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Poverty & Mental Illness

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I can speak only to what I know of the subjects of poverty and mental illness. I’m sure studies have been done regarding the link between the two, but this isn’t about those studies. Nor do I mean to imply that people who are middle class or wealthy cannot have mental illnesses. It happens, I know, across all demographics. However, I do question the link between chronic, persistent mental illness and not having enough money to meet basic human needs. I, at least, have a job and insurance so that I can see a doctor and afford my medications, and somehow, with the help of food pantries, help from family and payday loans (a very poor solution, that one, but sometimes necessary when you run out of gas money or toilet paper before payday). My anxiety level has been so high almost constantly for the past few years. If you’ve never struggled to provide for your family, you may not understand. If you’ve never had a panic attack, you may not understand. Right now, even with the medication for anxiety and for depression (because, though I have bipolar disorder, I’m depressed much more often than I am manic), I’m not myself and not really sure who that self is anymore. I wanted better for my children than this. I grew up poor. You’d think I’d be used to it, right? Even as a child, I worried about money, rarely asked for anything because I didn’t want my parents to feel bad that they couldn’t afford something that wasn’t a necessity. I cry myself to sleep. I am trying so hard to be a good person, a good wife and mother and a good provider. I am trying so hard to trust that God’s providence covers us too, but at this moment, having to choose gas for the car so I can go to and from work over buying groceries, I feel like a failure. On top of the anxiety and depression, there is the poverty. Poverty is full of fear for me. It is also full of shame because as much stigma surrounds it as surrounds mental illnesses. I am just a person. I like to laugh, I love my family and if I could just be happy, I would. I often wonder, if I wasn’t always feeling like I’m walking on a thin, almost invisible line between having enough and not having enough, would I still have panic attacks? Would I still cry myself to sleep and be so easily irritated that I feel as though I’d be better off alone? I can’t answer those questions. I can only repeat that I am just a person, like anyone else.

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Breaking Again


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Shattered wings in effort to flutter
These are the pulse at my throat
Closed tight with knowing fear
Too many times it’s all fallen apart
For intuition to be blind to symptoms
The answers soon to come
Will attempt to pacify
Then if broken heart cannot trust
Sufficiently to continue love
Hatred will spew and threats ensue
Because you know my weakness.
It isn’t all forgiveness.
It isn’t always pretty.
Ask yourself
If the fears running circles through my mind
Zinging through my veins
Are firmly rooted in truth
Do you honestly prefer I stay
Out of merely fear
And no feeling more dear?

Life *is* short

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I love the message in this, although admittedly, I allow fear to hold me back fairly often.  I strive not to be fearless, but I pray for the strength to do what is right for my life despite the fear.

Pills in my hand & down the hatch

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My hand is empty now.  In about seven hours, it will fill with nine pills to swallow, two for anxiety, three for diabetes, one for depression, one for pain (don’t worry, just ibuprofen), one for high blood pressure and one for something the details of which I’m not getting into here and now, as I’m awaiting test results.

The pills concerning me now are those for depression & anxiety.  I’m not sure whether they are working or not.  I thought they were, but since I’ve been physically sick and in pain the past few days, I begin to feel paranoid.  Mostly this concerns my job and, quite honestly, I’ve often felt paranoid about my  job over the last five years or so.  It’s rather uncomfortable.  It causes me to lose sleep.  Faking a smile all day is a means to an end, because I must provide for my family, but how well am I really providing if all I’ve left to give of myself at the end of the day is frustration and paranoia? 

So, again, maybe it’s all me, maybe the meds aren’t working.  Or maybe I’ve reason to fear.  Or maybe a combination of both.  I only know it’s exhausting and I don’t like myself much when I feel this way.

At any rate, I’ll talk to my doctor, perhaps try something else and perhaps it will allow me to just go to work and do the job I know I do well without the sense of dread that has been filling me for so long.

Leftovers


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Unsettled, always shaken
Into total misunderstanding of myself,
I feel terrorized, demonized,
Demoralized and victimized,
Always always left with a bitter bile,
So dark, so vile,
Bubbling to the surface I try to hide,
Taking all inside:
The doubt, the fear, the deepening
Feelings of abject violation,
Victimized no less by subjection to
A place that frightens me so now,
After all these years,
A situation in which daily
I feel I easily fall once more into
This role of powerlessness,
No less I say than that to which I was subjected
As an innocent child of four years age,
No less than the jaded girl aged eleven;
I’m not as stupid, though, as you may guess,
Despite my lack of education and
Apparent appearance as filthy white trash from where you sit.
I wonder at your
Propensity to draw near to you
Those you know
Suffer in one or another way a lack of balance.
Every bully has a favorite type,
A legal perpetrator penetrating
To the heart of the matter
Shattering any small semblance of balance,
Until day appears night to me,
Until it seems I am always wrong,
Until I am the child once more shaking in fear
Of what comes next.
I believe I’ve let it go too far, too long,
My own children one too many nights
Have seen Mommy cry and wish to die.
I cannot speak for anyone else,
But this nasty darkness in my soul
Consuming me is no longer worth meager reward,
An occasional “atta girl”
Tossed in with veiled threats
And barely-hidden contempt.
I feel sick, sickened in so many ways.
Paranoia has once more taken root;
Congratulations.
Soon this must end,
If I am to survive,
Maybe not to you,
But my life is worth more than this,
My family deserve better from me
Than the leftovers I am becoming.

Overcoming/Fear of Judgment


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Taking a deep breath right now.  I stayed home from work today to go to the doctor.  I’m not feeling well.  The toddler of course wants to play and get into everything, walking is painful and others’ judgment of me/my parenting skills, my family, make me want again to stop being open and honest.  Unless someone has taken the time to read some of my former posts, I really feel he or she is only going to have that harsh judgment of me after reading a post like yesterday’s about chaos.  I find it frustrating, but at the same time, I expect it.  I try to just deal with it.  I know not everyone is going to understand or even want to understand.  I also know, however, that I’m not alone.

I’m not the only person who lives with anxiety and mood swings and tries to balance a full time job and family.  I’m not the only one who inherited an illness from a parent and likely passed it on to my own child (I will know more conclusively when I receive the results of my older daughter’s psychological testing).  Not everyone will understand this.  Really, how much can any one person understand another’s experience, when no two people have the exact same experience?

So, does that mean I really am alone?  That you out there reading this, even if you feel you can relate, are really alone too?  Is it futile for me to be open about my mental illness and how it affects me, my family, my whole life?  Should I just accept that stigma will be a part of my life and my daughter’s life?

I have not given up thus far.  Despite panic that sometimes paralyzes me, I get up in the morning and go to work (except when I’m sick, or like today, dealing with painful cysts that don’t allow me to walk or sit without pain).  I set boundaries for my children and enforce them when I’m not at work.  I do my best to clean house, spend time with my spouse and children, nurture the few close friendships I choose to maintain and even to be as positive as I can be.  I praise God daily for what I do have and try to focus on those things.  I’m not & never will be perfect and I accept that.

I overcome my illnesses every day by just getting out of bed.  Most people can never fully appreciate that truth and it certainly doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, but I remember weeks when my mother didn’t overcome the same illness even to that extent and I have to give myself credit for the many ways in which I have overcome and continue to overcome.  Glory to God in the strength to do so, but believe me when I say that sometimes in this illness, the choice to believe in Him and trust Him is not the easiest one to make.

I make it anyway.  Because I’ve made that choice, I also know that now isn’t the time to give up.  You don’t understand?  Okay.  You’ve never lived with a mental illness, you believe this is not real or that it’s an excuse?  You are entitled to your opinion and I will pray that no one about whom you care ever finds him or herself living with these struggles.  I will also never understand you.

When the Monster Lives Inside


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There are days, like this one, when I feel as though if I were to die on this day, my children, or at least my older daughter, would only be glad.

I hardly cry anymore over her behaviors, over the “I hate you”-s and her efforts (& often successes) to break things.  Inside, I’m still crying, but I’m also just so tired.  On top of that, my two-year-old sees and copies her sister, so I hear the word hate from her as well, every time she doesn’t get her way. 
I think I probably know fairly well how my older daughter is feeling, but while I do have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, I always thought, once I reached adulthood, that my anxiety, my depression, my feelings of worthlessness were the results of the sexual abuse I had endured and of my mother’s apathy.  Because this child’s reality has been so very different from what mine was, I am rethinking what I thought I knew about myself.

My daughter has never had to stuff her emotions to avoid losing my love, as I felt I had to do when I was young.  Had I been secure in that motherlove, I may well not have been the docile but withdrawn child I was most of the time.

I blame myself for most of my child’s problems.  She really is a good girl, so creative, polite and generous with others, very funny & witty, but yes, she’s seen me so low I isolated us both… she’s seen me crying without knowing why… she has heard me when I’m telling myself I’m worthless.  How scary for a child.  All I’ve ever wanted as a mom was to love my kids, to teach them well, to raise them to be more confident and self-assured than I am, to just know they are happy, healthy, well-adjusted.  I feel like I’ve already failed my older daughter.  She is nearly ten years old & she behaves fine at school & usually at friends’ houses, but at home, she behaves as if she has no control over herself whatsoever.  She has broken furniture, others’ belongings, punched and kicked people & objects, the violence she exhibits would have put me in the hospital at my parents’ hands had I acted that way as a child.

I’m doing the best I can as a mom.  I get so much judgment, ironically a lot from my mom, but also in the “well-meaning” advice of others who have never had a child who behaves this way.

So tell me it’s all my fault.  That I’m a bad mother.

Tell me I’ve done everything wrong.

I want so badly just to hold her in my arms like I did when she was small and cover her face in kisses and tell her how much I love her, how special she is.  Maybe I didn’t do that enough when she was little.  Maybe I was, maybe I am, a horrible mom. 

My heart is so broken.

I’ve never had any testing done on my daughter up to this point; I didn’t want her to be medicated.  She is scheduled for psychological testing this month, though, and it is my hope that between the psychologist and her pediatrician, we can find a regime of medication and behavior modification that will help her to be calmer and less dangerously impulsive.

I think back to when I was her age; she is only a year younger than I was when I attempted suicide the first time.  I obviously didn’t know how to do it, but I took almost an entire bottle of ibuprofen.  I scared myself; I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about that.  This is all beside the point.  My point is:  I fear for her.  If she is willing to punch & kick me, what might she do to herself?

There are days, like today, when I feel as though the biggest mistake I ever made was becoming a mother.  Not because I don’t love my children – they are my world – but because of the demons they have likely inherited from me.

I know this sounds very negative; it’s not meant to.  I adore my girls.  I have so much hope for their futures, but also so much fear.  In these feelings, am I really so different from any other mom?