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.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Train and My Mind

On the train heading to New Jersey for six days.  Not really sure what I am going to write this blog about, but be warned, usually when I have no idea it is when I end up writing one of my extra long blogs.  Well it is not like all my blogs are not long…LOL.
Had a meeting yesterday about the internships and how to proceed with applying and such.  There was also discussion about our next and final training.  Looks like I will be in training on my birthday.  I am really excited about the last phase of the process and can’t wait to get started on it.
There was discussion about the way we will be treated from the staff members at the various mental health centers.  I was pretty sure that we were not going to be looked upon favorably, but listening to the directors of the program tell me that is how it is going to be, just kind of brought it forward.  They say that for the most part the staff is going to never treat us like we are actual staff and how we are tokens and are more of a charity case.  It was also discussed how the staff members are actually more likely to stigmatize mental illness more than the general public. 
Another issue that the staff might have is the fact that if this new program works, it is possible that their jobs will begin to be filled with more peers rather than mental health workers.  I can understand the fear that might come from that.  I personally would rather sit with my peers because we have a common factor.  My peers can understand that when I say that I just can’t do this anymore, I don’t actually mean I want to kill myself or hurt myself, they know that I am saying that I just need to hear how they either managed to get through what I am going through or how they would go about it.  Information from them seems to go a lot farther with me, than with someone who spent time in a classroom going over what ifs and possible situations that they could come across.
So this Peer Wellness Coach thing is something that is important and needed, and I am so excited to be a huge part of this. If I have to deal with negative staff, then so be it.  Dennis did bring up a good point, like he often does.  He said that if I go into this and expect to be treated negatively, than there is a huge chance that I would be and not for the reasons that I would.  I will try to remember what he said and try to keep my biases in check.
Ok topic change.  I am in Connecticut and OMG it is so pretty where I am right now.  I have no idea where I am exactly, but we are going over some water.  I guess I can understand why people would decide to live here.  Yes I am looking out the window and letting my fingers type away.  I guess I should thank that typing teacher I had in middle school.  Oh ok here we are at a station.  Looks like we are in Old Saybrook.  Interesting name and here at the station is a cemetery that looks major old school with some new stones as well.  My guess is that to live in this area is quite expensive.
So far I have gotten very lucky in the way of not having to share my space.  I really hate when I have to sit next to someone on the train.  When you have to share the space you can’t really use your laptop the way you want to, because it is so easy for that person next to you to read what you are reading and well I would not be able to do this blog.
Denny is going to meet me in Jersey on Monday morning.  I am so glad that I have him and honestly I don’t really share that here enough.  I guess it is because I get to get my frustrations with him out here in print.  So here is where I am going to express that though I have said many negative things about him here in this blog, there is so much more good about him that I don’t share enough.  Here is an example.  Yesterday I was beginning to feel the pressures of transitioning from being on assistance with benefits and SSDI.  I was feeling the stress of the fear that when I do finally get paid, I will actually have less money than I have now, because though I will make more cash, I will have higher expenses that might exceed my extra income.  It is quite scary to know that I am going to have to move, lose my insurance, lose my SSDI, lose my education grants, lose food stamps and have less support that I do at the present because of the lack of medical insurance.  I was asked why than would I choose to do this to myself.  I answered easily, that for two reasons, one that I have always had plans to return back to work and second because I am so excited to be part of this new program and it is what I have been working toward.
Oh right back to Denny, sorry about that, I tend to get side tracked.  Can’t blame me though.  I am sitting here looking out the window and listing to my iPod and just letting my fingers type out the thoughts that are going through my mind.  Remember I warned you ahead of time that this was going to be a completely unplanned blog and they tend to go on a bit.  Ok anyways, so what was it that Denny did that was wicked awesome.
I was on my way back from the meeting and I texted him to see if he wanted to meet.  Little did he know that I really needed to have him take me in his arms and let me feel protected from even my own thoughts.  There was much texting and in the end he told me he was going to an AA meeting and that he was sorry, but he will see me Monday morning.  I was crushed, but I understood that he really can’t just ditch his meeting for me, because they are part of HIS recovery.
So I am home and on my computer, yes playing Farmville and I get a text from him.  He tells me that he is out front and to open the door for him.  He made sure that after his meeting he came straight to my house to ease my anxiety and help me feel like I am protected.  There was a time back in the day that I needed this feeling from him all the friggin time.  I wonder how he took that all the time.  I try to not seem so needy any more.  I don’t want him to think that he has to be my caregiver.  We have moved past that years ago and I know it is so easy to revert back to that.  It is pretty kewl though that I don’t have tell him all the time what I need, he just seems to have a sense that comes to him.
He ended up sitting with me and talking with me.  We sat together with no distractions.  That is a rare occurrence actually.  Denny is a big media guy.  He loves his TV, movies, and computer and is usually in front of one of those.  Last night though, after quite some time just holding each other, we sat across from one another and talked about some issues that important.  For me it was about the fears I have with the new job and such, and sadness over my father.  For him it was the impending eviction of his roommate, his job and his own mother and brothers’ health.  Is we talked I could not help but think how far we have come from the days of (side note…I am New Haven now) me being dependent on him for everything, and him allowing and encouraging me to be like that.  It is great that we both know the rules we played during that time and how our illnesses played a big part in that.  I am not saying that I am completely “cured” of co-dependence, but I am more aware of what is healthy and what is not.
I am guessing that I am halfway to Metropark train stop in Jersey.  Once I get there I have to walk to my Dad’s, which is only about a fifteen minute walk.  I am going to take my time and maybe even stop at the Quick Check on the way.  This is not a good trip.  I know I have said it before, but honestly I think this might be my last one until my Dad passes away.  He is really weak right now and I think I am going to let him know that if he is fighting for our feeling, he doesn’t have to.  I know that is what is going on with him, since everytime I call him he says how sorry he is that he is disappointing me and my brother.  With my brother out camping, I can really get a chance to talk with my father and let him know that it is perfectly ok that he can let himself relax and not have to fight so hard.  I will reassure him that I will keep an eye on my brother and I will make sure that my brother is not left alone in this world.  I know that is a big fear for my father, as you all do, since I have expressed this quite often.  I have resigned myself as my brother’s only real connection to a family.  I know that in a way I have always known that in the end my brother would somehow become my responsibility.  I know he is an adult, but honestly he has a mental illness and I should after all share the compaction I have for others to him, my only brother.
It is going to be another one of those conversations that you don’t want t have but you know you have to.  I have to help him to understand also that the regrets he feels about my brother and me are not as hard for us that he feels it is.  I am hoping that I can help him to have less of a regretful mind.  For the last few months he has expressed how these thoughts of his are in his dreams as well.  He seems to be stuck in the 70’s.  It amazes me that one person can really destroy so many people in their path.  I saw my mother before she passed as you all know and the months before her death she didn’t have one quarter of the regrets that my father has.  It doesn’t seem fair to me that my father is suffering silently with regrets that didn’t originate from him in the first place.  In my mind I feel as though he is just as much a casualty as me and my siblings were.  The only difference between my father and us was the fact that he picked the person he wanted to spend his time with and we didn’t have a choice.  Maybe that is what he really has the regrets about.  The fact that he made that first choice to cause a bunch of dominos to fall?
Here we are twelve years after the death of my sister and I know that she and her death is at the fore front of his mind.  I could not even imagine having to live through the death of a child.  I was surprised how my mother seemed to handle it so well, while my father still to this day, suffers in silence.  I remember looking at my mother to find hints of this same look my father has.  The look that shows you have a hurt that will not go away.  My mother had something but not like my dad’s.  Her’s was like a look that seems like a selfish thought.  I try to think that I have read her wrong, but that look was not much different than the one that I saw all my life as a kid, when my sister was still alive.
Ok I decided to look over at this page and was surprised to find so little mistakes.  I corrected them and am going to sign off because apparently I have three pages of thoughts down.  If you actually made it down this far, congrats to that!  Pretty sure you all know this, but the picture above is the route I am taking.  TTFN

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

First Phase Complete!

On the 15th I will be heading back to New Jersey.  Dad is really starting to show signs of weakness.  I can hear it in his voice when I call him.  I pretty much call him every day and can really hear the difference in his voice since I had last visited.  I really didn’t want to go back and I know some people would disagree with me, but that was a few blogs ago and I am not going to get back into that.  The main reason why I am going is because my brother was invited to go on a weekend camping/fishing trip and I am making him go.  That is right, I am making him go.  He goes away very rarely and the fact that someone invited him is amazing in itself. 

Each time I talk to my brother, he is always saying that everything is lousy and for the most part he is completely right.  I know I could not handle going home every day and slowly watching my father fade away before my eyes.  I told him he better go and take a mental health break.  At first he was like no he didn’t want to go and stated that he didn’t like to fish.  After explaining to him that it was important that he gets away he said that it might be kewl to sit by the lake and just watch the water move.  I get that totally and finally he agreed as long as I went down there rather than have an aid stay with him.  Without hesitation I agreed, because after all, I am not the one that deals with the gloominess every day.  I get to go about my life and not have it right in my face.  Yes I feel what is going on, but it is easier for me to find a distraction.

My only fear is that during that weekend, if dad passes, I wonder if my brother will ever go away again.  I wonder if somehow he will blame me for making him go and him not being able to say good bye to my father the way he wanted to. 

Before my mom died I called my brother to have him be able to have some kind of closure with her, but because eleven years passed without them talking, it was awkward and neither one of them knew what to say.  After she died and I was at my dad’s house, my brother confided in me that he wished he had told her that he was sorry that he was a bad son.  I have no guilt on that one, because I told him well in advance that I was going to call him while I was with her and he could have formulated that out and said it to her.  I have no guilt, but I do feel for him.  I told him that he was not a bad son and why I believed it to be so, but that didn’t ease his mind.  Well I tried and even fibbed a bit.  So that one is on him.

Dennis is going to meet me in New Jersey on Monday morning and he will stay for three days.  He has always wanted to go to Philly and well it is pretty close, so I figure that I will take him there on Monday.  Tuesday I am thinking I will show him what a true boardwalk is like.  I think that I will take him to Seaside Heights.  Then on Wednesday we will both head back, but he might head up to his mom’s in upstate New York.  I don’t think that I can go with him because now that I finished my first part of training and passed that test, it is time for me to find an internship and begin that phase of the process.  Even though he has vacation, I really don’t.

Ok, it has been a while since I updated you all on my school.  Well, I signed up for my classes for fall and I will be taking Human Anatomy & Physiology, World Lit to 16th Century and Jazz History.  I am not looking forward to this semester, but I think I should do alright since I am only taking nine credits instead of twelve.  I am super excited because Denny is going to take Jazz History with me.  I didn’t think he would be too interested, but when we were talking about new activities he could do now that he is sober and looking to find new outlooks, I mentioned that I had to take a music class and he asked which one.  I told him that I am not too sure, but maybe Jazz History, he then said that he might be interested in attending a class like that one.  I am way excited to be taking a class with him and this one seems like it might be fun.

If everything goes right, I will be done at the community college next May and will begin at the state college in the following fall.  You have no idea how great that is going to be.  Even with all the pitfalls, I managed to finish half of my education and that would mean that I stuck through something, for basically the first time in my life.  I don’t really share that excitement with anyone, I kind of act nonchalant about it, but wow I am soooooo excited.  I will finally have proof that I can do something and do it pretty well. 

I really think that my new goal setting is working for me.  I know the big goal and it sits in the back of my mind, but I focus on the little stuff that will lead me to the big goal.  Believe it or not but the first small goal I gave myself was getting out of bed, then going out of the house, taking a bus, then volunteering somewhere and so on.  From getting out of bed to beginning to volunteering actually took me months to accomplish, but I did it and new goals were added and now here I am, years later, and I am in my last two semesters at the community college.  Yeah that feels real good, now that I write it out.

So my new small goals are, finish the last two semesters, continue on with the Peer Wellness Coaching, and move back in with Denny.  Not bad and amazing how big these goals would have seemed back in 2008 when I was fighting to get myself out of bed.  I think that is why I like working with peers, because I can share where I have been and not make it seem like that is the way it will always be, I can tell them how I got to where I am and how I am going to get to where I want.  What an awesome feeling to share that with someone and they take it in and run with it.

Oh and in case you’re wondering what my BIG goal is, I want to have a Master’s degree in Social Work and work with my peers using my experience and book knowledge to show how they can see that having goals are not a wish, but an actual possibility if they want to take the time and work into it, and deal with the fears as they come, rather than piling them up and make succeeding seem impossible.

Lastly, the picture above was taken during my emersion from my house back in 2008.  Once in a while, when I am feeling like I just can’t do it any longer and want to crawl into my bed and just die there or I get suicidal thoughts, I look through my photos and search this picture out.  If you look closely you can see the snow between the screen door and the door jam.  To me, snow is a sign of freshness and as you can see from the door it is weathered and tired looking.  To me it is me emerging from the doom into the clear fresh me.  Well anyways have a good one.  TTFN