Just Get Over It

This phrase—”Just Get Over It,” and similar variations—is something I’ve heard so often in my life that I’ve internalized it.

If you’ve read my posts before, you may recall that I’ve talked about my mother. She passed away when I was eleven years-old. I’ve never really grieved for her. In times where I have tried, my father would shut me down (“She’s dead. Get over it.” “It’s been a year. Stop.”). Nobody at my schools knew about her, or knew what to do for me. So I took all of this and internalized it as “Why can’t you just get over it already?”

Well… what part should I get over? I was eleven when she died, and I witnessed her die. I watched her leave this world, and me, behind.

And now I’m still here.

I can’t get over her death because it’s tied into my life in intricate, tiny little ways that come at me in my blind spots.

Like:

  • she wasn’t there for my wedding, which she would’ve loved. And I would’ve loved to have her advice.
  • she wasn’t there when either of my daughters were born. I would’ve loved her support, advice, even just a hug, then, and now, as the kids grow up. And she would’ve loved having two grand-daughters to dote on.
  • she’s there in every sunny day when I look at the flowers, or watch the birds dancing in the wind, or the warm sunbeam I curl up in to read.
  • she’s definitively NOT there to answer the phone and laugh at me when I tell her the next crazy thing the kids have done to irritate me. Or to have happy tears in her eyes when I tell her about some great new thing the kids have done.

And those are just the things on the surface. There is SO MUCH MORE beneath the surface. Things that remind me of her. Times I’m just flat-out sad and want to hear her voice or embrace.

Even if I fully grieve for her, these things will still exist. I’ll never “get over it.” Her death at such an early age for me has marked me permanently, and I don’t know how to, or if I want to, get over it.

So let’s please stop using that phrase entirely. Nobody who has experienced a loss, a trauma, anything so deeply scarring should have to hear, “Get over it already.”

Mental Health #1: What Bipolar Feels Like To Me

This is the first in a series of posts that I plan to write on the topic of mental health. Please feel free to leave comments, or contact me privately via my contact form, if you want to discuss this issue further.


I was first diagnosed with bipolar type two disorder in late 2016. Until that time, I knew there was something going on with my brain that was making it difficult for me to function, but I didn’t know what it was.

When I first got the diagnosis, I wasn’t quite sure it fit. If you know me in person, a term like hypomania doesn’t accurately describe my personality (at least according to those around me that I’ve spoken to). My memory hasn’t been at its best, but in the recent past I just couldn’t make the symptoms of bipolar fit.

Then I rewound to my teen years and the symptoms started making more sense.

Throughout most of my teen years, I struggled with depression and some form of PTSD. I had never been allowed or able to properly grieve for my mother, who had died when I was eleven. I don’t recall any specifics of hypomanic behavior or suicidal thoughts, though I was irritable (but who wouldn’t be, being a teenager and an older brother?).

At seventeen, I was forcibly sent to boarding school. It was here, at the boarding school, that I can clearly remember several cases of hypomania.

One particular case occurred when I said something to a friend, who interpreted it as a suicidal ideation, or potentially more. I ended up talking with the residential director of the boarding school (and her significant other) for several hours.

My description of what was going on?

My mind was going too fast. I was constantly thinking on several different tracks. I felt out-of-step with the world. I had been sick, and there was too much work to catch up on. I’d never get caught up and I wouldn’t graduate. I wasn’t sleeping well.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this is likely one of the first hypomanic episodes I had (or at least, the first I can remember clearly).

And that is what bipolar is like for me. There’s too much input. I have this certain uncontainable, undirected energy, the need to do something, but I don’t know what. People move too slowly, talk too slowly. Everything, literally every single thing that happens, gets under my skin for no good reason.

I’ve also dealt, and continue to deal, with full blown mania episodes. I regularly have trouble with wanting to go on spending sprees to use up that undefinable energy. This has been worse in the past, but has been better now that I keep a budget and a close eye on my family’s bank accounts. (Yes, being in charge of these things helps me control these episodes. Though it can cause irritability and depression, so it’s a trade-off.)

I’m also aware of having other episodes of mania, though these were a decade and a half ago.

In any case, it took me a long time to seek out the help I needed to start managing my mental health. In fact, it wasn’t until my eldest daughter was born in 2008 that I realized I needed to do something. I’ve been in talk therapy since 2008, and have been seeing a psychiatric nurse practitioner to manage my medications for a few months (I used to see a different provider, but scheduling and travel to them didn’t work out).

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health, please seek out help (here’s a starting point). Despite the stigma our society places on it, seeking help for mental health is not a bad thing. It is as important as seeking help for a broken bone or an infection.

Memories on May the Fourth

It was one year ago today that we lost my father-in-law, Charlie, to lung cancer. It was fast, confusing, distressing, heartbreaking, and a whole host of things.

Charlie and I had a strange relationship. When Caroline and I first started dating, I was this hulking, quiet, bear of a guy that was suddenly in his daughter’s life. He had no idea who I was or what I was like. I barely talked. He cracked jokes, as he always did, and I barely reacted.

After a few years, though, it became clear that Caroline and I were in a serious relationship, and I also started opening up. I remember clearly the day the ice broke completely, for me, and I truly felt like I was part of the Moore family.

I’d been struggling in school; I had been for years. My academic performance had descended to the point where I was deathly afraid–literally afraid for my life–that my flesh-and-blood father would do me harm. I was put on academic probation. I was close to being put on academic suspension. The university had sent my father a letter.

Dear Lord, I thought I was going to die.

When all of this went down, Caroline and I had been visiting her parents for a long weekend. I honestly forget how the subject came up, I just remember it was late at night and Charlie finally confronted me about what was going on. He asked me one question that no one else had bluntly asked me before:

“What are you really afraid of?”

That was the moment I realized how terrified of my own father I was. I realized that it didn’t matter what my academic performance was. None of it mattered. I’d been living in fear, soul-rending fear for so long that I’d lost track of what really mattered.

That was the first time I’d cried, really cried, since I was a child. Since before my mother passed away. The last time I’d cried like that, my mother had held me in her arms.

And you know what happened next?

Charlie hugged me.

It was an unexpected gesture, but exactly what I needed at that moment. And that one gesture told me I was part of his family, he understood me, and he cared about me.

From that moment on, he and I had a much better relationship. We had our ups and downs, our spats. I definitely pissed him off a few times. But we talked a lot, we laughed and joked, and we worked together.

There’s a reason I took my wife’s name when we were married, and this is part of it.

So last year, when we lost Charlie, I lost not only my father-in-law, but a dear friend and someone who was much more a father to me than my own was.

To Charlie: Wherever in the ‘verse you are now, I hope they are treating you right.

The Ups and Downs of a Day

Down: I had therapy this morning with my new therapist. Unfortunately, this morning is the last session with this therapist. There’s something missing from the sessions and I’m convinced there’s no way to fix it.

Up: I finished a short story. Drafted it by hand and I approximate that it comes to about 1,500 words (it is eight hand-written pages).

Up: I’ve been using the iOS and Mac app Things to keep track of To Do items, iCloud’s Calendar to track appointments and school events, and IFTTT’s iOS app to set reminders for taking medications. Overall, this “outboard brain” (as Tobias Buckell refers to it) is doing much better than my previous hand-written calendar and task sheet at keeping me organized and on-target.

Up: I’m already juggling ideas for a new short story that I’ll start (and maybe finish!) writing tomorrow while the girls are in school.

Thoughts On Internet Privacy

I’ve read a lot over my years as a developer about privacy, especially as it relates to the Internet and technology. My views have skewed from one extreme to another (Everything should be private! Nothing is private!). Over the last year or so, my views (and the actions that go along with them) have settled a bit.

It wasn’t so long ago that I would go out of my way to host my blog and e-mail on my own server, where I (theoretically) was the only one with access. Yes, it was in a remote data center, so someone else still had physical access to the drive the data was stored on. So, again theoretically, everything I put on the drive was encrypted and would take awhile for someone to break into.

Then something would happen and my views would change. Who cares what happens to my data? Use whatever service I want. To hell with privacy policies.

Now, though, I’m a bit more middle of the road.

There’s got to be an understanding that technology will only do what us, as humans, tell it to (at least right now — if you’re reading this, Skynet, please don’t hurt me!). Humans, by nature, are fallible and imperfect creatures. Mistakes happen.

So what does this mean?

It means I’m willing to use services I need or that fit my workflow best, with the knowledge that: a) my privacy may not always be 100%; b) there are trade-offs to putting data into the cloud.

Mistakes are going to happen. If I use GMail (and I do) for my data, a mistake could happen that routes my e-mail to someone else’s box. Or allows another user into my account. If I use WordPress.com to host my blog (and I do), errors could happen that allow my private or draft posts to be exposed to the public.

Things happen. (And, yes, government intrusion into my data is also something that could happen. Is it likely? No. I haven’t done anything that would warrant the government snooping my data.)

Now, the other part of this is, if I make content available to the public, I have to accept that people might copy it, or comment on it, or something. I can’t control what other people do. The only thing I can control — if I have the money, time, and wherewithal — is whether another person makes money from content that I created, or content based on content I created.

In the end, there’s got to be some understanding for how these systems works, and how putting content out into the public arena works.

Writing Project, Title Unknown

I’ve started a new writing project. I’ve got three different names for it currently and I’m not sure which one suits it best. Here are some stats on it:

  • Title: Unknown
  • Word Count: 0 fiction / 1700 outline
  • Total Words: 1700
  • Deadline: March 30, 2016
  • Genre: Fantasy

I’m going to try writing daily and posting about my progress at least weekly.

A Change of Pace

To go along with the new month and the changing season and leaves, I’m changing my focus at Automattic for the fourth time. I started out in the social tools arena, then moved on to Jetpack, from Jetpack to support engineer support, and now I’ll be going back to focus on the WordPress project itself! 🙂

It’s been over three years since I’ve had time, beyond minor patches, to focus any great amount of time on the project. When I first started with WordPress, I dove into the Multi Site project (pre-3.0), then worked on building out a customized Multi Site environment for the university I worked for.

Now, I’ll be working closely with a new team at Automattic and the WordPress community to develop feature plugins, fix bugs, and whatever else needs to get done in the WordPress 4.1 and 4.1.1 release cycle. I’m pretty excited to work with the community like this again.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today would’ve been my mother’s 55th birthday. She was born on September 30th, 1959. She passed away on February 23rd, 1994, from cancer.

I miss her every day.

Mom, I hope when you look down from on high, you approve of what you see. I love you, I miss you, and I hope I make you proud.

Things That Bother Me When I Read A Book

So, I read a lot. Usually at least one or two books a week, unless I’m particularly busy at work, or stressed out with life.

Given that, there are a number of things that bother me when I try to start a new book. I’m going to spread these things out over multiple posts. So today, here’s my first thing: the line at which an author goes “to hell with the details of my world.”

To rewind a bit, I chiefly read science fiction and fantasy novels. Mostly fantasy, these days, unless I know the SF author well. In fantasy novels, I particularly enjoy an author who does really, really, really good world-building.

It seems as if there is currently a trend towards laziness in world-building, though. I picked up one book a night or two ago and read about five pages. I’m usually impressed with this author’s world-building. This time, I was impressed with the attention to detail, until we got to the religion.

The religion was Christianity with the names just barely changed. I was into the flow of the novel, the rhythm of the world — and then I was jolted straight out of it.

I immediately put the book aside and found a different one to read.

Not because I have a problem with religion, or Christianity (far from it, actually), but because this book is a fantasy novel, a Not Of This World story. I had suspended my beliefs to submit myself to the belief structure of the author’s world. The author had not led me to believe this was a post-apocalyptic fantasy (i.e. our Earth several thousand years in the future).

There are always little things that pester at me when I read a book. Spelling or grammar issues. Word choices that I don’t agree with. These are disturbances that I can usually ignore, if they aren’t too many or great, and generally follow the flow of the story. But something like this breaks the flow for me because so much attention and detail has gone into the rest of the world that it doesn’t make sense for the religion to be a semi-skewed photocopy of a real-world religion. Why not spend the time and create a brand new religion to go with the brand new world?

This has been happening more and more often, in my experience as a reader, and it’s a curious trend. I’d understand it if it were science fiction, as SF is a projection of what our world will become.

I’d also understand it if the story were cast as alternate history fantasy or such. Maybe this is a trend I’m missing?

In any case, that’s today’s thought from me to you on the things I read.

Family, Cooking, a Chili Recipe

One of the things I’ve been doing a lot more is cooking at home. I used to use my pain disorder as an excuse to not cook, and since I’m the primary cook in the house, that would mean we would end up ordering or eating out often.

As you may imagine, this can be expensive, in both financial and health ways.

Over the last few months, we’ve been eating in, at home, and experimenting with different recipes to find a variety of things that we like. And, not only are we finding awesome, cheap things, that we like to eat, but we are all healthier. Both Caroline and I are losing weight and we get to spend more time as a family around the dinner table.

Long story short, I want to share one of our favorite recipes with you. This is my slow cooker chili recipe:

Ingredients

2 cups tomato juice
15 ounce can tomato sauce
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
27 ounce can dark red kidney beans
26.5 ounce can black beans
1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 lb ground beef or turkey, browned
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar

Directions

Sauté onion and green pepper in skillet for 2 minutes. Add ground beef or turkey to skillet and cook until browned.

Mix all ingredients in 4 or 6 quart crock pot.

Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.

I hope you try this recipe and enjoy it!