“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

― Lao Tzu

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Return to the woods

With hope of a settled mind, I returned to the woods. It was mild and foggy. I fell into my usual pace and ran. As if on cue, my mind emptied, like an overturned bucket. Nothing. And so I ran. Picking my way over rocks and roots, splashing thru mud and ice. I ran, and ran. I wanted nothing more than to stay in that mindful place where nothing exists, except the trail and my body. It never lasts though. I can only go so far. At the two hour mark I pulled up and ended my run. Driving home I noted each worry drift by. Intruding into my pristine empty mind. Marring the landscape I ran so hard and so long to create. There isn’t any hope of it staying that way. There is reality here behind this gate. In all its awful detail. The sadness, and fear. The anxiety and anger. All of it staking a claim to my peace. I tried hard to hang tight to my run. It didn’t hold. As I sat in the my tub of ice a deep edgy sadness replaced the empty void. A sadness coupled with exhaustion. Not physical exhaustion, though my body was a bit worn out. No, this was a different type of tired. The type that lulls you into believing life if just too fucking hard. Impossible to outrun, an all encompassing exhaustion. I could care less about anything when I find myself in this type of place. The foreclosure, the insurance, the debt, none of it. Gone is the worry because it has been replaced by apathy. I understand this place. It is learned helplessness. I have been here often, usually on the heels of something really emotionally challenging. When I have been pushed past that invisible line of coping vs. not coping. I always marvel at my ability to go from a state of pain and emotional mayhem to this state of nothingness. I know that it serves a purpose, and was carefully forged by a mind that faced incomprehensible pain and trauma. It is my escape hatch. Sadly, the escape is into a place that does not serve me well, and is decidedly unhealthy. It is a state that is difficult to climb out of. Rendering me senseless to the helping hands that offer a climb out and up into the world of emotions.
For now I am settled into this numb state. I prefer it over where I was yesterday. There may eventually come a time for me when we can swap this, and numb becomes the uncomfortable scary place to be. Now is not that. I can only linger here and hope, in time, over the next day or so that I can reconnect.

She’s Come Undone

I had some sense of how hard it might be to say goodbye today. We bond to these animals so completely. They occupy a place in our hearts, despite our best efforts to keep our distance. Last night during evening feeding I couldn’t even look at our mare without tears streaming down my face. The clock was ticking down to the moment she would leave for her new home. It was coming. Loss was bearing down in me. The timing was moved up a bit, and I spent hours scrambling to get her cleaned and brushed out. It was all to soon time to say goodbye. There is no way to know just how much horses understand. I know they read our moods, but our words? It is a toss up. Some words they understand. I have a weird habit of not talking about them leaving, least not in front of them. I don’t want them worried and confused. I am very careful to not talk about it near them. It was no different with momma. She didn’t know she was leaving. Sure, she understood something was different because she was all clean and fluffy. In those last minutes I told her she would be okay. That a wonderful family was waiting for her on the West coast. And in a blink she was gone. I can remember clear as day the moment we met. The very first time I laid eyes on her. The first time I ran my hand down her shy face and told her she would be okay. She was a special horse. Shy and worried when she arrived. She always kept her quiet ways, but had needs. She was quick to tell us what she wanted. I will miss that. I will always remember the wonderful moments we spent together. The three fillies that were born here. Those priceless moments when the little foals knickered to her. Her wonderful mothering. She was terrific. I guess I just lost it. I thought of all those incredible moments spent with her. I thought of all we have given up to keep this place going. I think of all the days I regret selling the last personal horse. I miss him, and it never seems to get any easier. He had to go so we could get out from foreclosure the last time. I had to give up something so close to my heart. This is no different. It is another sacrifice. In a very long list of them. I didn’t know this is what our life would be about. I didn’t know it would hurt so bad. I’m not sure I can stomach this. What is next? What else of value can we find to get rid of? Stripping down, inch by inch. What is left of us in this process? I just want to curl in a ball and pretend this isn’t happening. I have cried until there are no tears left to cry. It isn’t just for this beautiful horse we just said goodbye to. It is for the life we have accepted, and all we have lost of ourselves in the process. What will be left? I know tonight I feel as small as I have in a very long time. Nothing but tears remain.

Frugal Fatigue

Seems we are at a crossroads here. I know just how far we have been pushed. I am seeing a side of my partner I don’t think I have seen before. She just seems to have completely disengaged from all this. I know it is a defense. I understand how difficult the pressure is. We are living in this constant state of stress. Endless. Day in and day out. I get anxious and frustrated. I am the one that freaks out. We know that. What I don’t know is what my partner does when we finally move past her ability to cope. Honestly it is kind of scary. I have watched over the past couple months. There are times when each of us are doing the opposite of what we should be doing. We both suck at budgeting. Obviously, for me I never had to, and it is a tough skill to learn quickly without screwing up here and there. We spent a lot of years together where it wasn’t a huge issue. Sure we would do something dumb and it would be tight at the end of the month, but the next month came along and some breathing room came with it. These days it always comes with the comment “well we can’t stop living”. Well yeah, but the fucking bills need to get paid. I just don’t know what to do at this point. The stress is clearly shifting the focus, and like today, important matters are overlooked. It goes so far beyond the budget, or lack thereof. I just want to find a way to climb out of this, but I do not want to fight or alienate her in the process. It should not be my place to set the rules. I really don’t want to push her. I seem to be able to give up a lot. Don’t care about eating out ever, or going to the movies, or concerts. That all left a while ago. I used to bury myself in the saltwater fish tanks, and all the corals. It was a brutally expensive habit to feed. But it didn’t matter back then. There wasn’t a reason to give it a second thought. I think back over all those years, and all those dollars and it just makes me twitch. So fucking stupid. But how could I have possibly known the financial rug would be pulled out from under us. I didn’t know. I wish I had thought about it, and stopped spending all that money. It is done. There is no going back. Unfortunately, I think we are both looking into this black hole. Both of us trying to cope in our own ways. I obsess about it. Endlessly. It chases me, every waking minute. I lose it only when I run, or workout. I don’t know how she gets away from it. I know she has an amazing ability to use denial. That is okay, least it is something. It isn’t helping right now. We need to find a way to work together. Each and every day moving forward needs to be planned. There isn’t a place for making like this isn’t happening. There cannot be mistakes like the insurance. It just cannot happen. The thought of further regimenting and accepting the fact that we need to learn to live on the bare minimum. This is what 2013 needs to be. I hate that, it wears you down. It’s not just the stress. It is the endless staring at dollars and cents. Eventually you reach a “fuck it” point, and buy something. In that moment it may bring some relief, but it always ends in worry. That quick on the heels, uh oh. What now. It is so easy to fall headlong into the trap. Looking at bills that there is no hope of paying just speeds up this awful cycle. I guess I’m just struggling to make sense of this life we are living. I don’t know that it is sustainable. It is rough. I understand that colors my outlook. I’m worn out. She’s worn out. Neither one of us is dealing with this all that well. What makes it even worse is we pay bills for these horses. We feed them, clothe them, shoe them. The numbers are staggering. It is incredibly difficult to realize how much we need to give up to make sure they are all fine. I know we agreed to this the day we chose this path. I didn’t know how it would feel to walk this road. I doubt she did either. When is it too much? I’m not sure. I would think when the sacrifice exceeds the rewards it is enough. Are we there? I am not sure. I do know we are both, in our own ways, exhibiting signs of complete burn out. She retains her love and affection for the horses, all of them. I know I cannot say the same. It is a tough realization. Hard to consider, especially since our goal is to love and care for these animals. Where did I lose my way? When did I get so fucking burnt out? I can’t seem to see the line. All the years just run together. No clear line. nada. Playing polo this weekend, I rode one of the club’s horses. Since everything is still in quarantine because of the virus, I can’t bring my horses there. I had never ridden this mare. I knew she was odd, and had some issues. This is the type of horse I usually love to ride. The more complicated the better. It was a mess. I was just done. There was no kindness, no understanding, nothing. I was so far from me. The me I know. There was a hard, uncaring person residing in my boots. Didn’t like her, neither did the horse. I am sorry for that. I’m sorry I have lost my way. I’m not sure I can find my way back. I really don’t know.

Times/ Stigma

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/opinion/sunday/schizophrenic-not-stupid.html?pagewanted=1

Interesting find in the Times today. I’ve met plenty of people who have given up the hope of ever being anything thanks to a mental illness. Beyond the illness lies the stigma, and the treatment providers that don’t provide much hope. On the flip side, I’ve met some incredibly smart, talented people who are in challenging careers. Sadly, the first group far outweighs the second. One can hope, as this political landscape shifts and mental illness takes a more prominent place in our nation’s conscience, that people will learn there are so many exceptional people out there fighting the battle every day. One day it will be out there in the open, no need to hide. More articles like this need to permeate that invisible wall erected in fear by a public that understands so little. I don’t know that events like Newtown help people when it comes to stigma, though it clearly has shifted the focus toward changing the mental health system. Why does it take the slaughter of innocent children to come to the realization there is a problem? So while it is going to be the impetus for some change, the fact remains, mental illness still strikes fear in most people. It is still talked about, and treated, behind closed doors. Spoken in soft voices, unheard over noise machines. It is a world of privacy and boundaries. A world a lot of people know about, but rarely openly share. Believe me, it is hard. I’m not exactly shy, and I don’t often disclose anything about my treatment. There are a few people close to me, but beyond that, most people think of me a slightly standoffish and a bit odd. That’s fine. We are not yet in a world where people don’t recoil from the words depression, bipolar, or the least used of all suicide. I know, it’s a tough word to spit out. Vastly easier after inpatient treatment, since they pepper you with it liberally. But again, that is behind locked doors. I don’t know how things will change. I really don’t see it. Sure, Hollywood can release films like Silver Linings Playbook, and hope the public is intelligent enough to get it. Sadly most will lose focus as soon as they lay eyes on Jennifer Lawrence. Just kidding, but seriously, how many people can get it? Though I do feel mainstream media, and Hollywood can contribute to the push toward more awareness. I guess at the end of the day I find myself a bit conflicted here. I do think there needs to be a openess and honesty to push the dialog past people’s comfort zone and into a place of learning and understanding. I do not however think I’d want to be the one doing it. There is something so deeply personal to the experience of mental illness and the effects it has on one’s life. It is hard not to hold tight to it and hope nobody looks too hard. Tough to rebound off a hospital stay and explain to people where exactly you’ve been. (they should put in tanning beds, least then we could lie about being on vacation) Again, I’m kidding. See, it is uncomfortable enough for me to be cracking bad jokes. Pretty easy to see thru that one. Seriously though, you come out of the hospital for a medical issue and there are people waiting with casseroles and offers to help around the house. Come out of the nut hut and you could hear a pin drop. nada. People are terrified they will say the wrong thing, or that somehow you’ve changed. Well, yeah that is always true. But it’s still me. No need for the quarantine treatment. No Typhoid Mary here, really it isn’t contagious. I don’t think that is true, but what is true is that people are terrified because in each of us they catch a glimpse of themselves. That time when they skirted out along the edge. when their mind wandered away, when they had given up all hope. In each of us there is humanity. There is no denying we all hold a piece of the puzzle of mental illness. It is not just those of us that have spent time on a couch, or in a locked unit. I am you. Not much difference. There in lies the fear and the stigma. The distance allows people to convince themselves, that could never happen to me. It is a breath away. Always. The reality of mental illness does need to become known. Though I doubt anyone really wants to see that.

Stubborn

It has been a rough transition to cutting back running. I feel myself looking for that outlet. Late in the week I finally started running again anyway. My mood was still good, but it was becoming more irritable and nasty. The weather has been so frigid I have not even been riding this week. It was just too much. I guess in my defense, I ran at the gym in a nice padded sneaker. Added a pad to change the distribution of weight off the ends of my metatarsals. So I guess it was better than running on the road. It is livable, with a lot of ice. My head felt better after a good hour run. I’m not sure I can deal with a long lay off, so I’ll take a day or two off, and try again. Cross train on the elliptical and try hard not to be so stubborn. It is so fucking hard. I have made this a way of life. I have changed so much. I am finding it difficult not to be willful about this. I know I am running the risk of doing more damage. I know that. I just can’t seem to stop myself…

Which Way

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Last night I was talking to a friend via FB, our normal routine. I was in an irritable and nasty mood after a very good day. The frigid temperature, and dealing with all sorts of problems during evening feeding had created the perfect environment for an argument. It was a good one, for sure. All because of frozen water buckets. Needless to say, we fought again. Same old crap. But this time she threw out the “what did you do to help today?”. Gee, nice. That got my hackles up. We pay someone to do the very worst of the heavy labor. Something neither she nor I can do, day after day. That is why we have him. So, for her to imply that I should be doing his work was a bit much. What really iced it, no pun intended, was when she defended the guy for not doing his work. I just about lost it. I know what I wanted to say. I walked away. I spent an hour beating the shit out of frozen buckets. Pissed as shit because we pay someone to do this. You’re probably wondering what I wanted to say.

You know what I did today. I stayed sane today. I did what I do everyday to make this world somewhat livable. I did what makes the most sense for me. I fucking went to session, and spent an hour wandering thru my head. Maybe looking for some answers to this reality I live. You honestly fucking think I like that? You think it is enjoyable? A way to shirk responsibilites? I should be here? here in this fucking place that makes my skin crawl and my heart race. But by all means, next time I’ll skip therapy and do the work our god damn employee should be doing. You hired him. You defend his laziness. Let’s see how that goes. Fuck you. I don’t fucking see you doing the damn water buckets either. Don’t point a finger at me. But I guess I still haven’t answered what did I do? That one is easy. I gave up a life with any sense of normal. I stand here chained to this because you want it more than anything in this world. I stand here watching as year after year $$ are poured into this place. I signed paper after paper draining the savings plans that stood there for me to retire one day. That is gone now, don’t bother asking me for more. I stood here knowing your stupid fucking drunk friend was screwing up, but I could do nothing. Nothing because the fierce defense of her from you. Yeah, you. I fucking stand here watching it burn to the ground all the while knowing it will take us with it. You want to know why I leave here to go to session, or to the gym? I go because I have to fight to breath in the midst of the panic here. It is suffocating me, slowly but surely. Day after day, week after week, year after year. But it is what you want right? Yeah, you would rather sit here with your head in the sand and throw stones at me. Do you have any idea what this place has cost? I’m not talking about dollars and cents. Though sure, that number would be appalling as well. I am talking about the physical and emotional cost. The slow and steady stripping of my ability to feel any joy. Every inch of me being turned out, and replaced with worry and fear. There is no hope of happy, not here, not in the conditions we live in. What did I do? I just gave it my life. I don’t often stop and looking in the mirror. I did when I returned from the hospital. Sheila, in all here glory had to share the consensus amongst staff is that I returned there looking like I was haggard and aged. They are right. I don’t recognize the person I have become. The hard work, the endless hours and this life created that…I look at you and I see the same. so you ask what did I do? I’ve walked down a path with you that has cost so fucking much. So if I want to bitch about what isn’t done, or could be done better- I WILL. and it is my right to do so. I am millimeters away from walking away completely. Not because I don’t love you. I love you more that I can ever possibly say, but because the cost to me is too great. I don’t ever want to be questioned for doing what I need to do to survive. EVER. I would far prefer a life where I didn’t have to swallow handfuls of drugs, and spend 1/2 my life in treatment. I would welcome a life without that. I would love a life without endlessly worrying how much stress I can handle before things start to come undone. I wish I could be as strong and sensible as you when so much is going wrong. That isn’t me. Someday, maybe.
I don’t like to be questioned. I don’t know why you take it so personally when I note something amiss here. And believe me there is plenty I notice and say nothing. I don’t understand how it is acceptable to you. I just don’t. When did everything go so wrong? When did our relationship become about petty arguments and endless sniping. I don’t want this. I’m doubt you want it either.

It is hard sitting here with one leg on either side of this path. Part of me desperately wanting to walk a new road, but the other bonded and deeply caring about a person that will not stray from the road we forged years ago. It is an impossible place to be, in so very many ways.