Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rome!

I woke up knowing I should go with Justin and the rest of his research team. What's another $1000 or so, when this education has already indebted us about $200,000? Plus it really is an amazing lifetime (not necessarily once) experience. Though it is once in a lifetime to take this trip at this age and in this time and these circumstances.... and roaming around Rome might just be what I need. I know five days or more at home without Justin is a cross between an invitation to stay in bed for five days straight (only rising when I get really hungry, but also with the possibility of just stocking a few things next to the bed) or using five days to make this apartment my own (all studio, hardly a living room).

My irritability issue is a pain in the ass. It makes me irritated with myself, even.

This morning as we discussed our day I asked Justin, "Please help to make sure that when I get home from work (after 9 p.m.) I get to bed by 10."

"When did you go to bed last night?"

"Midnight."

"Oh, Olaina.... I was out [fast asleep]."

"I know. That's why I want your help."

"How can I help you?" he asked, knowing that thus far his very normal version of help has not budged me from the couch and has sometimes caused strife.

"Well, I have this little problem with irritability and I don't want to be mean to you, so how about this: Say, "Olaina, let's go to sleep," and then hand me [a sleeping pill] and a glass of water and I'll follow you.

I have this little tiny problem with motivation, so getting up, getting the medicine, taking the contacts off, getting ready for bed.... it all sounds like more work than, say sitting on the couch and writing and doing other stuff on my laptop.

I swear though, I AM going to find a way to win the battles in my head. The civil war may go on for the rest of my life, but if I am just armed and ready for each battle I am fairly certain I will survive, along with my loyal comrades.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Romans!

My favorite book in the Bible, but also who Justin will be visiting when he goes to Rome to give a talk about his research on.... wait, let me see what that word is.... wait, I can't copy and paste it.... wait, I can't remember how to spell it after I leave that page.... wait, I'll just say "a rare genetic disease that's really bad that he's been studying for 6+ years and for which he found information about the gene that I think his boss actually identified..." You can check the website out yourself: FMFSAID 2008 (no, I don't know what the acronym stands for.

Yeah. Doctors in the WORLD want to hear what my husband and his surfer lab boss and co-researcher have to say. How cool is that?!?!?!

*beaming proud wife*

The very same guys who have their "lab meetings" in the morning, wearing black suits in the formal conference room of God--the ocean.

I have a stalker.

His name is Clinical Depression.

His aliases include melancholia, depression, rapid-cycling, a form of bipolar disorder without the really high highs... highs that just get me to functional or over achieving (like Darwin, who committed suicide (didn't you know?), and Lewis (of Lewis and Clark) who forged the Oregon Trail and discovered hundreds of species of plants and animals but whose records show periods of darkness, "episodes," when he could not even write.

I have a restraining order: a handful of pills each morning, a few more scattered throughout the day.

But a restraining order is just a plan. A plan that relies on a stalker's obedience.

Restraining orders do not eliminate stalkers. They are just directions.

For a criminal to follow.

As prey, I have to know that my stalker is out there and I have to learn to live despite his presence. I have to live bravely and fully and with confidence and gusto, even on days when all I really want to do is make sure the doors are locked and the phones are off, then pull the covers over my head and hide.

My stalker violated the restraining order, so I am asking for a stronger one.

I am also coming to learn that some stalkers are like that--they can't be stopped. Some stalkers find a way to break through the protective medications that shield their prey and then they hold their victims hostage.

If my stalker were human I might kill it. But it is a disease that has captured my brain chemistry, so I have to learn to manage it because there is no cure and it's the kind that breaks the rules.


This battle is my new reality. I have to be stronger than I ever wanted to be. Some people want to believe it will just go away, but I know that ignorance is not bliss. I would rather know the truth and work with it than just blindly hope for the best. Hope is powerful, but hope combined with the proper tools is also practical.

A New York Times article from today worth reading: "Living With..."

And God Said...

Unfortunately, the people of the world weren't listening carefully. So many of them missed the part where He said, "Love one another." No exceptions. Just love one another.

In the clip below all of the quotations are from the Old Testament, the part of the Bible that comes before Jesus is born--Jesus, whom Christians believe is God because of this really neat concept called the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Also a physically proven possibility as demonstrated with water at a certain temperature when it is ice, liquid and vapor at once in triple-point theory.)

The ability to quote the Bible does not make any one Christian. It just demonstrates the ability to memorize and parrot words.

It is Love that makes one Christian. Grace. A gift from God. Love given freely. Grace. Saved by Grace through Faith Alone. Christians are called on by God to demonstrate that Love, as He did through His Son Jesus Christ.

People should not steal a label that is supposed to be positive to justify their negative behavior. But they do, and it ruins the world. (What is the difference between a fundamentalist Christian and a fundamentalist Muslim? Who really is the terrorist when everyone is dying?)

People like me (who believe in the Love of God) end up repeatedly contextualizing the words ripped from the Bible and abusively used without the Whole Story. Sadly, Fundamentalists are so loud and we are so meek that we get a bad reputation as believers (Muslim, Christian and otherwise).

Having converted to Christianity after a long period of study on my part (yes, involving weeping and gnashing of teeth!), and having come from a family of Eastern and Western traditions, I believe I can see religion through relatively clear lenses. I am open-minded, open-hearted... and willing to explain that God loves Everyone.

One of My Brilliant-est Former Students Posted This on Her Facebook:



I cannot even allow myself to think about that 15-year-old boy and his family in Oxnard, CA, and the outrageous immoral hateful violent putrid act of killing him--at school no less! where children should be safe!--because he was gay.

It makes me physically reel with swirling pain.

I'll go to the vigil at The Center, but I am afraid if I let his death occupy space in my brain right now my world will get too dark, too heavy, too unbearable for me to breathe.

Breathing is quite an accomplishment, you know.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Jury Is In

Emily Dickinson locked herself in her attic, working, writing, surviving on few relationships and with her own mind.

Van Gogh cut off his ear.

Virginia Wolff wrote books and books and books and then walked into the water with rocks in her coat pocket to save the world from herself and to cease the war within her mind.

Hemingway and the drinking. Maybe manic depressive?

Sylvia Plath.

Jerome David Salinger, the Catcher in the Rye.

Dad and the studio and the wine and the "look what I have created now.... but when I die this will all be worth something."

My photographs and paintings propped against a wall, waiting for the jurors to decide whether I am in or not.

I believe my chances are good. My photographs are different and consistent enough to separate me from the flower photographers. (Though I do have my fair share of flowers, but those are really of the bees and their interaction with life, my photos of San Diego--required subject commissioned for a calendar, my photos of European landmarks... just like everyone else.) But I have been to India, to Europe, to history in a towering replica of a sailor kissing a nurse on V-Day. I am obsessed with the interaction of humans with the world, with each other and I capture those exchanges. My photographs were the only ones that told the story of being alive, of being human, of survival in India and beauty in Italy and victory in the States.

It's still a throw of the dice.

And then there are the paintings. Acrylics. Flowers and people. A conservative Spanish Village--an unwritten rule of no nudes. The best paintings eliminated. As though the human body didn't have a human body. As though the child that drank of its mother's teet never saw a breast and somehow makes it through the world without seeing an advertisement for soap that features the product in use. But I dressed my favorite nude (sadly) in a little black dress. Burnt sienna and titanium buff blended for the woman to emerge from, her dress tinged with highlights of the darkest blues and purples for hints of form and movement. She was born last night. Flowers to show I can paint with quiet strokes and create a representation of what people think they might see if they had to see a garden. Best of all this dancing woman who emerged just two days ago, 8"x10" and wearing a dazzling purple gown, pushing her body into existence through the textured palette of pinks and lavenders and white; dancing as though she were alive. Kitty and the mazurka. Tolstoy's dream.

No glass of wine for this artist, quieted by the prescription of calm in 1/2 an extra pill to be taken when the heart beats too fast and the panic creeps toward taking control and making function impossible.

But, I do begin to remember the confusion of the less-depressed but quite forgetful pills of the past. I hope my desperation to escape that darkness does not propel me into a different kind of brokenness.

The civil war of my brain needs more ammunition on the side of sanity, more warriors in my brigade.

Quiet Choices in Desperation

I try to avoid naming the medications that I am on because all of the medications react differently with different people, so the names are insignificant.

The doctor though, he's been keeping a record.

Apparently this game has been playing for two years now.

At this point, the assumption is that the current regime of medication has lost its power. I remember the obligatory visits to the doctor this year--I was downright breezy. Every thing's fine, great, good, sleeping well, eating well, doing well. Refill. Repeat.

Today I dragged myself back in there, unkempt, unhappy, unwell.

"So you feel like these pills aren't doing anything for you?"

"No. They're just a thing I do every morning. I drink a glass of water every morning. I just also take a handful of medicine first."

"But you don't know why?"

"Nope, not anymore. It's just a thing I do."

"They're not making you feel any better?"

"I don't feel anything. I just take them. It's just part of my routine. "

He rattled on with options and I waited for him to decide what to do with me. Then he told me I had to decide.

"I don't know. I don't know what's going to work!"

"Neither do I. It's your decision." I seriously pay for this little alchemist to tinker with my brain chemistry?

In my quest for a change there were basically two possibilities:
A) Taper off the current anti-depressant (takes about three weeks to stop taking it and get it out of my system) and then start another one (takes about three weeks to get it up to a medicinal dose that might show some changes), plus increase one of the other medications.
B) Keep the meds I am taking now and slowly add the other med, plus increase one of the other medications.

Why such slow reductions and increases? Because of a possible rash that indicates a possible fatal reaction to the medicine.

Something like that.

The quick fixes available in my lovely neighborhood (alcohol, cigarettes, pot, coke (I mean seriously, the mail delivery person asked if they were dealing at one of the houses on our block)) are allegedly really bad solutions. The alchemist explained that they mess with your neuro-receptors for a short while (the brief experience of relief), but then afterward it's just one big downhill crash--worse than where I am already.

I told him drinking was a better choice than cutting, and he said, just one little notch above.

So I am on restriction.

Adding some pills in the morning, one in the afternoon, then in eight days add more, then in 12 days even more....

Nothing else.

Nothing less.

I told the alchemist that there was no way I could wait six weeks to see if it works. It had been two weeks since I saw him last and my deterioration is palpable. At least visible. I am fairly certain that I made an effort to wear nice clothes last time I went there.

This time I did not even wash my hair.


He said he did not have any quick fixes for me. I asked him how I was supposed to make it through the days. I had already told him how I knew everything there was to no academically why any of the quick fixes were bad ideas, but what could he give me to do.

"You have to use your inner strength," he said.

I looked at him like he was asking me to slam dunk in a little game of one on one with Michael Jordan. "Do I look like a person with a lot of inner strength?" I asked.

"I think you have more than you think you do."

"Well, I certainly hope so, because I'm pretty much using what I've got to propel myself out of the bed and into the shower and to just do things these days."

He filled out some paperwork for me.

"I don't know how you listen to people like me all day and don't lose your own mind," I said.

"I'm not sick, so it doesn't affect me the way it affects you," he said.

I wouldn't wish this feeling on anyone.

Someone stupid is going to try to argue against me on this one, but, it's true: I can't believe I am going to have to learn to live with this disease for the rest of my life. I can't believe I can't just get cured and move on. For the rest of my life I am going to have to fight for inner strength just to be able to interact with the world properly.

Inner strength to go to sleep at 1 a.m.

Jesus.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Magic Shows

I've never really been into them.

Even when I was a little kid.

I always wanted things to be real.

So I guess this trip to the doctor is in search of a miracle, not a magical pill.

I suppose that's OK, since after much study and debate I believe in the Trinity.

So... "Jesus, take the wheel"... all I have to do is get out of bed and drive over there before I miss my appointment.

One act of God at a time...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Channel Drowning

Last night I took a sleeping pill to avoid another sleepless night. Before the medicine I spent three hours trying to sleep--for reals, no radio, no TV, no lights on--to no avail.

But Tuesday night I stayed up til 5 a.m. watching TV online. I also made myself a schedule that I know I have to force myself to adhere to, now that I don't have any regular employers requiring my presence at a certain hour.

I am so worried that if I let myself watch what depression can do to me it will win. On the other hand, it's so much work to fight it and so fascinating to watch that it's hard to change the channel.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

friends in low places

Here in the bog of depression maintaining friendships requires an act of God.

Today I woke up to the phone ringing at 10 a.m. Of course it was in the living room, where I had left it at 4:40 a.m. when I finally made my way to bed, so I had to get up to get it. I figured it would be Justin but it was one of my friends whose plans for the day had been scrambled and was able to make time to hang out with me.

Also he needed a ride home. Sure, he could have taken the bus, but carrying his guitar and all... it was good that he called me.

If it weren't for these people who intrude on my desolation, I would stay in bed all day. Today was my day without appointments and I was perfectly prepared to pass the time in flannel pajamas under flannel sheets and a down duvet. The the phone rang and I had a destination that required a shower before I left the house.

I, the girl who used to shower twice a day, propelled myself into the water in my attempt to maintain whatever shreds of dignitiy people still perceive me to maintain. Sadly, while I was bathing I thought, "well, I'd better wash my hair, God knows when I'll next be bothered with doing this."

So my friend was blessed with a clean and friendly chauffer (and I know he wasn't just calling me for a ride, we share a loving artistic bond).

Despite having vowed not to talk to friends about being clinically depressed again because I know that friendships require 5 parts joy and one part difficulty (a therapist said so), I talked to the musician about it. I knew he understood it. I'd seen him there. I also knew that talking at all about my own needs risked sending another buddy running for the hills, but I needed him to know.

Depression cruelly saps all things--including good judgement in interacting with people.

I pray that I did not make the wrong choice, that I spent my hours with him constructively instead of destructively, that my heart was not too bloody to be invited back.

On the other hand, I have this odd propensity for having friends whose partners are far less social than we are. So, when his boyfriend got home I was greeted by door jarring, furniture moving, grumpy "Oh! Paint! I don't even paint in my own house." (A new phenomenon, to which I said, "Where do you paint then?" Apparently he hasn't "painted since we bought the furniture and put the carpet down.")

It's important to note that I did not spill, that my work was contained on my giant clipboard, and that I was purposely not on the carpet or furniture but on the already paint stained hardwood floor of their one bedroom cottage.

I retreated quickly, my friend apologizing for it all ending on a bad note--though he knew I was planning to paint and he could have told me we'd have to go to our place instead.

Yesterday, my art teacher asked how my "friend, the one who had the baby is." He met her during the first art class either of us ever took; back when we knew about each other's lives and talked to each other weekly and had dinner or took walks or played with her dog or painted together.

I had to tell him I didn't know. That her baby is eight months old and I have yet to meet her or hear from her.

"Have you tried to contact her?"

"I've called, I sent e-mails and cards, I brought gifts to the house... Her husband didn't even let me see her then."

"Well, sometimes those kinds of friendships give us something to paint about."

I was happier painting with her than about her. We flew for hours to go to her wedding. She and I knew each other.

Her husband was also always grouchy when he came home and discovered that his wife had visitors.

Note to self: be nice when I find Justin's friends in my house unexpectedly. Jesus teaches us about radical hospitality, but I'm just talking about plain common courtesy and kindness. When people live with their partners (or even roommates), they share the space and shouldn't have to be afraid to have friends there. As Christians, we're supposed to treat all people as if they might be Jesus and we are to act as "little Christs," according to Martin Luther. As I always say and need to always remember, Jesus said, "Love one another." No exceptions.

So, despite the sting of severed ties and awkward exits, I must act with love (even though I'd rather just expect to be treated lovingly). Yeah, I miss my friend and I wish I knew her child. I thought I would be a big part of her life and promised to help her, but for whatever reason she has not accepted my overtures. Therefore, I have to play this incredibly complicated trick with my heart: I have to love her and let her go at once. I can't keep sending her tokens of my friendship because the time has come when constantly reaching out without reaching her is too painful for me. This woman who was once so generous and loving toward me, with whom I shared years of my life, has gone. I used to say she fell off the face of the Earth, but another friend who suffered a similar loss said, "Nah. She just found another planet to live on." Planet Mommyhood, where friendships go to die, apparently.

As for the neighbors--that's just how they are. People don't change. I gather from the other scenario that sometimes people do win (ie. the husband and child won my friend's entire company and attention), and so someone else has to lose. I guess some friends have to be kept almost like affairs--they have to sneak around and not let their other relationships intertwine with their life as a couple.

If it didn't seem like stalking and if her husband hadn't told me flatly that I couldn't just stop by, I might actually visit on a weekday afternoon to say hello.

But the truth must be accepted: In my low places, I have friends. They are good people and whether they know it or not they are helping me keep my head above water. Maybe if I remember to keep these relationships infused with the love of Christ in my heart I will be able to keep them alive. In the same manner, I must learn to love myself as my neighbor... More love for me, from me.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Date Night

Justin is home after three nights away at The River. He's such a cool kid. We went on a dinner date at Lei Louhge, where on Mondays they have half price sampler platters and pcitures of signature drinks.

We had so much fun catching up with each other about our wekends aparty from each other and our possibilities for the future. He's way cool. I like him. On the wayhome we stooped at all thesteps where iused to stop so I would be a few inches talller than him

****finishing writing a day later**** :
...so that he could see what it's like to be the short one and have to get on his tip toes to kiss me.

Note to self: just because they are on sale is a stupid reason to share a pitcher of Tokyo Iced Tea with only one other person.

Budget Cuts

They did not even send the forms to me on full sheets of paper.

One hand written note from the District's Human Resources Executive Assistant asking me to fill out and return the attached form as soon as possible in order to officially resign from the district.

The form itself is photocopied onto pastel purple paper, requiring all of my contact and identification information and my signature. A half sheet of paper in the annoying non-font of Comic Sans--cartoonish and cheerful as all forms from school officials try to be.

As if a comical font would offset the news of hours of meetings to come, programs to be reduced or demands to be met.

I resigned with my own black Pilot G-2 05 pen.

Click. Scratch scratch scratch. Click.

Refolded the paper and placed it in the envelope provided.

I must use my own 42 cent stamp to finalize the end of my teaching career.



The President of the San Diego City Schools School Board spoke about the Governor's severe budget cuts that would reshuffle the positions of district employees so that even if a teaching credentialed administrative assistant position is cut it will mean a Vice Principal becomes a classroom teacher, a classroom teacher becomes an assistant of some sort, and whoever was last hired leaves the district. It's called bumping. Something to do with city employees and fairness to someone or another and the state not having made enough money in sales and property taxes this year.

I listened and was relieved not to have to prepare to do battle to keep our journalism program afloat or our English photocopy allowance in place.

But these papers make the destructive work of Depression so final.

My life has been stripped away.

Now there is no work that can serve as my source of success-based self-esteem or relationships.
Even the dogs don't need me to walk them each morning anymore.

I am left to attempt what my doctor told me people do to have a place in the world with healthy relationships. All I have to offer is loyalty, generosity, sensitivity and love. Somehow, that is supposed to be enough for someone to let me hang around.

If depression wanted all of me, it got it.

I am just a million grains of sand on the beach indistinguishable from all the other grains. There is no Best of Show sculpture left. Just the ashes and dust from whence we all began.

I will not build another castle.

I know they blow away.

Some Thoughts on Brothers and Sisters

I think the reason my friends and I like Brothers and Sisters (see some full episodes on abc.com) so much is that we want.... oh my God. I was just going to say that it's because we can all find a character that we see ourselves in, or that we want our lives to resemble some aspect of, or that the themes hold universal truth....

Then I realized what an English teacher I will always be, and that all I was going to offer was an analysis of the show and why the story works... comments in the margin and an A at the top.

But still: A friend of mine asked if I thought the mother, Nora, was really that naive or whether she had just acted that way.

For those who don't want to click over to abc to research the show: Nora is suddenly widowed and left with her five adult children: Sarah, the now CEO of the family's produce company and mother of two small children, whose marriage is suffering because of the stay-at-home dad's restlessness and her go-go-go approach to life. Kitty (Katherine... and yes, the name makes me think of Anna Karenina), the family's black sheep Republican journalist who ends up romantically involved with her new boss--who happens to be running for President of the United States. Tommy, the runner-up businessman who breaks off from the family business to start a new branch of the same by opening a winery. Kevin, the gay lawyer who sucks at relationships as much as he sucks as being comfortable in his own skin, but whose liberal family loves him, though his father apparently couldn't quite stomach his son's homosexuality. Justin, the youngest boy who's been mothered by his whole family for so long that he escapes to Iraq in the Army (dad was an Army man too...) and, oops, did I mention also escapes right there in Pasadena with the help of narcotics.

If all that weren't enough, there's also Rebecca, dead William's illegitimate daughter who discovers her relationship to this family after having spent her 20 years living nearby yet never knowing any of them because her mother Holly managed to keep her 20 years as William's mistress under wraps. Upon William's death, the family discovers his infidelity and their new sister because William leaves a big chunk of land to Holly. Unfortunately, because he'd been embezzling from his own company it's about to go under, so when the kids find out about the land they want to sell it so they can save the company, but since they can't manage to trick savvy Holly she ends up owning part of the family business.

OK. So you see why I haven't been watching this show since its premiere on network television. Sounds like one big soap opera, doesn't it?

But, like Rebecca, once you discover this giant crazy family exists you want to be part of it. Always an outsider, she manages to endear herself to Nora, become Justin's best friend and become as much a part of the family as TV-writers with one foot in real life can manage.


And that's as small of a nutshell as I could manage for a synopsis. Now back to the question of Nora.

I do not think she fakes her naivety. She simply fully embraces her life as wife and mother, and with five children and a husband who is building from scratch what becomes a very large and successful business, I don't think she has time to look too far outside her world. I know women like her, celebrating her 60th birthday and still treating the people who throw her surprise party like her babies.

Who doesn't?

Nora has advice for everyone, in a doe-eyed but righteous, strong and determined way she pushes through her life and tries to protect all of her children from the dangers of that big scary world out there. All she wants is for her kids to be happy and safe, only then she will consider relaxing. She is five times more mother than any non-TV mother I've ever met. I think what viewers would like is to take whatever part of her they think was missing in their own mother from Nora and inject her into their lives. Nora is The Need-to-Know-All-the-Details Fixer, the Nag that all the kids hate, the Icon they love with utter devotion, the Apron Strings, Cookies and Milk, Hug they always know they can find when they let her in so she can listen to their problems and offer comfort and wisdom (sometimes found when distilled from ridiculous advice) before they go back out there. It's Nora's naivety that we want. Her wholly unconditional love that manifests itself too frequently in a just-checking-on-you phone call or surprise visit and an earful of opinion also settles into a quiet hug and the presence of motherly love that even if we want to think we've outgrown we never stop needing--or wanting.


Did I really just voluntarily write a crappy-first-draft of a character analysis for a TV show?

Oy vey.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cookies and Milk

That's what's going to help me sleep.

Sure, there's medicine, but that's so passe.


BTW, I'm always behind the technological curve (myspace, not facebook), but did you know that you can watch full episodes of Brothers and Sisters online now? And here I was renting the DVDs from Blockbuster...

Also, I need a puppy.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Wishful Thinking

I remember when my thyroid first went wacky. Medication cleared things up right away. And the "things" were pretty serious. I was tired all the time. I needed to eat constantly and I craved salty food and didn't like chocolate anymore (Salt has iodine in it and that's important for the thyroid; since I don't typically eat much salty food craving it was a significant anomaly). Plus I had very minor tremors in my hands--like when people go too long without eating.

The doctor prescribed synthroid, and suddenly I wasn't tired and hungry all the time or shaking.

Plus my mood was steadier (just think what being tired and hungry does for a person's mood).

I should have known better than to think it could have been my thyroid this time.

A week without work and three blood test results later and no progress except exceptions.

It would have been too easy.

I want to fix this horrible feeling in my breathing (freakishly, the guy who freaks out when the printer runs out of ink before they press the Easy Button just acted out my insides). I want to believe I can just take some medicine and feel better.

The doctor is probably right though. He's conservative with medicine. He wants me to wait another week before I see him again--and during that week more days will pass without me working. We both know that I am not the kind of person who can be calm just because I am not going to work.

The very thought threw me into panic. The act of not working increased that panic.

One more week might move me toward calm.

Or I'll just swirl deeper into the horror that my life can become.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Bed Won

Someone said depressed people are mentally unstable. I prefer to think it's a cool club. You get to know all kinds of things you didn't think you'd know. And you get to see yourself in a totally different light and then another one and another one....

I prefer not to think of us as mentally unstable (jk... I know we are). I prefer to think of us as .... who am I kidding?

But let me go grab this book that I'm reading, because there's kind of a neat definition in there for depression: hidden knowledge. (Jeffery Smith, Where the Roots Reach for Water quoting psychologist James Hillman).

I'm at a part now where a therapist is asking what he thinks his depression wants from him and what direction it's taking him in. Of course he gets pissed off at the question, since the obvious answer is that it wants his whole life and it's taking him in terrible directions, but he doesn't really have an answer for her just yet. This is all in a conversation with a shrink whom he finally breaks down and sees after two years of trying to go it alone and fight the depression and just get his work done (which of course is in mental health, which makes him feel kinda retarded at work). The doctor wants him to realize that fighting it isn't working (which he sees), and that perhaps he needs to learn to work with depression in his life.

I was thinking about it in terms of my life and I see that depression is a part of my life that I am disappointed to say probably is one of those incurable diseases. While possibly lethal, it is not necessarily lethal; there are tons of people out there who learn to manage their depression and lead prosperous lives. Bonnie Dumanis, the DA of SD is one of them--she went to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Intensive Outpatient Program at Sharp Mesa Vista Medical Center, where I went. She obviously has a very high profile and intellectually demanding life, and everyone knows she suffers this disease, that she went to Cog and that she supports their program (She gave a speech there and is open about it, that's why I know.).

I am disappointed with myself today. I got up and went to walk the dogs, intending to run them since they were so hyper yesterday and I could use the exercise. Unfortunately, it was rainy and my sweatshirt wasn't warm enough, so we just took a longish walk. Then I ate a little breakfast and did the dishes and somehow ended up back in my bed. Thank God I got up before 1 so I could go to my modeling gig, but I almost missed it. I really hadn't wanted the bed to win today. I wanted to function in society, I had a list of things to do. It just didn't happen. It couldn't. I lost the battle.

While I was modeling I thought about the advice I had sought about the work before I started it. One person worried that since I was feeling vulnerable, art modeling would make me feel even more vulnerable. The irony is I feel safer doing that than hostessing. It's so much easier for me to be still. The students are not allowed to talk to me. I cannot talk because I cannot move. They can see me, but they have no idea what is inside, whether the melancholy face is depressed or dramatic. It is a relatively safe time at work when I model.

So what does depression want from me? Maybe it is the truer me. Maybe it's right. Maybe it gets that all those awards and accolades and promotions are all just bullshit to me and that what I really want is to stay focused on my creative outlets. Depression has stolen my job as a teacher and a journalism adviser and is holding my job in the restaurant business hostage.

Depression does not allow me to be in places where I do not feel safe.

Depression narrows my world at the very same time that it opens it to the possibilities of a life doing what maybe I was meant to do.

It would be a lot easier if I could just be a happy-go-lucky creative girl, but my happy-go-luckyness comes and goes.

In the book I referred to earlier, the author has a depression that is not responsive to medication--he tries a lot of stuff and sometimes it works but then it stops. (Kinda like me, now, I think.) In his exploration and education about the disease he reviews his childhood perspective on life. Like him, I realize that "clinically depressed/dysthymic/cyclothymic" or whatever you want to call it, is just a newly acquired label and diagnosis. When I was in elementary school, I was "shy." I have been dubbed "introverted," "condescending," "quiet," "sweet," "sad," "bored," "homesick," "judgmental," "critical," "having a high moral standard," "bitchy," "goody-two-shoes...." All kinds of words that just label the impression that other people have had when they've seen me walking around and jumped to conclusions without realizing that I was just trying to hold myself together and make sense of the world and figure out why I was so scared and shaky inside.

Maybe if I had been born into the Prozac nation of the late 80s or 90s I would have been diagnosed or helped or treated in different ways when I was a kid. Maybe it's right just to let kids be shy when they're little and all the way through high school and then homesick in college.

I don't know.

All I know is that now I am part of a community that people still make fun of and that is still stigmatized and that I wish I did not have to embrace.

But no one gets those choices.

I do not get those choices.

All I get to do is live this way and try to put myself in places where "who I am" is safe.

Hopefully more often than not that will mean I can get out of bed, off the couch and out of the house and make it to the art studio or the bookstore or the coffee shop or church.

But I think that my depression wants me to be in those places--places I have always wanted to be; places where I can create art in various forms and if the pain comes with me it can show in some constructive way.

Depression, something that can make me so dangerous, wants to keep me safe?

I am not an Inherently Grouchy Person

I am really very cheerful and happy go-lucky are carefree.

Which is why this gloomy takeover makes it hard for me to even breathe. I hate it. I don't want to sit here sad and anxious and frustrated and irritable. I just want to be free from this. The puppies are involved in my crusade for happiness, but none of us were that excited about walking in the misty rain this morning, so that only worked so well.

I'm going to propel myself out of the house and into my art world and hopefully that will help. I've got some work to distribute, stuff to hang and a modeling session today, so maybe once the object gets in motion it will stay in motion.

It's this damn lead shot that's making it difficult.

Shadows

Stanley is afraid of his shadow. On evening walks he sees it following us and startles or cowers. Then the trucks and cars drive by and there's more jumpiness and fear. I should share a little anxiety medication with him, put it in a snack so he can see the world through calmer eyes.

Meanwhile mine follows me around: the critic, the observer, the attacker like Stanley's, the confused guide that doesn't know where to go unless I go so doesn't guide me at all.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Exhausting

During the time that I was healthy, I don't remember feeling like I was watching myself doing well. I was just doing stuff. I wish I had been smart enough to be aware that I was happy, to record it so I could always remember what it felt like--happy, serene, calm, hopeful, playful, relaxed.

When depression hits those cheerful words don't hold meaning beyond definition. They're just words, like memorizing flowers or types of insects based on photographs. Like looking at photographs of unrecognizable food from a foreign country and being able to recite the names, but having no emotional connection to them, not, "... like I used to eat when I was a kid."

Just words. Words worshiped in our society. Words with descriptions I know to act. Out there, in the world, the facade of those words is really important.

Even when I'm walking the puppies and I am having fun I still carry an odd weight in my chest holding me down and pushing against my tear ducts at once.

I plan my day though. I plan it so that I cannot just stay inside and nap or lie on the couch while TV rolls mindless images into the light.

Mostly it works out.

Today there were times when I really was just glad to be doing what I was doing. Times when I concentrated on my work. And then there's the times that I feel like a rag doll filled with lead shot. It rolls through me when I muster the strength to lift the skin that holds my form.

Where does this come from?

Monday, February 11, 2008

The First Monday

Just as I have grown to pass the days without knowing whether it is a 2-4-6 or a 1-3-5 day, I have apparently replaced it with knowing the evening theme of an award winning gay restaurant.

I look forward to working somewhere that has nothing to do with awards one day. Maybe it will be easier to forget when I can't do it anymore.

Luckily, I managed to keep so busy today that I could not nap nor wallow. I walked the puppies, took a yoga class, got my teeth tightened, treated myself to lunch, picked Justin up to get coffee and run an errand, then traded him for the puppies who let me take them to the beach, give them a bath and take them on a long walk.

The company of my husband is always nice, but I think even he will allow that the puppy part of my day was the best. I am a girl who needs a dog in her life.

They were so excited when I came back in the middle of the day (surprise!) that they did their usual running around, drinking some water ("we must be going on a walk, it's OK to drink now.... my bladder won't explode"), and clamoring all over me. Then, Stanley took the extra measure of affection and jumped up on the couch to sit next to me. I complimented him a lot and I think he got embarrassed, so he had to run for his carrot toy and play with it. Stanley is quite sensitive. Meanwhile, Yaz accepted the relief of me petting her instead of just rubbing her body along the couch the way she does. Yaz is a dog who needs a scratching post, but wouldn't use it because she would think it beneath her.

News of a ride to the beach was accepted gleefully. The dogs were so excited they both committed the crime of peeing right at the gate on the pathway instead of the plant area. It's really too bad for them that they don't understand this sort of behavior actually slows down the process of getting to the fun part (the walk, the park, the beach, a visit to Uncle Justin's house, a walk to a coffee shop that happens to also serve puppy treats...). They despise being held up by their leashes attached to a pole, but even that indignity is above getting their paws wet from the buckets of water that cleans away the urine. This from the very same dogs that walk through the pee and wouldn't care if the neighbors had to do it too.

There is a shrink wrapped doggie treat in the well of my passenger seat. It is in the shape of a long stick and meant for Yaz because she isn't into tennis balls the way Stan plays at the park. My hope is that with that giant food-toy I can get her running out there too. Somehow though, Stan has maybe figured out it is there, and he keeps wanting to jump into the front seat. He is a Very Smart Dog, especially for having spent the first part of his life homeless and untrained. Yaz has yet to take interest in this treat that has been kept hidden, but Yaz is also not the dog who knew I brought them a toy last week.

An aside: I walked into the condo with a huge Gap bag filled with empty grocery bags, a DVD, a Nalgene of water, my wallet and my keys. On top, but still hidden from view, there was a small stuffed animal, a blue kitty cat that someone found and gave to me. Stan greeted me that morning and then as I sat on the couch and said hello to Yaz, he did something he never does when I put a bag down on the couch.

Stan jumped up on the couch (only in the last two weeks has this become something he does on his own), walked toward the bag and started sniffing at it. Stunned, I just watched. There was a little part of me that wanted to tell him not to do it, but since it was not a purse or anything, since I couldn't figure out how he would distinguish my bag for picking up his dog-shit from their bags for picking up dog-shit, I just kept watching.

He sniffed and sniffed and then found the entry. Once there, he cautiously buried his body from nose to hind legs in the bag, all the while sniffing sniffing sniffing. Ever so slowly he backed up, not wagging his tail (all the crackling of the bags, the blindness of diving, the danger of being on the couch AND in a bag) but not quite tucking it all the way down. He emerged holding the blue kitty in his mouth. Then he simply sat next to the Gap bag and proceeded to remove the plastic eyeballs from the toy.

Nothing to do but watch... can't praise that behavior; can't help but be impressed with his savvy.

So..... at the beach Yaz went about her social way with the other dogs and other parents, checking out stuff covered in flies, and pretending not to know me. Stan acted like a two year old, wandering just far enough away to feel comfortable and then running back to push up against my legs and know that I am still there.

Eventually (with enough calling to Yaz) we ended up at the quieter end of the beach. Stan finally found a rubbed to the tan rubber tennis ball, so we played fetch along the way. Spent, I sat down. There was a playful dog nearby that chased Yaz around for a while, and since Stan has mastered Fetch (he actually brings the ball back to me now, instead of stopping 10 feet away and staring at it, waiting for it to throw itself) I got to rest and play.

Then (oh my!) Stan's tennis ball went into the water. About one foot away from his snout. Two puppy steps. And the water kept moving. So the ball kept moving. Stan kept watching it, ears perked up, tail up, head cocked with curiosity.

Someone playing with a swimming lab asked me if I wanted her to get it for him, but the couple that owned Yaz's friend and I were having so much fun watching him try to stay dry and grab the ball at the same time that I said, "No, he's having fun just watching it move along. He can get it. He just needs encouragement."

We'd been cheering from a far, but the ball moved further toward the ocean from the inlet, so I got up to follow him and kept saying, "You can do it, Stan! You can do it! Go for it! Just a little bit closer!"

Finally he went went went and grabbed.

"Yay Stan! Good job! Good job!!!!"

It was beach-wide cheering.

Satisfied with his manliness, Stan trotted back to our area and sat for a while gnawing on the ball. Then he got up and waited for me to throw it. I threw it near the water, and he picked it up and then dropped it on the downhill slope so that it rolled into the water.

He'd found a game he liked--a dream came true: the emotional challenge of chasing the ball without the need of someone to throw it.

People were starting to go home as it got later, so I started back toward the other end of the beach and they followed me. We chased each other and played fetch a long the way. At the car they took turns being toweled off and then fell asleep on the ride home.

Bath time!

Long walk to dry off!

Aunty 'Laina, please let us just lie down.

And that is the story of how Yaz and Stan got me through the day without letting me go nuts.

Timing

I had some good friends and then I got sick and some of them fell away and some of them held on and then fell away later. Then I got better and I started making new friends and getting back in contact with the last to fall away but now I've started getting sick again. It's bad timing--those who may return never really got to see me well because I used all that time to reestablish myself as a working member of society and a helpful wife, those who maybe were just starting to like me might see the illness too soon, and the jobs are getting all mucked up too.

I wonder if living is this hard for everyone.

If normal people are always calculating their moves, so as not to mess things up.

With a mood disorder, maneuvering through life feels like keeping track on an abacus of affection: give a little, hold a little back, retrieve a bit, give a little more... all just trying to make it add up to OK.

Acceptable.

Accepted.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

oh my God

This behavior is unacceptable, so today I must use my cognitive behavioral skills bag of tricks and get out of my house. Yesterday, albeit productive because I put my application together for various art shows, I stayed in my pajamas until about 3 p.m. The world wide web offers this experience. I can even campaign for Barack Obama from the comfort of my home as long as I have a cell phone and access to the web.

But I missed church today. Not because I am lazy--I think--but because the prospect of seeing dozens of people with nothing to ask but how am I doing is ever so slightly overwhelming. If I could just slip in there, sit in the service, be served Communion (on Wednesday have gotten some Ashes) that would have done just fine.

And yes, ditching church is on my list of warning signs from before--when they release people from cog they have us fill out action plans for in case we see a lapse coming.

It's a beautiful day today. The kind of day that calls for walks in the park and lying by the pool--and I live by Balboa Park and a hotel pool that neighbors can use if they buy drinks from the bar.

So today I cannot lie in the cave of our darkened apartment with the blinds drawn shut and hope that no one will see me. Today I have to conquer whatever fear this might be and get out there in the world. Today I have to fight (and not with my moderately ranked irritability chart mood, but with my might and will to beat the depression and anxiety monsters). Today, I will go outside.

Oh, how does life get so small so fast?

This disorder, this dis-ease, sucks.

It's just so much work all the time.

You know those weights people strap onto themselves to get more exercise when they're walking or running. Having clinical depression is like strapping too many of those weights to your arms, legs and core and then trying to get off the couch.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Apartment

Once you go inside. You get over the fear. But look. Stuff is different than before.

So it's sad.



What'ya gonna do?

Probably better to clean up a bit and then try to go outside, since it's sunny and all. Staying in a scary place is too stuck. Stuck is too dangerous. Fresh air is clinically proven to help.

It's too much work to even resemble a vacation.

So You Still Think I'm on Vacation?

Then you sit somewhere with a compression in the middle of your chest radiating through your tightening lungs and squeezing your throat closed. Breathe shallow and off beat.

Like when you enter your empty apartment in the dark and sense something is different than when you left it in the morning.

Make blueberry pancakes for breakfast and eat with your husband, knowing you don't have to go to work in two hours, yet still feel your brain squishing in your head like a sponge being wrung out.

Try to vacation with palms too sweaty to open the sunscreen.

Round Two

It's because of being smug.

It's because of looking at statistical charts during presentations and thinking, "That won't happen to me. I will not let that happen to me."

It's because things happen to people whether they "let" them or not. People are just not that powerful.

On the other hand, we are.

The power lies not in what happens to us, but how we handle those events.

"I'll rise, I'll rise, I'll rise."

It started at the end of January, the charts and the doctor says.

The charts track mood elevation/depression, anxiety, irritability, sleep, medications, illnesses... all on one sheet of paper with a column for each day.

"Stable for the end of December and most of January. Then a drop off in January, and in February...."

Could be stress. Could be the thyroid. Could be something else.

So people are messing with my life again. My once steady, once relatively normal, not so over-achieving achieving life got caught.

I tell them I don't want to play this game again, that I don't want to go back to the same place, that I don't want to do it all over again; and they tell me I am not.

With some conviction I believe that this is true: I am not where I was last time. Last time I went really far down a dangerous desert road and I did not have any supplies with me. This time, I see the warning signs and I am not ignoring them. This time, I am stopping to ask for directions, I am making a U-turn and I am going back to the intersection. Also, for the past two years I have been gathering supplies and I know how to dole them out to make them last.

I don't want to be here.

I really don't want to be here. But I have to believe that I did not choose this experience. I did not let this happen. My life's work has become avoiding this road. What I have to accept is that I am not the sole driver of my life. And God is not my co-pilot. That would mean I would be the pilot, and sure, maybe I am in the driver's seat, but that bumper-sticker theology implies that I make all the decisions and He navigates. It implies that the "I" is my will. I have come to learn that the "I" of a person is a lot more than their will. A person is made up of so many cells (and sometimes those cells are malformed or get sick), and so many experiences (good and bad), and so many influences (positive and negative), and that's just to start. Hell, that's even just at birth. It continues.

So when that "I" turns down a road it's not just because of its will. It's millions of factors and a magnetic pull and a result that happens whether the will wants it or not.

My will forces me to go to the doctors and get guidance when I see that I am getting unwell. We all say this time is not like last time because I caught it so much earlier, and we all must believe that I can turn around sooner.

I must.

It is not my will not to go to my job five days a week. We all know if it were up to me I would pretend I could do it all. I would plow through. We also know the result of taking those steps.

I am going to get better.

I am not in the same place as last time.

This experience is not a do-over.

It's a keep going and apparently my supplies don't run out.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

ah, democracy

I don't think that President GW Bush should try to spread democracy around the world like it's butter that makes it better, but I do like living in a democracy and being actively involved in our democracy.

I voted.

I became a citizen of the United States so that I would be able to vote in our elections.

Barack Obama is still in the running. He lost our state by a little bit, but he did well and can win the nomination.

Hillary Clinton might win instead.

Either way: history is made. A man of color. A woman.

A change.

Either way, I win.

I wonder who they would choose for running mates.

And yeah, I will still be working for Obama.

His website header says, "I'm asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington...I'm asking you to believe in yours."

I believe.

Do you?

Check it out: barackobama.com.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Center Does Not Hold

The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight; somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

--
Irish poet W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

Lines of this poem are quoted by Chinua Achebe in the preface to Things Fall Apart.

The same line, "The Center Does Not Hold," also inspired the title of Dr. Elyn Saks' book by the same name: The Center Does Not Hold: My Journey Through Madness. Here are some reviews:

From Publishers Weekly
In this engrossing memoir, Saks, a professor of law and psychiatry at the University of Southern California, demonstrates a novelist's skill of creating character, dialogue and suspense. From her extraordinary perspective as both expert and sufferer (diagnosis: Chronic paranoid schizophrenia with acute exacerbation; prognosis: Grave), Saks carries the reader from the early little quirks to the full blown falling apart, flying apart, exploding psychosis. Schizophrenia rolls in like a slow fog, as Saks shows, becoming imperceptibly thicker as time goes on.- Along the way to stability (treatment, not cure), Saks is treated with a pharmacopeia of drugs and by a chorus of therapists. In her jargon-free style, she describes the workings of the drugs (getting med-free, a constant motif) and the ideas of the therapists and physicians (psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, cardiologist, endocrinologist). Her personal experience of a world in which she is both frightened and frightening is graphically drawn and leads directly to her advocacy of mental patients' civil rights as they confront compulsory medication, civil commitment, the abuse of restraints and the absurdities of the mental care system. She is a strong proponent of talk therapy (While medication had kept me alive, it had been psychoanalysis that helped me find a life worth living). This is heavy reading, but Saks's account will certainly stand out in its field.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
At eight years old, Saks began suffering hallucinations and obsessive fears of being attacked. An adolescent experimentation with drugs provoked her parents to enroll her in a drug treatment program. But Saks' incredible self-control masked the fact that she was suffering from a debilitating mental illness. By the time she entered graduate school at Oxford University, her symptoms were so severe—including full-blown psychotic episodes and suicidal fantasies—that she was hospitalized. Through Oxford, law school at Yale, and a move to Los Angeles to work in the law school of the University of California, Saks struggled mightily to balance her ambitions with her illness, which was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. Never wanting to concede to her mental illness, Saks founds calm and comfort in a rigorous work routine. An analyst characterized her as having three lives: as Elyn, as Professor Saks, and as the Lady of the Charts mental patient. As Saks battled to get off medication and leave behind the Lady of the Charts, she fought for the rights of mental patients, and came to terms with her own limitations. Bush, Vanessa
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved




Saks disease is not mine. But holding the center is my job. Sometimes, to use a metaphor Saks mentioned while discussing her book on NPR this morning, I feel like a sand castle.

I am one of those sand castles built in a sand castle building competition. I am the winning sand castle. First place. Best of show. But every sand castle falls to nature: the center does not hold.

Wind blows the outer grains away, smoothing the once chiseled design until the sculpture becomes unrecognizable. The ocean rises, crashes and steals the sand sculpture. Someone jumps for fun and the center cannot hold.

No one knows a sand castle competition ever happened. No one remembers building the castle. No one knows what it looked like.

The outsides, the center, none of it holds.

There is no glue for life.

I watch pieces fly away.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Perspective

In painting, one of the most difficult skills is keeping objects in perspective. Bodies have relatively common proportions--something like a total of 8 heads for the proportions of an ideal human body (7 for the average, 8 1/2 for the heroic). Lines moving closer to each other show a road going distantly into the page or conversely moving toward the viewer, and if the size of the objects along that road do not get correspondingly smaller or larger, the view becomes unreasonably skewed and illogical.

Living shares this challenge.

The objects that compose my life have changed since two years ago. Some of the changes are drastic, some of the changes are subtle. But the problem of keeping things in perspective remains.

The objects of my present include: hostessing v. serving (also missing church because of work), art modeling, photography, painting, marketing my artistic business, maintaining historic friendships, building new friendships, supporting my husband in his fourth year of medical school and through his residency application process, keeping house, being a daughter and a sister, having an active political voice, being a healthy human being.

I need to keep these objects in perspective.

Given my deeply ingrained drive to achieve perfection, my job with a regular paycheck and regular bosses so easily slips into position as the most significant object in my life. When I let that happen (which is almost always--especially since the forces of work want my all and require my time) more than necessary, I start to die from it.

Hostessing is not my all. The restaurant business is not my life's dream. The bosses are not the people in my life who are going to love, cherish and respect me forever. In fact, they are not the people who love, cherish and respect me now.

I have to put my health before all else. Without a healthy body, I have nothing.

With a healthy body I have a life with Justin. None of the other objects of my life should interfere with my relationship with Justin--it is the most important relationship, the one that is built on mutual trust, love, respect, admiration and the eternal promise of love in God's good grace.

Given Justin's faithful presence in my life, it is right for me to do with the remaining objects whatever serves our relationship most happily.

Therefore, I have to prioritize the things that make me most happy and keep them in a healthy perspective.

Personally: Healthy relationships with family and friends.

Professionally: photography, painting, writing.

Financially: modeling and jobs that feed our pocketbook primarily and my soul secondarily.

Clearly I have allowed my life to fall out of perspective.

Fortunately, I have noticed the problem and figured out a way to fix it: Live in the moment.

It sounds trite, and I hate to use a stale cliche; however, I know focusing on the moment is the only way I will thrive in the present and survive into the future. Obviously, the jobs that I do primarily because I need to make money to pay for rent, food and other necessities must be done well. While I am doing them I should focus on that work and let my energy flow into it--I should be my best at it. But there's not a reason to allow jobs to infect my personal and professional lives. I have simple jobs because I do not want to take my work home with me. Now I do not have homework, but I am allowing my emotional obsessiveness to infect my real life with my job. My emotions are becoming involved because I like to see forward progress and when I do not see it or feel vulnerable because of other people's behavior I tend to latch onto the problem and relentlessly search for a solution.

I need to accept that there are situations in which I am not in control and in which there is no so-called solution.

Particularly, in this job situation, my future relies on the position and choices of other people. The job I have is a job I choose because I wanted to work where people have fun and where I could have fun while earning some money.

So fun it will be. I have the power over that--as long as I act with strength and focus.

Focus on what I do have power for.

Restaurant work and modeling are not places where I should feel at all concerned with advancing. If I am promoted, I can feel pleasantly surprised. If I am not promoted, I still earn my basic living. Meanwhile, I might as well do my job well and enjoy it.

Ridiculously, restaurant work has become the object that occupies my thoughts most heavily. Who likes me? Who does not? Why? How will I get promoted? When? Why am I doing this? For how long? What happened to the implication that I would be moving up quickly? Why? Where did these other people come from? Why?

How on Earth has the thing that I have concluded logically is the least emotionally important aspect of my life become the most emotionally consuming aspect of my life?

Emotional health.

I still allow my self-worth to depend on the responses of other people to me.

Self-worth by its very definition is not supposed to rely on people outside myself.

It seems to me that it is again time to redefine myself.

In fact, maybe just remind myself of the definition of my Self.

I am Olaina. I am healthy. I am physically, emotionally and mentally steady and strong. I am creative. I am an artist: photographer, painter, writer, designer. I am in love. I am a wife: caregiver, housekeeper, listener, companion, friend, partner. I am a friend.

I need to return to the joy of just being alive--the joy I knew after I got out of the hospital. It's the joy of sunrises and puppy dogs (still joyful) and laughing when I realize that a healthy perspective is not a universal gift, that in fact it is a perspective that requires awareness of self and others-- of reality.

Reality never makes insignificant items nearly as important as I make them when I allow my mind to become obsessed with perfection and promotion.

Perspective? Life is about glory and thanks to God, which is love--and love is appropriately placed in every relationship at different levels. I just have to remember which relationships are most significant.