Month: March 2020

Belcourt.

Since this is a storytelling place, I thought I would invite you to read a story that may not make it into one of the books I am working on. It might though, I’m not entirely sure. I just figured that since we’re all inside with nowhere to go – it’s a nice time to read.

I moved a lot as a child – my parents worked for the government in the IHS for a number of years. This meant they transferred to different reservations and their hospitals often. It was always scary, exciting, and a lot for me to process – I value and crave both adventure and having solid roots. Anyways, here’s a peek into my early years.

The first time I remember moving was to a place in North Dakota called Belcourt on Turtle Mountain. I imagined that we lived on the actual back of a giant tortoise, deep jade green and cool. Belcourt was in a forest close to the Canadian border, and in my backyard I had a fairy ring of trees surrounding a pretty little bird bath. Not far from my house was a grey-green pond surrounded by birch trees and overgrown brush that deer liked to frequent. The pond frequently reminded me of my dad’s eyes.

At first, I was delighted to move, but it was a deep winter. We had moved from Washington where I could still roam freely in my giant backyard under a few inches of light snow. In Belcourt, the snow drifts were as tall as my parents and the wind howled angrily outside my window all night as if it had lost it’s way. There was a frozen river named Ox Creek and one of the very first Ashinaabe, or Chippewa, word I learned was Siipiising – the original name of Belcourt. It means ‘creek that sings with life giving water’.

I was also small, still somewhat sickly, pale with aquatic green eyes, crooked teeth, and blond frizz whereas everyone else here was beautiful, tall, and strong. When I went to my first day of school, I couldn’t stop staring. Beautiful shades of caramel and gold skin, tawny brown to deep black hair, golden brown and green eyes, tall and slender. Most days I felt like a really fashion forward garden gnome.

I wasn’t well liked but I collected a weird little assortment of people and friends. I had a little kindergarten boyfriend named Benjamin with rusty blonde hair. He was a very good introduction to love. I loved him because he ate glue and would trade his raisins for my apples from our sack lunches some days. We took naps next to each other everyday and held hands during story time. He had a handsome assortment of sweaters that looked cozy. Everyday during recess, we would plan to run away to Regina and live at a hotel in the pool and eat apples.

The boy across the street, Willie, was a real adventure. He came over often and I despised him. He peed in our birdbath. At one point, he insisted to my parents that he would marry me. He smelled like hotdogs and at my summer 6th birthday party, he successfully ate half the bottle of ketchup. He threw up in above mentioned bird bath. Later that week, I had to help scour it. I noticed that birds no longer enjoyed the water in my fairy ring birdbath and was infuriated. That fall, on the first day of first grade – I kicked both of his shins. After that, my parents relentlessly teased me about marrying Willie. (Do I move this after the babysitters?)

My best friend Angela and I were deeply competitive in a “Your momma” and a “Well, my daddy” sort of way. In kindergarten, I had won “Best witch” at Halloween and she was so mad because she won ‘Best Princess’. At the end of the year, I won ‘Best storyteller’ and she won ‘Perfect Attendance’. Yet again, this was infuriating to her, so she told me that day on the way home that my front porch was full of rattlesnakes – a fact I still believe today. I was so mad though that the next time I was over at her house, I announced that I knew her older brother, Gabriel smoked – in front of her whole family. I was officially uninvited from her home after that.

So I spent the summer before first grade alternating between my two babysitters, Cora and Shirley. I did my best to ignore Angela. At Cora’s, it felt like there were literally dozens of kids spilling out of every corner, doorway, and room of her house. If you blinked, they just multiplied. While this was super overwhelming, it could be amazing fun. I always brought my bag full of books, barbies, and essentials, but usually abandoned it to go explore with other kids. We would often venture out to the woods behind her house and use cut up logs to make our adventures of the day. We would make the Flintstone’s cave and car. We would make story circles and build small bonfires. We built the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine once. We hiked to the little pond.

The bus also stopped by Cora’s and if my father was awake after sleeping of an ER night shift, he would come and walk me home. He would take my little hand and tuck it in his coat pocket. Usually we would walk to the little pond first, even on the bitterly cold days. These were moments I always held my breath during because I never knew what to expect. There were times he would be smiling and call me my nicknames, then tuck a Hershey’s kiss in my cheek after we walked home. A lot of the time, we would wander home very quietly.

One time, my father and I walked to the little pond after school and there were deer drinking. It was cold but the pond wasn’t entirely frozen yet. We watched quietly as a doe led a baby to the water and suddenly my father asked if I thought they were beautiful. I thought it was all beautiful – the wiped, smudgy cold sky, and the bowing, bare trees next to the barely blue-grey water. The way the doe nudged her child encouragingly. I said yes happily and he nodded, his grey eyes tight.

Suddenly, he said, ‘It’s very beautiful, boogers. You won’t be though. You probably won’t grow up beautiful. Tonight your mom’s telling you that we’re moving. So let’s get home now.’ I exhaled, feeling pins stabbing behind my tummy and eyes. I looked back and the doe had seen us. They flicked away through the birch trees without a sound.

GR.

Mythical Creatures.

A big part of why I wanted to start writing a blog again was to chronicle writing the book I’m working on. The story of this book, so to speak, is really a story of how I and the people in my life have grown up. In fact, it’s how I stumbled upon the name Mythos Midwest for this place. Most of the people in my stories are not only from the Midwest, but they also grew up with a rich tradition of storytelling and oral histories. Truthfully, most Millennial adults have a fascinating oral history about their family and also the place they grew up.

Both sides of my family emigrated to the United States close to or in the 20th century and then settled in the Midwest. This is interesting because large parts of the Midwest were just beginning to develop and catch up with the rest of the country. Some places in the Midwest remained blissfully unaware of the speed of the outside world. Both sides of my family settled into these types of communities – eastern Iowa and western South Dakota. This enabled them to keep a lot of their own traditions, customs, and oral histories alive a lot longer.

I also spent a considerable amount of my late childhood and early adulthood in the Midwest. Not only was I not prepared for the culture shock of how different and ‘behind the times’ everything felt, I was unprepared for how much of an outsider I really was – even to both sides of my family and their ways. So I immersed myself in learning my family’s stories and history. This was easy to do because I come from a humongous family filled with storytellers and our history seemed to sometimes take on mythological proportions.

One such person who took on that level of mythos easily was my father. In fact, the story I’m working on for my book has to do with his storytelling, his own history, how that affected me and our relationship. To this day, I am still affected by my dad’s belief in his own magic and importance, just not necessarily in a bad way anymore. It reminds me of this quote from “Educated by Tara Westover about her own father:

“You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”

I read Educated when I started considering writing this book for real. Over the years, I had given it these sort of half-hearted attempts that had very large, disastrous burnouts. The reason behind this was complex. I had made peace with my dads suicide years ago, but I had no peaceful resolution to the hurt he had caused me through my life. One such hurt was the belief he had instilled in me that if I believed in the fantasy of him, I would be less hurt by abuse. It was a painful lesson to learn the opposite. I think it’s a lesson a lot of people who experience abuse never recover from because it’s hard to reconcile the honesty of it all.

I also think that fantasy we engage in helps abuse hurt less initially, but sets a person up with little to no coping skills for the real world. We don’t know how to trust the good things and are more comfortable when things are bad. I wanted to explore that idea along with what was honest or real and what wasn’t about my father. I am learning is that the fantasy he had my believe in may have also been a shield against the abuse he dealt with as a kid. He is not the only mythical creature in his family – storytelling took dazzling heights with his siblings, my grandparents and their relatives, and more.

I guess the real question becomes, what were they all hiding from? Were they all dealing with abuse? Were they all hiding from reality? Let’s learn together.

GR.

Misdiagnosis.


(I would like to add two disclaimers here. First, a content warning as this post is a pretty in depth look at my own mental illness journey. It deals with a lot and it may not be the best reading if you are struggling. I won’t be offended if you can’t read it. Second, this post is simply about part of my own mental health journey and I am going to try my very best to not make judgments or assumptions about anyone else with mental illness, diagnoses or life experiences similar to my own.)

An interesting thing about me is that I have Bipolar 2 disorder, PTSD, and severe Generalized Anxiety. This is interesting because for the last 18 years, I have probably been misdiagnosed with treatment resistant Depression, Agoraphobia, and Generalized Anxiety. I don’t necessarily blame doctors and therapists for not catching this sooner. So, let’s take a journey together through my mental health and all of the complicated twists and turns it’s been on.

My mom always described me as a nervous, overly energetic kid that worried too much. I would personally add to that description that I was really withdrawn and scared often but pretended my very best that I was mature and capable. I am not sure about all only children, but the ones I know the most intimately also talk a lot about trying really hard to be more grown up than they were capable of from an early age.

My father and many members of my family have mental illnesses that span a wide range from Depression to Schizophrenia and more. My father had his own diagnoses of OCD, Depression, and Generalized Anxiety. Unfortunately, he used medication, alcohol, and illegal drugs to self-medicate. It was devastating for my mom and I. My father was capable of something that I later also became unconsciously capable of – masking his symptoms and issues. I am sure alcoholism and drug use also helped him do this, but in reality, he was always in a destructive downward spiral.

It’s hard to accept that you loved someone deeply but that they were abusive and caused you irreparable harm. It’s also hard to see the harm because you try really hard to heal yourself and make better choices. The really important part is that with mental illness, genetics play a big part and you may not be able to do all that work on your own. I didn’t understand this for a long time and just continued to spiral and fall apart too. My father committed suicide during my first year of college and at the time, I didn’t recognize the blunt force injury to my mental illnesses until much later on.

When I first realized that I was sad and scared all the time, I did try to tell my parents. My father mocked me and said that it was ‘the human condition’. My mom said ‘people have seasons’. I’m not really mad about it by now, I don’t have the energy to continue to pour into that. My energy started becoming really chaotic too. I would be wild, fun, and ready to do so many new things so often! Then I needed to be away from everyone for weeks on end and totally silent. I lost track of myself constantly and became hyper focused on really unattainable goals.

When I started college, about two months in, I had a real breakdown. I was no longer capable of the really high academic performance I was used to exacting from myself. I felt like I was afraid, falling apart everyday, exhausted, and sad everyday. I also felt like I was looking through a hazy window at everyone else ‘getting it’. I secretly made an appointment with a doctor and he was refreshingly kind. He was also probably the first and last time I was honest about the level of help I needed for a really long time. I spent a lot of time drinking the kool-aid that I needed more sunlight, a cleaner diet, more exercise, and a different mindset to basically erase it all. This basically ended in a wall of chaos, failure, and my refusing to see anything as my own problem for years.

The something new happened after I became a mother. For years, I lived in fear of leaving my house and took narcotic anxiety meds everyday. They were too much of a temptation for me, I think. I started drinking with them and was just a mess. I also started slowly thinking about self-harm. It was never a thing that I wanted to act on, but I thought about it a lot. That started to scare me because I started to do things like smash coffee cups or plates just to destroy something and feel better. Then I would go back to bed and not function for weeks on end. Unless suddenly, I had a big burst of energy. Then I would be up all night, clean all day, we would go places, spend stupid amounts of money, and I was always starving.

It just never stopped and kept getting worse. My doctors thought I had treatment resistant Depression because I didn’t recognize any symptoms of anything bigger as part of myself. Sure, I was getting worse, but I probably still hadn’t gotten enough sunshine or green juice yet. A Lot of times when some symptoms are bigger than others or the patient just doesn’t recognize them, it’s called masking or masking symptoms. That’s not always something a doctor can catch onto.

A lot of people with bipolar disorders go under or misdiagnosed. This is because we may really only recognize the depression and the lows as problematic, but not really think the mania is a wrong because ‘Oh gosh, I feel so GOOD again- even just for a little bit!’ This can be scary because some medications are really wrong for people who need a mood stabilizer, not just an anti-depressant. Last fall, my doctor thought the depression was just getting way too out of hand and we decided to try a much higher dosage of a med I had some success with. It was basically like a shot of adrenaline every time I took another pill. I wasn’t sleeping but I was incredibly energetic and also intensely suicidal. This made me incredibly afraid.

I had another breakdown but so much bigger. I voluntarily turned myself in at the hospital and agreed to be committed when a near fender bender sent me into a panic attack so strong that I wanted to go home and take every pill I could find. It was so intense and scary to absolutely not recognize how far I had fallen and that I needed to leave for a hospital far away to repair.

When I met my psychiatrist and counselors, we spent a lot of time going over everything I had been through – more than I could ever cover here in a safe amount of writing. I told them raw, honest truth about how I had nightmares every night, how I couldn’t get myself together in any lasting way, the flip flopping emotions, the panic attacks, the things I have been through. When they talked to me frankly about bipolar 2 and ptsd, I nearly cried in relief. When I started my new meds, the adjustment was slow but life changing and steadying in a way I didn’t even know was possible for me.

The ironic thing is that I did my university education in psychology and counseling. I should have seen myself, right? I should have been able to catch on and get help sooner – this was my thinking for awhile but I think that humans cannot always help the blind spots in our self evaluation. Especially when we have been through a lot of trauma and sadness. It’s like our brains simply block things from being ‘yet another really bad thing’ and make it ‘hey this is still manageable and not so bad situation’. Which can be true, but only if you are approaching the situation with some honesty and clarity.

I’m working with this really great therapist. We do EMDR to work through the PTSD and trauma. We talk a lot to work through the bipolar stuff. We talk about healthy boundaries that make for being a better human. I’m learning that the sunshine and green juice are fine but they aren’t curatives, you know? This won’t ever go away because it’s part of my biological ‘ME’. But the truly important part is how steady and non-destructive I am to myself for the first time in nearly two decades. I feel better because of recognition, honesty, and acceptance.

If you are struggling too, I’m happy to be here for you, my loves. On Facebook, we have created a fantastic group called Will Press Lever for Food or Happiness. It’s about recognition, support, and love for anyone with mental illness. In the meantime, than you for reading along.

GR.

Reimagination

I think it’s really hard to ‘introduce yourself’ to something, a world, you have been long gone from purposefully. I actually used to be a semi-succesful blogger ‘way’ back when blogging began and it was one of the biggest, most meaningful ways to communicate ideas and stories to the world. Of course, that was really only a few years ago. In that time, the ways to tell a story have exploded. But I found myself struggling to really understand what I wanted to do with my writing, so I semi-retired.

In that time, I did hard and good things for my life. I’m still doing them. Things like raising my kids, getting better from really awful illnesses, learning about my mental health, and becoming an adult in my marriage. I learned how to stop starving myself. I learned how to sleep. I learned how to say no. I learned how to ask for help and how to apologize. I learned that sometimes I am too weak, too tired to be everything for everyone else. I learned how to write again.

Our family has gone through a lot. We moved across the country. We’ve had some really hard, poor times where we did things like sell every dvd we owned to pay all for food some months to make sure that our paychecks and money covered all our bills. Because, ya know, being millennials. We’ve had some really good times were we stood at the edge of the ocean together or sang Happy Birthday to my om in a new home. We’ve stood up to transphobia, ableism, and social discrimination together. We’ve helped the kids through really hard and dangerous illnesses. We’ve learned to all like each other, not just love each other.

I think all of this helped me to shed a really hardened me that I held onto for a really log time. I have become more sensitive but stronger. I hope, as I have grown up and slowly learned to love my writing again in these few years, that I have become a better listener and more empathetic. It has all opened me up to sharing again and I am excited about that. I am not perfect.

I still love a good book and a great blog. I think a lot of people still do, and I think most people love to know about creation of stories. So, I thought I would take everyone on a much different journey. Right now, I’m working on two books and I’d love to tell stories about me, about the books, mental health, and about the process of writing. I will also have a tumblr devoted to a different side of me, my instagram, and a facebook page. It’s going to be a constant work and it’s work I have finally learned to not just love, but be totally honest with myself.

I really hope we all love each other.

Sincerely,

Georgia Rose

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