This year has been a year of change for me, with so many things in my life looking completely different today than they did even a few months ago. Other things, of course, are still the same:
- Motherhood has its ups and downs - downs like this week when my youngest daughter has been insanely hyper and incredibly frustrating, but ups like last night when my children worked together to pack a bag of donation items for the families recently displaced in the Gatlinburg fires. Joey spent the evening brainstorming items that could be given, such as deodorant, toothpaste, blankets. She sorted through her books and chose some to donate, her mind haunted and her heart aching as she contemplated the devastation felt by the children who lost their homes and possessions. Eden sorted books as well, but ultimately her largest donation was a pile of stuffed animals she wanted to share - even though the loss of them broke her tender heart. She chose them all carefully and kissed each one goodbye, telling them all to be good snugglers for whatever child they ended up with. Seeing her tears, I reminded her that she didn't have to do it, and that she especially didn't have to give up things that were meaningful to her. And her answer, given tearfully as she tucked her beloved stuffed ponies into a bag she knew she would never see again? "It's for a good cause, mom. Some little girl has nothing now, and if this might help them feel better ..." Needless to say, the ups make the downs worth it.
- Writing has its share of ups and downs too - this year has been hard emotionally, and has had perhaps more than its share of downs as my kids and I evolve and learn to accept the sometimes devastating effects of what is for all intents and purposes, a divorce. Obviously this has taken its toll on my writing time as well as my ability to be creative, but there have been ups too, such as the launch of my Patreon page, where readers can now subscribe for just $1 a month to read exclusive short story content. As this page grows and meets the goals I've set for it, there will be lots of other benefits, giveaways, and subscription options added, and I'm excited to see where it goes. In the meantime, I'm still writing novels too - with the publication of Selkie II (click here for the blurb, cover, and buy links) behind me, I'm now focused on writing Still Fighting For Freedom, the second book in the Freedom Series. This series has become increasingly personal in recent years, and I'm excited to be writing the next part of Christine's story - although its personal nature does make it a much slower and more difficult process.
- It's still hard to know that the grandmother who had such a large part in my raising no longer remembers me (thanks for nothing, Alzheimers, you bastard). Looking back at the last decade, I can see her decline in a way that I couldn't before, and things that I resented her for now bring me to tears. It started with her never seeming to have time to talk when I called her ... so I called less often because I felt rejected and didn't want to bother calling someone who didn't want to talk. It started with her not coming to meet the girls and I at my moms when we'd come over to visit, always having some excuse not to bother, and me not wanting to invite her anymore because she never came anyway. Now, it will end with her feeling uncomfortable when I speak to her, because I call her Grandma and she's not sure she remembers why (although I believe she knows she ought to), and me not speaking to her as often as I should, because I don't want to make her uncomfortable. She's not gone yet, but she's going ... and I miss her already.
- My mom is still the same - such as that is. Many of you who have followed me here know that my mother is extremely unhealthy, and has been for most of my life. In recent years, she's been declining at a rate which I find terribly alarming and heartbreaking but also somehow painfully slow, as I'm privy to all the worst of the details. Currently, she's still living in her home alone, despite the best efforts of myself and my brother, and while she is no longer physically stable enough to be living alone, we are told that because she is still (mostly) mentally sound, there's nothing we can do to force her to seek better care. This year alone, she's been in ICU more times than I can count; she's had a broken hip, broken arm, broken collarbone, and twice, broken ribs from falling. The last time she was in the hospital (Thanksgiving night), when the doctor came in to do the usual spiel about DNR orders and CPR efforts, my mother was informed that CPR is not an option for her anymore at all ... With her heart failure progressing rapidly along with osteoporosis, COPD, diabetes, and a dozen or so other diagnoses, her body is simply too fragile now to withstand the effort even if the effort were made. So ... she's not gone yet either, but she's going too.
Those points together, those few things that have stayed the same, have lead me to the major changes that came into my life this year. My personal life in itself has almost always been tumultuous, as many of you already know, but in 2016, I began to truly recognize several of my relationships for what they were, and not for what I had hoped them to be. I recognized various patterns of abuse sprinkled throughout the relationships I've chosen for myself, largely modeled on abusive relationships I saw and experienced as a young person - and I saw those patterns intensify when I began to experiment with setting boundaries and sticking to them.
- I lost the closeness of a friendship I had treasured for a long time, but had to pull back from because it wasn't a supportive one for me.
- I lost contact with someone I cared about, because in drawing inward to process everything that's been going on, I couldn't open up enough to be fully present.
- There are others too, which are best not mentioned here.
But those major changes, in conjunction with things that were playing out for me long before I even had a chance to see them for what they were, have led to other things that I hope will soon get my life going in a much happier direction.
- In April 2016, I wrote a seven-post series about Depression and its impact not only on my life, but on my writing (Posts one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven can be found by clicking the desired post number, or you can find the series in its entirety here.). This series was a turning point for me, during which I realized how deep my struggle with Depression had really become.
- During the late summer, I found the Spartan LifeCoach, a YouTube channel by a man named Richard Grannon. I had stumbled across the channel by some connection to Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the common experiences of those subjected to Narcissistic (and other kinds of) abuse, and as I got deeper into his videos, he began to talk more and more about something called Complex PTSD, which I had previously known (and written about in Wrestling Harmony) as PTSD by proxy. For the first several weeks after I found this channel, I spent every spare moment I had devouring those videos, thrilled to have finally found some understanding of certain symptoms that I had been dealing with personally for most of my adult life. It gave me new perspective on certain circumstances, and set me on an entirely new path to mental wellness. That channel changed my life, nurtured my understanding of myself, helped me find compassion for my own issues, and gave me the strength I needed to begin contemplation of a HUGE thing that I hadn't yet had the courage to attempt (No, not that thing. Keep reading.)
- About six weeks ago I saw this video - and while my personal circumstances, both recent and otherwise, are very different from the video itself, the imagery and the way I related to it broke my heart. I cried until my eyes ached. And I have watched that video, sobbing, several times since - not because the crying is cathartic, but because the end is an inspiration.
- Five weeks ago, I saw a suggested group on my Facebook sidebar - a PTSD support group. By that time, my belief that I had Complex PTSD had already been greatly solidified by my own personal research, which was extensive. But I didn't have a diagnosis, not yet. I joined the group anyway, thinking that I would find solidarity there, and guidance. And I did.
- Four weeks ago, I was online, researching trauma therapists. I found two that looked good for me, contacted both of them, and heard back from one of them within the next two days. This person was willing to accommodate certain issues I have, and so I made an appointment.
- Three weeks ago, I sat down in an office, utterly terrified and unsure of myself. It didn't take long for the conversation to start flowing though, and I have never felt quite so validated as I did when I just kept telling things, and I watched my therapist (who specializes in trauma, by the way) sit back in dismay and shake her head with a whispered, "Wow." I've seen her twice now, and she "wow'd" the second time too ... and there's still so much more to say. Most importantly, she was able to look through some screening information and combine that with our talks to confirm the diagnosis I expected, which was both difficult and encouraging. Still, I hope looking at my life in such an honest way will help me to move past what I've been through, so that I can build something new from the rubble.
Like I said, it's been a big year for me, and with all of that going on, I still had goals to keep in mind. In December 2015, I wrote a review post that was both a review of 2015 and a list of goals for 2016. It wasn't anything fancy or extensive, just a list of things I wanted to accomplish: stop kicking myself when life gets in the way and I can't write, publish three books, keep blogging regularly, keep up with my newsletter giveaways, stay active on social media, grow my street team, and attend two book signings. And how did that list work out? I did get better at being compassionate with myself, I didn't publish three books. I did keep blogging regularly, I didn't keep doing my newsletter giveaways (after certain feedback led me to believe they were unnecessary). I did stay active on social media (for the most part), I did grow my street team, and I did attend both signings I had planned in 2016. So as I approach the end of 2016, honestly just glad to still be in one piece, I can look back and say that with everything that's been going on, five out of seven ain't bad. 2016 may have been a mess, but I'm calling it successful anyway.
And now, I'm off to get some writing done before it's time to create goals for 2017. So until next week,