Monday, 29 July 2013

What Do YOU Want??

So I've had this blog going for a few months now. During those months, I've been figuring out how to blog. I'm kind of slow with technology. I've also developed some great relationships with some readers over the last few months. All of this has been great.

Now, I'd love to hear what you as readers would like to see (or read, I guess). Would you like more posts (actually, I know I should be posting more...)? Would you like guest posts? More music? Has anything that I've said struck a chord and you'd like me to elaborate on that?Really, anything at all. I can take criticism too. You can comment here or message me on Facebook. I'd really, really (really!) appreciate it.

Over the next week, I'm going to be doing some planning and figuring out where I would like to go, and some input would be greatly appreciated.

And here's a music video, just cuz I can. Hopefully you'll get a little smile.


Monday, 22 July 2013

Lessons Learned in the Dementia Ward

This awesome woman is my grandma. She’s almost ninety years old, loves music of any kind, and would probably beat me in a fist fight. She also has Alzheimer’s. She lives in the dementia ward. She doesn’t know my name, my dad’s—her son’s—name, or really anyone else’s name. She isn’t even aware that her husband has died.

Sounds like pretty cruddy circumstances, doesn’t it? To be honest, I often think it is. Every time I go to see her, it breaks my heart. I hate that she doesn’t know the love of those who cherish her most. I hate that she doesn’t remember the good times in life. I hate that she can’t communicate with us. Every time I have to leave her, it breaks my heart to see her watching me leave, and then know that in a few minutes she won’t even remember than anyone came to see her.  

But every time I see her, I’m reminded of another side of the story. She is happier than she’s been in a long time. Even in a home with a bunch of people of all crazy types, she is always singing. She smiles. She laughs. She does knuckles and thumbs up (thanks to her awesome grandchildren teaching her). Some people say that she’s simply gone back to a happy place in life. While that may be true, I think there’s more to that story.

I think that right now, with her mind completely out of her control, all that’s left to show is who she truly is. All she has to give is what’s been growing in her heart. And what’s coming out of her is happiness—joy. Not even Alzheimer’s disease—a sickness that strips you of the ability to perform even menial tasks by destroying your memory—can steal her joy. No mental disease can change who she truly is.

Now, my grandma has not had an easy life—far from it, and she has not handled every circumstance in the best way. When she was young, she was teased because she couldn’t hear properly. After she got married, she discovered that she couldn’t have children, which brought scorn from other women. Then, when her and my grandpa adopted my dad and his brother, she lived in a constant state of insecurity. My dad’s brother ended up leaving home at fourteen because he had some major issues resulting from being shuffled through the foster care system for years. My grandma lost one of her most valuable treasures, and then she always had to live in the fear of my dad being taken away by his birth father—who was just a downright mean guy. She was scared to show too much love to my dad because she knew that the more she loved him, the more it would hurt if he were taken away. When my dad was ready to get married, she was really mean to my mom. She realized that my mom was going to take my dad away—her worst fear was coming true. Then, as Alzheimer’s started to take root in her brain, she became very difficult for us to be around. Her mind was changing, and she had no control of this. It scared her, and she responded in the only way she knew how. She fought. She fought against anyone trying to help her. She fought against anyone who she thought was a threat. It took her years to finally be in the place that she is today.

Her journey has been a difficult one, but she has finally arrived at a place of peace in her mind. While it may seem like the mental disease has won, nothing could be further from the truth. I see others in her ward. People who are grumpy. People who are downright angry at the world. I see people who are literally vegetables. Then I see her. No, she doesn’t know who I am. She doesn’t really know who anyone is. But she is still smiling and singing. She refused to give up the fight. She wouldn’t let a mental disease take away the very things that make her who she is.

There is something great in each one of us. I don’t care who you are, what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you. There is something unique and wonderful about you. This goes beyond your talents, or your perceived lack of talent. There is something so much greater than your amazing abilities in sports, academics or music. It’s the very core of you. It’s what’s buried under the crap that the world has thrown on you. If your mind were to shut down, you would probably lose all the talents that the world considers important, and all that would be left are the things you’ve been developing in your heart, whether it’s bitterness or the awesomeness that is you. There might be things that are trying to take your awesomeness away. Whether that is a mental disease, depression, a rotten friend, or horrible circumstances, you can’t give up. At the end of the day—at the end of your life—that uniqueness is what people are going to remember.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

When Emptiness is an Addiction

This post is really hard for me to write. I’m not gonna lie; it’s a bit of a heavy post. But one that needs to be shared. If nothing else, for my own sake. This is sort of the conclusion of my story (for now…I’m only sixteen; there’s WAY more to come!) True to every story, it gets darker right before the happy ending.

So here we go (big breath)!

We finally moved, and I declared that I wanted nothing to do with my old city, church, or friends. Other than my best friend, who still lived there, I was so done. I thought that now that I was out, everything would get better.

Things. Got. Way. Worse.
Tensions in everyone in my family had been building up, and I guess finally moving out was all that was needed to let everything out. Things at home were not good. My brother and I were being homeschooled, which we had never done before. That was not working. At all. My brother was having some challenges in his schoolwork and my mom—who is gifted in a lot of areas—is not gifted to be a teacher. So that was not working out. My academics were going okay, though I was still adjusting to the new format of schoolwork. I was instead stuck in a crazy emotional state, and that was putting a lot of stress on my relationship with the rest of my family, especially my mom. Honestly, my dad dreaded coming home after work, because he knew he would probably have to sort out some big argument between me and my mom.

Like I said, my emotional state was really making things difficult at home. I was never happy—almost to the point of tears most hours. I cried in my bed until I fell asleep, which usually took a few hours, and then I didn’t want to get up in the morning because I didn’t see a point. I didn’t feel the need to do anything. My schoolwork and good grades had always been a big deal to me, but I even lost motivation to do those. I was also extremely angry, and anything could set me off. I ate barely any food, partly because I hated the way I looked, partly because I just liked the emptiness. I thought I was so fat. I was so disgusted with myself, both inside and out. Anytime I did eat, I wanted to hurl it all back out. And I tried, but I was never able to. Then I got angry at myself for that. I was a big ol’ mess. Here’s the thing, though. Everything that I hated about the other city was not a problem anymore. The people in our new church were really nice. I was making new friends. There was no girl drama, no gossip, no bullying. So why had things gotten so much worse emotionally?

I was still me. I hadn’t truly dealt with the things that had happened in our other city. I had chosen to respond to and deal with it the wrong way, and now I was paying the consequences. The pain and emptiness and sadness were all I had known for the past several months. Now, I was scared to feel anything else. I didn’t want to be happy, because I knew that something would happen that would ruin that happiness. I was hesitant to open myself up to new friends, because I had experienced such hurt. I had blamed others for all my problems, without truly dealing with my heart. I didn’t enjoy feeling this way, but I didn’t want to take a risk of feeling good again.

The emptiness had become an addiction. Kind of a scary thought. No, I wasn’t addicted to meth or alcohol, but this emptiness was wreaking just as much havoc.

As Christmas came, I got more down. All the happiness around me that usually made Christmas my favorite holiday just irritated me now. The day after Christmas, I wrote this in my barely-used journal

“I feel so hopeless right now. I just want to stay in bed and cry myself to sleep over and over again... I’m just falling. Sometimes I catch a branch and I can hold on. Those times the whole world is going great. But then I fall again. Lower than I was before… I wasn’t ready for hell on earth. I pray and I go to church, but I feel nothing…Any moment, I could break.” Yikes.

Then on December 31, at 1:07 in the morning, I wrote again. Same sort of thing. I had just come back from a birthday party for some friends, and I had felt so out of place every moment there. Not because anyone was mean to me—just the opposite. Everyone was really nice, but I just wanted to crawl in a hole and cry. I started seeing a counselor. She helped me to put everything in perspective. She helped me to move past the death of my grandpa, and to start letting go of hurts. Man, it was hard and painful. Every time I thought I had made progress, I fell flat on my butt, and I didn’t want to get back up again. It was still hard to get out of bed. And frankly, I wasn’t really sure how my relationship with God was going.

Then one day, after I had dragged myself out of bed, I was reading my Bible, and I found this verse.

I can lie down and go to sleep, and I will wake up again, because the Lord gives me strength. I think I did a double-take. Something so simple. Just waking up, and God cared about that. I think that was when my healing truly began.

My path to healing has been rough. I still slip up—a lot. I still feel waves of bitterness come over me. Sometimes I think that I was better off when I wasn’t happy. Some days are just plain hard, and I want to hide back under my covers.

But I keep going. Because I have friends that believe in me. I have parents that believe in me. I have a God that believes in me. Maybe you find yourself in the same situation. Maybe school is over, and everyone around you is happy, but you just can’t be. The thought of happiness scares you. Maybe you’ve had people preach at you to just get over it. Maybe you’ve been told that there must be something wrong in your faith walk. Maybe you don’t give a crap about what God says.

Wherever you are right now, whether you’re in a pit, just climbing out of one, or on top of the world, I invite you to join me in finding a purpose stronger and greater than harmful addiction. Because at the end of the day, that was the biggest lesson I learned. I had to take my eyes off myself and my problems to see the bigger purpose around me—a purpose bigger than my mess. I’m still learning and growing. I still have to be careful to not slip into another severe depression. But I have a purpose now, and that makes life a little bit brighter.

As I’ve shared my story, I’ve talked a lot about God. He is very real to me, and I understand that not everyone feels the same way. I completely get that. No matter what your views, I’d still love to have you along. Maybe you’ll learn something new about my God who loves me enough to give me strength just to get out of bed in the morning. Or maybe you’ll learn some really good coping strategies. Either way, I think it’s worth a shot.