Aug 132014
 

#thisistheface

[CONTENT WARNING: Contains discussion about suicide, mental illness and addiction that may be triggering to survivors. (Also profanity.)]

It’s embarrassing to write honestly about my response to the death of Robin Williams because it was utterly selfish.

When we mentally ill find out that one of us was taken, we feel sad, yes – but mostly we feel afraid. Monday night I was going about my business and all was well-ish and then I read the news and suddenly fell still and silent with fear. I felt shamed- like the universe had caught me red-handed with too much peace in my grubby little hands. Like I was getting too free and healthy and big for my britches and so I needed to be put in my place.

Dear Glennon- Look what happened tonight. That’s right. Don’t you go getting too comfortable there, sweetheart. Love, Your Asshole Brain.

I felt like I needed to slink, cower, tiptoe around my home because the monster was still out there – prowling, picking us off, one by one. And so I needed, really, just to be as tiny as possible and not draw any attention to myself. And so that’s what I did until that awful remembering set in like a slinky, foggy cartoon ghost. It tapped me on the inside and said- but the monster’s not out there, honey – it’s in here. It’s in here with you. It IS you.” Where do you hide when the deadly monster is inside of you?

There is nowhere to hide from yourself. Except, of course, inside of death. People who get that – GET THAT and so that is why you’ll never hear a fellow addict saying wide-eyed: “how could he do that?” And why you only hear non-addicts saying:” My God, I can’t even IMAGINE.” Because addicts can. We can imagine.

Well, yes- I guess a person without a monster living inside of them would not be able to imagine the need to hide from one. But we do. And so we’d never suggest that an addict died of a lack of courage or love any faster than we’d suggest a diabetic died of a lack of courage or love. We don’t say much at all in the wake of it all- we’re just quiet and we hang our head in reverence for our brother or sister’s suffering and we hold our hat in our hand and clench our fists in solidarity and we wonder who’s next.

But of course I said none of this to Craig Monday night. I just stared at a few pictures of Robin Williams thinking: Of course. It’s always the smiling, laughing ones, dancing so hard to convince the world and themselves that all is well. Making it all better with nothing but the sheer force of our wish that it was better. And I just pointed at an article and Craig said, “Oh, SHIT” and then we closed the computer to make dinner for the kids.

And then later, we were on the couch watching all the ridiculous “news” shows that were interviewing every mental health expert on the planet and every human who once caught a glimpse of Robin Williams on a sidewalk, and Craig looked at me sideways and said, “That’s not going to be you, you know.” And I didn’t look at him at all, I just stayed in my roly-poly ball in the corner of our couch and I said, “Oh, I know. I know that.”

Because what else are we going to tell them? The truth? Which is: How the hell can you know that? How do you know that’s not going to be me? How am I going to fare better than Robin Williams did? Because I have so many more resources? Because I’m so much more talented, smart, wise than he??? Because I have access to better information, treatment, drugs? Because there will be more light shined on me? On what is this optimistic prediction based?

We don’t know who lives or dies from this disease. We don’t know. We can’t know. This monster is relentless and arbitrary and ever-present and so even in the best of times, when we’re on top of the world and laughing and dancing and flying – we laugh and sing and dance with the realization that we are doing these things with a ticking time bomb lodged permanently inside of us. Tick, tick, tick.

“That’s not going to be you, honey.” But it already IS me, honey.

To my fellow Bad Ass Survivors: Take your goddamn meds and don’t listen to anybody who tries to shame you out of them. They just don’t know- because they don’t have to know. They are two-legged men calling prostheses a crutch. They will not be there in the dark with you. They won’t. You can choose to ignore their reckless voices now or the monster’s voice later. Bite the freaking bullet and swallow the damn pills. I think of my medicine like I do my faith- if I find out one day that it’s all bullshit- oh, well. It made me happy and helped me love life and my people better.

If you are in the dark right now- if you are in the clutches of the monster today: Call someone for help (1-800-273-TALK (8255)). Tell them the truth. TELL YOURSELF THE TRUTH. This is the lie the monster tells us: THERE IS NO HOPE. IT WILL NEVER GET BETTER. IT IS PITCH BLACK DARK AND IT WILL NEVER BE LIGHT AGAIN.

Here is the truth we yell back at the monster: LIAR!!! THERE IS HOPE. IT WILL GET BETTER. IT IS NOT PITCH BLACK NOW. THERE IS LIGHT AND THAT LIGHT IS THE KNOWLEDGE THAT IF I WAIT WELL, YOU WILL TIRE AND MOVE ON. I CAN WAIT YOU OUT BECAUSE YOU ARE SCARIER BUT I AM STRONGER.

Not dying is sometimes just a matter of waiting the monster out.

We are here. We are still here. #ThisIsTheFace

We’ve gotta stay in the light. The only thing the dark cannot overcome is the freaking light. STAY OUT.

Love.
G



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Aug 112014
 

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”   ―  Thoreau

So why not just laugh now? – G

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

Recently I posted a picture of myself in my kitchen, and I immediately started receiving generous messages from people wanting to help me “update” it. Along with their messages came pictures of how my kitchen could look, if I’d just put some effort and money into it.

I’ve always loved my kitchen, but after seeing those pictures I found myself looking at it through new, critical eyes.  Maybe it was all wrong. Maybe the 80’s counters, laminate cabinets, mismatched appliances and clutter really were mistakes I should try to fix. I stood and stared and suddenly my kitchen looked shabby and lazy to me. I wondered if that meant I was shabby and lazy, too. Because our kitchens are nothing if not reflections of us, right? I decided I’d talk to Craig and make some calls about updates.

But as I lay down to sleep, I remembered this passage from Thoreau’s Walden: “I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes and not a new wearer of the clothes.” Walden reminds me that when I feel lacking- I don’t need new things, I need new eyes with which to see the things I already have. So when I woke up this morning, I walked into my kitchen wearing fresh perspectacles. Here’s what I saw.

You guys. I have a REFRIGERATOR.

kitchen fridge one

This thing MAGICALLY MAKES FOOD COLD. I’m pretty sure in the olden days, frontierswomen had to drink warm Diet Coke. Sweet Jesus. Thank you, precious kitchen.

kitchen refrgerator inside

Inside my refrigerator is FOOD. Healthy food that so many parents would give anything to be able to feed their children. Almost 16,000 mama’s babies die every day from malnutrition. Not mine. When this food runs out, I’ll just jump in my car to get more. It’s ludicrous, really. It’s like my family hits the lottery every freaking morning.

kichen water faucet

THIS CRAZY THING IS A WATER FAUCET. I pull this lever and CLEAN WATER POURS OUT EVERY TIME, DAY OR NIGHT. 780 million people worldwide (one in nine) lack access to clean water. Mamas everywhere spend their entire day walking miles to and from wells just for a single bucket of this- and I have it right here at my fingertips.  I’m almost embarrassed to say that we also have one of these in each of our two bathrooms, and one in the front yard with which to WASH OUR FEET.  We use clean drinking water to WASH OUR FEET. Holy bounty.

kitchen microwave

This is the magical box in which I put uncooked stuff, push some buttons, and then a minute later- pull out cooked stuff. It is like the JETSONS up in here.

kitchen medicine cabinet

This is my medicine cabinet. Since my Lyme is in remission and each of my babies is healthy- there is nothing in here but vitamins and supplements and tea. Thank you, God. This medicine cabinet is a miracle to me. Every time I open it I feel like I should kneel down and kiss the ground. I have an inbox full of letters from mothers whose medicine cabinets look very different.

kitchen floor

Speaking of ground-  this is our kitchen floor. It’s not fancy, but it’s perfect for our most important kitchen activity: DANCING. When Chase was three a librarian asked a roomful of kids, “what do we do in the kitchen?” Everyone else called out “cook” or “eat!” But Chase yelled “DANCE!”

kitchen coffee

I can’t even talk about this thing. Actually, let’s take a moment of reverent silence because this machine is the reason all my people are still alive. IT TURNS MAGICAL BEANS INTO A LIFE-SAVING NECTAR OF GODS. EVERY MORNING. ON A TIMER.

kitchen school corner

And look you guys: LOOK. This is the kitchen corner where I keep all my kids’ school stuff.  My kids go to a FREE school with brilliant teachers and a loving administration and they’re SAFE there. The school sends flyers home about PROGRAMS and CLASSES and CLUBS to make my kids’ hearts bigger and softer and their brains sharper and their bodies healthier. This corner reminds me everyday that my kids have at their fingertips what so many around the world  are giving their lives for: quality education. When I wear my perspectacles I can’t look at this corner without a heart explosion.

My perspectacled kitchen tour taught me two things this morning: I’m insanely lucky and I’m finally FREE.

In terms of parenting, marriage, home, clothes – I will not be a slave to the Tyranny of Trend any longer. I am almost 40 years old and no catalog is the Boss of Me anymore. I am free. I am not bound to spend my precious days on Earth trying to keep up with the Joneses- because the Joneses are really just a bunch of folks in conference rooms changing “trends” rapidly to create fake monthly emergencies for us. OH NO! NOW IT’S A SUBWAY TILE BACKSPLASH WE NEED!  No, thank you. Life offers plenty of REAL emergencies to handle, thank you very much.

I’m a grown up now. I know what looks good on me, and that doesn’t change every three months. I know how I like my house. I like it cute and cozy and a little funky and I like it to feel lived in and worn and I like the things inside of it to work.  That’s all. And for me – it’s fine that my house’s interior suggests that I might not spend every waking moment thinking about how it looks.

Sometimes it seems that our entire economy is based on distracting women from their blessings. Producers of STUFF NEED to find 10,000 ways to make women feel less than about our clothes, kitchens, selves so that we will keep buying more. So maybe freeing ourselves just a little from the Tyranny of Trend is a women’s issue – because we certainly aren’t going to get much world changing done if we spend all of our time and money on wardrobe and kitchen changing.

BUT. Listen. I’m nothing if not a tangled, colorful ball of contradictions. I like a good make-over as much as anybody else. So . . . HERE WE HAVE IT. HERE IS THE MELTON KITCHEN MAKEOVER FOR YA! READY FOR THE BIG REVEAL?

Before:

kitchen one

After:

kitchen after

Ba- BAM! Extreme home makeover! My kitchen IS beautiful because it is full of beauty. SO IS YOURS.

Today I shall keep my perspectacles super-glued to my face and feel insanely GRATEFUL instead of LACKING and I will look at my home and my people and my body and say: THANK YOU. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. THIS IS ALL MORE THAN GOOD ENOUGH, ALL OF IT. Now. Let us turn our focus onward and outward.  There is WORK TO BE DONE and JOY TO BE HAD.

Love,
G

PS For stories about people around the world with all different kinds of kitchens, or for help creating your own pair of perspectacles, visit CWS!



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Aug 072014
 

volcano-300This one’s for all the mamas and papas and sisters and brother and children of The Volcanoes. So much love and light and hope to you- G

Originally published April 15, 2011

If there is one thing I’ve learned from the writing of this blog, it is this: I don’t know anything. That might sound like a distressing discovery, but it’s okay. I think it might be the most important thing to know. It seems to be more than a lot of people know, anyway.

Knowing nothing does become tricky, however, when readers who have mentally ill loved ones ask me about it – about the whys and hows and whens of addiction and other mental conditions. I wish, so badly, that I had answers for you. When I read your messages I can actually feel your pain, and I want to heIp. I want to offer you hope, I want to give you the answers for which you are so desperate.

But the truth is that I don’t even know my own hows and whys and whens, so I can’t know yours.

But I’ve been thinking . . . I do know the who.

I can introduce you to one of the whos of addiction. I can take you into my heart and show you what is there and pray that it might build a bridge between your heart and the heart of the imploding one that you love.

These essays on this topic- I am going to continue to write and write and then publish. It seems important not to revise, not to edit. So here goes.

There are some who can sit through a movie that makes them uncomfortable. And there are some who can’t. Or won’t. Those people actually have to get up and leave the room.

We addicts, we mentally ill are the Leavers.

We just can’t stand the movie that is showing for some reason. And we are unable to fake it or tolerate it. We have to get up and walk out.

We don’t leave to hurt you. We leave because we believe that it is right to leave. And just as you wonder how we could possibly leave, we wonder how on Earth you can stay.

But please don’t blame yourself. Often, we were just watching the movie together. You didn’t make the movie. The movie is the whole world.

All of the comments after Fourteen sung to me like a lullaby. Except for one. One struck such a sour chord that is has been echoing in my mind since I read it. And I think it illustrates the chasm between the addict and the ones that love us. It shows how we misunderstand each other. How we misfire when we talk to each other. So I thought maybe we could unpack it. I would never, ever do this to a reader unless the comment was anonymous. I hope it will not cause the commenter pain. I know, absolutely, that it was meant with good intentions. I want to thank the commenter for it. It has helped me think. Here it is:

*It’s very hard to imagine where, with the idyllic childhood you had, that this emptiness originated. I hope that your relationship with Jesus healed the hole for good.*

When we are labeling other people and their life experiences, we must be very careful with our words. These words – idyllicemptiness, healed the hole for good – are not careful words. They presume knowledge. And they do not describe me or my life at all. Not at all.

I read this comment to mean: You are, are at least were, empty. And anyone with an idyllic childhood should not be empty. I hope you turned out better in the end.

First, I can’t imagine that there is anyone on Earth who is more pleased with how she turned out than I am.

Second, there is no such thing as an idyllic (picturesque, carefree) childhood. Let us not be silly. I had a good childhood. I was lucky as hell in most ways. I was the center of my parents’ worlds. But people are not mathematical equations. Love + Education does not necessarily = Smooth Sailing.

Third, I do not relate to the word empty. We addicts, we mentally ill…we are a lot of things, but empty is not one of them.

Fourth, Who On Earth is Healed For Good?

Here are some things that we are:

Some of us are born with an otherness that we feel right away . . . awareness of our otherness is often our first memory. We have this feeling that maybe we were dropped off in the wrong place, because nothing seems familiar. The people in this strange and harsh and confusing world require us to play role after exhausting role. We are afraid of things that don’t seem to scare other people. Friendship, love, commitment . . . these things seem so big, so important, so murky and confusing and dangerous…how could we dare enter into them? We decide it would safer not to.

We see that other people seem comfortable taking these risks, but we feel different. We feel more aware, and less capable. We rationalize that maybe others take all of these risks because they don’t foresee the pitfalls that we see. We decide, subconsciously or not, that we are different. And we are so full of this knowledge of our difference that we must find a way to relieve our fullness. We are like volcanoes with no exit for our hot lava.

But we are young, usually, and don’t know much about creative relief strategies. So we create our own little world to hide in. This world is our bulimia or alcoholism or drugging or cutting or whatehaveyou. And this little world is a relief, because it feels safer. We are directing our own personal movie now. We are in control. We are not deficient. We are not empty. We are actually quite perceptive and resourceful and creative. We are just trying to cope. We are like albinos who protect their skin by staying inside.

And the thing is that our strategy works. Our cutting or binging or drugging does relieve the lava pressure, for awhile. It just causes too much collateral damage it make it a sustainable plan, they tell us. At some point they tell us that the lava is actually burning the hell out of us on the outside, and spilling out onto you.

But please don’t call us empty. We’ve never been empty a day in our life. We are full to exploding. But we tried to implode instead of explode…because we are usually very kind. It wasn’t a perfect plan. We’d love to find a different strategy. But now we’re addicted to our original strategy. And it’s really hard to quit. Try quitting sugar and caffeine cold turkey and then multiply that feeling by one million.  It’s also really scary and risky to quit, because we don’t have another plan. So we need help. But we need respect, too.

Because here is the thing. We know we chose the wrong way to relieve our pressure. But that lava inside of us, it defines us. We love our lava. We must find a different way to relieve it, yes. We know. But that hot lava, that otherness, that awareness, that sensitivity- we were born with it and we will die with it.

The pressure of the lava is what led me to food and alcohol and semi-madness, yes, but it’s also the same lava that woke me up at 4:30 am this morning to write to you even though I’m sick and exhausted. The lava is what compels me to dig deep into myself and pour myself out here to women all over the world and to actually believe that it will make a difference. The lava inside me is what loves my children and parents and Sister and husband and YOU with a ferocity that borders on animal. My tenderheartedness, my sensitivity, my rebelliousness…my refusal to accept the world as it presents itself to me – my belief that I can change the world…it must be changed! got me in trouble for a while. It almost killed me. But it’s what keeps me ALIVE, too. It’s good now. It’s good now. It’s always been good. I just needed to learn how to use it. It’s like how nuclear energy can be used to destroy or to create. My lava is what I will use to save the world, or at least my little place in it. It’s why I walk through every day with my eyes wide with terror or awe. That lava is my fire. It’s my light. It’s the reason you return to this blog.

It’s my favorite part of myself. It is myself.

We addicts, we mentally-ill, we don’t want to lose our lava. We don’t want to lose ourselves. That’s why we fight you so hard.

I have found better ways to relieve the pressure of my lava. Yes, I have. I burn fewer people. I don’t burn myself as often. But I still feel the pressure, every single day. Thank God.

 



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest