Monthly Archives: January 2014

If houses could talk

black puppyLike the fields where I chased butterflies when I was a child, the mountain my husband climbed as a boy, or the beach where our children paddled and fished in tide pools, our house didn’t belong to me as much as I belonged to it. I’d worked in the garden with eucalyptus trees bordering on our property with roots that drank the water meant for the plants, and in the evenings, sat on the patio with the family to enjoy the results of my efforts.

Does a house have eyes and ears? If only our house could tell me all it has witnessed. Maybe it depends on how much I ask and how much I am willing to hear.

I am an early riser, and I remember one morning in particular. I chose to sit on the landing that was sufficiently large to house me and our black, Belgium Shepherd, Bonnie. We cuddled together for half an hour or so, me in my pajamas, the dog warming me as we bundled up together under a rug to ward off the chill. And I found myself replaying the past in my head. I returned to the time my three children were getting ready for school, rushing about noisily, packing  their schoolbags and eating breakfast on the run. The house, like my heart, was filled with thoughts of our happy family.

In the stillness on those stairs, it was as if I could hear them all over again. I returned to a weekend and they were singing, listening to loud music, talking  and giggling. I could hear the thud of footsteps in the bedrooms above me, showers running, toilets flushing, phones ringing, doors banging, voices rising and falling like wind through the trees. I heard laughter filling the rooms and overflowing into a thousand empty spaces.

Our  house held countless memories from other times, times of want and times of plenty, good times and bad times, happy times as well as sad times. Our house was a memory bank that my late husband and I invested in beginning when our children were young, hoping for a good return someday when we grew older.

Starting to shiver on those stairs with Bonnie at my feet, I felt rich. I stood up and went upstairs to get dressed and start another day.

We sold that house in the year 2003 due to my late husband’s ill-health and bought an apartment that now rings with the sound of our grandchildren’s voices.

Life interrupted

When visiting an ill friend, it’s a good idea to refrain from relating your own problems. Don’t tell him/her that your cat ran away or that you got stuck in heavy traffic. Don’t tell your friend about an upcoming vacation that you plan to take or the subscription you have taken out for the new opera season either.

It’s a good idea to call before visiting as your friend simply might not feel like receiving visitors or – might even have a doctor’s appointment.

When you do get there, limit the length of your visit.  It’s hard to know what to say in this situation but I do know that it’s a bad idea to say; ‘I feel so sorry for you, cheer up or, it will get better,’ because the timing is wrong. How about, ‘This might get really bad, but in time, I hope you’ll feel better.’

Unless you are really very religious, it’s preferable to refrain from saying; :I will pray for you.’ And, unless you really mean it, don’t ask if there is anything you can do.  And even if you are sure you won’t know what to say, visit anyway. It’s far better to visit and sit in silence than to stay away. You will find something to say when you see that your friend needs moral support.

This is definitely not the time to tell stories about all the people you know who had the same illness or disease. It doesn’t change anything and can be very irritating and upsetting. Neither is it helpful to say; “Everything will be okay, you’ll see.” You are not a prophet. What she needs most, is your support and love. Instead of asking how that person is feeling, try  ‘how are you doing?’

clasping hands 2

An apology

In error, I posted two blogs today,  Is he fit to stand trial? as well as Don’t label them – they’ll find their own labels. So on Jan. 29 I am not going to post another blog.  I am so sorry but the second one simply flew into cyberspace when I pressed the wrong button.

Don’t label them. They’ll find their own labels

In our world, we tend to label everything but the worst is labeling people, especially children. This video brings it home far better than any explanation I could give.

Click on the link below and see for yourselves:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv49RFo1ckQ&feature=youtu.be

Is he fit to stand trial?

a c ourtroomIn a courtroom, a psychiatrist was called in to give an opinion on a person with schizophrenia, as to whether that person was fit to stand trial or not. Was the individual of sound mind when the crime currently being investigated, was committed?

Tell me, does this make any sense? If that individual was not taking his anti-psychotic medication regularly, the attending psychiatrist would have recommended medication but as it takes weeks to kick in, it adds to the problematic aspect of the case.  So, while being cross-examined in a court of law, the individual on trial was probably not speaking lucidly about what happened or did not happen, at the given moment.  If he had been taking his meds regularly, the incident might not have occurred.

It is tough to diagnose whether a person is normal at any given time and whether he/she has a mental illness or not. I doubt whether a psychiatrist can diagnose a mental illness after one short session with a person. And, I always return to the question, what is normal? How many of us are normal all the time? Chances are that the court will send the person to a psychiatric hospital for observation for a while in order to make a decision one way or another. My plea to the psychiatrist: As a mother who has been there, I sincerely hope that you realize what a major trauma it is to be forced to remain for even one night in a psychiatric institution.

To move on or not to move on ….

questions 2To move on, or  not to move on, that is the question … which reminds me of Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

‘To be or not to be, that is the question.’

So, do I move on or not move on? Four years since my husband passed away, I think it is time.  It’s not easy to return home to an empty house with no one to greet me. I hear the house echoing from its very silence. Worst of all, there is nobody who knows whether I arrived home safely late at night or not. My husband got into the habit of calling me three times a day every day since we fell in love after our first date – he would have known where I was at any given time. So many years together; so many memories. Losing my husband changed my life drastically as he was my best friend.

But, something inside of me told me that maybe I could survive, that I could manage. Even though the last four years have felt like an endless amount of time for me since his passing. There have been moments when I felt quite ‘normal’ (even though I don’t like this word, I can’t think of a better one)  and it surprised me to discover that slowly but surely, larger parts of my days are spent feeling reasonably human once again. I suppose that while I was in the grips of grief, time’s force continued to pull it away from me and the resilience of my heart that has loved so much, eventually prevailed.

Although It took courage, I went to a symphony concert alone recently and even attended a series of lectures solo. Now, I have to pluck up the courage to enter a coffee shop without a companion and maybe even slip into a cinema in the dark to catch a movie that I really want to see instead of missing the best ones due to the fact that either my friends have seen it, or we can’t find a time that suits us both.

Are you a negative thinker?

A negative thinker sees difficulty in every opportunity while a positive thinker sees an opportunity in every difficulty.

I once read about a young boy with two prosthetic legs, yet in spite of this, he was a keen sportsman – a runner. His story prompted me to think about all the positive things I have I my life as well as the good times I have to look forward to which is far healthier than dwelling on tragedy. It’s okay to be sad sometimes, but making a different life and seeing the half full glass, is what counts. When I am writing, I am able to switch off from reality and write about whatever I wish – to go off into a world of fantasy if I so desire.  This has stood me in good stead and enabled me to continue sharing coping tools with other people.

The following poem by Rudyard Kipling says it all:

If you can dream but not make dreams your master.

If you can think and not make thoughts your aim.

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same …

Yours is the earth and  everything  in it.                                                   

 

IF one

The mystery of the human brain

The human brain is still a mystery and scientists and researchers are trying desperately to discover how it works. Even in this day and age, treatment is problematic. There is no blood test, x-ray, CT scan or other definitive device to show up a mental illness. A psychiatrist has to rely on observation and the patient’s description of his/her symptoms which is far from a perfect way of making a diagnosis, isn’t it?

Many times our son told his psychiatrist things that were not correct but due to patient confidentiality, we were not consulted. I feel strongly that a psychiatrist should hear both sides of the story.

Mental illness affected our son, our whole family, friends and neighbors too. It hindered David’s ability to perform ordinary everyday tasks.  I dream of the day when mental illness will be easier to diagnose. I also dream of the day that a miracle drug will be found.

szbrainlossA brain damaged by schizophrenia.

The blogging grandma

My journey toward becoming a blogging grandma started when I realized how much I had to say about mental illness, Alzheimer’s disease, the stigma associated with all brain illnesses, grief and a lot more. My late husband would have agreed with the fact that I have a lot to say, but in this case, he might even have egged me on to speak about it.

When our son was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, I barely knew how to spell it. While attending a support group for parents who had children with a mental illness, I learned how many sectors of our society do not know how to relate to this large section of our population who are basically gentle and kind people. However, if a person with a mental illness, known as a consumer in the United States, becomes psychotic and then stops taking  prescribed medication, the trouble begins.

People find the subject of mental illness upsetting and threatening, but it is everywhere. The prevalence rate for schizophrenia is approximately 1.1% of the population over the age of 18 or, at any one time as many as 51 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia. About 1.5  million people will be diagnosed with schizophrenia this year, worldwide. The rates of schizophrenia are generally similar from country to country.

A person diagnosed with a mental illness is usually the very last one to speak out about it due to the stigma. Mental illness is far more common than diabetes, heart disease or cancer. It is NOT a character flaw. It doesn’t help to tell someone: get over it. But it does help to show compassion as they are struggling. Try and find ways to give support. Maybe it’s time to deal with it openly with the emphasis on kindness and acceptance.

grandma using an iPadThis blogging grandma’s favorite tool of the trade.

Molehills into Mountains

mountain and molehill 1

MOLEHILLS INTO MOUNTAINS

Whenever I worried excessively, I realized that anxiety caused my  mind to fret over a particular problem forcing me to think more about the issue than about finding a solution for it. And as a result, the problem took on gigantic proportions. So, when my thoughts tended to run wild, I blew everything up, losing track of reality and resultantly turned a small molehill into a huge mountain. I assumed the worst, jumped to conclusions, and was unable to think clearly.

During stressful times, when my mind was in what I now call panic mode,  I was prone to catastrophizing and I felt as if I were having a panic attack, even though I was not quite sure what that meant. My mind seemed to be convinced that a panic attack would have terrible results. After all, what did I know in those days? Today, I look on the bright side, find the half full glass and believe with everything in me that things will be alright.