Taking a Minute (OK, Ten) to Refocus

Jerri once said, “You look at me and see a problem. I’m not a problem—I’m a person!” Ouch. Granted, she wasn’t well at the time and she was really, REALLY angry about me refusing to drop everything and wrap my life around her current crisis. Still. If I’m honest with myself (and most of the time I try to be, unless I’m hormonal, and then I tend to listen to that small but obnoxiously loud inner voice that hollers “You can’t handle the truth!”), she was right. My entire family has treated Jerri as a problem that needs fixing since she was about 14 years old.

But it’s not just Jerri. I have this uncanny ability to spot problems everywhere. It’s as if I’m viewing the entire world through a cracked lens. No matter where I look, there is stuff that needs to be fixed. My mind seems to hone in on that which is broken. I don’t know how I got to be this way, whether it’s innately who I am or a way of thinking learned from my parents. But I do know this. No one wants to hear about problems unless you’re offering solutions. And you need to make sure your conversations are sprinkled with positives or people will avoid you like a friendly raccoon in broad daylight. (Rabies for you city peeps scratching your heads.)

My boss recently reminded me of this. Not about raccoons (although that does sound like a conversation we might have) but about refocusing on the positives.

I’m currently working on the-project-from-hell (literally, that’s what I named the folder where all my project docs get filed) which appears to be totally jinxed, I mean, if anything can go wrong on this project, it will and it has. It’s as if the whole universe is conspiring against me. I’ve known for quite some time my life is harder than everybody else’s :-). But, really? I’ve brought issue after issue, challenge after challenge to my boss’s attention so he reminded me during my semi-annual professional development discussion that what I’m working on is, in fact, STILL an awesome project. It is STILL very worthwhile and something we should be doing as a company. We have made a tremendous amount of progress and it’s important to remember and to celebrate what we’ve accomplished. And we need to make sure upper management hears about the good stuff and not just about what sucks.

The same is true with Jerri. Not that she’s a “project” but like all of us, she is a work in progress. We have both come a long way since she moved here in 2010. It’s been hard. It’s been challenging. It’s been bang-your-head-against-the-wall frustrating. There have been times I thought I’d hyperventilate. Or get in my car, keep on driving, and never look back. But in a weird almost twisted way, its also been rewarding. Like Glinda (Wicked), who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But I have grown. And I have been changed for good. (Don’t hate me for identifying with Glinda here—remember, Elphaba turns out to be the hero.)

(Elphaba):
I’m limited. Just look at me – I’m limited
And just look at you. You can do all I couldn’t do, Glinda
So now it’s up to you. For both of us – now it’s up to you…

(Glinda):
I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those who help us most to grow If we let them
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today because I knew you…

20120714-143822.jpgI completely understand why many siblings, maybe even most siblings, want nothing to do with brothers and sisters with brain disorders, particularly those who are dual diagnosis. It’s like marriage and growing old. It isn’t for wimps. However, for those of us who have chosen to engage, what we gain personally and spiritually is priceless. All of us who care for people with brain disorders need to refocus every now and then and celebrate even the small stuff.

In the spirit of that, Jerri, Stan, and I are off to see Brave (Groupon) and then dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s. Here’s what I’m celebrating today:

  • Jerri’s been consistently stable for about 2 months.
  • I’ve managed to vanquish the evil Adderall Rx at least for now.
  • She has more energy, is keeping her apartment clean, and doing her laundry.
  • She has a renewed interest in making her place “homey” and used her own money to buy a new comforter set and shower curtain. She also rescued a rug from the dumpster (ew!) but it does look nice.
  • She’s making some tough, responsible decisions. She worked with her telecom provider on a plan to catch up on payments and she’s faithfully made the last 3 installments. She has told a friend who has been crashing regularly at her apartment and who has been asked by property management to stay off the premises that he can no longer stay with her.
  • She is starting to care about her appearance and health again. She’s talking about making appointments to see both a dentist and an ophthalmologist.
  • She’s had some substance abuse relapses but she tells me now when she uses instead of making up some outrageous story about the magical disappearance of appliances—stuff that’s only truly believable if you happen to live at Hogwarts. She has told the source not to come around any more and identified some local Narcotics Anonymous meetings within walking distance.
  • She’s thinking about others more. On our last grocery day, she brought a list of items to pick up for Bronwyn, a friend in her building who’s struggling with depression. She’s also clipping coupons for restaurants to help subsidize our outings.
  • I’m having some success with boundaries. Just yesterday, when Jerri called asking for a $3.00 loan, I reminded her of my policy on that—she needs to manage her money in such a way that she has at least $5.00 left at the end of each pay period to cover unplanned needs. So I said no and told her she was really pushing my boundaries. She agreed, and, can you believe it, LET IT GO. Just like that.
  • Jerri is starting to dream again and to set goals. When we finally sell her car, she plans to buy a scooter with the money. This is a GREAT solution to her mobility issues. It doesn’t require a license and hers has been suspended indefinitely since she can’t afford to pay the fines. It also keeps her off the highways which, trust me, is just better for everyone all the way around. Gas for a scooter is also way more affordable than for a car. Her other dream is to move to the beach and she talks about setting money aside on a regular basis as soon as she’s paid off some debts.
  • Oh, and probably the best thing—Jerri’s youngest daughter, “A”, called her. This is incredible, really. They’ve had practically no contact for years. “A” lives with our parents and like everyone else in that household, does not understand mental illness and the link to addiction. She lived with Jerri until she was around 8 years old, I believe. There is a LOT of baggage. “A” is applying for financial aid for college and needs Jerri’s signature on some forms. She called me first, soliciting my help, and I encouraged her to talk to Jerri. And she did!
  • A great theologian :-), Albus Dumbledore, once said:

    Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

    Hope you all join me in turning on the light, whatever the circumstances in which you find yourself today.

    Advertisements

    2 Comments on “Taking a Minute (OK, Ten) to Refocus”

    1. soulsister says:

      Good reminder to look for the positive! During these times and always, sometimes hard to see the good for the bad….and believe it or not, when I look for it , there is a lot of good! Thanks!

    2. Terri, I’ve been thinking about you guys often, and am so cheered by this post – for both of you.

      Friends of mine have sons who have chosen scooters over cars, due to the expense, and so far, they are working out great for around-town transportation.

      I’m glad that Jerri’s youngest daughter called. She probably thinks about Jerri a lot, and needs some kind of contact. My youngest sees her birth mother a couple of times a year. While they aren’t close, I do think my youngest likes enough contact to know her birth mother is safe. She’s still living a lifestyle that makes it hard to interact with her for long, but when all is said at the end of the day, she did bring my youngest daughter into the world, and we’re all grateful for that. She also voluntarily relinquished her parental rights, the best decision she could have made for her daughter. She did it with no prompting from me or the social workers. She just caught me in the parking lost outside the building, and with no warning admitted she wasn’t able to take care of herself, and didn’t want her daughter to ride the roller coaster ride of an addict’s life with her. While I at first was shocked that she felt she couldn’t do the simplest part(s) of the reunification plan, I give her props for being that insightful and honest about her parenting abilities.


    Leave a comment

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s