Supernatural Help

 

I’ve been trying to let my heart be light,

let hope buoy it

as it inflates the cavity in my chest

where I think my soul would reside

had it a physical home.

 

The human mind is a fickle thing.

We think,

thinking we control it,

but it controls us,

foiling every good procedure we know we need to follow.

Our minds psych our selves out  –

of our minds.

 

There must be some outer guidance,

some supplication,

if our insides are not to roil about,

acidly eating away from the core, out.

 

A gentle hand

A supernatural help

There but for the grace of God, go I

 

where my heart floats lightly in the center of my soul.

Crash and Burn

My five year-old was invited to a classmate’s birthday party at the bowling alley.

The day dawned rainy and miserable.  She had stayed up late the night before.  Her grandparents brought donuts for breakfast.  She was so amped up, I think she had burned through her reserves before we even got in the car.

She excitedly greeted her classmates, donned her bowling shoes, and added her name to the scorecard when we arrived, but two turns down the lane, she gave up.  “I don’t know how to play,” she complained.  Then she spotted the arcade games.  Cut from the same cloth as her father, she gravitated toward the motorcycle that swayed side to side as its driver maneuvered the flat terrain of the screen.

We had a seemingly needless discussion about why we were at the bowling alley: to visit and celebrate with her friend, the birthday girl.

The behavior that followed defied all logic – unless you take into account the lack of rest, the lack of energy resulting from sugary foods, the lack of barometric pressure that was doing something to her brain and skull.

By the time we said goodbye to the guest of honor and her mother, she was a sniveling mess grasping onto me for dear life.

“Oh no, what’s wrong?  Is she okay?” the mother asked.  I think she was concerned she was hurt – and also that she hadn’t had a good time at the party she’d hosted.

“Oh, she’s fine.  She’s just crashing and burning,” I said.DownloadedFile

“I know how you feel,” said the mother with an exasperated look.

Indeed, I’d watched her try to catch her breath throughout the party as five year-olds pooled around her legs.  ‘Herding cats’ was the phrase that came to mind as I watched them try to adhere to bowling procedure.  As she tried to coordinate with the staff to get lunch on the table for all these kitties, I overheard her tell her husband to ‘do something’. 

I recognized in her all my telltale signs of anxiety bubbling up.  The throwing of hands in the air.  The curt responses.  The barked commands.  Looking around you as if you’ll see the one thing that will calm the chaos.

I wasn’t supposed to notice.  I wasn’t supposed to hear the slightly heated exchange between she and her husband.  But I didn’t judge.  Instead, it roused me to action.

For once, I wasn’t the one crashing and burning, but since I certainly had been there, I did what I thought I might appreciate when I was.  I grabbed a pitcher of soda and refilled cups.  I moved said pitcher when I was afraid the birthday girl’s unwrapping might upend it.  I tried to assist the kitties at my end of the table with cutting of food, getting of napkins, etc.  I tried to make her laugh and get her out of her own mind, which no doubt was swirling and sucking her in.

I don’t know her that well.  I don’t have any right to assume what she needs.  But I know what it’s like to crash and burn.  And I know I’d appreciate it if someone slowed my descent even just a little.

As for my five year-old, after scowling into middle distance on the thirty-minute ride home and sulking for a bit once there, she finally snapped out of it.  The familiar surroundings of home and routine and a good night’s sleep resurrected her good mood.

I guess we all just need care and attention to thrive – or at least not end in a fiery inferno.

Peace, Love, None of the Hair Grease

1 in 4 Americans live with a diagnosable mental illness – often in silence. 2/3 of all people with a mental illness won’t get the help they need or deserve due to stigma. Together with family and friends mental illness impacts us all, yet remains misunderstood and talked about behind closed doors.*

And yet, right in my own backyard, I am proud to say, is a fabulous organization taking monumental strides at destroying this phenomenon – and giving people peace of mind in the process.

PeaceLove

PeaceLove Studios, the brainchild of Jeffrey Sparr, offers art workshops for people affected by mental illness in all its forms, creates apparel featuring the logo he’d like to become the symbol of mental health awareness and open dialogue, and a safe and positive place for those met with misunderstanding and fear to land.

The world could always use some more peace and love.  Thankfully, there are people like the good folks at PeaceLove Studios to help spread it.

* information from the PeaceLove Studios website

Don’t Fear the (Ir)rational

As the sun rose hours after the baby’s birth, I was fading fast.  I had slept maybe two hours of the past 24 and didn’t have the strength to eat my breakfast.  The nurse suggested the baby go to the nursery, I drink a pitcher of water, eat, and sleep.  I did and woke up a short while later feeling a bit more human.  When my husband went to retrieve the baby and came back empty-handed, the feeling was short-lived.  “Where’s the baby?” I asked, panic creeping into my voice.

“Oh, her bracelets fell off, they’re just putting on some new ones,” he answered, easy-going as ever, which could’ve been an indication of my overreaction but went unheeded.  I went through every possible combination of events I could think of: were the bracelets in the bassinet, did the nurses take her out of the bassinet, were there any other babies in the nursery?  What I was really getting at was: how will we know this is our baby?  My husband, thinking with a rational mind, told me it was fine; they were giving her new bracelets to match ours and were checking the serial number on her Baby Lo-Jack, the nickname for the security device affixed to all babies in the hospital.  Still, I balked.

I worried for months, a year after.  I had moments of clarity: an expression on her face as she gazed up at me, identical to her oldest sister when she was an infant; her tiny hands patting me on the back as she wrapped me in a hug; shadows of family members in baby photos.  But always, when I allowed it to seep through, that dark thought,

‘Did I bring home the right baby?’

I was afraid that if I loved her too much someone would come to take her away from me.  The licensed social worker I had started seeing suggested I felt that way because things – the pregnancy, labor, delivery, and recovery – hadn’t gone according to my plans.

It wasn’t until we sped down the highway one day months later that the truth caught up with me.  As I saw the family resemblance written all over my baby’s face, I realized that I hadn’t thought she was mine because I still hadn’t accepted the fact that I was having a third child.  I hadn’t sanctioned it.  It hadn’t gone according to plan.  I was still grasping for some sort of control that I hadn’t felt since being plunged into the chaos of three children awash with my own anxiety.  Did I not see the resemblance because I didn’t want to see it?

Yes and no.  Or yes, but not totally.  It wasn’t my wounded psyche that was totally to blame.  As my therapist pointed out, irrational fears are another symptom of postpartum depression.  I more than filled that box on the survey.  It was a strange split, though.  Rationally, I knew she was mine and accepted her with the unconditional love of a mother.  In the stark predawn hours of loneliness or moments of love bordering on too intense, my irrational self would pull back, fraught with worry and dread.

My husband irresolutely assured me she was ours.  “What do I need to do to prove it to you?” he asked.  “Do you want to get blood tests done?”  “She’s ours, Jen, I know it.”  “I was right there beside you when she was born.”  To which I responded, sometimes verbally – and later as the argument wore out, silently – “But that was before she went to the nursery and lost her bracelets.”

I couldn’t shut off the stream of irrational thought and worry – even though I knew there were holes all over my argument.  I felt silly voicing my concerns, but wanted other people to tell me how much she looked like her sisters or me or my husband.  I needed validation that the ‘voices’ in my head were wrong.  I couldn’t defeat them myself.

And I didn’t.  With love and support from my husband, my fabulous social worker, lifestyle changes, the passage of time, and eventually medication, the irrational worry stopped.  It became definable, ‘boxable’, and I shut it away.  I don’t think it’ll come back, but I think I’ll always remember how real and frightening it was.

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