If it’s possible for something to be both a clusterfuck and a blessing, then that was my 2015. There’s really no other way to describe it. Miserable at times, but every bit of it brought some degree of enlightenment. A means to a much better end; a catalyst, catharsis. Not quite how I would’ve liked to go about things, but now that the year is over there isn’t much I’d go back and do differently.
Most of all, I wish I would’ve cherished every moment of my pregnancy. I was so sick, so exhausted and still not completely sold on the idea of a 7th child for most of it. I wish I’d talked to my little belly more often, and embraced my little boy in my heart much earlier than I did. If there is some greater purpose for River’s brief walk with us, I haven’t figured it out yet. I just know that despite the health issues he would’ve faced, I would’ve traveled every step of his journey with him. Surgeries, recovery, every single moment. A place in my heart will always have a hole in it, because it was his; and because he was loved. I don’t regret loving him, even if it means carrying the pain of that love for the rest of my days.
I should’ve started therapy much earlier than I did. I should’ve been more proactive and let my illness rule me less. The people who told me how much life can improve with enough effort and the right support were absolutely right, and I wish I’d believed them sooner. The difference is like black and white, like night and day. This wasn’t a fight I could win by myself no matter how much I wanted to. I had to swallow my pride and do what was necessary, even though it was one of the most difficult decisions of my entire life. Parts were agonizing; yet every single bit was worth it. I’ll be finding my way up this mountain, slowly but surely, until my days are done.
I wish I’d listened to my instincts. I should’ve trusted my gut and walked away from fake people much faster. At the same time, I don’t regret that experience as a whole. It taught me to advocate for myself, and that I have value despite my illness. It showed me that an inflated ego and massive sense of entitlement are a toxic combination that I never should’ve touched with a ten-foot pole; that spiritual impotence, profound apathy and perpetual tunnel-vision aren’t anything I want in my life. That some people are parasites at their very core, determine to suck every last drop from each person they latch onto. Physically, emotionally, financially… and spiritually. I’m grateful to have learned to look harder at the people I get close to, and to hold myself to a higher standard for my loved ones. I’m determined to actually live, not merely exist; that ‘fuck it, who cares, everything is an illusion’ is the anthem of an absolute coward. I want to do something with my life besides oxygenate, excrete and ego-stroke. I refuse to require enablers in order to survive, like some sort of oversized child. My family is worth more to me than that.
A lot of incredible things happened this year as well. I got to spend extra time with my Dad and baby sister from Colorado. We discovered new resources right on our property, and worked hard to make good use of them. We learned new skills, and are now heating our home solely with wood. I put my feet in the Puget Sound, another item scratched off the ol’ bucket list. Our high schooler is driving, volunteering, earned her second academic letter and has the opportunity to start college early. Our middle schooler is excelling, interested in sociology and has become extremely passionate about mental healthcare reform in America. Our two elementary schoolers are reading at advanced levels and were described as ‘unusually intelligent, mature and empathetic to their peers’ by their teachers. Our preschooler has managed to stay out of trouble and loves his daily bus rides, thinks girls are the best thing ever and always tells me (in painstaking detail) what they had for snack that day. Our two year old is… well, he’s two. An adorable little terrorist who chases his sisters with the toilet plunger and drinks my coffee every time my back is turned; who gives the most adorable boogery kisses and still climbs into bed with us to snuggle. Even while I was sick, struggling or so deep in my pain that I couldn’t be there for them emotionally the way I needed to be, they kept right on growing. They’re becoming such amazing, capable, badass people and I’m beyond blessed to be their mother.
2015 was an uphill battle for our family. Windows closed- but doors opened, many of them. I’m glad I chose to write about it along the way. Countless people have reached out to me after reading these entries- some strangers, some who I’ve known for over a decade- to tell me that they’ve also struggled with a mental health diagnosis. That they’ve been marginalized by friends, dismissed by healthcare providers, even discarded by their partner or spouse on account of their ‘crazy.’ I’ve connected with other mothers who have lost babies in the ‘gray area’ of very late first trimester/early second trimester, some of whom I’ve known for years but who hadn’t felt able to give voice to their loss. Our babies were barely miscarried, but not yet stillborn; they had faces, fingers, toes. Names and identities. Caught between two classifications and not quite sure which to file our pain under, we still have each other for support. It doesn’t lessen the hurt, but it’s a comfort all the same.
I’m thrilled to have met some truly incredible people this year. Other homesteaders, ‘sustainabillies,’ goat folks and big thinkers. Musicians, artists, writers. Survival skills weirdos, salvagers, foragers, fishing addicts and amateur photography nerds. We’ve met a lot of other parents who would rather raise their children on a farm than in a McMansion, encouraging life skills over video games. Dreamers, free spirits and malcontents. People who love a challenge and embrace the opportunity to be the architects of their future. I couldn’t ask for a more amazing family and I’m so grateful to be part of such a motley, hilarious, beautiful and brilliant tribe.
I’m really excited for the possibilities this year. I’m going to keep pushing myself to live around my Bipolar; to do more, to be more, to be learn more. Last year, a brief friend informed Justin and I that we needed to face reality- that I won’t survive this illness. That sooner or later I will drop too far down, and end my life. That my eventual suicide is inevitable. To that person, if you’re reading this: I’m not weak like you are, not anymore. Getting better and being everything my family needs is more important to me than my pride. So fuck your prediction. Fuck your inevitabilities, and fuck your self-serving armchair psychiatry. Fuck your ridiculous ego and fuck your grandiosity. The reality is that I’m already surviving, and I’ll continue to survive- because I’m not afraid of working for something. Living- not just consuming, absorbing and existing- is worth it.