Strength

I know almost nothing about the Lord of the Rings, to be honest. I’ve never read the books and couldn’t make it through more than 30 minutes of the movie.

My husband and oldest daughter are big fans, though.

I decided to look up the distinction between Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White to try to understand what my daughter told me yesterday.

And wow, wow, wow. I am beyond honored and humbled to have that comparison given to me.

It’s kinda funny. All three of my kids see me as this person who’s really committed to growth and to making sacrifices for them. They hold my husband in higher esteem than me, of course, as everyone does. But that doesn’t mean I come in a distant second.

I still don’t feel that way. In my head, I’m still the same as the worst version of myself that I’ve ever been, even though according to my kids, that old version of me is long gone.

I’ll be honest: I’m struggling a lot with suicidal ideation again. I don’t think I can handle going through my husband’s death, at all. I think that’s why yesterday affected me so profoundly—it made it very undeniably real to me, in ways I couldn’t avoid.

I have to keep reminding myself that maybe my kids want and need me around too. It’s just SO HARD to keep going sometimes. Death seems so peaceful in comparison.

But I think my kids see my strength as a reason to go on themselves. (I know they do because they’ve told me or written it in cards.)

It just seems kinda ironic that to be seen as a pillar of strength, you have to keep going when it feels like you can’t.

I just wish for a life with only normal problems instead. I don’t feel cut out for this inspiration porn lifestyle.

Unexpected support

I had a very chance encounter with someone in one of my cancer support groups.

It was so surreal that I’m not sure if anything will even come of it. But I’ve been looking for a real-life support network and I found someone I have eerie amounts of things in common with.

Like me, she has a husband with a stage IV cancer diagnosis and she also has major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

She lives about 2.5 hours away (in the opposite direction of where Dylan’s at school.) She’s very political in the same ways as I am. Her undergrad major was also sociology and she’s working as a therapist in search of licensure but is currently unemployed.

Like me, she’s also a night owl but is incredibly sleepy during the day. She’s not religious (rare for Texas) but also uses the exact same term I do to explain the things that seem like weird coincidences: “the universe” made it happen.

She’s seriously my alter-ego. She’s very pro-LGBT and likes to read. She even likes indie music a lot like I do!

But she’s also 17 years younger than me. That seems like a lot. (Though I was very flattered that she said I seriously didn’t look my age.)

Still, maybe I have made a friend who really gets me. That doesn’t happen every day—especially not with someone who’s spouse is going through the exact same thing mine is.

Maybe she’ll become a real friend or maybe she’ll wake up tomorrow, wondering what the hell happened. At least it gave me the tiniest bit of hope that my story isn’t completely over, even if it feels like it’s all ending.

Too much

So much happened yesterday, lots of it significant. I don’t really even know where to begin.

I guess I’ll start with my daughter. I had an even more productive conversation with her. I can sum it up in a few highlights:

She assured me yet again that if anything happens to us and either I alone or some combination of me/J/Adam need a place to live, we can move in with Amy and her boyfriend. She repeatedly stated that in the same way my door’s open if she ever needs it, she’s extending the same offer to me as well.

She and I actually talked at great length about the communication style differences between me and my mom. Long story short, I used to communicate more like my mom and I changed gradually after we moved down here. She said the “old me” was like Gandalf the grey and the “new me” is Gandalf the white. She doesn’t hold against me the things “old me” did anymore.

She also apologized to me for putting me in the “bad cop” role, assigning me all the responsibility for the bad things that happened shortly after we moved here. She realized it couldn’t all be my fault and that in solely blaming me, she was taking away both my husband’s agency and her own.

Interestingly, she takes a similar approach as I do about the people who bullied her: she now understands that their lives were probably much more miserable than hers was and she tries to view them with compassion. But like me, she struggles to give herself compassion.

She actually wholeheartedly agreed with my assessment of my mom’s communication style and though I was clear not to try to bias her against my mom, she saw a lot of it for herself. Most importantly, my mom’s good intentions don’t make a close relationship in themselves.

Or, as she put it about the differences between my mom and my mother-in-law: “Grandma Sue is batshit crazy most of the time but she listens to me and tries to understand, even though she usually gets it wrong. Nana {my mom} has the right views of people but she doesn’t spend any time trying to understand me.”

Nailed it. And with a mom like that who doesn’t show much interest in me or her grandkids, it’s really no wonder I’ve been diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder. I try to keep challenging myself on a regular basis to reach outside my comfort zone and be there for people, especially those closest to me.

But then the day got super awful. My husband threw up at least three times yesterday, the first time that’s happened since he’s been on chemo. There’s also the fact that people close to me throwing up makes me feel very panicked—though I suspect that I am going to get much more used to it and likely even see it.

But this is about so much more than just him vomiting or my phobia of it. It’s that I feel like he’s turning another corner, a worse one. He’s been in pain since his surgery in February (and has been coughing since then, too.)

Maybe I’m catastrophizing—I probably am, because I remember some good times we’ve had since then—but it seems like on the whole, he’s gotten worse since February. For the most part, he’s been mostly having bad days. The good days are the exception.

And I just wonder how many good days are left. If he’ll have some almost-miraculous treatment regimen change that will take him back to how he was even a year ago, or if he will continue getting worse in a progressive fashion.

I’m honestly really scared and really sad because it feels like the best days are already mostly behind us.

I would give anything to go back in time, before we knew he was sick, and have a few of those times back, just to relive them. I didn’t think they would end so fast. I didn’t think I would have to spend such a large percentage of my life with only good past-tense memories.

I’m not ready for this. I had tried to convince myself that J would be one of those people who’s still alive 15 years after diagnosis. I see their stories sometimes and am inspired by them.

But the more statistically realistic probability is that we’re already on the downward spiral. I’m not so sure anymore that he’ll even still be around when Dyl graduates college.

None of this is what I want at all. I just want to scream and yell and cry about how fucking unfair this is.

Mothers and daughters

My daughter is in the process of moving out on her own. She has IKEA furniture to put together and is anticipating that the total move will take a few days.

It was interesting today. We had a couple of pretty lengthy talks. Honestly, I should have known she was transgender many years earlier than I did, just because our relationship is so typical of a mother and her oldest daughter.

We are SO much alike that it causes clashes with each other sometimes. More often, it’s her getting frustrated with me, rather than vice versa. But we have similar shortcuts we use in our speech (like a “Charlie flowchart” which refers to that meme from It’s Always Sunny, which uses a very complicated-looking flow chart to explain a theory) and even physically, down to how we react to certain medications the same.

My mother and I are a lot alike too. While sometimes my daughter and I clash, I don’t think it’s the same as how I clash with my mom. But my daughter might tell you differently, I really don’t know.

I can say (and she has acknowledged this before, many years ago) that I have made a very concerted effort to have a better communication pattern with her than I do with my mom.

What I know about my mom is that she still supremely gaslights me about certain things—specifically, about things that I feel like she handled poorly.

Instead of admitting that she handled something poorly, she nearly always says that she “never said that.”

In fact, it was in response to me writing an article for Medium about why you should apologize to your kids (since deleted) which she refused to read at all that I think broke my writing streak. I told her that the article was mostly about things *I* have done wrong as a parent.

But I also told her that I wrote that you shouldn’t deny that you ever said something because it makes your child question their own reality. She got very, very defensive and said she decided not to read my article.

Then she didn’t talk to me for almost two weeks. I lost my momentum about writing around that time and haven’t really regained it yet.

The fact (yes, fact) is that she gaslights me about certain things. She absolutely insists that there’s no possible way I remember things correctly—essentially calling me a liar, rather than take ownership of something she said or did.

I know she’s the child of an alcoholic who has at times had serious drinking problems herself. (I don’t know the current status of her drinking.) I don’t know how much that has to do with anything. I just recognize it as very dysfunctional and want nothing to do with it.

It has taken me at least 25 years to be able to somewhat friendly with my mom in spite of this. The behavior is still there on her part and the only way I can have a relationship with her is to ignore it, which is a very huge deal for me. I honestly feel sometimes like I’m a much healthier communicator than she is, which I find sad, to be honest.

The extremely ironic thing is that she’s convinced that many people are gaslighting her, when as far as I can tell, she’s the one actually doing the gaslighting.

But I honestly truly don’t trust myself as a result of growing up with that. I don’t know if I am just as guilty of gaslighting as she is and similarly can’t see it.

All I know is that I try to be extremely aware of myself and to correct misunderstandings when I discover them or they’re pointed out to me, then try to do better.

I really, really want the gaslighting to stop with me. If you tell me I did something wrong, I might say I never intended it that way but I always sincerely apologize. Doesn’t matter if it’s to my kids or my husband or whatever.

I’ve recently realized that no matter how good my relationship with my mom ever gets, there’s always going to be that profound unwillingness to own fault in anything on her part and that’s just something I have to live with.

My daughter

I had a tiff with my daughter yesterday that started out making me feel awful but ended up making me feel like I’ve totally won at parenting. (Even if I didn’t actually “win” at parenting, I’m still claiming the victory and holding on to it for a while.)

I had originally said I would get her dishes for her new apartment but she didn’t get me a list of what she needed. Today, she finally did and I was a bit shocked by the price because I was expecting it to be cheaper.

Mind you, it’s not outrageously expensive, just about $50 more than it would be to get her a set from Walmart. I had saved my old Corelle dishes in our old basement in Michigan, fully intending them to be hers when she moved out. Long story short, she and my husband made a mutual decision not to bring them down when we moved here and I honestly felt bad about that.

I’ve already spent over $500 on supplies for her new apartment. Plus I am giving her our old sofa and a blue recliner that I got when I was pregnant with Adam. (She claimed dibs on the blue chair, since it has sentimental attachment for her.) And I just got her a new bed last year.

She told me that she doesn’t like taking financial help from me because she knows I’ll get anxious about the cost. I don’t think that’s entirely accurate, though I see why she’s extra sensitive to it. When we were at Target the other day buying her supplies, when the cashier rang up the total and it was a bit over $300, I said, “Wow, that was more than I thought.”

She took that comment to mean I was super stressed out about it but I honestly wasn’t at all.

So basically, I’ve somehow fucked up massively when it comes to her and money. It’s true that I do get anxious about money; that’s just one of the reasons why my husband calls me his “little bird.” (The meaning of that actually comes from a Bible verse Matthew 6:26 about how the birds don’t worry about how they’ll be fed, yet the Heavenly Father feeds them and surely I’m more valuable than they are.)

So yeah, I have a lot of anxiety. Everyone knows it and it’s worst about money. And unfortunately, that has negatively affected my daughter and her relationship with me.

BUT—when I came home, after having already told her by phone that I wouldn’t be able to afford the dishes, we had a really good talk. Like, she actually said the kind of things that I’ve wanted to hear from my youngest son and haven’t since he’s been away at college.

She said that our relationship is strong because we can actually talk about important stuff and the money aspect of things is so much less important. She actually compared our relationship to having a positive beneficial effect like therapy!

And she said that the fact that she’s moving into such a great apartment is proof of the “Texas gamble” having paid off. She had such an incredibly difficult time adjusting to the move down here and that has always been one of my biggest regrets.

It’s kind of ironic that I didn’t realize until yesterday that she’s almost exactly at the same age that I was when I had her. In retrospect, it seems like I was so young. And yes, I’m very glad that she gets to skip the hardships we went through.

On that note, she said that she used to feel like it was the best move for everyone on balance but she was kind of the necessary collateral damage. But now she feels like it also has become one of the best things for her, too—especially when she compares how she’s doing to how her classmates at the art school she attended in Michigan have turned out so far.

And she mentioned the fact that Dylan is able to go to college and live in a dorm—something that once seemed so impossible for any of my kids to afford. We really are getting ahead, even if sometimes it feels like we’re not.

She also said that the most valuable thing to her is knowing that she always has a home where she is welcome if she ever needs to return, no questions asked. Even if I’m widowed and living in a one-bedroom apartment, I’ll still take her in, even if she has to sleep on the couch. And I’m really glad she acknowledged that and it means something to her.

She knows she’s doing a lot better than she would be if we had stayed in Michigan. She doesn’t have to start out with the same struggles that my husband and I did, and as she put it, isn’t that what every parent wants, for the next generation to do better than you did?

We’ve come a long way together, especially since we’ve been down here in Texas. It hasn’t always been a smooth road, to be sure, but everything works out in the end.

Getting by

I’m hanging in there, I guess.

I had a really rough weekend with a lot of suicidal ideation. So I started back on Abilify and so far it’s keeping the suicidal thoughts at bay.

My oldest daughter is moving out starting on Thursday. I previously thought it wouldn’t be until Sunday. I’m surprisingly okay with it for several reasons.

One is that she turns 24 in two months, so it doesn’t feel early at all. Another thing is that I rarely see her as it is, even though she’s currently living here. And finally, I know this is kinda petty but she and her boyfriend are huge contributors to the mess level in the house, and they do the least to clean up after themselves.

I’ve kinda been on a Hoarders-inspired cleaning binge for a few days. A lot of the mess I can’t currently clean up is actually her stuff, so I’m hoping to keep making good progress on cleaning and decluttering.

It’s also kinda interesting that like many of the people on Hoarders, some of my biggest piles of junk are things I want to sell. In my case, I know they’re things that will sell and I know about how much money I’ll get from them, so it’s not like I’m one of those people with literal crap and refusing to part with it “because that stuff will earn money.”

But at the same time, I’m also eyeing it really warily and giving myself a time frame for selling it before I’ll just donate it. To be honest, a big part of me just wants to donate it all now, just to get rid of it.

On that note, I’m doing really well with not buying more stuff (especially compared to how I was before.) I am aware and truly get it now that everything I don’t spend is money that I can save instead. I really want to save money.

And even more than that, I’ve just finally reached a point where I don’t want more “stuff.” I am clearing out my bedroom closet and bedroom in particular and I am realizing that I don’t like it being so cluttered.

I might just have to go through with a trash bag soon and say screw it, I’m not going to wait to try to sell this, and just get rid of all of it.

To be honest, I see a little of myself in the people on Hoarders and I really want to do everything I can to prevent ever getting that bad.

The bleaks

TW: suicidal ideation

When we get a bad case of deep, dark depression, my oldest daughter and I refer to it as “the bleaks.” And I’m definitely there right now.

It got so bad that I took an Abilify tonight in hopes that it will help me as I try to adjust to my other new medications. Tomorrow, I may try exercising.

I don’t know how to get out of this, honestly. It’s been a long time since I felt this bad.

My youngest is away at school. While I’ve still been in touch with him briefly every day, it doesn’t feel the same between us anymore.

I took my oldest daughter out to get supplies for her new apartment (which she moves into next weekend) and spent $300. We had a decent time together but nothing really warm or cuddly either.

I just don’t see the point of going on anymore. My husband is going to die in the next few years and then I’ll be all alone. That doesn’t sound like fun.

My state is turning into a horror show and I feel stuck here. Climate change is rapidly accelerating and I don’t know what the future will be like. I do feel like nobody wants to do anything about it, so it’s just going to keep getting worse. People who are poor, like I will be, are just going to keep suffering. There’s no real effort to help anyone who falls through the cracks like I will.

The only thing I am holding on to is the fact that I know my kids all have depression too and it will obviously be hard enough on them to lose their dad at a young age. I feel like I have to stick around and try to salvage what’s left of my life for their sake. But damnit, it’s so painfully hard sometimes just to keep breathing.

Texas is not the place

I’m obviously horrified by the new Texas law essentially banning abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy. It doesn’t necessarily affect me much personally, as I’m nearing the end of my fertile years. But I am horrified on behalf of all the women who it does affect.

To be honest, I’m not even sure how it will work, since it relies on others to report the act (and rewards them financially for doing so!) I predict that once people try to put this in action, it’s going to become a clusterfuck of epic proportions.

And yes, it’s just another one of the many reasons I have grown to dislike this state. The anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are bad enough. And I honestly still haven’t gotten over the fucked-up privatized electrical grid.

No part of me ever wants to go back to Michigan. And even though I was looking up other countries to live in again last night, the truth is that I’m probably likely to stay here anyway, even though I could have a much better standard of living in another country.

Because ultimately, my kids are here. If Adam really does move to Germany someday like they’ve mentioned, maybe I would join them there. But in truth, Adam is enough like my dad (who’s famous for making big plans that never pan out) that a large part of me takes that with a big grain of salt.

Maybe the furthest I would move away is Oklahoma City because I could still be here in DFW in a couple of hours. OKC is no liberal paradise by any means but at least they have their electrical grid straightened out.

In truth, I got what I wanted in moving back here. And I am glad that I got out of Michigan. But moving here also brought with it some less than desirable things.

I don’t know if I’m just being too pessimistic or what but I honestly don’t see a good future anywhere, really. Climate change is rapidly accelerating and the whole world feels like it’s literally on fire. I have read some estimates that the climate crisis is going to make most places pretty unlivable within this century.

Something is also seriously going to have to be done regarding healthcare in this country. I’m going to be struggling along with my Medicare and its uncapped 20 percent deductible. Something has to be done but what? What is it going to take to make us not have a for-profit system anymore?

Maybe the best thing I can do either way is just try to stay close to my kids. If things really are going to be as bad as they say, I’m probably better off staying around them and suffering with them rather than trying to escape it.

Med switch again…and trying to look forward

I started back on Zoloft today and reduced my Pristiq dosage. Reducing the Pristiq is not fun in terms of side effects but increasing it was definitely not the right answer.

I have an appointment with my psych nurse practitioner at UTSW tomorrow; she was able to get me in sooner than October 4th after all. I’m not sure if she’ll just put me on Zoloft or if she will recommend something else in addition.

Honestly, there have been several times this week that I seriously thought about going back on Abilify because I know that would make all the hell in my brain go away. But I honestly can’t risk getting so out of control with my spending again.

I’m trying to look ahead to the future and find something to be optimistic about. Honestly, right now (probably because of the depression) it all looks so bleak.

My kids are all moving on with their lives, as they should be. But my husband isn’t going to be around forever, even if the end date is unknown. I don’t know if I’ll be one of those people who dies of heart disease shortly after losing their spouse.

I don’t want that to be me. But at the same time, right now I don’t feel a lot of motivation to try to avoid that, either.

I guess that’s something I have to figure out in the next couple of years: what is my reason to go on without J? Right now, I don’t really have one.

Another day

Still here and still hanging on.

I had a really good appointment with my therapist yesterday. She had me do some yoga-inspired breathing techniques and I just broke down and cried. I think I really needed to cry and I almost never let myself do it.

I just cried about how unfair it is that my husband has cancer and that my best friend—my youngest son—moved away. Strangely enough, once I was able to cry, I did feel better. And it’s a nice contrast to my last therapist, who I saw for months and never once cried.

I’m still in a creative dry spell and it’s all I can do just to keep up with my regular work. I did pick up some extra work that’s a bit outside of my normal wheelhouse; it’s marketing writing. But it pays $50 an hour so I’m going to give it a shot and even plan to wake up early tomorrow to finish it.

I’m really grateful that I have the skills that I should be able to write something at least passable, and if I do a good job on it, there will be more work where that came from.

Adam and I are doing somewhat well with taking over the cooking in Dylan’s absence, though what we’re having is much less fancy than what Dyl cooked for us. (The bright side is that it’s also a lot cheaper than what he cooked for us.)

Adam decided she’s going to postpone getting her medical assistant certificate until after her legal name and gender change. She’s thinking about trying to get hired at Starbucks in the meantime, as they’re a very trans-friendly employer. I think that would be really good for her.

She doesn’t want to get a car of her own because maintenance and insurance are too expensive. But she’s just passing those expenses on to me instead, which I don’t think is right. But I’ll probably drive her to work and back until she gets her medical assisting certification. By then, she’ll be making enough money that she can afford it herself.

Later this week, when my work slows down a little, I’m going to try to go over my budget more closely and figure out how to plug up all the holes in it so we can really start saving more money.

I talked to my mom a couple of days ago about not knowing what I’d do when J dies and she quickly changed the subject to my cats. I know she doesn’t really care about my cats and just wanted to change the subject. And that’s fine with me. I just hope she isn’t thinking that I will want to move back to Michigan after I lose J.

I might want to move but I still don’t want to go back to Michigan. But I’ll figure out later where I want to go instead (if anywhere…I might just stay where I am and have super-cheap rent, especially if Adam’s working and paying rent.)