Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Do you find it difficult to talk to me about your mental health, and if so why?

This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer. (I don't read his blog until after I write mine.)


11.  Do you find it difficult to talk to me about your mental health, and if so why?

I chose to be open about my mental health when I started this blog four years ago.  I learned here to share about my life long battle with PTSD.  I find it difficult to talk about PTSD with anyone that is showing signs of disbelief or disapproval of my behavior.  I read body language very well.  I need encouragement from anyone to continue.  The reason is not all my children or everyone I meet feels comfortable talking about my mental illness.  My first counselor cautioned me to stay quiet about counseling.  I didn't understand why until a couple of friendships ended because of my talking about counseling.  They didn't want to hear about it and considered me a not safe person.  Unfortunately, mental illness is not acceptable to some people.  I learned to be sensitive to their needs.  I won't deny my truth but I don't always share it.  I don't believe it is a taboo subject, but I do believe that the other person has the right to decide how much they want to know.  I guess that is why I like blogging.  Those that are interested keep reading.  Those that are not, can go some place else on the internet.  PTSD does effect my relationships but doesn't define who I am. 

Sometimes when protecting myself I feel locked inside my armor. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Experience Mental health condition

  This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer. (I don't read his blog until after I write mine.)


10. If you had to choose just one of your mental health conditions which I would experience for a day. Which one would you choose, and why?

My counselor once offered to help one of my children understand my reality; I begged him not to.  I worked so hard for them not to experience what happened to me.  However, if I knew it was for only one day and then it would be over, I thought that perhaps the one thing that I would want to have them experience is the complete and total feeling of helplessness that I feel when my body collapses without my permission. I would choose this feeling because it is so hard to explain to someone that feels confident and able to deal with life's challenges.  I would not want this to justify my behavior but would hope that they would understand how difficult change is when you feel so helpless.  I think there is real opportunity to understand one another when you have felt what they have felt.

I appreciate the compassion my family of choice shows to me.  I appreciate their willingness to help out without understanding why I need help.  I appreciate the extra miles each one traveled while growing up.  I am thankful that my mental illness has not shown up in any of their lives. Occasionally, I wish they could truly understand.  However, I suspect my husband and children wished that I could understand their frustration and challenges of living with me.  My sometimes unexplainable withdrawal, extreme reactions, and other manifestations of PTSD.   I believe this is the miracle of Jesus Christ.  He does understand exactly how I feel and how they feel.   In Gethsemane, Christ suffered our suffering; He felt what we felt. He is the only one that truly understands perfectly how each one of us feels.

I don't want to cop out on this question.  But the bottom line of some of my frustration is knowing that what I am feeling is not just for a day.  A life time of struggles that I measure progress in years not in weeks and months.  But I also believe that each of my children have their own challenges that they probably wished I could experience for a day that I might understand them.  I use art to explore my feelings.  Occasionally, I hit on something that clicks for those around me.  I remember the day I was working on a mix media piece that I planned to take to my next counseling session.  My son looked over my shoulder and exclaimed, "Hey Mom, that is how you think."  He didn't need an explanation.  Sometimes my children understand more than I do.

How I think and my son knew it. 

How I feel sometimes.


Sunday, September 28, 2014


Occasionally when I am writing posts I stumble on my own hot button.  I don't realize how strongly I feel about something until I start writing and the words spill out.  Then I think about what I wrote and more and more stuff tumbles around in my head.  I feel so overwhelmed by information and it takes a while to get everything sorted out to my satisfaction or I decide to write more to see if writing it makes the words stop swirling around. 

Accountability is big issue to me.  I realize that part of this problem was many of the incidences with my mother where she said or did cruel things she looked around to make sure we were alone.  If I complained my reality was denied.  She functioned using denial as a weapon.  If I tried to hold her accountable for her behavior several things would happen.  She usually tried to deny it first.  Then she claimed I misunderstood her or she is a New Yorker and they just speak more bluntly.  Or she played the pity-me-poor-me card and claimed I didn't understand since her problems were worse than mine.  The classic was the day she told me I didn't understand what it was like to not hear.  I have worn hearing aides for over 10 years.  Wow.  Even my Dad shook his head over that one.  My mother refuses to be accountable for her behavior.  It is a sore spot for me. 

I understand the need for mercy and second chances.  I want them myself.  I feel it is important part of living.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Life would be very painful without mercy.  However, no accountability is not helpful either.  Part of a truth campaign is accountability for ones actions.  Refusing to take responsibility for ones owns actions leads to chaos in personal life and relationships.  Without accountability no one says, "I'm sorry."  Without accountability there is no opportunity to repent.  (I call repentance a great gift from God, His recipe for change.)  Without accountability bankruptcy becomes an easy out for careless spending.  I get that emergencies or medical bills can put a person in financial ruin and bankruptcy may occur but spending irresponsibly then writing it off without accountability is white collar stealing.  Mercy and second chances are essential and accountability helps track changes in behavior.     

Accountability is used at schools, weight loss programs, businesses, anywhere that change is implemented.  I work at schools that students are held accountable if they cut classes.  They are required to have every teacher sign a daily attendance sheet then have their parents sign it.  The student is held accountable to their parents and the school.  This program greatly reduced the number of students ditching classes.  Weight loss programs show that having a person to be accountable to someone else improves a persons chance of losing weight.  My counselors held me responsible for my behavior and had me check in with them on my progress.  In the repentance process, first a person must recognize they did something wrong then they are to confess their sins.  They are held accountable for their mistakes.  Without accountability, a truth campaign is almost useless. 

If I could give one tip for people - it's not an exercise or nutrition regimen. It's to walk your talk and believe in yourself, because at the end of the day, the dumbbell and diet don't get you in shape. It's your accountability to your word.

Maybe you're not perfect, but you're willing to actually look at yourself and take some kind of accountability. That's a change. It might not mean that you can turn everything around, but I think there's something incredibly hopeful about that.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tell me one thing that I do which makes your mental health worse?

  This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer. (I don't read his blog until after I write mine.)


9. Tell me one thing that I do which makes your mental health worse?

Again like yesterday, my mental health is my responsibility.   I've thought over this and reconsidered and rewritten this answer 50 times.  I finally decided that the thing that would make my life worse is if I am not held accountable for my behavior.  I watched the destructiveness of "I feel sorry for her so I won't say anything about her bad behavior, that is just the way she is."  Several destructive things happen, I don't have an opportunity to change my behavior, you will feel more and more resentment, and I am on a truth campaign.  I want to know the truth about my life.  I want to improve my behavior.   I know it is hard to comprehend that I don't always know what I am doing.  Holding me accountable gives me an opportunity to do things differently.   I want to know if I said something unkind or careless.  I want to be aware of how I come across to someone else.  I won't be able to mentally process some things that you take for granted.  Feeling emotions is still fairly new to me.  I admit that a big part of my truth campaign is to search out and find ways to improve my interactions with those that I love and anyone else that encounters me.  I want a second chance to be a better person.  I don't want to be shunted aside with "She's crazy, she can't do any better." Yes I have mental illness, yes it sucks, yes it interferes with my life, yes the symptoms can get worse, but I feel much worse if I hurt those I love and don't realize it because nobody told me.  Please, give me a second chance, I won't waste it.  I know that you are so patient with me.  I spent years not knowing what I was fighting.  All of you kids suffered consequences of me handling my problems badly.  I am learning from counselors, articles, blogs, books, and other sources what challenges I have. Give me a chance to be the parent I want to be as often as possible.  I know I'll mess up.  I know I will need to apologize.  However, I don't believe saying, "I have PTSD" is a get out of jail free card.  Saying, "I have PTSD" means I need to work harder to overcome what is weighing me down.  I am going back into counseling because PTSD is getting the upper hand.  I need more tools and strategies to be the person I want to be.  PTSD does not define me.  PTSD is a challenge in my life but the me I want you to know is the warming loving person that thinks it a miracle that you are in my life.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tell me one thing that I do which makes your mental health better?

  This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer. (I don't read his blog until after I write mine.)


8. Tell me one thing that I do which makes your mental health better?

I feel concern for the question behind the question.  Are you asking me if you can fix my mental health issues?  Not anyone's responsibility to fix me except me. If you are simply asking how to make your mother feel better keep in mind I am a person.  I love visiting with you.  I appreciate your trust when you let me come and babysit your children. PTSD is a problem that is in my life but doesn't define who I am.  I like walks, taking grandkids to the park, visiting, playing games, all sorts of things bring an element of fun and Joy.  My mental illness rarely leaves my side but it still isn't me.  I know there are days you would debate this.  However, I worked for a long, long time working at separating myself from my illness.  Your love and acceptance does wonderful things in my life.  My mental health is my responsibility.  I have watched my mental health decrease over the past few months.  It is my responsibility to find a new counselor to help me since what I am doing on my own is working.  Your love supports me and reminds me why it is worth continuing the uphill battle.  I don't want PTSD to be my life.  I want your dad, my sister, and all of you to be the most important thing in my life.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rebel Maven

Facebook game of picking your crafter name.  My friend loves to do crafts and she is very good.  She likes posting fun things and I appreciate what she shares.  This time, out of curiosity, I followed the instructions.  My new crafter name was Rebel Maven.  I didn't know what a Maven was.  Looked it up.

Totally cracked me up:
:  one who is experienced or knowledgeable :  expert; also :  freak 4a 

I'm a rebellious expert freak.  How cool is that?

Someone asked me how I learned so much about computers.  ( I worked as a computer tech for 14 years.)  I grinned and replied, "You know the book, 'Read Me First?'  I did."  I've learned all sorts of things from books.  There are several things that reading doesn't work, cooking and feelings.  Those you just need to do it. 

What positives do you think your mental illness brings to our relationship?

 This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer. (I don't read his blog until after I write mine.)


7. What positives do you think your mental illness brings to our relationship?

Something positive about mental illness?  I feel that is a bit like Betsie asking Corrie to thank God for the fleas.  (The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom) Bad parts stick out so grossly it is hard to look for the silver linings.  In this day and age of look for the positive, count your blessings, see the bright side, and other cheerful cliches I tend to get grumpy but I know this; God knows how to make fertilizer out of manure.  He turned dinosaur carcases into fuel we use today.  He turned Joseph being sold into Egypt into a blessing for a whole nation and his family.  God took a stuttering Moses and led the Israelites out of bondage and through the Red Sea.  A timid Esther became a queen to save her people.  Carbon under pressure becomes a diamond.  As a teenager I had a poster that proclaimed, "You can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses." ~ Abraham Lincoln.  I have many pictures of stunning clouds creating beauty out of cloudy days.  I sometimes struggle to see the good.  Mental illness took so much I wanted to give. 

Deep breath.

My illness made it possible for each of you kids to find strength at a young age.  Your compassion for me built a bound that I cherish.  Each of you learned that the only failure is giving up.  I watch each of you work at helping others like you helped me.  I watch your compassion for others and feel awe at your strength. I also don't try to tell you what to do.  I can barely manage my own life so I can cheer on the sideline without trying to interfere in your life.  I didn't punish you for not cleaning your room.  My room was the messy one in the house so I couldn't say anything.  Your Dad and I worked at teaching you to make your own decisions.  On the weird side, one of you complimented me on being available to talk any time day or night.  Three hours of sleep a night meant I was awake most of the time that you were.  I was also thanked for my obsession with food and making sure plenty of good food was available all the time.  I keep reminding myself that when God turns carbon into diamonds it takes time and pressure.  I had plenty of pressure now I am just trying to be patient for God to turn my mental illness into something really awesome that will bless all of our lives.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why do you pull away and isolate from me, when your mental health is bad?

 This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer. (I don't read his blog until after I write mine.)


6. Why do you pull away and isolate from me, when your mental health is bad?

My first counselor told me a story that helped me put in to words why I withdraw that might help.  Imagine it is Prom night and I am all dressed ready to go.  My dress is gorgeous and I took time to curl my hair.  As I walk from the car, someone runs towards me and dumps filthy oil over my head and down my dress.  My friends see me in the parking lot and come over to greet me.  I pull away so the filthy oil won't get on them.  What I don't know is that I am the only one that sees or feels the oil.  I try to stay away to protect those I love.   The answer is related to yesterday's question.  My desire is to protect you from me.

During my high school years, I kept posters on my walls.  All of the posters were there to encourage and motivate except one.  The one over my bed described how I felt as a teenager.  

I am like shattered glass

Cutting those who touch me

I have been broken

I am hard and sharp

People can see through me.

They know I can hurt them

I am never confronted

I am always walked around.

– Lori Gauntlet

 I felt my brokenness in high school.  My parents denied my truth.  I wanted to believe their perception.  I isolate myself to keep me from hurting others. 

Another reason I isolate myself is as the internal pressure builds I am less and less able to process incoming information.  First, I lose the ability to hear.  Next, my speech slurs making communication almost impossible.  Then my vision reduces to tunnel vision.  My body shuts down and I sleep.  When I waken hours later, I feel like I am swimming through scalding molasses.  My skin feels raw.  The slightest touch is excruciatingly painful.  If I am alone, I am not embarrassed by my increasing debilitation.  If I am alone, no one can touch me.  If I am alone, there is no need to explain.  I simply allow the shadow warrior, PTSD, to win for awhile.  I concede defeat quietly.  Waiting to fight another day.  I prefer not to have anyone watch my defeat.  I also learned that when you children watched it as children it was very scary.  I don't wish to scare anyone especially those I love. 


Monday, September 22, 2014

When your mental health is bad do you try to protect me from it, and why?

 This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer. (I don't read his blog until after I write mine.)


5.  When your mental health is bad do you try to protect me from it, and why?

 Yes is the first part of the question.  Why is much more difficult to write about.  Through the years each of you children have witnessed a time when PTSD had the upper hand in my life.  Your looks of fear are etched in my mind and I am fully aware that I caused that fear.  You knew the rule don't touch mother while she is sleeping.  That moment of time before I was fully awake and I knew who was waking me up was enough time for me to do something that frightened you.  It was not my intent to cause fear in your life.  Controlling my reaction to be woken up is impossible until I am fully awake.  Yes, I am trying to protect you from my worse self.  I believe that is true of every emotionally healthy parent.  A desire to protect children is good and worthy.  I am so sad that the danger is me.

 I know that one of my emotional defaults is dissociation.  To you I appear, cold and uncaring.  The opposite is true but this emotional armor I wear to survive PTSD looks like I don't care about you.  I want to protect you from this cold, careless behavior that served me well as a child but I don't know how to lay it down now that I know longer need it.  I want to protect you from my dissociation.

Anger is another symptom of PTSD.  I stumble over a trigger that ignites my rage and you blame yourself.  Children tend to blame themselves for parents' anger.  Parents often blame children for their anger.  I was on the receiving end.  I was told countless times how I made my mother angry.  I now know that as an adult the only one to blame for my anger is me.  I want to protect you from my feelings of rage.  A rage that originates in childhood should have nothing to do with you.  You were there, something was said or happened to set me off.  I want to protect you from my explosions as much as I would shield you from a bomb.  Sadly, I am that bomb when PTSD takes over. 

I wanted to take care of all of you.  My body would suffer from the physical effects of PTSD.  Instead of me taking care of you, you were taking care of me.  I felt so frustrated that this caring was so backwards.  I try as much as possible to protect you from this effect of PTSD.  When you were all small I put the bread, cereal and peanut butter in the bottom cupboards in case you were hungry and I was too weak to get out of bed.  I couldn't take care of myself yet I had 6 little people depending on me to take care of them.  Some days I lay on the couch and made sure you were safe and fed.  That was all I had strength to do.  I want to protect you from this lack of care.

I worked hard to protect you from PTSD symptoms that shook me like a rag doll.  I didn't want you to understand why I behave this way.  I don't want your lives marred by the nightmares that destroy my sleep.  I often believe that Heavenly Father asked His angel children who would come to Earth and help a battered soul.  You children raised your hands.  All of you coming into my life made a difference.  I wish to protect you from my worst self. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cowboys - 4 - Christ

~Too blessed to be stressed

"The shortest distance between a problem and a solution

is the distance between your knees and the ground.

The one who kneels to the Lord can stand up to anything." 

~ God bless and keep sharing the Good News !!! ~ C4C

 My sister introduced me to this page on Facebook.  I love the photographs that go with there quotes.  The quote similar to this:

If you can't stand it, try your knees. 

I know from experience that the first step to solving any problem is admitting there is a problem.  Next step is defining a problem.  If I already know the answer then I follow through and make changes.  However, if I don't know the answer, I need to humble myself to seek help.  Kneeling before God is an act of humility if I am willing to be taught a new way.  I learned there are more than one type of prayer.  The one I tend to do is:
"Heavenly Father I'm in a mess, please, get me out quickly and easily with no effort on my part."  
Yup, I've said this kind of prayer. 
Another type is a negotiation:
"Heavenly Father I'm in a mess, please, get me out quickly and easily, if you do, I'll be good for a week."
The next one is adding a touch of I say thanks so you'll help me, Right?
"Heavenly Father, I'm thankful for all my blessings, please, get me out quickly and easily and I will be your friend."
Or how about the uber polite prayer:
"Heavenly Father, pretty please with sugar on top, get me out of this mess quickly and easily."  
Don't forget the combination prayer:
"Heavenly Father, I'm thankful for all my blessings, pretty please with sugar on top, get me out of this mess that is no fault of my own, get me out quickly and easily.  I will be your friend and be good for 2 weeks." 
Yea, I've said all of those.  I sometimes felt like Heavenly Father put my prayers like these on His Comedy channel and He and His angels laugh and laugh. Just for fun, He would grant one of my petitions.  Took me awhile to learn about some of the other prayers.

The gratitude prayer - I don't recommend kneeling for this one unless your knees are strong.  The gratitude prayer itemizes all the blessings I can think of and listing them in detail.  The amazing thing about this prayer is the longer I talk the more the list grows.  I mention I am thankful for food and I have to mention I especially thankful for chocolate.  I am thankful for my kids then I need to thank Him for their wonderful spouses and then I need to thank him for the grandkids.  I noticed that Heavenly Father's blessings just keep growing and getting better.  Especially after reading Betsy's advice in the Hiding Place.  "Corrie, don't forget to thank Him for the fleas." I add in those fleas and the list gets mighty long. 

I am finally learning the humble prayer it goes something like this:
"Heavenly Father, I made a hellacious mess of my life.  I saw that hole and jumped right in.  I recognize the error I made of jumping in.  I would like to fix this mistake.  I will do what ever it takes to get out."

"Will you give up your sins?"


"Will you work hard?"


"Will you serve others?"


"You know you are going to make more mistakes tomorrow, what will you do then?"

"I'll be back on my knees working on those solutions tomorrow but today I have sufficient to undo."

Matthew 6:6-13

 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

 11 Give us this day our daily bread.

 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Spoon theory

Poppyposts shared an excellent web page. 
This is Poppyposts link http://poppyposts-blog.net/2014/09/20/the-spoon-theory/
She shared a link to The Spoon Theory.  I can't post it here, which I respect. 
Christine Miserandino
Christine Miserandino

Christine Miserandino
Christine Miserandino
Christine Miserandino
Christine Miseradino generously shares a PDF file that you can download.  Yes, I downloaded a copy for myself. 


I remember when I was at my worst. I could be up only 20 minutes a day. A friend asked me what a good day was. I answered, “I got up.” She waited for me to continue. I shook my head, “That’s it, I got up. A fantastic day, I got up and got dressed.” I think the spoon theory would have helped to explain my daily routine of thinking about every move I made all day long.  I am now in better health than I have ever been.  I am still careful about keeping some in  reserve.  I am stressing at work because I am pushing so hard I collapse when I walk through the door at home.  A dangerous game when I have to drive home for 30 minutes first.  Counting every move, every task, every change of activity cost precious energy. I now can plan to do in a day what I used to plan to do in a week.  I feel so blessed.

Sometimes the day is just too tough to face.

When your mental health is bad, what can I do to help?

 This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer.


4. When your mental health is bad, what can I do to help? 

Interesting question.  This question is from Kevin's daughter but my children have also offered to help me.  I'm so grateful for what my kids have already done.  When I was very sick, they stepped up and did all sorts of things I felt was my responsibility but didn't have the strength to do. Hard to put away the dishes when you can't get up off the floor.  Many people aren't aware of how physically taxing mental illness can be.  My mind caused my body to be ill.  Severe insomnia created a vicious cycle of loosing sleep and strength.  My kids helped with everything.  I am so grateful for the amazing things my kids did to help me to be as independent as possible.  As teenagers they would drive me to the store so I could do my own shopping.  By the time I was finished shopping, I would be exhausted and they would load up me and the car and drive home.  Time and time again, my amazing kids filled in when I couldn't do the simplest of chores.

All of my children now have homes of their own.  Their encouragement and love continues to sustain me as I learn more ways to live with PTSD.  Email messages, visits, phone calls if I am having a good day, asking me to babysit grandkids all these small events do so much to help me.   The reason I say phone calls on a good day is on a bad day, I can't hear on the phone.  Hearing gets worse when I am under high stress.  Sadly when PTSD gets bad there is little anyone can do for me.  Things like drawings from the Grandkids I can look at and feel their love and yours.  Unfortunately, when PTSD gets bad the kindest thing is to give me time alone without feeling like it is your fault.  Acceptance of my quirks goes a long ways to helping me cope with them.  Acceptance, laughter and love are powerful medicines that I receive in abundance. 

Trying to cope with PTSD symptoms is harder than herding ducks. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Do I make your mental health worse?

 This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer.


3.  Do I make your mental health worse?

I wish I could say a flat out 'no' but that is not how PTSD works.  Triggers make my mental illness worse.  Sometimes you kids did things that would trigger me.  Most of you eventually figured out you could use that to your advantage.  On the flip side, having kids also made my mental health better.  I worked hard to heal so that I could better mom to you.  Six amazing people were my own little army keeping me moving forward when my greatest desire was to lay down and give up.  I cherish memories of little arms creeping around my neck with a quick hug when I felt like I was falling totally apart.  You kids were my inspiration, my motivators, and on occasion my reason to live.  I look at pictures of you growing up and I am in awe that I am privileged to be your mother.  You were each your unique selves.  I am glad you came into my life.  All of you made a difference by improving my quality of life. 

Added bonus is watching each of you raise your children so differently from each other.  You each processed how we as parents raised you and found your own style.  I am surprised when the grandkids do things that are just like you kids did.  I am starting to understand that many things that happened in our family was kids being kids with all the ups and downs of growing up.  I believe with all my heart that I would be much worse off without your Dad and you kids and grandkids in my life.  Thank you for teaching me so much about love and what it should be like.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is mental illness hereditary?

 This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer.


2. Is mental illness hereditary?

Debated and redebated and round and around. For a few years, 'experts' declare that it is all environmental, then they blame the parents, then they blame traumatic events.  Then they blame genetics.  Then the swirl back around to choice.  A person chooses mental illness.  Latest thing being blamed is traumatic brain injury, TBI.  After all, who hasn't fallen and hit their head at some time?  Bottom line, scientist can't eliminate enough possibilities to pin point exacts causes. Sadly, sometimes people that choose evil are said to be mentally ill and given a diagnosis rather than say that evil exists.  People are not allowed to be used as guinea pigs to find out what will happen to them.  Not  OK. 'Proving' one theory over another is just about impossible.  Theories are some experts' best guess.

Perhaps the question behind this question is, "will my children get mental illness because I have it?"  I was asked this by one of my children and I believe my answer still applies.  "No, you will not end up like me because, I will believe you, teach you what I have learned, and encourage you to get counseling."  I won't deny their reality.  The depths of suffering that I experienced was partly due to neglect.  I neglected to get the care I needed because I didn't believe it was possible for me to be mentally ill.  Denial causes plenty of damage. 

I read articles that declare that abuse actually changes DNA.  For a time I was troubled by the idea that my abuse would be transmitted by me.  Then I did some research and learned that human eggs are already formed before birth.  So can abuse be past on? Is it genetic or environmental? Is mental illness the results of genetics or environment of having a peculiar parent?  I don't have a solid answer.  My best guess is I don't know.  I would love to have a definite answer, I don't.     

Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors -- not personal weakness or a character defect --


Life is a gamble.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Emotion chart


Writers work at drawing out the emotion in a story. Survivors work at anesthetizing themselves from pain, killing off other emotions is the process. I am exploring emotions from different perspectives. I lived a huge chunk of my life without emotion. I survived this way. I felt bothered when someone envied my ability to cut off emotions. I explained to the person that the down side is all emotions are eliminated not just the less desirable ones. What is interesting with this chart is how she shows the similarities between negative and positive emotions.  I will keep exploring this information. 

Enjoy the link.  

Am I part of the cause of your mental illness?

This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer.


1. Am I part of the cause of your mental illness?

I was once asked if having 6 children drove me crazy, I jokingly answered, "Oh no, I had to be crazy to do this in the first place."  I can say with total confidence that my children were not the cause or any contributing factor in my mental illness.  My kids figured out a lot more than I did about how I functioned.  They had an outside view that their mom didn't always behave consistently.  I believe the hard thing for my kids is they didn't know anything different for a mom.  I was just the way I was and they found ways to cope with me.  

I also think this is a plea from every child to every parent, am I the cause of your problems?  As a child, I was blamed for my parents problems.  If I didn't exist then they would be fine.  Blaming a child I believe may lead to their mental illness but not the cause of the parents problems.

I also want to reassure each of my children that their presence in my life was more of a stabilizing factor than almost anything else.   I struggled to become healthy so I could be a better Mom.  Being a good Mom continues to be a life goal.  I wasn't the mom I dreamed I would be.  My whole life wasn't what I wanted it to be.  No one wishes to be abused.  No one wakes up and says, "I want to make my life a living hell to see if I can survive."  I was given life challenges that led to PTSD and multiple personality disorder to survive.  I knew by the time I was 15 years old that I was different, I didn't know how but I knew.  My parents denied any possibility until I started to believe what was wrong was not unusual.  Watching my children grow up caused me to look at my own life and the way I reacted verses how they behaved.  I was looking for answers  to better understand them.  I believe that my children are some of the greatest blessings of my life.  They are some of my biggest cheerleaders and I feel blessed to know each one.  I also feel doubly blessed by the wonderful men and women that they married. 

Big blessings come in small packages.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What if I was asked these questions?

I started following another blog that is intriguing and thought provoking.  Below is his post of questions from his daughter.  His mental illness challenges are different than mine.  As I read the propose questions, I started wondering how would I answer these questions to my adult children? I asked Kevin's permission to use his list here.  Where the questions use the word Dad, I will switch those to Mom otherwise these are the questions I plan to tackle. 

So over the next month I am going to be doing the “Questions to a parent with mental illness” Challenge and here are a list of the questions which my daughter came up with…
  1. Am I part of the cause of your mental illness?
  2. Is mental illness hereditary?
  3. Do I make your mental health worse?
  4. When your mental health is bad, what can I do to help?
  5. When your mental health is bad do you try to protect me from it, and why?
  6. Why do you pull away and isolate from me, when your mental health is bad?
  7. What positives do you think your mental illness brings to our relationship?
  8. Tell me one thing that I do which makes your mental health better?
  9. Tell me one thing that I do which makes your mental health worse?
  10. If you had to choose just one of your mental health conditions which I would experience for a day. Which one would you choose, and why?
  11. Do you find it difficult to talk to me about your mental health, and if so why?
  12. How do you think your mental health effects our family now?
  13. Ho do you think your mental health effected our family in the past?
  14. How do you think your mental health will effect our family in the future?
  15. Choose one thing that you would change about your mental health if you could. And why?
  16. Which of your traits and personality would you like to pass on to me and why?
  17. Which of your traits and personality would you like me to avoid having and why?
  18. To me you are just my Dad, but how do you think others see you?
  19. What parts of your mental health do you think I would like to change, and why?
  20. I sometimes hear others putting labels on you. How does that make you feel?
  21. What are some of the things that you do which affect your mental health badly?
  22. What are some of the things that you do which affect your mental health positively?
  23. If I was the one who had your mental illness, and not you.  What would you want to ask me?
  24. If I was the one who had your mental illness, and not you.  What would you want me to know?
  25. How do you think your mental illness affects the way you love me?
  26. How do you think your mental illness affects the way I love you?
  27. How do you think your mental illness affects the way you allow me to love you?
  28. Do you think you will ever have really good mental health?
  29. Do you sometimes feel guilty for having a mental illness?
  30. If there was one thing that you would have me learn from your battle with mental illness, what would it be?

I think some of these questions would be thought provoking for any parent with or without mental illness.  I plan to put a link to each of his posts so you can read two different perspectives.  

Grandchildren look so much like my children did when they were that age.

Monday, September 15, 2014


The first step towards getting somewhere, is simply to decide that you are not going to stay where you are... then just move forward, one step, one day at a time...when you're overwhelmed, I know that's easier said than done, but do just one thing today to help yourself...do one thing you've put off doing...there is no big step or giant short cut that gets you where you need to be...it's lots of little steps and perseverance..

Perseverance: a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition :  the action or condition or an instance of persevering :  steadfastness


Perseverance is hanging on when there is no logical reason to do so.  Me

Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.
By perseverance the snail reached the ark.

Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.
 “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Maya Angelou
“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”
H.G. Wells
“If you are going through hell, keep going.”
Winston Churchill

Today, I am looking for ways to encourage myself.  I know that one of the keys of survival is perseverance.  I've used it in my mantra, "I can do anything for 5 minutes.  I can live a long, long time, 5 minutes at a time."  I am tired but I have trouble sleeping.  I am overwhelmed but unwilling to quit.  I was chastised by one of my counselors for having a do-or-die attitude.  I looked at him calmly, "If I didn't have that attitude, I would be dead now."  I understood that what he meant was not everything I think to do is a life and death matter.  I need to let go of some things without believing it will kill me to do so.  I understood his intent was to help me relax.  I know that I am alive because I was and continue to persevere against all odds. I was going through hell and I kept going.  I am up against another challenge.  I need to decide what is it worth to meet the new demands or should I consider looking for a different job.  I like the work I do.  I enjoy the students.  The new stresses is making day to day living more difficult.  What price am I willing to pay?  I already know the recipe, perseverance wins hands down every time.  I remember watching a scene in the movie Gandhi.  He was going to vote.  The guard knocked him down.  Gandhi got up.  The guard knocked him down over and over yet each time Gandhi stood up.  What battle do I have that is worth getting up every time I am knocked down?  I am worth fighting for but at which battle front.  I need to rethink my priorities.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Angry with God

One of the blogs I follow tackled this feeling:


My sister and I talked about this on many occasions.  During our Saturday walks, we call those walks Sister Therapy, we share our ideas on any subject we wish to discuss.  We enjoy lively conversations.  Often we discuss our relationship with Heavenly Father and our firm belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior.  We are both aware that talking about our anger a taboo subject in most circles.  I'm sharing my perspective and some of it will sound like my sister's perspective because we discussed it together.

Everything in my memory told me that I always believed in God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  I believe the Holy Ghost is as real as anything I can touch with my hand.  I believe in miracles.  I rephrase that, I rely on miracles.  I appreciate the many blessings I enjoy.  Sometimes I feel angry with God.  It wasn't until I was in counseling that I understood that anger is a secondary emotion.  My counselor taught me that hurt, fear, or frustration came first.  I have been hurt by what I felt was Heavenly Father not answering my prayers.  I felt fear that Heavenly Father didn't love me because of things I had done.  I felt frustration that what I thought were righteous petitions to the Lord were completely ignored.  I would get pissed off when people would piously tell me that God didn't give me what I asked for because He had something better for me.  What could be better than asking to be a good mother?  I spent 7 years struggling to be up more than 20 minutes a day while raising our children.  As I lay helplessly in bed, I was angry with God for not listening to my pleadings for strength.  My children cooked, cleaned, helped each other while I looked helplessly on.  I was so angry with God, I refused to read the scriptures, the only told me more things I wasn't doing and felt like a greater condemnation.  I didn't pray....what was the point He wasn't giving me what I asked for?  It was a dark, dark time. 

I was blessed in my early twenties when God touched my heart and reassured me that He loved me.  I didn't know at the time why this was so important for me to know.  I had an experience that I never doubted was a loving spirit wrapping me in arms I could feel but not see and hearing in my head. "My precious Ruth, you know I love you."  The next question left me troubled, "Are you going to help me?"  I felt again, "No, you are doing just fine."  This tender moment is when I understood that Heavenly Father's definition of fine and mine do NOT match.  I am studying the scriptures once again with an eye for how God interacts with His children.  My buddy Job, Joseph sold into Egypt, Ruth, Naomi, Esther, many of the prophets all had really tough lives.  Apostle Paul expresses his understanding that he has a thorn in his side that God is not removing. 

2 Corinthians 12:6-9
 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I figured if Paul was going to be stuck with a thorn there was little hope for me to be rid of whatever pulled me so low.  I am not to the point of what Paul felt and glory in my infirmities.  Mental illness sucks so does cancer.  I feel angry.  My opinion, Heavenly Father can cope with me being angry.  I can rant and rave and tell Him exactly how I feel.  I like what Judy said, "God knows exactly how we feel any way, telling Him won't change it."  In my truth campaign, I am being honest with myself and God and tell Him exactly how I feel.  I feel broken, tired, frustrated beyond words, scared, lifeless, discouraged, and a whole host of feelings that sum up to feeling miserable.  He listens to my out pourings then blesses me with a spectacular sunrise.  It wasn't the blessing I was looking for it was the blessing I needed.  I have another day to try again.  I have another day to seek for and find the answers I am looking for.  I have another day to comfort others.  I have another day. 

Heavenly Father loves me so much that if I was the only one in the world He would still send His only Begotten Son Jesus Christ to die for me.  The rest is working out the details of living.  On this journey I learned to listen to the Holy Spirit to find answer that my young 20 year old self had no idea I was looking for.  My path in life is much different than I thought it would be.  My expectations of the strength I would find is so different.  I now know the difference between strength of body and strength of spirit.  I am blessed with more of both.  I can rage at Heavenly Father and he blesses me any way.  I can feel alone but Christ never leaves me. The Holy Spirit will guide me to places of peace that I never knew existed.  God is OK with me being angry as long as I can keep talking to Him and working through my hurt, fear and frustration.  When I am ready to accept, He will send His peace unto me.  He teaches me line upon line.

Isaiah 28:9-13
 ¶Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
 12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
 13 But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

A New Dawn

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Not moving

  1. How to have the space to consider the stuff you want to bring with you.
  2. What has outlived its usefulness to you?
  3. How you enjoy moving. In small and easy steps or with great focus and in one burst (or perhaps alternating these or another rhythm again).
  4. Whether you find it wiser to plan ahead or more enjoyable to be open to what you find.
  5. http://www.livingauthentically.org/
Evan asked these question: What if I am moving how would you answer these?  

I am going to tackle what if I am not moving, how would I answer these?

I am overwhelmed with stuff; I am not willing to let go.  I need to evaluate what I actually want.  One big room looks like a ransacked storage room.  It is supposed to be my sewing/crafting room.  I can walk two feet into the room.  I look at it or think about it and feel overwhelmed.  Evan's questions got me thinking.  I know from past experience I would box up everything and take it with me if I moved.  I know why I am like this.  I moved around a lot after I was married and we went from a U-haul truck to half a pickup truck in 4 years.  I heard moving three times is worse than having a fire.  I lived it. The move in the pickup bed trailer was a desperate move to get away from a miserable situation for my husbands work.  Now I desperately cling to all this stuff.  My daughter tried helping me clean but all I did was end up hyperventilating and having a panic attack.  I felt like such a failure that I hardly go in the room at all unless I absolutely have to.  Heavy sigh.

1.  I have a room that is large with two walk in closets.  Shelves line one wall.  I built a wrap around desk that houses my 2 sewing machines.  (I used to sew professionally so have both a regular machine and a serger.) 2 sets of drawers and cupboards plus shelves in the walk in closet.  I have two book shelves all of this crammed into the room.  Its a disaster area.

2.  I think there are many things stuffed in there that are totally useless.  I know there is a computer book that is 14 years old, back when people still had 6 inch floppy disks and zip drives.  (Kids now days don't even know what those are.)  Some of my drawing stuff and other things crunched in there haven't seen the light of day in 10-20 years.  Hmmm.....  Scary past objects in there.  (Side note:  I still remember the time I foolishly opened one of the mystery boxes from my past.  Set off weeks of reeling night mares.   Scary stuff is not useful.  I need to let it go.)

3.  I prefer easy steps a few boxes at a time preferably over several weeks.  My DH is a one weekend slam it through.  Reorganizing a room seems daunting when I am trying to suppress an anxiety attack at the same time.  However, at school, once I get going I can do a massive amount of moving of stuff all in one go.  Maybe I am giving myself too much time to think about what I am doing.  Head tilt.....maybe I need to rethink my approach.   

4.  I've tried planning ahead and all I do is make plans over and over and over....I use planning to procrastinate doing anything.  Wow! Interesting piece of insight. 

I've tried setting timers.  Using boxes marked: Belong someplace else, keep, and give away.  Even marked throw away. Failed at that.  I am tackling a new approach.  This time I am trying to visualize the space as useable and how would I like to use it.  Instead of thinking about getting rid of, I am flipping it around to what do I want available.  

Should I be brave and have a before and after picture?     Ooooooo scary. 

No pictures yet. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Survivor's Guilt

The day after 9/11 is a day to reflect.  So many felt the bewilderment of "Why me, why did I survive and my loved one, coworker, fireman, police officer....or any other had to die?"

Survivor's guilt defined.  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/survivor+guilt

This is one of the emotions that I am trying to work through.  I am taking the advice of the article from one of the mass shootings and seeking professional help.

Band back together created a page of resources.  I am posting it here so I know to go back and study more of the links.  http://www.bandbacktogether.com/survivor-guilt-resources/

I don't have answers for this.  I have questions and pain and sometimes the guilt is over whelming.  Why was I let go? Was it as simply that I became too old or too numb? 

Sometimes I feel it is my responsibility to stand up and say, "There is evil in the world.  Those evil people want you to believe that they don't exist.  Evil is real. I have witnessed it."

I have seen darkness, I am thankful for the Light of Christ.  He is my champion. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Desert Survival

Morning sunshine beating down on my head, sweat trickling down between my shoulder blades, clear indicators that desert survival means I brought my water bottle.  Hiking boots support my ankles as I pick my way up the path through the broken rocks and mountain shrapnel tumbled onto the Squaw Peak trail.  I respect the desert.  I call it home.  I was born in Phoenix, more than fifty years ago, and I grew up hiking amongst the cacti, sage brush, rocks and lizards.  Raised in the desert, I know how lethal forgetting water or getting stranded alone can turn a hike into a death march.  I appreciate the fact that hundreds of people make the Squaw Peak pilgrimage, so I can hike alone without being alone.  

After moving around the country I returned to Phoenix in poor health.  I could barely finish the grocery shopping without sitting down to rest.  I craved hiking the desert but didn’t want to tackle a desert trail alone.  I learned about the Squaw Peak trail and how many people made this trek and decided I could use this trail to get back into my beloved desert, at my pace. 

The first challenge for me was crossing the parking lot.  I am highly amused by the people that wait in their idling cars to get a close parking spot when they are there to hike.  There are parking spots stretched out for a mile, but everyone wants to park in the first lot.  Dodging cars with single hikers, I reach a dry wash just before the head of the trial.  Wooden signs remind visitors that the trail is not suitable for dogs, horses or mountain bikes. Looking at the cholla, saguaro, and barrel cactus it doesn’t look like it is suitable for humans either. 

I started my climb at a sedate stroll with more determination than energy.  People take up the challenge for a thousand reasons; for me, if I could make it to the top, I would be getting healthier.  The first day, I never made it to the first quarter-mile marker.  I rested against a rocky outcropping at a bend in the path.  I felt discouraged that the mountain so easily defeated me. 

The following week, with more determination than sense, I again tackled the rocky trail.  I started to pay attention to the cholla condominium next to the trail.  I am amazed that some intrepid bird built right next to the path in the middle of the spikes of the cholla.  The nest is certainly safe from humans, since no one would reach their hand into that menacing environment.  Further along the trail, I notice a manmade retaining wall about knee high.  I am curious about why it is there, amongst the rugged rocks.  Years later, I discovered that the little wall kept the mountain from washing across the path and creating a mini flash flood during the rain.  In Phoenix, rarely encountered rain wreaks havoc on the exposed trail.  I focus on the ground as I pick my way up the uneven steps and loose rocks.  I watch powder puffs of dust poof out from under my feet.  The dust settles across my shoes, spreading the grayness of the trail over my shoes and pant legs.  This time, I make it past the quarter mile mark and a good ways to the half-mile marker before my legs feel like ten-ton appendages.  I retreat back down, planning to attack the mountain again, the following week.    

O-dark hundred, the sun only shows an eerie glow on the horizon.  I hop on the freeway and head up the Squaw Peak spur.  I then swing off at Lincoln Avenue, and slow back down to city street speeds.  At the second light, I turn left into a residential area that skirts the Phoenix Mountain Park.  The speed limit drops to 15 miles per hour after the last house.  I feel like I am creeping at a snail’s pace after the hectic freeway speeds.  Signs warn of extreme fire hazard and no open flames; consequently, cigarettes must be extinguished inside their cars. I am happy to have an outdoor no-smoking zone.  By the time I reach the first parking lot it is full.  I don’t mind driving to the second parking lot closer to the restroom area.  Cars sprinkle this area, too.  I pick my spot, grab my water bottle, and hit the trail. 

I have never seen the dry wash run with water.  I do know that dry washes can be deadly, even if the rain is miles away.  The rain water in the desert gathers momentum quickly and skitters down these freeway washes.  Up the steps, out of the wash, I tackle the trail again.  The bottom part becomes more familiar with each trek.  The sun is hiding behind the other mountains close to Squaw Peak.  The blue sky dome of light brightens from the hidden sun.  By the first curve in the switchbacks, the sun peeps out, promising a scorching heat by noon. 

I take my time, picking my way up each switchback.  Every turn takes me up higher and slowly around the mountain.  The shrubs poke their spindly arms out into the pathway.  Scrawny and brittle, I brush easily past them.  I keep my eye out for intruding cholla.  Vicious hooks on the ends of each needle are designed to hook onto passing critters, to take the pod to a new location.  Occasionally, walking along the top of the short retaining wall proved easier than the steps that go up two feet at a time.  Boulders provide a spot of shade to rest behind.  The sun creeps above the opposing mountains and shines relentlessly on the exposed path.  Twisting around the shoulder of the mountain, I am once again shaded by the mountain.  I pass the quarter-mile marker, the bench at a third of a mile, and finally reach the bench that sits in the shade of the mountain at the half-mile marker.  I rest awhile, swinging my feet while a pleasant breeze scoots over the saddle of the mountain.  This is the dividing point.  One path does a circuitous route around the base of Squaw Peak and the steeper path heads for the summit.  I am heading for the summit.

Determination, more than strength, drives me to continue up the steep path.  Only half way up and already civilization takes on doll-like proportions.  The mountain drops off to the right, giving me a view of the parking lot full of matchbox cars.  I am struggling to keep going.  Each new step seems like the last leg of a marathon.  I need a distraction.  Every hiker passes me. I am so slow.  One hiker passes but doesn’t leave me in the dust.  He seems to be going at a steady pace.  I focus on his back and pretend that I am attached by a rope to the other hiker.  The guy doesn’t know of the mental games I am playing to keep myself going.  The back side of the mountain is cooler, with an updraft, and I wonder where this cool air comes from.  I keep my eyes on the hiker in front of me.  I have never gotten this far up the mountain before.  Each step seems to be an agony.  I don’t care.  I am determined to make the summit.  At the mile-mark, I am hit full force by the sun again as I top the edge of the mountain.  I collapse onto another bench.  The other hiker rests, too.  I can see his face, for the first time.  He looks pleasant.  I don’t ask his name.  It doesn’t matter.  He just helped me get another quarter-mile up the path. 

I realize I am just a quarter mile from the top.  Adrenaline pushes me back onto my feet.  The last part is mostly in the sun.  Sweat covers my forehead and the wetness feels good, my own personal swamp cooler.  As long as I am sweating, I am OK. 

The top of the mountain is playing hide-and-go-seek behind the boulders and rocks that impede the path.  I encounter a sharp incline up a rock.  A handrail is the only means for pulling me up the rock face.  Ten years later, the rock is replaced by stone steps and the handrail removed.  I struggle up more rocks.  The final stretch is steep and treacherous, but the summit is in view.  I hoist myself up the last little bit and perch on top, with the sun beating down on me.  Crumpling on rocks that feel like the softest cushions in a ritzy, hotel lobby, I rest my exhausted body.  It feels so good to be on top of my world.   I look down the mountain sides.  Ranks of saguaros spread out in every direction.  Ocotillos sway in the breezes. I am aware that I am not alone at the top.  The chatter around me is more like a party than the end of a brutal climb overlooking the freeway to downtown Phoenix.
The next four years, I tread my self-appointed pilgrimage, almost every weekend.  I was thrilled as I progressed to not only once up to the summit, but I actually started doing it twice in a day.  I watch the seasons pass, from the dusty grays and browns of summer to the dustier grays of winter, followed by an amazing riot of color each spring.  I changed jobs but not climbing the mountain.

I start to have trouble climbing the mountain.  I figured it was just fatigue from working a more demanding job.  September 11, 2001 stands clear and ominous in most people’s minds.  The reports of crashing planes barely infringed on my depression.  I stare at the computer monitors in the photo lab; the images repeated over and over.  My mind doesn’t seem to grasp that I am watching people die.  The grayness in my mind doesn’t lift.  The week before 9/11, I was diagnosed with cancer.  My world rocked.  I stared numbly as iron and concrete buildings collapsed.  None of the chaos in New York broke through the fog in my mind.  The following Saturday, I retreated to my desert to climb. 
I was too tired to attempt the summit.  The tiredness wasn’t from the cancer but from the depression brought on by the word.  I didn’t know a single word could create such a level of despair that the first time I uttered the words, “I have cancer,” I passed out.  I was only forty-four years old.  I was already scheduled for surgery, in less than a month.  My mind was reeling.  Thankfully I switched to automatic pilot to trudge up the mountain.  I pondered on the tragedy of planes crashing in three different locations in one morning; so many suffered terrible losses.  Families ripped apart, in a matter of moments.  I am despairing over surgery with a 98% chance of recovery.  The cholla seems more ominous than usual.  The mountain seems to grow with every step.  The bleak landscape seems like a suitable environment to ponder the deaths of so many, and the fear I feel about having cancer.  My world was shifting; only the rocks beneath my feet seem solid.  My mind and body ache as I trudge, one foot in front of the other.  I know I won’t make the summit.  I don’t want to stop at the bench at the mile marker in the sun.  I want to find a shaded retreat to sort out all that happened in one week.     
I climbed past the three-quarter marker to the shady side of the mountain.  I noticed a flat boulder large enough for me to sit on and look out over Phoenix, with its own mini skyscrapers.  Sitting there on the rock, I was face to face with the most battered saguaro I had ever seen.  Two thirds of it had hundreds of bullet holes and dings where people had used it for target practice with guns and rocks. I could see the rocks still stuck in the cactus.  It was still green and still growing.  I sat and stared at the scars on the cactus. “What is wrong with me?  The cancer was caught early enough that I only need surgery.  No chemo, no radiation.  I am going to survive.”  Then my heart broke for the thousands whose lives ended in an hour of terror.  I sat for a long time.  I thanked Heavenly Father for having the scarred cactus teach me that having scars doesn’t alter who I am.  Having cancer was only temporary.  I would survive.  Thousands of others did not.  In the desert, there is a toughness that I have never found anywhere else I have lived.  In the desert, there is survival.