good friday

A woman walks, her head hunched,
her coat clutched tight,
on this warm April day.
Her shoes have holes; her coat is tattered;
chapped lips hide her toothless gums;
her words malformed,
she mutters, mutters, mutters.

This April day, so warm, so bright
the Christians meet inside gray stone
hearing the story of a homeless Jewish guy–
always white, always clean,
no matter what he does, no matter whom he touches–
arrested, killed, for saying too much;
he preaches, preaches, preaches.

Sunlight filters through the windows,
throwing rainbow colors onto stones,
thick gray stones dividing pretty Anglo pristine corpus
from muttering toothless homeless woman.

Forgive them, Lord;
they know not what they do.
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.

this is not an april fool’s

When I realized I’d missed my appointment with the psychiatrist, I tried to call the office to make a new appointment.  I tried several times a day, every day, for two weeks, but never got through.  This wasn’t a complete surprise to me, as the practice has a terrible phone system that everyone there hates.

In 1997 I was diagnosed with depression.  A few months later, on January 1, 1998, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II, which is often described as a milder form of the illness, though it really isn’t – it’s just different.  During the first two months of 1998, I was hospitalized three times, the third time following a suicide attempt.

This came to mind as I was trying to reach my doctor’s office.  What if it had been an emergency? What if I was on the verge of suicide again and needed help? What if the hospital was calling to ask about my history and meds?  I gave up with the phone, and I hit my insurance company’s website to find a different doctor.

I saw the new psychiatrist last week, and he’s a CNP rather than an MD, so it’s much easier to get onto his calendar at short notice.  Naturally he asked for history of diagnoses, so I listed them out in sequence: Depression, Bipolar 2, Depression, Dysthymia, and Depressive Mood Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Then he asked the fun question: which one of those felt the most right to me? I hedged. I didn’t want to have to speak it out loud, so I said, “I’m not sure.”  It wasn’t quite a lie, because I’m not–and can’t be–100% sure.

The real truth is that I think I have Bipolar 2, even though I’ve been trying to avoid that diagnosis for years.  “Oh, the depressions were just from abuse” and “Oh we only documented one hypomania, but it might not have been real. I’ve always been a high achiever.” You know, covering it over.

So he coded me as Mood Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. I guess it’s okay for now. See, my meds for chronic pain include an anti-convulsant that I took as a mood stabilizer for several years over a decade again.  I’m already on 2/3 of the BP2 cocktail I used to take: SNRI, mood stabilizer, anti-psychotic. I had a love-hate relationship with the anti-psychotic. Actually, it was more of an okay-loathe relationship. It blunted the edge of the horrible suicidal fantasies that would move in and take over all available space, and then all space I was trying to use for anything else. They were awful, and the slightest gap would let one sneak in and hijack my brain. It was good to have some relief from them, but it came at the cost of all creativity. I lived in a sort of mist for the years I was on the anti-psychotic, and I was so pleased once I weaned off.  It took about six months after that to get myself back.  I’d missed me.

So yeah. I’m pretty sure I have Bipolar II.  Even more, I suspect I have a rapid cycling form.  By “pretty sure,” I mean “about 90% sure.” And by “suspect,” I mean “think, with about 60% certainty.”  Damn, damn, damn.

For now, I’m on my meds and I’m watching things.  It hasn’t been too awful so far.  If you are a praying sort, I ask you to hold me in your prayers, with all who struggle with brain disorders.

on work

Choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

This is supposed to be inspiring, I guess, but it leaves me cold.  Because you know what? Every job has some part of it that is work, that is a slog we trudge through to get back to the fun parts.  And different people find different parts of the job to be work.  This musician may love to spend hours practicing but dread performing, and this teacher may love reading and grading essays but loathe math tests, and this software engineer may adore planning and designing and architecting but be almost completely unable to actually build the product.

So I call shenanigans.  Choose a job that you’re passionate about, with people who are supportive and fun, and help each other with the parts that are work.  Yeah, you’ll have to work.  Everybody has to work.  It’s part of the human condition. But you may be lucky enough to trade “works” with that strange coworker who loves math tests but hates grading essays.

probably not teh awsum skwad

We use Google Hangouts at work a lot.  With employees and partners working around the world – and with all of us being geeks – real-time chat is essential.  Even cooler, Hangouts keeps the history of all your chats, and you can even give a name to your Hangout and use it later.

The CTO of my company divided our technical department into three teams, hiring one manager and promoting two (including me – squee!).  The three of us, plus our Project Manager, started up a Hangout.  We used it a lot, sometimes for questions, sometimes for quick confirmations, sometimes for venting.

Eventually I said, “We really need to name this hangout.  Probably not Teh Awsum Skwad.”  Then I saw the message that said the Hangout had been renamed.  As you might expect, the Development Manager named the hangout “Probably Not Teh Awsum Skwad.”

Now, I use PNTAS all over the place.  It shows up in my calendar, on my timesheets, even in conversation (the way you’d say “pentas,” as in the plural of the prefix penta-).  Every time I write or type or say PNTAS, it makes me smile.  Because truly, we’re probably not Teh Awsum Skwad, but we sure are working our asses off to get there!

an open letter on the sixth anniversary of my marriage

My dearest beloved,

Happy anniversary! I know that neither the traditional nor the “modern” gifts are words, but I expect that love is appropriate for any wedding anniversary.

We first “met” online, more than 17 years ago, in a community of Anglicans and Episcopalians from around the world.  In that online community we both found a place of safety, support, and encouragement.  Because we were surrounded by Christ’s love, shining through so many, we were able to become vulnerable, to reveal our brokenness.  We prayed for each other and supported each other during the darkest times of our lives.  Your prayers, with those of many others, sustained me through depression after depression, through 27 months of getting the meds right, through an abusive marriage, through pain and joy and everything in between.

When I started my first blog, you were there, reading and leaving encouraging comments for me.  You took part in our silly blog of horrible haiku.  You called me super-cool when you learned I love Pearls Before Swine.  I followed your work, as you played organ in one church and then another.  When you posted the music you’d written on your website, I was proud for you and wished I could hear them sung.

Even from 700 miles away, I knew you as stalwart, loyal, funny, sweet, faithful, anxious, supportive, compassionate.  You remain all of these today, rich of character and deep in spirit.  Your faith inspires and challenges me. Your love makes me want to be more and better than I am.  I struggle to imagine life without you, who have been my friend, my husband, my wife.

And so I say to you again those perilous words: I love you.  As I said years ago, I love your creativity, your compositions, your sensitivity and compassion.  I love your willingness to be vulnerable.  I love it when you get odd little references I make.  I love your spirit, your determination, your patience.  I love that you listen to me.  I love that you understand me a lot better than anyone else in my life.

Thank you for everything you are and everything you do.  And happy anniversary, beloved.  May the God who entrusted us to each other’s care bless us with many, many more.

With all my heart,
Your Heather

a prayer for 2015 and beyond

The prayer below is an excerpt from A Prayer for 2014, which was composed for the 60th anniversary celebration of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd this past October.  It is not credited to any individuals, so I offer credit to the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd United States.

God of Sacred History,
May we who hear and recognize your voice
Find nourishment at your table,
Rejoice at your return, and
Look forward to the time
When there will be one flock with one Shepherd.

Amen.

on aphrodisiacal hazelnuts and God’s love

Fact or Crap calendarLast Christmas, I received as a gift the 2014 Fact or Crap daily calendar.  We enjoyed it in the office almost until summer, when it began to languish for a number of days between being checked.  In July I pulled off a whole bunch of pages at once, and came across this one:

People of the Middle Ages believed that the hazelnut was a powerful aphrodisiac.

I figured “Fact” and then turned the page over to read it.   Read the rest of this entry

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