Chicken Caprese

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I made Chicken Caprese tonight.

I’ve been cooking more often but it’s been quick oven meals, slow cooker meals, or dump and go instant pot stuff.

None of the really good food that I used to make.

But this week I menu planned, and added back some of the yummier stuff that we’ve always liked.

I’m still in this weird period of flux where I’m doing

so

much

better.

But at the same time,

I’m not.

I woke up at 830 this morning,

fought and fought to get myself out of bed.

Tried to bribe myself with activities or coffee.

Pushed and pushed and pushed.

And woke up at 930 when my alarm went off, signaling an upcoming appointment.

I snoozed.

I snoozed.

I snoozed.

And then I begrudgingly rolled out of bed.

After my appointment I wanted to climb back in,

but we had other things scheduled for today.

I can’t figure out why it’s so hard for me to wake up.

I’ve cut out most of my sleeping meds.

The only one I’m still taking is my nightmare med,

which shouldn’t make me that tired.

Because I’m not taking the sleeping meds, it’s taking me a really long time to fall asleep.

I typically get up after an hour, and try again an hour later.

But I’m still not going to bed all that late.

I just need

so

much

sleep.

But tonight I cooked Chicken Caprese.

I stood at the stove and mixed the fragrant ingredients, setting timer after timer to keep myself on track.

It was hot and miserable, but still fun and enjoyable.

I miss cooking like that.

I like that I’m getting my old self back.

The one that finds enjoyment in life.

But I wish it would happen quicker.

Give me my life back, damnit.

He showed up in my dreams again last night.

I can’t remember most of it.

But I remember him standing there, rigid and stern.

The look he got when he was about to lose his shit.

The look he got when I messed up,

again.

Today when I was cooking,

and really when I do much of anything,

I fear messing up.

I fear the disappointment,

or the wrath that might come.

But it’s not coming from anyone near me anymore.

I’m surrounded by love and light.

People who accept me for me.

People who love me as I am.

People who love me,

even when I mess up.

It’s hard to internalize that love though.

It’s hard to recognize that I don’t have to be perfect to be lovable.

That sometimes, people even love me because of the times I mess up.

Unconditional love is hard to understand,

when I grew up feeling like I was only loved when I was perfect.

When I met someone else’s standard of being.

But I’m learning to give myself grace.

To love myself even when I mess up.

To love myself.

Old Houses

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I’ve been dreaming about my dad a lot.

The dreams always take place at his old house, the one I helped him build, the one I spent every other weekend at for most of my childhood years.

We made a lot of memories in that home.

I was sad when he sold it.

I remember climbing on the roof putting shingles on.

I remember him throwing a priced pencil set across the room because I didn’t put it away.

I remember playing in the giant hole where the foundation was dug out.

I remember being called Butch when I got my hair cut short for the first time.

I remember laying bricks, learning how to put just the right amount of mortar on.

I remember realizing Dad was racist, when he was talking about his brick layer.

I remember playing on “Mt. Tina,” the giant pile of dirt where they dug the basement out.

That’s the house I envision when I envision my father.

I only visited him a handful of times at the Florida house.

So that’s not where he is in my dreams.

I dream about him every few nights.

Dreams that take place after he shot himself, but he’s still alive.

A weird dichotomy where I know he’s dead, but I know he’s alive.

The dreams don’t really upset me, most of the time.

But, he tried to kill me in one of them and I screamed out,

scaring Wonder Woman who was sleeping beside me.

I’m pretty upset that I dream about him so often.

In the three months since he’s died, he’s shown up in my dreams more times than Parker ever has.

And she’s been dead for four and a half years.

This wasn’t what I planned to write about today.

I planned to write about pulling out an old hobby.

A friend gifted me a small diamond painting and it reminded me of how many hours I spent doing them a few years ago.

I didn’t realize I missed it until I started doing it again.

Relaxing in a meditative sort of way.

An activity that I get completely immersed in,

focusing on matching each symbol in turn as I work my way around the canvas.

It’s a silly activity.

One that will leave me with giant canvases full of plastic “diamonds.”

Art that I will never do anything with.

But it occupies my mind and my hands.

It gives me something to do on these long winter nights while Covid keeps me trapped inside.

I texted my cousin this week.

Told him I was ready to come back to work a few hours a week.

When he has something for me to do.

It feels like an achievement.

Like I’m healing.

Like I’m getting my life back.

It’s about time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I haven’t written in a few days because I just haven’t had anything to write about.

I don’t want to just post a day by day accounting of my life.

I like the posts that have substance,

meaning,

direction.

I’ve been dreaming a lot about my dad recently.

Weird dreams that take place after he died, but he’s still there talking to me.

Dreams where I’m giving him advice that I am trying to give to myself.

Telling him it will take time for his antidepressants to work.

Telling him he needs to slow down with spending money.

Also telling him how he traumatized me.

How he inconvenienced my sister and I.

How much work it’s been since he died.

I keep trying to look at the positives that will come from his death.

I no longer have to force weekly phone calls that are boring and uncomfortable.

He’s no longer making people miserable.

He’s no longer degrading me and telling me how I’m not good enough.

And, he may be buying me a house.

But that seems like such a foreign concept to me.

The idea of owning a house.

I don’t feel like I’m adult enough to own a house.

I still have a lot of research to do about my benefits,

my disability and my health insurance.

I have to make sure they won’t penalize me for actually owning something.

God forbid someone starts to pull themselves out of poverty,

I have to make sure they won’t rip the rug out from underneath me.

But at the same time I’m excited.

And it feels good to be excited about something.

It’s still months away before I can really start looking.

Probate takes forever, I’ve learned.

But I’m browsing on Zillow, looking at Real Estate websites, searching for homes within my price range that have pictures.

Starting a mental list of what’s important to me.

Of wants and needs.

I know I’m hyper-focusing,

I know it may end up never happening.

And I know I’m anxious even thinking about the idea.

Because I’m not adult enough.

But what if?

What if?

What if I don’t every have to worry about being homeless, ever again?

What if I never have to worry about someone taking my home away?

What if I never have to worry about being kicked out?

What if?

Maybe, just maybe,

something good can come out of his fucked up death.

Maybe he can give me some sort of financial stability.

Maybe he can take away some of my worries.

I remember, when I was younger, he would threaten me with taking me out of the will.

He planned, for the longest time, to give me less than he gave my sister.

And he made sure I knew.

He didn’t want me to get his money when I couldn’t take care of myself.

I didn’t deserve the help, he felt.

Well, fuck him.

Fuck him.

And it would be nice if one day I can say,

fuck him,

while I’m sitting in my own home.

Grief

This is a Really Real Trauma post.

TW: Completed Suicide Mentioned. Gun Violence Mentioned.

I was just laying in bed, starting to doze off, mind still wandering.

And I thought of my dad.

Now, this isn’t strange anymore. The latest brain trains have lead me down a road where I think of something about caring for my dad.

Transferring him from bed to chair, or him screaming “Mom” wanting to get out of bed in the middle of the night, or cooking shrimp for him in a way that I never would have thought of.

And that thought is followed immediately by a “pop” and a blurry image of him dead in his wheelchair.

I think of him a lot. Sometimes it fucks with my brain, sometimes it’s just a passing intrusive thought.

But this time was different.

I thought of my dad back when I was young.

The dad that I worshipped.

This time I thought about the times in between the abuse.

I thought about the times that we went crabbing.

The times that I really looked up to him, like when they called him in to teach navigation to my boating class.

The times when he was so proud of me, like when I passed that exam.

The times when we would sit behind his friend’s Florida time share, when he would grill hamburgers (until they were flat, dry, pucks of meat) and heat beans up in the can.

That time that he took me on a plane to some random airport, just to turn around and fly back home, because I had never been on a plane but I always watched as either he or my adult sister would leave on a flight.

I have lots of good memories with him.

And then I realized. I’m not grieving the loss of him. I don’t care that he’s gone.

I remember having a conversation with my sister. We both wondered out loud how we would react to his death.

I was ready to walk away from my relationship with him, but I felt I would regret it when he died and I didn’t want to feel guilty for another death (heh).

But I figured, no matter how little I felt towards him when he was alive, I’d grieve him when he was gone.

And obviously, as time would tell, I felt a great deal towards him. Otherwise I wouldn’t have done what I did.

But still. I’m not grieving the loss of him.

A very, very, horrible, person is no longer in this world. He can no longer treat me like “less than,” he can no longer treat anyone that way.

And he treated everyone that way.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I am grieving the lost of my stability.

I am grieving the addition of another trauma to my history.

But I’m not grieving his death.

Even those good memories ended by the time I was 14. Once I had an actual mind of my own, my opinion was no longer tolerated. It wasn’t about building a relationship in between the abuse anymore.

It was just about shutting me down and reminding me to stay in my place.

Maybe not directly.

But by judging me so harshly, and making sure I knew it.

By calling me “butch” constantly when I cut my hair short, even though I had no idea what that meant. (I wonder how he felt when he realized he was right.)

By pointing out every thing I did wrong. Making sure I remembered it.

By making sure I remembered how often he was right. And it didn’t matter what the truth was, he was ALWAYS right.

By throwing things and yelling when I stepped out of line.

By doing the same just because something around us went wrong.

I don’t grieve the loss of him.

Actually, I celebrate it.

And I almost,

almost,

feel guilty for that.

But, fuck him. He spent long enough hurting me.

He hurt me with his final fucking action.

With his final selfish thought.

He doesn’t get to hurt me through grief, too.

Our goal is to live so someone actually gives a shit when we die.

And very few people give a shit about him.

So Sleepy

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

TW: Mention of gun violence and gore. Mention of suicide.

Apparently my posts are just going to keep being long for awhile. Thanks for hanging in there. And thanks for all of the kind words and support.

Sleeping at night is hard. Even with the new nightmare medication they started me on, I’m still awake constantly, tossing and turning and barely dozing off before tossing and turning again.

At least with the medications I’m not dreaming and ruminating of shots going off and bloody faces.

When the sun starts to come up I settle into sleep, which is broken when my alarm goes off to get ready for PHP.

I yawn with heavy eyes all through the first group, trying to catch a quick nap during the thirty minute break, before yawning through the second group.

I drink coffee, made at home. And some days I run out for a treat at Starbucks, to celebrate another day that I have survived.

I still yawn.

And the afternoon I often nap. Planned one hour naps that turn into two or three hours. It’s so much easier to sleep when the sun is up to keep me safe.

Of course, I know this is just perpetuating the problem. Sleeping during the day makes it harder to sleep at night, which makes it easier to sleep during the day.

I’m so so sleepy. Even writing this I’m yawning with eyes watering, wanting to climb in back in bed again.

And it’s not just the fact that I’m not sleeping at night.

Living with fresh trauma is exhausting. Working through trauma is exhausting.

With the addition of the Abilify to my medication I’m much less reactive, which is nice, but I’m still exhausted.

And still irritable. The smallest thing making me grumpy and agitated.

But that irritation is no longer filled with rage.

I talk in group therapy and others who follow me often say “What I’m going through doesn’t compare at all to your situation but . . . “

And that bothers me.

This isn’t a competition, anyone who is struggling is struggling for their own reasons, their fight isn’t less important or less strenuous than mine.

We talk about the underlying emotions that connect all of us. Fear, Sadness, Anger, Guilt, Shame.

Those emotions are the ties that connect each of our stories.

Sometimes, when we’re telling the story of our situation, the therapist will have us focus on the emotion that’s underneath of it. While someone may not be able to relate to their father shooting himself while they were in the next room, they may be able to relate to the guilt I feel for leaving him alone. Or the sadness I feel because I’ve experienced yet another trauma.

Often they relate to the shame of feeling like I’m too much, like my emotions and my tragedies take up too much room.

That’s a common theme in my therapy. Being too much. The group therapist in PHP is the same on that runs my once a week group, and is also a therapist I saw individually for a short time.

She can pick up immediately when the theme of my emotions is that shame of being too much.

She doesn’t try to fix it, neither does anyone else in the group, but just pointing out that the thread underneath it all is that feeling. That core belief.

It’s enough to show me that it’s still there, still something for me to work on.

Today, I was told by someone that they hope I can put this behind me and get on with my life.

I wish it was that simple.

I spent a lot of time after Parker’s death talking about how I will always move forward, but I will never move on.

And I think that stands true for most trauma as well. I will keep moving forward, I will keep healing, but there will never be a finish line, a line where I say, this is behind me.

The trauma of my abuse growing up still shows up when I make myself smaller after hearing harsh words or a violent scene in a movie. The trauma of poverty shows up when I spend money incorrectly, and then panic at a low balance or overdrawn bank account. The trauma of hearing my son scream in the back of an ambulance shows up when I recoil at the sound of a siren. The trauma of the house fire shows up when I strongly react to an unplanned smell of smoke, or panic when a smoke alarm goes off.

The trauma of Parker’s death is there when I check that a loved one is still breathing.

And the trauma of my father’s death will live on in its own way.

My reaction will decrease, my tolerance will gain traction.

And I will forever be resilient.

But I will never get over all of these scars, and so many more.

It’s no wonder that I’m tired. This trauma just brings with it, the rest. Just like a new grief will bring up the old ones.

I wonder why these difficult things always find me. Always land at my feet.

I don’t think there’s some grand reason, but it’s hard not to think that I’ve done something wrong to deserve it.

People talk of my resilience as one of my biggest strengths. But my resilience was forged out of necessity. I have to stand up one more time than I get knocked down, no matter how often I get knocked down.

And each time it’s both a little harder, and a little easier to stand back up.

It’s harder because I’m exhausted from repeating this same pattern, through no fault of my own.

But it’s easier because I’m just using muscles that I’ve already used. I know how to stand back up, I know what help to reach for, I know which parts I have to do on my own.

I know that the sleepless nights and the napping all day will pass.

I know I’ll get back to work eventually.

And I know I’m strong enough to do this again.

And there may be an again after this.

And after that.

And I will never be ready for it when it comes, it will always catch me off guard as trauma often does.

But I will always stand back up.

He comes home

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.
And a Really Real Aging Parents post.

My dad comes home today.

I’ve watched countless videos on how to get him off the floor. Different methods, different positions, different ability to help. I’ve spent hours wondering if I have the strength and stability to get him up.

I’ve watched videos on how to help him transfer. Hoping that he won’t stay stuck in bed, that I can let him have some shred of independence in a wheelchair.

I’ve rearranged tables and chairs, making the house more accessible so that he can retain some sense of normality.

I’ve moved his bed to the far corner, making room for the hospital bed that is being delivered as we speak.

I’ve spent days making phone calls and arranging intermittent home care and the therapy he will need.

I’ve spent hours looking for every possible item he may require, making sure it would arrive before he does. I’ve set up a raised toilet seat, a shower chair, a walker, and so many other things that I can’t even remember. There’s a pile of equipment in his room, items that I have barely ever seen, but will have to learn to use, quickly.

I’ve spent nights dreaming of how this might go, while also recognizing that I can’t plan for every occurrence.

I’ve been overcome by nerves and cried. The build up of the last week reaching a crescendo that overtook me. Frantically texting word walls to family, spoken words mixed with sobs while talking to loved ones.

I’ve been reassured by those same loved ones, as well as countless friends, many of whom I only know through this screen in front of me.

I’ve held onto hope. I’ve fought with the fear of failure. I’ve felt utterly convinced that this is both the right thing, and the wrong thing to do.

All in the same second.

I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot in the coming days.

If I can find stolen moments to type.

I don’t know what this will look like.

I don’t know how this will end.

I just know that even through the difficult relationship I have with him, even through the memories of abuse, even through the feelings of complete unworthiness he showered on me . . .

I love him.

He is my father and I firmly believe he was doing the best he knew how to do.

Even if it was horrible.

When I first planned to do this, honestly, it was because of what I’d receive in return. It was for the hidden benefits for me. The ability to see my son for a few hours as we traded off caring for him.

I told my sister how much I hated our father. How I loved him, but at the same time I hated the man he has always been.

And now I realize its not actually hate. It’s a longing for the father I deserved, its grief for the father I will never have.

I hope to give him the care that he never gave me. I hope to give him unconditional love, something I never felt I had. I hope to give him grace and understanding.

I hope to let him leave this world with his sense of dignity intact.

My dad comes home today.