one of his truck driving runs. One thing I could say thank God about was that the man that I moved near did not take advantage of the situation.  That man made sure that I got into a domestic violence shelter and found me a mental health center that I could go to. 
That first mental health facility was that first place I ever went to that told me I had mental illness.  They told me that I was Bipolar and had both PTSD and anxiety.  Right away I felt that I was marked, marked with a terrible label that I felt I needed to rid myself from.  I thought I could cure it and thought I had nine months later when I moved again and worked two jobs, took classes and managed my own residence.  Little did I know that I was again in a mania, but was hidden by the fact that I was now a productive member of society.  It was not until a few years later that I ran into a major depression that caused me to be unproductive at the great job I had as office manager/bookkeeper, a job I was able to do without thinking, became unbearable to keep up with.  After a few months like that, I was called into the office of the board members and told that I was fired and I was so depressed that I thanked them and went home and quite the small part-time job I did as a tax professional. 
Suicide ran through my mind so many times and before my son was born I had actually tried a few attempts, but after I lost my job I walked the streets at night, hoping that someone would do the job for me.  I still had the key to the tax office that I worked part-time at and I remember letting myself in and calling the hotline number I found and refused to tell them who I was, but they figured it out and within a day I was admitted for the first time to a hospital.
Still with the thought that I could fix myself I managed to make myself worse.  It was also during this time that I moved to Providence.  I was in and out of hospitals for a couple of years.  Finally in 2008 I had a major depressive period that had me stay in my bed for five months.  The Providence Center admitted me into the hospital once again and it was finally than that I realized that I could not beat the illness, but to learn how to live with it. It was important for me to trust my doctor and the medications she prescribed, and my own ability to be well. I knew that if I embraced that hope and believed that I could contribute to the world that I lived in; my life would have meaning for me and the people around me.  Learning that I could live with my illness has given me so much more than trying to control and hide it from others.  Having a new empowerment has leaded me to enter school and carry pretty good grades.
I became more aware of my symptoms and how to vocalize those symptoms to my case manager, therapist and doctor before they got to out of control for me to handle them.  During this time I also became aware of NAMI and realized that though mental illness was still stigmatized, I could find a way to help to educate others about the illness and learn to be a peer to others.  I was beginning to face the stigma straight on and was less likely to feel embarrassed or ashamed when I told someone I have mental illness.  I began to facilitate a support group through NAMI and really began to feel strength in myself that I had never felt before.  During my own recovery, I learned how important and effective self-help groups are for people coping with mental illness.
Now I am not saying that I am without setbacks.  Recently I had to take a semester off of school, because both my parents had entered hospice at around the same time, and I know that with stress my symptoms can get out of control.  Knowing that I also knew that if I forced myself to take classes with symptoms I would do more harm than good for me.  During this break I am made sure to keep in constant contact with my mental health workers and watch for signs of any possible symptoms.  Sometimes it can be hard to decipher what are symptoms and what are natural reactions to stress.
There's no denying that mental illness will affect what you can and can’t do, but it won’t necessarily be in a negative way. You may – or may not – be able to have the job or career you were hoping for. Individuals’ abilities to cope vary. But if you’re one of those who aren’t able to follow a traditional life plan, there are alternative avenues that can lead to fulfillment. Living with bipolar disorder is a challenging journey, but it is also one with many possibilities.
Creativity has been an excellent outlet for me.  I find that writing allows me to share many things that I find hard to say verbally.  I have often thought of writing a book about my experiences and who knows, maybe one day I will.  Taking my camera out gives me the perfect way for me to show others how I see the world.  I have even been asked to show some of my photos at a gallery, and that is something that never would have happened had I not embraced my illness and decided to work around it and with it.
Also because of my illness, I have had the opportunity to meet wonderful people who have become my support network and friends.  Had I not decided to accept my illness, I would have never known many caring, strong and loving people.
I used to look around me and wish for things I didn’t have and how life handed me a big old bag of coal.  Once I decided to really look at the illness and the possibilities around it, I realized that if I rubbed the coal enough, I could have a diamond.  I just had to find the way to do it.  I am not saying that I totally found that diamond yet, but I am still working on it, and that is what keeps me going.
Well that is the end as of today.  Tomorrows is another day, and let’s hope for good things.  TTFN

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Choices that Can be Hard

When I first decided to take the semester off, I was mad that because of my illness I was not able to handle the crises that have come my way like everyone else, and yet again I had to put aside something important to me for more months.  Now though, I am really glad that I was smart enough to see that I would have not been able to handle being in school and dealing with both my parents die.  Dad is still alive, but he is in hospice care and is getting worse quickly.  I am not in New Jersey, but I am in contact with my brother, dad’s caregiver and the hospice nurse. 

There are many people that would not agree with the next thing that I am going to share here, but honestly I think I am making the best decision for me.  I decided that I will not return to New Jersey when the time gets closer to my father’s passing.  I don’t think I can handle watching that at this time and honestly, I know it is something that my father would be ok with.  Maybe in that way, my brother is stronger than me.  The difference between me and my brother is, I was in the room with my sister when she died, and I never want to witness something like that again.  Because of me being with my sister when she died, whenever I am thinking about my sister, I have that image in my head all the time. I don’t want that with my father.  Maybe that is selfish of me, but I am the one who will be left here.  I am the one who has to continue to live in this world with my thoughts and feelings. 

Another reason that taking the semester off was a good idea is because of the new training that I have started.  Our state is finally starting peer support/mentoring jobs and I get to be part of the ground breaking of that program.  I have gone to two trainings already and have six more to go.  I will be working at a local mental health center and actually getting paid to do something that I really wanted to do for free anyways.

This is a program that I am so excited about that I could spit.  Ok that was kina gross, but hey, it is so exciting to have peer support.  You know someone who really knows, because they have been there.  With traditional treatment for mental illness you are given stability, expected to comply and give over control as you focus on your defects and have low expectations.  Well with this new form of treatment you can see that you can have hope for the future and that you do have choices and working with a peer is more of a partnership where you focus on your strengths and begin to have high expectations for yourself.  OMG this can be so enlightening!

What I find so funny about this training is the fact that I have been doing it all along.  The difference is that there is a bit more structure to it, whereas when I meet with a peer, we will know that we are working together toward those goals for them.  Another great part of this new training and upcoming job is that it is way ok to be open about my illness.  It would be understood that I too can get sick at times and that is ok.  I won’t have to always be on guard about symptoms as much as I am now; I can take the time to take care of me as well.

 I will still continue with my school.  Nothing is going to stop that.  In fact, next week I will be registering for my fall classes and I am a bit nervous about that, but excited at the same time.  What makes me nervous is the fact that I have been inside my head quite a bit, but I am not sure if that is my illness or the fact that I have been dealing with family issues.  If it is because of family issues, than I am having a normal reaction and that would be ok, but if it is my illness, than I am kina screwed.  The training is helping me quite a bit though.  It keeps me busy in my head and I get to think of something else.  Because of this I wonder if my classes at school would have actually been a good idea.

Anyways, this again has been a long blog.  I am sorry about that, but if you got this far, let me know with some words of wisdom or something.  Let me know you were here.  Oops I forgot a picture.  Let me take a look. 

Ok this picture was taken in 70’s and it is my sister, father, brother and me, during a vacation somewhere.  I chose this picture because this is how I remember my dad and how I would like to continue to remember him.  TTFN

Sunday, April 1, 2012

If I had Won the Mega Millions

This past week we had the biggest lottery payout ever, and yes, I bought a couple of tickets in the hopes that I could be a lucky winner, just like everyone else who bought a ticket.  I very rarely partake in the lottery, but with the payout up over 600 million, I just had to join in.  Well, I didn’t win or anything, but it was sure fun imagining what I would do with that kind of money.  Since I enjoyed that fantasy, I figured that I would share it here as well.

Well the first thing I would have to do is give about half of the 600 million back to the government, because well that is what happens.  It is not like they already get half of what we spend to pay the lottery already.  Ok I won’t get on that soap box, so let me stop that thought process head on before I get started.

I would use a third to put in the bank for my son and let him live off the dividends as well as the same for myself, this way both of us are never in need of money.  I would arrange it so we both receive money each month.

So here is what everyone is mostly wondering, what I would do with the other third.  Well that is like a 100 million bucks.  Wow, that does sound like a lot.  I would buy a few homes for people I know, only thing is, I would keep them in my own name and let people I know live in them rent free.  I know that sounds kind of selfish, but after all I am making sure that these people don’t sell the homes and go crazy with the money.  I would want to make sure that they have a home to live in and not have some extra cash for a short period of time.  For these people I would also supply them with a brand new car in their own name, so they can feel comfortable knowing that they had reliable transportation.

My son would also receive one of these homes even though I would give him a large amount of the winnings.  For him I would look into a townhome that is near his school so he wouldn’t have to travel so much.  He would also receive a car from me, but most likely not the kind of car he would really go crazy over.  I would make sure that he was driving around in a hybrid of some sort.  I would also supply his current girlfriend with the same type of car.

Because I love to live alone I would most likely buy Denny his own home.  For him I would buy a multi-family home that can generate an income for him.  He is the only person that I would let him put the house in his own name, because I know him enough to know that he will continue to work even if he himself had won the lottery.  What else I would do for him is to find something that he enjoys doing and find a way to build a business that would stay in my own name with him completely in charge.  Most likely Dennis would choose the same kind of car that I would like my son to drive around in.

I would purchase a small home in Pittsfield, Ma for my friend Darilynn, because I know how she like me likes to live on her own, and if some of her children were aware that she had extra space, they would find a way to move in with her.  I would make sure that the home would have a large fenced in backyard for her dog, so she could let him out more.  For her I would let her pick any car she wanted and I would not hesitate to get it for her.

There are two people in the Albany, Ny area that I would buy homes for them to live in.  The first is Suzanne.  For her I would buy a four family building and give her the second biggest apartment.  You might wonder why I say the second biggest, well the reason why is because between her and her boyfriend, there are six children involved, four his and two hers. I would have his four live in the biggest and each of hers get the other two apartments.  How did I come to that?  Well her oldest is over 25 years old and starting out with her boyfriend and needs a place of her own and her second is in school and works and should be rewarded as such.  Three of Suzanne’s boyfriends kids are still in high school and the one who is out of high school still has not found any direction in his life to warrant him having his own apartment.  There would be four cars that would go to this family, one for Suzanne and one to each of her kids and one to her boyfriend.  Again, the one who can’t seem to find something to do with himself should not be rewarded in my eyes.

The second home that I would buy in the Albany area would be for my friend who recently decided that I was not her friend any longer.  You would wonder why I would do something nice for someone who decided to end our friendship, well it is because I still care about her and well she is going to have a baby soon with a man who may not be able to provide what that baby needs.  I will also put away some money for both her baby to be and her young teenage daughter so they can have money for school.  I would buy Ami a new car as well as a new car for her daughter when she is of age.  I would not expect her friendship back in any way; I just want to make sure that they can have some relief from hardship in their lives.

Because my brother really enjoys the home that he lives in, I will give him the money that is needed to pay the house off and any repairs that he want done to the home.  For him I would get a new car and truck for his work.  Should he choose to go to school I would also make sure that that would be paid for as well.

Now I am not leaving out the various charities that I would like to help, but I want to make sure that whatever monies that I hand over goes directly to those charities and not the pockets of those in charge.  Here are the areas of concern that I would look into: homelessness, mental illness, domestic violence and hearing impaired.

For myself, I would purchase a home in the country that is no bigger than a three bedroom with all new furniture and accessories.  I would buy a few little computer toys and a special area for my two cats in the home.  I would buy myself a Hybrid car.

Here is the thing that might surprise everyone, I would continue to finish my education and work with the homeless who are mentally ill.  I have no reason to quit what it is that I have been working so hard for just because I might have won the lottery.  The only difference would be that I would be able to have more time to study because I could drive myself there and back, rather than spending the hour and a half on the bus each day.  I would be able to not worry about the costs of my books and not have to worry about the trying to find that perfect schedule because of transportation issues.  I might actually be able to take more vacations and feel more secure where I would live, but all in all, I would hopefully be the same person I was.

Well I don’t know, I guess I spent a lot of time thinking about it and for that short period of time it was nice to think about, but I didn’t win and well I am still me anyways.  Well, what would you all have done if you would have won that kind of money?  Was I crazy in my ideas on what to do with it?  Let me know.  TTFN.