Brendan Maier Performing at the Layne Staley Tribute, 2019

Seasons performed by Brendan Maier and Chout

A few months ago,  my 18 year old post-grunge-rocker son sent me a message with a couple of links.  The messages read,  “You’ve got to listen to this band.  The singer will remind you of someone,  but I won’t say who.  You’ll know the moment you hear his voice.  Try not to cry.”  I love my son.  I knew immediately to whom he was referring.

It’s no secret amongst the people who know me that I am a diehard fan of Alice in Chains and Mad Season,  especially when Layne was still alive and recording.  For years,  I listened to Alice/Mad Season/Jerry Cantrell to the exclusion of everyone else.  So I knew that this singer was suppposed to sound like Layne Staley.  And I prepared myself for disappointment.  No one in this world sounds like him.  The prospect of any new music featuring Laynes voice in the future died with him in 2002.  I railed at the suggestion because I am an avowed music snob,  but I listened.  And I cried.

This young man is Brendan Maier,  and the band is Chout.  They hail from the midwest,  bringing new music with a nod to a classic sound.  If you are familiar with Alice in Chains’ earlier years,  if you are familiar with Layne’s powerful,  gut-wrenching vocals and you close your eyes,  it may transport you to the early ’90s when the Seattle rock scene was blowing up.  If you are a fan and sentimental,  then Brendan’s voice may make you cry too.  LOL.

***If you are a fan of Layne,  if you would like to see and support this up-and-coming young singer as he performs,  The Crocodile in Seattle is hosting their Layne Staley Tribute, 2019,  where he will be featured!!!!!!!

The tribute starts at 7pm on Saturday,  August 24, 2019 at The Crocodile,  2200 2nd Avenue,  Seattle,  WA  98121.  They can be reached at (206) 441-4618,  and tickets are $25.00.  The proceeds go to benefit the Layne Staley Memorial Fund which,  through Therapeutic Health Services,  offers education,  treatment funds,  support,  and hope to people in the Seattle music community struggling with heroin addiction:  a worthy cause to be certain.

Advertisements

On Being Adopted – Part I

I’ve been wanting to talk about being adopted, but it being a pretty complex and emotional journey for me, I’ve resisted getting started.

First of all, being adopted is a journey. I would think it would be different for those with an open adoption, but for those of us who were adopted while everything was still so hush hush and our records sealed, it can be a journey.

I must preface this by saying that I grew up around many other adopted kids, and I don’t recall any of them having the issues that I had growing up. (This creates a question as to whether my issues growing up were from being adopted, from undiagnosed juvenile bipolar disorder, a combination of both, or something different entirely.) I am writing this from my experience only. I cannot speak for my parents or my grandparents, as they are all dead.

**Oh! And for the sake of clarity, my parents are the ones who raised me. When I refer to a biological parent, I will refer to him or her as my biological – birth or natural – parent.

I am writing this today, because New Year’s Eve is the anniversary of my adoption.

I was adopted by a businessman and a teacher, when I was less than a month old. They raised me, supported me, and loved me as if I was their own flesh and blood. My maternal grandparents lived only about two hours away, and they were always present. From infancy, I was surrounded by an incredible family. I am fortunate, lucky, blessed.

The Cast

My grandpa was my hero. He was well over six feet tall with sparkling powder blue eyes, and a long shock of almost-white hair that fell down over his forehead. He called me Smiley, introduced me as Sleeping Beauty to strangers when I was asleep in his arms, and took me for nighttime walks past the Boogey Mans house. He was my conspirator when I was a disgruntled, angry teen, taking me shopping for all the junk food I could think of whenever I came for a visit (even though I was perpetually on a diet). My grandpa called us the black sheep of the family, and I took pride and comfort in being part of a duo, rather than being bad all alone. As an adult, he told me that I was his favorite person. No matter how bad I was, no matter what I did, he loved me unreservedly.

My grandma was a tiny birth of a thing, not standing even five feet tall, with emerald-colored eyes that missed nothing. She had been a teacher too, and had subscriptions of Ranger Rick, a science and nature magazine for kids, sent to me at home. When she came for a visit, she would do the science experiments that were in the latest issue with me. She taught me words in Spanish and French, opening my mind up to the fascinating world of language. When we went to sleep at night in her big bed, she would scratch my head while telling me to float on clouds, each one a delicious color; butter yellow, lettuce green, seashell pink. She would have loved the wealth of knowledge available to us today on the internet. It would have fascinated her.

My mom. My mama. It’s hard to write this without crying. I loved my mom fiercely. From my earliest memory, my mom could not go out for an evening and leave me with a babysitter without me bawling like a baby until I was nine or ten years old. She was my safe place. I spent my late teen years and my twenties terrorizing her with my partying and drunk driving, but she never ever gave up hope that I would someday be okay. After I got sober (she paid for my rehab), she revealed how her experiences with me helped her to better understand the special needs kids she was teaching. She told me that I’d finally become what she’d always hoped: her best friend. As she lay dying, she apologized to me for the way she’d raised me. That’s the kind of loving person she was, although no apology was needed.

My dad. Yeah, this is the hardest one. I was the one person who could infuriate my dad to the point of violence. He’d give me a good beating then send me off to my room, coming in before he went to bed to apologize to me, kiss me, and tell me he loved me. Ugh. That was the grossest feeling. I annoyed him. I irritated him. And he had no idea how to deal with me. In school, I never lived up to my potential and was a constant source of disappointment for him. However, at some point after my Homeless Experience, he softened with me. He would give food to the homeless people by his work and say I inspired him to do so. He was proud of my artistic ability and had my poetry and sketches hanging on the walls of his office. Once I got sober, he was really proud of me, and he learned to accept me for the person I was rather than my “potential”. After my mom died, I became his trusted confidant and his spiritual advisor.

My brother. He’s three years younger than I am, but was five years behind me in school. My parents applied to adopt a baby boy, and BOOM! She got pregnant. So he is their biological child. He is tall like my grandpa was, and soft spoken like him. He was a mild child, never loud, challenging, or argumentative. He and I couldn’t be any more different. As a child, I had a love-hate relationship with him. I couldn’t bear to see him hurt unless I was the one beating him up. We developed a close relationship once I was out of the house, and we remained close until he met his wife. I won’t go into that here.

Ingrid. She was a beautiful, buxom, blonde, Scandinavian woman who moved in nextdoor when I was three or four. Ingrid loves me as though I was her own child. She used to invite me to spend the night with her when her husband was out of town. She made me blueberry soup and taught me to count in Swedish. I love her. She’s always been my champion. Even now, in the rift between me and my brother, she is Team Sunny all the way.

I know now, and I have known for quite a while, that I was given this family for a reason. Well, many many reasons to be sure. With the exception of my brother and Ingrid, they are all dead, leaving me to navigate my life in this world alone. None of them lived to see me diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but I am sure they would be relieved to know that there was a reason I was so erratic and emotional all my life. I wish I could talk to them about it now.

 

The Never-ending Goal List

Ah yes, the Goal List, aka, List of Dreams, Wish List, Affirmations. It can be whatever you want really. There is no real art or science to it, nor is it concrete or chisled in stone. In fact, put down what you’d like to do, see, hear, feel, taste, buy, make, sell, or find. Include places you’d like to visit, people you’d like to meet. Don’t be afraid to be frivolus. The sky is your limit. And by all means, change it, refine it, add to it as much as you’d like. This is for you. It’s between you and the Universe.

And don’t forget, when one of your dreams is achieved, to write VICTORY across it in bright, bold letters!!!!

What can you come up with?????

GOAL LIST

  1. Get a great job working with terrific, kind, compassionate, upbeat people.
  2. Set aside $20 each paycheck and forget about it.
  3. Help my kids get squared away for school.
  4. Get my car repaired. Eventually, get a reliable new car!!!
  5. Never need government assistance again!
  6. Be excellent at my job.
  7. Create a coloring book and have it published.
  8. Save up a down payment for a different house.
  9. Find a new house on land in the country, where the owner will carry a contract. Raise Nigerian dwarf goats for fun. Get solar power.
  10. Have my hair professionally colored.
  11. Rock hunt the Little Naches in the spring.
  12. Visit Red Top Mountain.
  13. Collect crystals at Hansen Creek.
  14. Make a trip to Richardson Rock Ranch.
  15. Go camping!!!!
  16. Write a letter to my brother.
  17. My youngest will thrive in his school/training program.
  18. My oldest will find a fun job which will help him with his self-worth and his self-confidence.
  19. Make an effort to let go of anger and hurt, and move forward.
  20. Forgive yourself.
  21. Stop feeling guilty.
  22. Be proud of how far you have come. And don’t forget!
  23. Find someone to help me figure out how to start a non-profit center, and whether my idea is feasible or not.
  24. Take clothing to donations.
  25. Make those candles, finally!
  26. Be better at connecting with friends.
  27. Plant a tree in the front yard.
  28. Decorate for the holidays.
  29. Plan ahead for Christmas.
  30. Take lots of pictures!
  31. Develop a stronger relationship with my higher power.
  32. Remember to be grateful. Remember to pray.

Oh, for the love of goats…

I started out this life in the suburbs of Los Angeles.  It was a good life:  I had my own room,  we had a view of the ocean and Catalina Island,  my parents were happily married,  and I had loving grandparents two hours away.

When I grew up and could choose where I wanted to live,  I moved into the city.  From the night I first set foot in Hollywood,  I wanted to live there.  Not for the acting or the movie stars,  no.  I was there for the music.  It was the Hair Band Heydays,  and the lure of the nightly party on the Sunset Strip was too strong for me to resist.  I loved it there.  I was a party girl,  and I fit in.  Throughout the 10 years I lived there,  I swore repeatedly that I would never leave:  it was my home.

Moving to rural Washington state was a complete game changer for me.  The city of Yakima is surrounded by and at least partially supported by all kinds of agriculture.  Apples,  cherries,  stone fruit,  grapes,  hops,  and now marijuana are produced locally.  We have dairies,  cattle ranches,  alpacas,  hogs,  llamas,  sheep, Highland cattle,  horses,  goats…there was even a mink farm in Central Washington years ago.  My favorite thing to do was to go for a drive into the outlying communities on the weekends.  Farming just resonated with me.

Boy pacas Eburg

My male alpacas

When my family died,  I received a sizable inheritance.  I wasn’t content leaving the money invested.  I wanted to build something to sustain my family,  something to pass down to my kids.  I had no idea that the venture I chose would change me so completely.

It all started with alpacas.  I’d seen the ads on TV touting the “alpaca lifestyle”.  I researched the animals,  the alpaca fiber industry,  alpaca health,  breeding.  I dove headlong into learning everything I could about them and finally decided that I wanted to be an alpaca farmer.

Baby Ix Chel Eburg.jpg

Newborn Ixchel, a suri alpaca

I loved alpacas.  I was a camelid kind of girl.  I loved alpacas and llamas and guanacos and vicuna.  I have to tell you,  though,  as much as I loved them, they did not love me.  Alpacas are fairly shy animals,  and they can be very nervous.  Even after hours sitting quietly in their pastures trying to get them to become comfortable with my presence,  they became used to me at best.  No amount of firm but gentle handling improved the situation either.  They were beautiful,  colorful,  and elegant,  but they were not particularly user-friendly.

My First Goats, Eburg.jpg

My first girls

To our herd we added some goats.  My husband at the time and I had gone to a goat show at the fairgrounds on a whim.  While there,  we took a look at the various dairy and meat breeds and had a chance to talk with some local breeders who touted the benefits of goat farming.  The alpaca market was on the decline,  and goats seemed like an excellent idea.

We went to a livestock auction looking for good prices on cattle or the odd llama.  The auctioneer was offering up small herds of young meat/dairy cross goats,  and my husband gave me the card with our number on it telling me to bid on a group of good ones.  I got so excited!  Pretty soon,  a mini-herd of 6 lovely crosses came up for bid.  I set my limit at $50 a head and started to compete.  I couldn’t tell if the goats were little bucklings,  doelings,  or wethers,  I just bid.

When my husband came back,  I told him what I had done.  I had just won a small herd of young goats.  He asked me if they were doelings,  and I confessed that I didn’t know.  If they were doelings,  they would be the matriarchs of our herd.  If they were bucklings or wethers,  it would be a debacle.  We would have to turn around and sell them immediately in order to not lose on our investment.

I got lucky,  SUPER lucky.  They were little girls!!!!  We were so excited!  We drove them over to my mother-in-laws house to show them off on the way home to our farm.  Once we got them home,  we corralled them off near our house,  administered vaccinations and de-wormer,  and gave them each a name that began with A.  Finally,  we turned them loose on the pasture with the alpacas and guard llamas.

029

LOL. I named him Handsome. He was a sweet buck raised by us from a kid, and he made many nice babies for us!

Goats are totally different than alpacas and llamas.  They’re even different than sheep.  They are playful,  curious,  and affectionate.  Kids within hours of their birth will be jumping,  leaping,  and prancing about like they do in all of the goat memes on facebook.  If you sit down in the pasture or the barn with them,  the adults will rub their faces on you,  sniff you,  and maybe sit down beside you.  The kids,  however,  will use you as a spring board.  They will play King of the Mountain with you being the mountain.  They will curl up in your lap and fall asleep,  melting your heart and stealing it away.  They will stand on your head if you will let them.

Oreo April 2009

Her name is Oreo!

Late winter and early spring is kidding season.  Most does kid with no problem,  but there is the occasional instance when intervention is needed.  Mostly,  it’s about being there in the middle of cold winter nights when a baby is born to make sure they don’t freeze to death,  or to help the weaker ones get to their feet for their first drink of colostrum.  Sometimes a kid is born who needs a little more attention.

Lashes was my favorite doe.  She wasn’t a pretty goat.  She had those ears that look like Shrek ears and an exceedingly long face.  She was always the first goat to approach me when I entered the pasture,  and would stay by my side until I left. She kidded in the middle of the night.  Triplets.  One had been stillborn or had died shortly after birth,  and the other two,  a little buck and a little doe,  were weak and unable to stand.  We were able to hold them up to nurse just to ensure they got that nutrient and antibody rich colostrum,  and then we brought them inside.  My (current) husband went back outside to milk Lashes so that we could bottle feed her babies while we tended to them.

Lashes and Strawberry.JPG

Lashes and her daughter, Strawberry Girl

They were beautiful kids.  The boy was snow white with big floppy ears,  and the girls ears were speckled with red blotches and spots.  We dried her off,  fed her some milk,  and that little girl was up and running.  By mid-morning,  we were able to take her back out and put her on her mom.

The little boy couldn’t get warm.  I ran a warm bath and put him in it,  careful to hold his head up.  Within minutes he was moving his legs and making that sweet little baby goat bleat.  When I lifted him out of the water,  he stood for a moment,  but then laid right down on the towel I had placed on the floor.  I dried him off and fed him,  but I didn’t have a lot of hope for him.  He went to sleep wrapped in a warm blanket on the floor of our bedroom.

The sound of him chirping woke me up.  It was morning,  and I sat up to see what was making that sound.  It was him!  His beautiful little head was peeking above the blanket,  and he was chirping,  demanding to be fed.  Oh joy of my heart.

We named him Dinkus,  I don’t know why.  Probably because he was such a goofy and friendly little guy.  We were unable to integrate him back onto his mother unfortunately.  He remained our little bottle baby until he grew big enough to be weaned.  He was our farm ambassador,  the greeter of visitors,  the winner of hearts.

Dinkus 1-7-10

This is Dinkus, our snow white farm ambassador

I was totally unprepared for the joy that goats brought into my life.  They were like an antidepressant.  I’ve had horses,  pigs,  rabbits,  and cattle in addition to the llamas and alpacas,  but none of them have ever captured my heart the way goats have.  Some of them are like dogs,  wanting your attention.  Others are like cats, wanting your attention some times,  but fiercely independent.  And each one has its own personality.  I’m happy to note that my herd was purchased in its entirety by a gentleman who contracts them out to clear brush on the Westside of the state.

It’s been eight years since I sold my farm and moved into a trailer park in town. It’s a decent place;  quiet,  affordable,  and a gated community to boot.  But I miss my goats.  I miss everything about them.  It is one of my goals to once again own a farm,  this time a small one,  where I can raise a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats purely for the love of them.

Who would ever have thought that a rocker chick who swore she’d never leave Hollywood would end up a farmer?  And who would have thought I would love it so much?

 

On grief and living with loss…

I believe I have lived a charmed life.

I lived most of my life with little exposure to death or dying. As a child, I was sheltered from it. I lost my granddad when I was four, my great aunt when I was maybe 8 or 9, and then random people like my old, crotchety neighbor (who actually died on my birthday. Ugh.). There were a couple of kids in my high school who died in car accidents. This is my entire experience with death as a child.

My favorite uncle died when I was a little bit older,  in my early 20s. He had been sick and declining for many years. He’d been an incredible artist and a teacher, so to lose all motor function, the ability to walk, and the ability to speak coherently must have been horrible and terrifying for him. When he died, I think it was sort of a relief because he wasn’t suffering anymore. He died in the early ’90s.

After that, no one else died. Not for a long time.

But then my paternal grandma died in 1998, followed in quick succession by my mom in February of 1999. Then my maternal grandpa died in the summer of 2000, my maternal grandma in March of 2002, and my dad in August. One right after the other, my entire family decimated, with the exceptions of me and my brother.

I didn’t know anything about grief. I had a horrible time dealing with the loss of my mom. She was my bestfriend, my touchstone. I spoke with her nearly everyday on the phone. She was my voice of reason. I think she was the person I most looked up to in my life. When she died, I was completely lost. I cried and cried, and I couldn’t get past the mountain of pain that I climbed everyday. I decided to see a therapist who helped me to understand that grief is a process.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler identified 5 stages of grief, which was later modified to include two other stages (marked here by an *).

  1. Shock* – initial paralysis hearing the bad news
  2. Denial – trying to avoid the inevitable
  3. Anger – frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion
  4. Bargaining – seeking in vain for a way out
  5. Depression – final realization of the inevitable
  6. Testing* – seeking realistic solutions
  7. Acceptance – finally finding the way forward

(https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/grief/understanding-the-stages-of-grief/)

My therapist also explained that it is possible to grieve all types of loss. Loss of a job, a relationship, a home, anything meaningful, can cause a person to grieve. She also made it very clear that there is no prescribed time frame for grief. There is no rule book. It takes as long as it takes. And for each person and each situation, it can be different.

By the time my dad died,  I was kind of dumbfounded, maybe in a little bit of shock. The realization that I was an orphan at the tender age of 33, that the family who loved me unconditionally and supported me my entire life was no more, made me feel empty and lost. It is excruciatingly painful to miss someone and not be able to call that person, go over to her house, talk to her ever again.

I think for a long time I was numb. Sometimes I wonder if I ever did really grieve my grandparents and my dad, I was so busy missing my mom. I never really cried about them. When my grandpa and grandma died, I didn’t cry. I think I was relieved. They’d watched both of their children die, which my grandma always said was “unnatural”. I think they were ready, and I was at peace with that. But when my dad died, I just couldn’t believe it. It was crazy to lose him too. I realized that my life would never be the same.

I didn’t cry over him. We had become super close in the time since my mom died. I named my oldest after him. He confided things in me that he told no one else. He finally came to accept me, and I believe that he’d learned to love me unconditionally. So why didn’t I cry?

About three weeks ago I was thinking about my dad, and I just started to cry, I mean really bawl. It’s been 16 years since he died, and I was sobbing as if it had just happened. I thought about our relationship, how I had disappointed him, and how he had grown to look past the ambitions he had for me and had come to love me for the person I was.

I think once I have accepted the loss,  the pain I feel is from missing the person and wishing that he or she was still here. Maybe that should be the 8th stage of grief,  missing the person.

 

On rape…

Consider this a warning…if you are triggered by discussion about rape, promiscuity, victimization, or homelessness, you should proceed with due caution.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of rape, the number to the National Rape Crisis Hotline is : 1-800-656-4673.

This is one of the many insane things that happened to me when I was 19 years old, drinking heavily, and completely unaware that I was living with mental illness. It is true from my perspective, and the names of the participants have been changed.

There are many things I could have done to prevent what happened to me. I could have made a dozen other choices rather than going to visit my friend, drunk, that night. IN NO WAY am I saying that I deserved it. No one deserves to be victimized in this way. As you will read, I made many many mistakes that night that put me in the perfect position to become a victim.

Please be kind and keep an open mind as you read this, because it’s humiliating to admit,  much less write down. Even now, thirty years later, I can hardly believe this is part of my story. Know that I am not the only one who has been through this. There are literally millions of people living in the United States with some form of mental illness. Granted, not all of us end up living on the streets, in our cars, on skid row. Some of us walk silently amongst the general population, work at regular jobs, undetected.

When I was 19, I met a long-haired guitarist at a club. We had sex in my car and spent the night hanging out, and I became obsessed with him. He was a very kind guy, truly. He never knew what hit him. He was very honest with me that he wasn’t interested in me or a relationship at the time, but for some reason I glommed onto him with an iron grip. I chose to leave my parents’ house and my job to be around him. When he was kicked out of where he was living and working, we lived in my two-seater hatchback car.

At some point, we joined up with Jamie and his friend, Basil, who were living in Jamies parents’ garage. His parents didn’t want any of us there, including Jamie. Most days were spent hanging out there because we didn’t have the gas to drive around. On this particular night, the guitarist, Todd, and the other guys had taken off in Jamies van to go to a wet t-shirt contest, leaving me alone pissed and jealous in the garage. But at least I had my car.

For some reason, I had some money. I might have picked up my last check from work,  I can’t remember for cure. Anyway, I decided I was going to go see my friend, Danny, at the rehearsal studio where he worked. I wanted to drive up to Hollywood and party. I got all dressed up in a pink lace bustier, black mini skirt, black garter stockings (visible below the skirt, of course), high heels, and a black blazer, my typical Hollywood outfit.

Danny was in the middle of working with a band that was rehearsing there that night, and he couldn’t leave. He said that if I waited around, he might go with me after they were done. So I went out front and sat in my car, getting rapidly drunk on peach schnapps. Ugh.

There was an auto re-upholstery shop or some such shop nextdoor to the studio, and there were probably 10 or 12 guys working there that night. At some point, an older guy approached me in my car and invited me over for beers. And I went. I thought nothing of it. I had no fear, no premonition, no sense of danger whatsoever. No common sense came into play. I was already pretty drunk on the schnapps, so common sense had flown right out the window.

Initially,  this older guy,  David, handed me a beer, and we sat on the stairs between the office upstairs and the open bay where the crew was working. There was a lot of noise, a lot of talking in another language, music, laughter, and David suggested that we go talk in the office.

Once we got upstairs, he shut the door and offered me a seat. We began to talk, and he asked me what I would charge for sex. I pondered this for a moment. I had never charged for sex, ever. But, I was very promiscuous and possessed not even a shred of self-respect. Plus, I was hungry, homeless, and could use the money for gas or maybe get a hotel for a week. So I asked him for what specifically. He said he wasn’t sure,  maybe four guys. I pondered it for another few moments while I nursed the Corona he had given me. Finally,  I told him no, that I wasn’t a prostitute, even though I really needed the money.

David said that was fine,  and we went on talking. He told me about his boss, Tomas, who was really cool, and suggested that I meet him. Then he pulled out a shotgun that had been concealed beside the chair upon which he was sitting. I can’t remember what he said about it or why he decided to show it to me,  I just remember thinking how weird it was that he had a gun,  especially at a place of business.

Eventually, David excused himself to go downstairs for more beers. A minute or two later this guy entered the office. He told me his name was Tomas, and handed me a beer. He sat down in Davids chair, and began to talk to me. Quickly it became obvious to me that he was there for sex, and when it started, I didn’t fight him. A small and irrational part of my brain told me to submit, that I was going to get money from him.

When he got me down on the floor, everything changed. A group of six or seven guys flooded the room. Tomas held me down by the throat, and another man pinned my shoulders while a few of them took turns raping and sodomizing me. I screamed as loudly as I could, hoping that Danny would hear me nextdoor.

For a few minutes I quieted down, thinking that maybe if I stopped fighting they would stop and let me go. When that didn’t work, I resumed screaming until they finally let me up. I ran like hell down the stairs and out of there. I screamed while I was getting in my car, while I was driving through the city toward the garage where I stayed, while I was getting out of my car and going inside. I screamed and cried while I tried to explain what had happened to me to my “roommates”. They were so angry with me, telling me to be quiet, saying that I was going to get everyone kicked out. And once I quieted down, a couple of them told me I had deserved it. What did I think was going to happen, dressed up like that and drunk?

I didn’t report the attack. There was no way to prove what had happened. In fact, there was a whole crew of men who would say it never occurred. Plus, I was ashamed, humiliated, and I felt responsible for putting myself in such a position.

I look back on this now, and I see that night, in fact my entire homeless experience, and sometimes I wonder how I survived. My life is dotted with periods of utter insanity like this. I know now that normal people do not choose to be homeless. They don’t choose a life like this. Sometimes I wonder what my life might have been like if my mental illness had been recognized and treated when I was young. What if I had known back then that meeting a new guy could trigger a manic episode? What would have been different if I had known that my drinking (and eventual drug addiction) was something I was doing to feel “normal”, to self-medicate? What would have been different if we’d been paying attention? Early detection might have saved some of the suffering I put myself, my family, and friends through.

These days, I make better choices. I don’t drink or use hard drugs which helps a lot. I don’t enter situations that seem dangerous, and I am not careless with my life. Today, I am aware of some of my triggers because I’ve been able to monitor the changes in my moods. I am a person in recovery from mental illness. I don’t have to live like that, aimless and out of control, any longer.

On anxiety…

Anxiety is not a topic I love to discuss. It’s the buzzword for the 2000-teens, just like bipolar disorder and depression were for the 2000s. Everybody and their mothers have issues with anxiety. It’s a true statement though. Anxiety is a normal reaction to the stressors that occur in daily life.

Yes, but…

For some people, anxiety is overwhelming. It’s a crushing weight that forces one to immobility. It pins me to my sofa when I should be looking for work. It reminds me to lock the front door when I’m home, to keep my curtains drawn, and to keep the volume on my TV low. It keeps me from interviews, doctors appointments, answering my phone, school conferences, grocery shopping.

When I was nineteen and living with my pot dealer boyfriend, I became a hermit for the first time. Everytime one of his customers or friends dropped by, I would feign sleep because I was afraid. Afraid of what, I couldn’t tell you. I didn’t leave my apartment for weeks at a time, and only then to pay a bill. My one-room apartment was my safest place, and it was my comfort zone.

In my experience, stress causes anxiety, which morphs into full-fledged fear which leads to becoming overwhelmed, leads to inactivity which becomes one giant ball of insecurity, self-loathing, humiliation, embarrassment, and shame. So, in order to make it through my days, I need to have healthy mechanisms to help me cope with stress and daily anxiety before it starts rolling down the hill towards becoming overwhelmed.

One of my favorite things to do to let off some steam is go for a drive and sing along to whatever is on the radio. This actually became an important part of my daily ritual when I was taking my kids to and from the bus stop during the week. We termed it Music Appreciation, and it was a great way to shake off the stress that always built up each morning before work, and on the way home.

I have also found that activities that are simple and repetitive are extremely soothing to me. I love to look for agates, Jasper’s, and other pretty rocks. I will scour the ground or the riverbed for hours. I enjoy picking up brass casings at local shooting ranges. I love collecting every seashell I can find on the beach. I even love pulling weeds in my yard. Gardening is a wonderful way to release stress and anxiety before they become problematic.

If I can’t get outside like during cold or wet wintry weather, there are a bunch of things I do to keep myself in the zone. Crocheting is very repetitive and comes with the added bonus of producing a hat or beautiful Afghan in the end. Extremely soothing. Since I do decoupage (similar to collage work), I spend time cutting pictures out of magazines, greeting cards, and wrapping paper. It requires focus, which helps to keep my mind from wandering back to whatever is troubling me at the moment. I love to draw flowers and fun swirly designs. I used to make wire wrap jewelry, but I didn’t sell enough to support the hobby.

Hobbies and crafts are terrific stress relief!!!! There are so many ways to manage anxiety that require little to no money to start. Here are some of the activities I’ve tried,or wanted to try:

  • Crocheting
  • Knitting
  • Painting
  • Refinishing a piece of furniture, shelf, or picture frame
  • Decoupage
  • Sketching or drawing
  • Starting a collection
  • Writing a poem or short story
  • Writing an actual mailable letter or card to a friend or family member
  • Sewing
  • Quilting
  • Studying a topic you are interested in
  • Gardening
  • Jewelry making
  • Singing
  • Making a goal list
  • Blogging…lol
  • Learning a new language
  • Melt and pour soap making
  • Scrapbooking
  • Candle making
  • Embroidery
  • Making friendship bracelets with embroidery floss
  • Spinning fiber into yarn
  • Go for a relaxing drive
  • Photography
  • Rock hunting
  • Gold panning