The Delusional Drug

Me: “They’re sending me messages, Mum. I swear, they’re sending me messages.”

Mum: “Who are sending you messages? What do you mean?”

Me: “I don’t know who, but I just know that they’re sending me messages.”

I was petrified, confused and exhausted.

I had just turned 19 when I first noticed something wasn’t right. It didn’t seem tangible. It wasn’t like anything I had ever experienced before. My brain was completely muddled and I felt like I was at a loose end. It was December 2012, and I was preparing to travel and volunteer for five months in Tanzania, East Africa. I had just started taking one of the more controversial, but very effective anti-malarials – Mefloquine, also known as Lariam. My Mum was cautious to start me on this medication due to the adverse effects my Dad and brother had experienced in the past. However, because it was taken on a weekly basis, it seemed the most logical choice.

I was experiencing symptoms for roughly two weeks before any of us realised that it might be the drug I was taking that was responsible. I started to make unusual connections that would be regarded by a healthy brain as nothing other than very tenuous. I started to believe that my girlfriend’s family were sending me messages through brochures they were leaving at my house. Because of these ‘messages’, I believed that I was a bad person. I was waking up at 4 or 5am, wide awake, with a strong urge to get out of bed and keep packing my bags for travelling. I developed a fixation on this. 

I soon became very low in mood and I vividly remember breaking down in tears in front of my whole family at the dinner table. I was unable to articulate what was causing me so much upset. It was rare for me to cry. I was a rugby player. I was a man. It wasn’t natural for me to show so much emotion, or so I thought. 

Lariam is an antimalarial that is commonly used in the US and British Armies, and it was recently found that many troops had reported adverse side-effects, such as depression and psychosis. These are now well known side-effects of the drug. However, there was no strong family history of depression, and certainly not psychosis on either my mother or father’s side of the family. It was only when I started showing symptoms of paranoia that my mum told me to stop taking the medication immediately.

Soon after I stopped taking the Lariam and switched to an alternative – Doxycycline, my symptoms resolved. My mood returned to normal. My thoughts became clearer. I started to sleep much better. This brief encounter with darkness was over, for now. I flew out to Tanzania to teach English and help on a building project. It was incredible, and forgive the cliché, but I felt enriched from the experience. I came back happier than ever, feeling more independent and mature. I put my moment with darkness to the very back of my mind. It didn’t seem necessary to even comprehend what had happened. It was the drug, that was all. Why should I be concerned about it ever happening again? And then it happened again.

Awaiting my flight to Tanzania

How to Have Kids When You’re Crazy

Awhile back, I advocated in favor of having children when you have a mental illness. Even at the time, I felt wishy-washy in doing so. I may talk the talk and chase after the children I’ve birthed, but I don’t exactly walk the walk.

Birthing children and raising them is HARD. Doing so whilst battling Depression or Anxiety or Bipolar is HARDER.

However, unless you’ve got a serious condition, producing a mini-you or two is possible. It’s worth it. It’s fun.

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To anyone sitting on the fence of indecision, having a child is the best thing I ever did. To those reading this at 2 a.m. and feeling ready to return their child to the hospital, I’ll add that I’ve been there, too.

Mental illness or not, you need some helps in place when a kid comes around. Even those who don’t regularly admit to mental issues need helps. Babies don’t sleep. Babies require clean clothes, blankets, burp cloths, diapers, and bedding several times a day. Babies only come with a ‘Check Engine’ light, in the form of incessant crying.

Babies are helpless. They NEED you. And someone who needs you cannot have you checking out, flipping out, or acting out.

Instead, how about you check out a babysitter or friend so you can take a short nap?

How about you flip out a freezer meal or pizza when it’s dinnertime?

How about you act out your 2 a.m. dreams of taking an hour-long bubble bath -after guilting your partner into hour-long tending?

See how it works?

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I knew a woman who was expecting triplets. After she birthed them, her family had a brilliant idea: when a friend or relative offered to help, they whipped out a calendar and asked, “Which day and time can you come?” They wrote in who would help, when, and what they would be doing. In a world of round-the-clock feeding, changing, and tending, one woman did not have enough hands to do it alone.

I’ve only produced one child at a time, and one’s enough to ask help for. A neighbor vacuumed my floors for me. Another folded my laundry. A third came and picked up all the crap my kids left on the floor. Heck -I once had a friend come over and hold my son for half an hour, just so I could sleep.

So, consider having a child, but not alone.

In fact, also consider helps specifically for your mental health. I speak of medication and counseling. There are quite a few medications that are safe to take while pregnant or nursing. Ask your doctor.

Now that my children are older, I enjoy the benefits of their company. We play computer and board games together. We plan family campouts. We cook, clean, cry, and live. It’s hard, but not HARD. I’m so glad I had them, and more glad for the helps I’ve had for them throughout the years.

Some days, I even reconsider wanting to return them to the hospital.

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—–
©2020 Chelsea Owens

Photo Credit:
Jordan Whitt
Thiago Cerqueira
@rw.studios
Edward Cisneros

Babbles: Bella’s Big Adventure: The Home Stretch

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Photo by Supushpitha Atapattu on Pexels.com

I leave for treatment on Thursday.  It seems to have come upon us quickly in that slow agonizing kind of way.  I am the kind of person that once I have my mind made up, I am set and I am ready.  When I have to wait it is pure agony for me.

I know that good things come with waiting.  I have been able to spend good quality time with my family and my friends.  This weekend we had family photos taken and I was able to take my son’s senior portraits (what an honor!) I have been able to make my list and not only check it twice, but a good nineteen times at this point.

With the time I have had since being accepted into treatment and actually leaving I believe will be three weeks.  It has been a long, tiring, draining three weeks.  I have attempted to get “caught up” work wise, but alas, this does not seem like it is going to be one of the things that is going to be checked off my list.

And that is one thing I am learning.  I am trying, really hard, and I am doing the best that I can.  And that’s the best that I can do.  I am fighting through horrible side effects due to withdrawal from one medication and side effects from another new medication.  Then there’s stress that causes the body to breakdown it’s personal shields and cold season, and oh so much fun.

But, I am a fighter.  This journey will probably be the hardest one I have ever chosen to take, but I am going to muscle through each and every foot step of it, perhaps not with grace and certainly not always with a smile on my face, but I will do it and it will be worth it in the end.

Sprinkles and Cupcakes,

~Bella

www.bellasbabbles.com

Into Me I See (Pt. 1)

I couldn’t possibly be more unhappy than I am right now.

I’m strapped into a long, metal tube with about one hundred strangers approximately 10,000 meters above sea level, flying back to my hometown in rural Australia. In the next row, three shtick heads are hooting, hollering and rough-housing like it’s a Friday night at the local pub. To top it all off, I’ve carried so much extra emotional baggage onto this flight that I’m surprised I made it past check-in.

Last night, I did something awful to someone I really care about. Something
I deeply regret. And now I’m doomed to spend the next three hours in my
elongated, flying prison reflecting on my selfish actions. I suppose it’s a
relatively light punishment, considering the crime.

My thought cycle of self-hatred is interrupted by one of the obnoxious
morons in the row ahead of me. He shouts to the flight attendant like she’s a waitress and demands that she brings another round of ‘CC and dry’ to him and his pals. The benevolent bringer of beverages makes her way down the aisle in a manner that is polite, yet stern.

“Sir, please refrain from raising your voice on the plane.” Her smile is
also polite, yet stern.

“Also, that’s your third drink in the last 20 minutes.” Smile, smile. “You
have to wait a little while before we bring you another alcoholic beverage.”
Smiley-smile-smile.

The annoying drunks go back to being drunk and annoying. I glance at the
flight attendant and our eyes meet. She smiles again, warmly this time. For a nanosecond I don’t hate myself.

She takes a step towards me, and leans in. Why do all flight attendants
smell like a flower shop in the middle of a small country town? I love that
smell.

“Can I get you something to drink?” How nice. Girls never offer to get me a
drink.

“No, thanks.” My smile is polite, yet troubled. There is no room for ‘CC and
dry’ when I’m already full of guilt and shame. She nods in acknowledgement and sashays away to serve the next loud idiot or heart broken, sulking loser.

Next to me, an attractive young couple are giggling away like a couple of
kids on the back of a school bus. I turn my head slightly, so that I can see
what all the fuss is about. It seems like one of them has managed to stuff
their jacket pockets with sushi, and the sheer genius and hilarity of their
secret snack idea has them both in hysterics. I’d laugh too, if I didn’t hate
them so much. It’s so unbearably adorable that not even blasting Burn The
Priest
through my headphones is enough to blot out the cuteness. It
reminds me of the things me and Freya used to do together, and how they made me feel.

My thoughts inevitably turn back to last night, at Freya’s place. When I
arrived there, I just wanted to talk. But I’d worked my mind up into such a
frenzy, and I was so scared of losing myself in her that I behaved like any
scared animal would – I attacked. I told her that I didn’t want to see her
anymore, because she was needy. I told her that she was slowly smothering me, stripping away the life I had built up since moving to Melbourne six months ago. I told her I don’t want to be her emotional punching bag. Then, I stormed out.

I got exactly what I wanted. She’s gone now, and I have my life back. I’m
free.

So free, and so alone.

Part of me wants to take it all back, to say I’m sorry, and set things
right. But is that because I miss her, or how she made me feel?
Is it just the guilt and shame that makes me want to apologise, or is it
something else? Would I even deserve a second chance, after saying all of those terrible things?

Fuck, this is going to be a long flight.

I decide to fire up an audio book called ‘Silently Seduced: When Parents
Make Their Children Partners’
by Kenneth M. Adams. The book explores how some parents, driven by insecurity and loneliness, use their children as
surrogate partners. It describes the impact this can have on their children’s
emotional development and ability to form healthy, romantic relationships in adulthood.

Yes, perfect. This will take my mind off things.

The book goes on to explain that if one person in a monogamous relationship is emotionally unavailable, the other person will look elsewhere to satisfy their unfulfilled needs. They might start spending more time at work, hoping to find satisfaction by building their career. They may turn to drugs and alcohol, chasing new experiences and cheap thrills. Or they might try to fill the void by maxing out their credit cards with some good old-fashioned retail therapy.

In some cases, however, they will use their children as crutches to keep
their hearts from collapsing.

Sadly, it makes a lot of sense. We’ve all heard stories of parents that seek
validation through their child by forcing them to become what they personally never could. But sometimes, the parents push in another direction. They force a child to become a shoulder to cry on, or an ear for their frustrations. The child becomes the voice of reason when the parent is unstable, and is the one to pick them up when they inevitably break down.

It certainly not the loveless environment that most people think of when
discussing childhood trauma. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s too much
love. The wrong kind of love. And for a child, it’s the only love they know.

It’s hard for a child to neglect the emotional needs of a wounded parent.
They brought you into this world, after all. They raised you, and protected
you. You owe them everything. But after a while, this surrogacy begins to drain you. Love becomes a burden, like a warm blanket on a hot summer day. It’s an overpriced cocktail of guilt, shame and resentment. You learn that to love, is to suffocate.

Each passing chapter of the book peels back a new layer of my childhood.
Each new concept is another piece of the puzzle. Slowly, I’m starting to see
why being close to people scares me so fucking much. Why I become detached, even spiteful, towards those that have shown me nothing but compassion and understanding.

As the cute couple beside me chows down on their jacket sushi, I’m having a
full-blown existential crisis. I pause the audio book, and take a moment to
collect my thoughts. From this crisis, comes a moment of clarity – my return
home has presented me with a rare opportunity. An opportunity to know myself better, and get to the bottom of my mummy issues. An opportunity to see into me.

For the first time today, the guilt begins to subside. As the plane begins
it’s decent, I feel a sense of resolve forming within me. It may be too late to
fix things with Freya, but it’s not too late to change my behaviour and stop
being a shitty human being.

Once we hit the tarmac, I grab my bag from the overhead locker and follow
the Canadian Club clowns as they stumble down the aisle, bouncing off the backs of seats like they’re stuck in a really long, narrow pinball machine.

I step off the plane and take my first real breath in three hours.
Hopefully, my stint in the slammer did me some good. I’ve done my time, and now I’m back on the outside. I’m a free man.

“JAY! JAAAYYYYY!”

Or, maybe not.

It’s the voice of my mother. Suddenly, the space around me begins to
tighten. She wasn’t supposed to be here.

What Are Friends For?

Do you ever get that feeling that you’re the needy friend in the relationship? I do, quite often I might add. You see, my depression was pretty much taken care of by my ECT treatment. The thing that didn’t go away, or even get better as a matter of fact, is my anxiety. Particularly my social anxiety. I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting my own horn here, but I am rather observant. Which, combined with my overthinking capabilities, can get me into so rather “sticky” trains of thought.

As a quick related side note, my family has been more or less disfuntional for just about ever. Yet, more recently I feel like it’s kinda falling apart. We don’t eat meals together. We don’t really gather all that much. I mean honestly I rarely ever see either of my siblings, and both of them are just upstairs. It probably has something to do with everyone getting older. My mother is well into her 50’s now, my siblings and I all in our 20’s. It just feels different than the normal dysfunction.

Back to the point, because of this, I’ve been going out to eat more often. However, due to my social anxiety, I find it incredibly difficult to do so by myself. It feels like, to me, that going to a restaurant and eating by myself makes me stand out too much. I almost feel like I shouldn’t be there. Needless to say, it makes me very uncomfortable to dine by myself. So I usually ask my family if they want to join me. Most of the time, it’s a no. But then, if we don’t go out to eat, and nobody cooks dinner, then are we just not going to eat? This happens uncomfortably often in my house. Granted, we are all grown adults, and able to fend for ourselves, but then I run into 2 problems. One, being that I can’t go out to eat by myself due to the wonderful anxiety associated with it. Two, if I make a meal for myself, the rest of the family gets upset that I didn’t cook for everyone. See, the second part I don’t have that much of a problem with. Unlike my two siblings, I was raised to think that if you are going to cook dinner, you cook it for the whole family.

Another quick related side note, I have a lot of these preconceived notions in my head about right and wrong, and how I should act accordingly. The issue is, is that most of these notions, are either self-detrimental, or are there because of my depression.

So, I can’t make dinner for myself, and I can’t go out by myself, where does that leave me? I usually call up my good friend, who lives just down the road. Let’s call him R, for the sake of his privacy, and my own. So, R and I have been friends for about a decade now. I met him through video games, and we quickly hit it off and became good friends irl (in real life). The problem that I’m facing now, is that I feel like I’m putting in a lot more effort into our friendship than he is. I also feel like I’m “The Needy Friend” because I am normally the one who initiates time together. As you can imagine, with my disposition to eating alone, I have been calling him more often than I used to. I mean, I also am a lot less depressed these days, so I am probably just overthinking it.

So, the question, that I am finally getting at, that I have for all of you is: Do you consider what I’m doing, to be okay? Like “normal” I guess? I feel like I call him numerous times a week, and want to hang out, grab a bite, whatever. I have had a lot of time on my hands, because he has been working, and I (until August) am not. So, honestly, would you consider me the needy friend? Hopefully none of you relate to this, because friendship is a glorious thing. Especially close friends, especially when your family is as lacking as mine. So, I basically want your advice TBW fam, what should I do?


And if you have a quick minute, or want to read more by me, check out my home blog Out Of My Mind

Running Towards Hugs.

I am making moves towards my next goal of moving back home after moving out of state a year ago. I applied and applied for jobs until I finally found something that would suit me. I felt immediate relief in signing the offer letter. I know it was the right choice. It isn’t because I fear not having a roof over my head, a lease ending, a job I am at risk of losing or anything of the sort. I just am relieved to be headed back to something familiar. I let my mental health care fall by the wayside and that it has never been so apparent that what I had been doing was working.

I moved here to remove myself from stressful situations that I was in. I was constantly guilt ridden (because of my own issues) and putting a lot of strain on myself to appease others. I know that moving doesn’t solve all your problems, but being far enough away where I couldn’t volunteer to be the fixer did. What I didn’t know is that I would be moving in with family who don’t hug, who don’t really socialize the way I am used to, and to be frank have a drinking problem. Alcohol has never really been my scene. I have always been aware enough of my own issues to know that alcohol will only worsen them. Being around it is depressing and lonely. On one side, I have a dad who indulges often and I now know why the phrase “functional alcoholic” is a very real thing. He holds a job and he isn’t angry or anything, but it sure pisses off his wife and that negativity is stifling.

I haven’t been hugged or had human contact aside from a handshake it 93 days. NINETY THREE DAYS. You don’t realize the impact such a small gesture makes until you don’t have it. I only hear I love you occasionally (aside from when I call my mom). I don’t see anyone except on the weekends even though I live with them because our hours are so different.

All of this has just piled up and then I stopped taking my medicine. Most of us have been there and thought we were okay, but we probably also had people who said “hey, you aren’t yourself” or asked if we were still taking care of ourself. That doesn’t happen here and my self care abandonment has gone unmentioned if it was noticed.

12 days until I move. I am packing up my stuff and my cat and headed to the land of love.

Take care of yourself wherever you are. Take your medicine. Go to your doctor. Hug someone you haven’t in awhile. Ask someone how they are doing. It sounds so cliche and I really just want to punch people in the stomach when I see their half hearted post about being there for anyone who needs it on facebook. I get it though. I understand the sentiment. I just hope that we can all think of how we feel and how we hide it.

Family Estrangement After Childhood Trauma

My friends from large families never understood why I don’t enjoy family gatherings. I don’t like crowds, even if I know everyone. I don’t see my family often enough to know any of them. This is my extended family, but what about the family I grew up with? I have my parents and two older sisters. I have not spent time with these four people together in over 15 years. That’s the last time I can remember the five of us together. Growing up with childhood trauma can cause one to isolate themselves. My family broke apart and never came back together.

My parents separated when I was starting my teenage years. My sisters and I were happy to see them get away from each other. I never realized at the time how abusive my father was. My oldest sister moved out and moved back in with my mother a couple times. She made her way into the world after some time. My second oldest sister, the middle child, she enlisted in the Army. A good way to get far away from home. I was alone for a couple years before going to college in another city.

I later moved to another state to finish my education and never went back home. I visited a few times, but never moved back. I never wanted to. After a while, I stopped visiting too. I rarely speak to anyone in my family; extended or other. I don’t know any of them well and have no interest in getting to know them. My life has improved without them. Still, my friends don’t understand my aversion towards families and gatherings. Growing up, these were times for arguments and sometimes violence. I have only negative associations with holidays.

I attempted to mend fences with my sisters and parents at different times. There’s some progress but the five of us will never be in the same room together. I’m the only one who hasn’t married and doesn’t have children. I almost don’t want to have a wedding, so I don’t have to invite anyone in my family. My broken family makes me feel I can’t have a family. This isn’t true but I can’t break the feeling sometimes. I struggle with interpersonal relationships. Distrust and pain filled my first experiences connecting with other people. This is something I’m still working on. I want to prove to myself that I can have a family.

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Should You Have Kids If You Have a Mental Illness?

I often wonder if I’ve screwed up my children. Not only do I enact terrible punishments like limited screen time or healthy options before sugar, but I also insist they do homework and get to bed at a reasonable time.

Most of all, though, I worry that I literally screwed them up. You know, genetically.

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I have a veritable soup of family history maladies to pass on to them. Plus; I have my own limitations, bad days, breakdowns, and personal failings they’ve had to witness. They continue to witness. They witnessed just this morning.

The real punch to the gut comes when they exhibit signs of mental illness themselves: anxiety, fixation, depression, and negative self-talk.

As I rub my kid’s back and tell him advice didn’t follow the day before, I wonder, What have I done?? The unhelpful voice in my head adds, This is your fault, You are a terrible mom, and You shouldn’t have had children. Some days, it adds, They would be better off without you.

Back when we were deciding whether to have children yet, I worried about such ‘logical’ conclusions. I didn’t feel like the best genetic specimen.

The thing is: no one is the best genetic specimen.

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True, there are some people with very serious cases and/or horrible genetic diseases. Those people are true heroes, in my mind, for choosing the difficult option to not reproduce.

Besides those, I’m really just about as crazy as the next person. Mostly. In fact, compared to many of my relatives and ancestors (who obviously procreated), I’m stable enough to run a small country. But, as I said, they still had children. I even have a few distant relations who I think shouldn’t have had children and still did. And you know what? Their kids are fine. Mostly.

In trying to play Devil’s Advocate to my own mind; let’s suppose a hypothetical situation: What if I were a perfect parent? To continue that fantasy, my kids would have to be born perfect. Their kids would. And so on. Then, as happens in every sci-fi story line, the rest of the world would hunt us down and assassinate our family out of envy.

No one is perfect, at least by the definition of making no mistakes.

Further, despite what one of my kids thinks, mistakes are essential to life. Mistakes make us human and that’s not a bad thing to be. Frankly, we don’t have another option since we were born like this.

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To specifically answer those negative thoughts of my mind:

  • This is your fault: Blame doesn’t matter. What can we do moving forward?
  • You are a terrible momI am a good mom because they are alive and we keep trying.
  • You shouldn’t have had children: I’ve had the children and will continue to raise them well.
  • They would be better off without you: Of course they wouldn’t be better off without me. Have you seen how stepmothers in fairy tales are?

Having kids is hard no matter what. Beating myself up over their problems only adds to my mental strain and depressive triggers. Choosing to be pragmatic and move forward with what I have is a better option than giving up and hoping they’ll still turn out. Even if “moving forward” means that I might have to get checked into a recovery program, that makes a better future (one in which mom’s still around) than trying to maintain an impossible reality.

I saved the best benefit for last: since everyone deals with some sort of mental or physical issue at some point in life, my struggles and authentic life lessons are preparing my children for their own futures. Because of what they start with, what they learn, and what I teach them; they will be loving, honest, supportive, and self-aware.

They will, as every parent dreams, be able to make the world a better place. Someone’s got to live in the future, after all. I may as well try to help mine be better. Mostly.

 

Photo Credits:
Jenna Norman
Aditya Romansa
Sai De Silva

Mopping Up Mental Health

I went to the clinic on Friday.  Quite cheerful I was when I arrived there and ready to get things DID. I shuffled past the HIV and AIDS Section.  The Reproductive Health Section with many blushing teenagers and finally turned the corner at the clinic to head to the mental health “corner”.  I paused briefly to think that the signage is intended to be functional, it screamingly communicates and impacts on the people waiting so much more.  What would you say if a friend passes you by in the HIV queue?  Hi, I’m here for a fun check? Blushes and shuffles feet? Anyways, almost fittingly,  the mental health section is in the most inconvenient area that is too small to seat the large number of people who require a service on mental health Friday’s. Yes.  On Fridays, when the psychiatrist graces the mentally ill with his or her presence and the nurse (no mental health specialisation) who are at their most tired, open the clinic to the mad, crazy and otherwise, on condition that you are prepared to queue from 4 in the morning outside.

As I lodged myself into the long queue, with an approximate waiting time of two hours for two people (not exaggerating), we all waited anxiously, knowing that although you were at a health centre, and could have braved massive odds to get there, there was no guarantee that you would actually receive the service you required regardless of  how serious your ailment is or what you’d come for.  In my hard-won um, experience, I have learnt that the South African Health System is more adept at turning people away than it is at servicing people who need it the most.  As an example, I had a close friend with mental illness tell me that when they were suicidal and reported to a hospital, they were told to come back when they had more serious symptoms.  I’m sorry did I miss something here?  A symptom of suicide?  Well.

I had come for a meds refill.  Not that hard.  I had a script, a detailed psychiatric history and referral letter from my resident psychiatrist.  So you could say I was capacitated to come and that the paper could speak for me because you know, someone with mental health anything is NOT able to do that.  Like we may have years of experience of living and coping with our disorders, but cannot describe our symptoms unless a psychiatrist decodes the language we apparently speak. center  Symptom of suicide indeed.

I no longer know what it will take to draw attention to the needs of the mentally ill in our families and communities in Africa because I have it unfortunately on great authority that we are fully and fundamentally being failed. We should not be turned away,  or have it suggested that we actively go home and allow our mental health to deteriorate. Because we matter.  Our families matter.  Our communities matter. And research/statistics in our country and the world says that mental health issues are undetected, and ravaging communities.  So perhaps, mental health services need to be primed to helping people not making them sicker?  In the meantime, whilst I mull this over, I am going to take that cleaner’s bucket which became so intimately acquainted with the tender flesh on my knees during the time I should not have waited, and I’m going to mop clean at the local clinic.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

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That Time I Almost Went to Disneyland

Growing up, my family never went on any vacations. One year when I was eight, we traveled to Tennessee for a family reunion. I didn’t know anyone on that side of the family and never made friends quickly anyway. I don’t remember any other time we traveled somewhere that didn’t involve moving. We lived in about six or eight different states before I turned six-years-old. We were always moving to a new place. My father worked for interstates as an electrician and we traveled to where he would work. We settled in Oklahoma and stayed for several years.

I thought my childhood was normal. As I got older, I repressed most of my trauma. Any memories I did have, I didn’t think were that bad. I thought everyone lived through things like that. I looked at photos a lot as a child. I’d see pictures of myself as a baby or toddler and never remembered anything from that time. Most people don’t remember being a baby. I saw pictures from before I was born. These were interesting because it was life prehistory. A time before life. More often than not, my family had to tell me who was in the photos.

One photo from the summer of 1986, the year I was born, showed two little girls standing in between their two parents. The mother was pregnant. The photo looked faded and old in the standard four by six size. They were my two older sisters and parents at Disneyland. There were other photos of the girls on various rides like the teacups. The rumor is they no longer have the teacups ride. At the time, the family lived in Southern California and would for another two years. In those first two years of my life, the family never went back to Disneyland.

I went through grade school hearing other kids talk about their time at Disneyland. I would joke and say I’d never been, but I had the food. They’d look at me in confusion. I would explain my mother was pregnant with me when the family went. They would nod and look awkward until the subject changed. I grew older and older sharing this same story. People would become enraged shouting how they didn’t understand how I had never been to the happiest place on Earth. Before now I don’t think I could have comprehended what happy meant.

I have ridden rollercoasters where they take your photo. My picture would show me grimacing. I didn’t think the rides were as exciting as everyone else. The rides which pushed the limits are the only ones I find exciting. The only rides I actually smiled in the photo. I can think of two. No more. As a kid, I don’t think I would have appreciated Disneyland for what it had to offer. I’m not sure if I will now. It’s rare to find someone in their 30s who hasn’t been to Disneyland. The closest I’ve found is someone was 25 or 26 when they first went.

I’m not saying my family stopped going on vacations after I was born because of me, but I am saying my childhood was not great and enjoying things can be difficult. I’m not sure when I’ll finally get to visit this magical place. Part of me wants to and another part cares less and less each year. I think I will go one day and it’s possible I’ll go alone. Just so I can say I did it. But I think the point of a place like that is to enjoy it with people you love. That’s the part I’m still working on.

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