February is all about The Happy.
We here at Band Back Together know that winter and the holidays can feel overwhelming, The Depression starts rearing its ugly head.
We're saying goodbye to depression and hello to Project Happy.
So, The Band, what makes you happy?
What brings a smile to your face? Is it a memory? The thought of the future? The brilliance of a sunset? We want to know!
It's shocking, still, the things that will spark a memory of her.
Strawberry cake or blueberry muffins. A quick hand of Solitaire. A cactus plant. A jigsaw puzzle. The pleasant scratch of a handmade afghan. Our home team, the Portland Trailblazers. A true cherry cola. Classic Saturday morning cartoons. Merle Haggard.
This last December marked fifteen years since I lost my grandmother.
My grandma and I had a very special bond. She was disabled, bound to her wheelchair because of her battle with diabetes and obesity. Her other grandchildren either lived to far away or were too young to spend weekends at her little house on the hill. I know I was her favorite anyway. Everyone says so.
All through my preteen years, I would head to Grandma's house each Friday afternoon after school. She usually had some baked treat ready for me. My favorite? Strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting. If it was basketball season, we'd order in takeout and watch the Portland Trailblazers play.
Grandma would let me stay up late reading. We would work on jigsaw puzzles at her little kitchen table while Merle played on her decrepit stereo. We would bake blueberry muffins for our breakfast and set out cat food on the back step for all the stray kitties that lived in the woods behind her house.
Although I know my grandmother was very lonely at times, she taught me to not be scared of time alone. She taught me the joy of solitary activities while she listened to me sing her the songs I was working on in Choir class. Though she was unable to make it to any of my concerts at school, she was one of the biggest supporters of my singing.
Even though she was sick much of our time together, I have nothing but great memories of her. She was the epitome of unconditional love and I miss her greatly. There may be tears in the corners of my eyes, but it's a smile on my face as I remember her.
I know it has been a very long time since I shared a story. The only way to overcome the writer's block I have been mired in for a while now is to just start typing--so here are today's thoughts:
Ever put a picture on Facebook which you don't think is that great and everyone goes bat-crap crazy about how great, hot, and thin you look? Yeah, I never did either until yesterday.
I went out yesterday and interacted with other humans. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't that great either. I had a friend take a few pictures of me because I was hoping to get one I could start using as a profile picture without utilizing the classic, "chunky-girl face-tilt" pose. The pictures were okay - not great, but okay. I thought I looked kind of stressed out and a wee bit haggard.
Here is the deal. I descend from women who were very strong but not really "delicate flower"-types. You know, the "my people were supposed to be able to carry the cow in from the field" kind of people. In addition to my solid muscular frame I carried a large amount of, well, fat. I was lush, zaftig, a big beautiful woman...whatever. I was me. For that matter I am still me.
So, the me that is medicated properly is a me which is about 60-70 pounds lighter than where I used to be but people? Please know this: removal of fat does not automatic happiness make. I know! I was shocked as well!
Based solely on seeing pictures of my mother looking creepily skeletal in her teens in my humble opinion she was incredibly anorexic during her youth. As a mother she became very "concerned about my health" and supported me starting on a diet. I was seven. Because being thin was being beautiful and being thin was happiness. So now, at 35, for the first time in my whole life I look "normal-sized" and guess what? There has been no extra happy.
I remember as a child laying in my bed at night with my hands on my tummy and saying to myself that breathing in made me big but while breathing out I was thinner and I was hoping that my size would be judged while breathing out.
As I got closer to puberty I was a voracious reader. I would read books where the main character fought to be thinner and became anorexic and after almost dying finally got better. Whenever I finished those books I would pray to become anorexic (please understand, I knew of the dangers but they seemed worth it because thin equaled happy).
So fast forward almost 3 decades from my first diet to see how my world has changed. I post pictures of myself and more than 75% of those who have commented are referencing my weight loss, wanting to know how much was lost and/or how I did it.
Wanna know how I did it? Wanna know my "secret"?
I was a diabetic and wasn't diagnosed for most of my life.
Food is stupid. So now that my body is no longer sending my brain these shitty "we are starving, bitch!" messages I'm not nearly as hungry as I used to be. In fact, I understand what "full" means now. So, my big ol' secret? I removed all the self-imposed restrictions and if I want it I eat it. If I don't want it I don't eat it.
So between the medical crap and the mental crap from being restricted regarding food most of my life (as soon as I said I couldn't eat something that was all I wanted) it turns out that getting thinner was not nearly as hard for me as it always was but getting happier is a goddamn BITCH.
So my suggestion for attempting to make this a better damn world for everyone? Don't give a fuck about what someone looks like, find out if they are happy. Happiness is beauty.
I do not care what size I am, I want to be happy.
Growing up with a narcissistic parent is one of the most horrifying types of childhood:
This is the story of an adult child with a narcissistic mother:
The story of my crazy life as the daughter of a malignant narcissist with Munchausen syndrome continues.
Last week alone, in one day, she called 911 four times. The fire department came three times, the local police department came twice, an ambulance carried her away once.
Oh yeah, she lived.
Her determination for her narcissistic supply is unmitigated in anything I've read. The only other way to gauge her behaviour is by criminal standards, except she isn't held accountable to anyone. She simply repeats as needed, and has never been found out by any doctor, financial institution, or law enforcement entity.
She called 911 as I wasn't feeding her narcissistic supply needs, and she was out of pain pills - it was too early to get them refilled. She had to have a good reason to go to the doctor and get her pills early. What better reason than the handy 911 Emergency Response System? Perfect for her diabolical plan.
I have never seen evil appear so innocuously as in a well-dressed, funny, smart 78-year-old great-grandmother. an active member of her church and community. She hasn't been arrested for over 40 years, beloved by her grandchildren, but loathed by her children.
Yes, her children loathe her. Why, you ask? Doctors. Lots of doctors. When a narcissist has Munchhausen Syndrome, they love the attention of anyone in the medical field: even a dentist or veterinarian if a medical doctor isn't available.
My mother has a host of medical problems that date back to my earliest memories. At age twelve, she'd just emerged from a doctor's appointment in which she'd been told that she was "obese." I was horrified. Asked her if he could say that; she just shrugged and said, "Well, it's true." I was horrified all over again, because it didn't seem to bother her. This theme of "obesity" would become the way to feed her Munchhausen Syndrome.
Little did I know she was also cultivating a growing love of narcotics and would go on to lie, cheat, and steal to feed that addiction.
Trauma-Drama-Mama is what I've taken to calling her. Her doctor keeps her addiction rolling along, slowly but surely ignoring every warning. She was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver thanks to the pills - her doctor didn't even slow down. She simply visited a new doctor for her new condition.
She once lost over one hundred pounds, which we'd thought was thanks to her medically supervised diet. It was the pills. Yes, she'd been referred to another doctor for her special diet. And boy, did she lose weight. She lost so much weight that she developed an "apron stomach" and needed a new doctor for a difficult surgery to have the excess skin removed from her abdomen and upper arms.
Her surgery was difficult for all of us. She reveled in any opportunity to be inappropriate; she chose to show it to whomever would look. It was like a train-wreck - you couldn't look away.
The most amazing part is none of us demanded she stop. We say, well, that's Grandma. We're still saying it today because she still pulls stunts like the four 911 calls. Outrageous.
Now she's old, obese, and stretching out the scar from her old surgery. She is dependent on insulin for her Type II diabetes, which could have avoided - but she wanted it. Badly. That ensures she has to see the doctor often. More than monthly, in her case. She's had surgery on her left foot and, of course, she developed complications, as she does with each surgery. She delights in making problems for herself so the doctor must get more involved than is common for the procedure.
Thank God she didn't have Munchausen by Proxy. There were six of us kids and always a legitimate reason to take us to the doctor. She developed and maintained enough of her own serious medical problems without involving us, except to call us to her bedside.
However, when my father was dying of complications of heart disease, she refused to stay with him the night he died. My mother pitched a fit in the hall of the hospital saying, "I just can't take it anymore!"
The doctor implored her to stay, saying he wouldn't make it through the night, didn't she want to be with him? NO way. What was in it for her? He did the damage to himself after all with alcohol. My dad was long gone; the man restrained in that hospital bed no longer bore any resemblance to my father, her husband of over 55 years.
So incredibly selfish. I am still in shock she left him to die alone.
While we, at The Band, work tirelessly to bring you expert resource pages, sometimes the best advice is from someone who has been where you're standing. What follows is a mixture between a resource page and a post.
I introduce to you, The Band, a Demo Tape.
Take what you need and leave the rest.
Usually by omission, but to be perfectly honest with myself, I lie like a cheap rug. (Why is the rug always cheap in that analogy? Does that make a difference in how it flops on the floor?)
I have a service animal-in-training named Herbert, whom I wrote about in I Have A Herbert .
Herbert kept me alive during the worst of my depression. When I went off the rails, he kept me going by performing various tasks such as nibbling my fingers to bring me out of my head and into the physical world.
But then he started doing something else amazing - he began alerting to my blood sugars. If they're too high, he sits on me. Too low, (or heading that way), he gets antsy and annoying. One of the lies I tell is that he "scratches my leg" when I am going low; I tell that lie because how do you describe to someone that "he acts weird and I know what that means?"
The largest lie that I tell is that his primary purpose is that of a diabetic alert dog. Why? Because it is so much easier than trying to explain that you are a wee bit insane and you need him to keep you from giving up on life completely.
He works hard as being a diabetic alert dog,, but I need him foremost as a psychiatric service dog. I have a meter that tells me what my blood glucose level is, but there's no insane'o'meter of which I am aware.
The other lie is a lie of omission: people see his "in-training" patches and assume I am training him for other people. I have helped train a few dogs in my time; I often just let them assume they know what they think they know.
Sometimes, I even feel guilty because this brindled monster would be the perfect dog for a juvenile diabetic. He loves children like I love cake - he's incredibly gentle with them. At the whopping age of six months old, he has better manners than 90% of the trained adult dogs I've seen or worked with. He spends the day in the office with me without complaint or misbehavior, he's been on four airplanes and an extended hotel stay with no problems. He made it through entire days of training where half of the class was trying to distract him and he ignored them. He is, quite frankly, amazing.
So I feel like a guilty, lying, whiny jackass when someone assumes he will be going to a juvenile diabetic. The tiny juvenile inside me screams, "NO, MINE!" when I think of giving him up to someone who probably needs him more.
I'm going to be selfish - I'm not giving him away. I really do need him. He improves my life in so many ways.
When I'm traveling for work my anxiety is vastly reduced by having him in the hotel room. I feel safer, less alone, and calmer.
Before, when I'd go out of town, I wouldn't eat well and simply go to sleep in the hotel. With a dog, I just can't do that. Well, I can still eat crap, but I need to give Herbert some exercise because he just sat with me in a training room for nine hours. So, instead of laying there watching horrible TV, I get up, I go for a long walk, I interact with the world. These things are critical to making me physically AND mentally healthier.
Here's what I struggle with: dogs are people attractors. People who like dogs always want to know everything about a service dog. It doesn't help that Herbert is a puppy, freakin' adorable, friendly, and has an expressive face. The "in-training" patches usually get me out of a lot of questions regarding what he is doing but sometimes people ask cringe-worthy questions like, "Is he for you? You don't look sick. What's wrong with you?"
I understand that having a service animal is akin to being an advocate to help people learn about service animals. However, on a bad day when I'm trying like hell to remember to breathe, reminding myself the world is not actually crumbling around me, the last thing I want to do is spend 25 minutes explaining a service animal to someone or defend my need to "look sick".
The dilemma is this: the stigma of major depressive disorder or any psychiatric disorder feels almost palpable. I know I'd be treated differently if I explained that I was struggling with a major depressive disorder and this adorable dog is training to make sure I get up and out of bed in the morning and take my medications on time. My personal fears about how *I* will be treated perpetuates the stigma and that makes me disappointed in myself.
That said, do I need to inform strangers of my mental/physical issues? The answer is no. No one should have to disclose to strangers - or anyone else - their medical or psychological problems. But dogs are attractors for other dog lovers, and stewardship of a training program.
It's a vicious circle, isn't it? I know - I have been stuck in it a while.
Do I think lying is a good thing? No - you cannot convince lying is ever a good thing.
Do I think that the lies are in MY personal best option at the moment? Yes, yes I do.
Sure, I could default to a "I'm sorry, I don't discuss my medical issues with strangers" policy. Sometimes I do. But when I do, the other party is hurt or offended. I know their hurt is not my responsibility; but if they're coming to me from a positive place for seeking information, I try to share.
While I'm sharing, I try to gently remind them of the golden rules of service dog etiquette (and general human behavior):
- It's not nice to ask a stranger about their health issue.
- I'm happy you don't think I "look" sick; however, it's still not a nice statement.
- ALWAYS ask if you can approach/interact with a service dog BEFORE approaching/interacting with them.
- Herbert has a "release" command to make friends; it does not hinder his service to me in any way. However, some service dogs are trained to body-block to keep other people from their handler; to interact with that dog detracts from it's duties.
There are a bajillion more things I could share, but I'm wiped out. Questions?
Do you know I forget I'm diabetic?
I really do.
Even though I was raised in a home surrounded by people dealing with diabetes, most days it doesn’t even occur to me that I am a diabetic.
But I am.
Sometimes people ask me if I am “the good kind” or “the bad kind." I always want to scream when I hear that: there is NO good kind.
Some people are so helpful as to suggest “Oh, Type 2 Diabetes? Well, THAT can be fixed by diet and exercise.” (What they really mean is that *I* did this to myself.)
Without medication, the second a piece of anything with any caloric content whatsoever (lettuce, chocolate, popcorn, beef, whatever) goes into my body it throws the sugar into my blood, and my body cannot figure out what to do with it.
So my body starts to send panicked signals to my brain saying, “HELP - WE ARE STARVING HERE - THERE IS NO FUEL IN OUR BODY - WTF ARE YOU DOING UP THERE?!?!”
Brain replies, “DAMN BODY - GIVE US A FEW SECONDS HERE, I’M TELLING THIS PAIN IN THE ASS TO EAT!”
My body can’t figure out why it feels like shit, and why it is HUNGRY all of the time - even when I'm so full there is physical pain.
With proper medication my body works just fine: food turns into sugar, and sugar fuels my body. Food remains an afterthought and not an all-consuming IMMEDIATE NEED. And I go through life happily forgetting I am a diabetic.
Until I do something stupid like forgetting to eat.
You may have read that sentence and thought—who forgets to eat?
When my sugars are under control, sometimes I just...forget to eat.
Sometimes, my pancreas and/or liver gets all excited, and spits out extra insulin that combines with my medications to make me “go low."
The term LOW was something I learned as early as age 4, and I knew I had to put sugar into my mother, my neighbor, or my friend before they went SO low they'd end up in the hospital.
What I NEVER understood - until I was a diagnosed diabetic almost twenty-five years later and went through my first low myself - was how much the idea of any food at all makes you want to vomit.
Or how you become soaked with so much sweat you have to shower and change your clothes when it's over. Or even how incredibly weak and sick you feel - standing up is almost impossible - and how the nausea makes you want to die.
Diabetes is common; and because it is so damn common people are not taking it as seriously as they should.
It causes so much damage and so much pain.
People don't want to get medication because that means it is really something they have to deal with - but they must.
Diabetes is a real disease that causes real damage to your body.
Fight for yourself; you are worth it.
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