Author Archives: Jenny Bristol

About Jenny Bristol

Jenny Bristol is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, playing board games, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.

Rory’s on Vacation! (From the Blog)

Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

Don’t worry about Rory, what with the not posting and everything. He’s fine. He’s just busy with holiday tasks, and we’re trying to get to bed earlier. He probably won’t be posting this week.

What’s he been up to, from my perspective? To sum up:

His mood seems slightly improved, and he’s going through a slight med adjustment this week and last week. He’s anxious about Christmas, and also quite excited. He’s an amazing addition to my family. He’ll be surrounded by extra amounts of love this week. He’s been so busy crafting and organizing and thinking about cooking and actually cooking. He’s been a present-wrapping fiend.

We’ve been helping out our friend, George, quite a bit. We saw him again today. We were the moral support while he told his mom and stepdad what he’s been going through. He made it through telling them, and we all helped him with a plan for next steps. We will keep checking on him and having him over.

And today we clean the house like mad, so we can actually enjoy ourselves for Christmas Eve and Christmas. If you need us, we’ll be here, but we may not write anything for several days.

Have a great Christmas to all who celebrate, and enjoy your time off work to the rest of you!

Christmas markets. Image: Wikipedia

Christmas markets. Image: Wikipedia

Congratulations. You are now part of the tribe.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Bonus points if you get my reference.

We’ve spent the past day and a half with my family, and we’ll spend more time with them today. Thanksgiving is always a multi-day event with us these days, because some people come from out of town, and we like to do a bunch of things while everyone’s here. For some of my family, this is the only time during the year that we see them. So Thanksgiving is a big deal.

I was so grateful to get to share my family Thanksgiving with Rory last year, even though we’d only been together for about a month. With some people, you just know they’re sticking around, and it was that way with us. But he was still really new, and it was the first time he was meeting most of my family.

But this year…

He took charge of a lot of the work in the kitchen, and made sure my mom was having a good time, and made an effort to get to know my cousins and aunts and uncles. And he and my sister bonded over many laughs and topics. He appreciated all of the music that was sung and played, and joined in on the fun. For someone who comes from what seems like a different world from the one in which I grew up, he fits right in.

I’ve always adored my family, and I’ve always been grateful for their presence and support in my life. And it felt so fantastic to be able to share that with Rory. Not just to show him what a family can be, but to drag him (without any kicking or screaming) into my family. He is now well integrated into our group, and gets along well with everyone. He doesn’t know everyone well yet, but honestly, neither do I. Some people are pretty quiet. But it’s just very satisfying to be a part of putting him an environment where he is treated as he deserves to be treated. With respect. As a human being. As an equal. As an adult with valid ideas and opinions. As Rory the Awesome.

Read All the Things! Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half Book

Even if you've read her blog, buy her book. Image: Touchstone

Even if you’ve read her blog, buy her book. Image: Touchstone

It’s not too often that you read something knowing how awesome it’ll be before you read it. But I knew that when I recently got the Hyperbole and a Half book by Allie Brosh that I’d love it. (I had pre-ordered it months earlier.) I’ve read Allie’s blog for years, and so I already knew most of what was in the book. But re-reading it, especially now that I’m with Rory, it was full of extra significance.

The physical book itself is a great format. It’s paperback, but the pages are very heavy, and the colors are vibrant, just like on her blog by the same name. The stories are all in a different order from on her blog, but probably arranged that way on purpose (or not—knowing Allie, you never know). The book jumps into action with a section on her childhood. She was an unusual kid, and she knows it. And anyone reading the book who hasn’t read her blog now knows it.

Dogs are a theme throughout, starting with that first story, as is—of course—depression. The past couple of years have found us mostly without anything new to read on Allie’s blog. She went through a significant bout of depression, including feeling suicidal. She wrote about it a bit a while back, and then more recently wrote a Part 2 to that first post. Both were amazing, and likely extremely triggering to people in a delicate frame of mind.

Now, I haven’t ever been suicidal, or significantly depressed for an extended period of time. But I have been depressed to the point—on more than one occasion—where I found no joy in life or the people I loved, didn’t enjoy the things I usually did, didn’t care about anything. My depression spanned weeks or months, rather than years, but I found that Allie was able to put into words many of the feelings I had felt at the time.

While the Hyperbole and a Half book is filled with real life challenges such as these, it’s also filled with hilarious, laugh your ass off, can’t stop crying you’re laughing so hard stories. “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving” made me laugh almost continuously. Some of the stories in the book I hadn’t read, though I’m not sure if that’s because I somehow missed them on her blog, or if they were new. (I really should look that up, but fuck it. I’m too lazy.)

Hyperbole and a Half is a freaking fantastic book that I recommend to just about anyone, definitely not just those with mental illness. Allie is an amazing and funny creature, and you should support her and buy her book. Or if you’re feeling poor, just go read her blog. Also, follow her on Twitter.

P.S. I wrote about Allie on here before. Check out that post, too.

The Dual Curse/Blessing of a Good Life

 Creativity, on DeviantArt at http://annsodesign.deviantart.com/. Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)


Creativity, on DeviantArt at http://annsodesign.deviantart.com/. Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

I’m sitting here, being privy to Rory creating beauty. Beauty written. Beauty spoken. Sad, and often tragic beauty, but still, it moves me. I sit here in disbelief, it’s so good. He just sat down and wrote it out, in one push. The best things are usually written that way, but I’m in awe. His words create a complete story, a complete image. You are left speechless afterward. Yes, he’s that good.

Occasionally I can write things that are really good. Most of the time I just write things that are decent. But to create pure beauty, pure emotion that moves people, rather than just capturing my thoughts accurately at the time, is almost always beyond me. I’ve discovered that most truly great things are created through pain. Rory’s had that in droves. I’ve had it occasionally, but much of it was before I was much of a writer. I wasn’t at a place in life where I could share my experiences with others in a meaningful way.

While I wouldn’t want to trade lives or brains with Rory, having had a generally good and decent life—where people took care of me and I was surrounded by love, and my home was my safe place to go back to when hiding from the pain of social life at school—has kept me from too much pain, and hasn’t allowed me to be terribly creative.

I found that when I was hurting, I kept a journal. When I wasn’t, I didn’t. But even when I was writing, I didn’t write anything terribly moving most of the time. I wasn’t in pain for long enough to be introspective about it, and can only look back at it in an intellectual way.

So how can I create beauty, in my own way? Rory would say it’s by me being a good person, a good mother, and a capable, enthusiastic soul who is interested in learning new things. Beauty comes in many forms, but it’s hard to see those forms that you are used to. It’s easier to see the ones that are hard for you to create.

Rory’s in the Hospital Again – Day Five: He Gets Released Today

I don’t know why, but Rory’s time in the hospital this time around has been much harder on me than the last one. I cried plenty last time, too, maybe even more than this time. But this time it’s just been exhausting for some reason. And he hasn’t been in for as long as he was last time, so I don’t know why. Maybe because I know him better now (together 9 months instead of 3). I think part of it is that I haven’t had any time to talk with him alone since I checked him in. With Rory, who else is around greatly affects how he acts. I need to check in with my Rory, whom I haven’t seen since early Wednesday.

I’m so exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’ve had to deal with this in a vacuum, without the usual feedback I get from Rory. That’s probably why it’s been harder this time. I’ve been fairly useless, getting only the minimum done while he’s been in the hospital. Yet I’ve been so insanely busy. Mostly with talking with people on the computer, tending to the animals, and getting basic life tasks done.

He gets released today, likely in the afternoon. They made him take out his gauges from his ears, so our first stop is likely either somewhere to buy him tasty food, or the mall to get him something to help his ears get back to size. (For those who don’t know, he doesn’t have those crazy huge things in his ears. They are fairly small, but you can see through them. I think they’re cute. But I’m also glad they aren’t bigger.) I wish we then had a couple of days with no one else around, but the kids get home from their dad’s tonight. And Rory’s dad keeps saying he’ll take the dog. Steve, please come take the dog… After Rory gets home and the dog can see that he’s okay.

On to today’s adventure. Hug your loved ones, people.

Rory’s in the Hospital Again – Day Four, Continued: Not Sure

Today’s visit with Rory was… odd. He wasn’t himself. Not his normal self, not even his outgoing-social self. He was off. He had had a rough night, and a very difficult day. He was extremely anxious, and I’m not sure his new medication regimen is working fully. He did seem a bit manic, but hyper would be a good word, too. He was all cheerful outwardly to our friends who also came, but I just longed to talk to him privately.

He still hadn’t yet seen the doctor at that point, so he didn’t yet have word when he was going to be released. I love him so much and I hate to see him having difficulties. But during the visit (well, any of the visits this week) he never really spoke much to me individually or directly, and honestly hardly looked at me, today especially. I might be able to attribute that to his anxiety. Maybe he would have lost his composure if he looked at me too much? I don’t know. I do know that I was on the verge of tears most of the time, and it was all I could do to not cry. That wouldn’t have helped him any, so I used all of my meager powers to hold it in.

I then had a nice dinner with a friend of ours, and a bunch of people that were with her. Mostly I just talked to her, because that was what I needed. She has been a dear person in our lives, and has been there for Rory more than once. She’s equally there for me, and was wonderful to talk to.

I then learned that Rory is getting released tomorrow. I’m both excited and worried. I can’t wait to see him again, at home, where we can talk just the two of us. But I’m worried about how he’s doing. He was not himself today. Not so much that the casual observer would notice anything was off, but I was studying him pretty closely. I’ll just hope for the best. He’s likely to be very open to the ideas I have, but I also have a couple of difficult questions to ask.

Rory’s in the Hospital Again – Day Four: It’s Not About Me

(This one I wrote before visiting Rory in the hospital tonight, but I didn’t get it posted beforehand. Another post will come shortly.)

I got to visit with Rory last night, with his chosen dad and another friend. He was anxious, but in good spirits. I really long to talk with him alone, because that’s when I get the full, real story about things. That’s when he opens up about more of what’s going on inside his head. But he wants visitors, and not just me, and this is a good sign. We will have time to talk once he’s home, but he likely won’t remember what he might have said if we had had visiting time alone.

Since I’ve known Rory, his memory has never been good, and it’s been much worse lately. It isn’t improving now that his meds have been adjusted, but hopefully that’s just because he’s in the hospital and extremely anxious. He told me about the anxiety he was experiencing, and I could hear it in his voice. But he is calling me once or twice a day. He is reading a lot, but is wanting to be more social now. He’s made at least one friend in there, someone who is in the same boat he is. They plan to stay in touch after they are released.

But back to the topic in the post title. Being the main support person for someone going through what Rory is going through is very tough. You have to walk a line that’s hard to walk. People want to be there for you, as much as they want to be there for the person this is all about. But in the end, it’s not about you, it’s about the other person. When it comes right down to it, death is on the line. His needs are more important than mine. But we also have a very functional relationship, and in that regard, our needs are equal. So it’s a hard line to walk. I am supporting him as best he can, while also allowing myself to fall apart a bit. I’m extremely anxious and can’t concentrate. But I can’t let myself fall apart completely, because this isn’t about me. I’m filling two roles here, and sometimes it really gets to me. So I fall apart in private and show a brave front with Rory. This is not my strong suit, so it takes all of my energy and concentration. At home, I have experienced a lot of ambush crying, sobs that come out of nowhere and comsume me for a bit. And then they are gone as fast as they come. I can write about this here, because I know Rory won’t read it until he’s home, and hopefully up for reading about my experiences. And it might help explain to my friends why I’m not being more social this week. It’s comforting to know you all are out there, but in general, I cope best either alone, or with Rory. So my options are extremely limited.

I’ll get to visit him again this afternoon, for two full hours this time. We’ll have another full house, though, with a whopping three friends probably joining me. Then I’ll have a dinner with a few friends from Phoenix who are in town for the weekend. Then I’ll come home and cry some more.

I’m not entirely sure how to help Rory at this point. Right now, he’s in the hospital and I can just be there, even if I don’t do anything. Once he’s home, I’m hoping we can talk at length about strategies for him to stay healthy. I have a long list of ideas. I think he has some, too. I hope he’s willing to make some long-term changes that will help him be healthy.

I certainly hope this post isn’t coming off as me whining about myself and my needs. I’m just trying to share my side of this experience in a completely honest way. Rory has helped so many people by sharing his experiences and perspective. But for every one of you out there going through what Rory’s gone through, there are many more people like me who love and support you. They need support, too. I need support. Mostly, though, I just need Rory to be okay.

Rory’s in the Hospital Again – Day Three: What Does the Future Hold?

How do you possibly wrap your head around losing the one you love? By their own hand? I just don’t know. I can’t fathom. I mean, I have pictured it so many times in my head, because it’s always been a concern. Rory told me, even before we started dating (hours before, but still), that he had tried to commit suicide once. It had been about a year earlier, at the time. But then three months later we hospitalized him for being suicidal. And now six months later, again. But if it were to actually happen, I’d be devastated. He knows this, but it doesn’t matter because that’s not how being suicidal works. You can’t just say, “But think of all the people who love you.” That doesn’t matter. I get it. I really do. But I don’t have to like it.

He’s explained to me the thought process that goes on when he’s suicidal. The fact that your brain sees reality in a completely different way. Your brain makes it so that the only logical course of action is to die. And it totally makes sense to you at the time, in a special-twisted-kind-of-logic kind of way. I’ve had similar experiences, albeit not involving suicide. Your brain gets convinced of something that isn’t actually reality, but that doesn’t matter. It’s reality to you at the time. The key is to stay safe during those times. But how to do that isn’t always clear.

My hopes for the future are these: I hope Rory comes home with a renewed determination to take control of his life, keeping up with such things as exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, and a more proactive approach to his doctors and his care. I will do what I can too, of course, but I’m only support staff. Rory would be the first person to say that it’s his responsibility to take charge of himself. But I hope to keep him on track. If his medications are working, this should be possible.

I can’t wait to see him again tonight. More group visiting, with others, though. I long to see him by myself. Maybe I’ll get to do that tomorrow. Or maybe not until he’s released. Who knows.

Rory’s in the Hospital Again – Day Two, Continued: A Visit

I got to see him! I love how I’m always hit with how adorable he is when I don’t see him for a while. Like, how lucky am I to have him!?!

He forgot to bring the blog posts he hand wrote to me, so we’ll have to put those up later.

He was acting pretty much like himself, and was in good spirits. A couple of our friends joined me during the visit, so we all had a great conversation. He’s had some visits with doctors, nurses, and counselors, so I think when he gets out, we’ll make a few changes around here. He’s gotten a lot of benefit from meditation, so I hope he continues that once he’s home.

I’ll see him again tomorrow. I miss him so much.

And that’s it for now. More tomorrow probably.

Rory’s in the Hospital Again – Day Two: I Finally Get to See Him!

He called me last night after the usual visiting hours. I couldn’t visit him yesterday, because patients are supposed to be there for 24 hours before getting any visitors. The perky charge nurse whom I talked to turned all soup nazi when I asked if Rory could have visitors last night. “It hasn’t been 24 hours! No soup for you!” But I left a message that I loved him and would see him tomorrow (i.e., today). I suppose the message got passed on, because he called me. It was good to talk to him. He was still suicidal all day, but they hadn’t given him any new meds. Last night they were supposed to give him the new med combination experiment. They’re keeping two of his meds, just increasing them, and changing one out for a new one. Or that was what I could piece together from our slightly cell-phone-y reception.

I’ll be going by visiting hours this evening, along with some friends that he requested. I was very pleased that he had specific people he’d want to see, and that it was a small number. We got all this worked out while I was at the emergency room with him. I knew the drill from last time, so we worked out some details before they took him away.

Rory also said he wrote out a blog post in the hospital, so after I see him tonight, I’ll type it out and post it for you all. I’m as anxious to read it as anyone.

And thanks to everyone for the outpouring of support, both for Rory and for me. You have no idea how much it means.