"Success is not measured by what you accomplish but the opposition you have encountered and the courage
with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds."

Orison Swett Marden

Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye...and I'm happy to see you go...2010.

Christmas 2010 Photo

Happy New Year to you! It’s been months since my last blog entry. So much for writing regularly, huh? Unfortunately, with depression sometimes comes a loss of concentration and that is what has made it so difficult for me to write. But I couldn’t let the last day of 2010 go by without writing a review of my year. My niece is so positive in her last blog entry that I feel like the most negative person on the planet, but I write it as I see it, I guess. I’ll do my best not to paint too black of a picture for you though.

2010. On one hand, this year has flown by. On the other, it’s dragged on and on. My depression took its hold very firmly in the first months of 2010. I spent time in the hospital in February, March and April, plus an additional month in a daily outpatient program. The month I spent in March and April was like a roller coaster ride. I’ve been in the hospital many, many times since my first admission in 1982, but this was one of the worst. Some pretty bad stuff happened and it has made my life hell but thankfully I have not let it get the best of me and have not been re-hospitalized. I was forced to change therapists so I spent six months with someone that didn’t help me a bit. It wasn’t until talking to my doctor earlier this month did I realize that I felt like all my power was taken away from me. It seemed like all the decisions about my health were being made by others and I realized I needed to take that power back. I hadn’t seen my therapist for about a month so I just wrote a letter and told her I was no longer going to be her client. After doing some research, I made an appointment with a therapist at a small private clinic. I have a couple more weeks to wait for that appointment but it’s going to be very different this time around. I am calling the shots. I know what I need and if he can’t give that to me, I will look elsewhere. I have an awful lot of stuff to work through, even from just from this last year, and I’m getting nowhere on my own so I need to find someone who can really help me…on my terms and not someone else’s. Wish me luck!

At the end of August, I finally started doing my volunteer work for the Dawson McAllister Association. I am a HopeCoach on TheHopeLine (http://www.thehopeline.com/). It is a national help-line for young people ages 13 to 29. I had signed up last fall but with my own health problems, I was not able to start right away. I usually take calls on Sunday nights when the radio show is on, as that is when the need for volunteers is the greatest. Even though I continue to experience my life in all its drama, once I sign on and open the line for calls, I am the furthest thing from a victim. In my time talking to these young people, I have realized that I have learned SO, SO much over the years. I’ve even pulled stuff I learned back in 1985 and used it to help my callers. I’ll tell you, sometimes I am amazed how together I sound when I am being a HopeCoach! One gal even told me one night that I was the most amazing person she had ever talked to. Can you believe that? Oh, that was nice to hear!

I have thought for so many years that if I could not give back and use the things I have learned from all the terrible things that have happened to me in my life, it would all be in vain. I am finding that, as a HopeCoach, I am using those experiences, the things I’ve gone through, the things I’ve learned, often the hard way, to light the way for someone else. It’s a fascinatingly wonderful feeling. And it so cool to see how God works in all of it because I feel like most of the calls I get, I get them because I am supposed to. It’s also helped me a lot in my prayer life…in learning how to pray for others as well as my personal prayer life. That has been really cool too. I am so glad I am involved with this wonderful organization and I thank God for leading me there and giving me the courage and strength to keep doing it.

So…2010…I think it will go down in my record books as the Year of Broken Trust. Yes, someone broke my trust and in a very big way. In a way that still has me reeling and it’s been months. But it took a long time for that trust to develop so I suppose I could use the analogy “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” I honestly believe things could have been handled better but that’s how things went down…in a flurry of disappointment, confusion and anger. On the other hand, I did learn something about myself. When I trust someone to that level, I end up trusting that person more than myself. I am still deeply hurt by the whole situation but I know that this person is gone now and I have to learn to trust myself. I don’t know how much trust I have ever had in myself…that would explain some of my troubles with low self-esteem.

But I’m taking it all back now. I will never trust another person to the level that I trusted the person I lost. Partly because I don’t want to get hurt like that again, but also because I don’t think it’s the best thing for me. I am the only person I am going to be stuck with for 100% of the rest of my life so I have got to be able to “get along” with myself and trust myself. I have to take care of myself, stick up for myself and my rights, because no one else is going to do it for me. That’s why I have been forming a clear picture in my head of what I need out of my new therapist. I am not going to be pulled back into thinking that they always know best…because I know they don’t. I know what I need. My last therapist said that the past is past, over and done with, so it’s no use talking about it. What the hell kind of theory is that? I was molested when I was a teenager and I haven’t completely dealt with it. I had some awful things happen this year to me at the hands of providers, no less, and I need to work through it. I haven’t been able to get past it so I continue to place blame, feel the disappointment, confusion and anger. I’ve got to deal with this. So if my next therapist isn’t willing to talk about the past, I’m just going to say, “Sorry, this isn’t going to work out” and walk out the door. I trust that I know what is best for me at this point. And it’s not like I’m new at this game. I’ve had to find a way to deal with mental illness one way or another since I was 12 years old. I’m 46 now. That’s a lot of years and it’s about time I start giving myself some credit.

So to put it in a more positive light, I guess I could call 2010 The Year of Taking Back My Power or The Year of Self-Trust. After all the events from the beginning of the year, I have learned some things about my illness, or perhaps my eyes were just finally opened enough to see some things I needed to see. My new crisis plan is exactly what I needed and I actually use it now if I have to. And even though I have felt like a basket-case most of the year, it is to my credit that it does not look that way on the outside (at least not since my hospitalizations). I don’t know if someone like me will ever be completely rid of self-harm thoughts, but I’m finally realizing how that will harm others in my life and it helps me keep them in-check. I don’t know if I’ll ever be hospitalized again. Only the Good Lord knows that. With my track record and my kind of illness, it’s likely. But I won’t sit around and wait for it and I’m going to do the work I need to do, and maybe, just maybe, sanity will prevail. Wouldn't that be nice?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The "Wise Mind"

This morning I posted this as my status on Facebook:

“I think I need a double-shot of that 5 Hour Energy stuff...just not looking forward to dealing with my day but I don't really have much choice now, do I?”

We all have “those” days but unfortunately my depression makes me prone to them more often than I like to consider. We just came back from a fun weekend in Minneapolis (including a family reunion on my husband’s side of the family on Sunday) and I think I spent all of my energy…physical, emotional and mental…down there so there isn’t any left for me to use to deal with this week. That was OK yesterday. I managed to put off my 14 year olds pestering to DO SOMETHING and was able to finish a book and hang out in front of the TV. But I won’t be so lucky today. I have to make up for yesterday with him and then “extended family” time begins tonight. My brother and his family are coming from New Jersey and then this weekend we have the family reunion on my side of the family. It all takes energy.

Now I can imagine my family members reading that and thinking, “Gee…we take that much energy to deal with????” Please don’t take it that way. I can’t come up with the energy just to take a shower some days (but don’t worry…I’ll be clean this weekend!). It almost comes down to an art…trying to deal with all the things that are floating around in my head and still be in “the present.” That’s one thing that they are teaching in mental health circles nowadays…being in the present. It’s part of DBT. When asked, I always tell people it stands for Diabolical Behavior Torture. That kind of tells you how I’ve felt about it. It’s actually Dialectical Behavior Therapy and it’s all about staying in the moment and basically balancing your thoughts and emotions.

I’ve gone through two DBT classes in addition to everything they teach when you’re inpatient or in day treatment. My providers know that I’ve been sick to death of hearing about it, but this past winter and spring, I actually began to embrace that which is DBT. I told my psychiatrist not to fall of his chair after I told him that. The two big things about DBT: 1) Staying in the moment, which I’ve already mentioned. It’s about fully putting yourself in your current situation…not letting your mind wander to what is past or future. And you do so in a non-judgmental way…what is happening around you is neither good nor bad, it just is. 2) Wise Mind. Wise Mind involves balanced thinking. Here is the diagram for Wise Mind.

As you can see, the Wise Mind takes into consideration both what is rational and logical and what is emotional. There are times when it’s OK to be totally in one mind. Take for instance, a wedding. Emotions run high…and that’s perfectly acceptable to let yourself feel those emotions and let it show. However, if you’re sitting in court as a witness or for whatever reason, it may not really in your best interest to get all emotional. Wasn’t that Joe Friday on “Dragnet” who used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”? (You have to be pretty old like me to get that reference!) But that is what the rational mind is about…staying with the facts, what is logical and rational.

But our lives are not simply built on facts…we have these sometimes-messy emotions that make their way in and we have to deal with them. I have had to practice Wise Mind more in these last seven months than I think I ever have. Not only have I had to deal with the ups and downs of my illness, but also losing the person I trusted pretty much the most in this world…and having absolutely no say about it. I have been going through the grieving stages. This included denial, which is a really crappy one to deal with. That is where my Wise Mind has really had to work. I have all these feelings about this relationship and I don’t want it to end…I feel like I won’t even be able to survive it’s ending…but no matter how much my feelings make me fall apart, the fact remains that he is gone. Once I finally started to give up the denial, all I can do is focus on the rational and logical part of the whole situation. He is gone, I can’t do anything about it, and now I have to pick up the pieces of my life. The rational mind tells me that I can’t trust another person so implicitly again because then I start to trust that person more than I trust myself. And I think that’s what happened. When he was ripped away from me, and that’s exactly how it felt, it burned enough to make me realize that even though there may be other people there to help, in the end I can only really count on myself. It’s up to me. As one of my motivational sentences on my whiteboard says, “No one is in charge of your happiness but you.”

This whole entry today went in a totally different direction that what I had planned. A few weeks ago, when we were actually in town on the weekend to go to church, the confession that we read dealt with self-esteem and that’s what I wanted to write about. As thoughts began forming in my mind, I was seeing a connection between DBT and self-esteem...how you can use the DBT skills to work on your self-esteem. If no one is in charge of my happiness but me, I have to take that charge, don’t I? For so much of my life my self-esteem was in the pits, to put it very nicely, but it’s improved and I think the DBT skills can help in that area. And when saying the confession in church, I realized that I don't have to rely on just myself. I have a Godly Father who knows who I really am, without all those messy emotions to cloud the view. Maybe the confesssion will hit home for you too.

Dear Loving Father,
I must confess my self-esteem feels like a bobber in the ocean during a hurricane. It goes up and down, and all around, tossed to and fro, depending on the moment. I try to base it on other peoples’ opinions of me, and those opinions seem to change daily. I try to build it upon my successes and achievements that soon fade with time. My view of self always comes up short when I compare myself to others; my talents, looks, gifts and accomplishments. I’m sorry, Lord, for ignoring and forgetting your view of me. Restore in me a right, clear and true view of who you made me to be in You. Let me build my esteem on the rock of your love, acceptance and forgiveness as a true child of God. Not on the always changing ways of the world. Amen.

That confession involves some Wise Mind too. Comparisons bring up so many feelings about ourselves, but God is not in the comparing business. He loves us equally, fully and individually. If I rely solely on my emotions to tell myself who I am, it’s no wonder I can’t stand myself sometimes. But I am more than a bundle of crazy emotions. When I look at myself rationally and logically…and in a Wise Mind state…I see that I am thoughtful, caring, smart, fun, and a bunch of other things that God made me. I guess that’s the tough part…remembering who I am in God’s eyes...because he has the wisest mind of all.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

And they say there isn’t a perfect?

Not surprisingly, we went camping this past weekend again. We went to Itasca State Park for the second time this year. Craig’s best friend Tyler came with so we were a four-person family. That was very different for me…all this testosterone around! We kept busy, I only had about an hour to sit and relax and read, but that’s OK. Friday night we had our usual dinner and since it was such a beautiful night, I suggested we go for a boat ride on Lake Itasca. The water was pretty much like glass and it was almost majestic-like on the lake. We saw a couple of loons, even a deer on the hillside…something we rarely see. And one of the nicest things about the outing was that I think we have finally learned the right way to get the boat on the trailer. Amazing in itself.

Tyler had never been to Itasca so Saturday we went down to the Headwaters of the Mississippi so that he could experience that and after lunch we took the boys to Lake George and did some serious tubing. They had so much fun! I took a few pictures. I haven’t looked at them yet but I hope they turned out. It’s hard to take a picture when the boat is rocking up and down! And of course, I can’t tell you how much I love driving the boat! Allen finally had to ask me if he could drive. When the boys had gotten enough, we headed back to the campsite, and after being asked, literally, about 10 times what we were having for dinner (they were really trying to get on my nerves!), we had our taco hotdish (delicious and easy). Allen and I did the dishes and then we all headed to the beach.

Temps must have been in the upper 70s or low 80s and there was no wind at all. Since it was evening the beach wasn’t very busy. After we unloaded all of our stuff, I started walking into the water and didn’t hesitate a bit. It was just perfect. I kept walking and pretty soon just took a dive straight in. After being hot and sweating from working with the boat, fixing dinner and doing dishes, I could feel the comfortably cool water envelope me as I swam. It was heaven.

It was nearly dark by the time we got back to the campsite and Allen got a fire started. Even though I had been refreshed by the swim, I was too hot to be close to the fire. We threw one of these chemical packets that Craig has in the fire and it turns the flames different colors. It’s really neat.

This time we didn’t have one of our usual sites so we were back in the woods a little. I made the reservations almost a year ago so I don’t always remember what I’ve done…and of course it depends on availability too. Even though we didn’t have any grass, we were secluded and surrounded by shade (and we were able to put our awning down this time). We were afraid we were going to be totally attacked by bugs over the weekend being in that woody area, but we sat around the campfire Saturday night and not one bug or mosquito bothered us. The clouds had disappeared so we could see the stars between the trees and it was cooling off. It couldn’t have felt more perfect.

I sat there in my rocker in complete amazement. We had such a great day…down at the Headwaters, tubing, a perfect swim and now a campfire with no bugs and stars illuminating the sky above. Again…how lucky can I be? So much in my life seems to be falling apart, and even packing up on Friday was getting the best of me, but nothing and no one can take that splendidly contented feeling away from me. It may not come very often, but when it does, I own it and I basked in it Saturday night.

This morning the guys went to climb the fire tower (my bad ankle got me out of that) while I stayed behind and made fresh caramel rolls for breakfast and enjoyed a little quiet time to read. After that, as the mercury began to rise, we started packing up. We rolled out at 2:00 and headed to the beach for a couple hours. We like to do it that way so we can get cooled off after working up a sweat while packing up. It was a nice day although the wind was starting to pick up a little. I managed a bit of a sunburn on my face (I know…bad Mary Kay Consultant…I didn’t use my Day Solution with the facial sunscreen). After a swim and a change of clothes, we headed out. We stopped in Park Rapids at the Dairy Queen for a quick supper. Willy had his supper too and of course he got his small vanilla cup. I was walking toward him and he was just staring at me until he finally realized what I had. Oh, did he get excited! We spoil him, obviously.

So, another trip that has come and gone. Not too many left. Two family reunions, a weekend off (if it’s nice we may still go out to the lake for the day), and then its five days in Sioux Falls for site seeing and the LifeLight Christian Musical Festival—our second annual trip. We haven’t talked about September yet. We’ll have to see what it brings. It’s kind of sad knowing we’re counting down now, though I won’t miss the work. But its weekends like this one that I have to hold onto to bring me through the long no-camping winter. It's good to have the ability to close my eyes and meditate a little, bringing myself back to a campground and a wonderful night like Saturday night. They say there is no such thing as perfect, but Saturday came pretty close.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hitting you sideways...

I know I just posted yesterday, but I’m in the mood to write again today. It’s been a hot day here in the metro area. Allen had a fishing outing planned with the Men’s Ministry at church so we didn’t see him until about three this afternoon. Craig and I did some shopping. We’re doing some room switching…he’s moving to the downstairs bedroom and my craft room will be upstairs (I’m happy about that because I’ll actually have more room for my stuff). I’ve pretty much let Craig dictate how he wants his bedroom to look. I know I’ve heavily influenced his d├ęcor in the past so I wanted to give him more say this time. His bedding and posters have already arrived and we got paint today along with some other items. Now just to conjure up the energy to start painting! Didn’t start today though…spent some time in the pool instead.

In my first blog entry, I told you that this blog is about the “zoo” that is my life. Lately I’ve just been keeping you updated on what we’re up to, so I thought I should do a real check –in with you since it’s been a while.

I’ve seen my new therapist four times now. It’s going OK. She seems to be asking me the right questions, even if I don’t always like them. The mental health staff at MeritCare/Sanford aren’t doing anything to make me feel very welcome anymore. I had wanted to keep my same psychiatrist because I also see a neurologist at MC/S for migraine headaches. Medications prescribed for migraines often crossover to psych meds so I thought it would be better for those two doctors to be at the same place. But when I saw my psychiatrist last week, I felt a boatload of indifference from him. Of course, he told me it didn’t matter to him who I saw, but I still felt an attitude of “whatever” coming across. So I may end up getting a psychiatrist at Lakeland Mental Health just because I’m sick of MeritCare/Sanford and how they have treated me this year.

Unfortunately I haven’t been doing much journaling lately. I have been feeling somewhat depressed and have very little energy, but it seems that I have been choosing not to deal with the feelings that are lurking beneath. Cheryl, my therapist, manages to get to them when I see her and I don’t like that very much. Can you say DENIAL????? Last Wednesday I kept saying over and over to myself, “I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry.” Damnit if I couldn’t keep those tears back. The $64,000 question was: Is it OK to have these feelings? My answer: well, it’s supposed to be. Meaning…I’m not feeling like these feelings are OK. I’d like to treat them like TV mobsters treat their enemies: put them in a bucket of cement, let it harden and then throw it out to sea.

But I should know better than that. I’ve been dealing with unwanted feelings most of my life and my “homework” is to journal about my current feelings as well as the facts. I tend to distort facts and feelings often, as most people with measureable mental illness do (well, even those without mental illness can be prey to distorted thinking). I’m so sick of what has happened to me this year I just want to pull out of everything. Why do I need a therapist right now anyway? Cheryl told me she thinks I am making decisions based on emotions rather than fact. Well, uh, shit. I suppose she’s right.

But it’s hard to be in this place. I’m confused. I’m not supposed to trust people as much as I have in the past but yet how do I know where the line is? When pushed, the feelings that surface are, at the very least, uncomfortable. Feelings of sadness and loss. Abandonment. Frustration. Betrayal. Grief. Who wants to feel that stuff? And even more so, who wants to deal with it all? I’ve got things hitting me from all angles: mental health therapy, physical problems (my foot and ankle as well as my migraines), the lack of energy to keep up with “normal” day to day things, family concerns, financial concerns, etc. And clouding over everything is that feeling that I just don’t think I can deal with it all. Of course, I should know better there too because I have already been to hell and back a few times in my life…this is definitely not the worst year I’ve ever had. It’s easier to give in to the negative though.

I drew an Angel card before I started writing. I wanted to put it back and draw another but I know that’s cheating! My word is “Light.” Light can mean many things. The first thing I thought of was the light at the end of the tunnel. Have you heard the one about it being an oncoming train? That seems to be the way my life is a lot. If I look inside and find my spirituality, my relationship with God, I do remember that He is the Light. The Light and the Way, as a matter of fact. I think I am missing the crucial component of spirituality in my life…my personal relationship with God isn’t full of a lot of light right now. All the pastors I relied on for many years have moved on so I’ve kind of been in stasis for a couple years. I need to find someone who “gets” me and who can challenge my spirituality on my level. I don’t know where to find that person, but I do think it would help me…to get some Light back in my life again. To get in touch with my spirituality in God again. That may help everything else too.

For now, I need to look in the cages of my “zoo” that are messed up and start being honest at least with myself about the feelings that are rattling around in there. I do see where I’m holding back. My first psychiatrist, who I think is an absolute genius, said that you can’t avoid your feelings. If you do, they will hit you sideways when you’re not looking.

Been there, done that.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Home Sweet Home

We came home from our vacation at Lake Bemidji State Park last Sunday night. Rolled into the driveway about 8:00. It was such a beautiful day that day it was harder than usual to leave. As we often do, we got packed up and ready to roll, then after getting all hot and sweaty, went for a wonderful swim to cool off for the ride home. After about 30 miles, we passed Itasca State Park. I was tempted to radio Allen and Craig to ask them if they wanted to go camping there for another week.

We were having trouble getting internet service the last part of the week so I wasn’t able to keep up with my writing…I figured if I couldn’t post it, it would be “old news” by the time I did. I read two enjoyable books, however, which was nice. It’s hard to concentrate with my depression so reading isn’t very easy so I was happy to be able to get through two. We had pretty good weather last week, with a few rain storms. One evening, about 6:30, it had been raining and we heard a loud pounding on our trailer door. It was the campground host. There was a tornado warning out for the area and we were instructed to go to the basement Visitor’s Center or the restroom buildings. That was interesting to be in the Visitor’s Center with over half the campground…many people soaked to the skin from running to the building from their sites. Children, pets, teenage girls. We must have been there about 45 minutes until the warning expired. Apparently a tornado had touched down somewhere but we were fine. We used that as a movie night since we couldn’t do much else.

Saturday was another beautiful day, though it was a little windy. I didn’t have a lot of energy so I finished my second book but then I was anxious to get out on the lake. Craig wasn’t interested so Allen and I headed to the marina. On the way, I qualified the little expedition by telling Allen, “Only if I can drive.”

We don’t have a very fancy boat. It’s just a 16 foot Lund fishing boat with a 40 horse Johnson motor for power. Willy likes to lie underneath the steering column when we go out. The boat has actually been in our family for a few decades. My memory for dates is usually right on but this one is a little fuzzy. I’m guessing it was probably 1983 when my father bought it. You can see pictures of it in my blog entry dated June 3rd. After Dad felt he was done using it, it was passed on down to my brother Mark and he had it several years. A few years ago he was ready to upgrade so I jumped at the chance to get that boat. Allen has had a couple other boats during our marriage but none that really suited me. The first was a leaky fiberglass boat in which the trailer was as ugly as the boat. The next one was a little better. My stepson Kevin actually found it for us. This one had a floor in it but parts of it were rotten. Such a good kid…he replaced the floor and all of the indoor/outdoor carpet. It had a 30 horse motor on it, which was an improvement for us, but still didn’t take us anywhere very fast. I’m guessing it was 2005 when we inherited Dad’s boat. Finally¸ a steering wheel! And the extra 10 horse power really made a difference. It wasn’t long and we invested in a good tube, which even Allen, at his age, rides in.

A little background…
In 2005, we spent our week’s vacation at Lake Mille Lacs Kathio State Park near Brainerd. It was one of our favorite vacations. Craig loved it there. There was so much wildlife to see…deer all over the place. They had a great naturalist program. We learned about white-tailed deer, frogs and how the Native Americans made rope out of wood. My favorite part of the week was going on a canoe ride with Craig down the Rum River. The river was crystal clear…I saw a huge northern and we enjoyed paddling by the marshy sides.

The worst part of the week came the day before we left. Allen’s back went out. And I mean completely. He couldn’t move at all. I had to call an ambulance. Luckily my stepson Brian and his girlfriend were able to come to us so Brian could drive a vehicle home (because we had both the camper and boat with). At the time we still had our pop-up camper, which is relatively easy to handle so I didn’t have a problem with packing up and getting us going, even though it was tough doing both my jobs and Allen’s. The moral of this story is that I need to know how to take care of things if Allen isn’t able to. For instance, last weekend I had my first official lesson on how to hook up the trailer. It needs stabilizer bars and all this so it’s a little more complicated than the pop-up. Then there is the boat. What if we were out in the middle of the lake and, God forbid, Allen had a heart attack or something and I didn’t know how to work that boat? For that reason alone, I knew I had to learn.

Saturday as we reached the marina, I didn’t want Allen to do a thing. I did everything from hook up the depth finder (I like to know how deep of water I’m in), pump the air out of the gas line and prime the motor. I got her started on the second try. :)  I’m learning how to maneuver much better now too, backing up and such. I got us out of the channel and out on Lake Bemidji and pushed the throttle down. I pretty much circled the whole lake.

There is another side to this story though. Even though we are the third owners of the boat, in my mind, that boat is still my dad’s. When I’m sitting in that driver’s seat, I feel a kind of spiritual connection to him. Just about every time I’m in the boat, I think, who knew, 20+ years ago that I would own his boat and would be flying across the water, loving the feeling of the wind whipping through my hair? While towing the guys in the tube, I can’t help but think that Dad would be proud that I remember the lessons he taught me about boating and that I am able to handle it so well. Even the trailer. I’m the one who takes the boat so I do all the backing up and such. I get so frustrated with Allen because I think he still thinks I’m a “girl” and don’t know how to do that! But I can back that thing up into its tight little space between the garage and utility pole without a problem! (Hah!) And each time we launch and load, I get more involved so I can get to the point where I’ll be able to do that by myself as well.

So, another annual vacation has passed us by. We have four more camping trips scheduled and may add some in the fall. Next weekend we’re headed to Itasca again and Craig is bringing his best friend Tyler along. They are both very excited about that. Then to Minneapolis for a family reunion on Allen’s side. We’ll celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary that Friday, Twins game Saturday and reunion Sunday. The following weekend is my family reunion on Lake Sarah, near Mentor, MN. Then we get a weekend off before we take a five day trip to Sioux Falls. We’ll be staying at a state park near there. We have a couple of days for doing our own thing, but for the weekend, we’ll be at the LifeLight Music Festival to hear some of the best Christian bands out there. It will be our second trip to the festival.

It’s been a busy summer camping for us. Years ago, a psychologist told me that if I could just go on a perpetual camping trip, I would have no problems with my mental health. Well, I’ve had some very difficult stuff thrown at me this year so maybe that’s why I was prompted to fill our calendar so full when I was making reservations last year. Somebody up there is looking out for me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It Doesn't Feel Like Monday

It’s Monday. We’ve rested up after our first night. I don’t think I was ever as tired as I was Saturday night. We got here around 5:00 but it took us a couple of hours just to get set up. Somewhat of a camping nightmare. We found out just driving up to our site that it was not going to be user-friendly. It wouldn’t be so bad if you had a smaller trailer but our 26 foot trailer was feeling a little squished…even though I did request a big enough site. Turned out that if we parked the trailer in an “ideal” position, we couldn’t open the door. Not actually “ideal.” And we couldn’t back up the trailer further because there wasn’t enough clearance for the stabilizer jacks to pass over the cement slab. So we were stuck. We had to pull the trailer forward to clear the door and we are unable to use the awning. Which I really miss…especially since we will be here a week. I love sitting under the awning. It’s especially nice when it’s raining to be able to sit under there. Of course, not when there are gale force winds, but a soft rain makes it kind of relaxing under there. We do have a screen tent, however, so Craig and Allen did put that up. Which is good, because there are quite a few more bugs here than we’ve had to deal with this summer.

In any case, we had a heck of a time just to get the trailer level. One block, two blocks, back to one block. Allen even had to re-hitch the trailer to move it again. And then there was the boat. No good place to put it. Well, there’s a good place to put it, but next to impossible to back it up in there. Allen had this one bright idea to push it onto our site perpendicular to the road. It would not work. And so much for Minnesota-nice. Our neighbors sat there and stared at us like we were a three-ring circus, not offering help of any kind. In the end, I finally got Allen to listen to my idea and we got it backed up and parked. By this time we were hot, sweaty and sick and tired of all the rig-a-ma-roll. We managed to have a good supper of “best-ever hamburgers” and salads that my loving mother made for us. Craig actually loved the Spam salad! After supper I was so tired I didn’t even think I could make it through washing my face without falling asleep, but I did and then crawled into bed about 9:00 (I know that’s a shocker to my late-night friends).

Yesterday was a pretty lazy day. We tried to get internet but couldn’t…only to find out last night while it doesn’t work inside the trailer, it does work when we’re sitting out here at the picnic table. Go figure. Craig and I did some reading, Allen took a long nap, I tried to take a nap, we played some Wheel of Fortune with Craig. Nothing very strenuous. After dinner we went for a walk and ended up at the beach. Allen and Craig weren’t bothered by the humidity but it was killing me. Craig and I waded into the water, and once we got used to it, it felt kind of nice. Hence, the decision to go swimming. We walked backed to the campsite and got our suits on and went back to the beach. We washed our hair and enjoyed a good splash fight, all the while Willy was barking up a storm on the beach. I found a pail and filled it full of water and splashed him. He loves it. He barks and jumps, trying to catch the water.

I felt 100% better after that swim. The water was clear and felt just the right temperature after getting used to it. I was ready to come back to the camper and get ready for bed. I slept good last night and we had our breakfast muffins out on the picnic table this morning when Willy provided us with a wonderful laugh. We were watching as a small chipmunk was making his way to the screen tent. As soon as he got up to the tent and started rustling the bottom edge, Willy was on him like frosting on cake. He set a speed record going from the opposite side of the screen tent and under the picnic table. That chipmunk ran so fast I didn’t even see which way he went! And you’d think he’d learn. That little chipmunk is still hanging around the campsite. He’s been exploring the firepit where Craig put his breakfast plate. I’m not sure if Willy is going to figure out he can actually get out of the tent by going under it. Then there will be madness!

Cloudy day here today. Only about 70 degrees. We’re about to have some lunch and then I’m not sure what’s on the agenda. It’s sprinkling on and off so we may take a trip into town. Craig always wants to know what we’re going to do…and I don’t want to figure it out until we’re going to do it (when we’re camping at least), so we’ll see what the rest of the day brings.

P.S. I know the sign includes Claire's name but she's not with us. So far the camper has scared her to death, but we couldn't leave her name off! She is on guard duty at home.

A Different Point of View

This post was written on Saturday, July 17th.

It has finally come. Our annual week-long camping trip. This year: Lake Bemidji State Park.

It was “dual driving” for this trip. Lake Bemidji is not entirely located on state park property so they do not have the “no wake” laws and we can go tubing and such so we definitely wanted to have the boat with for our week here. When we both drive, Allen takes the trailer with his truck and I take the boat with my Explorer. When we first started the dual-driving, I always led. I suppose it could have been a “ladies first” thing, but I think Allen was mostly concerned that if I had a problem he wanted to make sure he didn’t keep going if I stopped. Since then, we now have a pair of good walkie-talkies to communicate with each other (and now all three of us have cell phones too) but I still lead. As I drive, I spend my time singing to whatever CD is blaring, talking to Willy, looking ahead to where I’m going and in the rear view mirror to make sure Allen’s still behind me. Sometimes I get a little heavy-footed for him, so I have to slow it down. He is pulling over three tons, after all.

Saturday I was having trouble getting situated though. My back was bothering me and my little pillow just wasn’t sitting right (my automatic lumbar support doesn’t work anymore). We weren’t even into our drive 30 minutes, and I had to pull over in Lake Park to get myself “re-situated.” I called Allen on the walkie-talkie and told him what I was going to do and asked him if he wanted to pull over with me or just keep going and I’ll catch up. He opted to keep going. So I pulled over into a liquor store parking lot (what else is there in Lake Park to pull into?) and adjust my pillow and whatnot. A few minutes later I was on my way again.

It’s kind of funny. I figure when people see me, a woman, pulling this boat around, then they see a man pulling a trailer behind me, I think they automatically assume we’re together. But at this point, I was on my own. Just a woman and her dog driving down Highways 10 and 34. I always think they must be wondering what in the world a woman is doing with her own boat. As if we can’t own and operate such things ourselves.

Anyway, I got through Detroit Lakes and onto Highway 34 to Park Rapids but I still hadn’t caught up to them. I tried the walkie-talkie, but with the hills and trees, I didn’t get a response. Finally my phone rang and it was Craig. Just then, on a long open stretch, I spotted them about a mile ahead of me. We’d meet at the Casey’s store just as you enter Park Rapids. That’s kind of our usual stopping place.

Usually when I drive, I see a picture somewhat like this in my rear view mirror:

Now, of course it doesn’t look like this, but I didn’t think to actually take a picture of my rear view mirror for you. That’s probably a good thing because I really should concentrate on my driving a little more the way it is.

I kept driving and pretty soon I caught up to them and this was my view.

I was struck by the difference. As we (meaning Willy and I) kept getting closer, there was this feeling of anticipation…we were getting closer to our family. When we were close enough, I excitedly told Willy, “There they are…there’s Papa and Craig!” He instantly woke up and put his front feet on the console between the seats, looking expectantly out the front window. I kept wondering if he actually recognized the trailer. The rest of the way to Park Rapids I just kept thinking how different it felt to be the follower instead of the followed. Driving alone, I felt a bit out of place. Like I was missing something. But when I caught up to Allen and could make out the “Wildwood” on the back of the trailer, I thought, “That’s mine…that’s ours. That is where I belong.” I felt part of a matched set again.

After our stop at Casey’s, Allen offered me the lead again and we were off…about 50 miles left. I took our usual route through Park Rapids and I started the familiar pattern of driving, singing, talking to Willy and checking my rear view mirror.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fourth of July Weekend

July 7, 2010

Well, we all survived July 4th for the year. We spent our weekend camping. No surprise, I’m sure. We went to Itasca State Park, home of the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Humidity was pretty much the word for the weekend. I just can’t deal with heat and humidity very well so I was happy to be able to escape to the trailer and air conditioned air. No, I am not spoiled, remember. I’ve paid my dues to have that A/C so I won’t feel guilty about it! Except for a very long-lasting thunderstorm Friday night to Saturday morning, at least it was decent weather aside of the H&H. After setting up, we were warm so we headed down to the headwaters. We always have to stop at the gift shop, no matter how often we go there. I got an unbelievably soft t-shirt—one that just makes you melt right into it. At the headwaters, we were all able to get in the water, including Willy, and cool off. Still dealing with foot pain, all the walking I did over the weekend was tough so I’ve been trying to stay off it the last couple of days. Can’t tomorrow though…gotta clean house.

Sunday night we went into Park Rapids for their fireworks display. It was phenomenal! We sat in a vacant lot with many others, right next to the river, where they seemed to have been shooting them off from. Some of the fireworks were so big and so close, it seemed like I could reach out and touch them. I actually had to slump down in my chair and rest my head against the back to see everything! They constantly had 3, 4, 5 or more rockets going off at a time. My regret: I didn't bring the camera. I could have had some awesome pictures for you. Oh well.

Going back to Friday...

Friday night I sat in my rocking chair under my awning…just sitting there and looking at what was going on around me. Mindfulness. Concentrating on just what was happening at the time, just what I was feeling at the time. I was amazed how contented I felt. Contentment is a feeling that is rather allusive to me. The trait can be found on my list of “characteristics of my ideal self.” It prompted me to pull out my journal.

From journal: Friday, July 2, 2010

Coming to you from Itasca State Park for a three-day weekend. It must be about 9 or 9:30. It’s a little humid but nice out tonight. I’ve been sitting here under my awning, rocking in my rocking chair, eating sunflower seeds to keep my hands busy and thinking how lucky I am. This is not a feeling that overtakes me very often. Usually I am dwelling on all of the bad things in my life and stand in puddles and puddles of negative emotions and distorted thinking. But right now, I sit here in all my “me-ness,” and I still feel lucky. I feel good. It’s like this is my kingdom. We may not have the longest or newest trailer in the park, but it provides us with everything we need and a lot more. We have the biggest awning made and I have nice outdoor carpeting under it so I can go barefoot and not get my feet full of sand and dirt. I love to go barefoot…especially when I can only wear one pair of shoes like right now. Red lantern patio lights flicker from the awning, a beautiful wood name plaque sits on the front of the trailer, next to our truck that doesn’t look like it’s falling apart…and again, this lovely trailer behind and around me.

All those years in a tent. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything (well, maybe a few I would…but those trips make for good stories—like the night I was visited by three skunks in my campsite). But now I sleep on a real mattress, I can take ice cream and other frozen items when we head out, we don’t have to lug coolers and worry about ice, when the heat and humidity get to me, and I can escape to air conditioned comfort, I can microwave a snack or bake cinnamon rolls in the morning.

I suppose all those appreciations are the difference between me and someone who started camping at this level. They take for granted all the amenities: refrigerator/freezer, microwave, oven, hot water, shower, etc. They don’t feel lucky. They probably don’t sit out here in near darkness writing in their journals about how lucky they feel to have what they have. Yes, we’re in debt up to our eyeballs, but being out here in this kingdom is really the only thing that brings that feeling of contentment for me. My life greatly lacks that quality. But here, tonight, under the awning of our 26 foot trailer, I sit with a smile on my face for a couple hours. All the bad stuff in my life is gone right now and I’m a contented person feeling so lucky to be having this experience. And it makes it all the better knowing how many more times I will sit in this spot yet again this summer.

Feels like nothing short of a miracle that I can feel this way.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The zoo's a mess

It’s been a few weeks since I visited my “zoo” so I thought it was time to come for a chat.

The day after my last post, June 4th, is the day I went in for my foot surgery. They fixed a bunion on my left foot that has been there ever since I can remember. The last year it’s gotten so bad that I can’t wear most of my shoes. I guess it’s a crapshoot how it’s going to feel but the whole ordeal has been extremely painful for me. Here it is, just over two weeks after my surgery and I’m STILL in major pain. I wanted to put pictures up of my foot but my mother told me not to! So here’s one where you can see my classy “boot” and half of a favorite pair of shoes that I haven’t been able to wear because of the bunion. That was on my birthday and I was decked out in green so I went all out and got the green nail polish too!

Yes, my birthday has come and gone for another year. Since I hit 40, I haven’t really looked forward to my birthdays. Allen just doesn’t understand it. And I don’t know if I do either, I just had a real hard time turning 40. Now I’m closer to 50 than 40. OMG. The only thing I could come up with is in regard to my depression. When I was younger and was so consumed by self-destructive thoughts, I didn’t think I’d make it to 40. And then…whoa…I did. Anyway, I try not to think about the day too much. If we’re in town, we always go to Paradiso to get my free dinner and we usually take the weekend before or after to go camping. I miss my Paradiso dinner if my birthday falls on the weekend…just like it falls on Father’s Day occasionally too. I did get my free dinner and a Long Island Tea this year so I was happy. My brother Mark and his wife Wanda joined us so I was happy to have them meet us.

As far as my “zoo,” it seems all the zoo keepers have abandoned me. The cages in my mind need cleaning and I feel all on my own and a bit overwhelmed. In March, the psychiatric staff decided I should no longer see my therapist of over 11 years. I saw him one day and we were deep into treatment planning for the year. The next day, I was admitted to the hospital and he came up with a letter and said he was concluding his care with me. Just like that. I’ve tried reaching him to get some kind of explanation and eventually get some closure, but I have the feeling he has been instructed not to have contact with me. Nice. I have no closure at all and it sickens me. We had a very close, honest therapeutic relationship and it seemed in a matter of a minute it was cut off and I don’t understand why. No one will explain it to me.

Since MeritCare...the new Sanford…seems to want to transfer all of my psychiatric help out of there, I have a therapist at Lakeland Mental Health Center now (a regional health care facility—I have a case manager from Lakeland also). I’ve seen her twice. First time wasn’t very productive, but the second time went better. I came right out and told her I didn’t want to see her…I want to see my old therapist. She feels it’s important that I get some closure from this too and thought it was rather odd the way it all happened…so it’s not just me thinking these things. She suggested some ideas of how to do this but it does require some contact with my former psychologist. And he’s not answering my emails. I’m ready to complete a grievance form because of the way all of this was handled. It’s not the first time I’ve been screwed by somebody in the psych department. The CEO of MeritCare got a letter from me back in 2002 because of some horrid treatment I received. And it created quite the stir too.

In any case, my therapist called in sick last week and I can’t get in to see her until a month from now. I’m thinking…why do I bother????? Everyone is telling me that I just can’t see a therapist forever (even though I know those that do). And for crying out loud, we were working on a good treatment plan. He set up an outline for me and I went right to work on it. And I was already trying to tackle the dependency issue…which I won’t get into…so I could start dealing with it with him as well. It’s just that I think everyone wants me to work on their timetable and I can’t. I have my own timetable that I have to work with. And I’ve told him that. Just like when he was trying to increase the time between sessions. It’s like they force you. But for me, when I am ready for it, it will happen. A couple of years ago, when I was able to work, I was doing very well. All of a sudden, he realized he hadn’t seen me in over a month. See??? I eventually get it! But when things headed south again, they forced the issue big time and now I kind of feel like the baby bird that got pushed out of the nest. And I feel like if I can’t get some closure and understanding about this whole thing, I am going to end up hating him, which is not something I want to happen.

So, what am I to do? I take one day at a time. Many days aren’t very productive but at least I’m not so plagued with self-destructive thoughts and such right now. That’s a big relief. It’s just this veil of depression hanging over me all of the time and I’m not grounded enough to be able to figure out where to go or what to do next. Nothing seems right…there’s an argument for every pro and every con. So I sit at the computer on Facebook, play computer Boggle, do crosswords, and watch three hours of “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched” every day, followed by three hours of NCIS. At least I’m getting a little better about getting to sleep at a decent time. That’s something I guess.

A cousin recently posted a comment on Facebook about the only person you can rely on is yourself. At first, I thought, how sad. That means you’re all alone and not able to trust anyone. But sometimes, I think she’s got it right. I know I can always count on Allen (my husband)…to just be there if nothing else. But for the big world out there, I don’t know. It can come with some pretty big blows sometimes. I’m getting tired of being hit by them.

Not leading up to such a positive ending to my blog today, am I? Well, this is my world…my “zoo.” I don’t think I have many readers but maybe something will hit home with someone. I’m always up for discussion too if you want to leave a comment or send me an email.

One bright spot every day around this house is our Willy. He finally got to the groomer’s yesterday. What a handsome “puppy.” He always makes me smile!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I had been planning for Memorial Day 2010 since Memorial Day 2009. Yes...I am a planner. And when you're camping at Minnesota State Parks, you have to be. They allow campers to make reservations up to one year in advance now, rather than the 90 day window they used until last year. Especially for Memorial Day, you gotta have a reservation somewhere. Campsites have become a very hot commodity all over. Many private campgrounds are switching to seasonal sites only and if they do have weekend spots, they come with a price tag that sometimes rivals that of a hotel. The Minnesota State Park system is set up with a maximum stay limit so there are no seasonal sites and they set aside a certain number of sites that cannot be reserved—are there on a first come, first served, basis. Especially at the more popular parks, these sites go fast. But all other sites are available for reserve one year in advance.

When I talk about camping, first you must understand something. Camping is not just a thing we do in my family. Camping is a way of life. I’ll bet if the labs could test for such things in my blood, they would find tree sap, lake water, seaweed (ewww), sand, bug spray, suntan lotion, campfire ash, and a whole bunch of other stuff that normally doesn’t show up. It’s like the only reason we have winter is so we can prepare for camping the next summer. I am in my mid-forties and not one single summer has gone by without camping. That includes the first one when Mom brought the diaper pail (no disposable diapers in the 60s, friends…gotta hand it to her). Even when I was on my own, I bought my own tent and never skipped a beat. In 1992, I bought myself a canoe. I wasn’t going to let “singlehood” keep me from doing what I loved.

Here's a few pictures of campsites and me with my canoe (Old Town...only way to go with a canoe!).


Suffice it to say that my future husband had to have some potential for camping as well. I’m happy to say that Allen slid right into camping mode quite well with me. We used my small blue Wenzel tent for several years, but when Craig wasn’t really a baby anymore, we needed more room and graduated to a full-sized Coleman tent. 2003 brought the great adventure: no more sleeping on the ground. We got a small Starcraft pop-up camper and we thought we had it made! And we really did. But when you have the camping bug, you’re always looking ahead. The 26’ travel trailer came in 2008 and we were star struck (and still are). And if you tell me I’m spoiled, I’m sorry but I will throw that back in your face because this body has laid on enough hard ground that I can say I paid my dues and now I can enjoy the conveniences I have in that trailer! (Little sore spot there….).

I couldn't find a really good picture of our Starcraft, but this was a campsite at Scenic State Park in northeastern Minnesota.

Here's a couple of pics of our trailer.

And here's Willy...staking a claim for his bed!

Anyway…I digress. Memorial Day weekend. When I was 11 years old, my parents had their graduation from a tent to a pop-up camper. My extended family on my mother’s side had a tradition of going to Upper Red Lake on the Minnesota fishing opener and Memorial Day weekends together and that was our first year to go. There must have been at least 25 annual trips after that for us. First we stayed at a very unstructured DNR (Dept of Natural Resources) campground—no set spaces, we just camped where we wanted. It was located on the Tamarac River, which flows into Upper Red, just a few miles north of Washkish, MN (about 70 miles northeast of Bemidji…see map).

We were on the eastern shore of the lake. Eventually, after Mom and Dad graduated again to a travel trailer, my dad would carefully pull up alongside my Uncle Vern’s motorhome, with just enough space so that the two awnings could be put down and meet. We would then place a tarp over the gap, leaving a small open space so that smoke from our campfire could get out. Then my older cousins would pull in on the sides with their camping units and we would put up tarps to have our own little shelter from the wind and rain (and believe me…we dealt with a lot of wind). We’d go out on the lake and catch our limit of walleye, come in and have a fish fry, then go out and catch our limit again. It was awesome. Eventually, the family made the change to Roger's Campground, a privately owned campground on the south side of the lake. By then, Dad had his own motorhome as well as a boat. It was always a treat for me to go camping with them in the motorhome…I didn’t have to sleep on the ground and my mother took care of me!!

Here's Dad at the "helm" of his motorhome.

Just to give you an idea how passionate we are about our camping, in the early 1980s, my mother had surgery on her foot. But did that stop us from our annual pilgrimage? Certainly not! Here you can see my mom in the boat with her special boot on her foot and a crutch in one hand. And as history often repeats itself, I am going to have the same surgery tomorrow, so I will be going on a few camping trips with my boot and crutch too!

We also endured ridiculous weather. Here you can see my dad and two brothers dressed up in winter coats just to go out fishing.

One day when we were staying at Roger's, my father and I went out together and we headed toward the northeast shore--toward the mouth of the Tamarac River. It was a beautiful day. I suppose we caught some fish, but that's not what I remember. I remember a beautiful day on the lake with my dad. We fished and talked and didn't really worry about anything. Then all of a sudden we realized, after watching a gorgeous sunset, that it was getting dark and we had a long way to go to get back. "Do you suppose we can find it?" was his question. To our advantage, the water was calm so we could go full throttle. About halfway back, here we see my Uncle Floyd flying across the lake in his boat. They were worried because it had gotten so late so he came out looking for us. We made it back, of course, and it left me with one of my most favorite memories.

Here's another pic...the dark shadow in the middle is actually a small peninsula that formed a channel for the boats to come in off the lake. It formed Shotley Brook...which is where I was canoeing in the picture above.

Our trips dwindled with the dwindling walleye population. There was such a negative impact on the walleye that it became illegal to take any. The DNR spent several years trying to restock it. There was a crappie boom in there for a few years, which we took advantage of in 2003, but it just wasn’t the same as walleye.

Last year, I was getting nostalgic. I wanted to bring Craig up to where I spent so many weekends. With the walleye restocked (limit is up to 4 now), I just knew we were going to catch fish…and fresh Upper Red walleye is about the only kind I go for. In 1990, the state park system took control of more of the land and made the area into the Big Bog State Recreational Area. Just a few miles north of the campground is a mile long bog walk where you can enjoy nature at its finest. They also put a lot of work into the campground. It is now up to par with other state parks (Yay! No more outhouse!) Well, unfortunately, I got distracted last year and missed my earliest reservation date. Panicking, I signed on to the state park website and found ONE spot left, which I quickly reserved. Then I just had to print out my confirmation page, put it in my camping file…and wait a year.

Well, the year came last week and I was so excited. We got there about 8:30 on Friday, so we had plenty of time to set up before it got dark. The next morning we took the boat (we inherited the one pictured above) out on the lake. Now, as you can see from the map, this is a pretty big lake—and it’s famous for its wind. We headed south from the mouth of the river. We didn’t catch anything that morning…except Craig and his bad case of motion sickness. Not good at all. We headed back in and had a lazy afternoon. After an early supper, we wanted to go out again. Craig—not so much. Again, he’s growing up so much…we let him stay behind with Willy and Allen and I went out. I didn’t think he should go out alone with that wind and I just wanted to fish! The wind had died down some and this time we went way over to the north shore. Allen started getting disgusted (this is a man who has patience for just about anything except when it comes to fishing) and then he finally got himself a walleye. Not long after, one hit on my line. Then we had some action. In about three hours, we got our total limit of eight walleye…two the maximum length of 17”. I was SO happy! Walleye fish fry!

This is the Tamarac River leading out to Upper Red Lake....and one of the fish Allen caught. Kinda hard to take a straight picture with all the waves!


Sunday it was cloudy and very windy again so we didn’t even go out on the lake. We took a ride up the Tamarac River to sight-see, took a walk, a nap, and of course, had our fish fry.

Both Craig and Willy liked the calmness of the river versus the waves of the lake!

Deciding to go out early Monday before we left, we got on the water despite all of the white caps. I should have known better from past experience. Even with a Dramamine, Craig still got motion sickness and I think Willy did too. Allen caught two fish: one walleye and one northern pike. By the time we decided to head back to the campground, there were three foot waves coming over the side of the boat at times. And yes, we did get wet. Live and learn.

Afternoon came and it was time to go home. I know I certainly didn’t want to but I guess I feel that way just about every time we go camping. It’s about a 200 mile drive and it felt like about 400 coming home on Monday so we were all tired. Tuesday night we went to my parents and had a fish fry to eat up the rest of our catch.

So, our first camping trip of 2010 is done. A special one for me. A memorable one for Craig—he’s going to be very cautious about going on that lake again. In a couple weeks, we head to Lake Carlos State Park, north of Alexandria, Minnesota. It will be tough to get ready with my surgery boot on…but I guess that’s what kids are for, huh?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Is it possible I didn't spend my entire Saturday lazing away?

Have you seen those commercials for antidepressants? I think it's the Cymbalta one I'm thinking of. They ask things like, "What do you feel like doing when you're depressed? Nothing. Who do feel like being with? No one." And on and on. Whenever I see the commercial I roll my eyes and answer back like someone can hear me. Of course we know we don't want to do anything, be with anybody and a whole slew of other things. That's one of the reasons I really need to do my regular physical activity (remember, I don't use the word exercise). I sit around all day because I don't feel like doing anything. Sometimes all I can do is sit and eat...other times, food just doesn't taste good. (The Cheetos I'm munching on now taste good though).

In any case, that's most of my days. I find "things to do" that really aren't necessary; I sit and watch TV, now I can sit and play Wii all day. I don't exert myself at all.

But today was different.

Craig had two friends over last night for his birthday party. I was up by 10 because I needed to feed these kids before they left. Well, actually Allen ended up making the pancakes but I got out there in time to pour the juice! The boys were both gone by about 11:30. I sat with Craig for a while as he showed me some of the games on the new Wii disk we gave him as an early birthday gift. After that I came upstairs and saw the trailer in the driveway with the awning down. It's been down for a few days now because it needs to be cleaned. Moisture seeps in from the sides during the winter and it smells--well, it smells really bad. Don't ask me where it came from, but I heard myself saying, I've gotta clean that awning. No excuses or procrastination. Didn’t have to conjure up the energy with a pep talk. It was just time to do it so I grabbed a dishpan and got a Lysol and water mix going and grabbed my Swiffer.

As I'm doing this, I am not paying attention to the weather outside. The wind had picked up and if you know anything about awnings, they can be destroyed by winds. I saw it shaking around and then Allen, who was out on an errand, called to tell me to roll up the awning. So I hollered for Craig and we went to put it up. As long as it gets done before next weekend, it'll be fine. Here you can see it with the awning up. I couldn't find a picture with it down, but at least you can see our trailer here.

But now I was all ready to work with nothing to do. Until I looked out another kitchen window.

We put up a pool in our backyard every summer and I thought we should do it today. We’ll be gone next weekend and the following weekend I’ll be recovering from foot surgery so I won’t be of much help. It just made sense to do it today. So Allen was out in the shed getting things out and he hears a cat. Well, it turned out to be our completely indoor cat Claire. Somehow she got out…I’m thinking last night. Allen yelled for me and I ran out. She was huddled under the snow blower, just meowing a kitty-cry. I talked to her and finally got her out. Poor kitty. If she was out all night, and especially with the rain, she must have been scared to death. Here's the shed. She was under the red snow blower in the back.

One of the jobs I knew I had to do to get ready to put the pool up was to try and level out the ground better. I worked with the shovel to try move the dirt around, dig up weeds and make it more level. I also hadn’t clipped the grass around the sides of the fence for a long while and it looked terrible. Soon my wonderful husband came to help. He clipped and I followed with the mower and we did inside and out. Looks so much better now. Where did this couch potato get the energy to do that?

So then the pool. We couldn't decide if we should put it up or not because it was so windy and it looked like it might rain. But with the rain, if we didn't put the pool up, we'd have to wait for the ground to dry again. So we opted to put it up. Oh my stars. Even when we got it set up right, the wind would take it. Finally Allen ingeniously tied the pool to the fence in all directions to keep it from blowing down. And it worked great! You can see some of the ropes on the picture below if you look carefully.

So...let's go get the hose. For some reason I am always the one who gets to go in the pool and "play" with water coming at me that is probably 50 degrees or less. The bottom of the pool has to be completely smoothed out...there can't be any wrinkles or folds. So here I'm going crazy trying to get wrinkles and folds out that just don't want to come out! I was hollering orders at Allen and Craig to do this and that on the outside of the pool. It has to be done fast once water is going in. Just an inch of water in the pool and it makes it too heavy to move. Sounds impossible, but water is heavy.

Well, I managed to get it pretty smooth in the end but the side of the pool is twisted a little. I'm hoping (crossing my fingers and toes) that won't cause a problem. I just checked on it. It's four feet deep and 15 feet in diameter so it will take a while to fill. I think we started filling about 3 or 3:30 and I don't know if it will be full by the time we go to bed tonight. It's a lot of water, that's for sure. And tomorrow I get to start messing with the chemicals again. Can hardly wait.

Of course, Willy is always where the action is. Between cutting grass, leveling dirt, getting the pool up, he always brings a ball to be thrown.

Allen and I finally made it back inside around 6. I was going all day. I wrote the word “motivation” at the top of this blog because that’s what I felt today. I can’t tell you when was the last time I had the physical energy or mental motivation to get as much work done as I did today. It felt good. I could have been sitting on the couch watching the movie I taped last night just before I went to bed and doing my crosswords. Or been in the basement playing with the Wii. Craig is at Grandma and Grandpa’s so Mommy can play all she wants! But I didn’t. I was a responsible home-owner today and took care of my home. It feels good. I wasn’t worrying about my depression, dreading upcoming events, or being bothered by self-destructive thoughts. I was what we call in the mental health circle, “mindful.” I was in the moment. Not worrying about the last minute or the next…just right now.

Well, I guess I was looking ahead a little. I’m praying for a hot summer and being able to get up and take a swim in my own pool in the morning. Nothing like a 10 AM swim for me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

This week at Nancy's Zoo

Happy Friday, everyone. Not a lot of poop in the zoo cages this week but I feel like I just completed two or three weeks in one so I'm a little out of it. I was discharged from the Partial Hospitalization Program on Tuesday so I’ve been on my own ever since. Hasn’t gone the greatest unless you’re counting how much sleep I’ve been catching up on. I saw my new therapist on Wednesday. I met with her once before for an intake and just didn’t remember her. Doesn’t seem promising to me. This week I’ve been dealing with a lot of strong emotions in regard to my former therapist and his walkout. Not sure what to do with them yet so they sit there and stew.

On the plus side, I have gotten started on my Wii fitness plan! Yay! I’ve done it three times already and plan to go again once I’m done with my blog. I’m only doing 15 minutes at a time but I figure it’s best to start slow so I make it a little easier to do. Once I get in a good weekly routine with that, I can increase my time. I also got a ton of paperwork done…which was grueling. I’m trying to apply for some financial assistance with my medical bills and I had to find a bunch of documents and complete forms. Today one of my goals is to deliver it all.

I can hardly believe it, but Tuesday, May 25th, my Craig is going to be 14 years old. I can still remember looking at him and wondering what he would look like when he was two. His birthday parties have run the gamut…from his entire class to just two other boys coming for a sleepover tonight. Two boys is much better than 20+ (especially in our small house). We’ll have pizza, snacks, cake. The boys will watch movies and play the Wii (so I’d better get my Wii time in during the day…I got hooked on tennis last night!).

I have a set of cards called “Angel Cards.” We used to use them regularly in day hospital and I liked them so I bought myself a set. Each card has a different word on it and the object for using them is to talk about whatever is on the card…what it means to you and such. I thought this might be a good thing for an occasional blog entry so I picked a card today. “Adventure.” Of course, you never want to stick with the card you pick but somehow I’ll figure it out!

Adventure. I can look at it two ways: positively and negatively. It’s kind of my nature to lean toward the negative but that defeats the purpose of the cards. As I look at the last few months and then again toward the coming months, I guess you could say it’s an adventure of some sort. What has happened feels very negative, but if I take the word at face value, all the new things happening in my life could be considered an adventure. After spending so many years with the same therapist, I am now forced to walk on my own two feet. I feel lost and angry, just to name a few things, but I have to figure it out for myself. If I try to think positively, which is usually hard for me, I could think of this as an adventure into self-discovery and hopefully on to self-actualization (reaching my potential). That would be ideal but unfortunately, so much of my life has been less than ideal that it seems like a very tall order.

On the other hand, I could use a different definition of “adventure.” The adventure of doing things in life: our camping experiences, for one. Memorial Day weekend, we are going to Upper Red Lake, north of Bemidji, to camp like I did when I was a kid. I want Craig to experience that and I can hardly wait. Not only that, but all of our camping adventures. We try to visit new places every year and experience new things. This is good for Allen and me but it also gives Craig memories he’ll keep with him for a lifetime.

Well, my adventure for the day is my Wii Fit, and then of course I’ll have to bowl or play tennis to cool down a little, then a shower and off on errands: making copies of paperwork and dropping it all off and grocery shopping for Craig’s party tonight. He’s also getting one gift from us tonight so I have to pick that up too. Just normal “mom stuff.” I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it? Not all the drama of my emotional life. Maybe I can put it on the back burner for today and give myself a break. How does that sound?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Last week at the zoo

Haven't stopped by my zoo for about a week or so, so I thought I'd better come and check the cages. :) Been a busy week for me...dealt with some "poop" in a cage again. I've been busy going to my day hospital treatment (PHP--Partial Hospitalization Program) every day and just trying to cope. You know how there is always that one person in a crowd that just makes things more difficult for you? Well, I've definitely got one. I just walked out one day I couldn't stand her anymore. Turns out I'm not the only one who she drives crazy so that made me feel a little better.

I was thinking about my depression tonight and thought it would be good to give you some information on what clinical depression is. This list of symptoms comes from the Mental Health Association of America.

Symptoms of Clinical Depression:
•Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
•Sleeping too much or too little, middle of the night or early morning waking
•Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
•Loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex
•Restlessness, irritability
•Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (such as chronic pain or digestive disorders)
•Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
•Fatigue or loss of energy
•Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
•Thoughts of suicide or death

If you have five or more of these symptoms for two weeks or more, you could have clinical depression and should see your doctor or a qualified mental health professional for help.

To see the complete fact sheet, visit http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/information/get-info/depression/depression-what-you-need-to-know/depression-what-you-need-to-know . WebMD also has some good information. http://www.webmd.com/depression/default.htm is another resource for you to learn more about depression and what can be done for it.

For me, that short list above is pretty inclusive. I deal with most of them on a regular basis when my depression is acting up. What's hard is when a person with depression runs into someone who has a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" attitude. Sure, there are times in everyone's life when things aren't going our way and maybe we feel a little sorry for ourselves and we just need to get over it and keep living. But that's not depression. With depression, you don't even have bootstraps to pull up. Those symptoms listed above sap everything out of you, and with some people it even saps the will to live out of them, much less leave them with the strength to just "get over it."

In the "biography" I started with my first post, I left off at the summer after high school. If you recall, I overdosed on my antidepressant and ended up in ICU. I'm sure you've figured out by now that I did end up making it. I spent about six weeks on the hospital psychiatric floor. I started seeing one psychiatrist but shortly after I went under the care of a new one. His name was Dr. Gaughan (just like "gone"). He was great. I saw him for about a year--that was freshman year in college. The sexual abuse and a lot of other "stuff" was buried deep down so that didn't come out at all. Therapy was mostly about coping and living my life day to day. July 1983, I opted to quit seeing him.

My life changed a lot after that. I met a man who I thought would be there for the rest of my life. We were very close, even though I had some trouble committing at first. I didn't realize the seriousness of what happened to me, but it was still brewing underneath. To make a long story short, which I can seldom do ;), as I got closer to this man, the more the emotions and turmoil came to the surface regarding the abuse I endured. And it was noticeable. Even to my boyfriend. So, I went back to seeing Dr. Gaughan in June 1984. That is when we started talking about my abuser a little bit. At my last appointment in December I told him I was going to quit coming. Looking back, I think I was subconsciously scared to death. We were getting closer to things that I didn't really want to talk about, feel or admit about the abuse.

During this time I was also making some changes in my school goals and spent some time with a career counselor at the college. As we talked, my depression came up and he told me about a Depression Management Group that would probably be a good fit for me. Well, it was. We met weekly...just a small group. What was most helpful was that in April I fell apart (I was "single" again by this time). My counselor called Dr. Gaughan's office for me and relayed my situation...extremely depressed, suicidal, hopeless, and overwhelmed with it all. Dr. Gaughan ended up calling me back and I seem to remember talking with him for over an hour. We finally decided it would be best if I checked myself into the hospital.

Initially, Dr. Gaughan did not put me on medication, but after about three weeks or so, he felt I should be getting better. He thought my symptoms were purely related to the breakup of the relationship with this man but if that were the case, I would be getting better. He placed me on a medication and we waited for it to take effect.

Well, that brings us up to May 1985. '85 is what I call "The Year From Hell" so that gives you an idea of what is to come. Enough for tonight.

So, what is to come this week? I'll start PHP again tomorrow and we'll see what happens. I finally started my Wii fitness the other day so my goal for the week is to keep that up and then I’ll be keeping an eye on all of my “cages” to see they stay relatively clean! Here’s to a good week to you also. :)