I often think about how I was when I was younger. I was a happy child and I entertained myself easily with games and toys. My mom could and did bring me everywhere with her because I was so easy. I had my own desk supplies; I would tape and staple random papers together and then show my mom what I made. She says I was a simple child.
So what happened? I ask myself all of the time, where did that happy little girl go? I know what happened when I was a teenager, hormones. But what about the rest of the time? It seems like bipolar disorder took over my mind and body. I think that’s pretty accurate. I feel as if I’m the exact opposite of who I was when I was a child. I wish I could be that happy kid again. I know it’s not going to happen, but when I remember being that happy-go-lucky child, I can smile. That is a gift in itself.
Another one of the life lessons I learned many years ago was that family should always be a priority. No one can replace your family or take their place. There are people in life that we become so close to that they feel like family, which is wonderful, but still, no one can take the place of your parents, siblings, or extended family. I am becoming closer with some of my family members and I’m also struggling to get along with some others. However, I have decided that I am going to be the type of person who reaches out to her family members. Even if they don’t respond to me or respond to my inquiries, I am still going to be a person works to stay connected with her family members.
I have learned more from my family than I have learned anywhere else in life. A few of the things I have learned include how to love and support others, how not to give up on someone, and how to be a person of honor and integrity. I have learned all of these things by watching my family members live their lives. My parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and even my nieces and nephew have set examples for me on how to get through life. Not one family member gave up on me when I was struggling with my drug and alcohol addiction. Everyone supported me when I went through rehab, despite all of the hurtful things I had done over the years. My mom has taught me many things. The most recent thing she taught me is that there is no reason to let other people decide what decisions we will make or what type of person we will be. That is why I have chosen to continue reaching out to family members no matter what. I want my family to be a huge part of my life; that is my decision.
My brother owns his own business and he takes after my father a lot. By watching him, I have seen how to be a person of honor and integrity. In fact, all of my family members have taught me that. No matter what is going on in life, my family will always be the most important thing. I have not always been like this, but it is the person I’ve decided I want to be. After living so much of my life having my family support me, I decided that I want to always be there for my family. Even though I cannot help anyone financially, I will always be there for them emotionally and mentally. Once you lose a family member, they can never be replaced. It’s extremely important to appreciate what you have while they are still around.
My body is just as screwed up as my brain. I had my first surgery when I was 16 years old; it was a cardiac ablation. My heart rate would randomly jump from normal up to 200 or more, and I would pass out. A year later, I had a tonsillectomy. In 2009, I had surgery on both of my knees. A year after that, I had a tubal ligation, which I will explain. I had a total hysterectomy in 2014.
The tonsillectomy is pretty much self-explanatory. I chose to have my tubes tied in 2009 when I was living in Connecticut. This was after my total breakdown. My psychiatrist had to write a letter explaining that I knew what I was doing and was making a sound decision. I decided that I have a hard enough time managing my life. I’ve had ups and downs; no matter how hard I try, I can’t always take care of myself. I’ve seen many people struggle with being a parent; it weighed on them so heavily. I didn’t want that to happen to me or my child. I decided it was better for me not to have a child. For me, this was the right decision, but it has been really hard. It’s been extremely difficult for me to not be able to have children. I often cry uncontrollably because of that fact. A year later, I ended up having to have a total hysterectomy because of severe endometriosis.
I pretend to be okay with the fact that I can’t have kids of my own. I’m a 31 year old grandma, who has never been a mother. Of course I wish I could have kids, but if I had to do it all over again, I would still make the same choice. I made the decision because it was the right thing to do for me, not because it was easy.
Right now, the most difficult problem I deal with physically is the interstitial cystitis. I currently get treatments every week; sometimes I can stretch it out to as much as every 3 weeks. The treatment involves getting catheterized so the doctor can put medicine directly into my bladder. This problem has been getting worse over time. I also have chronic bronchitis and pneumonia among other conditions, but luckily that’s not acting up as well.
I know that I’m luckier than many people, but I’m also worse off than a lot of others. Why do I have to have both physical and mental health problems? Why are all my problems chronic? Living with and managing physical pain as well as mental health is exhausting.
I went to the gym with my husband today. We had a great workout. I’m proud of myself for not pushing too hard. I normally push past the pain, and then I end up regretting it later. I’ve had a lot of knee pain over the years. I had a double knee surgery to correct the misalignment of my knees in 2009. I know that I’m going to need another knee surgery at some point, but I don’t want that to be any time soon. So it’s important not to push myself too hard on certain exercises, such as weighted squats and lunges.
After our workout, we went to visit with my father-in-law. We don’t see him often enough. He’s so nice and easy to get along with. We’re going to see him tomorrow too. My husband’s birthday is on Wednesday, he’ll be 42. I told him it’s like turning 21, twice. We’ll see his mom on Wednesday; she wants to through a ‘party’ for him. I’m a bit apprehensive because I don’t know who will be there. I just found out that she invited some aunts, uncles, and cousins. I like everyone; that’s not the problem. It’s just difficult when there are that many people in one house. My husband even said that all he wanted was for me, his mom and her boyfriend, his brother, and his kids to get together; but that’s not what’s happening. Plus, we want to see our granddaughter. The more people who are there, the less time we get to spend with her.
No matter what the circumstances, it will all work out okay. It just means that I will probably end up taking a Valium before I get to the party. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just another thing that adds stress. But I’d rather have too much family than not enough of it. We’re lucky to have loving and caring family on both sides; his family and my family. Having family that cares and supports us is wonderful.
Just before I turned 17, I met a guy and was immediately attracted to him. Jared had a personality that was appealing to many. He made friends with people easily, but he only let them see the side of his personality that he wanted them to see. For the first couple months of our relationship, he only let me see positive traits. Once we moved in together, everything changed. He became physically and emotionally abusive. He would tell me when I could see my friends. I had to have dinner on the table when he got home, or else. We did a lot of drugs together. I fell for every trick he played and didn’t stand up for myself at all. He had me convinced that I was lucky to have him; he made me believe that no one else would want me. The worst part of it all is that he broke up with me. He said I wasn’t happy anymore. I remember telling him he would regret it. I was devastated. I don’t know why I was so hung up on a guy that treated me like crap, but I was.
At a party, I met a guy who was so sweet. Chris was the exact opposite of Jared, except for the drug use. I started smoking crack when I met Chris. Jared tried to get back together with me, but I finally stood up for myself and told him no. Jared started stalking me at that point, so I became terrified for my safety even more than I already was. Chris and I dated for several months. He kept talking about getting sober, but I wasn’t ready for that. I was completely addicted to crack that it came before everything. I was even with Chris getting high instead of being at the hospital when my dad died. That is one of the biggest regrets I have. Chris ended up getting killed only a few months after we met.
The loss of my father was exceedingly difficult, even though I knew for years that it was coming. He had been sick for many years with cancer and kidney failure. He ended up dying from an infection on October 10th, 2003. He was in the ICU for a while before his death. I miss my father and think of him every day. Losing him was like losing a part of myself. I wish I had been there to support my family, but I was too far into my addiction. I wish he could have seen me get sober.
My drug use was insane, I was almost always drunk or high on something. All of this made my mental health even worse. I was dealing with rapid cycling; I was either manic or depressed at all times. I didn’t want to spend much time with my friends, the few that I had left. All I wanted to do was die. This was probably my lowest point in life. I finally decided I wanted to quit drinking and using, but I couldn’t do it. I wished I was dead every day. I had lost so much in life, but the worst thing I lost was my self-respect.
One day, I had finally had enough. I went to my mom and told her I couldn’t take it anymore. I told her I needed to go back into the hospital. She told me that a behavioral health hospital would not fix things. I needed more than that; I needed to get sober. Apparently, she had already been looking at places to send me. She showed me some of the places she found. I was interested in this one place in Arizona; it was a year-long in-patient treatment center. It treated drug and alcohol abuse as well as mental health. I actually became excited; I finally felt a glimmer of hope. I was scared, but so enthused about the possibility of feeling better, that it actually lessened the fear. Most people don’t go to rehab willingly. I went not only willingly, but eagerly. I was also terrified; the thought of something new scared me, but the depression was so horrible that I felt my only other option was death.
I’ve decided to write about my story, piece by piece. I’ll begin with my childhood and work my way up. I’m doing this because my memory is horrible and I’m trying to remember my life; I thought that writing out my story could help.
Growing up, I was a very happy child. I easily kept myself busy and entertained. My mom worked from home, so I spent a lot of time with her. My dad ran his own independent pharmacy. I also spent a lot of time with my dad at his pharmacy. I was happy to spend time with both my parents; I loved being with them. I’m the youngest of three children. The town I grew up in had about only 3,200 people. Everyone knew me because of my parents. My mom never had to tell me ‘no’ until I was 6 years old; I was a really good kid in the beginning. She could bring me to her meetings and appointments, and I would keep myself busy playing with rocks and sticks.
School was a breeze for me. I never spent much time working on school work; all of it was done while I was still at school. I don’t remember studying for tests, but I aced everything. I didn’t start getting in trouble at school until I was in middle school. I stayed busy outside of school. In my spare time, I rode horses, played the piano and several other instruments, and went skiing. I even rode horses competitively for many years and did pretty well. My first horse was named Houdini and my second horse was named Copperfield. I spent most of my free time at the barn. I worked there for a while doing things from mucking stalls, to teaching riding lessons, and helping to run summer camps. I’m used to working; my dad had me and my siblings working at his store on Sunday mornings at the very least. It taught me a lot about responsibilities.
My dad decided to take flying lessons one day. He ended up getting his pilot’s license and the two of us would go flying sometimes to different mountains to go skiing, sometimes just to go flying for the fun of it. Spending time with my dad was always a blast. The two of us were adventure buddies. I was always up for anything.
I also remember holidays with my family. Christmas was at our house. Thanksgiving was always at my aunt’s house. There were usually more than 20 people at these holiday events. My parents taught me that family is always there for each other. We support and love each other unconditionally. My entire life, I always knew I was loved. When I would get in trouble, my mom would say something like “I love you, but I don’t like your actions.” Not once while I was growing up, or even now as an adult, have I ever questioned whether or not I was loved. I had an amazing childhood; I know how lucky I was to have such loving parents and family.