And So It Begins

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So why do I want to write about my family’s history of mental illness and its effect on my life? After all the responses I received from my last blog, I think many of my generation already know. I need to write about mental illness in families because so many people have lived with it and through it without any help. Children of the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s were not always parented in a nurturing way. It was tough times for our country- depression, war, death, and despair. Families were just trying to get by with enough to live on. Some children were lucky and had a parent or a sibling that they were nurtured by, but many were just ignored and told to do their work and stay out of the way. Some children, like my husband’s aunt, were even sent to other families to be raised because there were too many in the house. (She was one of nine of a widowed mother and lived with another family during the week to go to school.)

What effect did this have on Baby Boomers? Parents who sometimes didn’t know how to be nurturing parented us. We were sometimes lucky and got one parent with a kind and loving heart (my dad), but many times we got two parents who didn’t know how to nurture and, therefore, we were treated like WE didn’t matter. Ask any Baby Boomer about summers when they were a kid and they will tell you the same thing – “I was told to leave the house and not come back until supper” After supper, you were told not to come in until it was dark. Our parents didn’t know where we were. My parents never even asked me where I was. The important thing is that I wasn’t bothering them.

I didn’t just come up with this idea. I took a class for Early Childhood Development that stated very clearly that you parent in the way you were parented, even if you swear to yourself that you “won’t become your mother”. You can’t help it. It is innate in your psyche. What you can do is make a conscious effort NOT to follow in your parent’s footsteps and be a BETTER nurturing mother or father.

That is what my book is about. It is about my journey to be BETTER. It is my fight against the stigma of mental illness in families. My dear husband’s father battled depression his whole life and ended his life with suicide. That means our daughter has familiar mental illness on BOTH sides of her family. This is my battle to let my daughter know that she CAN talk to her family about mental illness. Think how different Kevin’s father’s life would have been if he had received the help available in today’s world WITHOUT the stigma associated with mental illness.

That is the reason for the book. It has taken me many years to get strong enough to write it. I will be reliving many painful memories. But I will also be educating others through my experiences and I will be confirming that you can get better. You can get help. I was in college before I started feeling good about myself as a person. Eighteen years to feel I was worth something. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through, but I can’t ignore my past. I kept it inside for so many years and it finally exploded in my 40’s. If reading my experiences helps even one person feel more confident about their experiences, then I will have accomplished my goal. If it helps one person to seek help for mental illness, I will be ecstatic. I believe this is God’s purpose for me at this point in my life and I am devoted to doing His will.

Speaking of God, my book will have a lot of God in it. For one reason and one reason only-when no one was there for me, GOD was. My parents did one thing completely right- they raised us with in a wonderful church and instilled in ME (I can’t talk for my siblings) a faith that has never failed me. I promise I won’t be preachy, but this book can’t be written without a strong testament to my faith in God.

I have written the Introduction and first chapter of the book as of today and I am deep into the second chapter. The first three chapters are about my maternal grandmother, my mother up to my birth and my father up to my birth. The chapter on my grandmother is very short, because I know so little about her. This has definitely made me realize that even though we live 2000 miles away from Molly; if she has children we WILL be involved in their lives. I lived 30 minutes from both of my grandmothers and what I know about them I can write on very few pages. So sad for our whole family and the experiences we missed out on.

I am writing the chapter about my mother’s early life and it too has holes in what I know. My mother only shared what she wanted you to know and how she wanted you to know it. I have pictures. I have Ancestry records. I have my memories. I have my TRUTH and it is worthy of being heard. It is a journey that is just beginning. Please join me.

Safe travels,

Lori

 

 

 

 

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MY Independence Day

 

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Today doesn’t feel much like the 4th of July at our house. We are not really able to go anywhere because of the crowds. The things we usually do on the 4th like go to a movie and out to dinner aren’t possible. So while I am grateful to be an American, I don’t feel much like celebrating. There is just too much wrong with our country to have a celebration. Too many people are turning a blind eye to so they don’t have to be inconvenienced. So, I decided that today was going to be MY Independence Day. The day I announce that I am writing my memoir. Now, many of you who know me are thinking, she is just an ordinary woman-what does she have to write about. I am declaring my independence from the secrets of my past. The secrets that everyone in my family turned a blind eye to for most of my life- I am talking about mental illness.

It has taken my whole life (58 years) to be confident enough to write this. Those who know me now cannot imagine that I was anything but a confident, intelligent woman with a nice life. Those who knew me in K-12 think, boy she really came out of her shell and made something of her life. Both are true. Both are painful to talk about. Both almost killed me.

My maternal grandmother had schizophrenia. She was a cold woman that I really never knew. It took lots of counseling and lots of self -reflection to realize what her mental illness did to my mother. And what it did to my mother, she did to me. My mother never told me I was pretty. She never asked me how I was feeling about something, even when I was upset. She never put my needs before hers unless she got something out of it. She always gave me the feeling that I had to live up to her standards of the day to gain her attention. I could never talk to her about what was going on in my life, even when I was little. I was taught to be quiet and stay out of the way. My mother could make me feel like the biggest disappointment in her life. There would be years where I would think we were close, and then something would happen that would take months to repair.

Schizophrenia doesn’t just make you “see things”, it controls your emotions to the point where you can show neither joy nor sorrow. My mother was never diagnosed with ANY mental illness, but I know she suffered from many. How do I know?   She raised me and I suffer from mental illness. It is genetic and it is brutal. It is especially hard when it is ignored, as it was with my mother. One of her greatest skills was gas lighting. She was wonderful at getting people (including my beloved father) to believe her reality. It isn’t easy being raised by a gas lighter. I never knew what was real. My mother could make me feel like I was worthless, so when I did well in school or someone wanted to be my friend, I didn’t have the self confidence to believe I was worthy.

Things started to change for me after high school. Even though I lived with my parents while going to IPFW, being out in the world and meeting new people made me realize that my family life was not normal. I loved my mother, but I started lying to her on a regular basis in high school. She never knew the real me after about age 17. It was the only way to survive.

I will be writing my life’s journey in and through mental illness. It is a long story filled with pain, anger, denial, love, hate, but most of all; it is a story of resilience. The resilience of three generations of women living with mental illness and dealing with it the best they could. I loved my mother, but she was not an easy person to love. Yet I wanted more than anything to please her. When she died, there were so many things left unresolved between us. So, here, in my blog, I will be writing about the journey of writing my memoir. It is emotional and heartbreaking at times. More than anything, it is my truth and I finally have the courage to write it. The picture for this blog post I just took. It’s me, sitting on our couch. No make up, just the confidence to show myself for who I am. I hope you will join me on this journey. I have no map for where this will take me. I just know I need to go.

 

Safe travels,

 

Careers

Today was my last day as the educator of small children.  After twenty years (twenty-three if you count the years I volunteered), I have decided to retire from caring for children as a profession.

If someone had told my 22-year-old self that I would be making this statement at 56, I would have laughed in their face. Me, educating children?  I didn’t even like children, let alone want to teach them!  I had just graduated from college with a degree in marketing.  I wanted to be a Fashion Buyer.  It was all about the clothes for me. (Some would say it still is!)  Problem was, there wasn’t much available in Fashion Buying in Fort Wayne.  Or Indiana, for that matter.  I somehow ended as a dispatcher at North American Van Lines.  Talk about the worse job ever. HATED it!  When Kevin asked me to move to Hickory, I was more than happy to kick that job to the curb.

When we arrived in Hickory, I needed to get a job, but I had no idea where to look.  There was no internet in 1985.  You basically mailed out your resume (professionally printed on stationary) to companies and hoped to hear back.  I went to am employment agency and actually paid them to land me a job as a Customer Service Representative at a local furniture supply company.  I was making a whopping $11,000 a year (not a lot of money even in 1985 dollars.)  Thing is, I loved that job.  I ended up becoming a purchasing agent and made life long friends.  You see, it’s not always what God puts in your life, it is WHO God puts in your life.  As excited as we were to move back to Indiana, it was hard to leave our friends that we had made through both my work and Kevin’s.

When we moved to Indy, once again I had to look for a job.  I found one as a purchasing agent and absolutely hated it.  I lasted about a year, and then quit.  I found another job shortly after and this one was a real career- leading purchasing job.  Thing is, my heart just wasn’t in it.  It was still just a job to me.  Then something strange happened.  I turned 29 and my maternal instinct kicked in full force!  The woman who never thought she wanted children could think of nothing else!!!  Everywhere I looked, there were pregnant women!! Kevin took some convincing, but he finally agreed to have a child.  Getting pregnant was easy, staying pregnant, not so much.  I ended up on three months of bed rest.  After our beautiful daughter was born, I went through the motions of going back to work.  Found child care and everything.  The weekend before I was to go back to work, I broke down and told Kevin I just couldn’t do it.  I was a mom and that is what I wanted to be!! Kevin acquiesced,  and I stayed home for five glorious years!!

Then came the time for our daughter to go to Kindergarten.  I knew that I didn’t want to hang around the house by myself, but I didn’t want to go back to work full-time either.  That is when the idea of teaching preschool happened.  I loved children now!  It would be great!!  And it was.  I taught Preschool and Mother’s Day Out for seven years.  Then I got restless.  Working with young children made me realize the importance of early intervention  for developmental delays.  I was fascinated and decided to leave teaching preschool and work for Indiana’s Early Intervention program.  I also started working on my Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.  I was going to change the world!  Then THAT THING happened.  That thing was depression (another whole blog or two) and I realized that working from home all day wasn’t for me.  I needed to be with people.  I took a job working as an Instructional Assistant at a neighboring school district.  I was working with Special Education children.  It was chaotic, messy and rewarding.  I loved that job (most of the time) and thought I would have it forever. But, life happened as it does, and my beloved father died.  I took it hard, really hard.  He died the beginning of July and school started the beginning of August.  I tried to go back, but my heart just needed time to heal.  I asked for a leave of absence, but they said no. So, I quit.  I quit and I took the time I needed to grieve.

I spent the next two years doing my own things.  We got a Goldendoodle and trained him to be a Therapy dog.  I learned how to knit and started a small knitting business.  I still managed to work with children by substitute teaching at a preschool a friend taught at.  Finally, I was ready to go back to work.  I got a job as an Instructional Assistant in another school district.  I worked there for two years and had a wonderful experience.  My therapy dog came with me once a week to read with special needs children and it was so rewarding.  Then, another twist in the road!  A friend was offered a new position at a different preschool and asked me if I wanted to be her assistant two days a week. At first I said no, but as I thought of it more, I decided that I was ready to go back to teaching little minds.  I contacted my old preschool that I had worked at years ago, and picked up a day there working in my favorite room, the babies. Life was good.

That was three years ago. Now that we are moving to Oceanside, I have decided to move on from working with children.  I have no map to where I am going, I just feel that my time as an educator is done.  I just said good-bye today to women who have been a part of my life for over 20 years.  I won’t see most of them again except on Facebook, but they will always be angels in my heart.  I have been blessed with this unexpected career of mine and best thing is that my legacy will live on.  You see, my daughter is a teacher!  She was born to be a teacher and she is making a difference in the lives of children everyday.  Not having a map for my career was the best thing that could have happened.  I don’t know where I am going next with this crazy life, but I have faith it will be exciting!!!

No Map Necessary

 

I am about to do something that I haven’t done since I was 22-years-old. I am moving across the country to a town where I know absolutely NO ONE to start a new chapter in my life.

 

When I was 22, I was fresh out of college and madly in love. My then boyfriend, Kevin, was bored with his job and ready for adventure. We lived in our hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana and we just knew there had to be more to life. Kevin was offered a job in Hickory, NC and asked me to go with him. I jumped at the chance-I would have followed him anywhere! I had no money, no job in Hickory and a car that wasn’t even guaranteed to make the trip! What I did have was the gut feeling that this was the right man and the right choice for me.

 

Kevin took care of everything for the move. He picked out our apartment. He arranged the moving company (I didn’t have anything to move anyway). We left at the beginning of December, so the weather would be an issue. I didn’t even really think about that. All I knew is that I was ready to go on this wonderful adventure with the man I loved.

 

Fast- forward 34 years. I am now 56-years-old. I am a wife (happy to say I am still with Kevin!) and the mother of a grown daughter. We moved back to Indiana after 3 years in Hickory, not to Fort Wayne, but to Indianapolis. We have lived the last 28 years in the community of Fishers, IN. It has been a great life, but once again, we are ready for adventure. June 2nd we leave for our cross county drive to Oceanside, CA. We fell in love with the area two years ago and are now going to make it our home.

 

This time, I have been in charge of the move. I found our realtor and house in Oceanside. I found our realtor in Fishers and staged our house for sale. (Sold in 3 days!) I booked the movers and made all the reservations for the hotels along our drive west. My life, it has changed tremendously since that move to Hickory. What hasn’t changed is this-I still have that gut feeling that this is the right man and right choice for me.

 

I have called this blog “No Map Necessary” because the biggest lesson I have learned in the 36 years since our move to Hickory is that no matter how much you plan, no matter how much you check every single detail, life happens how life wants to happen. There is no map to follow, no set of directions that will get you from Point A to Point B without obstacles. What there is, however, is faith. Faith in God to watch over you. Faith in your mate to love you no mater what. Faith in your child to respect herself and live a noble life. Faith in your friends to support you, laugh with you and cry with you too. Faith is what has gotten me from that naïve 22-year-old to the woman I am today. I have changed-the world has changed. This blog is to chronicle my two journeys- one as a young woman with blind faith in a man, and one as a mature woman with strong faith in her God, family and friends. My intention is to explore the two moves and how my life has changed. The past, I know, the future is a blank slate, and today is a possibility. I hope you will join me for this journey-you see, I have “no map” for where I am going, just the feeling that it is going to be one hell of a ride!

 

Safe Travels,

 

Lori

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part Two……………..Preparations………….Keep Reading……………