Family History: Uncle Hank

Our family has quite a few interesting characters. Whose doesn’t? Contributing to this is a persistent trait of mental health … quirks. My Great-uncle Hank was one of those quirky individuals.

When I knew him he was a sober and self contained older gentleman whose mother, my great grandmother Nell, lived with him. Nell was a firecracker, but there was always something a little odd about Uncle Hank. He was always thrilled to see us kids, but he just wasn’t a natural with us. That didn’t stop him from bribing us with his stash of hard candies until he was a favorite. Secret candy with no strings? Definitely cool.

I found out as an adult that the candy was my mom’s fault. Uncle Hank smoked like a chimney until Mom told him he wouldn’t get to see us unless he quit. POOF. He traded the cigs for an endless supply of Cherry and Butter Rum Life Savers. As I understand it, a generation earlier he quit drinking with the same efficiency. My granddad kept pulling him out of bar brawls when he came traumatised home from WW2. Eventually he succumbed to threats that he wouldn’t get to see my mom and uncle unless he dried out. So he did.

He was a seaman in World War Two, assigned to work on three different ships in the Pacific Theater. He survived the sinking of two of them. This is information I’ve gleaned, mind you, and is integral the image of the man as I saw him. It occurs to me as I wrote this that it may not be completely accurate. I don’t know what work he did aboard ship. I’m not sure anyone does. What information we have about it comes largely from records found in his footlocker that was uncovered when my great-grandma passed away and her house was sold. Looking back on memories of this time I was absorbing conversations the adults were having while my brother and I explored the upstairs of a house where we had never been allowed before. We were little I can’t have been older than 7.

Hank came home from the war with a tattoo, a drinking problem, and shell shock. We’d call it PTSD now. Then he was shell shocked, and a drunk, and maybe schizophrenic. Likely, he had trauma related psychosis having something to do with being on multiple battleships as they sank. He was in and out of hospitals, sometimes for long stays, until my mom was an adult. Family mythology says this included spans in the kind of hospital where they put lithium in the salt shakers.

After great grandma passed,we saw less and less of Uncle Hank every year. I didn’t know why until I was 18. We came into town for a visit; the first face-to-face visit in five years because we’d moved rather far away. Instead of the pleasantly stoic, awkward man I remembered, I was confronted by an angry soul. He yelled at my mother for things I’d never heard of and in some cases for things that never happened. He called us names, but never looked at us, and he left. It was heartbreaking. PTSD had given way to paranoia and dementia.
He passed away in 2012. There wasn’t much of a service, and I didn’t attend it. I was too sick myself at that point.

We are all more than our diagnosis. We are more than our treatments. I didn’t know Uncle Hank was sick until I was an inquisitive teen. It didn’t occur to me until even later that he lived with his mother because he couldn’t live alone. He was just him, and I loved him.

Taste the Rainbow

We are changing my meds up this week. This is directly because of the issues in my last post and finally managing to tell my doctor about it. My basic antidepressant is staying the same, my supplemental antidepressant is being cut in half for a week and then removed altogether, and to combat the sedative effect of the supplemental antidepressant I have been given a stimulant. I’ve never taken a prescription strength stimulant in the long term, and the dose I’m starting on is moderately high.

Today is Day One of this new medication array, and I expect it to be the day when the stimulant’s impact is most startling. I got up an hour earlier than usual to take advantage of it, and by noon I was dressed (!!!), had putaway three loads of laundry and started a new one, cleaned the bathtubs and toilets, scooped the cat’s litter, watered the garden, worked in my BuJo, and gotten the kids going on schoolwork. It is three times what I have accomplished in an entire day in recent weeks. I know this isn’t likely to be a long term solution, but it feels nice to have access to this energy. I don’t feel high, which I was afraid of. Instead I feel alert and like I have access to the healthy energy levels that have previously been inaccessible.

Once I finish this post, it will be lunch time for the kiddos, then I will work out a plan for dinner and maybe we’ll all walk to the playground. Contrary to the title this post, I can’t actually taste colors. What I can do, today at least, is live up to my own standard regarding what it is reasonable to accomplish in a day. I could cry.

Shoulding All Over Myself

We are just back from vacation and things are particularly chaotic. I have an idea that I should have handled our return differently. I should have done more school while we were away. I should be resuming our routine with rigor. I should be cooking more and more often, and sharing it with our friends, who are ill.

I should be better.
I should eat better.
I should workout more.
I should engage with the kids more.
I should clean more
I should be more like other people.
I should
I should

I call this way of thinking “shoulding on myself,” because it creates all of this tension to live up to impossible standards. “Should” implies consequences of not doing it. “Should” implies orders that have come from outside of myself. It is a terrible habit. It breaks up the day into chunks of false urgency and harsh self-judgement.

What is a Gratitude Practice?

I’ve posted a few “Gratitude” posts since this blog started, but I have never expressly stated their purpose. Making a regular practice of expressing gratitude for the good things in one’s life is commonly thought to help rewire the depressed brain into a more functional arrangement. Whether your talk therapy is pastoral, DBT, CBT, or something else, making a point of identifying one good thing in your life on a daily basis and expressing gratitude for it is an excellent, drug free place to start working on your mental health.

When I write a “Gratitude Practice” post, it is my hope that you all will reply below with what you are grateful for as well. It never needs to be profound, merely honest. For example, today I am grateful that my children are largely healthy. Jujubee is anxious & Rosebud has allergies and wonky immune system, but on a day-to-day basis they are basically healthy kids. That is a small wonder and I am so grateful.

I am also grateful that you are here. Even if thi is your first visit, I am grateful that you are here. What are *you* grateful for today?

And Now I’m Triggered

I had a bad feeling this morning that I just couldn’t shake. I was supposed to go shopping with my mother-in-law and the kiddos, but when the time came for Alex to head off to class and for me to get to work, I was hit with a powerful dread. Bad things were going to happen Out There.

It is a little early in my cycle for the agoraphobic paranoia to be taking over, and we all know it. I talked edgy/weird self into the car for errand running, meant to culminate in a trip to Target: Land of Wonder. My kids live in old hand-me-downs, so the prospect of a Target run for new shoes (“Thank you Grandma!”) is tantamount to a trip to paradise.

The boring errands went well, but I got turned around, flustered, and harried on the way to buy vacation shoes and turned left into traffic. WE ARE ALL FINE. Clearly. But I was instantly triggered; shaking, flinching, crying, and generally making an enormous scene. It was slightly worse than a fender bender. Both cars were able to drive away from the scene.

Now, though, hours after the fact I’m still around the bend. My mother-in-law is calm and cheerful in her gratitude that we are all safe. I’m up in a metaphorical tree. I’ve taken my emergency anxiety med and a nap. I have had food and tea. I’m still shaky and prone to zone way way out. I want to lay down with a book or a TV show, but with MIL right here I’m trapped trying to appear productive. Type-ity type-ity type nothing to see here! I can hear my blood in my ears and my heart feels like a galleon jug shoved into my chest, but we are all fine here!

I can hear the crunching metal, over and over in my mind. I want to drown it out. Maybe David Attenborough will help. That’s a healthy choice. We have already done a kindergarten piano lesson, two games of Candyland, had a brawl about the ownership of a few coloring books, and had dinner. Two hours until Alex comes home. Then I can go to sleep, reboot, and try again tomorrow.

Tomorrow is its own problem. I’ll deal with it then.

Diagnosis: Major Depression

OK! Personal spotlight on exactly what my deal is. My first diagnosis, and one that still sticks after all these years, is Major Depressive Disorder, or Major Depression. Is there a difference between this and just plain depression? It is a matter of degree, I think. For me it is the difference between a “blue funk,” and months or years of a flattened mood; the difference between a passing urges to self injure and constant, detailed planning with or without attempts; between a “one and done” treatment plan where a single layer of treatment clears thing up, and a multilayered delicate balance of lifestyle, meds, and talk therapies that attempt to give the largest possible window of relief.

Hell, that’s just my impression though. For me, ever since I was 16 I have been prone to deep black moods that have lasted months. Even years. I have attempted suicide and been a cutter because I just wanted the buzz of constant pain to stop. There is no explanation for the physical sensations except brain chemistry. I have anxiety attacks and social anxiety as part of my secondary symptom set.

I have been on one antidepressant or another on and off for 17 years. I managed to wean off for my pregnancies, but my hormones are their very own kind of special and impact my mood their own way. But more on that another day.

Today I am on a blend of two meds, a handful of tailored dietary supplements, I attend therapy every other week, and I am on a strict exercise plan of cardio or yoga 4-5 days a week. I’ll give you three guesses which one I struggle with most.

This is the aspect of my mental health that drags down my baseline mood. On it’s own it is crippling, and it is the first line on the my disability determination. My other jumble of intermittent and or cyclical disorders just pile on top of this to keep me from being traditionally productive and happy.

I find a way, though. We do, together. Tonight, with a sick kiddo (Isn’t there always one?) and Alex out until an hour after bedtime, I’m taking things slow. My 2 year old wanted to cuddle nearly all day, so very little got done, but it is such a pleasure to hold her. My big girl, 5, got far far too much TV, but also let her baby sister lay in the big girl bed for cuddle and is now blowing my mind by going to bed with no fight. Little things. Good things.

Hello world!

Hi.  I’m Bekkah and I’m here because I’m super depressed.

I’m not completely sure what I intend with this blog.  I refuse to believe that I’m alone in being a parent with significant mental health issues, but it seems that when I look for other people like me I find lots of almosts and kindofs.  I don’t intend for this to be a place that substitutes for health or therapeutic care, but instead I want to create a place where I can come share their everyday experience of being crazy and parenting crazy and maybe throw out some advice, share some good feelings, and make myself a little community.

This post is to see how WordPress works, honestly. I expect to do several low content post like this as I’m getting started.


Today, Alex is on edge from needing to have a conversation with a professor who decided to format her classroom participation credit in such a way that he could not ever succeed. She intends to enforce group seating and randomize those groups at every class session.  This is in an upper division math class! I only have minor social anxiety, and that idea makes me want to self harm. Alex’s social anxiety is so much worse. He was near tears describing the situation. He contacted the Disability Services office for an accommodation letter, but has to deliver it himself.

Rosebud has a little fever, meaning that I’m missing my regular session of commiserating and checking in with my BFFs and Jujubee is missing her playdate.  Too much screen time.