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Choices

13 Sep

depression-1A person with Bipolar Disorder experiences moments of Mania, where they are euphoric, have tremendous energy, and sometimes even feel invincible.  There is also a crash downward into Depression after the Manic episode occurs. Some people experience these shifts a few times a year, others can have symptoms  with shifts as often as several times a day.  It really depends on the person and their chemistry.  Those who experience contrasting moods to the extent that they happen several times a day tend to be very restless and irritable.  Auntie was one of them.  One minute she would be goofing around, having fun playing with the kids, and I’d see a glimpse of the woman I remembered. The next she was annoyed, treating the kids harshly, and stomping off in a snit, leaving my husband and I looking at each other in confusion over what had just happened.  Worse, the kids would be bewildered and ask, “What’d I do?”  The only person in the house who was “safe” from Auntie’s moods; at least directly, was my husband.  Auntie had been through several abusive relationships, and I think she had a fear of men; though she’d never admitted it.  I believe that was probably the only thing that kept my husband out of the line of fire.  She would come to me to complain about him instead.

Over time, I found myself dreading being home with Auntie and would find any excuse to get out by myself for a while. I didn’t recognize this woman, and I grew weary of pointless discussions that went on and on, in circles for hours, with no resolution.  There was a lot of finger-pointing and blaming going on and she took absolutely no responsibility for any part in anything that happened.  In her eyes she was never wrong and to hear her tell it, my husband, kids, and I were mean, horrible people who did things purposely to hurt her!  I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that this woman who had known me my entire life was accusing me of acting in ways I just wasn’t capable of.  The things she accused my husband and kids of doing were even worse.  She acted as if she thought everyone had some hidden agenda or ulterior motive.  I was constantly having to defend myself as well as my husband and kids to her and it was getting to be so surreal!  I wondered when she had gotten so bitter and cynical.  After all, Auntie had raised two children.  Surely, she had to have experienced these kinds of things before.  Why was she getting so bent out of shape over “kid stuff”??

I started going to Starbucks every morning after dropping my youngest off at preschool.  I’d get my favorite coffee, pull into the parking lot across the street and sit in the car.  I’d park in front of a small pond at the far end of the parking lot, the furthest away from the all stores and activity, and watch the mama ducks and their ducklings play follow the leader, while enjoying the solitude and my coffee.  It was during these moments that I would try to make sense out of the things that were going on.

After a while of taking time to myself each morning, I decided to have a talk with Auntie.  I couldn’t understand where her behavior was coming from and I wanted to see what we could work out to try to lessen the tension in the house.  The conversation wasn’t going as I’d hoped; we were getting nowhere, and I had decided to drop the subject for the day when Auntie confided in me about her Bipolar Disorder.  In the next breath she told me she didn’t need to be treated for it and she could handle it just fine on her own. She said she had been prescribed medication for her symptoms but was not taking it.  When I asked her why she stopped taking the medication if the doctor felt she needed it, she said she didn’t like how it made her feel.  She said she had only tried the one medication and had never gone for her follow up visit to let the doctor know how it affected her…

…next…choices part 2

 

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New Year…New Life

8 Sep

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During the time I was dealing with losing my job and sorting out the issues with my friend, a family friend came back into my life.  She and my mom had been friends since they were kids, I’d known her since birth, and we considered her family.  I’d grown up calling her my Aunt, her children my cousins, and so on.  She and I had always been close and I was very fond of her.   She had always been a unique individual, free-spirited, or what my mother liked to call “flaky”.  It wasn’t unusual for years to go by without hearing from her.  I’d wonder how she was doing  and would eventually track her down.  I had done just that earlier that year in May, a couple of months before losing my job. We talked every few days from then on.

About a month later, I was talking to her during the hour-long drive home in the early morning hours from my ghost tour job in Saint Augustine.  She confided in me that she was in a horrible living situation and desperate to get out, but had nowhere to go. I called her back the next day after talking it over with my husband and invited her to come stay with us. The plan was for her to stay as long as she needed until she had saved enough money to get her own place.  I was excited to have her come and stay, but there was an uneasiness in my gut when I thought about it. Figuring it was just the idea of someone living with us causing it, I made the call anyway and brushed it off.  Unfortunately, like so many times before when I ignored that inner voice; what I now call my soul voice, I made the wrong decision.   I remembered her as a sweet, nurturing presence in my life when I was a kid,  and as someone I could always talk to, no matter what. I felt my kids would benefit from her being around since I intended to return to work full-time when I found another job and she’d be there with them when I couldn’t be.  They’d have another adult with a positive presence in their lives. She’d benefit by getting out of her current living situation and have a place to stay with people who loved and appreciated her, and she could save up the money to start over.  She offered to help out with the kids, cooking, etc., in return for staying with us.  I figured it was a win-win situation for all concerned.

She arrived December 1, 2012.  She’d changed her name over the few years that passed from the last time I’d seen her until I tracked her down and called her in May.  The day she arrived, she asked that we not call her by her former name.  She reasoned that it bothered her because she’d been through hell and having coming out on the other side, she felt that person was long gone.  In hindsight, I can see where the red flag should have gone up for me.  After all, I’d known her all my life as that person.  Chalking it up to one of her many eccentricities, I didn’t give it much thought at the time.  It felt strange and awkward calling her by this new name, but wanting to respect her wishes, I compromised and just called her “Auntie.”  I would find out her name wasn’t the only thing that had changed since I’d seen her last.

…next…new year…new life…part 2

Frenemies Part 2

2 Sep

relationship is rightAbout a week later, I was on Facebook looking around and saw that my friend had posted some photos from her baby shower.  I looked at the picture and it was a picture of her, me, and the other third that we had posed for right before the shower began.  The caption read, “I would like to thank Jen and _____ for giving me my baby shower…” I honestly don’t remember the rest of it. I was the one who collaborated with my friend and her family to plan the shower. I was the one who spent the money on the decorations, the games, the prizes, all of it!  The other third comes back into the country a week prior to the shower, brings a dish, and gets 1/2 the credit for my hard work?? I was seething! I’d suspected I was being used, and now after seeing that, I knew I had! I felt like I didn’t even know who this person was anymore! I did know that I couldn’t talk to her until I was calmer, and it took me a couple of months at least.  During that time, if she called I would let it go to voice mail.  I didn’t want to write her off just yet; I felt I at least owed it to her to tell her how I felt and give her a chance.  I also knew that if I talked to her before I was ready, the conversation wouldn’t go well.  I knew in my gut that she would turn the issue back onto me and make it about how I’m too sensitive or how I’d overreacted.  As hurt and angry as I was, I didn’t want to end up saying things I didn’t mean or that I couldn’t take back. Several weeks later, my husband ran into her and she made a snide remark about me not returning her calls.  When he mentioned it to me,  l couldn’t help but laugh at the irony.  Although she was guilty of the same thing, when I brought it up to her, she told me to stop being so sensitive!

It was now December.  Eight months had passed since the baby shower.  In that time I’d gone to her home to see her baby, had a nice visit, and afterwards I decided again it was best to keep things to myself. I so desperately wanted to be wrong when it came to her!  As usual, it would only be a matter of time before something else would happen to have me kicking myself for not speaking up when I had the chance…

…next…new year…new life…

Frenemies

18 Aug

After a while, the other part of the threesome moved a few hours away for a job and though we spoke a lot at first, after a while I was out of sight and out of mind.  I started to see things on Facebook that would perplex me.  She would come to town and not bother to mention it.  She would go out with mutual friends and I’d see pictures with her tagged in them.  The worst was when I asked her what she was doing for her birthday because I wanted to treat her to dinner.  She told me that she was spending it with family, but maybe we could go to dinner the following day.  The following day came and went.  I called her several times and left messages.  She said she’d fallen asleep.  That evening, I was on my Facebook page looking around and what do I see?  Pictures from her “family” birthday celebration with none other than the “other third” in attendance.  Although I tried not to let it bother me, it did.  It felt like a slap in the face.  First I was confused, then I was angry, then I was hurt. Still, I said nothing.

A few months later, she and I were talking on the phone.  She was telling me about her new job, and she mentioned how busy she had been.  I remember thinking that she couldn’t have been too incredibly busy; after all she’d been to town several times and had gone places with mutual friends, but hadn’t bothered with me in months.  I wanted to call her out on it, but didn’t; thinking it wasn’t my place to question her activities.  She could do what she wanted.  I was upset about it, but as usual, I just stuffed it down deep and left it there. Another couple of weeks went by and she called to ask me a question that left me in awe at the sheer nerve of the request.  She asked me to give her a baby shower.  With every ounce of my being I wanted to say no, but I didn’t.  I heard myself agreeing before I could believe what I was saying!

After the call was over, I remember sitting there trying to rationalize it to myself.  Why me?  Well, the other third was out of the country again.  Was that it?  Always trying to see the good in people, I decided she must not have anyone else she felt comfortable asking.  She had family that was more than capable, but for whatever reason she didn’t seem to want to ask them to do it.  During the time I was busy planning her baby shower, buying invitations, making up games, purchasing decorations and making party favors, I would speak to her once in a while.  The conversations were usually about her shower and a little bit of small talk.  The day of the shower came and everything went well, although I felt really uncomfortable.  I didn’t know why; we’d been friends for years, but something just felt off.  A week or so after the shower I finally figured it out…

…next…Frenemies part 2

My Induction into Paranormal Life – Letting Go (part 2)

5 Aug

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I’d started to feel better about myself and working with my life coach, I was able to pin point why I felt the way I did.  After releasing all of the negative energy from my work environment, I still felt burdened.  My life coach asked me some very pointed questions, and while answering them I realized that I felt judged and mistreated; much the same way I felt when I was working for my previous employer.  We talked about why I didn’t express how I felt to my friends.  I told her that I really thought that if I told them I felt I had been mistreated, the friendships would end.  Then she said something that really hit home, “If you truly feel that if you tell these women, who say they are your friends, how they’ve hurt you by belittling you and treating you as though your needs, wants, and feelings don’t matter; then are they really people you should call friends?  Friends are the people in your life who support you, uplift you, and make you laugh when you really want to cry.  I don’t see any of this for you with these women.  When is the last time you actually felt happy, supported, or uplifted after spending time with them?”  To tell the truth, I felt like shit more often than not afterwards. I had to admit, she made a good point.  These “friendships”were nothing but struggle and emotional turmoil during a time in my life when I’d had enough of that without adding more fuel to the fire.  Ultimately the question that needed to be answered was: why was I putting up with it?

I did take the time to self reflect.  What behavior of mine could have caused this issue?  Was there a pattern?  Something I needed to change?  Yes!  I never said no.  I’d wanted to at times, but just couldn’t do it.  I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.  I wanted to make people happy, even if that meant making myself miserable in the process.  I’d been that way since I could remember.  I had a very hard time with conflict and confrontation if I was defending myself.  I had no problem with it if I was defending someone else.  My feelings were just as important as anyone else’s; weren’t they?   I promised myself that moving forward, I would start saying no if I wanted to say no and if something someone did or said upset me, I’d tell them.  Have you ever made a decision that was fairly easy to make, but carrying it out was much more difficult?  Me too.

There were two people in particular I knew I had to handle right off. Thinking back about it now, I can honestly say that I had allowed them both to bully me so much that they actually had me convinced that I was wrong to feel the way I did!  When there were times I happened to disagree with them on something, they would tag team and take their turns making snide remarks and wise cracks disguised as playful teasing.  They definitely took advantage of knowing how to get a rise out of me.   Eventually one of them went out of the country for several months.  During that time things seemed to improve.  The other third of the trio did return; however, and I found myself right back where I started.  The more time the two of them spent together, the more they began to act alike; like they’d both just stepped off the set of Mean Girls.  Now I had a dilemma.  I didn’t like how I felt when it was all three of us, but when the other third wasn’t around, things were fine.  I didn’t feel I could bring the issue up just yet, so there was no more trio. When she was in the picture, I wasn’t, and that’s how it went for some time until I had no choice but to lay all of my cards out on the table…

…next…frenemies…

My Induction into Paranormal Life – Letting Go (part 1)

4 Aug

heart-inspiring-life-love-quot-Favim.com-425667_largeAt some point in our lives, we have probably all heard the phrase, “fair weather friends.”  It refers to those people in your life who love to be around you when things are good and as soon as you show any sign that you might possibly need something from them they take the proverbial hike.  They go MIA.  They stop answering their phone.  Things are going well for them, so you haven’t heard from them in…how long has it been? I wouldn’t have those kinds of friends, would I?

I have always been the person people knew they could go to in a crisis.  If they called and were upset and hurting, I wouldn’t tell them they were intruding on the date night I’d  finally managed to get a sitter for.  I recall countless times being on the phone with this person, or that person for hours lending an ear, and sacrificing precious time with my husband and kids as a result.  My husband would give me “the look.”  It’s the look that I came to know as his, “You’re on the phone AGAIN,” look.  There was another look he’d give me when he’d had enough of me being unavailable to the family due to some crisis someone else was having.  Quality time for the two of us was scarce as it was, and I’d managed to spend most; if not all of it, on the phone consoling a friend or family member through yet another drama.

Digging deep and taking an honest look at my friendships wasn’t easy, and by doing so I noticed a disturbing fact. Many of those very same people I’d consistently sacrificed hours for weren’t there for me when the roles were reversed. Truthfully, it always bothered me that although I respected their time and took their feelings into consideration, I wasn’t given the same courtesy. When I needed emotional support or to talk about something that was upsetting me, the subject would get changed and I’d find myself engaged in another conversation about them.  After a while, it got to the point where I’d call; no answer.  I’d leave a message, they wouldn’t call back.  At first it just seemed as if they were avoiding me; then I knew they were.  If I got fed up enough to mention it, I was always brushed off.  It made me feel like my expectations of my friends were unrealistic. “You’re so needy.”  “You take everything way too personally.”  “You’re too sensitive.”  “I don’t understand why you let things bother you so much.  You’re overreacting.”  “You took it wrong.” “You’re so negative.”  “If all you want to talk about is drama, I don’t have time for it.  I’ve got enough going on in my life.”  Those responses hurt.  After all, aren’t your friends supposed to care about you? These were the same people I’d been there for over and over.  Were there times when they called me to vent that I wanted to tell them their actions and choices caused the issues they were having?  Of course there were!  Did I actually do it?  Of course not!  Why?  Because I cared enough about their feelings not to.  I felt it wasn’t my place to judge or criticize them; only to be there for them. I started to see a pattern.  As long as I didn’t assert myself, or call them out for their selfish behavior, everything was fine.  As soon as I started to question their motives or actions, there was nothing but conflict. No matter what the situation, I was made wrong for allowing whatever it was to bother me.  It became obvious to me that being right for them was more important than my feelings or anything else.  Things got to the point that I decided it wasn’t worth saying anything at all. I’d just end up feeling like shit and nothing would get resolved anyway.  It was easier to just avoid the entire issue altogether.  So for months, that’s what I did.

….next…letting go part 2…