***Please, after reading this post and before posting anything negative or angry, be very aware that there is nothing you can say to me that I have not already said myself, and please be also aware that this situation has been discussed among a group of very respected professionals who have all reached the same conclusion***
This has nothing to do with knitting. But next week there will be a LOT on here about knitting when I begin the VERY EXCITING blog give-away to celebrate the "birth" of Teach Yourself VISUALLY Circular Knitting. For today I am doing a bit of rather depressing baring of my soul. I haven't been able to come in here and chat about anything for a very long time comfortably, and I am hoping that by just saying all of this I can get unstuck here and in a few others areas as well. This post will also explain why I am not traveling further than 3-4 hours from home for the time being - I declined Sock Summit so I could stay closer to home. I was very, very sad about it, but did not want to end up needing to cancel classes at the last minute due to complications at home. And many more complications are pending.
I have been skirting around an issue here and on Facebook and anywhere else I "hang out" online. I occasionally come close to saying the truth and then I back off. My close friends know what's going on, but I haven't really been sure of how to handle or talk about what's going on in my life. There is a lot of stigma associated with that's happening here. I've thought about it a lot and I have come to a conclusion. It's not the things we speak that hurt us in the end, it is the things we do not speak that wound us. So I am going to speak about a topic that is painful and humiliating to some extent and certainly depressing. But it's important that I speak, for myself and for anyone else out there who is in my shoes. This doesn't make me brave. It doesn't make me smart. It makes me someone who's got a story they need to tell. There is a horse on my dining room table and I am tired of not talking about it publicly.
I am the adult child of a mentally ill parent. To the best of my knowledge my mother has struggled with varying degrees of mental illness since she was a small child under a variety of diagnoses. This means that for all of my life, as long as I can remember, as far back as I can think, my life has not been what one could call "normal". I shall spare you the details.
When your mother is "not well" (which is the kind way to say "seriously crazy-pants" or "nuts, really") you learn a different way of being. Some kids who grow up with an "unwell" parent grow up broken themselves. Others grow up well, and more or less normal, but maybe a bit resentful. This would be me. People who know me are aware of my sarcasm. Sarcasm is a defense mechanism. I developed a bit of an odd, some might say warped, sense of humor. You may have noted that above with the politically incorrect comments using words like "crazy-pants" and "nuts". But if anyone is allowed to use those words aside from a mentally ill individual themselves, its their kids.
For the past few months my mother has been experiencing an acceleration in mental health symptoms. The reasons are not of import. She has been medicated with antidepressants since the mid 1980's. She has had endless therapy. She has been in and out of a series of treatment centers, clinics, and hospitals as an outpatient and as an inpatient. She also has a host of medical conditions, ranging from diabetes to a couple of blocked arteries, congestive heart failure, a seizure disorder, high blood pressure, glaucoma, neuropathy... there's more, but I lose track. I have learned from listening and watching that when you are "just" mentally ill, there are days when it feels impossible to breathe. Nothing feels right, everything feels wrong. You don't fit in your own skin. Now imagine that in addition to feeling out of place in your own mind you have a host of complicated and uncomfortable medical conditions that require a host of medications, tests, injections, doctor visits and so on. That's where my mother is.
She has been seen and evaluated by a variety of individuals, from psychiatrists and social workers to medical doctors, nurses, her sisters, and the staff at the assisted living facility where she lives. She has been deemed "competent", which means she does not pose a direct threat to herself or others, and she is legally able to make her own decisions regarding her health care.
My mother has decided to stop taking all medications for her varying physical and mental conditions, including insulin. It is very likely, if she continues on this course, that her life will end fairly soon. Today is her 68th birthday. She has made a choice and we - her family, friends and care providers - have no alternative but to abide by her decision. It is not a decision I can relate to, but it is not my decision to make. I have done all that I can. Others have done all they can. The choice is hers, and she has made it.
When your parent is dying against their will of cancer or some other horrible disease, there's an understanding among us as people. We don't mind saying, out loud "My mother is on her 6th round of chemo and she's decided it's time to be done." We don't say that when a person is suffering mentally. I am not sure why we don't, why we can't say "My mother has been struggling with mental illness for more than 60 years and she has decided it is time to be done." Why do we insist a person keep trying if it's mental, but if it's physical we let them stop? I guess that's for medical ethicists to decide, and since I am not one, what do I know?
So if I ignore an email, or seem in a rush to get out of a classroom at the end of the day, or if I decline to appear or teach at your venue please understand that this is a very difficult time around here. This too shall pass - although I am afraid the outcome will not be a pleasant one. Please don't feel sorry for me, but understand why I may at times appear distracted, distressed, or unhappy.
Now, although this has been quite depressing, please bear with me. Next week will bring the joy of giving away a lot of yarn and books here on the blog. My life moves forward - modified certainly, (see my crying in my tea over the whole not making it to Portland in July thing? That's a modification made to accommodate the situation. But I still live on!) but forward.
And if there is anyone out there in a similar situation who feels very alone - you are not alone. Not by a long shot. Everyone's just too embarrassed to speak up. Lucky for you I have no such scruples! :)
***Edited to add - I have an amazing group of friends, a nearly perfect father, the best husband on earth, and a some really supportive colleagues. You know who you are.***