Surviving the Heat

The good Lord made us all out of iron.
Then he turns up the heat to forge some of us into steel. —Marie Osmond

Stress is always a strong force in our house. Not only are we business owners, we are spouses, parents, workers, caregivers, adult children, siblings, friends, competitors, athletes, and “home” owners. All of these titles bring with them a different set of expectations. As the oldest children, we both feel the need to meet ALL expectations.

This weekend, the gap between the expectations and the reality had a fall out. On Friday, we approached a weekend not knowing what the expectations were, but knowing that we weren’t meeting many of them.

  • We had expected that 5 years into our business, we would be able to start reducing our hands on work in the business; maybe have 3-4 other therapists and 1-2 other reception/bookkeepers.
  • We had expected that we would have the water, generator, and 12V electric hooked up and regularly being used; we are required to be plugged in and bring water in by the 5-gallon jug.
  • We had expected to be comfortable in our relationship and marriage, unconcerned with the stability of our household; those of you that are married know how tenuous this is.
  • We expected to be almost out of debt by now; we took Financial Peace University 7 years ago.
  • We expected to be at a race this weekend; the Spartan Sprint that I planned to do was yesterday. I decided not to because of some financial & family issues that have arisen lately.

All of these expectations falling short, along with a few critical or harsh words bring us to a halt in life. We snap at each other, we snark, we hold grudges, we fail to really show the love that God instructs us to. That leads to heat in the relationship.

It definitely doesn’t help that the heat outside was going to be super high this weekend. Friday, we got home and it was warm in the RV. 80 degrees F is uncomfortable and we knew it would be worse the next day. The forecast for Saturday was 95. We hadn’t tried out the air conditioning yet (another failed expectation: we thought we would know if any of our appliances didn’t work). The anxiety over the following day definitely played a part in our Friday breakdown.

Saturday came and neither of us had the energy to take a proactive look at the AC. We turned on the fans, rested most of the morning, and talked about how hot it was starting to get. Jeremy even watched some videos on YouTube that showed the maintenance necessary to keep an RV AC unit running well. And we remained hot and sweaty.

Toward the end of the day, I wanted to turn the fan on that’s attached to the AC. Jeremy told me to turn on the air “just to check”. I turned it on and it felt just like the fan at first. He told me that one of the videos he watched stated that it takes 15 minutes for cold air to work. And he was right. We were both so excited to shut down the vents and the windows to let ice cold AC air come in from the unit. Standing directly under the entry made it even a little icy.

The cold air helped us reconcile our hot-headed argument. By Sunday afternoon, we had a conversation about our finances for the first time in years and it ended well. We figured out an app to use to help us keep our spending down and we started the process of coming up with a budget. This time, we want to keep with the principals of Financial Peace, even though we won’t be using their app. Mint.com offers an app that allows us to link all of our accounts to have transactions automatically uploaded. The app from Financial Peace, EveryDollar, does not allow us to link our business account because of of a glitch in their syncing process. Both are good apps and if you like one over the other, please use it.

Now that we’re on the road to working together faithfully on our finances and the AC is working, the heat in The Girl Next Door has dropped considerably. It doesn’t hurt that a thunderstorm, complete with hail, blew through on Sunday. It was colorful and exciting; So exciting that our hosts asked us to come into their sticks & bricks house for safety! We all came out the other side of the storm, both literally and figuratively.

So, as we move toward our debt free life, join us in enjoying the small things:

  • The AC is working.
  • Our budget is started.
  • We made it through the hail.
  • We have each other to hold onto.
  • We still have things that we can expect… we just need to be a little gentler on ourselves when the expectations don’t get met in time.

What are your small things? Make sure you tell us when you see us on the road.

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You can’t be Cancer

No one ever tells you that you are pneumonia or cystic fibrosis. You are not rheumatoid arthritis or heart disease. You have diabetes, eczema, PCOS, or a row of stitches.

And for some reason, you are bipolar. You are borderline. You are Schizophrenic, depressed, OCD, or “mentally ill”. Once diagnosed with mental illness, it becomes part of your identity in most circles.

That’s one thing that bothers me in the public eye and I think it’s part of the stigma. When I was first trained as a personal care worker, I was trained that my clients are people first. That means that “He’s a person with autism” was a perfectly acceptable statement in that company; “He’s autistic” wasn’t. It was a model that brought dignity to the people that I was there to help. It allowed this person to decide if they were going to identify themselves as their illness or as something else. With this model, the person with mental illness can be anything they want to be still. If they want to be depressed, they can. Or they can choose to be a ballerina, an artist, or a lump in bed. If they want to be crazy, they can. Or they can choose to identify themselves as a person with mental illness and explain that they’d rather not talk about their diagnoses.

I like this model. I like seeing people be able to identify themselves how they would like to. I especially like it when people choose to identify as other than their illness. It gives us more purpose than to focus on our pain.

Focusing on our pain is happening this week. There’s a lot of reasons that may be throwing our lives into a tailspin. I kind of lied to some of you because of it. I cancelled appointments and shut down friend time because of a “family emergency”. That family emergency was an emotional dysregulation that has turned dangerous.

Recently, there’s been a lot of stress. 2 months ago, we moved into our RV and parked it at a couple of friends’ place. They helped us immensely to improve The Girl Next Door to at least a running status. A few weeks ago, they asked us to leave so that they could better serve their customers, who come to their business at the house. We were in the way, where we never had wanted to be. So, Jeremy fixed the fuel pump and we were on the road within hours of it being fixed. It was 2 days after they asked and way before the date that they had told us we had to be gone. Jeremy’s emotions started to get out of control then: when he took one sentence said as him being “unwanted”.

You see, when Jeremy starts to go away and the monster of his illness comes up, it usually starts to happen the most prevalently when he’s rummenating on something that can easily be misunderstood or taken the wrong way. You didn’t say anything wrong, or even mean. His dysregulated brain latches on to anything it can to torture him. Then, it plays that thing over and over again for over-analysis. He probably won’t say anything about it right away. He knows, logically, that his brain is being a jerk.

Next stress: Jeremy found out that his oldest son was in a hit and run accident 4 MONTHS AGO!! We didn’t know anything about it. He’s an adult and totally free to keep his secrets. What hurt Jeremy the most was that his parents knew about it and kept it from us. While his son wasn’t hurt, it reminds Jeremy of his ignorance of his son because his son chooses to cut us out and use Jeremy’s parents as a shield of sorts from life’s consequences. That hurts Jeremy; it reminds him that his adult child doesn’t trust his reactions. It also reminds Jeremy that his parents are coddling this adult child; that hurts too. Pain like this is a big stressor for any parent.

Jeremy’s younger son came to stay with us from Friday to Monday of the Memorial Day weekend. This may not seem like something out of the ordinary for most of you. However, this child has been dealing with mental health issues of his own. This is the first time in almost a year that he’s been in our house for more than a few hours, much less an overnight. There was anxiety on everyone’s part, Jeremy and his son the most probably. We all want a successful relationship. The trust that was lost last year is slowly rebuilding. I don’t know about them, but I want it to be back, darnit! I’m tired of learning how to forgive and how to renew the relationship. I can only imagine how the two of them feel about it. So, for 4 days, there was the constant stress of being a good parent and learning how to trust and how to earn trust again.

On top of all of this, Jeremy’s doctor changed his meds last week. That means that this week is when we’ll start to see some of the changes that this new dosage should bring about. In the past, on this medicine, there is an initial spike of mental illness activity when there’s a change. Eventually, it evens out and Jeremy is back to himself again. And while we’re in this week and maybe next week, there will be some loss of stability with the change. This will be happening for Jeremy for a long time. He and his doctor started him back on this med back in December. He’s been very slowly and steadily increasing the dosage since then. It’s a hard place to be, the middle of a med change.

Some medicine changes happen very quickly. When Jeremy went off of Lamictal before, it was an instant thing. His doctor told him to discontinue immediately and come in for a consultation. They changed him to Lithium and that was that. Some happen more slowly. Sometimes, finding the right medicine for anything takes forever. Jeremy was on Lithium for 4 months last year. It didn’t help; in fact, it may have made things worse when he was on it. Imagine that happening 2, 3, maybe even 4 times with different medicines. This can be a multi-year process for some.

This week has erupted beyond our normal feeling of “off-balance”. Every day there is usually some uncomfortable feeling of anxiety or neuroses from one or both of us. Usually, we’re able to pull the thought train back to forward and make life work. On a normal week, it’s hard to get day-to-day life finished, but not impossible. The laundry may pile up for a few days, the bills may get paid only after a reminder letter, the dishes look icky for a whole 2 days instead of getting washed daily. It isn’t usually so off that we can’t live.

Over the last month, that hasn’t been the case. We’ve been living on bought meals and restaurants because we don’t have the foresight to make dinner. We’ve been allowing the dishes to overflow the sink. Our laundry took 5 loads the other day and I still have a basket full of dirty. We could really use the help of someone willing to help us organize, get things done, and lift our spirits. Let’s face it, isolation is another side effect of mental illness breaking down. It’s not as simple as just having the people we need in place to help. There’s arranging that needs to be done if those things are going to happen. Neither of us is up to that task. So, this week, it has all come to a head and we’ve had to try to hold the pieces together.

In the end, the month of May was extremely stressful on both of us. Jeremy hasn’t been able to regulate his emotions like he wants to. He doesn’t want to have outbursts and breakdowns. In turn, I respond by pulling inward, letting my self-care go, and riding the depression train. Neither of us wants this; we want to be happy and healthy. We are working together to find a way to make that happen. Hopefully, once we’re through this hard time, we’ll be able to go out and see you on the road again.