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it’s been too long. i feel like there is too much to write and nothing to write at the same time.

it’s recently been coming to my attention how a lot of people in my life think i’ve gotten through this… thing. who cares what they think? but it does matter, because right now it feels like my identity. i know i need to shake that. hazy.. everything seems hazy.

my mom went on her first date since my dad last monday. last week she let it slip that there was someone interested.. i encouraged her. she was surprised and very emotional about it. “we just want you to be happy.”

life certainly is weird.

2010 is coming to an end… and i’m not going to be sad to see it go. 2010 has been the hardest year of my life. hands down. i remember last year when people were telling me happy new year i was just wondering if i’d live to see the end of it. sounds melodramatic, i know.. but i really didn’t know.

been struggling with my boyfriend. god i love him. i’ve been too dependent.

i’ve recently realized that there are two very separate things i need to work through. there’s the anxiety and flashbacks and depression and fear and all of that.. the memory of those 3 months last year… and then there’s also just the fact that i lost almost everything. school. friends. job. everything and everyone that inspired me… there was a lot. i lost myself. i threw it away. and i don’t say those things to beat myself down. it’s just the truth. i do believe i can come to be inspired again, i do have hope, but i also know it’s a long road. and there aren’t any guarantees…

if i don’t post again before, happy new year’s everyone. remember love.

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I was talking to this guy I know a little about religion and faith.

He said that he thinks maybe it’s more important to keep the faith…

yet he’s an atheist.

I made an appointment with a different psychiatrist who I have heard good things about. I’m really happy about that…

My dad gave me copies of this paper tracing some of our family all the way back to the 1600’s. It’s interesting to see what my ancestors did…

My old roommate (and one of my very best friends) was asking me about the music situation. She brought up an interesting thought.. which is that a couple of years ago after I took a trip across the country I was really contemplating dropping out of school to just live and play some music. I didn’t end up doing it… but she mentioned how it’s funny that sort of happened anyway.

Man.. I don’t understand why I’m always so wound up at this time of the day…

Song of the day: At the Hop by Devendra Bahnhart.

I’m a rambler. If you get me talking and I’m comfortable, I can go on and on. I do it all the time to my boyfriend. I joke with him that he must be so sick of my stories, but he always laughs and says he likes them. I just laugh.

But then he remembers a small detail of something I told him weeks ago and he’ll bring it up… as if he really is listening the whole time. It feels good to feel that he is really listening to what I’m saying, even when it isn’t on a really important subject. I love him for that.

Sometimes it’s those little things…

Work has been stressful, but overall good. The program I worked at in Milwaukee was much higher quality, so I can get easily frustrated at the daycare I work at now. The kids really do make it worth it though. Some days, though, I’m just itching to get out of there because it’s so crazy and I’m so bothered by some of the things that go on. The other day I felt like that.. and this little two-year-old said the word “bubble” and suddenly I was so refreshed. See, he’s been really delayed in speech. Lately I had been getting him to say some words like “hey” and “no” and such, but he said “bubble” and I just felt so proud of him. Those moments remind me why I love kids so much. Again, the little things…

I’ve been struggling lately. I sort of just stopped seeing the psychologist I was seeing a few weeks ago. I felt like he wasn’t the right fit for me, and he ended up canceling an appointment because he was sick, and I just never called back to make another appointment. I really need to be in therapy… intensive therapy. Things aren’t nearly as bad as they a few months ago, but even as I start feeling better it almost makes me feel worse to understand how long the road in front of me is.

There’s a lot to look forward to though as well.

What little things mean a lot to you?

Dear WordPress, it’s been too long! Last time I was absent for a while it was because I was cycling through a more difficult time, but this time it’s honestly because I’ve been a little more busy (a good thing) and now I’m in South Dakota again.

I believe I was here about six weeks ago. My grandma, aunt, uncle, and cousins live here, so we come out to visit a couple times a year. Unfortunately, a couple weeks after we got back last time my grandma had a bit of a fall and although she was relatively uninjured, her doctor finally told her that it was time for her to not live alone anymore. Sad, but in all honestly a good thing.

So I’m out here again helping my mom sort through my grandma’s apartment. It isn’t too bad because about ten years ago my grandparents moved here from their house in Iowa, so we had sorted and got rid of a lot of stuff back then.

It’s been interesting going through all of this stuff. Listening to my mom, grandma and aunt talk about old memories and relatives that I’ve never met- it reminds me how I’m a part of something bigger that I never really even think about… and that I come from people and places I’ve never really known or seen. Even within one generation there is so much unknown. I often wonder how much about my mom’s life I don’t really know. As much as she’s told me about her memories of growing up, those are all from her point of view… and I’m sure things would seem different even just hearing those stories from my aunt’s point of view.

My grandparents were never super close to us. They just weren’t the type to show a lot of  affection. Birthday cards would come on time every year, and I saw them several times a year even though we lived in separate states, but they weren’t all that interested in really getting to know me. I’m not complaining; that’s just sort of how it was.

So they’ve always seemed sort of… rigid to me. My grandpa was a pastor too. I have enormous respect for who he was- he went through a lot as a pastor and as a man, and his faith never seemed to falter. He was a great man.

While my aunt was going through my grandpa’s desk, she came across some letters that my grandma wrote to my grandpa. Some were from before they were married, and others after, while he would be away at church conferences or other things. I haven’t read them yet, but I am really looking forward to it.

People always talk about how the divorce rate has gone up so much. Although the institution of marriage has probably really suffered in the last few decades, I doubt that it has honestly gotten that much worse. I think that a lot of people just stayed in very unhappy marriages their whole lives.

It gives me such joy and hope when I see an older couple strolling down the street with their fingers entwined. To hear about these love letters does the same…

I don’t think it’s about finding your one true love; I think it’s about finding a true love and keeping it true.

Working thousands of hours in the daycare field has granted me a pretty inside view into a lot of different types of marriages- marriages of the wealthy, the older, the younger, the poorer, those on state aid…. I’ve even spent time in a lot of their houses, babysitting their children. Many of them have turned to me for help on raising their kids.

In viewing these relationships/marriages, I’ve noticed a lot.

1. Having a lot of money doesn’t make you a better parent.
2. Having a lot of money doesn’t make your marriage better. (duh!)
3. Being on federal or state aid doesn’t make you a bad parent.
4. Although maybe if you’re on government aid, have five kids who never get baths and are pregnant with another… you should learn how to use birth control.

Okay, sorry to get political. Back to the relationship thing.

5. I’ve seen the couples who put their child before their own marriage. I am a product of this type of upbringing. Trust me, this will not benefit you, your spouse, or your child(ren.)
6. I’ve seen couples who “stay together for the kids.” Again, this benefits no one in the long run…
7. I’ve seen couples who are very good at functioning. They make a pretty good team in terms of who’s picking the kids up, who’s taking them to soccer/gymnastics etc., who’s picking up/making dinner, so on and so forth… but I sense that it’s more of a business arrangement than anything else. This type of couple is the most mysterious to me.
8. Finally, I’ve seen the couples that really do seem close. Not that they don’t fight.. or disagree… or do things as parents that I wouldn’t do as a parent, but… I can’t really put my finger on it.
9. Finally, I’ve seen couples who I’ve made observations about only to realize that I was way off. A sort of disclaimer I guess.

I don’t ever just want to have a functioning/business type of relationship/marriage. I know it’s easy for me to say that now. I’m working part time and I’m not even in school. I have so much time to spend with Cody. Whoever I end up marrying (if I do marry,) I’m not saying that I know how we’ll manage to get the time in, how to find the right ways to communicate and all of that, but I’m just saying I realize how important it is.

See, I want to be writing love letters like my grandmother, long after we’ve gotten married and had kids. Not necessarily “How do I love thee?” type love letters, but letters that may just say, “I got my haircut today and I really hope you like it. I miss you. I love you.”

I have a twin brother named Nathan. He’s… pretty much the coolest guy I know.

Nathan was born over two hours after me. No one is sure exactly why, but he has several disabilities. His vision and coordination are limited, and his brain just doesn’t work the way ours do. He can’t tie his own shoes but he has experienced things that a lot of people never will. In ways he’s more mature and smarter than a lot of other people his age.

Normally, Nathan is a really happy, light-hearted guy. He’s had some really great teachers and they have all really loved him. In fact, I don’t think anyone that’s ever met him has not liked him. He’s fun… and considerate, and enjoys doing nice things for people. He gets spoiled rotten by the people who work with him, but he takes it all really well.

When Nathan and I hit the puberty age, he started having psychological problems. Delusions filled his mind… depression, anxiety. There was just this look on his face. He’s been in the hospital a few times, and the doctors seem to have found the right mix of meds to really keep him stable. And he is… almost all of the time. When these episodes start coming on, we increase the meds for a while and then put them back to normal. It’s manageable.

Yet… it’s hard to watch him suffer. I remember thinking I’d do anything just to take away his pain, his hurt.

And now I think that in a sense I really know what it’s like. To feel that intense pain and sadness… with no reason. Feeling trapped, a prisoner.. thinking irrational thoughts.

Nathan seemed to be heading for one of his episodes a few weeks ago so they increased the meds. It seemed to help, but last night was a rough one for him. He was just sobbing.

And then today again… He yelled at my mom and sister a lot, treated them pretty poorly… not normal behavior for him. When I got home from work he was sobbing.

We had a really good talk. On some levels.. it’s almost as if  Nathan is just a little kid. He’s used to really being taken care of for his daily needs, and those always will be taken care of by somebody else. His understanding of a lot of events is probably comparable to a child’s perspective. So as we talked about what and how he was feeling, he expressed his frustration that “this will never go away. I’ll have it until I die.” I told him I understood… and I reminded him that most of the time he doesn’t feel that way. He said he knew I understood.. and then, through his tears, said that he thought I was going to be the lucky one and not have to suffer from mental illness. He was so upset about it.

He may not always be able to express himself very well so it’s easy to overlook what he really does understand. It’s like when a kid says something to you that’s so insightful that it blows you away.

It breaks my heart to see him hurting… but at the same time it felt really good to be able to talk to him and calm him down. I love him so much.

I write a lot about love.

It’s just that… I think it really is the most important thing. It’s what makes us human… it’s what kept me going at my lowest point. It’s because of love that I am… learning to live again. There’s not a lot that I’m sure about anymore, and I think you could say that I’m somewhat jaded because of these last few months. Every day memories flash into my mind that fill my heart with such intense sadness and pain… and I feel I’ve lost a lot. But… Love is real. And it’s what makes this life so beautiful.

And yet…

Love isn’t perfect. Well, maybe in theory it is. Maybe by definition it is. Somehow though, no matter how much we love each other, we still mess up and treat those that we love in the wrong way.

The other morning I woke up to my sister’s yelling to my mom. I know that she was yelling so that I would hear her. My mom kept asking her to quiet down, that I was just in the other room, that I would wake up and hear her. And I did. And I know her frustrations were related to me, and the things she was saying were… well, they were mean. Her words were hurtful. I know that me being here isn’t ideal for any of them… yet all day I kept thinking to myself that I wanted to say so much to her.. to tell her how for so many years I acted like the older sister (although I’m younger.) I was there for her when I was really too young to deal with the things that faced her.. and us, our whole family. Yet I bore the things she was dealing with and never complained. I let the focus be on the rest of the family and bottled up my own hurt for years and somehow managed to get past it. And now that she’s in a better place, and I’m in the worst place I’ve ever been in, she wants to complain because of some inconveniences of me living here? I wanted to tell her that she has absolutely no idea what I’ve been going through.

Well, I talked to my mom about it that day, and before I even saw my sister she must have talked to her. I got a text from her saying that she doesn’t want me to think that she doesn’t like having me here. And later that night she talked to me and said the same thing.. told me how bad of a morning she was having. I wanted to still say all those things to her.. but once she said she was sorry  and saw that I wasn’t visibly angry (which I wasn’t angry by that point,) she changed the subject so we could move on. That’s sort of how things have always worked in my family… say the minimum of what you have to and stop talking about it.

I’ve based a lot of my “recovery” on the support of my family. The words she said that morning stung… yet they didn’t make me question how much she loves me.

The night I hit bottom… well, I couldn’t even drive back here. My sister made the two hour drive to pick me up, and then she listened to me cry the whole two hours back. And she let me sleep next to her that night.

I certainly know that the way I love isn’t perfect.

I caught my mom in a lie to me as well. That almost bothers me even more, because when I was in the hospital I told her how important it was to me that we would be honest with each other. I think I’m still going to talk to her about that.

But even her lie doesn’t make me question the fact that she loves me. Not at all.

Part of growing up is realizing that love isn’t perfect. We make mistakes… and those mistakes always hurt the most when they are from the people we love most.

But… that’s part of what makes love such a beautiful thing. On the right hand of love is joy, and the left hand is hurt. Love means being vulnerable… it’s this choice to empower someone else to have the possibility to hurt you, but also to give you so much joy.

And I believe that in order to have healthy relationships with those that you love, you must understand that love isn’t perfect. In a loving relationship.. forgiveness is always going to be there.

It’s amazing really… love is worth the hurt that can come with it. I really believe that. Love makes it all worth it.

I love working with kids.

I’m sensing sort of a dejavu feeling, so hopefully I haven’t already written a post like this!

I think that children have this different sense of joy that we almost lose as we grow older. My proof? The way that kids just run, jump, and skip around.. giggling furiously for no reason, big grins on their faces. The only adults you see doing that aren’t usually considered sane. Maybe the biggest difference is that kids can have that joy for really no reason… whereas when you see an estatic adult, there’s almost always a reason behind it.

Why is it that we lose that sense of joy? Does society just teach us how to show it in a different way? Or is it lost in the trials of growing up?

Another reason I love working with kids is that I’ve noticed that their love is much more pure. Everyone always talks about a parent’s unconditional love for his or her children… but a child will also love his or her parent unconditionally. It’s amazing. When I worked with kindergarteners, I was really hard on them and I held them to a pretty high standard. Yet I also knew how to be totally weird and goofy with them (one of the reasons that age is so fun is that they still think you’re cool when you act like that!) There were days, however, that I was really stressed out- whether they were stressing me out or things non-work related- and I would sometimes mess up and take it out on them. Yet they never, ever stopped loving me because of that. A child who is horribly abused still loves his/her abusive parent even.

So why is it so hard to love unconditionally as we grow older? Again, is it simply that we grow wise to the ways of the world and see how unconditional love isn’t always very self-preserving?

It’s interesting…

Love is real.

So.. my blog is called learning to live… I started it with the idea of writing about my experiences while going through this.. “thing.” I wanted to write about building my new “foundation.”

I’ve definitely alluded to it before, but I think the first block I want to lay as my foundation is love.

I know.. I know, it’s cliche. But it’s so true.

To love.. and be loved.

There’s this picture of my family- all seven of us. We are in the front of the church my dad was a pastor at in the UP. I’m only maybe a year old. I’m sitting on this folding chair, a serious look on my face. The best part is the story behind it. Apparently when they took the picture my dad was supposed to be holding my twin and my mom was supposed to be holding me, but I saw one of my older siblings sitting in a chair and I insisted that I needed to be in a chair too.

See, by nature, I’m so independent.. I always have been.

No one else can go through this thing for me. No one else can magically make things better.

But honestly, if I had to do it on my own, I don’t know if I could.

I’ve been missing my old roommates. Two of the best friends I’ve ever had. I’ve been crying because I miss how much fun we had together, and I know that things will never be exactly like they were before. But you know what? I think it’s part of the healing process. For months I pushed them away and didn’t let myself think about it. I’m just now starting to let myself feel the pain of that. And as much as it hurts, it’s real… it’s a sadness that I really should feel. It’s human… and it’s okay.

Last night I played at open mic night. It was.. amazing. Sometimes when I’m playing, I can just sense that there are others in the room who get it. They just get it. I don’t know how else to explain it.. and for a few brief moments you are connected. That’s love.

And the guy I wrote about a while back. That’s still good- it’s really good. I feel like he’s my best friend. The best part of my day is when we hang out. Tonight we just watched comedy and played chess. I can see myself in the future with him, spending lazy days watching shows on National Geographic or going on walks, playing board games.. simple things. Got to keep it simple. He’s one of the best parts about being back in this town. He’s one of the best people I know.

Love is real. It doesn’t always make sense, but that’s what makes it so amazing. Love makes us do things we otherwise wouldn’t. Unconditional love is a miracle- I really believe that. There is no logic behind it, no evolutionary reason. Love makes us better than what we are. Love is.. more real than anything else I know.

I have been absent from the wordpress world for the last week…  I’d have to say that things have been getting harder, but that’s a whole different story. I can definitely say that my meds are not helping- and I’m starting to wonder if they’re actually making things worse. More on that later, though.

What I do want to write about is pretty unrelated.

This morning I checked out a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. The topic was life after death. I was really interested to hear what the minister would say about such a topic… especially because although they call themselves a religion, they don’t really have a set of doctrinal beliefs- so I wondered what they could possibly say about life after death.

The minister first gave a very general overview of what different world religions believe about life after death. She then talked about her own beliefs concerning the topic, which were very similar to mine… basically, that there is really no way to know.

As I’ve written in previous entries, my family is very religious- and I grew up that way too. I need to point out that they are religious in the sincere way- they truly believe what they say they believe. It’s not just about tradition or appearances.

For my mom, her beliefs grant her huge comfort. The idea that she thinks she knows where she’s going after she dies consoles her in some of her hardest struggles. It used to be that way for me too- I was very passionate about my faith. Yet in the midst of that I always had this fear that I was or could be wrong… and then always felt guilty for having that fear. The ultimate freedom for me was actually admitting what I really believed all along- that I really didn’t know- that there really is no way to know... and that that’s okay, and life is still worth living even if there are no pearly gates. I believe more than ever that this life is the most precious gift, and now I only fear death when I am feeling truly in love with life and don’t want it to end. But even then it’s not really a fear of death- it’s just a love of life. To me, that is comforting.

I think I made a mistake though. Just a few minutes ago I told my mom that I went to the UU Fellowship. I tried to preface it by telling her that what she had heard about UU was probably wrong or very misleading, and explained that it’s not a religion in the sense of the word that Christians think of as a religion. Although different answers to some of life’s biggest questions are presented, none of them are really taught to be the Truth. They encourage you to explore your spirituality and boast that people from all different faiths are a part of their church. They don’t tell you there is a God, but they don’t tell you there isn’t one either.

My mom was not happy. In all fairness, she wasn’t angry either. I know I’m lucky for that. At least she didn’t scream at me, threaten to kick me out. But you should have seen the look on her face. Pure concern and sadness.

It’s not her reaction that upset me (although I obviously don’t want her to be worried or sad.) What upsets me, what angers me, is that her reaction was based on what she knows about Unitarian Universalism- which comes from the world of conservative Christianity and Christian Family Radio. “UU is dangerous! They will indoctrinate you with false teachings!” How ironic considering UU emphasizes not having any formal doctrines or creeds, whereas at the church I grew up in, we all spoke in unison our creed every week. Every week, every day I was indoctrinated. Maybe “indoctrinated” is a strong word- but I was certainly taught that what our religion proclaimed was the Truth. The UU minister this morning openly admitted that she could be wrong about what she thought. That doesn’t sound like indoctrination to me.

Don’t get me wrong- I have enormous respect for my mom and her beliefs. Maybe I’m the cowardly one, sticking to the easy, middle-ground answer of “well, I don’t really know.” But that’s honest- it’s the truth. I recently told my mom that I thought certain things were really impossible to know (in the midst of a conversation about religion) and she thought that I was ascribing to relativity, or that I was saying that the truth really isn’t that important. Again, there’s so much irony in that; it’s because the truth is important to me that I’ve admitted that I don’t know. I can’t pretend to believe something that I don’t.

I guess it also frustrates me because I wish she would have been happy for me. Yet at the same time, I understand why she isn’t. I don’t agree with it, but I understand.

Yes, Mom, there is reason to be very concerned about me. I’m really struggling here. There is something not right in my brain- the chemicals, they’re mixed up. But in the sense of spiritual and religious beliefs, I am healthier than I ever have been.

After seeing the look on my mom’s face today, I know that I can never be completely honest with her about how I feel about religion. Along with frustrating me, it broke my heart she was so sad and worried about it… because honestly, I’m glad that she gets so much comfort and hope from her faith. I admire it. I just wish she could admire the way I address those same questions.

“Happiness is only real when shared.”

-Christopher McCandless

One of my favorite movies is Into the Wild. There’s also a book that tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a man who leaves behind the norms and demands of current society to rough it in the wild. Part of what fuels him is his resentment of his family and how he feels that what he believed in growing up isn’t the truth. At the end of all of his solo journey he concludes that happiness is only real when shared.

Love really does make the world go around.

When I finally hit the bottom after three months of rejecting and pushing away the help that people who loved me were trying to give me, the only thing that helped me to pick up my phone for help was love.

I was the lowest I had ever been. I really cannot explain what it was like, but I can tell you that it was the most pain that I’ve ever been in in my life. I believed that I would never be well again, that happiness wasn’t real… that nothing was real. I wished I hadn’t ever been born; I did not want to live. I lay on my bed crying, feeling utterly trapped. Suicide did seem like a way out- it felt like the only way out. Yet I couldn’t consider it, because I didn’t want to hurt all the people that loved me. Then I figured that if nothing else was real, love was. And with that thought, I picked up the phone and dialed the number for the person who I knew loved me most unconditionally- my mom.

Love is real. When nothing else makes sense, when all else fails, love is real.

It doesn’t always make sense. Love will make you do things that you wouldn’t otherwise do. It is the only motivation behind selflessness. And when there’s no other way out, love is there. It is real.

I’ve felt like Christopher McCandless many times. I’ve felt that my family was based on lies.. that what I was taught growing up was a lie. And it drove me from my family. I let the anger and resentment grow just as Christopher McCandless did. When all this started happening in November, I pushed away my family’s help more forcefully than anyone else’s. You want to love me now? You want to be there for me now? I thought.

Yet when I hit bottom, there they were… waiting for me.

Accepting their love didn’t make all the issues go away, but it was the best decision I made during all those months.

I keep talking about this foundation that I lost… and that I’m trying to rebuild again. Well, one thing I know that needs to be plastered down into that foundation is love. That is the first block that I choose to lay down.

I’m still lost. The last week or so has been really rough. I went to the doctor yesterday and he increased the dosage of both the mood stabilizer and the anti-depressant. I’m really hoping that will do the trick. Starting a new and different medication would be a lot more complicated. I was making progress with what I’m on, so hopefully just increasing the dosage will work.

I had a good talk with my mom last night. I cried… I told her I felt like a prisoner in this. She hugged me and said, “You know I would do anything to help you.” She was crying too. I was too choked up to say it, but she already is doing more than I can even ask.. loving me unconditionally. It’s ironic- my family used to be the reason behind my sadness, but now my family is the solid ground beneath my feet, enabling me to find my way on this scary journey.

Yeah… love is real.