Feeling Left Out

So, here I am, about a week (little less) before I can finally get my new prescription for the upped dosage of meds that I need. I really need them now, and the weird thing is that I actually want them. I hate taking my meds, but right now I can feel it inside. I feel the anger, hurt, and loneliness. I had some caffeine today in hopes that it would help me feel a little better. It did, which is why I’m probably actually writing right now and not collapsed on the couch. But, obviously that’s only a temporary fix. I was sitting here and feeling so alone and angry, about things that I don’t even understand.

Lately, every little slight, or perceived slight, has sent me hurdling downward. I begin to shutdown and suddenly want to tell everyone, “Go screw yourselves! Goodbye!” I want to turn my phone and computer off, and just curl up in a ball and just wither away. I hate who I am… from feeling left out, to feeling like I’m worthless, to feeling like I’m nothing more than an irritating flea in the lives of those I know.

I’ve been playing an online game I’ve played for years. But, something’s been happening to me in that environment lately… it’s making me feel even more left out at times. And, I don’t even understand why sometimes. It’s been the source of many therapy sessions for a few months now and I still can’t get past what I feel. However, there are times when I know exactly what is causing me to feel as I do. For example, I was on a talk chat channel the other night. It was myself and two other people. Well, one of those people has a little girl and put her up to the microphone. Well, it was obvious she told her daughter to say hello to one of the people in the channel… guess who that was… not me. I suddenly felt as if I was non-existent. The three of us adults were all talking and then, it was like I was suddenly not there and worth one of those adult’s time. It was obvious to me that she didn’t want her daughter to talk with me, and only wanted her to talk to the other person. That doesn’t surprise me due to the relationship of those two, but it still hurt. How do you tell your kid to say hi to one person, but completely ignore the other? Would you do that face-to-face? I’m curious how that person would have felt if the roles had been reversed. I’m getting tired of feeling like I’m not even there… like I’m the third wheel on a bicycle built only for two.

That’s a really horrible feeling and only takes me back to my childhood when I was completely ignored by kids. Literally pushed away for being unwelcome. Heck, it takes me back to even more recent years when my own family has ignored me. I’m annoying. I’m a burden. I’m nothing but this person people happen to know. These are the thoughts that have been going through my mind ‘cause I know that would make me want to ignore someone too if they had such qualities. I can be fine. I can be laughing with family and friends, and having a great time. However, all of a sudden, something triggers me. The switch is flipped for my shutdown. I become angry with these people and feel like I’m nothing to them. I cry and lose control over what I feel. And, sometimes, I can come back out of it right away, and others I need to leave the setting. This last week, I’ve cried more while lying down at night, than anything else. I haven’t slept properly at all, but it doesn’t matter. Between family problems, which are wearing me down, to the disappointment I have for my life, to the realization that another year has passed where my life is a total failure, I’m feeling like this is never going to end.

Since the night of that chat channel incident, I have gotten past it, as I’ve found myself having to do a lot lately. No hard feelings, but it still hurts when I think about it. But I have to just get past it ‘cause that’s life, and life is just crap. Life sucks. Anything I, you, or anyone can do about it? Nope. That’s just how it is until the day we die. That’s why I have my façade. The lying, make-others-feel-better façade that hides the pain I feel inside.

I think Linkin Park say it best in one of my favorite songs of theirs.

I know what it takes to move on. I know how it feels to lie. All I want to do is trade this life for something new, holding on to what I haven’t got.

I know I’m not the only one who can relate to this.

 

Dreams Gone By – Regret #1

Life is one heck of a roller coaster. I’m not referring to the bipolar roller coaster either, but rather the roller coaster of life. That “topsy-turvy, make you want to hurl at times” track that every human being rides from birth to death. Yeah, I know… after that, I doubt God would ever hire me for Heaven’s marketing team for advertisement on life, but I’m sure He understands from where my thoughts are coming. After all, He made us humans, and He gave us the ability to feel and think how we do, even when that deals with regrets.

Regrets. We all have them, men, women, and even children (although, depending on age, they may not always realize that’s what they’re feeling). So, this post is finally the beginning of a project that I wanted to start about two months ago. The project is one regarding regret, and getting rid of those unwanted pains that have stricken me long enough throughout my life. Is that going to be easy? Heck no! Is that going to be possible? I’ll just leave that at a, “Maybe”. My goal in this project isn’t to forget about my regrets. I don’t think that’s even possible without slamming my head into a brick wall enough times. But, at least I can “try” (hey, my favorite word) to do my best coming to terms with them, and in doing so, moving past them.

So, for my first regret, I’m going to start with one that causes me much disappointment. It’s my regret of a dream gone by. A dream that I did not follow through long enough to realize if it was something that I should really do with my life. It’s my regret of not becoming a registered nurse, or at least trying harder to do so.

I guess I should give a little professional background before continuing. Only a handful of people I know are actually aware of this little fact that I’m about to talk about. And, three of those people read this blog. So, here I go spreading the word to everyone else. In the 11th grade, I began to have a serious desire to go for a career in law enforcement (yeah, don’t worry, this leads to the nursing dream). I come from a family with a few law enforcement individuals, and growing up around that knowledge always made me think that it was a possibility for me to enter the same field. However, as a child I wanted to be everything in the world. I was never set on just one profession. As many kids, I wanted to be every profession with which my mind was inundated. By the time I was sixteen years old, though, I was feeling the law enforcement bug a lot more strongly than ever before. So, when I graduated from high school, I knew that if I really wanted to become a police officer, then I’d better lose weight. At the time I was 100 pounds overweight and I knew that if I didn’t lose that weight, then I’d never have a chance to be a cop. So, I went to college and while there, I started losing weight. I was exercising, eating healthy and feeling great physically. And, by the time I was eligible to apply, I had lost 104 pounds, and was fit and thin. Of course, as previous posts of mine have shown, that weight loss did not stick. But, at that point in my life, I was thin.

I made it! I had reached the goal that I had set out for myself, and followed up that drop in weight with an early departure (I hadn’t finished) from college, while I tried to continue toward the goal of wearing a badge, and basically continue to find myself. See, I knew that I wanted to be a police officer, but there was still doubt inside of whether or not I’d make it. And, as I worked up the courage to try, I worked hard at my job, while I tried to weigh all of my options. It was during this time too that I had been dealing with the early stages of what I now know to be my bipolar. However, at the time, there was a part of me that thought, “Hey, if I become a cop, then I’ll be happy, ‘cause it’s what I want to do with my life.” I was looking for happiness in something that I now know would not have given it to me, at least not to the degree that I wanted.

Well, the time came that I felt I was ready, and I sent in that application. A month later, I received my letter of approval for taking the written and physical exams an hour away, over in the next county (where my city held its exams). So, I bought the book to help me prepare for the written exam and I continued to work out like crazy to prepare for the physical fitness test. So, how did it all turn out? Well, considering what you all know about me from my blog, I’m sure you can figure out that answer.

I passed the 3-hour written exam with flying colors, but the physical fitness test… well, let’s just say some pretty dazed-induced colors passed by my whirling head, before they filled up the huge lumps on both my head and knee from a failed jump over the wall. Yep, I missed. I thought I was ready, but alas, my upper body strength was not as built up as my lower body, so I was able to get up on the wall, but just not over it. What did I look like, you may ask? Picture someone with both arms stretched out and hanging onto the top of the wall for dear life, while her feet are firmly planted on the side of the wall. Now, imagine in your head that person saying, “Oh crap! How do I get out of this position?” Imagine all of that and you got me, trying climb that stupid six foot wall. Oh yeah! I forgot to mention that, didn’t I? I couldn’t climb over a SIX FOOT WALL! If there ever were a zombie apocalypse, I’d be the straggler, hanging onto the wall as bait while my fellow survivors jumped over.

Thankfully, the guys I was taking the test with (all but myself and one other girl were guys) were extremely supportive. The first time, when I ran up to the wall, my foot slipped off the side of the wall, forcing both that leg’s knee and my head into it (leading to the colorful lumps). It was then, though, that the guys were yelling, “Come on girl! Shake it off! Shake it off! You can do it!” So, that snapped me out of the stunned pain I was in, and I turned around for my second (and last allowed) try. It was that final try where I just hung there on the wall. I really think I should have gotten some points for some kind of Spiderman skills and stamina. Unfortunately, however, this is real life and in real life, you often don’t get points for effort. So, I walked away from that experience a failure (at least in my eyes). I was immediately disqualified, as part of the rules stated that if you miss any of the individual physical tests, then you’re immediately gone, until another year when you may try again.

As I walked away with both swelling in my knee and head starting to form, I was strong and thanked the police officers and trainers for their time and opportunity. I then walked off alone and cried once I was out of sight. After working so hard to lose weight and get into shape and study for the written exam, I failed because I literally hit a wall. Believe me, the cruel humor of that is not lost on me.

I was crushed, and I felt even more lost than I was prior to making the decision of going for the academy exams. Now, with the bipolar, I know that I most likely wouldn’t have made it past the psychological exam anyway. But, back then, I didn’t know anything about what was going on in my head and failing that test hurt… badly. So, I headed back to work the next day without the opportunity to tell my boss and co-workers that I had succeeded. Instead, I headed in there as if the previous day was just as ordinary as the last. A couple of months later, I received a call from the Lieutenant for my city’s Police Department, offering me a rare second chance to take the physical exam again. He said my written exam scores were high and that he felt I had it in me to pass the physical exam, if I just built up my upper body strength a bit more. He remembered my fantastic ability to plant my head so firmly into a wooden wall, and said that he could see that I was strong, just not strong enough at that point. I flipped out (once I was off the phone with him), and was so happy that I was being given this wonderful opportunity. I was excited. However, that excitement was short-lived. A couple of months later, as I was still prepping my body for the test, one of my police officer family members was seriously injured in an accident while on patrol one night. It was an extremely serious set of injuries, and it was a frightening time in our family’s past.

After a long recovery, he made it through, and is now ok. Thank God! That experience, however, made me start to re-evaluate my goals in life. At that time, I obviously knew that dangers come with being a police officer, but there was something about a car accident while on patrol that never occurred to me before. I had thought getting shot or stabbed would be a rare encounter if ever while being a police officer. But, a car accident… that was something so much closer to home. It was something that would be much more likely considering my role as an officer. I did a whole lot of soul searching after all of this, and decided that the best thing would be to leave that dream behind. I no longer wanted it. I was hit in the face by a fact about that career that I had never considered before. I realized right then and there, that it was a dream that I may have once ached for, but no longer did. It was something in my past.

Therefore, to this day, I do not regret it. I followed through with that dream as far as I could, before realizing it wasn’t for me. I realized that it wasn’t the place in the professional world where I was meant to be. And, I’m now content with that. I do not regret being just an ordinary citizen without a badge. I don’t regret it because I followed through with it. Unfortunately, though, I cannot say the same thing for nursing.

Nursing was something that was on my mind off and on throughout these same years. It was always in the back of my mind, and then would often move to the forefront before moving backward again. Throughout the beginning of my college career, I took prerequisites for the program, and was working toward that goal, while also working on getting my body to a point of law enforcement eligibility. And, after deciding that being a cop was no longer for me, I quit my job months later, and went back to school full-time for nursing. I took almost all of my prerequisites, before the doubt began to set in. Once I reached the point of the anatomy and physiology courses, I started doubting my ability to be a nurse. I used the excuse that I didn’t think I could handle the blood and guts, but that wasn’t true. I was merely using that as an excuse for those I knew, so that they wouldn’t see me as the lame loser that I knew I was. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Why was I suddenly losing the motivation? Why was I feeling so low, again? It was that depression creeping up on me again, and I could feel it. So, I lied and said I couldn’t handle the blood and guts. What was the real reason for my not following through with my dream, aside from the creeping depression? Fear. I was afraid. I was so scared of failing as both a nursing student, and even worse… as a nurse. I also worried that in doing so, that I’d hit a whole knew realm of defeat in my already confused life. So, I stopped. Just like that, I stopped going to classes one day, and that was it. I was stuck in limbo for the next months. During this time, I spiraled into a deeper depression, due to feeling so lost and out of place in life. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was without a job, without school, and even worse… without a plan. I had no goal left for my life. All that I could focus on was what I was going to do with this pitiful life.

But, then, the conversation happened. One day, I was at one of my aunt and uncle’s houses. My uncle (a law enforcement officer) was the only one home and we were just hanging out and having a great conversation about all sorts of subjects and issues. Eventually, the conversation worked its way into my future plans. I told him I didn’t know what to do at that point. I was at a loss. He had recently seen a video I had created, though, and he told me that he felt I should go back to school for arts and design. He told me I had a talent that needed to be explored and developed, and it was important for me to do so. I have great respect for this man, and so hearing those words from him did something to me. I guess you could say that they lit a fire under me and made me really start wondering if he was right. So, over the next couple of months I kept thinking about what he said and how he said it. So, as I fought against my depression, I also juggled the words and advice that my uncle had given to me… words that meant much more than I think he realized that day. See, that’s the important part. What he said was so nice to hear. However, it wasn’t just what he said, but rather how he said it that made the difference. He wasn’t lying to me. He wasn’t patronizing me. He wasn’t just giving me some pep talk filled with bulls**t. He was speaking from his heart, and I could see that. He’s one of those reputable people in my life whom I respect and admire. It was the tone he used that day… the words he used, and the fact that he looked directly at me, staring me down with the encouragement he was setting forth. He really meant what he said.

So, by the next semester, I was back in school and on my way to my bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, which I earned in 2007. I made it a point at my graduation party to pull my uncle aside and give him a private, yet strongly appreciative thanks for what he did. He gave me the encouragement that I needed, during a time when the still-unknown bipolar was starting to push me further into emotional unsteadiness, leading me into deeper doubt about my own capabilities.

Am I happy that I graduated with my bachelor’s in that field? Yes! I am extremely happy and grateful for all who helped, supported, taught, and endured me throughout those years of both academic exhaustion, and emotional turbulence. I’m not sure how I managed to make it through school and actually graduate, but I did. Through all of the turmoil that bipolar was starting to throw at me, I still managed to bypass it for that time being and pull forward. And, I’m satisfied with that achievement in my life. I’m not sad about it. I’m not regretful about it. I accomplished something that had always been a goal of mine… to receive my college degree. So, if I am happy with reaching that educational goal, why on earth would I be regretful about not attending nursing school?

Well, the disappointment in my not following through with nursing school didn’t begin to show its face until after I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2009. It was then that I began to feel that I may have missed my calling. I feel that with everything I have dealt with – and continue to deal with – in my life, that I could have been a better nurse than I had ever realized. I was so afraid of failing at such an important role in the medical field, that I let that keep me from moving closer to that goal. I never stopped to think what qualities I had that could have been useful in that very field. Then, again, maybe I just couldn’t see those qualities back then. After all, I hadn’t been diagnosed as having a mental illness yet.

Let me explain what I mean by that. Bipolar is a curse, but, strangely, it can also be an odd blessing. I’m not sure how many sufferers from the illness would concur with me on that, but here’s my reasoning. I’m in touch with emotions on a different level than people who are not bipolar. I’m not saying that people without the illness aren’t in touch with their emotions. I’m absolutely not saying that. Rather, what I’m saying is that through my highs and lows, I have not only experienced a range of emotions, but I’ve also had to face them head on… often on my own, but also through therapy. I’ve been from points of suicidal ideation, to points of feeling like sleep was a mere hindrance to a better and more productive life of creativity and fantasy. Due to this extreme range of emotional experience, I often wonder if maybe I could have been a good nurse. Of course, I would have had to be stable to do so, but in that stabilized state, what if I could have been there for patients in a way that not all people can understand? What if I could have been that person who understands them in a way that most people don’t? To be a good nurse, you definitely don’t need to be bipolar, but you do need to be in touch with what others are feeling. I have such deep respect for nurses, and know a few in my family whom I admire.

I don’t know if I would have made a good nurse. I don’t even know if I would have been able to handle the stress of it. I would hope that I could have been the kind of person that could calm the fears of a patient and comfort them in times of pain and trauma. I would hope that I could have been there with the family of a loved one for whom they are worried and distraught. I would hope that I could have been a hand to place on their shoulder, or the arms to place around them in a hug of support. But, that is something I will just have to dream about. This is one regret that I have which I am currently trying to just move beyond. I went to school, got my bachelor’s, and spent a lot of money doing so. Going to school for nursing now… well, that’s something that for a time I thought could still happen, but that dream has been fading.

I guess I just need to continue to wait for what God really has in store for me. I’m trying to figure it out. I want to know what He wants for me. I want to know what I’m supposed to do with all of this craziness that is my life. I want to know why I can’t live my life without putting my family and friends through my crap. I often ask myself the question, “Of all the people I could have been in this life, why did I have to be me?” However, then I ask another question. Who would I want to be if I wasn’t me?

As Leona Lewis says in one of my favorite songs (and puts it best), “I just want to be happy.” But, I don’t know what would truly make me happy anymore. All I know is that I want it. I want to be happy… really, truly, happy, for more than just a day or two before something sets me off and I become an unpleasant annoyance for those around me.

Yeah, I guess that’s it. I just want to be happy.

 

 

Friendship

So, what do you know? It turns out that I do in fact still remember how to hit the “publish” button. It’s been a month since my last post. I guess you can say I’ve had blogging writer’s block. I’ve been dealing with an unpredictable mood lately. I’ve been able to write, just not blog. But, today, I finally had the urge to write a post. Actually, the urge just cropped up on me about an hour ago. I hope this will be the beginning of my return to the blogosphere, but I’m not putting the cart before the horse just yet (I’ve always wanted to find a reason to use that phrase). Either way, though, I’m not planning on leaving this awesome universe of fellow bloggers anytime soon.

Now that I got that bit out, I guess I’ll just jump on into the heart of my post. Today’s urge to write can go back to this morning. I had therapy this morning, and it left me feeling quite low. Therapy is often a pleasant experience and I feel replenished sort of speak when I leave my psychologist’s office. However, today was a difficult session and quite emotional. It had to do with some issues I’ve been feeling inside lately, that have left me unhappy and feeling lonely. I know I’m not technically alone, but emotionally, I’ve felt it. I had a wonderful night this last Friday. For the first time in four years, I hung out with a couple of family members and watched a movie here at home and we ate take-out and drank Starbucks (something I hadn’t drank since 2008). It was a fun night and I was proud of myself for finally not saying, “No” to their request to hangout. It was like it was before my life falling into pieces, which I’m now trying to put back together. These family members understand how things are for me, though, and I appreciate them never giving up on me, like some of my friends have done. Once I was no longer fun to be around, they suddenly disappeared. I don’t blame them, but it still hurts.

So, the weekend started nicely. However, my mood started dropping slowly by Sunday night, and I couldn’t shake it. Part of it was due to anxiety, I know. But, something else was getting me and by the time I was trying to go to sleep, I was in tears. A sense of loneliness was once again taking over me inside. I tried praying through it, and I guess it helped since I fell asleep right afterwards. But, when I woke up it was still there, and it continued on into my therapist’s office.

After difficult sessions, I usually come home and not say anything. Even saying hi to my mom is difficult ‘cause it can feel exhausting to open my mouth and force the words to come out. So, when I came home I went into our family room for some alone time. I walked into the kitchen a short time later for some water, when she asked me how things went. I just answered, “Fine”, before walking back out of the room. However, I had to go back in there again about ten minutes later and she asked again, “Are you sure things went ok today?” This time I got upset and snapped at her, “I said it was fine!” I left the room once again, until I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted comfort and my anger wasn’t bringing me comfort. So, I walked back in the kitchen and when I saw my mom standing there, I went up to her and just hugged her. She asked me if I was ok, and I just started crying. I couldn’t say anything, and just cried. She then said, “It’s not ok, is it?” I didn’t want to talk with her about therapy, so I just kept it simple and she understood. She knew I wasn’t really mad at her, I just took it out on her, but thankfully that had been rectified now. And, it is then where the friendship side of this post comes into play.

I decided I’d log into a game that I play and just mess around in a world of fantasy, rather than my frustrating real world. When I logged in, I saw a good friend of mine was online too, which brought an immediate smile to my face. I always look forward to seeing and chatting with this person online and it helped to see her. She’s a beautiful person and I feel blessed that God has placed her in my life. We didn’t stay online long, but later on in the evening, came back and played some more. After we logged off tonight, I realized that spending time with her made me feel better. The feelings are still there, but they seem a little better now after hanging out and talking with her.

It was then, that I began thinking about friendship and how important it is in our lives. I started reflecting on past friendships of mine and how some have come and gone, while others have never left since the day they began. I’m not sure how that comes to be with some friendships lasting forever, while some do not, but I know my friendship with the aforementioned person will be a lasting one. I hope she feels the same way. Considering the world of constant connectivity through the Internet, such a concept isn’t impossible anymore.

However, I got to thinking about three friendships in particular that came, thrived and ended due to loss of such contact. The Internet can have its cons, but I think the connection of friendship is a major pro. The three friendships I’m thinking about are people who impacted my life in a positive way growing up, but since then have faded.

My Fantasy Twin

Third through sixth grade was a special time due to one particular friend. She was someone who loved fantasy and make-believe just as much as me. We’d play with one another often during recess and lunchtime breaks. Our imaginations guided us through a world of pretend that only we could see. We each formed the world around us, and in a Bridge to Terabithia sort of way, we fed off one another’s imaginations and could see what the other was seeing. It was fabulous, and she was the only friend whom I have ever had that was able to go into this world with me. But, then, came the end of sixth grade.

Her father got a new job in another state, and come seventh grade, she’d be gone. In a world of no Facebook, MySpace, or other social media (not even the Internet was in people’s homes yet), her departure meant the end of our friendship and Terabithia universe.

Although that friendship ended long ago (which feels like ages now), I still remember her. I will not forget her and I still have a story that she and I wrote together. The last day of school of sixth grade she handed me a typed up story. It was the story of our universe. It was what we always imagined together and what we had played for so many years. I still remember her saying that she had to write it out before she left, because it was a special memory that we had to complete before she moved away. I’m tearing up as I write this ‘cause it’s such a special thing when a friendship hits a deep and private side of your soul like that. She will always have a special place in my heart.

An Understanding Camaraderie

In the second grade, I met a girl who would become my “best” friend by eighth grade. She and I had a wonderful friendship, filled with laughs and plenty of memories. As a kid who was bullied in school a lot during these years, she was also a protector. Whenever someone tried to mess with me, and she was around, they’d back off. She spoke her mind and due to that, she became our class and school president during eighth grade. She was the most popular girl in school due to her brains and personality, and unlike most of the other kids, she didn’t treat me like I was a piece of cow dung on her shoe.

In addition to all of that, she also made me feel extremely understood – at least to a degree. I suffered from severe separation anxiety as a kid, and so sleepovers never happened. I couldn’t even go places with her and her family. I was always “sick” on the days when such events arrived, because I couldn’t get myself to go. All I could ever do is spend time with her at her house for a few hours, before I’d start becoming emotional and sick to my stomach. I could never eat at her house. I would sit there while she and her family and any other friends ate. Her mom always asked me why I wasn’t eating, and I would just say that I wasn’t hungry. That was the truth. It’s hard to be hungry when you feel like expelling your stomach’s contents onto the table before you. So, I would just sit quietly and sip on something to drink.

Through all of this behavior, though, she never gave up on me as a friend. She could have just thought I was too weird for her or that I wasn’t a good friend. But, she didn’t. Instead, she became my best friend, and an unlikely pair of comrades went through elementary school together.

Unfortunately, the world of high school would come between us. She went to one private school, while I went to another, and we slowly drifted a part. I did get to see her almost four years later, though. I was in line for the SATs (exams given in the U.S. for college entrance) with a friend of mine from high school. We were talking when a girl in front of us suddenly and loudly asked, “Summer?” I turned and after just a second of recognition, I yelled back in excitement. It was her… my friend for so many years was standing in front of me, and there we were embracing before one of the biggest exams that a young person may take in their life. We were so happy to see one another, but sadly we got split up almost immediately as they were dividing all of us test takers into classrooms. It was a bittersweet moment, but one that was quite awesome at the same time. Albeit for a short time, I got to see how she was doing at that point in her life, and vice versa. We were able to receive a life update on a good friend, which many people don’t get. She was well and thriving, and so was I… at least at that point in my life.

I still miss her, though. I will always smile when I think of her, and just as my fantasy twin, I will never forget her, as she holds a special place in my heart. She was a friend when I often needed one most. And, I always tried to be the best friend I could for her. We clicked in a way that doesn’t always happen in life, and I’m thankful for that relationship in my past.

A Friend Once There

The third friend is someone who brings with her a lot of good memories, but unfortunately I’m left with hurt ones too.

This friend and I met the second week of high school. I didn’t know a single person at this all-girls college prep Catholic school, and was suddenly thrown into a world of nuns and no boys. At first, it felt like it would be way too odd, and lonely beyond bearability. But, once I met this friend, things changed. She was the reason I didn’t wind up getting home schooled. I wanted out of the school after the first few days due to not knowing anyone and being so alone. I went from a school of bullies, to a school where I felt as if I didn’t even exist. My mom and dad had considered home schooling, until one day I came home and proclaimed with joy that I had made a friend. And, after only a month of being at that school, I realized that my high school experience was going to be much better than the previous eight years. I wasn’t being bullied. I was treated with respect and left alone by the girls that didn’t have anything in common with me. None of them jumped up in the bathroom stall next to me to invade my privacy, like when I was in fifth grade. No one laughed at me, if I fell down skinning my arms and knees. No one pulled out the chair behind me while I was sitting down, just so they could get a laugh from everyone in class. No one told me I looked like a boy and should stop lying by saying I was a girl. No one attacked me for how I looked or my strange quirks. All of that was gone. And, if not for this friend, I would not have stood at that school long enough to realize that. I would have lost out on that experience. I realize I was blessed that my bullied days were behind me when I entered high school. Too many kids are not so fortunate, and I hate that. Hate’s a strong word, yes, but when it comes to bullying, hating it is the only thing that seems appropriate. It’s not right and it’s something that needs to be put to an end. Bullying needs to stop!

My friend helped to keep me at that school and realize that things were going to be better for me. She and I became inseparable, and everyone knew that wherever I was, she wasn’t far behind, and vice versa. It was a wonderful friendship and we had a blast hanging out all of the time. She came from a strict family, and just like me wasn’t allowed to stay out past ten at night, even if our friend hadn’t cut her birthday cake yet for her 16th celebration. We had an understanding for one another and connected through both that understanding and just enjoyable times we had with one another.

However, just as high school divided me from my friend from elementary school, college became the division of this friend. It didn’t happen right away, though. At first, we kept in contact a lot while she was away at school. After moving in with her roommates into a townhouse near campus, though, our friendship began to fade. I became closer with a good mutual friend of ours from high school, and she with her roommates. As we grew up further into the world of adulthood, our mutual friend and I became closer as we had more in common. My old high school best friend had the taste of freedom in college. She wanted to only party, drink and go to nightclubs. She enjoyed that entertainment, while our mutual friend and I enjoyed chilling at the campus cafe, chatting at Starbucks, going to the movies, or just cruising up and down the coast and going to the beach. That bored my old friend and she made it known, by saying she was going to go to sleep in the backseat and we can wake her when we had decided on something to do.

Our company was no longer fun for her, and she made that perfectly and coldly clear. Sadly, there wasn’t anything we could do about that. I’m not a nightclub, drinker, or party person. I can’t stand that atmosphere, and prefer a quiet and laid back environment. It was only a matter of time until our friendship divided.

Eventually, she cut me out of her life by unexpectedly changing her number and not giving me the new one, and never replying to my emails about what was up. We never had an argument. We never said a goodbye. The last time we spoke all was fine I thought. She said she’d give me her new number, but never did. After my diagnosis, I started worrying that it was the bipolar. I hadn’t been diagnosed when she cut me off, but my moods had been affecting plenty in my life back then, and I just worried that she finally had enough of me. Maybe that was the reason, or maybe not, but I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore. For a while I worried that something had happened to her, but then my good friend (our mutual friend) saw her with a group of girlfriends one day. She was happy and laughing while going to lunch with them. She had moved on with her life and had cut me out without any reason or notification.

I was hurt and confused as to why she lied to me and told me she’d give me her number, only to just cut me out. However, through all of that, I was also happy to know that she was ok. She wasn’t hurt or worse, as I had begun to worry. She had only moved on. It hurt for a long time, but now I realize that was on her, and not me. I can’t make anyone like me, nor would I try. I tried as a kid, but not anymore. I’m a grown adult who now realizes that sometimes people just aren’t going to like me, and that’s fine. I’m not here to make people like me. I’m here to be who I am. I’m here to enjoy and love my friends whom I do have, and appreciate their presence in my life every day.

I will always have the good memories of my high school “best” friend, and to this day, I have no ill feelings toward her. I hope she is living a great life, and if she were to suddenly pop into my life again someday, I would have a hug waiting for her. I have no reason to be hateful toward her. All she did was grow up and so did I. It was just meant to be, I guess.

It’s All Meant To Be

In the past, I’ve talked about how I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason. I may not always know what that reason is, but I have to believe that it’s there. My above three friends from childhood may no longer be in my life, but they will always be in my heart, and maybe that was the purpose. They brought something into my life, and I into theirs, when we were kids. I now have a small circle of friends. I no longer have a “best” friend as I value and love all of my friends, and don’t like to place such a label onto any of them. They all are each the “best” in their own ways and they each mean something special to me.

Only a few of them have now learned of the bipolar, but they have not abandoned me. They have given me their support and love, and one in particular has been amazing in her support of me since my diagnosis. She knows who she is. I love you so much “Lillie”.

I’m Now Changed For Good

One of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard on friendship is from my favorite Broadway musical Wicked. It never fails to make me cry. I think it sums up my relationships with the three friends who made a huge impact on my life as a kid, which has in turn impacted who I am today. This song is for them.

 

 

 

I Never Liked August

Ah, August. The month of the year when back-to-school ads are out in abundance. As a kid, I remember this month being an anxiety producing one. I hated the month. For me, it meant that soon I would once again be forced from my mom’s loving and protective arms, and thrown back into the slimy claws of my bullies.

June was wonderful. School was ending, and I knew I would be home to play in my make-believe world and stay up all night if I wanted. I would do that often as a child. I’d stay up all night long and loved it! As the summer pressed on into July, I was still content, as I knew I had quite a bit of time left of my glorious vacation. But, then, it would always happen. Inevitably, the first Sunday of August would arrive, and with it, a flurry of back-to-school ads in the newspaper. Full-colored ads of kids looking disgustingly happy and excited to be heading back to a place that I dreaded throughout my grade school years.

Elmer’s Glue… What?

It was upon lying first sight on those ads, that what I now know to be anxiety began to take over my body. I knew that soon I would be going to be measured for my new uniform (I went to a private Catholic school grades 1-12). And, I knew that my mom, dad and I would be making our annual trek to the store to purchase all of my school supplies. That memory is still so ingrained in my mind, that whenever I come across a bottle of Elmer’s Glue in our house, I have flashbacks to those shopping trips. I always had a long list of supplies that were needed, but the glue… something about that glue has never left my mind. It had that smell, the texture, and feeling of when that bottle was in my hand. It’s sort of strange, really, ‘cause I’m not sure why of all the supplies I had, that the glue would stick (pun intended) in my mind.

Maybe it’s due to it being such a special staple of school supplies. I mean, paper, notebooks, pens, pencils, and folders, are all common supplies (at least here in the States), but they’re used for every subject. Glue, on the other hand, is a school supply that was used for only some circumstances. It was used for art class and trying to get those stubborn macaroni pieces to stick, or for cutting out pictures of people and places for social studies class. Or, most importantly of all, it was used to make hand masks. All of us kids would pour it all over our palms and wait until it dried a bit, then pull it off to see a perfect imprint of our palms. I’m sure parents will love me for sharing that lovely tip with their kids. But, that was glue. It was only used for those special occasions. So, when I see glue to this day, it reminds me of school more strongly than any other supply. And, it takes me back to the days of buying it in August most often.

I can still feel the sadness that would start to overcome me, as August came to a close. I could feel my energy being drained from me, and I would enjoy less and less as that final week of vacation arrived. I would become more emotional, and spontaneous crying was a given during this time. As I stated in my post Separation Anxiety and Bipolar in Kids, I suffered from severe separation anxiety as a child. I would cry as if I was grieving, and it was a draining experience.

School registration was horrible. It would take place in September, shortly after Labor Day. Starting around 6th grade or so, our school changed how it did registration, and made it occur during the middle of summer vacation. But, up until that year, registration took place on the first day of school. Being a private school, they already knew the kids who were going to be there due to the tuition being paid, but the registration was for the parents to fill out important forms and such. Most of the kids left the room as the parents were filling out the forms. They were happy to be back at school and they were looking forward to playing with their friends. Not me, though. I would stay by my mom’s side for as long as possible. I didn’t want that time to end, and it would hurt me to think ahead another twenty minutes, when I knew I’d be forced to leave her.

I remember a few other kids in the room with their moms. They seemed to be feeling as I did. And, then, the bell would ring. It was time for me to go to my new classroom, and my mom had to stay where she was. You would think I’d be used to that separation by now, but that’s the problem with a child who suffers from separation anxiety… it’s just not that easy. I would cry and hug her as hard as I could. She would comfort me with her assurances that I would see her soon, and that I was going to feel better once the day got underway. Letting go was a difficult challenge, but I would always get the strength to eventually do so. And, it helped that I had that Kleenex!

The Kleenex

Oh, did I forget to mention that? You see my mom always has Kleenex in her pocket, due to allergies. And, back then it wasn’t any different. As I would cry in her arms, not wanting to let her go, she’d give me a tissue to dry my tears. Well, that tissue would stay with me for the rest of the day. Why? Simple. It had her scent on it. The tissue would smell like my mom, a pretty scent of ‘mama’ that I never wanted to let go. So, I would dry my tears with it, then go off to class, and I’d keep that used, tear-soaked tissue in my pocket. And, I’d pull it out throughout the day, to smell it, so I could smell my mom’s scent. It made me feel like she was with me. I can’t recall how she found out – if I told her, or if she just guessed – but eventually my mom knew what the tissue meant to me. And, everyday, she’d give me a new tissue to carry with me… her scent and all.

It’s funny what can soothe a child, and what can also cause pain in adulthood. A few years back, when my mom was in the hospital for a week following a surgery, I was staying there every night with her. I didn’t want to be away from her for that long. It was the same as a child, when I had to leave for school. And, when she had surgeries when I was little. The surgeries were especially difficult. I wasn’t just taken away from her during those times, but I was also taken from my dad and home. I had to stay with my older sister, brother-in-law and nephew. I couldn’t stay at home with my dad, ‘cause he didn’t feel he could handle a little girl alone. My sister took very good care of me, but no one can substitute for Mom (I know she’d agree with that). It was hard for me to be away from my mom, and away from home too. I wasn’t allowed to visit her either, because my mom knew it would only upset me to see her, and then have to leave again. She felt it was best that I just did not see her until she returned home. So, that meant twice as a child, I was away from mom, dad, and home, for one week for the first surgery, and almost two weeks for the second. For a child with separation anxiety, that is an unimaginable amount of time. I had to continue going to school during the second surgery (the first one took place during the summer), and that made the time go a little faster, but it was never fast enough.

The Burnt Pizza

My dad has never been much of an indoor cook. He can Barbeque, but he hasn’t done that in years. But, cooking on the stove is something he usually leaves to my mom. Well, one day during my mom’s second surgery, he picked me up from school to take me home for a little bit, so I could be at the house for a while. My sister was set to pick me up afterward. So, we stopped at the market on the way home, and my dad picked up a large frozen pizza to make for our dinner. I’m actually crying as I write this ‘cause it’s such a touching memory for me. My dad, who doesn’t know how to cook much on the stove, put the pizza in the oven, and well… he left it in there a bit too long. He took it out and it was a tad black on the bottom. It was still edible, though. I still remember his face when he pulled it out. He looked disappointed, but I still ate it.

That is a touching memory that I have, but nothing will beat what happened next, that same day. I was sitting in my bedroom. Prior to leaving for the hospital, my mom had set up a rack in my room with fresh clothes for my dad, uncle who lives with us, and one of my older brothers who still lived at home at the time. All three were adult men, and that’s why both she and my dad thought it was best for me to be with my sister, since as a little girl, I was still very dependent on my mom. So, back to the clothes. My mom wanted to make sure that they had all of the clothes that they needed while she was gone. I remember sitting on my bed that day staring at the rack of clothes, and my dad was in the kitchen with the pizza. As I stared at the clothes, I started to cry. I was trying not to be loud, as to not let my dad hear. My mom was the only person I was ever comfortable crying around, although my tears wouldn’t always restrain themselves in all other instances, including this one. My cries soon turned to sobs, which could no longer be muffled. It was then, that my dad walked into my bedroom. He sat next to me on the bed and put his arm tightly around me, hugging and telling me that, “Mom will be home soon, don’t worry.” He kept hugging me and my tears kept coming. I wanted to stay home so badly, but I couldn’t.

Later that week, my dad went over to my sister’s house for some home-cooked dinner. When it was time for him to leave, I began crying again. He thought that I was crying for my mom. That day in my bedroom, it was for my mom, but that night after dinner, it was for him. I wanted to go home with him. I missed him. He didn’t know that, though. My sobs were too strong for me to talk through them, so I couldn’t let him know that. So, he left that night thinking that I was crying for my mom, when in reality the tears were for him. Those memories have always been extremely emotional for me (still are), so it wasn’t until last year that I was finally able to tell my dad that I was really crying for him that day. It felt good to finally let him know. It touched him too.

Back, to the Past

So, back to three years ago, I could not let my mom stay in a hospital alone. For one, I was worried about her being alone. It was an excellent hospital, but it didn’t have to do with that. It was that I would worry about her no matter where she was located. And, secondly, I didn’t want to be at the house without her. I went through that as a child, when I had no choice but to listen to the adults telling me what to do. They did what they felt was best for me, and I don’t doubt that it was best for me. But, now I was an adult, and I was going to make the choice to be with my mom.

For the week that she was in the hospital, I spent each night with her, and most of the days. Then, I would go home for a few hours everyday to wash dishes and clothes, shower, make my uncle’s lunch for the next day, and my dad’s lunch and coffee for the next day as well. I’d make sure all was set for them, and then go back to the hospital with my mom all night. The recliner that I slept on left much to be desired, though. Two recliners were present in the room with her, but the really comfortable one was in the way of the nurse when she’d come in to check on my mom in the middle of the night. So, I just slept on the other one that might have once had padding back during World War II.

Everyone knew this. Everyone in my family knew that this was what I was doing, but there was one thing that they did not know. Each day when I’d go back home, I’d peak into my mom and dad’s room and start crying. I remember lying down on their bed once, and just sobbed like a baby. I’d see the empty room, and know that my mom wasn’t there. I’d go up to her sweater that she always wore, and just like when I was a little kid holding that Kleenex, I’d smell her sweater to get that scent. I knew she was getting better in the hospital (and today, she is doing much better), but at this point she had a lot of complications that made a lot of things, such as her ever walking again, up in the air. It was a stressful time. That bedroom, and her sweater, was a symbol of what life had been before she got sick. Now, everything was different, and she wasn’t home. She wasn’t able to lie in her own bed, which I knew she wanted to do so badly. She wasn’t able to be home with us. It was hard.

August… Oh, August

So, you can now see what August does to me still. As a child, it was a depressing time for me as school came closer. My mom’s first surgery took place in August. The second and most recent one did not, but their memories come back with this month. I guess August has become a time for reflection on all of those things. As each new ad comes on TV with kids dancing around in new clothes, and happily heading off to school, I think back to a time when I did not feel that way. And, even more sadly… I imagine the kids who, today, are in that same emotional place. They don’t want to go back to school. Maybe it’s fear or sadness, or maybe it’s getting back to routine. Either way, it’s a change to which some kids are not looking forward.

Change… that is something that never comes easy, at least for me. I know it’s also not coming easy for Alice. I’ve mentioned her before in my post Innocent Heart. She’s my little cousin (my cousin’s daughter), and she’s entering first grade this year. She’s nervous. She feels good about it, then the nerves come back again. When I was talking with her a while back, she was telling me how she misses her friends from Kindergarten who aren’t going to be in her class anymore. They’re going to different schools. She was expressing to me her fears, and she became teary eyed when talking about going to school and not knowing if she’ll recognize anyone, or if she’ll make new friends. I tried to comfort her in the best way I knew how, and I tried my best to remember what I felt like at that age. The memories are strong, so I was able to ease her fears a little that day. However, I know first hand, that it doesn’t matter what anyone says to you. You will only be at ease, when you are in that place and feel it inside. No one can really say a magic word to make you feel perfectly fine. Anxiety comes from within, and it’s up to what we feel inside that will either put it at ease or not. So, as she comes closer to her first day, I am thinking about her a lot. I thought I was past those back-to-school emotions. However, she’s afraid of the change that’s coming, and, unexpectedly, I am feeling anxious for her.

When I think about it, I guess that’s what August represents for myself. August equates to change. Whether you’re heading back to school in August, or preparing to, it’s all a brand new experience coming. Summer is coming closer to an end, and that means fall, and soon the holidays, will once again be upon us. That time of year is returning.

As an adult, I now cannot wait for the summer to come to an end, due to my serious loathing of the heat. But, I also think about those kids – and especially Alice – with separation anxieties that are aching as the summer comes closer to its end. They want the summer to last a little bit longer. For them, I guess I can put up with a little longer summer.

I know I would have appreciated that when I was a kid.

 

Here’s to a classic!

Number 12 Looks Just Like You

As I’ve stated in the past, in posts such as “What If It’s All Just A Dream?“, The Twilight Zone is one of my favorite television shows. Those classic 1950s episodes had so much insight that also continues to be relevant in today’s world. One such episode is titled, “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” I find this episode to be one of the most impactful ones I’ve ever seen. Its focus is on body image and I feel this is one of those episodes that just proves Rod Serling – The Twilight Zone’s creator – was way before his time. This is one of those episodes that still hold much relevance in today’s society.

Summing It Up

As the episode opens, we get to know a girl named Marilyn. She has now turned 18, and as a rule in her futuristic society, she is now to become “beautiful”. This is accomplished through a surgery that remolds the body and changes the brain so that the mind works just like it’s “supposed” to in the world. All men and women are to choose from two different looks per gender. You can either look one way, or another. No more unique characteristics, as uniqueness equates to ugliness in the world. Since everyone pretty much looks the same way, all people must wear nametags on their chest. That is the only way to tell someone apart from another look-alike. Sadly, this is not the only way in which society has changed. No longer are there books and teachings of Aristotle, Plato, Shakespeare, as well as other philosophers, creative and free thinkers. Such books have been banned in the world, as they challenge the world’s goal of conformity. All people are to conform to this “perfect” civilization; otherwise they are committing a crime.

Marilyn’s mother, Lana, and her best friend, Valerie (Val), have both already gone through the change, and now it’s Marilyn’s turn. However, when most young adults are thrilled for their time of change to come, Marilyn is the complete opposite. She does not want to change. She wants to stay who she is. She loves the arts, philosophy, history, and all that the old world has to offer. When threatened by her doctor that she could be in serious trouble for speaking of such things, she explains that her deceased father gave her the books on the old world. She has learned about it throughout her childhood and teenaged years, and does not want to lose her love and appreciation for it all. The surgery that makes people perfect, will also remove such memories, desires, and passions from her mind. She will be like everyone else, and live a shallow and extra-long life, as the change also increases the lifespan through the elimination of diseases and illnesses.

We also go on to learn that Marilyn’s father took his own life, years after he had the surgery. He hated what he had become. He hated that his individuality had been taken. He didn’t have the passions and love for life that he had prior to the change. Marilyn does not want to lose her identity either, and she definitely does not want to lose the love for her father, as the change normally leaves people self-centered, narcissistic and without any care or concern for others. We’re lead to understand that her father had such a strong sense of himself, prior to the surgery, that some of that remained with him afterward. It was for that reason that he tried to instill those same values into his daughter, before it became too much for him.

Marilyn continues to fight the doctors, nurses, her mother, and best friend. Every one of them treats her like she is crazy for not wanting to make the change. Val, who chose the look referred to as “Number 12”, is an annoying, shallow, narcissistic and careless human being (using the term loosely here), and Marilyn sees it. She tries to convince her that such great things lie within a life of uniqueness, critical thinking, and creativity. But, all Val can focus on is how pretty she is and how life is perfect for her. She just doesn’t understand Marilyn’s reluctance.

Finally, Marilyn runs off throughout the hospital. She’s terrified that the time has come for the surgery and she wants to get away. Unfortunately, she runs to hide in a room that turns out to be the surgery room. The doctor and nurse are waiting for her, as the special incubation style table appears on screen, before fading out.

Next, we see Lana and Val talking about superficial issues, waiting for the doctor to come out of the room. The doctor then comes around the corner and tells them that all went well and Marilyn made it through just fine. The sweet, empathetic and intelligent girl that we followed throughout the episode now comes into the scene. She has been changed into Number 12, just like her friend Val. She runs up to the mirror in the hallway and stares endlessly at how she looks. The look on her face is one of self-loving. She then turns with a huge smile, looks at Val and says, “And the nicest part of all, Val… I look just like you!”

Our Marilyn has changed.

Body Image

Frame from the episode, after Marilyn’s transformation. Found on Wikipedia

This episode is one of the best commentaries on the stress that is placed upon people to look a certain way. Forget the beauty inside, as that is not important. What’s important is what’s on the outside and for all to see. It’s disgusting to think that this was an episode from the 1950s, and yet we still deal with such issues with the “perfect” body image in today’s society. From airbrushed models on magazines, to gaunt looking celebrities on the screen, we see too many misrepresentations of the ideal body image. And, then we have the constant stories about someone famous gaining weight and “oh my gosh… what’s happened” to them.

Jessica Simpson comes to mind at the moment, as she is someone who has recently been consistently criticized for being overweight. People attack her for struggling with her weight, but what is wrong with her just being human? That’s what normal people do… we struggle with issues in life. For some it’s weight and eating disorders, for others it’s drugs or alcohol, or for some it’s mental illness, or some other issue. Being attacked for every single imperfection, of which we are already well aware, is just cruel and extremely unhelpful. In fact, it’s detrimental and does the complete opposite of help, for those who think they are encouraging through insults.

About five years ago, after I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, I went on an extremely difficult diet. I’ve talked about it before in The Overweight Moon, but basically, it was an 800-calorie/day diet, and no more than 20 carbs per day. It was horrible and lead to my gallbladder giving out on me. Well, about a month or so into the diet, I had been struggling, but working really hard. I had lost 18 pounds at that point and felt proud of myself. Then, one day I was in a parking lot when a woman with her two young kids (around 5 and 7 in age) was walking behind me. No one else was in that area of the parking lot at the time. I then heard one of the kids say, “She probably has high blood pressure, huh?” My heart sunk. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I fully expected the mom to set the kid straight on manners and being polite, but my idea of a responsible parent was non-existent. The mom just replied to the kid, “Yeah, because that’s what happens when someone is overweight, right!?”

So, this woman is not only teaching her kids that someone who is overweight doesn’t deserve any respect or dignity, but also that it’s ok to make assumptions and generalizations based on how someone looks. I was left so crushed after this experience. I could not stop thinking about it, and it made me want to say, “Screw it!” in regard to my diet. I had lost 18 pounds, and I was so proud up until that point. Then, here is a woman who is teaching her kids to not even consider what someone’s life may be like. She didn’t know that I had lost weight at that point and that I was trying to get healthy. All, she cared about was how I looked, and the rest did not matter. How I looked said it all, because of course everyone’s life can be completely summed up in his or her looks.

“Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, is a perfect example of all of this, and so many other experiences that people endure. Marilyn was someone who wanted to be accepted and respected for who she was inside, but instead was treated as an ugly outcast due to her not looking like everyone else. She was someone to be pointed at and talked about behind her back, because she was not worth anything in her “ugly” state.

But, look at what a flawless body and mind did to Marilyn. She didn’t have anything wrong physically or mentally, because there wasn’t anything worthwhile left inside of her that could go wrong. Her personality and emotions had been stripped away. Everything that makes a person who he or she is was taken from Marilyn, and she was left with merely a shell of “perfection”, and an empty center. To me, that is ugly.

Would mental illness exist in Marilyn’s world? No, it would not, but that would be due to a lack of all-around mental sustenance. I prefer to keep my brain, no matter how screwed up it may be.

When you really think about it, our differences are what should bring us together, as a way to learn both from and about each other. If we were all just like Lana, Val and eventually Marilyn, then we’d have no reason to get to know one another. It’s our differences that make us interesting and special. It’s our differences that provide a rewarding existence.

It’s our differences that make the world beautiful, and truly bring us all together.