Category Archives: mental health

Service

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Service
July Sugar Block

July Sugar Block

Here’s this month’s block that Amy Gibson calls “serve.” It was an interesting combination of techniques: quarter square triangles, paper foundation piecing, and the basic nine patch assembly. It was a fun task to grab some stripes and make them line up the way I wanted them to. I’ve always had an irrational fear of stripes in my quilting–probably because they never lined up in one direction, like when my grand mother used to force me to wear striped pants when I was a kid! But they worked great this time around and I’m so happy!

Anyway, Amy put it to us to “serve.” She quoted the Bible and seemed to find some solace there, and that’s cool. I liked her bullet list at the end of the entry that was a bunch of down to earth methods to be a better person. Like patience in line, giving people your seat, doing others favours when they ask you to (ie getting them a drink from the fridge while you’re on your way over; there’s a common request in our house!) etc. Just being good. I’d like to think I follow those tenets of living. Although depression makes it very hard sometimes.

For those who’ve lived with a person who is depressed they probably think it’s a selfish disease. It looks like that on the outside. But it’s not. It’s an exhausting disease. And any medications don’t help. And for the same reason depressives often fall on depressant drugs like alcohol and pain killers, the pharmaceutical companies produce meds that have the same sedating effects. It’s a drag, quite literally.

Bronwen's tomato sprouting seeds

Bronwen’s tomato sprouting seeds

One thing that’s been inspirational lately is watching Bronwen grow up. She has developed interests that I never had at her age, like nature. This girl is a whiz at sprouting seeds and keeping plants alive.  Her father and I are terrible at it, but she’s got a green thumb. She also remembers factoids about certain trees, plants, and animals. She makes sure our fish and invertebrates are doing well each day. It’s so refreshing to hear her spout off about that stuff. Don’t get me wrong–she’s a normal kid, too. She loves video games, cartoons, Disney princesses, and being colour coordinated.

When she was a baby she felt like a small animal that was constantly unhappy. My husband and I were fighting day and night to keep her and ourselves alive. It was a strange feeling. I didn’t feel love for her at that point and I’m not proud of that. But in “service” of this person that I wasn’t particularly fond of yet, I did all the laundry, diaper prep for the diaper service, bathing (in between my own mandatory sitz baths), and bottle cleaning. Now she’s school age and we can talk things through. We are happy we served her well and she is a happy, thriving child about to enter kindergarten.

an earring bundle!

an earring bundle!

I just sold these earrings yesterday. It was so awesome to see a happy lady take some merchandise off my hands. Some of you may not know this, but I actually make jewelry too! I just haven’t made any lately because I have a full inventory! So there you have it: another facet of me. It’s a lot of fun meeting people who will be wearing my goodies.

This lady who came to my home had two very gregarious young boys. The oldest told me he was five and by the looks of his brother (who was dressed in a super hero costume) he was likely around three. They immediately spotted the trappings of another kid’s house: building blocks laying around, balloons, and of course they couldn’t resist the keyboard at full blast. Now the old me (especially prior to motherhood) would have dwelled on those kids making such noise. But in service to my client I talked to the kids about kid stuff and talked with their mom about mom stuff. It was fun, really. And it was all following the basic tenets of being a good person, I think. And I think that’s what I read into Amy Gibson’ s blog post about service. Give it a read. See what you think.

mighty bail of batiks

mighty bail of batiks

These are just some wicked awesome batiks that I wanted to show off! They’re for my next quilt! I never used to think much of batiks but I’m starting to really like them.

Have a fun week everyone!

Tired of this

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Tired of this

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It’s been crazy and fun and exhausting around here. I’m assembling my Craftsy workshop quilt that Amy Smart designed, called “hopscotch.” I thought that was an interesting name considering what’s going on around home.
I’ve been keeping my head down with my quilting so that I don’t lose my mind. Yesterday I took off and drove up the highway to a new fabric shop where I picked out an awesome pair of jelly rolls and layer cakes–enough for two quilts I’ve been meaning to get to.
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Bronwen and I spent our first ever night alone on Tuesday. My husband had traveled to the mainland to a job interview. “So what?” you ask. Well, this is big because in the past I never would have had the emotional energy to take that on. We went to the splash park, ate Mickey D’s, and read stories.
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Bronwen graduated from preschool last week! The kids sang songs for us and wore amazing paper mortar board hats. The teachers (miss Dianne is standing and miss Mary Helen sitting) wrote sweet little grad blurbs about each child and gave out even cuter diplomas. I am no crier but man that was the height of cuteness!
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I’m in love with this month’s Sugar block! It is called “teach.” The quilt is “hopscotch” and the block is “teach.” How schoolish. I feel like I’ve done a ton of schooling since moving to this island 12 years ago. I got two degrees, a husband and a daughter. I also got post partum depression, PTSD, worsened borderline personality disorder, committed two suicide attempts which resulted in lengthy hospitalizations–all of which schooled me.
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The quilt below is called “granny squares”. It’s a pattern from Amy Gibson’s “twisted Irish chain” class. It was an anal retentive pattern that required a lot if organizing, but it was worth it. I had fun making a biased border for the edging! Never tried that before!
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So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m desperately (feverishly, really) trying to keep quilting to keep my disorders at bay and prevent anxiety attacks and depression. I haven’t had one in over a year and I intend to keep gaining more time between the last one and the present. My husband told me that’s what allows him to be supportive of this expensive hobby. If it means I’m not hoarding pills to overdose on, he can handle it. Now if only one of the damned jobs he’s applied to would pan out!!
Wish us luck!

Medication

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Medication

Every time I go to the psychiatrist he asks, gently mind you, “Danielle, how would you feel about reducing your medication?” My response is always “No, I’m not reducing anything.”

I’ve been taking the same load of drugs for the past two years. Since I woke up in ICU, pretty much. It’s been so long it almost feels like 10 years. That was when Cody was still a law school student and I was exhausted.

Bronwen’s class went on a field trip to a veterinary hospital not long ago. They explained how the insert a breathing tube “so that the animal can sleep.”

She told me later that I had one of those tubes in while I took a long nap. Talk about heart breaking.

I think that’s why I’m afraid of less drugs. I’m holding on to my sanity (sometimes just barely) with this amount of drug. Who’s to say if I will or won’t attempt suicide again if there is a decrease?

I try to explain this to John but he keeps saying that I shouldn’t need stuff like Gabapentin anymore because I’m off Tylenol which was causing headaches. But, like Seroquel, it is a sedating drug that keeps the world smoother rather than rough.

It’s a prescribed version of codeine (minus the high). I’m told that’s why people like me go to alcohol or other depressants. They are a warm hug in a cold life.

I love hugs. I love closeness. Probably because I spent so much time alone.

I hope you get lots of hugs. Have a good week, everyone.
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Joy

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Joy sugar block

Joy sugar block

“Oh joy! Love you bring! Oh joy! Make my heart sing!”– Joy from Mick Jagger’s album Goddess in the Doorway

This is the May Sugar Block. I think it came out cute. It was simple paper piecing. Right now I’m doing a Dr. Who quilt for a friend of mine and it is totally the opposite: paper piecing in the extreme! But I am still joyous in the process of making it because I have finally figured out how to free motion quilt normal looking stitches! No more long stitches and short stitches and eyelashes on the back. Just normal looking machine stitching. I am so happy about that.

Another bit of loveliness is that I am a featured artist for Jennibellie’s TAT (Tell all Tuesday) on her blog, jennibelliestudio.blogspot.co.uk. Here’s the link to the article (with pics of my office in a clean, rare state):  http://jennibelliestudio.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/tell-all-tuesday-featured-artist.html. I would be so honoured if you took a read and a look at the fun pics.

The comments the post generated are lovely; apparently many people live with the same or similar obstacles that I do. It is nice to read that. Not that I enjoy knowing other people suffer, wow, that came out totally wrong! But we all seem to think “I’m alone in my pain.” We’re not. It’s just so hard to keep focused on the positive, the eyes on the prize.

My husband just got his two week notice this morning. Too much expansion in the firm he has articled at has caused a financial strain. Many support staff are leaving, and other lawyers. Even one of the partners is leaving. So that’s heart breaking. Just when things are looking up, the pit shows up. It will be a very rough time for me and my family for the next while, so be forewarned if my posts are a little less, well, joyful.

I leave you with the first block I made for my friend’s quilt. It is heavy duty paper piecing. I’ve made six blocks so far in the sampler series and they’re all turning out superb. I’m doing a quilt as you go method, so it’s been nice to make a block from start to finish in a day, ready for sashing.

Tardis

Tardis

Have a good week everyone. I know I’ll be trying.

Presence

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Presence

So have any of you lovely people found yourselves addicted to blocks of the month? I sure have.

It started with the craftsy block of the month classes, which are free. Then I got into paid classes. Then I found out about a great (and economical) block of the month called The Sugar Block Club, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Last year’s cute blocks are in my latest sampler that I’m still quilting (it’s an oversized queen bed quilt that I’m doing by hand, so yeah. It’s been a very long time in the quilting). They came with recipes for goodies, if that’s your thing. This year’s blocks are about going “beyond the block,” so there’s recipes and reflective themes around which the blocks are designed.

an embroidered quilt label

an embroidered quilt label

This month is “Presence.” I find this theme interesting, as I have joined several blocks of the month groups from all over the internet and have been having fun keeping up. By the end of the day I get a chance to read and get caught up on correspondence, whether that be email or facebook or anything else.

Lately I’ve been on the phone more than usual. My grand mother was just in a serious car crash that broke her arm and killed her friend that was travelling with her. It has been very sad for us. Luckily Maria’s family went to my Nonna and told her they bore no ill will and they forgave her for what happened, even though it wasn’t her fault. We’re greatful that Nonna didn’t have another stroke from the incident’s physical and emotional strain. She suffered a stroke last year trying to help Nonno back up after he fell getting out of bed.

It’s very sad and one of the hardest things in my life to sit back and witness my grand parents getting older. I mean, it’s going to happen, I get that. But my grand parents are very strong willed people. They grew up in Mussolini’s Italy. My Nonno was a very young man in the war and kept as a POW for two years in Cologne Germany after liberation while the countries were able to cobble up a rail line to get people back to where they needed to be. My Nonna is 10 years younger, but suffered in her own way at that time. She had to raise her brothers from the age of 11 after her father died of the flu. Her sisters and mother worked the field and considered her still too young and needed the house run. To this day nobody manages a house like Nonna. It is always pristine.

Having said that, this concept of “presence,” as put forward by this month’s sugar block, I’m intrigued by the history of that. What is meant by that term in this case is to spend quality time with your loved ones. No screens, no divided attention. It’s funny because my grand parents wouldn’t have had the time for “quality” time either in childhood or as parents themselves. They were hard workers–and still are, as much as they can be. They still live in the same house they built in 1956. It’s a typical two storey rambling house from that era. Superficial things are different about it now, such as the vinyl siding my Nonno installed back in 1989, the “new” kitchen that was done in 1974, the carpeting that was replaced in 1986. But otherwise the place remains the same.

They worked very hard to pay for that house in cash. Never had a mortgage. Nonno worked Christmas eve and Christmas day shifts at the Cominco mine for triple time so they’d have extra money. Quality time? Time spent not working was a waste for this generation.

My parents were very similar to this, in a contemporary sort of way. Yes, they had a mortgage, car payments, credit card debt, the usual stuff. But because of those factors, they worked hard in their white collar jobs. Mom was a legal secretary (and still is) and my dad was (and still is) in the aviation industry. By the end of a work day, we’d sit together and have dinner, and then ask to be excused from the table and me and my sister would blast off downstairs to the TV room. My parents would stay upstairs and chat, or more commonly, watch their own TV.

This was light years before the internet became ubiquitous as it is today, so TV was pretty much the only diversion of the time. I never blamed them for not spending “present” or “quality” time with us as we grew up. They were busy. Parents who care are busy. That’s how I saw it.

But now I’m a parent. I am busy and I care about our daughter. So does my husband. But sometimes the best way we can spend time with Bronwen is to sit and do our own things. She likes cartoons. I like reading or watching craftsy classes, sitting downstairs quilting, or dashing off a block or two for my BOMs. My husband likes to play zombie games on his phone. The one thing that is “quality time” in the traditional sense is bedtime stories. We do make a point of having that. Cody and Bronwen go to the library once a week and pick out new books. When we have the extra money we buy books from those Scholastic book orders through school. So she has a healthy love of books that we are proud of.

books and games!

books and games!

So are we “present”? Well, half way, I suppose. I think it’s a matter of finding what works with your family. I know some parents who refuse to allow their children any TV at all. The kids can only use the internet for homework, and no phones after a certain time of night. It seems like a lot of work to have a daily battle about this, especially if the kids happen to be teens. Not a battle I’d want to fight! But they do it because they want to keep the bad out as best they can. I don’t argue about it with them. I just feel like that’s the same attitude as the war on drugs or the war on terror in the States. It’s a hollow comfort for those who believe we need that kind of approach.

Anyway, I hope all your families are experiencing positive time together in your own ways. Have a good week!

Oh Bronwen!

Oh Bronwen!

Forgiving your Mengele

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Forgiving your Mengele

Don’t get me wrong–I’m no revisionist claiming that the atrocious acts that this notorious doctor perpetrated didn’t happen or were less disgusting and assaulting to the human beings it was done to. No. I watched a film on Youtube called Forgiving Mengele. At first I thought that this incredibly noble woman was alone with her plight, as are all Holocaust survivors. But then I got to thinking all survivors of any abuse have our own suffering, often inflicted by a kind of Mengele in our lives. For me that’s the hardest aspect of living now–finding ways to stop hurting.

According to Eva Kor (the focus of the film) the only way to heal one’s self is to forgive your worst enemy. In her experience, carrying all that hate was toxic and making the rest of her life excruciatingly difficult.

What blew me away was that other survivors in this film disagreed with her concept of forgiveness, saying that to simply say she forgave Mengele for the murder of her twin sister (he conducted unconscionable experiments on twin children, often dissecting them alive after injecting chemicals just to see how they affected the body) was hollow and impossible for them. Some of the victims even raised their voices to her saying that she was wrong to feel the way she felt! It was very powerful.

As a youngster when I was being sexually abused it was so easy to hate. Therefore I thought it was the correct way of feeling! I hated everything and everyone, reserving my most acerbic disposition for men. I hated my father, male teachers, even any male friends I had in school. They were all evil. That is until I felt the security of a man who got in my corner and said “If I ever find that guy, I’m going to nail his nuts to a post and kick him over.”  That’s a direct quote from my very first boyfriend. He loved me and was appalled at how nothing was truly done to mitigate all of the insidious abuses done.

See, it didn’t start out with a full on sexual assault. No no. It was much sneakier than that. Much more devious. I was in the kitchen in one of our family homes that we had over the years. He had asked me for a drink of Coke. Being a nice little Italian girl hostess I jumped up to get it. I got a glass for myself as well. He drank his fast. It was a hot day. I drank mine as well. The glasses were sweaty. So was he. I kept moving away from him on the couch, but he kept squeezing closer. He said that my bum was big enough and I didn’t need more pop as I got up to get more. He forced me to sit back down because he was so close to me now. He kept telling me to sit. Bear in mind that I was 13 years old, maybe 120 pounds and he was the same age but well over 200 pounds. He easily intimidated and kept me sitting, sweating. I remember needing to go to the bathroom so bad. I waited until he was gone before I got up. That was the first time I ever felt so trapped and afraid. It would become familiar for two years while the violence and intimidation escalated.

After everything came out–all the gruesome details about what happened to me and I was still reeling from how to deal with what happened, I found out another interesting piece of the puzzle. My abuser had been forced to watch pornography and the actual sex act between his parents. This had been going on since he was about five years old. Knowing that, it made it a little easier to understand why he might choose to act the way he did. Don’t misunderstand–it was his choice to do what he did. He didn’t have to. He could have chosen to find out that what had been done to him by his father was also wrong. But for whatever reason, he didn’t. It just passed through him onto me like an electrical current.

Of course, I’m at that point in my life where I’m interminably frustrated, even tormented with the concept of forgiveness. I’d love to forgive. But knowing something intellectually is not the same as knowing it emotionally. I tell this to my psychiatrist every time I see him. “How’s it going?” “Intellectually? Fine. Emotionally? Shit.”

I think that’s why I love hand quilting so much. Every stitch, especially in an echo pattern around a Dresden plate, gets you further and further away from the centre. It’s like drinking scotch. “Forget the pain for now.” I want the pain to be forever gone, but this is all I have for now. I do believe that forgiveness can help someone’s recovery, but so far I’m just not that noble. I would, if called upon, go to court and testify against this guy with a vengeance. They’d have to pry me off of the witness stand. I can only hope that he gets caught taking his violence too far. I believe it will happen. I hate knowing it but it seems likely. He’s a Mengele. He seems possessed by his need to hurt women.

They say Mengele used to shout for twins when cattle cars were unloaded at Auschwitz. Every train load “Zwillinge! Zwillinge!” Only my Mengele didn’t shout for me or for any other victims. He simply found us and used us up.

Stitches are steps

Stitches are steps