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Friday, February 27, 2015

Tea for Three

Ok, I have news.  I know it may not seem like much to you, but to me, it's a pretty big deal.  Ready?

I bought a new teapot.  I bought a pretty, dainty teapot with rabbits cavorting around it.  Why should we care?  This teapot is to the kitchen what the new eyeliner was to my face.  I am started to invest every so slighty in a room I loathe to be in most of the time.
 I am reframing, maybe someday redecorating.  But for now, I have strategically placed one ridiculously adorable in a place I have to walk into to fully appreciate it.  I love it when I redirect myself without my conscious knowledge.  Wishing well, my readers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I'm Out, Losers

Cory died doing a normal thing.  People cross the street on their way to the grocery store to buy chili powder all the time.  I see them when I'm driving on West Michigan Avenue-in sleet, in snow, in rain, and shine-walking in droves toward Urbandale Plaza.

The cars coming toward these walkers stop politely, and wait, their eyes peeled efficiently to watch for pedestrians at this busy hub of the neighborhood.  When I see the cars stopping, braking, or even just slowing down, I want to fall to the ground writhing and screaming.

I think a couple of camps formed after the accident.  There were those who knew and loved Cory who believed the accident was just unforeseen and horrific event.

 Others, who didn't know Cory, or didn't know her well, put "mentally ill" together with "pedestrian fatality" and assumed that she committed suicide, or "walked into traffic" as I've heard it said.  Are you freaking kidding me?

This pisses me off beyond measure. Had any of these small-minded people actually known Cory, they'd know just how ludicrous that notion really is. Like ok...she fought everyday for 3 years, and made significant progress towards "normalized activity" just to laugh about Matthew McConaughey's butt, kiss her Momma good-bye, and go get her head caved in- on purpose? Yeah, that makes sense.

At the visitations, we had a montage of stills and candids that played to some of her favorite songs.  One of them was "Move Along" by All American Rejects.  It could very well be the anti-suicide anthem for her generation.  She was many times suicidal-that I won't deny-but she wasn't suicidal that day.  How can I be so sure?  Her eyes.  Her face.  Her smile.  Her posture.  The fact that she didn't bow her head with her hair covering all of one eye and most of the other as she muttered down into her chest that she'd been having "bad thoughts" again. My girl always talked to me. We had it like that. I know she was ok that day.

Therefore, it seems like complete sacrilege that anyone out there thinks she wasn't, and that she took her own life. It completely negates her strength and fortitude. It demeans her. It makes her smaller than her pain, and she was bigger than life to me.  Look at the run she gave Schizoaffective Disorder for its money.  BAM!!  I'm out, losers.

Why do you think I'm still here?  If Cory did it; I can do it, too.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


The last couple weeks, I've wondered if Cory had lived to be twenty two, what would she be doing right now?  Who would she be?

Would she be well?  Free of voices?  Would she be taking classes?  Learning to drive?  Dating?

I'd ruminate on these impossibilities for awhile, then try to cram my mouth full of pills, and run away.  A couple of counseling appointments, and a med change later, I decided to take another path in my mind.

Instead of what did Cory not get the chance to do, what did she experience while she was here?

With this question on my lips, I rifled through photos, and came up with some statements.

Cory had fun.  I have a picture of her with her hands in the air, wearing a sweet spaghetti strapped turquoise dress to a school dance.  She had a wad of neon gum in her mouth- often captured on film that night- the whole time.  She came home breathless from dancing and laughing, cozied down on the end of my bed, and told me all about it.

Cory saw her favorite band in concert.  We saw My Chemical Romance, eighth row, and it was amazing!  She'd gotten the tickets from Bob for her fifteenth birthday.  We were so close to the stage, we nearly lost our eyebrows.  We jumped.  We screamed.  We hollered.  And we laughed that nervous screamy laughter that is so popular at slumber parties.  I have a picture of her sleeping on the hotel bed, when we got back, still dressed in her concert tee and hoodies, both hands thrown up haphazardly over her head as if the concert still went on in her dreams.  Maybe it did.

Cory saw herself clearly on the days without symptoms.  On those days, she took selfies, and preened as she reviewed them.  She'd try on an outfit, and turn around to show me her cute little tookus.  Once the Rispedal had given her a full cup size up top, there was no stopping her.  On a good day, my baby girl was rightfully full of herself, and I egged it on in any way I could.  She was beautiful, inside and out.

After Cory's death, her high school boyfriend sent me the one picture in which the two of them shared a kiss.  I have this to remember that she loved a boy.  She never had the chance to be in love with a man in a grown up relationship, but she loved a boy with all her heart, and I think that boy loved her.  I remember the way she'd walk around with stars in her eyes about two feet off the ground, and just grin nervously.  Dude, she had it bad!!

One of my favorite pictures of Cory and I is one in which she had her eyes closed, and was smiling as I kisssed her cheek.  This is the thing I said to my counselor the other day that made her stop to ask me to repeat myself, "I did everything I knew to do.  I think Cory had the best mom she could've had."

Yes, I believe that.  I do.

And finally, a snapshot Tim took at Speed's from across the table:   in typical Cory fashion, she rested her chin in her palm and cheesed it up.  She looked whole, healthy, and normal.

She looked that way because she was.  She was getting better.  And she died doing a normal thing.  That damn illness had not a thing to do with it.

How about that?

Not bad, Cory Girl.  Not bad, at all.

To Belong

Cory, like everyone, and especially like a typical teenager, wanted to belong.  She was never the round peg, and although she wore that well, there always remained that innate need to be a fixed part of a community.  She needed to be part of a club...some kind of family, outside of our home.  It showed in her fevered desire for a senior hoodie with all her friends names on the back, a hoodie from the college of her choice, even a Head Start hoodie passed down from me.

Homebound classes didn't offer Cory the best sense of unity with her peer group.  She was never able to take driver's education, and so there was another club to which she was denied entry.

After her second hospitalization, she came to me a little forlorn, asking if I could please go online to see if Pine Rest Psychiatric Hospital sold hoodies on their website.  She asked for little.  Can you feel that?  So very little.

Is it any wonder it was Tim's choice to place a hoodie from his place of employment in her casket.  He knew what belonging to someone - and being claimed- meant to her.  She had all my love, and more, but she needed to be more than just some mother's child.  That wasn't too much to ask.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Rainy Days

Going through losing a child has humbled me.  I will no longer take good mental health for granted, or time spent with loved ones.  I remember what used to constitute a bad day, and it seems worlds away from this daily struggle.  What in the heck was so upsetting about being employed, having a home, and two healthy children?  I had nothing to complain about.  Relationship problems were a big deal?  Ha!  My grief laughs in the face of such small hurts.

My loss has forced me to make connections with others that my shy personality would never have allowed me before.  It has given me a voice, one that often whines and demands the impossible, but a voice nonetheless.  It has also given me deep empathy for others who suffer similar losses.  

This situation, unwelcome and horror-filled has caused me to dig deep for even the smallest reason to stay alive.  Granted, I have lots of big reasons, but what can be seen across the room in the middle of flying debris?  Nothing but the storm.  

Cory's illness was similar in its cyclical pattern.  It was up to her support people- Dr Z, my parents, and myself to remind her that the storm would eventually pass, and there would be calm for a period of time- no promises that the storm wouldn't return, but a break to catch your breath, and enjoy the feeling of being alive.  Time to laugh.  Time to love.

Negative thinking gets me everytime.  Before I realize it, I've got the most deadly combination of guilt, hopelessness, and misery brewing in my head.  It takes a tiny girl with the strength of many who still speaks to me in my mind, to remind me to move along, nothing is forever- not even pain.  

I love you, Mommy.  It can't rain forever

Cory might say she hates to see me suffer, and on the occasions she catches me smiling or laughing, if feels just as good to her as it used to feel to me when she smiled and laughed, her illness be damned.  She might say she loves to see me in the kitchen, cooking for the boys, with the music on, just like the old days.  She might say the studio is the coolest thing ever, and that it's complete sacrilege to it sit unused while I lay in bed, day after depressed day.

She might say she's proud of all the writing I've done, and the way I haven't abandoned this blog that I started, but instead use it as a tool to reflect, and a way to share my experiences with others.  She'd definitely say she misses me, Jake, and all her family and friends.  She'd say she can't believe how tall and handsome he's becoming.

She'd say she wishes she could be here with us, but it just wasn't meant to be.

She's say she's so sorry she had to leave us, but it was her time.

"Watch for me, Mommy.  I'm all around you."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lost and Found

During my really crappy week, I somehow lost my glasses in my own home.  I feel around 73 years old to admit this.  After two days, I was fed up, and started tearing my bedroom apart- the last place I remembered having them.  I moved furniture, disturbed the dust bunnies, and realized since Cory died my only ability to organize is vertical.  I live in stacks:  stacks of books, stacks of journals, stacks of clothes, stacks of hats...I've fashioned a sort of winding pathway around my room that resembles a Candyland boardgame.  Find your way to my resting place, if you can.

I eventually found my glasses, flung unceremoniously to the floor on the side of my bed.  Seriously?  They were in plain sight while I had forced myself to go through everything I choose to keep near me while I sleep- piles of Cory's stuffed animals, Cory's journals, the condolence card from her psychatrist, the fifty or so hats I'd accumulated that first winter during my manic online shopping period.

Cory started keeping a journal with little mementos in it right before the accident.  I last looked at it a few days after she died, sobbing my heart out as I noticed her shaky handwriting only went about four pages, and then there was nothing...and a whole book left unwritten.

I sat down on my bed with it, surrounding by my piles of creature comforts, and took a really good look.

 She started it on the first of July.  The last entry was on the third.  The date for fourth of July was written in, but no entry- she must've been really tired that night.  And then Cory died on July 5th at 4:21 p.m.

A couple of years ago, I noticed these same things and went absolutely beserk.
This time, I went back and paid attention to her words.  "Movies with Mommy are the best."  "I love Mommy"  "It was so much fun at the carnival.  We rode everything, and screamed like caged monkeys!"
"I had sooo much fun!  I love everyone!"

She was happy.  She was healthy.  She was well.

Not a peep about the voices.  No depression.  Just typical Cory Girl, "I'm going to watch some Food Network and retire for the evening"

As soon as Tim got home from work, I called him to see what I'd found.  Before his depression lifted, he would have made up some lame excuse or just ignored me.  Instead, he came over and took the journal in his hands.  He opened it, and without a breath between us, he read the pages.

"I know it's kind of hard to read- "  I started out.

"No."  he said.  "No, I like reading it.  You know why?  There's nothing bad in these pages.  She really was getting better.  How many people have something like this to chronicle their loved ones last days?  It's priceless."

I looked at him, and nodded.  "Screaming like caged monkeys...that was Cory."

"Yes, it sure was!"  A small smile floated unsteadily on the wave of pain that crossed his face.

It sure was.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Walk-In, Smalk-In

"You have a lot of negative thinking."  observed the walk-in crisis counselor.

I looked around the room inside my local community mental health facility, and thought, "You're kidding!!?  Really?"

Me?  Negative thinking?  Color me surprised.  Why in the hell did she think I was there, exactly?

As I tried to explain that the flashbacks, lack of sleep, and lack of appetite were turning me into a zombie who was just too exhausted to go play pretend amongst all the happy people, she urged me to reframe my negative thoughts into something more positive.

Which I guess would go something like this:  my cat just died, but he had a good life.  My daughter died, but she had a mostly good life, if you don't count the mental illness and abandonment by her fathers.

About a week ago, I was at dinner with sister and brother-in-law, and sat debating with them about whether or not my relationship choices had kicked Cory's illness into gear.  Sort of gently fed up with my guilt and tears, Kim laid her hand on my arm, and said, "Look, it was always you for her.  Don't you know that?  It didn't really matter what anyone else did.  She had you."

The instant the words left her mouth, I felt the heaviest, loudest bell toll in my heart.  Truth.  I reached across the booth and hugged her tight.  Thank you.

Just reframe, huh, crisis lady?  She made it sound so easy, that I found myself searching her face and posture.  She gave off not one whiff of the despair that losing a child puts into your walk or your eyes.  I wondered if she could possibly knew what I knew as fact:

Sometimes the feelings just take over and hold you hostage for a bit.  They handle you however they want and answer to no one.  You just wait for release, while ducking the stick.