Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Author......

Sorry I have been sporadic on my blogging lately. Life has been giving me some fumbles and some great days as well but all of them have been rather busy. Thankfully my kids will be out for summer break soon so my schedule should start to go back to normal.

I was remembering my great grandfather the other day. He died when I was rather young but what I remember about him was his quiet demeanor. His strong meaty hands. His bald head, plaid shirts, and glasses. I remember he was not one to love nonsense and since I was a rather bubbly hyper little girl it must have been tiring when I came to visit. He was nice but I remember being intimidated by him because he didn't say a whole lot. He had had throat cancer and although they had cured it, he still didn't talk too much.

Growing up I always thought of him as strong. He was a farmer since childhood. He raised three great kids and had many jobs. He was the one who found his brother after his brother had killed himself. His real mother died early in his life. His life had been hard and yet he had made the most of it. He took care of his family but he was the type of father that was strict and demanded respect. Not necessarily a bad thing just different than what I was used to. He was a family man and he was a good man.

Living the way he did in the time that he did he was forced to quit school after third grade. He was needed to help provide for his family and so this interesting, strong, and definable man was unable to read or write. He could sign his name and write a few small words but he was unable to read the newspaper, or a book, or even a pamphlet.

My grandma was telling me a story the other day, about how he had gone to church and got saved. He had started going to Sunday school and at one visit they asked him to read a page from the Bible. He became so embarrassed that he left and  never went back again.

And it made me sad to hear this. First of all I am a very literary type person. I love to read. I love to write. Language arts has always been my best and most favorite subject. I can not imagine how it would be to not know how to read.

And it also made me realize something. Everyone has something they feel ashamed of. Whether it be something like not being able to read or something like mental illness. We all have something we are embarrassed about. Even if we don't openly talk about it.

My great grandfather was not one to discuss his lack of literacy and in fact, I didn't even realize that he couldn't read. It wasn't his fault that he had to quit school at such a young age. It wasn't anything to be embarrassed about really, in that generation many people couldn't read. In fact that is why in the eighties, this country started a huge adult literacy program. But he was a proud man and he didn't want to be looked at like he was stupid or ignorant.

I may not have known my great grandfather as well as I would have liked but I do know we have some things in common. I too know what it is like to be embarrassed about something that isn't really my fault. I too know what it is like to feel the need to hide the things I perceive to be wrong with me. I also know what stigma is like, even if we were stigmatized for separate reasons.

It pains me to think that there was something that made him feel less of a person. I know exactly what that feels like. And maybe in honor of his memory I can choose to look at myself in a different light. I can refuse to let the things I am embarrassed about keep me from doing the things I want to do. I can be open about them because I know that I am not alone just as he was not alone in his. I can choose to not look at my dysfunctions and disorders as a negative and just look at them as they are. They are a part of me and a part of what makes me who I am today. Maybe I can look at my strong, wonderful, enigma of a great grandfather and see that one of the things that makes him seem more human to me is that he wasn't perfect and maybe if I am open and share mine as well, I can be more relatable. I can be seen as more human through my faults. Because I am human and all that being human entails. I can embrace my faults and shed the shame that tends to come with them. After all, no one deserves to go through their whole life feeling less than, simply because their lives dealt them a hand with a couple of crappy cards in it. It doesn't mean that we can't accomplish things or have to hide from our own imperfections.

It occurs to me that we are the authors of our own lives. We don't have much control over what life throws at us but we do have control over how we choose to deal with it. We have control over how we choose to look at the hands we have been dealt. We have control over whether we are going to let shame and embarrassment rule over our lives like evil dictators. Dictating what we think we can or can't do.

We write the stories of our own lives and we have the ability to change our own plots, our own character summaries, our own titles. Do we want our titles to say defeated, afraid, and ashamed or do we want our lives to have titles like strong, resilient, and unstoppable.

In reality, it doesn't matter if we falter. It happens. It doesn't matter if we are sometimes unsure of our next step. It doesn't matter if we get scared that we may take a misstep. It doesn't even really matter if we can read the stories that we have written. What matters is that we live them and that we try our hardest to be proud that we do.

Today, my title is going to be Acceptance, because I refuse to be ashamed of something I can't help or embarrassed because I fail at something other's don't. I want to be proud that I tried and trying is everything. Never give up. Never surrender. We can do this and we can do this well. We are more than just victims of our lives, we are the authors of them. We can't rewrite history but we can write the future from here on in.

Neurotic Nelly

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What If We Could...

I was thinking the other day. I know scary right?

I am a lot of things. A woman. A red head. A mother. A wife. But first and foremost, I am a Texan. It's not my fault that I place being a Texan as my identity. It ,like so many of us children born and raised in Texas, has been ingrained in me since my very first days. Even in school we were taught for the first five years in history class all about Texas. Until we all knew everything about Texas's past and it becomes a sense of belonging, a sense of pride. It is almost a brain washing to some extent. Want proof?

Ask a Texan, any Texan, what the state flower is, the state bird, the first and only president of Texas, and or the state capital.  They can name them off from memory without hesitation. Start to sing "Deep in the heart of Texas" out loud in Texas and watch how everyone stops and finishes it with you regardless of what they were doing before you started singing it. Ask what the state rose is or how long their family has been in Texas. All of us know when our families first became Texans. My family has been in Texas for almost two hundred years. Yea, really, I am just that Texan. ( Except I moved and married a wonderful but ever deemed "Yankee" so my children are only half Texan even though they have never set foot in that state) It is treated as not just a place but also a pedigree.And even though we have a pride of being from the deep south we have even more pride of being specifically from Texas. We have to be, it was taught to us to be that way from our parents, and them from theirs, and so on and so on. It becomes more than just a place that we are from and becomes part of who we are.

Ask a Texan what is the greatest state in America. Ask a Texan if they are a Texan ( HINT: you wont have to, we tell everyone we are a Texan in the first five seconds of any conversation when we are out of state) And even though we have many military members that serve America you can bet that most of them identify as being Texan before they identify as being American. Not that they don't love America with every waking breath, it's just that they love Texas more. We are a proud people and that is why every ten years or so there is the same talk of succession. Not that it will ever happen, not even sure we actually want it to, but we Texans just like to get all riled up at the possibility. It was taught to us to love God first, Texas second, and then America. That may seem wrong in some people's eyes but it is a tradition that has been passed down for hundreds of years and will probably continue for hundreds more.

It becomes something to belong to. If I see a license plate of Texas where I live, I feel the need to wave to the driver. Because even though I do not know them personally, I feel as if we are some how connected. Like we have something very important in common. We are Texans and we are brethren. Not from genetics but from location. We are tied together from our experience of simply being from the great state of Texas.

Now you may say, we get it Nelly, you love Texas but what the hell does this have to do with mental illness?

So glad you asked.

It got me thinking. The reason we are so proud of Texas is because it was ingrained in us to believe such. What if we took that same teaching methods and turned it to a belief system that is positive for future generations. What if we taught small children that beautiful doesn't have a size or a color or a religion? What if we taught that beauty is on the inside? What if we could give these children a reason to feel that they are worthy ,beautiful, important individuals that belong in our society? Would fourteen year old girls that weigh eighty five pounds still post selfies on facebook claiming that they look fat? I mean if they believe that weight doesn't depict beauty, would they be so hard on themselves? Would at risk youths still join gangs because they want to belong to something other than the only painful existence that they have ever known, if they already felt they had a place in today's society to belong to that didn't end up in violence, prison, or premature death? Would there be so much bullying if children were reinforced with the idea that different is a good thing and not everyone should try and be similar? Would there be so many suicides if people that suffer or feel lost and hopeless felt that they were not alone and that what they felt and had to say was valid to the rest of the world?

Would people like us, that suffer from mental illness have to be afraid of stigma if stigma was erased and replaced by compassion? What if we could eradicate discrimination in all of it's forms?

After all children are born free of such things. Stigma discrimination, self hate, and even pride are things that are taught and learned not genetically predisposed.

What if we could somehow take all of the things that make us broken adults and teach our children and their children that it doesn't have to viewed in a negative way? That people are human first and individuals second. That we all fundamentally desire the same things. Love, acceptance, respect, hope, friendship, and happiness. What if we could give them the sense that they belong to this world no matter what life has burdened them with, no matter what they look like, what family situation the are in, what belief system they have, the color of their skin, or the struggles they may encounter? That they are beautiful unique worthy beings that have the power to change the world with one simple sentence, "I love you."

What if we could teach love and a sense of belonging the way Texas teaches it's children to love and feel a sense of belonging to Texas? How different would our world be? How different would our children's lives be? Could we make our fractured children become whole if they were taught to love rather than ostracize? Have compassion instead of annoyance? To believe that they are worth more than what ridiculous unrealistic magazine articles and misguided self beliefs say they are? To believe that they matter because every person in this world matters and has the right to know that they do. They belong, you belong, I belong, we all belong and we are all important.

Just a thought....
Neurotic Nelly

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Freaking Myself Out...

So an update: I went and had the massage and it was nice. A bit awkward at first but it really helped my back and shoulders. Would I do it again? Sure. Do I want to get massage more than once a year...not really. It just really isn't my thing to do it very often. I mean hell, I haven't gone to a hairstylist in two years. I am just not very high maintenance, I guess.

I am having a problem as an OCD sufferer, that seems to be a reoccurring issue. I am freaking myself out...again. I won't sleep tonight. I have the sit down with my oldest's school and my lawyer in the morning. I am nervous. Sick to my stomach. My anxiety level is through the roof. I am worried they are going to lie some more and try to make this all seem like my fault. I am not really good with confrontational people. I have learned to stand up for myself better along the years but the thought of sitting in a group of confrontational people makes my pulse rise, my mouth dry, and my stomach turn. I just have to remember that this is for my son. If I remember that then I can do anything or take any kind of criticism. I will do anything for my children.

I hope that I look nice. I hope that I can pull off putting on enough make up to cover up the twelve pound bags I will be carrying under my eyes. I hope that my nerves don't get the best of me and I cry. I really hate when I do that. I hope that I can say what needs to be said to help my son and also to get the point across that how you treat your students really affects their performance. I hope that they see how my son needs their help and how the way they have acted only hurts those they are supposed to be helping. I hope that we make headway and the 504 goes through. We only have seven weeks of school left and I really need the good habits and work ideas figured out before he starts home school next year. I need this but more importantly he really needs this. I can't do it all on my own. I really need their help.

I guess all of this anxiety is just really a culmination of hopes and fears and a God awful case of the what if's. I really detest the what if's.

Sigh. It is just so scary to put your child's future in other people's hands or ask unwilling people to throw you a bone and be more helpful. I am scared plain and simple. I mean what happens if they don't give him the help he needs or they just keep doing what they have been doing so far? What does that mean for him? Will I have failed him as a mother again, like I did when I took him to the doctor in first grade and asked if he had ADHD and the doctor said no because he wasn't hyper? And I didn't push harder because maybe the doctor said what I secretly wanted to hear? That there was nothing that was going to make my child struggle. I didn't willingly let it go , I really trusted that doctor, but I remember being so relieved. Because I was ignorant on ADHD and I wanted my child not to be struggling. I clung to that branch of denial like a person drowning in a lake full of trees. I wanted him to not have this and so maybe looking back on it, I didn't push for answers strongly enough. I just took what that doctor said and ran with it. It ended up hurting my son in the long run and I will always hold that blame. That it took so long to get him correctly diagnosed.

Now I don't want to waste anymore time. I want to get started with helping him right away. I want to help him now and get him the help he needs with his school now. I don't have time for the teachers to take it personally or have their egos get involved. It isn't about me, or them. It is all about my son. How can I make them see that?

I wish I could just write what I want to say. Things always come out better if I write it.

I keep going over what I want to say over and over again. Trying to memorize it even thought I know there is no point in that because it never plays out the way you imagined it would.

I guess, I am just....worried.

So I wanted ask if you guys would do something for me. If you are a praying person would say one for me and all of the parents and kids that have to deal with this ridiculous crap? And if praying is not your thing, will cross your fingers for me? I could really use all the help I can get.

Thanks guys,
Neurotic Nelly

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Most Beautiful Heart....

I don't celebrate April fool's day. It's not so much as don't as it is can't.

I don't mind pranks so much. I like jokes even better, but this day is a source of pain for me. A source of loss. You see, twelve years ago my uncle's funeral was on April fool's day. And it hits me like a ton of bricks every year.

I wish I could say it gets easier each time. I wish I could say the sting is less pronounced or the loss is less evident. But it isn't and it's not and I refuse to lie to you....April fool's day to me is dead. It died with my uncle and it will never be fun for me again.

I am not going to write an post about how my uncle was a saint. He wasn't. He had issues and problems like everyone else. He had regrets and accomplishments. I don't want to canonize him and his memory because I think that somehow diminishes the man that he turned out to be. An amazing man. A relatable man. A man with passion and drive and a witty sense of humor. A man with the most beautiful heart.

My uncle was more like a father to me than an uncle. He walked me down the isle in my first marriage. He took me on trips to the carnival when I was a child. Since his name was Woody he bought me a tiny stuffed Woodstock from the Peanuts cartoon when I was around five.  He signed his name with the two o's in his name as eyes and the end of the y as the smiley face. He hung out with me and he gave the biggest back breaking bear hugs and slobbery type face kisses. He wore too much cologne and he loved light houses. He used to tuck me in when I would spend the night and tell me to not let the bed bugs bite. He always said I love you. He held my hand when I was nervous. He made me laugh. He scared the crap outta me when we were on the Ferris wheel and he would shake the basket and swear he wasn't the one making it move. He took me on my first roller coaster ride. He was a prankster, a complete unapologetic prankster and he was really good at it. April fool's day has always been his kind of day.

He was loved. Not because he was a tall six foot something, big redheaded man that had a small black poodle as a pet. Not because he would walk that dog with bows in it's hair or bandannas around it's neck down the street and think nothing of how absurd that looked to passers by. Not even because he never met a stranger or someone he didn't like, but because he was a unrelenting force of positivity, of support, of love.

You see my uncle grew up in the same house as my mother, and while he was not sexually abused , he was verbally and sometimes physically abused by his father. He turned to alcohol and drugs early on in his life and he had the same gut wrenching experiences that all addicts go through. Homelessness, prison, loss of family and friends.

I remember visiting him in prison and him bouncing up and down when he saw me. In my child's mind I thought it was because he was so happy to see me. As an adult I realize it was because he was coming down off of the high. There you have it. That was his life. Except it wasn't. My uncle, Uncle Woody, did the most remarkable thing. He got clean and sober and then he payed it forward. He joined NA and he went to the dances, he went to the outings. He went to every meeting he could. He became other people's sponsor and he helped them get clean and stay that way. He became a champion and he had no idea. He only saw it as he was helping those who suffered like he had. He helped my brother get clean. He helped my Aunt. He helped dozens and dozens of people. Each time giving a part of himself to them. Without knowing he was doing it. Whether it was his laughter or his support, Woody gave little bits of his heart to each and every addict he came across. He was so passionate about NA that he got the symbol  tattooed on his big toe. I asked if it hurt and he said emphatically yes!

My uncle and I shared more than I ever really thought about. The love of family, loyalty to friends. red hair, and OCD. We liked the same music. He cleaned with a gusto that would make a sterile room jealous. I dubbed his cleaning skills with the moniker "Woody clean". As in, "Well, it's not woody clean but it will do....ect". We even got our divorces in the same year and he helped me through that as well.

To know Woody was to know a man who loved life. Who supported those around him.  Who went out of his way to help those in need and to help people stay positive. He gave with all of his heart, every day to every person he came across. A man who forgave his father. Who reached out to everyone regardless of the things they had done in life. (Things I am not sure I would be capable of.)

More than anything he was known for his huge sense of humor and his pranks. Clawing at the window at night to scare my mom and aunt when they were teenagers. Having hidden water guns at parties to take out and squirt someone unawares.

Aside from that he was exceptionally gentle. He made a "pet" of a wild squirrel that lived outside his apartment by hand feeding it until it began to trust him. He loved dogs, especially poodles. He gave donations to many places, his biggest being to the 9/11 museum. When one of the steel pillars came to our city to sign it in support, I went not because I wanted to sign it for myself per say, but because I wanted to write Woody's name on it. He would have wanted that. And so I did. I wrote our names side by side. As did my mother and my grandmother....It was a bittersweet time.

It was ironic that the so full of life, prankster would have his funeral on April fool's day. Poetic, sad, appropriate...

He died of a massive heart attack on March 26. He was forty five. He never got to see my children. I think he would have been just as fantastic with them as he was with me. In fact, I don't think, I know he would have been.

He died because he had no insurance and had been just out of the hospital with MRSA which he got from work. He was diagnosed as diabetic. He was self employed and although he was doing well, the hospital bills from the last visit worried him. He thought the chest pain was nothing to worry about and that he would just see his doctor later in the week. He didn't make it....We only know this because he wrote down the times and how bad the pain was on a piece of paper so he could tell his doctor.

Written hauntings of a passed loved one. It still seemed he was standing right next to us as we read it. Heartbreaking. And infuriating as well. If only he had gone to the hospital. If only....

We are left with memories, pain, loss, and if only's, true, but we are also left with his ideals and his passions. His legacy. I don't know if he realized how much he helped change people's lives or just how many people he affected but we found out. At his funeral there were literally dozen's upon dozens of strangers. They all knew our Woody. They all had stories to tell. Beautiful heart warming stories of a man who was sometimes selfish but always selfless. A man who was so wonderful because he was imperfect and accepted that fact. Because he laughed at his faults and he acknowledged his past. Woody was successful not just because he was wonderful but also because he was relatable. He never forgot who he was when he was using and he never judged anyone that was using. He would just stand by them and offer them help and support. And if they let him in their life, he would do everything possible to keep them clean and sober.

And he touched more people than the people where he lived last...We know how many people's lives he changed in other places because of all the cards we received, the NA flyers they made in Texas for a makeshift memorial so they could say goodbye to him where he had first started, and from the mass amount of flowers. People we had never heard of. People we had never seen before. It was astounding and it was moving. This silly goofy and amazing man was magnificent and he never even knew just how magnificent.

A few months before his death he told me a story. A story that I will never forget. Something he had read somewhere or heard and I would like to share it with you.

One day a young man was standing in the middle
of the town proclaiming that he had the most
beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large
crowd gathered and they all admired his heart
for it was perfect.

There was not a mark or a flaw in it.
Yes, they all agreed it truly was the most
beautiful heart they had ever seen.
The young man was very proud and boasted
more loudly about his beautiful heart.

Suddenly, an old man appeared at the front of
the crowd and said, "Why your heart is not
nearly as beautiful as mine."

The crowd and the young man looked at the
old man's heart. It was beating strongly,
but full of scars, it had places where pieces
had been removed and other pieces put in, but
they didn't fit quite right and there were
several jagged edges. In fact, in some places
there were deep gouges where whole pieces
were missing.The people stared. 
How can he say his heart is more beautiful, they thought?
The young man looked at the old man's heart
and saw its state and laughed.

"You must be joking," he said.
"Compare your heart with mine, mine is perfect
and yours is a mess of scars and tears."

"Yes," said the old man, "Yours is perfect
looking but I would never trade with you.
You see, every scar represents a person to
whom I have given my love - I tear out a piece
of my heart and give it to them, and often
they give me a piece of their heart which fits
into the empty place in my heart, but because
the pieces aren't exact, I have some rough edges,
which I cherish, because they remind me of the
love we shared. "Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart
away, and the other person hasn't returned
a piece of his heart to me. These are the
empty gouges -- giving love is taking a chance.

Although these gouges are painful, they stay open,
reminding me of the love I have for these people too,
and I hope someday they may return and fill the
space I have waiting. So now do you see what true beauty is?"

The young man stood silently with tears running
down his cheeks. He walked up to the old man,
reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart,
and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old
man with trembling hands

The old man took his offering, placed it in his heart
and then took a piece from his old scarred heart and
placed it in the wound in the young man's heart.
It fit, but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges.
The young man looked at his heart, not perfect
anymore but more beautiful than ever,
since love from the old man's heart flowed into his.
They embraced and walked away side by side. 

That was my uncle Woody, a man with the most beautiful heart. I do not just not celebrate April Fool's day because of the pain and loss it reminds me of, I don't celebrate it because for me, it was his day and I refuse to celebrate his day without him. So instead of jokes and pranks, I reserve April fool's day for remembrance. The remembrance of a great man who changed not only my life but so many others as well. Rest in peace Uncle Woody.

Neurotic Nelly

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Teach The World......

I heard once that mental illness is the dulling of the senses, the cloudiness of the mind, the misty fog that envelopes one's emotions, one's surrounding, one's reaction time. That may be for some but, for me it is the opposite. It is a sensory overload, too much information, too many germs, too many unwanted stimuli, too much, too fast, too loud. It burns the senses. It tingles the nerve endings. It emotes the fear, anxiety and an overwhelming sense of guilt that never leaves it's roost. That feeling. That feeling of dread, merciless as it is patient, waits to spring on you but only when you are unaware and unprepared. (Figures).

Many people misunderstand OCD. They chalk it up to being quirky or think it is a humorous dysfunction. I want to yell.... scream.... plead.  "Please for the love of god, some days I am barely hanging on here! Some days I want to melt into the universe like molten rock and seep far away into the depths of the dark alone! Some days I want to pound my head into the wall until I finally knock whatever sanity I am clinging to out of my head, so that way I wont realize that I am crazy and can just be crazy without the responsibility of knowing it. Worrying over it. Judging myself for it.

People don't get it.....

I am told constantly to stop worrying or just try and be calm. Try and be calm???!!!???  One does not stay calm with an anxiety disorder. You do not/can not calm the storm of emotions when the storm is really a tornado wrapped in a hurricane enveloped in a typhoon. It is impossible. It doesn't work that way. This isn't simply a thunder storm of fear with simple wind gusts and rain, this is a God given natural disaster. Blowing everything down and sucking up everything in it's path. This is a declared devastation area, not simply a little bit of anxiety.

The saying time heals all wounds is wrong. OCD sufferers never forget. Time makes no difference.  Once the information, story, scolding, or fear is said aloud it sticks. It gets thrown in with the other information and swirls and spins in the washing machine of our obsessions. Never to stop, never to be set free, just filling the machine more and more full with no where for the run off to go, until it it starts leaking from the top. Pouring unto the floor in monumental amounts and with scary accuracy. My mental illness is showing isn't the first time and wont be the last. The information, the fears, the doubts ricochet through the vacant halls of the mind. Bouncing from one fear to another. I can hear the them as they ping off the concrete and speed at break neck speed into the vast darkened corners of my mind.

Asking me to calm down or to forget is like asking a drowning man to stop flailing his arms as he struggles to stop inhaling water. It is like asking the child to forget their mother's voice. Asking the lion not to hunt when it is hungry. It is like asking your body to simply forget how to breathe. It is as involuntary as an allergic reaction.

OCD is no less unintentional. I can not control it but I can learn to function with it. It is not my fault that I have it and it is not my shame to carry. It is however, my cross to bear and I do it as best as I can.

It is for me like the water I swallow, the air I breathe, the feeling of earth beneath my feet. It simply is. So, please don't ask me to turn off something that has no off switch. Please don't ask me to stop. Please don't act like I am just doing this because I want to.

Try and understand my plight and my pain and then go on and teach the world. All of us suffer. No one enjoys it, some of us are just more used to it than others. Some of us handle it better and some of us are better at pasting a plastic smile on our faces and faking it.

Neurotic Nelly

Friday, March 28, 2014

Out Of My Comfort Zone.....

So, that massage thingy is going to happen this Monday and I am trying to brave about it. It is way out of my comfort zone but I am going to do it. Why? Because it was a present from my thoughtful husband and children. Because I would love to alleviate some of the stress I am carrying around on my shoulders. Because I deserve to be pampered dammit, even if it means I need to take a brown paper bag with me in case I need to hyperventilate whilst going through it. I can do this.

I learned a good lesson three days ago and I think it is always good to share lessons. Ya know, in case I can spare anyone from making my mistakes. My grievous errors, if you will.

I was letting my bangs grow out. I usually cut them to right under my eyebrows but I thought I would branch out and be cool and have side swept bangs. Again out of my comfort zone, but that is what I am trying to do these outside of the box I have created for myself. (Box or jail cell, whatever term you feel best applies) But, the weather has been unkind to my hair and made it static clingy and frizzy. The bangs refused to stay over the eye I can't see out of and stubbornly hung over the one I can see with. Think unkempt sheep dog. It was irritating me. When I pushed them over, they parted and stuck to the sides of my face like some  frizztastic hair mask. A hair mask, people. I got up in the morning after dealing with this crap for two weeks and I snapped. I decided I could not take it, not one second longer or I was going to just shave my whole bang area off like a reverse Harre Krishna. So I got my dull scissors out and chopped them off. However, I had made a miscalculation. I had forgotten the golden rule of cutting hair. Don't do it when it is wet. And do you know why that is the golden rule? Possibly the most important rule of hair cutting, ever? Because it dries shorter. Hang with me here for a sec. I cut them where I usually like them. And then they dried. An inch shorter......  ....... ......

So I am sitting here at almost four in the morning complaining about how my hair looks like a twelve year old  girl's circa 1985. When I put my long hair up I look silly, and when I put it down it reminds me somewhat of a mullet. Great, just the look a 34 year old mother of two was going for. Yep, that's all me, business in the front and party in the back. Ugh.

And then I started thinking to myself. (look out!) Is it really wise to make decisions when you are frustrated? Probably not. I have never regretted a decision I have thoroughly thought through and I almost always regret decisions I have made when frustrated, angry, or otherwise in a negative frame of mind. So my advice of the day is, don't make decisions when upset and never cut your hair when it is wet...period. That way when are looking at yourself before you go out and do whatever it is that you do, you won't end up looking like someone maliciously attacked your head with a weed whacker. You can thank me later....

I mean, yea sure it grows out....but not nearly fast enough.

I was also thinking today that I am afraid of a lot of things. That is why I am trying so hard to step out of my comfort zone this year. It is all small steps but small steps lead to bigger ones and before you know it, you are running. That is my positive attitude talking, anyway. Although, I do feel that I am failing at stepping out of the box sometimes.

I am scared. I am scared of failure. To fail at being a good enough mom or a good enough person. I am afraid to reach for the things I want. Lest it be rubbed in my face that I have found yet another thing I stink at doing or can't do altogether. Like working or being "normal". Although, I certainly don't pass for normal after this hair cut debacle, so I guess that ship has sailed. Scared of germs. Scared of invisible diseases. I am scared of losing my loved ones. Scared of being yelled at or hurt. Scared of trusting people. Scared of anxiety. Scared of spiders and rabbits. Scared of having to take the bus. Scared of the what if's. Scared of messing things up. Not getting things right. Being the klutz and absent minded professor I sometimes am. I am just plain scared most of the time. I mean, I don't think that being scared is abnormal. I am not even sure it is a "bad" thing. I do know that I am proud of accomplishing things I never thought I could before. Like this blog and my mental illness G+ group. I am proud that for once in my life I have stepped out from behind the curtain and talked openly about the things I have held shut in so tight because of fear. Because I didn't want to be judged or misunderstood. That is until I realized that being silent wasn't keeping me from being those things. They still happened to me whether I was willing to admit it to myself or not.

I guess, what I am trying to say is that I think being scared of everything is okay, as long as you push on  anyway. No, you are not always going to succeed but you can't prevail if you never try.  Yes, it will be scary, and uncomfortable, and downright daunting. But it can be done.

I want to be more free. More independent. I want to feel like the adult I know I am. I want to feel proud of myself for once. I want my children to be proud that their momma can do things even though they may seem scary. I want to teach them that fear is normal but perseverance is everything. Nothing good in life is easy. So, I will continue to scratch and claw along and take one step at a time and slowly crawl out of my comfort zone day after day until it finally becomes less scary. Until I can finally see the light and have confidence that I can do the things I have always wanted to....

Until next post, Keep it Fancy....
Neurotic Nelly

Monday, March 24, 2014

Change The World....

 Thursday's post took a lot out of me. I have to admit that writing about some of the more painful things in life tend to do that. I think back to all of the painful things my mother has dealt with (sexual abuse as a child/ abusive marriages/ect) and I am reminded daily of her strength and compassion. She is a fighter. She is a hero. She is a living breathing inspiration. Not just because she is a survivor ( although that is heroic and inspiring and brave in it's own right) but because she keeps going and has always been very open about it. She through years of agonizing therapy has learned to place the blame on the abusers and throw the shame back at them where it belongs. She is truly just one amazing woman. And I truly hope that some of her wisdom and strength will rub off on me as I get older. Maybe some of it already has. After all, she is the one who taught me to never hold back and always be honest and open. To believe in myself and that if one person tries hard enough, they just may change the world.

That being said, I am not self absorbed enough to believe that I will change the world all by myself. I do however, believe that if I can inspire others to talk openly than we all can inspire others to do the same and so on and so on until we effectively end up changing the world. I mean, that's possible right?

I believe that changing the world is inevitable. Many people have done it, most of them without the notoriety and fame that most celebrities have today. While most are familiar with the likes of Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton and their exploits. Their fame is neither earned nor deserved. Most people today, know nothing about  about the sacrifices made by amazingly brave and awe inspiring individuals such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Medgar Evers,  and Nelly Bly. People that fought for the rights of themselves and others. People that stood up to discrimination and bias. Just because their names are not as readily slipped from our tongues does not make their contributions any less magnificent.

Do you know one of the reasons I chose to write under the name of Neurotic Nelly? I chose neurotic because I suffer from an anxiety disorder and anxiety used to be deemed as neurotic behavior. And I chose the name Nelly because of a magnificent heroin that wrote under the name of Nellie Bly. Not that I am a journalist by any means(although that is certainly a dream job of mine) but because she did something so heroic, so unheard of  that she changed the way the world thinks and effectively  managed to change the treatment of mental illness institutions with one simple experiment.

Nellie Bly born May 5, 1864 – January 27, 1922 was the pseudonym of American journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane. Known was a ground-breaking reporter she set a record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days, in emulation of Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg, and an exposé in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from within. She was a pioneer in her field, and launched a new kind of investigative journalism. She got her start as a reporter after writing a rebuttal to a piece written by  Erasmus Wilson, claiming that "women were best served in the home, conducting domestic duties such as raising children, cooking and cleaning, and called the working woman a monstrosity." Bly's rebuttal letter to the editor got her a position and the rest is history.

Although, I find her writing accomplishments to be ahead of her time and wondrous, what she did for the mental illness community is insurmountable.

That's right, she did an article about not only being mentally ill but the treatment the people received in an asylum. And to do that she simply acted like what the world then concluded an "insane" person looked like. And it worked.

Burdened again with theater and arts reporting, Bly left the Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1887 for New York City. Penniless after four months, she talked her way into the offices of Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper, the New York World, and took an undercover assignment for which she agreed to feign insanity to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island.

After a night of practicing deranged expressions in front of a mirror, she checked into a working-class boardinghouse. She refused to go to bed, telling the boarders that she was afraid of them and that they looked crazy. They soon decided that she was crazy, and the next morning summoned the police. Taken to a courtroom, she pretended to have amnesia. The judge concluded she had been drugged.

She was then examined by several doctors, who all declared her to be insane. "Positively demented," said one, "I consider it a hopeless case. She needs to be put where someone will take care of her."The head of the insane pavilion at Bellevue Hospital pronounced her "undoubtedly insane". The case of the "pretty crazy girl" attracted media attention: "Who Is This Insane Girl?" asked the New York Sun. The New York Times wrote of the "mysterious waif" with the "wild, hunted look in her eyes", and her desperate cry: "I can't remember I can't remember."

Committed to the asylum, Bly experienced its conditions firsthand. The food consisted of gruel broth, spoiled beef, bread that was little more than dried dough, and dirty undrinkable water. The dangerous patients were tied together with ropes. The patients were made to sit for much of each day on hard benches with scant protection from the cold. Waste was all around the eating places. Rats crawled all around the hospital. The bathwater was frigid, and buckets of it were poured over their heads. The nurses were obnoxious and abusive, telling the patients to shut up, and beating them if they did not. Speaking with her fellow patients, Bly was convinced that some were as sane as she was. On the effect of her experiences, she wrote:

What, excepting torture, would produce insanity quicker than this treatment? Here is a class of women sent to be cured. I would like the expert physicians who are condemning me for my action, which has proven their ability, to take a perfectly sane and healthy woman, shut her up and make her sit from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on straight-back benches, do not allow her to talk or move during these hours, give her no reading and let her know nothing of the world or its doings, give her bad food and harsh treatment, and see how long it will take to make her insane. Two months would make her a mental and physical wreck.

…My teeth chattered and my limbs were …numb with cold. Suddenly, I got three buckets of ice-cold water…one in my eyes, nose and mouth.

After ten days, Bly was released from the asylum at The World's behest. Her report, later published in book form as Ten Days in a Mad-House, caused a sensation and brought her lasting fame. While embarrassed physicians and staff fumbled to explain how so many professionals had been fooled, a grand jury launched its own investigation into conditions at the asylum, inviting Bly to assist. The jury's report recommended the changes she had proposed, and its call for increased funds for care of the insane prompted an $850,000 increase in the budget of the Department of Public Charities and Corrections. They also made sure that future examinations were more thorough so that only the seriously ill actually went to the asylum. 


She reported of people being unfairly committed.

Thus was Mrs. Louise Schanz consigned to the asylum without a chance of making herself understood. Can such carelessness be excused, I wonder, when it is so easy to get an interpreter? If the confinement was but for a few days one might question the necessity. But here was a woman taken without her own consent from the free world to an asylum and there given no chance to prove her sanity. Confined most probably for life behind asylum bars, without even being told in her language the why and wherefore. Compare this with a criminal, who is given every chance to prove his innocence. Who would not rather be a murderer and take the chance for life than be declared insane, without hope of escape? Mrs. Schanz begged in German to know where she was, and pleaded for liberty. Her voice broken by sobs, she was led unheard out to us.
---Ten Days in a Mad-House

And the treatment they received.

Just as I reached there Superintendent Dent came to the door and I told him how we were suffering from the cold, and of Miss Mayard's condition. Doubtless, I spoke incoherently, for I told of the state of the food, the treatment of the nurses and their refusal to give more clothing, the condition of Miss Mayard, and the nurses telling us, because the asylum was a public institution we could not expect even kindness. Assuring him that I needed no medical aid, I told him to go to Miss Mayard. He did so. From Miss Neville and other patients I learned what transpired. Miss Mayard was still in the fit, and he caught her roughly between the eyebrows or thereabouts, and pinched until her face was crimson from the rush of blood to the head, and her senses returned. All day afterward she suffered from terrible headache, and from that on she grew worse.
Soon after my advent a girl called Urena Little-Page was brought in. She was, as she had been born, silly, and her tender spot was, as with many sensible women, her age. She claimed eighteen, and would grow very angry if told to the contrary. The nurses were not long in finding this out, and then they teased her.
"Urena," said Miss Grady, "the doctors say that you are thirty-three instead of eighteen," and the other nurses laughed. They kept up this until the simple creature began to yell and cry, saying she wanted to go home and that everybody treated her badly. After they had gotten all the amusement out of her they wanted and she was crying, they began to scold and tell her to keep quiet. She grew more hysterical every moment until they pounced upon her and slapped her face and knocked her head in a lively fashion. This made the poor creature cry the more, and so they choked her. Yes, actually choked her. Then they dragged her out to the closet, and I heard her terrified cries hush into smothered ones. After several hours' absence she returned to the sitting-room, and I plainly saw the marks of their fingers on her throat for the entire day.
This punishment seemed to awaken their desire to administer more. They returned to the sitting-room and caught hold of an old gray-haired woman whom I have heard addressed both as Mrs. Grady and Mrs. O'Keefe. She was insane, and she talked almost continually to herself and to those near her. She never spoke very loud, and at the time I speak of was sitting harmlessly chattering to herself. They grabbed her, and my heart ached as she cried:
"For God sake, ladies, don't let them beat me."
"Shut up, you hussy!" said Miss Grady as she caught the woman by her gray hair and dragged her shrieking and pleading from the room. She was also taken to the closet, and her cries grew lower and lower, and then ceased.
The nurses returned to the room and Miss Grady remarked that she had "settled the old fool for awhile." I told some of the physicians of the occurrence, but they did not pay any attention to it.
Once a week the patients are given a bath, and that is the only time they see soap. A patient handed me a piece of soap one day about the size of a thimble, I considered it a great compliment in her wanting to be kind, but I thought she would appreciate the cheap soap more than I, so I thanked her but refused to take it. On bathing day the tub is filled with water, and the patients are washed, one after the other, without a change of water. This is done until the water is really thick, and then it is allowed to run out and the tub is refilled without being washed. The same towels are used on all the women, those with eruptions as well as those without. The healthy patients fight for a change of water, but they are compelled to submit to the dictates of the lazy, tyrannical nurses. The dresses are seldom changed oftener than once a month. If the patient has a visitor, I have seen the nurses hurry her out and change her dress before the visitor comes in. This keeps up the appearance of careful and good management.
--Ten Days in a Mad-House

And after all that she reported on and saw, her article helped force the health care system for the mentally ill to review their policies on both what classifies a person as "insane" and the treatment those persons get.
 Sadly, asylums continued and many became even more abusive and vile but Nelly Bly was able to shine light on how the system was dealing with undesirables and the mentally ill in the late 1800s. Years before the lobotomies and medical experiments started. Because of her courage people could no longer walk by an asylum and pretend these atrocities were not going on behind the locked gates and barred windows. 

I chose the name Nelly in part as an homage to Nellie Bly and what she stood for. I do believe that one person can change the world but I believe it is better to have the world join in and help change itself. The best way to do that is push through the fear and expose the truth about discrimination, stigma, bias and the ugliness those things promote. I believe that we all can stand up and change the way we are viewed and treated. We just have to push through the fear and stand up.

Neurotic Nelly

For more information on the expose Nelly Bly wrote look up Ten Days in a Mad House. It is a sad, disturbing, and yet interesting read.