Let go and let gods; or Sarah Has Not Lost Her Mind, I promise

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.


After years of not dealing with some very hurtful people and situations, I found myself having to face them again. This time with much more perspective and less personal involvement. Explaining someone else’s behavior when it is no longer effecting you directly is a lot easier than admitting that the person you are discussing is being physically abusive and you can’t leave for a lot of fucked up but very real reasons. Some things that have happened to me, I have to go back and ask another person who was around at the time if they really happened. Because the things are so very insane. “Did he really claim that he took the needle laying on the end table and repeatedly stab himself in the eyes? And that it was my fault because I left the needle out? Did that happen?” or “Did he really want me to take him down to the Greyhound station so he could go to New York because there wasn’t an Israeli embassy here in St Louis?” (If you have never heard that second story, it’s fucking hilarious in hindsight and a very easy story to sum up living with the person in question.)

I have to admit that I had set down a lot of those coals. Or I thought I had. Apparently I built a little metal basket for them and carried them around with me, just keeping my little hands warm on them. And using them to shape my personality. And worldview. Which sucked. Hardcore. But it was the only way I knew how to live. I used the anger to keep the fear and hurt at bay. I used it to replace my feelings and my soul. It was easier that way. If I stayed angry, I could protect my life and my children. I could keep putting one foot in front of the other. I could grind things out. And still, it was a little too hot to carry. I thought I was putting them out. Or down. Or something. I thought that therapy was helping. And it is. But I realized in a blinding flash of insight (DUH HORTON NO FUCKING SHIT THAT HURTS) that I had picked them up again. And was performing an amazing juggling act. “Ow, shit, ow fuck, ow ow ow put that down what the hell ow ow ow.” And still, I kept picking up pieces of hot coals and looking at them. BUT! I wasn’t blowing on them to keep them alive. I was actually looking at them and figuring out why these particular coals were important to me over 15 years later. Or 26 years later.

I am using coals as an example because it is the best way I can think of to describe those feelings and emotions that cling after something terrible has happened. When we have no coping skills, we have no idea what we are doing. And in some cases, it is literally impossible to let a coal go because we have no earthly idea where to put it. “You’ve been killing my cats over the last three years. Oh. Well. Yes, I have no fucking clue what to do with that one. Rage, yes. But utter confusion, too.” When Ryan was born and then was gone, I stood, empty hearted, and held those coals that went with him. And had no idea how to put them down. And quite frankly, there was no good way to put them down. The anger was too closely entwined with the loss. And the loss is a gaping hole in your chest, right below your sternum. And the coals are the least of your worries.

As I am looking at these coals and setting them down, one by one, in my mental Zen rock garden (don’t laugh – it works for me) they sit lined up on the edge of the wall. Where I can look at them without the pain. Or at least the immediate pain. And I wait to understand them and why I have them. Some are so very obvious. Others are a mystery to even me. “Who knows what poison your mother poured in your ear over the years. That woman can hold a grudge like no one else.” Well, no. Not a grudge. But an insane amount of rage, eaten over years of struggle, becomes the coals that sit in your gut and do you no good. And yet, they allowed me to survive. And now that I can handle them, it’s a huge difference. The rage and hurt and pain are all things now. Not feelings. They are concepts that I felt about things that happened. Not feelings that encompass my chest and compress until I can barely breathe real air (emotions) and resort to gulping what I can. And it was never love I gulped. I never felt that I deserved to have that.

There are a couple of years in my life that I am trying not to wear on the outside. I am trying to make them things and not violently felt time and space. I trying to believe that during that time I did the best I could with what I had. And that everyone made it out the other side alive. Certainly scarred and angry, but alive. You can forgive and love if you still live. Dead leaves no other option but dead. I wore my guilt and pain like a shroud and wondered why no one could see how awful I was. Because I felt awful. How could I not BE awful? Turns out that my feelings about those two years are much like having my zipper down. Or on really bad days, toilet paper on my shoe. Things that might actually be noticed, but I usually see it first and correct it. Or at least attempt to conceal it. Even if it means using a damn safety pin to keep the zipper up or banging my shoe on a railing in an insane attempt to knock loose that fucking streamer I am fluttering along behind me. I cannot always hide the things. But my loves and my family are willing to point it out gently. I once had to walk up directly behind a woman in a hotel lobby, very VERY close, and put a hand on her shoulder to stop her. I leaned forward and said, quietly, into her ear “You tucked everything into the back of your panty hose. I will stand here while you adjust and we will make it look vaguely normal. We hope.” She went from horrified by the touch and the closeness to relief and being thankful that someone helped her. A stranger noticed a Thing and helped her fix it with the minimum amount of fuss. That is what my above mentioned group, and even strangers, have done for me.

I am in the middle of new things and new foods and new people and new feelings. So these old things popping up can be very scary. And distracting when you are trying desperately to be a new and different person. Bettering yourself and managing to scare the shit out of yourself at the same time. And then OLD SCARY STUFF and god damnit, where’d I put the Mauser cause I am gonna shoot at that shit, and even if I don’t hit it, Imma scare the shit out of it so it leaves. But we all know that we can’t scare the old scary stuff off. We have to coax it gently off the screened in porch and slam the door behind it. And hope you remember to not leave the door unlocked. Because having that shit lurking on the porch? It sucks. No one wants to have to go out the door every day with a whacking stick to beat off the bullshit hiding under the ficus that bites you in the leg. In the same place. Every. Damn. Morning. Not enough to draw blood. But to cause a limp. That people notice. No one wants that. So get some canned food and get that damn thing off the porch. And if it comes back, get the whacking stick and remind it who the fuck is in charge around here, on this porch and under that ficus. That’s me, motherfucker. So either shape up and keep your biting to yourself or get the fuck off my porch.

Cody and I sat on a porch last night and realized that a bunch of very scary things we could say to college students, they would have no idea we stole them from Samuel L Jackson and Quentin Tarantino. “WHAT AIN’T NO COUNTRY I EVER HEARD OF? THEY SPEAK ENGLISH IN ‘WHAT’?” “Oh, I’m sorry. Did I break your concentration? Oh! You were finished. Well allow me to retort…” “SAY WHAT AGAIN. I DARE YOU!” Then we giggled really hard and then went back to watching stupid happen right before our eyes. Because it was mildly amusing stupid and I was pretty confident I didn’t need to put my foot in anyone’s ass and we weren’t going to have to help stop someone from bleeding out before the EMTs got there. So it was pretty mild and amusing. I have not had space to breathe in a very long time. A chance to be useful and helpful and funny and determined and feel like I am actually contributing to someone’s livelihood other than my own AND I am helping my family. It isn’t perfect, but it is helping.

And if you think the end of that paragraph is hurtful, tell me, and explain why. Feeling like I can take a deep breath for the first time in three years should not reflect on anyone other than me, my brain chemistry and the shitty job I was let go from. It isn’t people. It was me. And if I hurt you, I want to take the coal from you and hold it in my own hand so that we can discuss it without it hurting you. I can always add it to my rock collection. It would look nice right there in the corner.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia


“If you would just…” or The Four Words That Lead Into Stupidity

There are very few phrases that come after that beginning that make me want to do anything other than smack the person speaking. If this phrase disappeared from the English language, people would be much kinder to each other. I promise you this is true. Because anything that comes after those four words? They make you look like an asshole. Seriously. Starting a sentence like this assumes that A) you know more about the subject you are about to discuss and B) that the person you are speaking to is a bit of a simpleton. I mean, really. If you would just X, then everything would be fine! Goodness me!

“If you would just pay your bills on time, you wouldn’t be so stressed!” Dissection needed here. Let’s start with the fact that if I HAD the money, I would have paid my bills on time. It’s the NOT having money that is the stressful part. And every time someone says this to me, I want to look at them and say “SWEET BABY JESUS THIS IS THE ANSWER! WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS BEFORE??!” Because I have thought of it before. I am trying to make 1000$ in 1500$ or 3000$ and that shit is hard. Bending time and space might be easier for me at this point. (Part of my fantasy world includes four new tires on my car and all my bills paid by their due date, every month. What a sad little fantasy I have fallen into.) “I have always paid my bills on time and $HORRIBLETHING once happened to me so you have no excuse.” I find that these people have had the good luck and privilege of health and just plain not being in the wrong place, sometimes. You got pulled over and were polite to the cop so you went on your way? Well, isn’t that nice! Once, the same thing happened to me, except the cop was having a bad day and decided I didn’t get a warning, I got 7 tickets. Because he was an asshole who didn’t like my hair color. (This is an actual story in which I learned what is and isn’t a felony and calling a cop a bigoted asshole was NOT a felony, at the time. The judge was impressed I had done my homework and threw out all 18 tickets I got in 7 days. It’s called harassment. And after a while it was just funny.)

“If you would just” are the words that belittle the thing that has happened to the other person. Be it health issues, legal troubles, money, kids being idiots… It takes what they are sharing with you and what to them is a major issue, you, with four words, relegate it to a small thing that they shouldn’t be making such a big deal out of. After may years of therapy, I have tried hard to let others have their feelings when they express them. I have even asked “Are you wanting supportive friend, proactive friend or friend with a tarp and a shovel? Do you want advice or sympathy? Because I can do both rather well.” Instead of listening and helping your friend or family member feel better about a bad thing, you are being the jerk who has decided that their problem isn’t worth real input. And I left out a phrase in there because I wanted to put in another paragraph that is JUST for this part of the input from you, who has started with the 4 Hated Words.

So, your friend tells you about a situation that sucks. That is painful emotionally. That is expensive and may even be causing them physical pain. And it is a direct result of their own stupid behavior. Guess what – THEY ALREADY KNOW THIS. You don’t need to tell them. You don’t need to chide them for their stupid behavior. Believe me – BELIEVE ME – we know we fucked up and it lead to this. I just looked at my bank account and realized I made a mistake that cost me an extra 25 bucks for overdraft. And if I had just paid attention, this wouldn’t have happened. It was my very own fault. I know this. And if I talk to you about it, I probably already know it and am looking for a little sympathy or a There There with optional head pat. I don’t want to hear about your budget sheet you would be HAPPY to send me and that if I would JUST make a budget and stick to it, this wouldn’t be an issue. Oooooooor, yes, thanks, and go fuck yourself.  (80% of the shitty things that have happened to me in my life are direct results of my own stupid choices. Or bad choices. Or no choices at all. And I find that’s true for most people. Don’t stop it from sucking, but at least I am a little enlightened about it.)

And say that this person has come to you time and again with the same problems. The same complaints. And you are not feeling charitable about continuing to listen to them. Did you know that there are other phrases that a therapist can teach you for detaching  yourself from the situation? I sure do. And so does my friend Tee. We both know how to say “I’m sorry. I just don’t have it in me right now to help you with this. It seems to be a recurring issue and I am feeling pretty done in, myself, emotionally. I can’t be the friend you need right now. And I don’t know when I will be able to be, again.” That sounds amazingly more adult than “You’ve fucked yourself over again and I’m tired of dealing with your whinging. Go bitch to someone else.” Here is where yours truly admits to saying the second thing and not the first and left scorched earth behind her in a relationship that never really recovered. It is a matter of choice of how you want to pause this relationship in question. And it’s so very hard to be the adult. So god damn hard.

But back to the Four HorseWords of the Bitchocolypse. Don’t start with them. Use this as a jumping off point to understand that the problem someone is bringing to you may be a mask for one that is so deep and so scary that all she can do is bitch about the water bill not being paid. Maybe she is leaving town to try to get a job and is terrified about the effect it is going to have on her family. But what she *can* say is that she can’t get him to do the god damn cat box. Because that’s an angry thing that is simple and people can relate to. Not the fear and guilt of leaving an autistic child with a father who hasn’t spent the time with him over the last two years that she has and that she is terrified that this may be her last shot at making money for real. And that is when the “Why don’t you just tell him that BLAH BLAH BLAH $CONSEQUENCE.” is not helpful. Because she’s done all that. And she doesn’t know how to give voice to the fear and the anxiety of the Real Hard Issues, so she bitches about the everyday ones that are open ended and never ending.

Those four words, in short, make you unkind and dismissive. And hurt other people. They are right up there with suggesting I get a bus schedule to get a job or that I should be willing to accept anything that’s offered. How do you know more than me about the issues I am having trying to get a job. The bus ain’t gonna fix it, sister. And you just let me know what category of friend I have to put you into, now. It isn’t the one I will commit a federal offense for, either. So don’t even ask me.

More on this later when the other pains aren’t chewing at my toes. The little bastards aren’t going away…

Part Deaux; or Sarah complains more about medication and you

Some people have more than one chronic illness. Some go hand in hand and others are competely random. And medicating them successfully is a nightmare at times. I’ve been clinically, chronically depressed since the age of 12 when I hit puberty. And went unmedicated and undiagnosed into my late 20s. That’s a long time. And even then, that was just the tip of what was actually happening to me. I didn’t get an initial pain diagnosis until about five years ago. And I had the pain a lot longer than that. I just had an asshole GP who handedme ineffectual drugs and ignored my symptoms. And there are medications and treatments that go along with both of these things, the depression and the pain, that are a delicate juggling act. What’s causing the pain? What brain chemical am I missing that makes me depressed? What came first? The chicken crossing the road or a cross dressing chicken. And how *does* a chicken cross dress? Now I have completely confused myself so we abandon that one and walk away quickly, not making eye contact.

All depression medications are a size 16. And gods help you if you’re petite. Pain management and depression medication is like getting a size 16 top and a size 12 pants to work the first time at the same time. It’s impossible. And then your body chemistry changes. And the things that worked before, don’t now. Want to start all over? Most people don’t. I don’t. I didn’t. I skipped it. Went back to drinking. Let me just say that wasn’t my best idea ever. Wasn’t my worst, but just… It was bad. And the thing is? I am pretty typical in that. Self-medication wasn’t something I made up on my own. And it isn’t something I tried only once. The depression and loss of self lead you down some scary roads. I used to refer to it as “suicide by bar”. But the really great thing? I wasn’t alone.

Not every person in a bar at last call is an unmedicated freak case attempting to fill the hole in their chest with alcohol and self loathing. Some of us just wanted a drink after work and if we got laid, hey! More good for me!  For long stretches of time I could supress the feelings, work my ass off, raise my kids and occastionally get laid. But there were long, dark tea times of my soul, too. (Points if you get that one.) And it was during one of those tea times that I decided maybe it was time to try someting else. Let a professional deal with me. Because having a series of very serious thoughts about a bridge embutment right there at the bottom of the ramp on the way home from work? Apparently that shit ain’t normal. I am pretty sure if any of you were my REAL friends you could have told me that and I could have avoided that 16 hours on the ward and sitting next to a chronic masturbator during group therpy. Yeah. I didn’t belong there, but all of the size 16s I had tried made me hate myself. So let’s give someone with letters behind their name a try. (Side note – there is a hilarious story about me and my second psych doc thata came from me havung been married to a head case for years. But that’s for another day. For when I need a good laugh.)

Meds are a balancing act. That not only depend on weight distributed equally, it depends on where you are standing, if the wind is blowing, if it is raining, if the sun is in your eyes, if you’re tired or if you have just tried to fight off 16 duck sized horses. Or one horse sized duck. Heart rate? Blood sugar? Familial tolerance? And this is if you are depressed. If you have anyting thqt goes with it, we are talking about a new balance to go with the old. And as things crop up, and you fight to deal with them your body chemistry changes. I am on a medication that has been a god send for my basic pain issue. I cannot even imagine if it came back. But we knew from the begining that this is a med that will stop working randomly. For no reason, really. I asked if it was a union drug or if it was related to my ex but my doctor has no sense of humor. None. 

So the answer is no, they still haven’t worked out my meds. Shit, they still don’t know what all is wrong with me. And no, you don’t get to help. I’m sure I have put all your suggestions down already. 

And I think the Stupid Med Question can move into the Why I Hate The Internet post that will be subtitled “Why don’t they call WebMD by its real name? www I Have Cancer dot com.”

Keep helping me think of new things. Pain brain and anxiety are clouding the tubes. I will be interviewing an RN with MS soon as I think some of her story is like mine, and of course, very different as she has a Real Disease and I am “just tired” or “should be grateul for what I *do* have. So stay tuned. I swear I get funnier as time goes on. Just like the whale joke.