You’ll never know…

…until you have actually and fully been there.

Until you have actually walked this road in a way that leaves the soles of your shoes worn out and developing holes, and your feet blistered and bleeding twice as much as your heart pumps through you and until you have not only seen but had no choice but to actively participate in the sights and scenes DAILY, because there literally was no one else, for so long that you feel like you’re in a Stephen King novel, no – you will never know what it’s really like.

How it can wear you so thin that it nearly destroys you, the way water seems to work like acid and melts cheap toilet paper.

How it can tear you down to a level that you, as compassionate and kind a person you are or try to be, think, “the next time someone tells me I should smile more, or I should look on the bright side (which is what? That eventually she’ll die and I won’t have to do this anymore?) I’m going to punch them in the face.”

How you start avoiding people because you’re sick of their hypocritical judgments and comparisons, OR the way they pretend to understand when you know good and well they have no clue so you just stop talking about it and pretend it’s easy and everything is fine…

100%. Until you’ve done it, you’ll never understand completely what it’s like. I shared a lot of our journey. Even then it was only a fraction and what I did share was picked apart by completely irrelevant, inexperienced people. But I will keep sharing this until we have real reform and raise the standard of care for caregivers and their loved ones with dementia. (Thank you, Martina.)

When my mom died, it broke me. It wasn’t the grief that broke me, it was the RELIEF that broke me. Because I had no idea what to do with it. And I felt guilty for feeling it in the first place.

Finally being able to breathe and stop and rest after SO LONG of being a full time care giver going between two homes and three people (wait, four – but I never really thought of myself, lol) and dealing with doctors and being sick myself…?

THAT almost killed me.

I’m not exaggerating or trying to be dramatic or draw attention, which is what people always love to say when you share thoughts like this (which reallllly doesn’t help so just shut up because that kind of thing can drive someone over an edge you will never understand when they’re grieving loss after caregiving).

I just finished writing a whole chapter about this. Maybe I’ll share it via my blog… For now, here’s the thing I want you to know and remember:

If you’re in a situation like this or are grieving after a situation like this, know that you’re not alone. Know that there ARE those who see you and feel you because they’re there, too, or they’ve been there before.

I pray not one of you ever has to go through it (or go through it again).

If you are forced to go through it, I pray you get the resources you need (financially and otherwise) sooner than a month before your loved one dies because the only thing that finally saves the day is hospice.

I pray if you do face this situation, you have less people than more coming at you with what you need to do and how you need to act but NEVER actually doing anything to help you do what they think you should do and regularly acting the same way you’re acting despite not being in your shoes and instead having everything they could ever want or need.

And I pray that if you ever find yourself in those shoes, you give yourself grace and you forgive yourself daily, before the day begins, for the fact that you’re never going to be perfect. You’re not going to get it right and keep your cool and manage your emotions well EVERY DAY. You’re just not. Period. So accept it and be gentle with yourself and just keep doing the best that you can. You’ve got this. You really do. You don’t think you do or feel that you do, BUT YOU DO. 🙏💜🙏

And if you’ve never been there at this level and never have to be? I pray you don’t take that privilege for granted. Because you ARE privileged.

💜💙💜

Don’t Grind.

Sunrise thoughts and a thing nature taught me a long time ago. Spirituality and self-discovery go hand in hand, and they work the same way: both are a never ending journey. Wax on, wax off. Learn, unlearn. Learn again. Change habits. Become, unbecome. Become again. Know better, do better. Love yourself, love others. Rinse, repeat.

And this idea so many people have of grinding? It’s insanity. Grinding is NOT what you need to be doing. The definition of grind is to wear away, to destroy. You are killing yourself to do what? Have more stuff that you don’t need? Make other people happy? Working to the point of taking care of yourself is one thing. “Grinding?” Totally different thing.

At some point, you have to decide that you’re going to enjoy what you have while you’re here to enjoy it rather than constantly want more or be dissatisfied in life. In fact? That is exactly why people are dissatisfied in and with their lives. That’s why people are not really and truly happy – “at the core” happy.

It is really because they are doing one (or both) of two things: holding on to what has long been over and carrying anger and bitterness with them in everything they do and doing the things they do for the wrong reasons, or trying to maintain a certain life that isn’t really living. A truly happy life is one that can maintain itself with just a normal amount of effort, because there is balance.

Grind yourself down with a constant focus on one thing – even something you love – and you will no longer be balanced. You will no longer be strong. You will no longer love that thing or that person. You will no longer be you. You will wear away every beautiful, unique thing about yourself and end up exhausted, aching, empty and bitter.

Sunrise.

Please don’t grind. Work hard, but don’t grind. Do more of what makes you happy. Do it from a mindful space and conscious heart. Awaken yourself to ALL that life has to offer. Pro tip: it’s not found in material things. It’s not found in excess. There is no such thing as security – any of us could lose everything in a single breath. No, it’s not something you can hold. It’s something you can feel, and it is found in the space between breaths. You can find it there no matter where you are or what you’re doing or who you’re with – try it, and you’ll see.

No matter what you’re doing, throughout the day today randomly become conscious of the fact that you are breathing. You can still be doing whatever you’re doing – just be aware. In that silent, focused pause between breaths, remember that one day that will be a permanent situation. One day, there will be no breath. One day you will CEASE TO BREATHE, and therefore cease to have that moment. This moment. Any moment. Every moment.

It might come sooner that any of us think, that permanent space between breaths. You never know… Appreciate everything. Even the pain is teaching you. It’s showing you what not to do. It’s showing you what your body needs you do, what your soul needs you to do, what your higher self needs you do.

Do good. Be gentle. Be compassionate. Be kind. Do all those things for yourself and for others. Have a beautiful day. 💜

Rampant Idealistic Oversimplification

This is an example of the rampant idealistic oversimplification that is the new norm in the mental health sphere. It is the equivalent of victim blaming.

Many things cause stress, anxiety and depression. LIFE is just stressful for a lot of people depending on MANY factors. Coffee can cause anxiety all by itself and how many people choose to drink coffee everyday and then wonder why they’re anxious? Depression can be caused by behaviors like this – yes. But it can also be caused by a myriad of other things, including hormones, chemical imbalances, foods we eat (and don’t eat), things we drink (alcohol is a huge one), drugs we take (prescription and illegal, alike), situations we are facing, the list goes on and on.

For some, not even meds can change their brain chemistry. Even though there are coping tools and meds, some people have depression that is literally found to be untreatable even with extensive treatment measures. This is one of those new age bullshit statements made by someone who has no idea what clinical depression is. Statements just like this are the ones that cause many people the most hopelessness because the only solution offered is “it’s your fault, get over it.”

This is a judgement of depression, not a valid statement made based on the understanding of the clinical diagnosis of it. It is the makeup of people who want to come across as enlightened humans, but are really more devolved than evolved. Stop trying to simplify something and tell people basically that it’s their own fault they have these struggles and this is how to fix it.

Stuff like this pisses me off as both a highly educated and qualified mental health professional and as a person who has struggled with depression and anxiety all my life – even as a child as young as 6 years old. If anything outside of the physiological caused it and it was shaped and conditioned into me, it was my mother and religion – point blank period, that’s the only reason. And that’s just simply untrue. Conditioning by our environment may be a part of it but for most people who struggle with anxiety and depression it’s not just environmental and it’s not related to stress alone – stress is a part of EVERYTHING that is wrong with us.

Conditioning may be a major issue for some but what about people who grow up with super amazing childhoods having all their needs met, who are successful and don’t want or need anyone else, who are secure in themselves…and yet still are found dead one day from suicide? What about them? These issues have no limits. They touch people of all circumstances, ethnicities, religions, lifestyles, etc. These conditions don’t care – you can literally have the perfect life and still struggle with these issues.

This type of new age “I know what I’m talking about” expression is the kind of thing can cause someone to truly believe that it’s “their fault” they’re the way they are and if/when they try to address it and it doesn’t work because memes and quotes like this – while true for some situational events – are spreading misinformation (because – let me reiterate in case you didn’t understand the first time – these things are over-simplifying a MAJOR ISSUE that requires a MUCH deeper understanding and often professional help) that may make people just feel like they’ve failed. Then maybe they go kill themselves. Who knows.

Please do not assume you have to conform to generalized thinking. If you are struggling with depression, please please seek help that is useful. I’m not sure the resources in the UK and other countries but here are some US resources. They’re always available and always free, for a start. Please, utilize them. You matter and are cared for, despite feeling that you may not be.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line, if you don’t want to speak – text HOME to 741741 for free, 24/7 crisis counseling.

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration): 1-800-662-4357

The Mighty Oak Will Kill You

I mediated this morning on something that I told my child last night when he asked for advice about why someone in his life did what they did and about why it hurt him. I told him that this the person who had hurst him was not yet coursgeous enough to heal himself before he broke someone else, and that it hurt him because he cared about this person.

He depended on this person to not hurt him. He believed in this person. And for a child, that’s really scary and difficult because as a child you’re still learning to process emotions and understand what emotions are. It takes maturity at multiple levels to remain calm and to not hurt a child with you words. I suppose the same is true for adults – especially the way we treat and speak to ourselves.

So, I went on this very deep, very enlightening almost hour long soul journey with my own meditative backing track (coming soon, shameless plug) and it was one of those meditative experiences where you’re doing your meditative thing (eyes closed, body relaxed, going within your deeper, inner being and connecting with it) and it hurts.

It burns. It stings. It aches. Tears roll down your cheeks even though your eyes are closed. You feel every needle the porcupine of life has shot into you. But you keep going and you find yourself at the edge of your inner self and inner peace and you step into it, and you bathe in it’s light. While you’re there, you see things about yourself for what they are.

What did I see within myself? That being strong doesn’t require being fearless – it’s facing the fears that create the strength in the first place. That protecting yourself doesn’t require meanness, it requires patience and love. And, that being guarded and angry doesn’t deflect the things you don’t want to see as much as it blocks your blessings and wastes valuable energy and time.

This is hard. This process is one we are faced with numerous times in our lives. My son was faced with it for the first time last night, and I shared some of my experiences with him and it helped me to remember things that current shadows have been hiding: We learn as we go, but we don’t learn unless we put in the effort to do so.

We all know it takes more strength to be kind and to love anyway than to run. But if I didn’t run from my demented mother who randomly beat me with a cane because of her disease, if I handled that and still did my job as a daughter and in the role I was thrust into as her death doula…and I did it mostly on my own (because I was dealing with absent people and also still blocking spirit and blessings for so long), I can handle just about anything, right?

((Please note, there is a difference between running from yourself because of self-doubt and walking away from toxicity because of self-confidence. There’s always two sides to these memes. There’s always two sides to everything – and often a lot of gray.))

Personally, I am really struggling with a lot of negative and toxic emotions toward my body right now – and with a lot of negative and toxic energy surrounding me. The things my body and I have faced in the past two years have been unforgiving at times, almost suffocating at others. They’ve been so difficult, and continue to be in some moments. But that’s the thing. It’s moments. You learn to rest in the moments that you have to – especially in the moments that you NEED to – but not give up completely.

You learn to be ok with the fact that venting your fears and anger and concerns about things is NOT always “just complaining” and it’s not being ungrateful. It’s COPING. It’s figuring things out. It’s keeping your own balance. Because you can’t thrive in ANY way without balance. You learn that a response of kindness and empathy and gentleness is more powerful than a response of coldness and lack of depth.

After all, look at nature – what’s more beautiful and pleasant? The colors, the beauty, and the warmth of spring and summer and fall or the harshness and bone chilling cold of winter? Can winter be beautiful? Sure. But is it as pleasant and comfortable and conducive to joy? No – that’s why so many people struggle with seasonal affective disorder.

You very literally see that the people who told you throughout your life that you have to be good with yourself before you can be good with anyone else, and that you won’t have true peace until you do the work to heal yourself, was telling you the truth. You won’t ever find peace of mind and true and lasting joy in your soul until you learn to sit in the darkness and kill it with your own inner light and magic. And you have that. You ARE that. You are magic. You are made of literal “stardust,” for Christ’s sake.

Shine like you’re supposed to. Don’t let your circumstances and your old wounds or should have could have would haves or even the opinions and actions of others put out your light and stop you from sparkling like the diamond you’re supposed to become under pressure. If my mom’s stuff taught me anything, it was the harsh reality of that. Pressure and pain can grow you into a brilliant diamond or petrify you into a bland and plain stone.

Don’t let it be the latter. Don’t let your heart become petrified and your mind become stagnant. You aren’t here to be a rock, or you’d have been created as a rock that just lays there on the ground and does nothing. You’re here to LIVE. Not just survive, LIVE. In order to do that, you have to mind the diamonds – you HAVE TO DO THE WORK.

As I find myself struggling with my body, and with random triggers of mom grief (that’s a whole other blog) I’m not making the same mistakes I’ve made in the past and choosing to hide away or beat myself up (and thus, others). I’m going to continue to grow and one day I’m going to bloom, and y’all are all going to watch me do it. Actions speak louder than words, even as loud as words can be screamed.

I’ve been here before but I’ve learned and grown. After my last episode with my health, with depression and the thoughts that ran through my head, I’m terrified of only one thing: dying knowing I haven’t given all I could give or done the work I needed to do to live well and in peace and thus bring peace and joy to others. But, that work I can only do that for myself, with my own choices and actions. It’s a conscious choice we have to make over and over in our lives.

It was a conscious choice with a lot of conscious effort behind it to fight my body’s BS before, to fight depression, to fight my self doubt, to heal traumas and wrongs inside myself – especially around my mom so that I could care for her when there was no one else to do so. The shadow work had to be done. I took my little soul chainsaw and cleaned out the vines and the poison ivy and the dead trees of my past and my experiences and do you know what I find, over and over again? Baby trees. New growth that needs room to become.

There are stumps and scars in the garden of my soul that still feel tender sometimes but they remind me that I CAN heal and I have many times. The more times you go through this process, the more you learn to listen to spirit and see the signs and open up the natural spiritual gifts that we all have, the more you realize that nothing is ever in your control and that most of the time, when you stand like the oak, you’re standing in your own way.

You realize that when you break, that oak is gonna fall hard and it’s gonna crush anything in its way, and you’re going to be the one who has destroyed all the good you couldn’t see while you were fighting for more more more and fighting to look strong and hide your truth and avoid other people rather than to be your authentic self and to SHOW UP, for yourself AND for those you care about.

Vulnerability bends. Vulnerability can move with the moment – it can handle the pressure without breaking. It gives, it sways with the energy. And when the hurricanes and tornadoes and even the weight of the winter ice come, it can withstand them, because in reality? Softness is stronger than hardness when it comes to humanity and the soul.

It’s a metaphor we’ve been presented with eleventy hundred times in eleventy hundred ways in our lives: The oak is the ego. The willow is the soul. Don’t let your ego break you and those you care for. Don’t let your ego block your blessings and destroy your soul. Your peace and your heart (and the peace and hearts of others) are worth way more than that. Keep it open.

The more you give, the more you receive – even if it doesn’t come from where you are directing it. Life will surprise you. Let it surprise you with gifts, not problems. And remember, you create so much of both in the tiniest actions and choices you make.

Dementia, a Mother, and an Adopted Child

**Edit: my mother passed away 26 hours after I posted this.**

About five months ago, my mother was mentally bad and had wandered and broken her arm. Three and a half months ago I brought her home from the hospital. For years before this, from about six months after my dad died, I had struggled and fought for her and tried to care for her but she didn’t want to let me. I heard, “I am FINE,” at least 72,000,000 times. We had all made jokes about her condition – jokes about “NaNa” – jokes about how bad she was getting, “but there was nothing we could do…” Yet, I still fought…and I know those battles, and they’re why I’m here tonight.

I wish we hadn’t done that…made jokes, because it’s not funny. But I’m glad I never stopped fighting, even if we never had the mother/daughter relationship I always wished we’d had and even if I didn’t get her the help she needed WHEN she needed it because of a broken system that doesn’t correctly diagnose dementia/Alzheimer’s until it’s too late to really slow it down. It shouldn’t be this way – not with the research and the knowledge we have, medicine we have, and resources we have in this country.

I am at peace with the fact that I did my best – that I did everything I could. I don’t need to be externally validated for that…but it makes me feel and have almost a need to validate others who are or have been or will be in my shoes. All these years…they’ve culminated so quickly – in just a matter of weeks.

Three months ago, my mom looked like this (first photo) when I picked her up from the hospital. Tonight, she looks like this (second photo), grimacing and clenching in pain, almost choking on even oral liquid Ativan and Morphine, and her own phlegm and fluid, coughing like a weak squirrel, moaning and crying out in pain to the God that she believes in and still praying incessantly (again, quietly like a weak squirrel, but in pain all the same, barely able to verbalize it).

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are considered mental health issues and illnesses. Don’t tell me you can’t SEE IT because “it’s a mental disorder.” You CAN see it, right there on the MRI. Don’t tell me it’s not real or difficult or physically painful because it’s JUST a “mental disorder.” That’s what I was told for so many years – she’s just getting older. She’s just getting forgetful. She’s just having “mental problems” because of age. No – not just mental problems. A DISEASE – and a terminal one at that.

And you know what else? Especially if you’re a doctor? Don’t pretend to care when you don’t. When you belittle. When you get annoyed with children who are fighting for a better life and end for the parents. Don’t pretend to advocate because for the moment you feel sorry for someone. Don’t pretend like you’re Gucci just because you give to this or that charity or “buy your way” out of having to actually GIVE CARE.

You know what means even more than your charity checks and your “honest opinions” to families struggling with ANY illness or disease or end of life process when you follow up your explanations with the words, “we care?” When you SHOW THE FUCK UP for them.

I am showing up, mama, and even when you don’t want me here, here is where I will be. Too little too late to heal all the old wounds, but not too late to SEE that bygones can be bygones, and despite all of our bad times, all of the good you’ve done for me.

I’m so sorry for the hell, all the chaos I brought to you. I’m sorry for all the hurtful words and for all the times I fought you. I’m sorry I’m not the daughter you’d always hoped I’d be, playing the philharmonic or writing novels or preaching the gospel…but so many of the good things I am are things that you taught me.

“I didn’t carry you in my belly for nine months, but I carried you in my heart for a lifetime,” is what you’d often say to me…and that “to do your best and leave the rest,” was sometimes the only way to be. These words I’ve never forgotten and these words I’ll never forget.

I will soon, again, be an orphan, a fate you once saved me from…and with these fleeting last moments I am sorry. I know I was wrong. I’ll always be a daddy’s girl, and this always broke your heart…but the reality I thought you lived in was creating jealousy into art. But I always had a mom…

I understand your love tonight and what made you who you are…and that even though we aren’t the same we aren’t that far apart. I want to say, “it’s ok, let go,” though it truly breaks my heart…because I understand after all these years who you really are.

Rest now, precious woman, I know you did your best…and your best was really always enough, though I often put you to the test. I thought you didn’t love me, but you just loved me in your way…and, “rest now, precious woman,” is all I can seem to say…

Therapy.

Therapy used to be the bane of my existence. Now that I have the best therapist on the planet (for me) via BetterHelp, it’s not so bad. The whole thing revolves around my time schedule – which can be pretty chaotic – and finally finding (or being gifted by the universe?) a therapist who GETS ME is priceless.

That said, it doesn’t change my thoughts or feelings. It helps me to express them in a safer environment than any other, but the reality is that my kind of depression doesn’t ever really go away. It’s up and down, it doesn’t flip but it rises and falls. And with my mom? It’s basically a pit of hell.

I think the thing that brings me down the most is watching this all play out and not being able to do a damned thing about it. Dementia is like that. No matter what you do, it’s gonna progress. Maybe slowly, maybe quickly. Maybe meds help. They don’t if you’re fighting with the person to even take them.

Mostly, the whole situation makes me both miss AND respect my dad so much more. Sometimes I am so angry that he is gone. Most of the time time I’m just sad. Sad at a level that isn’t just melancholy or blue, but at a level that is a thunderstorm – dark clouds and pouring rain, raging winds and thunder in my head. Sad at a level that I can barely breathe through these days.

But here I am. That counts for something, I suppose. Even still, I feel so useless to everyone around me. I feel useless to my mom because she won’t LET me be useful to her. I feel useless to everyone else because, well, depression. I just stay in my room, and read. I cry but I don’t know why as it doesn’t really let anything out. I wish that someday I would be able to find the words to describe this experience just in case I make it past it and have an opportunity to help someone else.

I hope you all have a pleasant weekend. I appreciate your correspondences and your kindness more than you know. You help me more than you know.

All the love,

C.

Losing…

It is 6:19AM. I opened my eyes to a faint light beginning to creep through filmy windows and as I began to awaken, I awakened to a realization that I have lost all faith in the what we call “the American healthcare system.” It is willful blindness to believe in it.

There are great people who work for it – people who care and give their all to make sure the sick are well attended and made comfortable. But they work for the system – a system that doesn’t allow them to follow their heart, only the money trail. A system that doesn’t allow them to make decisions based on their gut but forces their hand to do what the rules say is allowed and not what is right.

Now it is 7:06AM, and the light is bright enough to make the film on the windows seem to disappear. The film over my eyes, however, has not, and will not. That said, I am too tired and too weak to fight today.

The pain in both my heart and my uterus hold me down. I don’t mind being here. It’s the place I’ve spent the most time and it’s gotten pretty comfortable. So now, as my eyes grow heavy again, I bid my faith and my life as I know it a bittersweet goodbye.