Ten years long

I feel the need to let out a big deep breath after that last entry. I haven’t let myself be so full of piss and vinegar, publicly, for far too long.
Thank you to those who understood it’s intention: about individual grief, and respecting it – about my personal experiences and my needs being disrespected and the desperate need to be heard when I’m aching to speak.

A few people came in to yell at me about judging others (who grieve “incorrectly”?), which was missing the point.
A few people came in to yell at me about how it’s unfair to force others to pry details out of grieving mothers who aren’t ready to talk. Which was the complete and total opposite of the point. It’s also worth mentioning that only one of these people were a grieving mother themselves – the rest “have a black gay grieving mother friend”.
Three or four told me I had no right to tell them how to grieve for their grandmother/friend/aunt/sister/mom – which was just plain confusing.

Anyway…
Many, many people asked if they could share the previous entry. Please know that anything I write publicly on this journal can be linked and shared. To be honest, the things I write on friends-only I don’t mind being shared either, within reason (IE. don’t be a dick). The only things I generally write on filters are usually ridiculous family drama (Ie. something only close friends would give two shits about, and even then I’m pushing the “this is not interesting” boundary), something business or “my geographical location” related (which is about stalker safety) or some graphic sexual stuff (which is mostly about being polite – if you think anything I’ve written public was “graphic” by comparison, you don’t know what you’re missing).

I’m grateful for my journal as a place to be honest to myself, my experiences, and my emotions; to give everything a time, a safe space and a voice.
It has helped me immensely through some of the worst periods of my life. It has become such an integral part of my life, my healing, and my therapy that I really don’t know what I would do without it. The need to write has been coursing through my veins since childhood, and I can remember keeping journals as young as seven.
They weren’t very interesting, but I still wrote something in them from time to time.

All through my friends list people are doing that “ten years” meme, and it made me realize I’ve been blogging for over ten years. So many things have happened in my life; I could argue that everything has. Everything of substance. Everything that has deeply and profoundly affected me, shy of my early childhood shit. I wanted to do my own take on the ten years meme, as a piece of writing rather than a list of accomplishments or interesting facts.
It forced me to dig through all of my archived journaling, long made private, and actually face the ‘old me’ I was so embarrassed by that I did away with all the public writings from that time. Not due to any specific content, but just for my ‘voice’ (or lack thereof) and how… dramatic and juvenile it sounded. That’s not really a good reason to privatize years of history, but it was obnoxious enough that I felt embarrassed every time yet another person told me they were reading back through my entire journal to learn about who I was “then” versus “now”.
Understanding where that behavior originated from, still fresh from intense trauma, really doesn’t help when it’s yourself you’re judging: it’s easier to be sympathetic to other people. We are our own worst critics, and I make myself cringe.

It was an exercise equal in curiosity and self-restraint to spend the hours absorbed in all the details from my life ten years ago, and beyond.

1999-2000: Ten years ago I had a Y2K new years party at a friends house with a number of individuals I considered to be close friends.
We sat in a circle talking quietly, personally. We played pool. We screamed when the power flickered just after midnight and for a split second we thought maybe Y2K was real.

I was 35 pounds overweight as a side effect of taking six different anti-psychotic medications. I was a virgin, and I was deeply in love – but it was a secret. I was deep in mental illness; hospitalized regularly with a numb patch from an almost constant stream of Haldol and tranquilizer injections. I shook, twitched, cut, cried, didn’t sleep and threw up on an almost constant basis. My reflection was a haggard, tired young woman etched with fresh scars from self-mutilation and a myriad of inappropriate attempts to cope with pain. I was torn between wanting someone to know; to help me, and wishing no one knew.
I trusted a girl at my school with my secrets when she invited me over to talk. She listened. She hugged me. She said she cared. The next day she dropped a textbook from the second floor balcony of the high school. It missed my head by half an inch. I knew what she was trying to do, but I smiled and picked it up. “You dropped this! It almost hit my head!” Laugh, smile. Please don’t embarrass me.
“Oh, I missed.” she replied, and walked away. I looked around and saw a hundred people snickering. One by one they took their turns. When you are the bottom rung of the social ladder, you are everyone’s plaything.
I dropped out of school when the death threats became too frightening and the principal told my mother, “We cannot protect her”.
I had a friend then who cared so deeply and unselfishly for me, but I had no idea… When I ran from class to cry in the bathroom, she ran to stand guard outside the door and protect me from my would-be attackers, then left before I saw her. It was years before I knew.

That first month of the new century was the last time I tried to commit suicide.
That spring I said “I love you” first.
That summer I lost my virginity in the summer heat, under the Northern Lights.
That fall I was pregnant for the first time, despite birth control pills and condoms.
That winter I suffered my first miscarriage. I discussed my life, and my wants, with my doctor. I was surprised and honoured that it he easily agreed with my plans: and despite my youth, if I wanted to ever be pregnant I needed to start trying soon or I would join the many others with my condition who did not have any chance for a biological child.

2001: Nine years ago I was working for a wonderful company who paid me in plane tickets so I could see Curtis as regularly as possible. I was a peer counselor at the alternative high school, and occasionally taught web and graphic design (volunteer). My life was about preparing to see Curtis and counting the days until the next time visit.
I took the bus when I couldn’t afford a flight, and filled half a dozen journals with stories of the travels, sketches of people I rode with, memories of sunsets and 3am transfers in Fresco waiting for the restaurant to open so I could have a ecoli-infested sandwich.
I thought my life was so dramatic, and so filled with emotional turmoil. Everything was a big deal. I did not seek counseling to help work through the experiences that were still so fresh; I trusted so very few. I saw my doctor once every two weeks for answers to my pain and constant illness. Eventually I gave up.

I was engaged and neck-deep in planning a wedding. I wore an emerald ring on my left hand that was lost in a series of moves many years later. Curtis proposed to me in bed on a night I showed up on his doorstep by surprise; we made love all night. The next day we bought a ring together and he got down on bended knee in the middle of the boardwalk to “do it properly”. I was so embarrassed I cried – post-traumatic stress resulting from years of high school trauma that taught me that being looked at would result in horrific abuse; it made what would otherwise be a beautiful moment, an awkward one.
I spent the entire year splitting obsession between my empty uterus and a wedding gown.

I was new to the public blogging world, and I learned the hard way how to write for an audience: why you need to fill in the blanks for people. I did not write openly about mental illness again for years.
I also learned the hard way that people can lie on the internet, and was betrayed by someone I once trusted. It was my fault for ignoring all the warning signs.

2002: Eight years ago Curtis and his father had a violent argument. Despite being a head and more taller than his dad, he fell to the ground under his father’s hands, and did not retaliate. We changed our flight plans and Curtis packed his bags. Curtis’ grandmother told me I destroyed their family, and screamed at me in the driveway of her daughter’s home after we’d asked to stay there for safety.
Instead of moving out five months later, Curtis moved out two days later. His mother and father saw us off at the airport. As we ascended the escalator toward the boarding area, I looked back at his parents. It was the only time I’d ever seen his father cry.
They did not speak for over eight months.
I tracked down an astrologer who had predicted where (and when) I would meet Curtis when I was 14 years old, and I introduced them. We had another reading, most specifically about our struggle through primary infertility. He told me I was meant to have children, and that something important would happen in regards to this “around December 8th“. I wrote it down on everything. It became my mantra.
We got on the waiting list for an IUI and started initial testing.

The night before my wedding I became hysterical. I drank too much, and took too many sleeping pills in effort to calm down. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified and I didn’t understand why. My brother came upstairs and sat with me, said the most beautiful words he’d ever spoken in our entire relationship, hugged me with sincerity for the first time in our lives… it was one of the only times in my life he ever showed real love for me. My friends surrounded us, crying and listening to such an amazing show of affection.

And I don’t remember it at all.

I caught mono from a wedding guest and had life-threatening complications. I was hospitalized when my liver and kidneys shut down, and I developed hepatitis from liver damage. I spent months vomiting stomach acid over a dozen times a day, permanently damaging my esophagus and weighing in at an alarming 87 pounds.
We began the process for Curtis’ immigration.

On December 5th, 2002 I found out I was pregnant with Tempest.

I moved out of the home I’d lived in since I was seven years old, and I was devastated.

2003: Seven years ago I was growing pregnant and was somehow both excited, and in denial. Years of unsuccessful trying had left me feeling as though this miracle couldn’t truly be. I diligently prepared for labour and birth, bought diapers, folded clothes, but I didn’t expect to have a baby at the end.
In the summer I was hot, swollen and overdue. We drove home from a midwife appointment and heard the radio announcer say, “A summer storm will be expected to come in tonight”.
“That’s what she’s waiting for,” said Curtis. As the wind started blowing that evening after supper, my contractions picked up. I laboured for 44 hours, transfered to the birth center, and after two hours of pushing I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.
The rest of my year was a blur of postpartum detachment, dealing with horrific breastfeeding problems, recovering from breast surgery and being kicked out of our perfect home when our landlords unexpectedly returned from Poland and decided they wanted to live there again. We packed up everything we, and my mother owned, and moved away on Christmas day when Tempest was just four months old. We drove for 15 hours to a new home, in a new city, for the first time in my life.

2004: Six years ago we had just moved up north. It was -45 and we had no car. We walked to the grocery store almost every day in weather so extreme there were signs on the store walls that warned of the dangers of breathing unprotected. I would dress Tempest in four layers of clothes, then zip her inside my coat completely before we went on a walk. It was either risk her suffocation, or risk death by freezing her lungs. I chose the lesser of two evils, and her cheeks were never even chilled.
My father lived a 25 minute walk from our home, in an apartment overlooking a frozen field. We used to visit him often, as we knew no one in town and made no friends…

Curtis handed out 100 resumes a week, but never found solid work. He ended up doing odd jobs for our landlords around their many apartment buildings so that we could pay rent.
We lived in squalor. We had moved house four times now and all of our things were thrown into our last place rather unceremoniously. We were so busy with everything else, we never got around to putting everything away. Our house was horrible. I avoided ever taking pictures because I was afraid of what people would think if they knew what a cluttered mess it was.
A few months later we were offered the apartment just above us, and this time when we moved we did it meticulously. Everything had a home, and a place, and the day we moved in the place was spotless. I never, ever, ever let my home get that cluttered again.
Ever.

We became vegetarians, then vegans. I’d never been healthier in my life. Even the dark circles under my eyes that had been there since I was eight had begun to fade.
That winter I suffered two miscarriages back to back and then discovered that our bedroom was infested with black mold after a leak in the window had gone inside in the walls.
Our landlords who had been so kind to us previously very suddenly turned and said that the mold was our fault. My father, a carpenter and home building expert for over thirty years, did his part to let them know this was not true – it was merely a flaw in the building design that caused the windows to leak and the fault of the contractor who originally built it decades earlier. They would not let up.

We finally received his permanent resident card, and he could finally get a “real” job. Unfortunately, there were still no bites. My father moved another hour more north, where it was even colder, but it was a larger city and I knew a few people there through Mothering. We decided to move again, and packed everything up.
We never received our damage deposit back. Afraid of conflict, we never pushed…

2005: Five years ago. My father got us a place sight unseen, he promised it was new and nice… though small. On the day we moved in and I realized it was a dark, gloomy basement apartment in a triplex with only a few windows I locked myself in the bedroom and sobbed.
Curtis applied to culinary arts on only a letter, as he had none of the prerequisites needed for acceptance. He was let in – and quickly soared to the top.
We gave up refined sugar completely.

In the spring I became pregnant with Jericho.
I spent weeks contacting midwives, doulas, talking my way through and trying to get care. I was blacklisted by all of the care providers for mentioning UC in a positive light, even though at that time I had no intentions of doing it. I had no choice, and made my decision to dedicate myself to self-care and unassisted birth.
Much of the next year was immersed in extensive research: diet, blood pressure, measurements, fetal movement, how to handle emergencies, memorizing lists and giving Curtis daily quizzes.
I knew something was wrong, and initially set up a secret ultrasound through my old midwife. I cancelled at the last minute after feeling a series of kicks and realizing that I had the power to control how I spent my pregnancy: in mourning, or in love. I chose the latter.

I had one amazing moment when, while checking my dilation, my finger slipped into my cervix and brushed against my son’s thigh. The amniotic sac was like the softest silk. He moved when I touched him, at first away, and then toward my fingers… as though I’d tickled him. I had never felt anything so incredible, and I don’t expect I ever will again.

I had never been healthier or more in touch with my body. It was the most incredible pregnancy experience I could ever ask for.

On Samhain night the fairies took my son through the veil in a blur of blood, torment and humiliation. My world fell apart.

2006: Four years ago my relationship with Curtis was strained. We went between extremes of love and war every day, and I was exhausted.
I knew something was off, but I ignored it for over a month before giving in and buying a pregnancy test. When it came up positive I waited between weeks and months to tell others: I was terrified, and riddled with guilt. I was so afraid that if people knew I was pregnant, they would forget about Jericho.

Curtis’ school schedule was insane. He got up at 5am and was gone until anywhere from two to seven o’clock at night. I was in a daze. I gave up being a vegan, and then gave up being a vegetarian, then ate sugar again. I had no strength anymore.

In the spring Curtis graduated, and we packed up and left three days later. We moved back ‘home’ to the coast, to a new house – sight unseen – that ended up being perfect.
That fall I gave birth unassisted to my beautiful 9.5lb, three-weeks-overdue surprise baby boy. It took just less than three hours.
Almost immediately after his birth our coast was struck with monsoon rains that flooded entire cities. The level of water was record-breaking, and did hundreds of thousands in damage.
Right after that was a class two hurricane, the first our area had ever seen. With the ground so saturated from record floods, our ancient forests were pulled out of their roots… thousand-year-old trees fell like dominos. Homes were destroyed all around us, and our porch was ripped off.
Right after that we were hit with a blizzard. Five feet of snow buried our house, downed live power lines and disconnected our entire neighborhood from the city. No one could get in or out for days, and our home quickly froze to negative twelve. I was terrified that Xan and my mother would freeze to death, and would wake up every morning at dawn to cover them with blankets and cry. We were trapped for days before the power came back on and we had heat again. Others weren’t so lucky.

2007: Three years ago Curtis was still working a job cooking at a 100-year-old pub. I hated it, there was always so much drama – plus, as vain as it was, I hated saying, “My husband works at a pub” even if it was a nice, heritage one.
I became depressed: the stress, the grief, and everything else suddenly hit me. I had a sort of breakdown, and sought counseling after believing that I was a danger to myself.

Our landlords started becoming odd, and threatened us. They said if we didn’t get out in a month, they would tell people we did 20’000 dollars worth of damage to their house.
On our “move out inspection” we brought a video camera and a burly witness. Not surprisingly, they changed their tune and decided the house was in pristine condition.
They wrote us a letter after we’d found a new home, telling us that they somehow miraculously “found” 4000 in damages the day after they signed off, but they weren’t going to pursue it because they wanted us to realize how fortunate we were to have such caring landlords.
I saved the letter in case we ever went to court.

We moved across the city to an entirely new area. The house was smaller, but everything else was better. It hurt like hell to leave the place my son was born in, even though it carried the bad memories of emotional abuse from our old landlords.

Curtis got a new job at the number one hotel in the city. That felt much nicer to say.

2008: Two years ago Now finally settled in a home we felt we may have some permanence in, we started to relax and tentatively unpack things we had been keeping in boxes since before Tempest’s birth. It was the first time something really and truly felt like a home.
I officially opened the doors for my photography business in January with the aid of new equipment and 12 years of “lay” experience.
I took on a higher position in the organization Now I Lay me Down to Sleep and took more calls. I met Beautiful Mama, whose little girl forever changed me.
Months later I met another woman whose son I photographed, and we quickly became friends, and founded the first grief group in the city for parents of those born still, or those who died quickly.
The meetings were slow, and at first few parents came… but all who showed up were in desperate need of a shoulder, and an ear.

My pain was getting worse, and I had spent too long ignoring it. With the whirlwind that had been our life finally dying down, I was starting to really feel it. After years in denial I finally admitted this was a serious problem and sought help.
We also began the long, difficult (and oft humiliating) road toward autism diagnosis and treatment for Tempest, and as soon as we started seeing a family therapist and introduced both medication and behavioral changes, things began to improve dramatically. She was years ahead of her schoolmates in reading, language comprehension and math. She continued to grow throughout the year while we struggled to have her setbacks recognized so we could give her more streamlined care. We were ridiculed in our own home by so-called professionals, and denied a referral to change specialists. I was told the only reason I pursued an autism diagnosis for my daughter was to “get back at the medical system” for what they did to me in childhood.

My sister began to experience serious life changes, and I began to have more access to her for the first time since she was four. We talked a lot. By the end of the year, we were much closer than we’d ever been, much to her mother’s chagrin.

With the help of journaling (both publicly and privately), extensive therapy and some amazing leaps forward in my ability communicate and rely on others… I was able to work through a lot of the trauma that was profoundly affecting my sexuality. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was surging with femininity and sensual energy.

2009: One year ago business was starting to pick up and I was beginning to make a dent in my debts.
I re-started therapy after intense stress and a long period of self-discovery made me vulnerable enough to have a breakdown. I didn’t understand at first how good a sign this was; I just felt raw and afraid. Curtis cut his hours down at work so he could be at home with me more often – and this is something I still feel guilty about. He’s never expressed anything other than joy over this choice, and has always said he loves ‘taking care’ of his family in any way he can. His dream, he says, is to be a stay at home dad if and when we ever have more children.

I was finally able to get on a pain medication that worked to help control my chronic pain; while nothing can ever be a magic pill, it was enough to allow me more mobility and freedom. It gave me hope.
Testing confirmed I was entering early menopause; and would join the many others with my condition who had limited fertility. At least I had a chance to have kids, and knew enough to start thinking about it before it was too late.

In the midst of this, I made the choice to write more openly about trauma and mental illness for the fist time in almost a decade. It was freeing.
I won my first award for photography in an international competition open only to registered professionals.
I finished, and posted, The Story Of Us (how Curtis and I met and fell in love) after trying to write it for over two years.

In the summer I traveled to Seattle to stay with a friend and do some ‘destination photography’. On our last day there I received a call saying my sister had run away from home. Some time later I received another call saying she’d been found. I called her as soon as I could, and we drove from Seattle to my father’s house to come and get her. She lived with us from that point onward, started a new school, started therapy and did nothing but cry and vent for the first many weeks she stayed.
I learned how difficult, and how incredibly rewarding it is to raise a teenager.
My sister’s grades improved dramatically on her first report card, and her communication skills soared over the months she lived here (so far). I am, and continue to grow more proud of her every day.

My pain was diagnosed as ankolysing spondylitis; the same disease that crippled my mother.
I thought about whether or not I wanted to take my last chance to have children, and still haven’t reached a real decision.

In the next ten years I will:
Turn 30.
Hopefully stop being carded in liquor stores as I near 40.
Adopt.
Be gentle with myself.
Never have a period again, and try to be the first woman in generations of my family to keep my uterus.
Lose mobility, and be okay with that.
Have a full time career – as much as I’m able.
Get out of debt.
Save for a home.
Support my children as they enter high school.
Go back to school.
Stay happily married.
Avoid diabetes.
Stay healthy, and slender.
Be less vain.
Continue the path toward good mental health.
Be open, trusting and more communicative.
Stay in therapy – when I need it.
Have lots of kinky sex.
Break boundaries.
Get a mammogram.
Make a name for myself.
Be more confident in my talents, and abilities.
Take more (creative) risks.
Inspire myself, and others.
… And keep adding to this list.

Comments

comments

62 Comments

  • nursedekk says:

    I was shocked to discover how long I’ve known you for… I still remember the first time the Doc told me you had a blog and I should read it and I discovered this wonderful world of images. I have to admit I didn’t read anything you wrote here until after I was pregnant with Ken and needed to know about cloth diapers. Your blog was just this place where I could see beautiful, true things. Since then I have loved getting to know you better through what you write. I’m always awed at how you put yourself out there and also look so deeply inside. I’m looking forward to having that calming tea with you some year or other…

    • admin says:

      It is CRAZY to me that I’ve known all you guys for 12 years. That is just… forever. It’s a huge chunk of my life and even though we’re all such different people we found each other through this weird little common interest (I mean really, out of all things… Jim’s reviews?)

      And, thank you. I look forward to that day, too. πŸ™‚

  • I first found your journal through the no-poo entry years ago…I read about your birth experiences and felt like something had exploded in my mind — I had never even imagined unassisted childbirth and my first reaction was ‘That’s crazy!’ like many others. I’ve come back and read it several times, and finally started feeling like I wasn’t prying by following your blog in the last 6 months or so. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experience in the way you have…your last entry I read to my partner, and we talked for literally an hour about it, back and forth. Some of the ideas that have started to shape me as a person (on sexuality, unassisted childbirth, grief, depression, family politics, spirituality) have been influenced and suggested by your blog…

    I offer a big virtual *hug* and thanks for this…it must be hard when you have people being bigoted and uninformed, and not listening. Especially on issues relating to birth, that they themselves haven’t experienced. I feel like you’ve started a lot of positive conversations and blown a lot of preconceptions out of the water…the internet can be a wonderful place where we learn from each other, thank-you for being the catalyst for that, and writing so frankly.

    Personally, the story of Curtis and you meeting and falling in love is something that really moved me to read. And rants like your last one really gives people permission to step away from what society tells them to do and think…I’ve had conversations about grief that I never knew how to start prompted by your entries, and I think that’s important for more people to do.

    All the best for the next ten years, you deserve it, and now that I’ve finally broken the ice I will end up commenting fairly frequently. Hi, nice to meet you :).

  • I’m so, so sorry, and also–thank you.

    I’ve been reading your LJ ever since–um–one of the pregnancy/parenting LJ groups? Can’t remember which one, and can’t seem to find it in a search. >_< Sorry for lurking so long!

    I just wanted to say: first, your family is amazing. All five of you. Second: you are a supremely talented photographer and writer. And third: thank you, thank you, for teaching me how to be of use to my sweet little sister, who recently lost a 13-week pregnancy. After years of difficulty with conception (burst appendix when very young, and even now she has much internal scarring). I feel privileged by this window into your lives–and SO grateful that I’ve been able to avoid (mostly, I hope) being accidentally hurtful to my sister.

  • more_musings says:

    thank you…for keeping your journal, and sharing so much of yourself.

    I am facing early menopause, and…it terrifies me. I’m 26 and not in any kind of place where I could have children yet and raise them how I want to…but the thought that I may not be able to scares me so much.

    • admin says:

      :-/

      That is really frightening. I already have children, and that softens the blow somewhat, but my fears right now are similar to a smaller degree: I’m not ready for another child, I don’t have enough stability, but I’m terrified I’m making a mistake by waiting. Almost daily I worry aloud that this is something I’ll regret. How do I really know?

  • lomoca says:

    It is amazing to me to read your journal. You write so candid. Our daughter was taken by cancer 10 years ago. She would be 17 now. I am afraid to write down my feelings in case someone I know would read them and know the real me. The pain of losing her is so great at times that I want to scream too. Just at Christmas it was mentioned several times, that it was so great that “eveyone in the family” was able to get together for Christmas. Excuse me? Don’t you notice that a beautiful young woman with porcelain skin and inch long lashes is MISSING??!! But I am quilty too as I say nothing and let another little piece of me die.

    • admin says:

      I am so sorry that they didn’t acknowledge her for the holidays. That’s really shitty, especially for THE HOLIDAYS. I always feel like even though it’s just a day, it hurts more to have someone/yourself not thought of. πŸ™

      At the same time, I want to say that I really and truly feel that when you think of her in that moment, to feel so strongly and so deeply about the impact her life left on everyone around her… you were bringing her memory with you. Even if they didn’t mention it, you’re carrying a part of her spirit, and that is her legacy.
      I don’t mean for it to sound placating, and I hope I’m getting across what I intend to… I don’t know, I’m not speaking very clearly tonight but I hope this makes sense.

  • What an amazing journey you’ve been on! No wonder I feel so connected to you after only knowing you a little. Your courage and honesty and resilience and growth really shows your strength of spirit. I have a feeling that things are going to keep going well for you, not just because you deserve it but because you’ve worked hard at it and made this story happen. If you hadn’t taken every step along this path I would never know this amazing Heather person who has been through so much pain but always has love and mischief in her eyes.

  • Anonymous says:

    Talk All You Want!

    Hi, I think that people who have lost a child should be allowed to run around screaming covered with chocolate syrup if it makes them feel better. There should be a more open, supportive attitude towards people who have lost a child. People should not have pressure or discouragement when it comes to discussing their lost child. Stay strong and keep writing.

  • altarflame says:

    I started one of these several days ago and ended up saving it to my computer to come back to.

    I didn’t know you had a job that paid you in plane tickets, or that the pub job was in a pub. Otherwise, it’s crazy how I almost could have written it for you.

    I love the upward curve, so much ♥

  • sualkin says:

    I can’t believe I’ve known you for so long! I didn’t realize it’d had been that long.
    You’ve had an amazing 10 years.

  • ihatepavel says:

    Cool entry. It’s amazing that one person can see their life change so much, isn’t it?

    A few people came in to yell at me about how it’s unfair to force others to pry details out of grieving mothers who aren’t ready to talk.

    Just making sure: This wasn’t your interpretation of what *I* wrote, was it? I didn’t read all the comments after I visited, so I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I certainly didn’t intend to come off that way, if it is.

  • inertiaflux says:

    I look forward to your posts so much, they give me hope that one day I’ll get out of this blackness and go on to something more healthy and happy. Thank you.

  • dwer says:

    On Samhain night the fairies took my son through the veil in a blur of blood, torment and humiliation. My world fell apart.

    That is a hell of a powerful image.

  • catling42 says:

    Heather,

    This is one of the most beautiful entries I have ever read. (So was the last one, thank you.)

    You don’t know me. I have been following your journal since just after Jericho’s birth and death. I am continually inspired by your honest writings of your life. I look forward to your amazing photos (god, they make me wish I both lived near you and had children) and stories of your family. I shared your journal with my mother because your photos and observations are so beautiful (even when they hurt).

    I don’t feel like I “know” you; people are so much more than a collection of blog posts, but I’ve been following your story. I just want to say, I believe in you. You are amazing and strong, and someone who makes so much effort to be real and present has to succeed. I hope the next ten years bring you more happiness and less sadness.

    This is one of those ridiculous comments, but. Your honesty inspires me to keep striving at making the best for myself, honoring my art and dreams and loves. Thank you for sharing.

    -Cat

  • imbroglio says:

    Loved reading this! Also, please be sure to write more about that kinky sex you plan on having in your juicy sex entries. πŸ˜‰

  • On Samhain night the fairies took my son through the veil in a blur of blood, torment and humiliation. My world fell apart.

    My heart swelled in my chest and I felt so raw and alive reading that. I cried. You have touched and changed so many lives in tremendous ways. Thank you. I cling to every word you write, the same way I do to my other beloved writers.

  • satinworship says:

    Clarification: Did you meet Curtis when you were 14 or were you 14 when that person told you that you would meet him?

    • admin says:

      Both.
      Met him online around then, and the saw the astrologer at that age who told me that I would find what would change my life forever – my soul mate – in southern California. I replied, “California is dirty, I won’t ever go there again” (I went to Disneyland some time earlier).

      Also interesting: I saw a tea leaf reader when I was still with ‘the other guy’ and she told me that my reading was incredibly clear, regardless of what I came there to ask or be told about (which was something ENTIRELY different than love – I thought I was set). She said that I would meet a very tall, dark-haired man who was my true love… on a ski trip.
      I actually laughed at her because it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. She wouldn’t answer any of my other questions, she said, because everything was like a big neon sign about this.

      Three months later, in April, I came into the alt school and there was a big message written on the board that said, “Ski trip in two weeks – get your forms in!”. I had a huge panic attack and decided I wouldn’t go, because I thought it meant my relationship with Kara would end and I didn’t want to be alone. Kara was extremely short (my height), and not dark-haired.

      So I was one of TWO people who stayed home. Kara dumped me, and Curtis and I admitted out love for each other.
      He was 6’4″ and very dark-haired. πŸ˜‰ So, it seems regardless of whether or not I went on the ski trip… I still found my soul mate. You can’t mess with fate!

  • mussare says:

    Hurrah! I love the sense of adventure here, and what goals! I do hope you export and back this up regularly, and at some point make it into a book (books?).

    re: previous entry still unsure if I ought to have written at all. It is difficult w/ the internet/entries in public fora to totally allow for everything the author person is trying to express regarding their personal needs without ending up ruminating regarding similar experiences. Certainly was not intended to offend (I hope not), and in fact led to good conversation w my father the other night.

    re: goal of “Continue the path toward good mental health”, how do you know when/where the goal is reached? My answer continues to change and I am often curious how others approach it.

    re: AS there is an excellent new book just published, if you’d like me to post it after I’m done (one of our kite team members, the one in Vic actually, has it so… we learn).

    and, well, just, ta rah for you. A well lived life indeed!

    • admin says:

      I don’t recall specifically what your comment was, without going back and reading, which means that you’re good. πŸ˜‰ The people that got hairy about it really made a huge spectacle of themselves (and were largely on the other site I cross-post to), so don’t worry.

      Mental health: I don’t honestly feel that there will be a day when everything is perfect and I’m suddenly ‘cured’ of all my problems. I consider ‘good mental health’ a balance between good and bad days, with good functionality and as minimal fear and panic as possible. I assume I’ll always be in and out of therapy (as that’s an integral part of mental health) and always learning.

      I’m curious about the book. πŸ™‚

  • conchispa says:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing yourself so openly and honestly (including by all means your last post). It is difficult to put in words how much I appreciate your insights.

    As a clinical psychologit, it helped me quite a bit to read about your process of getting Tempest diagnosed and I’m much better able to spot signs of high-functioning Autism now. In fact, I had a new client a while ago who battling an uphill battle, saying that something was wrong with her daughter but no one wanted to believe her. She described a lot of behaviors and issues you mentioned with Tempest and I went ahead and refered her for a full developmental eval and told her that it indeed sounded like an Autistic spectrum. She was so relieved to be validated.

    I have another long-term client who went through a lot of institutional abuse as well. Perhaps not to the extent you went through, but still it was a traumatic thing for her. It aggrevates me to no end to hear of these stories which, unfortunately, happen a lot more often than we’d like to admit πŸ™ Makes me quite embarraseed for my profession sometimes, in all honesty. People can get so callous and desensitized, especially in an institutional setting. They may actually have good intentions but end up doing damage. And it is our ethical responsibility to recognize when we, as professionals, are ineffective or potentially harmful to our clinets. Of course there are other professionals who are plain assholes and criminals.

    Anyhow, I better stop my novel. I’m not even sure what the point is of this rambling, other than to sincerely express my appreciation. You are in inspiration!

    • wolfteaparty says:

      I am glad that these entries helped someone in the psychology field. I have a form of high-functioning autism and got misdiagnosed, medicated, etc. throughout my childhood. When I finally found out on my own what it was at age 22, a lot of people didn’t believe me, including a therapist. I feel fortunate that I was finally able to get diagnosed last year, because it’s hard to get a kid (especially a girl) diagnosed and harder as an adult. I’ve heard that girls are underdiagnosed because it’s thought of as something boys get, and they can get good at masking their symptoms.

      • admin says:

        Yes.
        It presents entirely differently in girls. For one, they’re much better at holding it together for longer periods of time before they fall apart. And as you said, are better at masking it overall. Society has more pressures on girls to be demure, and it has a profound effect on you from a very young age… regardless of how you raise your kids.

        I was diagnosed at four but my mother fought to have it recognized as “valid” and get me treatment for years.

    • admin says:

      This comment means a lot to me. Thank you so much.
      It’s funny but it over the course of the last 2-3 days a number of people have specifically mentioned “instutitional abuse” when referring to my stays as a child/teen and I had never heard it put in those words… even though it’s true. It has felt incredibly validating and… good. Hard to feel good about something so awful, but it’s a relief not only to really and truly realize other people have heard me, but they respect how intense and traumatic it was without being weird about it. It’s not a secret, it’s not something we don’t talk about — it just… is. And having comments from other people in the profession who have said it’s helped them think, or look around, or talk to even one other person about their experience makes it a positive thing that I’ve shared it. Thank you. πŸ™‚

      • conchispa says:

        Oh, I completely forgot to mention another thing that is especially relevant to your last post. One of my clients came to me a couple of years ago following a death of her 7-year-old girl as a result of a terminal brain stem cancer. This woman had the hardest time moving through the grief process. She was hospitalized at least once, was severely depressed, had to go on disability for a few months here and there. One of the stumbling blocks was her fear that she would forget about her daughter or somehow stop caring. She wanted to hold on to every tiny memory, including every painful memory, and was really afraid that she’d start forgetting about those moments, experiences, etc. She would also feel incredibly guilty for moments of “moving on” and not always being sad and grieving, because that too she interpreted as forgetting or not caring. It took a long time of processing, and some EMDR, to help her realize that she will never forget anything (especially if she writes things down, makes keepsakes, etc), nor would she ever stop caring even if she herself starts feeling happy again and can regain some normalcy in her life. It was a long, long process. This experience, coupled with yours of course, really helped me see how important it is to remember every little detail and how memories/talking about them are an intergral part of healing, not the other way around. I knew about it in theory, but it’s another thing to experience it with real people.

        Our culture is so fucked up when it comes to death and when it comes to “getting over” something, especially. The intense discomfort with death is astounding. And some people expect that to “get over” something means essentially forgeting about the experience. But you never get over a loss of your child, NEVER. That is something that will change you and your life forever. Can you get to the point where you can move on with your life, be reasonably happy overall and function normally? Yes. But you will have times of break-down, seemingly random things will trigger your grief and memories, you’ll have “bad days”, no matter how much you’ve worked through your grief. That IS normal. Lots of people have a difficult time accepting that sadness and anger, even in intense, are normal and OK.

        Another component of grief is that it usually intensifies after a few months or after the first year. In the beginning there is a protective value of shock, plus everyone rallies around the grieving person and there is an outpour of support. Then she shock wears out, the support dwindles, everyone else seems to move on. Then the real, painful grief sets in and, ironically, there is little support left for the grieving person. It’s made worse by those people who don’t understand why the grief is worse, expecting someone to “get over it” by now, which is so incredibly invalidating and unhelpful at best, hurtful often.

  • goddessdi says:

    I just started reading your journal not long ago, but I admire how open you are about your life. I always feel like I can’t be open about everything to certain people and then I feel silly for not being more open…it is my journal after all.

  • love part 10

    Amazing.

    1) I did not respond to your other post because we were on the road and I was writing on the iphone. I LOVED it. I also love feeling like I can talk about how painful my DOG’s death has been and you support my voice, its up there with my conversations with God.

    2) I loved this. I am 7 weeks pregnant with our first and we currently live in an antique BMW, which is temporary but it seems like everyone has “stability” when they have children and its good to read that other people faced a few more challenges along the way.

    I feel like you are taunting me in regard to the juicy sex entries. I’m not on your friends list and you said you had too many people. BUT if you added me, you would never ever need to feel obliged to comment on my LJ !

    Now that I’ve basically begged, Im going to go. All my love to you, your family, especially Jericho.

    Love
    Emma

  • Wow. Just WOW. You’ve had a lot happen in 10 years.

    Very interesting to read it all.

    I’ve loved having you as a friend for so long, particularly for the last 5 years or so since we’ve gotten closer. Let’s do 70 more.

    • azazl says:

      you know I meant to say something about that last post, but with sooo many replies…anyway I suppose I have been an awkward participant in mother grief for the last 25 years. My brother committed suicide when I was 13 and he 25. Of course I was a child at the time…but even 25 years later its a tabboo subject with my mother. Its just not spoken of, not honored, never been dealt with. I have always known this was wrong, but the idea of broaching the subject and possibly digging up all that pain now at her age seems almost cruel. I named my first born son after my brother. I admire your fiery spirit and refusal to subjugate yourself to false public decorum.

    • admin says:

      πŸ˜€ Feeling is mutual, Pammy.

  • bluealoe says:

    It’s absolutely insane to realize how long I’ve known you.

    You are an amazing person, and you continue to grow and become more confident and inspiring every day. I love you.

  • kissokomes says:

    My father has anklyosing spondilitis, and I spend way too much time worrying about when it will cripple him, or show up on my doorstep and cripple me.

    However, he also has rheumatoid arthritis in his neck, and has had his lower back (where his AS is located) broken during poor treatments.

    He is almost 50 years old, he walks most days, (every few weeks he has to stay in bed most of the day) works full time still, and drives a sportscar. He’s one of the happiest people I know. :3

    May I ask – is your AS in your lower back? I ask because apparently it presents first in the low back for most people, but I try and monitor my back pain because I know it’s hereditary, but I mostly feel pain in my neck/shoulders when I get it.

    Thanks for writing this out! It was a great read through your past ten years.

    • admin says:

      Yes, mine is in my low back. I have some fusion in my lower spine, and it causes pain to radiate up my back and down my thigh.
      I’ve also found that it affects large muscle groups with burning pain, like my thighs.

      • kissokomes says:

        May I ask one more question, just because I find anecdata more useful than symptom lists, and I try to monitor myself for symptoms –

        What did you notice first that made you get looked at? Pain, obviously, but would you be able to describe what sort and where it affected you?

        I realize I’m getting really personal, so I won’t be offended if you would rather decline to answer my questions, I just think you’re a pretty wise person when it comes to this stuff, and I’d value any advice or tips you could give to someone who is concerned they might develop AS themselves. Thank you! πŸ™‚

        • admin says:

          Believe me, this isn’t “really personal”. πŸ˜‰

          I’ve been in pain since I received my hormone treatment at 14. But I did have joint pain prior to that, in early childhood…
          The back pain started around then, and gradually worsened over time. Originally I was told it would go away when my “growth evened out, somewhere in your mid-20’s” but that never happened.
          My mother was diagnosed and had surgery to replace parts of her spine when I was around 11-12 (I think?) and was bed-ridden for two years. My brother and I had to do stuff like shave her head when she got bedsores… while she cried because she didn’t want to look so bad. πŸ™ It was awful. But, she avoided being paralyzed for life.

          So, it was always on my mind since it was in the family already. I’ve been seeing doctors and specialists for most of my life for various issues (hormone, pain, allergies, blah blah blah), but a few years ago when the pain got out of control and the unmedicated life was just way too intense for me I asked my doctor for a referral and started doing the pain specialist thing. I did research and was very intent on a particular drug: methadone. It’s safer, more effective, less addicting and better for long-term use. I printed out pages upon pages of studies and took them with me. When one doctor refused to give me *anything* for the pain I quit him and went to another.
          Eventually my stubbornness paid off and I saw a pain specialist who believed me, and put me on methadone maintenance. It is the stuff of miracles: it has given me SO MUCH of my life back – and it doesn’t make you feel high or stoned so you can still HAVE a normal life.
          The last pain medication I was on didn’t work, and it completely took away my ability to have an orgasm for FOUR FUCKING MONTHS. The doctor at the time really didn’t seem to think that was important, and wouldn’t switch me. I bet if I was a man he would have.
          (On a TMI note: three days after getting off that medication I had sex and was finally able to climax for the first time in months and I actually screamed out, “THANK YOU JESUS”!). For the record, it was tramadol 350’s, and men use it to treat premature ejaculation. Don’t ever take it.

          Anyway… my pain specialist told me that I should see a rheumatologist about my knees and joints because the methadone wasn’t really touching that pain, so I got a referral for one. Part of his practice is to run a complete panel of tests, including genetic stuff that I’d never had done before. He found out that I was HLA-B27 positive, which in combination of family history and a whack of symptoms made him look deeper and we found that I did indeed have the beginnings of AS.
          It helped significantly to keep a pain diary: print out a picture of the human body (front, back and side views) and draw on it symbols of the type of pain you’re feeling, where you’re feeling it. Burning, aching, spasming, numbing, etc… take that wherever you go because you’ll ALWAYS end up with white coat syndrome when you finally go in and see your doctor (which is when all your pain is gone as soon as you sit in the chair and you can’t remember what the hell you wanted to say).

          • kissokomes says:

            Haha, wow, thank you SO much for this! My dad has talked to me about getting the genetic testing so we’ll know if I’ll likely develop AS or not, but I can’t determine if I really think it’s worth it – if I assume that I have the gene and just keep an eye on my body, I think that might be just as good, but who knows — if the test is covered for me (thankfully I chose to go with one of the few US private insurers that DO ACTUALLY BELIEVE IN PREVENTATIVE HEALTHCARE OMG CONCEPT) I’ll probably get it done.

            If anyone ever tries to give me those Tramadols I’ll instead use them as mini-baseballs to bat off the balcony with a purple, floppy, special toy. Eff that noise. And yeah, I love how for men inability to orgasm is like a MEDICAL ISSUE but for women it’s probably just that they’re all stressed from not doing enough dishes or something. *stabby*

            Thank you SO much for this advice. I love what you write!

            • admin says:

              Having the gene doesn’t mean you’ll get it, but it does put you in a high risk category for a number of inflammatory back diseases and such. The test itself is non-invasive (just blood draws) so it might be worth it just to see… and in that case you can keep an eye on it. The earlier you catch and treat it, the better.

              On the sex thing being only an issue for men: yes, totally. It’s so frustrating. I mean, my sex life is important to me. I love sex. So being able to HAVE sex is a big plus in whatever pain medication I chose… if I mention that I suddenly and inexplicably can’t have an orgasm they’re all like “yeah some women are like that” as if we’re just some big mystery. I had to do all the research myself to find out the drug had off-label usage for men who want to last longer. Ugghhh.

  • tastyanagram says:

    I just read all of this. Thanks for sharing.

  • zdafos says:

    I added you three years ago as we belonged to the same baby community, and I have enjoyed reading your blog and seeing all your pictures. I would love to be able to read your friends only posts also .. so I am asking to be added to your friends list. πŸ™‚

  • koadtoad says:

    I’m grateful for my journal as a place to be honest to myself, my experiences, and my emotions; to give everything a time, a safe space and a voice.
    It has helped me immensely through some of the worst periods of my life. It has become such an integral part of my life, my healing, and my therapy that I really don’t know what I would do without it.

    I love that keeping it helps you, in writing it, and also all of us in reading it. That just… thrills me. I’ve been exposed to so much through your journal that I would not have, otherwise. It has even caused me to *consider* parenting as a possibility for my future–not something you would have ever heard me say before, just because I didn’t realize that… well, I guess that there’s another way!

    Thank you so much!

  • handgun says:

    on a random sidenote, as someone who’s been reading you since right after Tempest was born, it’s been really cool to see how you’ve evolved emotionally over the years. πŸ™‚

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