Tag Archives: family

Double the Madness


depression green road sign over storm clouds

A few months ago I wrote about how I had again received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. As many of us know, one of the major characteristics of bipolar disorder is mood swings. My doctor prescribed medicine that worked quite well in stabilizing my mood–that is until January 27, 2016. On that day, I had a hysterectomy.

Last year I was diagnosed with Stage IV endometriosis. The only permanent treatment is a full hysterectomy. After six months of unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant, we made the decision for me to have the surgery. After I healed, the physical difference was amazing, particularly in regards to my lower back pain. I can now walk long distances without much discomfort. Yay me! Mentally is a different story.

One of the side effects of a hysterectomy is that you are thrown into menopause, and one of the major things about menopause is that you have mood swings. Bipolar disorder and menopause is no joke. Although I’m on medication, the emotional upheavals were unbearable. I found myself getting irritated at little things (an aspect of hypomania) although I’m regularly taking my medication. On the flip side, I was crying for no reason at all. Because of these things, I made the decision to go on hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Along with my medication, HRT has helped with the irrational irritability and crying spells, however I still struggle with one mental challenge. I can only describe it as the most horrible mix of depression and anxiety that I have experienced since I was a teenager. On a good day, I constantly think about my own death. Not in a suicidal ideation type of way, but always thinking that I will be dying soon, either from a horrible accident or from fatal health issues.

On a bad day, the thoughts and feelings are so bad that I don’t like leaving the house, and I even feel shaky trying to drive–shaky in the sense that I’m panicked and hyper-aware of other cars because I’m waiting for the car accident to happen. You would think that being hyper-aware would make you safer, but I don’t feel safer so I usually find someone else to drive. Even then, I’m still looking out for disaster.

My daughter likes to sleep in the same bed as me to have mommy snuggles before slumber. I’ve gotten so panicked about me dying in my sleep and not wanting my daughter to wake up with her dead mother in bed with her that I’ve started refusing her requests. I don’t tell her the real reason why, but focus on her getting older and needing to sleep on her own.

Trying to sleep is a whole other issue. Not only am I plagued by thoughts of dying of a heart attack in my sleep, but anxiety over a house fire or natural disaster keep me up until the early hours of the morning. I will lie in bed and plot exit routes out of the house, safety precautions in case of or a tornado, or I’ll just cry because I don’t want to die yet.

This is no way to live. I’m hoping my doctor can switch my medication so that the madness can end. Until then, I’m writing more poetry just to get it all out of my head.

This is just a glimpse into mental illness and bio-chemical changes within the body. The next time you encounter someone with these issues, please remember this post and be compassionate–that person has enough hurt and worry to deal with without the need for social sanctioning or ostracizing.

My Love in India


When I first got married, people often said that my husband and I should have our own reality show. I admit, how we worked through cultural differences was often quite funny.

My husband is Indian. A Kashmiri Pandit from the Indian side of the LOC (Line of Control), to be exact. I met him while I was working in India for Amazon. The company sent me to Hyderabad in 2005 to help open a new office–the first Amazon-owned customer service center in India. Previous to that time, Amazon had only worked with outsourcing companies. This was the dawn of a new era when Amazon would be in a foreign country and run things in their image rather than someone else’s. I was honored to be a part of it.

I arrived in Hyderabad after a harrowing trip through Paris. Twenty minutes into my flight from Paris to Hyderabad, the plane started smoking. There’s nothing like seeing flight attendants running down the aisles with fire extinguishers to make you feel safe and comfortable while 30,000+ feet in the air. My immediate reaction was to lay my head against the seat in front of me and chant, “Om Kali Maa, Maha Kali.” (I had been a devotee of Kali since seeing her in a dream as a teenager; this fact made the trip to India even more emotional and spiritual for me–although it was supposed to be all about work).

Finally the decision was made to turn the plane around and try to figure out what caused the smoke. After six hours of trying to stay awake in the Charles DeGaulle airport, the airline finally decided to cancel the flight. After an aggravating weekend in Paris, the urge to return to the United States, and bursting into tears on the side of the road, I finally made it onto a flight that SAFELY arrived in Hyderabad. Jai Maa indeed.

Since I was in India for work, the first two months were spent doing just that–nothing but work–well, except for the occasional tourist or shopping trip. After weeks of all-day office work and evening conference calls with people in the U.S., I needed some downtime. My co-workers and I decided to take a weekend trip to Bangalore (a place that has become my favorite city in India, although Hyderabad will always have a special place in my heart).

During this weekend trip, I went to a get-together for a Bangalore teammate’s birthday. At the party, I met Deepak, the man who would later become my husband. He offered to show me around Bangalore, and we had the best time ever. My favorite memory is of meditating in front of the largest statue of Shiva in all of India. It was an epic experience.

Deepak and I kept in touch after I left Bangalore. We even saw each other again as I made other trips to Bangalore and he visited Hyderabad. But I had to leave. After six months, I was to return back to my life in the U.S. Neither one of us wanted to be apart. It was with these strong feelings that Deepak asked me to marry him, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Well, not exactly. The immigration process is a nightmare for people in love, but I’ll save that for another post.

Deepak finally arrived in the U.S. in February of 2007. That trip would be the first time he had traveled outside of India. It was culture shock to say the least. Although we both spoke English, those cultural nuances would often cause misunderstandings. Like the time he told my nephew to put the groceries in the dicky. Saying this to a teenage American boy was definitely cause for twelve-year-old-type innuendo and laughter.

For me, there was the month where on separate occasions, he basically called me a homely fat cow. Let me explain.

When he stated that I was fat, I was still in that American frame of mind that immediately took that as an insult, as a negative criticism of my looks. To him, it was just a statement of fact, not a judgment on my appearance. To him, a person can be skinny or fat, which has nothing to do with one’s beauty. I understood that. Still, it took me a long time to see things his way when it came to that perspective. I still count this initial misunderstanding and later clarity as a huge contributor to my lifelong process of body acceptance. For that, I thank him, even when I wanted to smack him when he had first said it.

Then there was the time he called me homely. I immediately took offense. To me, homely meant “not pretty, plain or unattractive.” To him it meant “being familiar with the home”–in other words, a Domestic Goddess. I definitely enjoyed that much more than the fat comment.

Lastly, he called me a cow. I nearly blew a gasket! He explained that he worshipped cows, and for him to make the comparison, it was like calling me a Goddess. I’m still not sure, even after almost nine years of marriage, if he was being honest or backtracking when he realized his faux pas. Still, I’ll accept any time someone wants to call me a Goddess. And I definitely made sure to tell him to NEVER, EVER call an American woman a cow unless he wants to be slapped.

I could go on, but I’ll leave that to a different post. Right now I’ll just say that I love India, and I found love IN India. I’ll just say that I’m glad I live with an open mind and respect others’ differences. And we make beautiful babies.

 

Getting Real about Getting Healthy


hope concept

Much has happened since we moved to the Chicago area.

I spent a month on the couch in severe pain. Testing showed that I had ovarian cysts and a tumor, which required surgery. After the surgery, we learned that I have Stage IV endometriosis. During the first surgery, much of the endometrial tissue was removed, along with my left ovary and fallopian tube. Unfortunately, since I’m Stage IV, I still experience continual discomfort with random episodes of sharp stabbing pain. To treat this, I will be having a full hysterectomy in January, which will mean six to eight weeks of more healing time.

Given my physical health challenges and a familial episode that was sparked by my sometimes illogical sense of aggravation, I decided it was past time to really be serious about my overall health–for my benefit and my family’s benefit, particularly my daughter, Maya, because she deserves a healthy and happy mom. To this end, I decided to accept the diagnosis I was given when I was twenty-six. I went to a psychiatrist for re-evaluation and was finally honest about some things that I had never told a mental healthcare worker before–specifically about my compulsive spending, days of elevated irritability, and episodes where things seem to explode and my behavior becomes erratic (which often leads to self-injury). The psychiatrist confirmed what I was told fourteen years ago–I have bipolar II with hypomania. I’m not rejecting the diagnosis anymore.

For now, I’m on new medicine, and so far the change has been so amazing, I’m mentally kicking myself for not doing this sooner. Of course I will likely have to fight the urge that I had so many years ago–once I feel good for a while, I will need to resist the urge to convince myself that there’s nothing really wrong with me, those episodes were just me having a “bad day.” More recently I had justified all of this by saying that I had an intolerance for a**holes. Like I told the psychiatrist, with so many different episodes with different people, the only common denominator was ME. Therefore, I need to get over myself and accept the fact that I’m the one with the issue so I can treat it and go on with my life.

So that’s what I’m doing. As you can expect, you will read much more about my journey in upcoming posts. Until then, health and blessings to all.

Blood and Family


misty+mountains

Family means a lot to me.

When my grandfather was alive, my extended family on the Adkins side would often gather at my grandparents’ home. We had a saying, “If you ain’t blood, you ain’t sh*t.” This statement bonded us together by celebrating our relationships, but also was a battlecry to anyone who wasn’t blood kin – a playful jab to those who had married into the family.

That bond quickly disintegrated when my grandfather died. I was five years old. Huge fights erupted between siblings over money and whatever estate my Papa had left behind. I don’t know all the specifics of it. I just remember hiding in the hallway of our house as my mom and dad fought with my uncle. Unfortunately when the dust settled, we were no longer allowed to have contact with my uncle, which also meant cutting ties with his kids, two of my cousins.

My family didn’t learn from past mistakes. A similar pattern arose when my grandmother began losing her battle against alzheimer’s. You see, we’re Appalachian people. Culturally, Appalachians have a deep history of “taking care of our own.” When it comes to family, this dedication is even stronger. My mom cared for my grandmother herself, even bringing Mammy home to live with us for a while. I even helped by dressing Mammy on occasion. A memory burned into my pre-teen mind is of struggling to get her to raise her arms so I could apply deodorant. Regardless of the struggle, pawning her off for someone else, a stranger, to do these things was not a consideration.

For whatever reason, one of my aunts was not happy with the way we were providing for Mammy. She insisted that she could take better care and even accused my mom of stealing money. My mom could no longer take the stress and relented, allowing my aunt to take over caring for Mammy. My aunt didn’t do this for long before placing Mammy in a nursing home without telling the rest of the family. In those days and particularly to an Appalachian family, this was quite a scandal. As one might expect, these actions created another rift in the family, and we were no longer allowed to talk to that particular aunt, my uncle, or their kids – four more cousins lost.

Since I didn’t know anyone on my dad’s side of the family, my extended relations then consisted of one maternal aunt, my uncle, and their three sons. We clung to each other and became much closer, spending every Christmas holiday together, similarly to how the WHOLE family did when both my grandparents were alive. Into early adulthood, when thinking of extended family, I only had one aunt, one uncle, and three cousins, plus a gnawing sense of loss because I knew I had more, but somehow events changed our family motto to mean that even if you’re blood, we will still disown you. This was a huge leap from the days of “if you ain’t blood, you ain’t sh*t.”

Fast forward to 2005. I was working for Amazon in India, and one week before I was supposed to leave, my mom called me with the news that my dad had died of a massive heart attack. At that time Amazon did right by me and spent whatever money was needed to get me back to the U.S. as soon as possible. When I finally landed back in West Virginia, it was a deeply sad time, but I was consoled in the fact that my dad and I had reconciled before he passed. I had finally gotten to the point in my healing that I no longer found it useful to hold onto anger over many of the hurtful things he had done under the influence of alcohol. I even remember placing my hand on his coffin and saying, “I forgive you.”

My dad didn’t have much of a will. The document had been written more than a decade before and had no mention of what he wanted done with his remains. Dad had stated on several occasions that he didn’t want people to make a big deal out of the funeral, preferring that it be informal, and he wanted to be cremated. So, this is what we did. During visitation, my dad was dressed in a button down shirt, jeans, and sneakers. After, he was cremated, and my mom received the ashes.

Life became more confusing at this point. We remembered back to one rather amusing family conversation. My dad had said he wanted his ashes sprinkled in the Ohio River. My mom asked how we were suppose to accomplish this to which he replied, “Wait until it’s dark, drive over the 17th street bridge, and throw me out the window.” We all laughed. This was the only time my dad mentioned such things. My mom thought he had been joking, particularly since we had all laughed about it at the time, so she made no plans to do anything with his ashes except keep them in her living room under a statue of Buddha.

One of my three cousins, the middle child, took issue with this. My mom had passively told the story of the funny discussion regarding the Ohio River. My cousin acted as if he was horribly offended that we were not respecting my dad’s last wishes. Truth was, we weren’t sure what those wishes really were outside of not making a big deal of his funeral and cremating his body. Still, my cousin became angry that we didn’t spread his ashes. I guess he learned well from the lessons taught previously by our estranged uncle and aunt because he stopped talking to my mom, me, and my sisters. He even has all of us blocked on Facebook, as if we don’t exist anymore.

“If you ain’t blood, you ain’t sh*t.” I guess he now considers us sh*t, and I’m down to two cousins. I’m seriously confused by all of this because I had no idea that he thought so highly of my dad. At the same time, I bitterly think, “If he only knew what my dad had been capable of, maybe he wouldn’t be guarding his memory so strongly.”

I’m sad by all of this. The right lessons are not learned, and my family on the Adkins side continues to shrink. I know that this is a huge reason as to why I place such importance on my husband’s family and maintaining all of those relationships. I’m treated differently by them – not in an “if you ain’t blood” way – but since I married into the family, a great deal of importance is placed on me. I chose the family, I don’t love them because of blood. After the wedding, my father-in-law said to me, “Now, you’re not my daughter-in-law, you’re my daughter,” and that’s exactly how I’m treated, with that same level of regard…although I ain’t blood.

Powering through the Pain


hope concept

I had every intention to post the second part of my blog series “My Life Beyond Fat.” Unfortunately, my body had other plans.

I have been having severe abdominal pain for a while and ended up in the emergency room a few nights ago. After ER testing and follow-up ultrasound with my doctor, they confirmed that I have a 3.5 inch mass around my left ovary. The mass consists of two simple cysts and one complex, solid cyst that has the features of an endometrioma. I have a follow up with a specialist on Tuesday, which will probably mean an MRI. If it is confirmed endometrioma, surgery is likely along with a biopsy to confirm that it is benign. Until then, pain management…which means lots of pain meds, chamomile tea, laying around, and reading. It also means that I’m getting seriously behind on writing and editing work. That stuff can wait. I want this orange size thing out of my body!

Thank the Goddess we’re in the Chicago area now, close to family who is helping to take care of me. Wowza. My husband suggested that surely it didn’t hurt that much. I suggested that he stand close enough so I could grab his junk and twist it as hard as I could…then he would know exactly how much it hurt. *wink*

Chicago State of Mind


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My daughter and I have successfully relocated to the Chicago area. My husband will arrive in a little over a week. Although tired, I feel so much more relaxed and content to once again be surrounded by family.

I have an interview for an office job tomorrow. I’m excited for new professional opportunities to help people learn and develop their careers. I just hope it doesn’t take away too much time from my writing.

Speaking of which, I’m reviewing/editing the last chapters of Mining the Dark. I’m going to write some new material for a plot arc, then finish the epilogue. After that, I’ll send the updated manuscript to my hard reviewers, make any necessary remaining edits, then it’s publishing time! So excited to have this novel ready for you all. It’s been much too long since the first book in The Mountain State Vampire Series (The Source (The Mountain State Vampire Series Book 1)). I personally think that Mining the Dark is a better book. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Cheers to positive life changes!