Morning Prayer for my Healthy Brain

I recently came across some writing called “Morning Prayer”. I read it, then I read it again. And I loved it, thinking how directly it applies to me, but not for the reasons one might think.

I am trying hard to be a good Christian, and I have recently allowed religion back into my life, hoping it will guide me through my pain and misery. So please excuse the fact that while I’m going to share this prayer with you, I’m going to change it a little so that it applies more closely to my situation. I hope I will not offend any believers or better Christians than I.

Where the original prayer uses the phrase, “O Lord”, please allow me to substitute it instead with “My Healthy Brain”:

“Morning Prayer for my Healthy Brain”

My Healthy Brain, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings me with tranquility. Grant that I may fully surrender myself to your good will.

At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things. Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to your will.

Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is under your care.

Grant that I may deal straightforwardly and wisely with every member of my family, neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone.

My Healthy Brain, grant me the strength to endure the fatigue of the coming day and all the events that take place during it. Direct my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love. Amen.”

Amen

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Who needs help?

I’ve previously shared on this site a few quotes from a woman named Glennon Doyle Melton, founder of “Momastery” and author of “Carry On, Warrior”.  I found one more I’d like to pass along:

“People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help”

I think we all have pre-formed images in our minds of what a “helpless” person looks like.  I honestly believe that many people might view me as someone who is fairly put together – in fact, when I’ve confessed my bipolar to people, I often hear, “Really?  I never would have guessed!  You seem so “with it”!”  But, in fact, I’m far from “with it”.  I’m an internal wreck.  I put on a happy face and push myself through my days, hoping to make it to the end of the night without losing myself in my illness, my misery, my dread and fear of what my future holds.  I do it for my kids, because it kills me for them to see me not operating at full capacity.  They need stability and reliability in a mother, and I wear a mask all day that tells the world how together I am, that assures my kids that I can be a good mother.  They know I’m sick, but they also believe I can do everything, and they know that I will will do anything for them.  In truth, I can barely help myself, which leads me to wonder how I’m every going to effectively help them?

When I crawl into bed at night, after my kids are safely tucked in, I lay awake lonely and scared, wondering how I’m every going to get through the next day.  I psyche myself up, hoping to convince myself that if I can get through today, I can get through tomorrow.  It works – sometimes.

But ask for help?  Forget it.  Never.  I publish this post anonymously because I don’t want people I know to find out I’m barely getting by.  I don’t want anyone to learn that I am scraping by mentally.  Would I love for someone to reach out and offer help?  You betcha.  But how will they ever know unless I ask for it?  Because I don’t look like the kind of person who matches the image of someone society pictures as needing help.  So nobody offers.

It’s my own fault.  Don’t ask, don’t tell.  I’m not ashamed of the stigma attached to bipolar.  I’ve rambled on and on to people about bipolar and how important it is to have awareness of mental illnesses.  But not unless I’m asked.  Which brings me back to my original point:  nobody is going to ask because I don’t look like I need help.  Lots of people in my town know I am bipolar.  They just don’t know I suffer from it.  See the difference?

If you have a friend or acquaintance living with mental illness, please reach out.  Ask if you can help.  Chances are, she’s dying to talk to someone.  She’s desperate to be offered assistance, or even just a shoulder to cry on.  But she’s not going to ask.  Not ever.  Believe me, I know.

Goodbye, Sandi

Three weeks ago, I was notified that a friend of mine had overdosed on a combination of pain killers and antidepressants.  I was told that she was on life-support at the hospital and was brain-dead and not expected to make it.

I have to admit that I was, for a moment, envious.  How many times have I wished that for myself?  Simply to end the misery that is my life?  I want desperately to believe in heaven and I think what better things might await me there.  I could see my brother and sister and father again, there would be cotton candy and Junior Mints in excess, I wouldn’t gain weight and I could listen to any music I want.  And no house cleaning!  It just seems like such an easy solution, doesn’t it?

When I go to ECT, there is a multiple choice test I have to take to get something called a “Beck Score”.  The score helps determine my mental “well-being”, which in turn helps determine how often I have to be voluntarily electrocuted.  I always sort of smile when I answer these questions:  do I feel less attractive?  do I have more or less energy than usual?  do I feel productive?  do I get along with others?  But one of the final questions on the test is in regards to suicide.  I have to choose the option that best suits my mood at that particular time:

a)  I think about committing suicide all the time.

b)  I think about suicide all the time, but would never carry it out.

c)  I rarely think about committing suicide.

d)  I would never consider suicide.

Sadly, I find myself hovering pretty close to option “b” on most days.  Yes, I think about suicide all the time.  All.  The.  Time.  But because I am a coward and also because I have a conscience, I could never actually carry it out.  What if I didn’t do it right?  What if I didn’t complete the act and the “life” I was left with was even more horrible than it is now?  And then I think about my precious children.  I look at my three kids and wonder who would do my daughter’s hair for prom, who would iron my son’s shirts and teach him stripes and plaids don’t mix, who would drive them to piano lessons and gymnastics?  Who would tell them how to respond to the class bully, or how to make the family traditional holiday cookies?  But most of all, who would love them like I do?

It’s not that I think my kids would miss me that much.  We are in that difficult part of our relationships during which, as my husband and I have been separated for a year, my children have found the “preferred parent”.  Their dad is simply cooler.  He’s more playful and agreeing.  He is the coddler, I’m the enforcer.  And there are definitely times when I feel like they could do without me.  Like when my daughter asks, “When is it Daddy’s night to be with us?”, a question I answer every night of the week.  I don’t believe that my kids would be devastated to be without me.  At least, not right now.

But I think they would miss me later.  I want to believe that they would miss me later.  I need to believe that they would miss me later.

Sandi has left behind three children, pretty close in age to mine.  Did she have them in her thoughts just before she opened that last prescription bottle?  Did she consider the pros and cons of having children grow up without a mother?  Was her esteem so low that she really believed they’d be better off without her?  Or was her pain just so deep that she couldn’t bear another moment on this earth?  Did she consider the consequences and decide that this was her only option?  Did she hurt so badly that she simply couldn’t go another day?

I used to think that suicide was a coward’s way out.   That it was for selfish people.  Who doesn’t think about what’s being left behind when a suicide is committed?  Who doesn’t wonder, “who will find my body?  will it be my 7-year old son?  do I leave a note, or keep them guessing?”  Do the people who go through with it really put that much thought into it to begin with?  Or is it a spontaneous response to a really bad day?  Is it one of those things where they don’t really want to carry it out all the way through, but the attention of an “attempt” would be a good way to test whether your loved ones really are feeling the love?  Is it a call for help?  Do people attempt suicide hoping that the act is never actually fully carried out?  Or are they really out to do themselves in?  And since suicide is considered a sin, do suicide victims get to go to heaven?  Is it really better on “the other side”?  Are there really unlimited supplies of Junior Mints?  Will we really see our previously lost loved ones again?

Or, do people who commit suicide end up in hell?   And if they do, is hell worse than their lives here on earth?  Or might life here be so awful that hell looks pretty good?

Sadly, we can’t exactly ask a suicide victim.

I want to believe that Sandi accidentally took all of that medication.  That she was hoping the pills would temporarily fix what was hurting.  That she could sleep through the day and wake up the next feeling refreshed.  I don’t want to believe that “the next day” was not in her plans.

For now, her children are being told that their mom died of respiratory failure.  But if I know the truth, then dozens out there also likely know the truth.  And eventually, her children will know, as well.

Wherever you are, Sandi, I hope you’re happier there than you were here.  I miss you.  I know your children miss you.  And I look forward to seeing you again in the future.  Just hopefully not in the near future, if I can help it.

(un)Happy Anniversary

As I am approaching the one-year anniversary of the day my husband told me he no longer loved me and wanted a separation, I have been getting a lot of advice from many sources on how to stay positive, how to get through this difficult time, knowing that anniversaries of the sad variety tend to be triggers for me. One friend suggested I write a letter to my husband, telling him how I’ve changed for the better and begging him for another chance at our marriage. I decided I would write a letter, not necessarily begging him to return, but sharing with him all of the realizations I’ve come to during the last 365 incredibly painful days. However, this letter will never be seen by my husband. I’m choosing not to share it with him because he has heard most of this before. Perhaps never in one place, but over the last 12 months he has heard bits and pieces of my story and quite frankly, I think seeing it all in one place would be incredibly annoying to him, as he is sick to death of my crying and begging and repeating my woes and apologies to him over and over. Maybe I am really writing this letter for myself, hoping to start Friday with a fresh outlook and a new lease on my lonely single life.

So here it goes:

“To my dear husband,

It goes without saying that I miss our life together. I am miserable without you, and even more so knowing that you are NOT miserable without me. If I could go back in time and change what I have done to you, I would give anything for that opportunity. But I do not have in my possession a time machine. I cannot undo any of my past. I could tell you for the 9 millionth time how sorry I am, how much remorse I have, how much I want my life back, but it would have no effect on you. You are done. I get it.

You will never see this letter. Instead, I’m sharing it with dozens of strangers who I can pretend are you. Typing this letter to the unknown masses is not going to do me any good other than to unburden myself from the sadness that has weighed me down for one year. But I can pretend.

Here’s what you do know: I was horrible to you in so many ways. I was unpredictable and difficult. I was unkind and unfaithful. I was selfish and and self-absorbed. I was sick and miserable. My life turned upside down when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I desperately didn’t want it to be true, and instead of punishing myself with the truth, I punished everyone around me. I took out my anger on my family and you tolerated and tolerated and tolerated until you simply couldn’t tolerate any more. You were not unbreakable, as I once believed. If something continues to bend and bend, eventually even the strongest branch will break. And although you promised to love me forever, your conscience and your morals simply couldn’t allow your love for me to continue. You didn’t give up on me, I realize that. You did what was best for yourself and what you believe to be best for your children. Our homelife was a mess and you deserved better.

Here’s what you don’t know: During that time, I never once stopped loving you. I loved every ounce of you because you were my forever mate. Nobody else would have put up with me, I thought. Nobody else would have stuck around, I believed. We were meant to be together. You were the only one who would ever take care of me. And I truly didn’t believe that it was “me” doing these things to you. It was a force I was not in control of. My manic self, that hateful and horrible woman who reared her ugly head during difficult times and couldn’t be subdued. I want to blame everything on her. But I realized she’s part of me. Not a part I want or like, but I part I have had to learn to deal with. But even that ugly part of me loved you, too.

And the thing I’ve never shared with you? In order for me to fully get well, I probably needed you to leave me. Not just because I deserved it, but because my bad behavior probably would have continued if it were not for the big fat slap in the face that our separation provided me.

In the first few months after you left me, I could hardly get out of bed. I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t sleep. I found it hard to be around my children. I begged you, in letters, on the phone, on my knees, to please take me back. I will change. I promise to change. I promise to get help. But you stuck to your guns and refused me. You told me I had ruined our family, which is true. You told me I had been selfish and untrustworthy, which is also true. You refused therapy. You told me it wouldn’t do any good because all the other times you’d dragged me to counseling I had lied to the therapist. Again, all true. You made a clean break. So clean, in fact, I wondered if you had ever loved me at all and were merely tolerating me because I am the mother of your three precious children. I understand now that you had to do it that way. You had to deal with your own anger and your own anguish over how I had treated you. You had no choice.

But during those first few months, I vowed to change. I promised myself I could become the woman you wanted in your life, the same woman you married with a heart full of love. I started to take my therapy seriously and concentrated fully on my recovery. But I was doing it for you, not for me. Why? Because I honestly and naively thought I could win you over. I thought for certain that if you saw how hard I was working that you would take me back, tell me it had all been a mistake. That you were just testing me. I was sure that we could be a family again.

But I was wrong.

It took about six months to realize that you are never coming back. Not just because you have assured me you will never marry again because marriage was awful to you, but because when I look in your eyes (when you can bear to look into mine), I see nothing. No compassion, no caring, no love. I see anger and hatred and the inability to forget what I did to your life. And though I have made huge strides in my own recovery, and although I know you recognize my efforts and their results, I knew six months ago that you would never ask me back. That we would never be a traditional family again. You have told me time and time again, “There’s nothing wrong with being divorced. 50% of couples end up divorced”. I want to respond that there’s nothing wrong with being married, either. That 50% of couples stay married. But you don’t want to hear that. Your experience with marriage was horrible. And I don’t blame you for leaving.

My biggest heartbreak, besides knowing I will never be with you again and knowing our children will never have us as an “intact” family again, is knowing that when you made your clean break 12 months ago, you stopped loving me. I can look into your eyes and see that no love exists there. You neither love me nor miss me, and for that I am so sorry. Because I caused that. I wanted to show you that I have enough love for the both of us, and maybe eventually it would wear off on you and one day you might actually love me back. I wanted to offer myself to you for all of the wrong reasons. I had a whole list: If we were together again, there would only be one mortgage. That means that we would have the money to do things that are important to our family. Our son wants bass guitar lessons and wants to learn a martial art, but we cannot afford it. Our oldest daughter is going to college in three years and that will be financially tough. And our baby girl needs to go to therapy every week to stay happy and mentally well. But we can’t afford those things. We promised the children a dream trip to Australia, and now I know that will never happen. All because of what I’ve done. It is all my fault. I also thought I would convince you to take me back based on your needs: I can cook and clean and do the laundry and care for the house and drive kids to their activities, which will free up your time so that when you come home after a stressful day at work, to OUR home, you could spend your time playing with the kids and enjoying the short time we have them together as a family, instead of having to make them dinner and do their laundry and help them with homework before bed. I could take on all the responsibilities I never did while we were married. You did everything, and I never realized it until you left me.

But I have realized that I don’t want you to want me simply because I’m an able cook or laundress. I don’t want you to take me back to save money. I don’t want to live with you so I can be the chauffeur or the nanny. I want you to take me back because you miss me and love me and want to give me, give us, another chance.

But you don’t miss me, and you don’t love me. And I don’t think you ever will again. Actually, I KNOW you never will again. There is no “another chance”.

So for the last six months, I have concentrated on my recovery from my bipolar disorder, not with you in mind. I am doing it for me, and for my beautiful children. And I have noticed a huge difference between the person I am today and the pathetic excuse for a mother and wife I was a year ago. I have used a combination of ECT, DBT, medication, and the love and support of my remaining friends and family to try to get well. To regain a sense of balance and to have a life again. And I have worked very, very hard. I almost gave up six months ago, because I finally had realized that all of this hard work would never bring you back to me, and that is what I thought I wanted more than anything.

But I realize now that I had to lose you in order to find myself.

So here I am. I am found. I know who I am and who I want to be. And do I still want you? Of course I do. But there is a difference between wanting and knowing. For example, I WANT for there to be a Santa Claus, but I KNOW he doesn’t really exist. I want you back in my life as my lover and my best friend and my partner for all of eternity. But I know you will never return. You have moved on. You have told me that you need to find your “path to happiness”, that you deserve to be happy. And I’m not on that path. How I wish you would give me the chance to make you happy. I know now what it takes to be a good wife and a good mother. That person who treated you badly is probably still here, but she now knows how to behave. She recognizes that there are consequences to her actions. And the part of her that used to be too strong and used to take over my sensibilities and send me on a downward spiral to disaster and manic episodes? Well, she most likely still exists. Somewhere. But she is no longer stronger than the “good me”. She is weak and she will not get the best of me again. Not ever. I know how to hold her down and control her. Maybe, if I’m lucky, she will give up and go away. But until that time, I have the strength and the tools and the confidence to keep her out of my daily life.

Don’t get me wrong – given the opportunity to have you back, I would jump at the chance. I would love nothing more in my life than to be part of a complete family again. To know that I had someone to grow old with, to sit next to at our childrens’ graduations and weddings. To have someone next to me holding my hand at the movies and embracing me in warm hugs every morning as we wake would be heaven to me. To know that I would never be alone again is more than I could ever hope for. But I will never find your love again. And you? Well, I learned last week that you have joined “Match.com” so I know now, for a fact, that I am not anywhere in your future except to be the mother of your children. And that is devastating to me. Because it means my dream of being a family again will never be realized. It means that you don’t believe I can ever be enough for you again. That even when I’m well, I’m not the woman you want to be with. And it makes me question whether I ever was. Maybe my misbehavior was just an excuse to get out of a marriage that you didn’t want in the first place. Maybe I was never the right woman for you, regardless of how much love I thought I could give you. All I know is that I was not worth fighting for. After I was well, you did not resume that fight. You didn’t stick around to see who I could become. You didn’t want to. You walked away. You had to. And that’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s what you believed to be best for you. It was your turn to be selfish; you deserve happiness.

But I can still be well without you. I don’t really want wellness without you to share it with, but I do need it for myself. One day when my children are grown and have families of their own, it will be all I have left.

So there you have it. The letter you will never read. Everything in my heart I could think to tell you on this day, one year following my worst day.

With as much love as I can fathom, Happy Anniversary from your wife.”

“Everyone has a story to tell”

I’m still reading that new book I quoted yesterday: “Carry On, Warrior” by Glennon Doyle Melton. If you haven’t heard of her, Google her please. She is a woman who battled addiction, eating disorders, depression and several other “life” issues, and one day decided enough was enough. She realized she could not continue on that way and flipped off her old life in favor of moving forward. She started a website called “Momastery” and basically put herself out there for everyone to see, in the hopes that her transparency could help others with similar issues. She is a witty and enjoyable author, and while I’m reading her book, I can almost close my eyes and picture her telling me her story over coffee at the local Starbucks.

Anyway, you may see me quoting her in my posts because she is very truthful and open, and I find myself agreeing with so many of her words. Here’s one paragraph that I think you can all relate to, regardless of what issues you may have:

“If, anywhere in your soul, you feel the desire to write, please write. Write as a gift to yourself and others. Everyone has a story to tell. Writing is not about creating tidy paragraphs that sound lovely or choosing the ‘right’ words. It’s about noticing who you are and noticing life and sharing what you notice. When you write your truth, it is a love offering to the world because it helps us feel braver and less alone……If you feel something calling you to write, please refuse to worry about whether you’re good enough. Just do it. Be generous. Offer a gift to the world that no one else can offer: yourself”.

Everyone has a story to tell. I like that.