In the months following my discharge from the psychiatric hospital I became fixated on food. Not on eating food, but on researching prices until I’d found incredible deals, buying frequently used items such as flour, yeast, oil, dried beans, rice, etc. in bulk and learning how to store them correctly, and taking advantage of some incredible produce prices in the summer. I learned a lot about myself through this. I realized that in many ways I express my love for my family through food. I had to let go of the need to please everyone every time and just know that I was providing my husband , myself, and our teenagers with the healthiest, tastiest food I could find while still sticking to the very tight food budget. I was then, as I am now, having trouble focusing on books or TV or my writing. In the kitchen I felt as if I was keeping busy doing something worthwhile. It helped to throw my mind into making applesauce, or bread, or spaghetti sauce. It helped me feel less afraid about not having as much money as we used to. I knew the medical bills would be coming in soon, and even though my therapist had directed me to focus on getting well and not on money (ha!) I felt responsible for the burden I was placing on my husband’s shoulders.
Looking back now at the year 2009 I can clearly see what decisions I had made that led up to the time in the hospital. I ignored all of the warning signs that trouble was looming and continued to work too much, sleep too little, and consume far too much caffeine . I was so consumed with guilt and worry over leaving my children at night and then sleeping during the day. I constantly missed doctor’s appointments and let my prescriptions run out because I was so tired and taking hours on the bus to go to different visits seemed to be a bad idea because it cut into the small amount of time I had each day for sleeping.
Tonight I sit here, not cured, but accepting of the fact that I need treatment still. I have been doing my physical therapy because I must take this gift of time and strengthen my back. I continue to see my primary care physician as needed and my psychiatrist for medication management. It is quite a process, but I am pushing myself to learn how to take care of myself.
Christmas will come, whether I feel ready or not. All of our utilities are on. We have a roof over our heads. We were able to purchase gifts for Nathan and Polly. I have taken both of them to the doctor and dentist and they are healthy. For that I am so grateful. Both of them are doing well in school and have friends with whom they socialize happily. Polly managed to pull her math grade up from a D to a B and I am so proud of her, as that was the subject she was really struggling with. I now have more time to spend with both of them and just a seemingly simple thing like having a family movie night at home with a bowl of popcorn means a lot to me.
The time that I spent earlier in the year stocking the freezer and pantry are paying off big time now. Not having to constantly run to the store on foot or bus in the cold and rain is so nice. After being invited several times by my 22 year old niece Audrey to join her book group I shared a copy of the book with her from the library, read it, and went to the book club last Tuesday. I was tempted to cancel because I had a bunch of painful dental work done the day before and I had been informed that the group started with dinner. I knew that Audrey would be disappointed and so I went anyway. I ate mashed potatoes and chewed on one side of my mouth and nobody cared. I don’t know why I was so worried. I was able to talk about the book with the group. A few of the women I knew from my past but hadn’t seen in years: Audrey’s grandmother, her mother, and her aunt. I was concerned that seeing them might bring up some painful memories for me, and it did. There was a moment during dinner when someone asked some questions about things that I had done in 1985. Poor choices that I had made at the age of 12, immediately following the death of my father. Before I could slowly inhale I felt a sob rising up in my chest. Time froze and I wondered about the correct protocol involving cloth dinner napkins and tears. A woman I hadn’t seen since 1988 rose, grabbed me some tissues, and turned to the inquiring woman,” Stop being mean! This is obviously a painful subject for her, and she was only 12 at the time. Jeez!” I dried my eyes and smiled my thanks. The moment had come, the moment had passed. My initial reaction to flee the house dissipated and I was able to get my breathing back under control. The subject was changed and the night went on.
Having gone made me feel proud of myself. It also made me realize that I can have personal limits. I know that is probably common knowledge to most, but to me it was a good realization. There are certain subjects I don’t wish to talk about with most people. There are certain decisions I made as a child that I am tired of apologizing for.
Last May I felt as if suicide was my only option. Today I am looking forward to what 2010 will bring. It wasn’t easy to get here, and it is still filled with pain and challenges. There are bits of joy mixed into my life too and for that I am grateful.
As an aside, I am a ridiculous perfectionist when it comes to things I bake. I can’t post that photo of the dog treats I baked above without mentioning what I learned from trial and error. The original recipe called for rolling the dough out very thin and then cutting it into squares and baking them for 25 minutes. I followed the directions, except I just cut them into pieces with a pizza wheel, and I will admit that I placed too many on the sheet pan because I was feeling lazy. The ones around the edges began to bake faster than the ones in the middle and I had left no room to move them around. Another thing that had bothered me was the mess. I was looking to save money by making dog treats at home, but the clean up was horrible, as the dough was very sticky and difficult to roll with a pin. The second time that I made them I doubled the batch and after it was mixed shaped it into logs that I then placed in the refrigerator. When the dough had firmed I took a log out, sliced it with a knife and baked them that way. It was so much easier. Yes, I realize that I just wrote a whole paragraph about dog treats. Oh, and my German Shepherd? She loved all of them, even the ones that I thought were too dark. If anyone is interested in the recipe let me know and I’ll post it.
Edited to add that I posted the recipe for the dog treats in the comments section of this post.