Tag Archives: BPD

Freefallin’

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im-falling

It’s not the fall;
It’s the sudden stop at the bottom.

I get a sick feeling when life goes well for more than a day or two at a stretch. I see good times as a pair of steel shoes resting on the ground and as the good days stretch out, one shoe sits while the other begins to rise and gain size; the longer the good stretch lasts, the higher and heavier the shoe gets, right up to the point when the next crisis strikes and “the other shoe drops” — literally screams down at 9.80665m/sec² — thus the higher and heavier it’s gotten (ie. the longer and better the stretch of life has been) the more destruction it causes when it hits ground.

Things have been going entirely too well lately and the other shoe had gotten much too far and fat for my liking. Even though I know it’s just a construct of my imagination, I still picture it up there — waiting, looming — and I cringe as the days pile up without incident because what goes up is going to come down and the farther up it goes, the worse it’s going to be. Well, my small group leader ended the waiting and ruined supper by announcing after four great years together, our group will cease to exist come May. That sound you hear is the wind whistling through the eyelets of a gargantuan steel Air Jordan streaking earthward like the comet that killed the dinosaurs.

As I sat staring into my empty plate like a poor dumb T-Rex on the prehistoric Yucatan Peninsula all I could think of was, “It’s happening AGAIN.” What is happening again is my abandonment mechanism is going off. If you don’t suffer from abandonment issues, get on your knees right now and thank Jesus, Buddha, Ganesha, or Shiva (or Darwin for the atheists in the crowd) because of all the agonies of Borderline Personality Disorder, the one I would least wish on anyone (except Hitler, Stalin, or Mao — you know, the only three people going to Hell) is Abandonment Issues.

When I was five, Mama and Daddy started having “trouble.” By the time I was seven, they had separated; by eight, divorced. I see Daddy’s blue stepside Chevy truck driving off and me waving desperately from the front porch of the trailer as clearly today as almost forty years ago. Two key things I’ve learned at great financial and emotional cost in seven years of therapy are 1) children with single digit ages have limited ability to process emotional nuances that cause adults problems and 2) when you experience a devastating trauma at a young age, a part of you emotionally never gets any older. So, while the 43-year-old man I am knows Daddy and Mama had issues and it was best they divorce, the seven-year old still inside me just sees daddies aren’t supposed to leave, but Daddy left ME. I want to be crystal clear about something right now — this is not a “beat up Daddy” post. This is a “why I am what I am” post and the fact is, Mama and Daddy’s divorce planted the seed of abandonment in my seven-year old soul and, dear God, has it grown over the years.

For several years after the divorce, I could not stand for Mama to leave me as she might decided not to return too. I tolerated her going to work to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table only because I got to stay with my beloved Papa and Granny Wham. Otherwise, if Mama wasn’t at work and I wasn’t at school, I was welded to her hip. Naturally, this caused some problems. I smothered the life out of Mama. My mother was a drop dead gorgeous woman and she was single again at 25, but she couldn’t date because I would throw a royal fit if she left me at night. I remember one time in particular, several women she worked with begged her to go to Myrtle Beach with them for a long weekend and she finally agreed, but she knew how I’d take it so she didn’t tell me. Instead, I went to Granny and Papa’s as usual but instead of getting up at midnight to go home, I woke up on Saturday morning next to Papa Wham.

To put it mildly (and seriously, I’m not even going into the details) I FLIPPED THE HELL OUT! I screamed, cried, and thrashed but most of all, I kept repeating over and over, “She left me, she left me . . . ” I was so distraught I made myself vomit from crying and screaming. It scared Granny to death. It didn’t do me a lot of good either, especially because I had no idea where Mama was, when she was coming back, but most of all what was wrong with me. I literally COULD NOT calm down. Mama never went anywhere again without me. I sucked a huge portion of life out of my precious Mama because I couldn’t bear for her to leave me.

Through the years, that feeling of being abandoned has flared up with angry intensity on more occasions than I’d care to admit. When I was in sixth grade, the first little girl I ever had a crush on moved. That would be tough on lots of kids. I was sick in bed for a week. When I was a junior in high school, the first girl I ever was truly, madly in love with went out with another boy. Wreck. Later, when we were seniors, we went through another rough patch and ended up calling it quits for good when she said, and I’ll never forget it, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you and the good news is IT’S NOT YOURS now I guess you know the bad news too.” That one was the first time I ever made out a bona fide suicide plan and would have carried it out if Duane Craddock had not defied his parents to come to my house and take me to Amy Mims’ house at midnight so the two of them could talk me down off the ledge so to speak.

I’ve got more, but this post has already run over my 1000 word target so I’m going to wrap this one up. Maybe, if enough of you decide you’d like to hear the rest of the story, I’ll do a part two about how abandonment issues have pretty much crippled my life for years now.

In any event, know that I love y’all and keep those feet clean!

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So It Goes . . .

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In an absolutely perfect world, I would go to Bell Street Middle School and spend the day getting ready for my 8th year spreading library love amongst my students and teachers. In a slightly less perfect — but wildly-superior-to-the-present — world I’d be headed back to Woodmont High School for my 17th year teaching lit or history– preferably to sophomores or juniors. In any iteration of a good and righteous world, I’d  be going somewhere to educate some kids.

Instead, I will spend the third consecutive first day of school sitting home or helping Budge prepare her room. Barring an unforeseen parting the Red Sea or feeding of the 5,000, I will never set foot in a classroom as a teacher or librarian again.

When a plummeting economy, archaic policy, my complete lack of tact, and Wayne Brazell’s disingenuous ineptitude cost me my librarian’s position at Bell Street following the 2007-2008 school year, I should have seen the handwriting on the wall. I had been offered a position in the District’s IT department at a third of my salary for twice the hours worked. Faced with this unpalatable scenario, I spent March through early May taking home my office, hounding friends in other districts, and chasing leads to find a new place to land. When I didn’t get a call back from any of my three interviews, I chalked it up to competition and cuts.

I was wrong.

One night in May, an HR staffer I knew risked his  job to tell me the assistant principal I thought I had at least a civil working relationship with had BUTCHERED me in a reference. My buddy called it the worst reference he’d ever seen.  Well, anyone who knows me can guess how I responded to that revelation. I went into a fine rage and, while extremely angry, had a FaceBook chat with a “friend” about this odious person, said “friend” felt the need to print said conversation and give it to Bosslady. That got me into a gorgeous shouting match with D.O. people and I ended the year suspended with no contract.

I managed to get her damning reference deleted, but the milk was thoroughly spilled. I have always burned my bridges behind me fairly well on my own, but this woman started a conflagration AHEAD of me. I never knew or even suspected such animosity. When no position came up, I sat out the school year and hoped unemployment insurance would stay funded. I couldn’t even sub because districts within reasonable driving distance had hiring freezes on subs.

I took a fresh shot at the resume circuit last summer. I was called for one interview, then called back a day later and told the job was being filled and not to bother coming in. What was costing me was what any accurate reference about me would show, even from people who think highly of me. I have a tremendous work ethic, drive to get things done, and a boundless love of young people accompanied by a complete disregard for idiotic policy red tape and no patience with stupid people who think a title, a suit, and a big desk give them some special power.

Another year started and ended without me teaching. The black dog started making a tremendous din and the clouds rolled in. Around Christmas, I started looking into other avenues to income if I couldn’t get back into a school. I tried public libraries, private schools . . . anything. In the end, with little hope this summer — or realistically any summer — being any better, I bowed to the inevitable and on the advice of my therapist, I consulted a lawyer and filed for Social Security Disability.

With the OCD, BPD, GAD, and SRDD, the United States Government feels I have enough issues to prevent me from working.  I now have a small but steady income to supplement Budge’s salary, but — at the age of forty — the game is over for me. I have ceased to be a contributing, constructive member of society. For any of my readers who are devotees of the Tea Party or Rude Limburger and Company, I am now one of the “entitlement” parasites on our country’s economy you hear lambasted with unmitigated passion on talk radio and Fox News. I am — barring the aforementioned miracle — permanently “on the dole.”

Please let me assure you that no political pundit will ever despise me more than I despise myself. I never had a great plan, but being a washed up nervous wreck at 40 wasn’t part of ANY plan. No one has ever loved being a teacher any more than I did, and still do. Then I got a chance very few people ever get — I got to work my all-time dream job. I got to be a school librarian. Unfortunately, some demons who have plagued me since late childhood just kept rearing up and causing me to wreck my career track. I had help going off the rails, but the blame for my plight must lie finally at my own feet. It is a fearful thing when your greatest asset (in my case, my mind) turns on you and becomes your worst enemy.

My attitude and behavior cost me two jobs and the root of those problems has now cost me a career. I’d try again, but I just don’t have the emotional strength and I can’t bear to put Budge or Mama through any more seasons of drama and despair than I already have. Budge told me she feels like a weight has been lifted off her back now that she no longer has to worry about getting “the call” from me telling her what fresh hole I’ve dug myself into this time. I’m trying to think of her and not myself.

I never claimed I was a particularly good teacher, and I wouldn’t claim to be more than a mediocre librarian. I couldn’t care less about copyright issues. I think Wikipedia isn’t even a minor devil, much less the offspring of Satan. I think every scrap of paper with a bubble on it should be taken to Iceland and dropped into the gaping maw of Eyjafjallajökull along with the people and politicians who believe testing is the be all and end all of education. I didn’t learn any of those traits in library school; I just feel that strongly.

I will also be the first to admit that, despite my dreams, I was never in any danger of being  Teacher of the Year or holding an office in SCASL. I don’t play with others well enough. I WILL say without hesitation what I lack in tact and judgement, I tried to compensate for with passion for my craft and undying love for my students. I can’t count all the run-ins and heated exchanges I had with administrators, professors, and other “higher ups” in 12 years in schools, but I can tell you the number of serious altercations I had with a student in those 12 years — ONE.

But none of that matters anymore.

The book of my education career is closed. I try to keep a spotless house for Budge. Mama says I make the best cheesecakes. I have this blog and other writing I dabble in, but honestly, I don’t know where to go from here. I never figured on things turning out like this. I can’t say how I expected them to turn out, but I know it wasn’t like this. How this will go from here, I don’t know. I know it makes me sad. I miss my library. I miss my kids. I miss being strong and steady enough to enjoy both of them.

So all my teaching colleagues and librarian buddies, this is where I leave you. Please pass this along the grapevines to my acquaintances and friends who do not patronize “Granny Beads and Grocery Store Feet” so they will know I have not died or joined a monastery. Should either of those events occur, Budge has instructions on who to call, what to post, and how to make news of my demise or decline known to anyone who cares.

In any event, I still love y’all and hope you’ll stick around — clean feet or grubby.

In the words of the late Kurt Vonnegut, “so it goes.”

Black Dog Howls

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Trying to describe depression to someone who’d never experienced it is about like trying to describe a rainbow to a man born blind. Now to be clear, I’m not talking about a case of “my baby done left me blues.” I’m talking about “my baby’s right here and wonderful and I still feel like Keith Richards looks.”

First off, this crap is sneaky. I can be just Cadillacing along with everything shining and happy in the world and just like Mjolnir cracking a frost giant’s head, I’m in an unrecoverable flat spin — just like the one that killed Goose. Then you always think it’s going to be a short spell. Just sit down, play some Ugly Birds or read a funny web page or ten and it’ll ease. Unfortunately, when you try that and it DOESN’T work . . . you don’t go back to square one. You go back to square -1.

Then The Tape starts rolling. On good days, I can keep the tape stopped because once it ever starts, I’m in for a miserable ride. See, most people can go through a bad experience and it may bother them; it may even scar them, but normal people put that stuff behind them and over time its impact gets less and less. Normal people can read a news story about some tragedy with people dying or animals being mistreated and it may be a tearful moment, but they won’t dwell on it and obsess about what happened to that little girl or those puppies or whatever.

Not me. I have The Tape.

The Tape is in my head and it contains — in vivid Kodachrome and THX sound — all the bad experiences I’ve had, all the tragedies I’ve read about or seen on tv, all the worries and anxieties and The Tape is on automatic loop. All this garbage starts rolling through my thoughts. Forty years worth of “stuff” all trolling by in exquisite detail. It’s like picking at a scab over a stab wound, which would be fine if it only went by once, but I just keep reliving “the bad ol’ days” over and over again like some perverse uber-version of Groundhog Day.

Oh and I love it when I try to explain The Tape to someone and he or she says “Why don’t you try just not thinking about it? Wow! What insight! You should get the Nobel Prize for Psychology with a brilliant analysis like that! I am in awe of such mental perspicacity! I really appreciate that advice, Captain Obvious. What do you THINK I’m doing?! Seriously? I’m not a masochist in any sense of the word so if I were capable of “Just not thinking about it,” I wouldn’t HAVE this problem, now would I?

That’s what I love about mental issues like depression and OCD — they’re invisible so everyone’s an expert. Really. I mean, who would say to a paraplegic, “Why don’t you just try walking?” You wouldn’t go up to a blind person and yell in her ear (you know, because everyone YELLS at blind people since the apparently can’t hear either) “Well, why don’t you open your eyes and just TRY to see?”

It’s just the nature of the beast and this beast is a black dog who’s been on the Wild Hunt for a week or so now. After awhile, though, you learn to expect it and you pull out all your strategies that five years of therapy teaches you.

Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

Love y’all. More to come later on.

Keep those feet clean.