i can’t really point to a sewing project that took me from a beginner to an intermediate, but i think my friends, that this dress took me from the the limbo world of intermediate into a “definitely advanced intermediate” sewist. or something. i mean, look at that sucker.
this dress took me months. i did several fittings, and it shows, doesn’t it? i mean, that dress is made for me. i moved darts. i graded the pattern. i shortened things. and lengthened things. i felt like a fabric alchemist. and all so i could look bang up on husband’s graduation day. i think i made that happen. (because, check out those shoes.)
i completely lined this dress and it looks so fancy inside that if there was a way to zip it, i could wear it inside out. it could sidle into nordstrom’s, hang itself up on the rack, and feel totally awesome. it could embarrass all those other dresses.
so, in case you’re into geeky details, here’s the pattern rundown.
Misses & Miss petite dress in two lengths with pleated skirt and loose fitting cape jacket.
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes. More or less. I mean, I made View A and I’m glad it doesn’t look exactly like View A because View A looks kind of like a witch costume, but other than that, the bones are there.
Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes. Except the pleats. There weren’t any instructions. I got through those buggers on a wing and a prayer and mostly by pondering the pattern envelope. Still not sure I did it factory perfect.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I adore this dress. Love love love. The sleeves are fantastic, perhaps the most flattering sleeve in the history of mankind. The darts are the perfect detail.
I used stretch cotton sateen for the outer dress and then I lined the entire dress with lilac stretch pongee.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I graded the pattern from an eight in the shoulders and bust to a ten in the waist. I shortened the waist two inches and then added a three inch waist band (this includes SA). I also lengthened the dress by four inches so it hit just below the knee. I also modified the neckline: I felt like the crew neck was eating me.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Absolutely. And yes. And for sure.
and did i mention that this is graduation? like husband. Grad. Ua. Ted. so congratulations to us. the little family photo is me getting my certificate because if anybody thinks that husband did all the work, that’s just wrong. there were plenty of people doing all kinds of work. go us.
i promised months ago to write about what to say to all your bipolar friends. i was putting a lot of pressure on myself to somehow come up with a list that would keep you covered in every possible situation for every possible mental illness. so, that’s probably not realistic. and it would probably be better if i just wrote something.
if you have read this far, or read my blog at all, thank you. it means you are a person with a heart inside your ribs and you’re trying to be compassionate even if mental illness is something that leaves you scratching your head. that, i venture to say, is the greatest start.
sometimes people who are depressed or experiencing mood symptoms (as they’re called in the big fat books these days) aren’t always fun. they aren’t always easy to talk to. they aren’t always rational. they aren’t always going to take your well-meaning remarks as well-meaning remarks.
you are not required to become somebody’s off-label therapist just because you are compassionate. if you find yourself taking too many phone calls from somebody who should be getting professional help and isn’t, protect yourself. you owe it to them and to your own precious brain.
this person with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. me) is giving you permission to say to your friends with mental illness who are refusing help: “i can keep talking to you after you get some professional help.”
there are some things people say in the mormon world that can be really hurtful and confusing to someone going through a depressive episode. some of my favorites from my memory are:
- snap out of it
- if you would just stop thinking about yourself and serve others
- you must not be reading your scriptures
- attitude determines altitude
i could go on, but i think it would be destructive. i think you see the drift. the point is, you either get that mental illness is a real, biological process or you don’t – and the way you talk to the person afflicted communicates that. believe me, if i could “snap out” of depression or psychosis or anxiety or mania, i would, honey. i would so fast.
i love the list provided by the depression and bipolar support alliance for helping someone with a mood disorder.
What You Can Say That Helps
- You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
- I understand you have a real illness and that’s what causes these thoughts and feelings.
- You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
- I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
- When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.
- You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
- Tell me what I can do now to help you.
- I am here for you. We will get through this together.
What You Should Avoid Saying
- It’s all in your head.
- We all go through times like this.
- You’ll be fine. Stop worrying.
- Look on the bright side.
- You have so much to live for; why do you want to die?
- I can’t do anything about your situation.
- Just snap out of it.
- Stop acting crazy.
- What’s wrong with you?
- Shouldn’t you be better by now?
if you’ve read this far, you deserve a limerick!
first, a little background. some of you may know we were supposed to move to florida. well, that didn’t happen because of yours truly. the last few months my paperwork has been bumping around the government as they try and find an air force base that will take me. it’s sort of complicated, i guess, since i have this ugly little bugger called treatment resistant bipolar disorder. i didn’t think it was that big of a deal. but apparently, it is. the time keeps narrowing. the clock ticking. we have a moving truck scheduled for three weeks from now and nowhere to go. it’s all very strange. i mean, what to tell the kids. we might move in two weeks kids. i don’t know where. but, pack your bags! or not. well, whatever. let’s go swimming. needless to say, i feel like every day the past eight weeks i’ve been battling a nervous breakdown like whack-a-mole at chuck e cheese. which leads us to poetry. ahem.
there once was a girl from san antonio
she tried to move to florida, dc, and coloradio.
they said she was too sick in the head
and to stay home in bed
but instead she hopped a flight straight to borneo.
thankyou.thankyouverymuch. over and out.
the blog got a little dusty – but for good reason. i decided to outfit my little troops and take them to utah for three weeks. on the surface it looks a wee bit insane. but really it was an act of desperation, we were nearing the end of dear husband’s residency and the bleakness of those days alone seemed even more alone somehow. and i wanted my kids to see the mountains. i wanted them to hear the sound of the wind in the trees. i wanted them to see waterfalls. i had big ideas, people. really big ideas. i was going to visit every person i have ever known. visit every place that has ever been important to me. and while some of that might of happened. there was also a lot of screaming and melt-downs and certain people calling other people “doo doo head” over and over in the car.
ah. well. despite the moments that had me seriously considering my own sanity (which i should really save for an essay – because it’s funny, isn’t it? all the different ways you can call yourself crazy?) – there were some moments that i thought to myself, ah, ha, here i am giving my kidlets a real and tangible summer. the kind their memory will be able to love over and over again. so, i’m going to write them down for you to enjoy too. because i know you want it.
we’re outside in the uintas behind the cabin my grandpa built with his hands. the air smells like mountains. you don’t know that rocks have a smell until you live in south texas and it’s suddenly gone. we’re sitting on folding chairs around a campfire built by my mom, my brother, henry, my dad. a group effort. one i usually watch. we skewer our hot dogs on freshly sharpened willow sticks and roast them over the flames. my dad says “patience is essential to roasting a good hot dog.” henry, after a moment’s contemplation says, “fire is good too.”
i introduce henry to my grandpa and his reaction embarrasses me. he hides his head. he makes small, bizarre and high-pitched noises like an infant nasgul. day after day he refuses to say hello, give a high five, make eye contact. and i think to myself: i have surely failed to raise a son with manners, with politeness, with feeling. and then one afternoon he grabs my hand and pulls me to the backyard of my grandpa’s house, his eyes shining. we go to the two-story playhouse my grandpa built and henry says come on come on all the way up the ladder. and then i see him stand on that second story proudly puffing out his chest with violet. “we cleaned the whole thing, mom,” he says. and violet’s hair is wild and she says, “the whole thing!” punctuating everything with her body. and henry leans close to me and says, “can we get grandpa to climb up the ladder? i want to show him.” and my mother heart just about bursts because grandpa isn’t going to climb any ladders, isn’t going to see that henry cleaned the playhouse for him, isn’t going to know this single offering of the boy who won’t say hello.
we take the kids to temple square, a place that stands squarely in my own heart. we head to the north visitor’s center because i always loved running up the ramp and heading smack into the hush of the Christus statue holding out his hands. surely they would love it. surely. but they weren’t interested. not even in running up a ramp. it was a hot day. and the kids were drawn to a corner of a visitor’s center where there was a model of the city of jerusalem. they pressed the buttons over and over watching the events of Christ’s life light up in tiny red pinpricks of light. and i held henry’s hand and rested my hand on violet’s curls and cried, maybe because i can’t predict what they will love. maybe because i love them too much.
we drive into provo. “is this provo, mom? provo is a cute town. a real cute town,” says henry.
i take the kids to a park in rock canyon. run into a mormon mom playgroup. terrifying. for me, anyway. not for henry. he walks up to those utahns, sticks out his hand. “hi. i’m henry. i’m visiting from texas. can i play with you? i like star wars.” the utahns blink. and blink some more. and, good for them, get to playing.
we show up for an organ concert at the tabernacle. not exactly a kid friendly event, but henry, henry!, he’s loved that organ since he was a little boy. and i’ve always wanted him to sit in that room and to feel the sound of its notes against his skin. and so here we are. and holds his program so tight and hovers on the edge of his seat. and he loves it, for a minute. but then it gets boring and strange and modern. and violet starts complaining and we’re sitting in the only place in the world where you can hear a pin drop and my kids are restless and jittery and i’m thinking over and over that i never should have come. and it finally ends and henry books it out complaining the whole way and i’m beaten. he doesn’t love it. didn’t feel the music. failure.
but two weeks later we’re sitting together with dad at home and henry walks over to the hymn book and leafs through. he finds come, come ye saints. “can we sing this one?” of course we can. and then he says, “they played this at the organ concert. it was my favorite.”
henry meets his cousin william. “i like guns. and i love my country.”
violet, my little winter bud, flowers for anyone who will smile at her. i drag the children from unfamiliar place to unfamiliar face and violet, tiny flower, smiles for anyone. long after henry has tired of my endless visiting, violet will still slide onto my lap, and drift comfortably against my chest while i talk and laugh with endless friends and relations. in a quiet moment she puts her hand in mine and says to me, “can grandpa dan come home with us?”
we’re flying away, watching the mountains disappear below us and the kids are blinking in and out. henry looks up at me and says “can we move to utah?” and violet says “yes! how soon can we move there?” and i sigh, wondering too, when my heart won’t be spread so thin across the country.
i’m still formulating my answer to last week’s questions: namely, how to talk to people who have a mental illness. i’m writing carefully and slowly, and realizing that there’s no way to answer such an enormous question. that said, i wanted to open the floor here to anyone that might have other questions for me on the same topic (or any topic). please, don’t be shy. because if i can make it easier on just one other person in the universe, then it is a good day. it is a good life. it is a good reason to keep going.
i’ve noticed, especially from last week, that a lot of people have questions and comments but feel hesitant about posting them in the comments section. i get that. please don’t let that stop you from asking. you can use this comment form to send me an email. and please remember, that even if the comment form asks for your “name”, you can still give yourself any moniker you choose.
in case you haven’t heard, president obama officially declared may national mental health awareness month. (thanks president obama.) and i have something i want to say.
i’ve had a few experiences stored up over the past few months that gather importance when i think about them in aggregate. and i hope that this can add to the collective voice speaking out for all of us who carry the weight of that moniker “mental illness” against the names that we would rather call ourselves: person, friend, mother, wife, student, writer, thinker, creator, etc etc etc.
i had to visit the pediatrician twice in the same week. as part of some new regulation, we are required to fill out a form that declares various health problems among immediate family members of our children. one of those health problems is mental illness. i, ever the dutiful mother, paused over the checkbox, wondering what the implications would be – but placed a heavy “x” in the end because i’m anything but a liar. when i handed the form to the pediatrician on the first of what would be two visits she read it carefully. she paused seriously at my check mark. she then began a lengthy interrogation, asking me if i was on meds during my pregnancy. asking me the current state of my mental health. watching me out of the corners of her eyes. i could see i was on the chopping block. and her treatment of me, as though i was proven guilty of the crime, the crime of “mental illness”, made me nervous – pulling out all my ticks. i couldn’t stop touching my hair, tugging at my skirt. my eyes skittered about the room. i couldn’t make eye contact with her. i didn’t know what she wanted from me. by the end of a forty minute of appointment that was supposed to be a well-check up for my son, i was completely discombobulated. i had no script for what had happened.
that night, repeating the scene in my head, i realized that i should have stood up. i should have said, “if you would like to discuss my medical history we can have a separate appointment. my son is in the room. this situation is making me uncomfortable.” but for some reason, she made me feel like i didn’t have a right to be uncomfortable. i was “mental illness.”
luckily, i got a second chance. i was back at the pediatrician’s office the next day. of course, as is always the case on a large air force base, i saw a different doctor. i walked in with the same form declaring myself a carrier of “mental illness.” i handed the form to the doctor and sat down. she said, “who in the family has mental illness?” i said, “i do. i’m bipolar II.” she said, “you’re clearly doing very well.” and i said, “thank you. i am.” and that was that. we were able to pleasantly move on to my daughter’s well check up.
i was chatting with an acquaintance who started describing her recent symptoms of anxiety. she said that for twenty minutes or a half an hour at a time she would get feeling of uncontrollable fear for no reason. almost every day or every other day. she went on to say that this was too much for her and her husband to deal with, so she went to her mom’s to get some help after it had been going on for a week or so.
i hope that no one who has experienced this type of anxiety feels like i’m belittling them, because any type of anxiety is horrible. but to hear someone having such a tremendous reaction to what was to me a little bit of anxiety was really kind of revelatory.
i’ve had a passel of well-meaning people send me links to this blog post by jordan of my angle of repose. the well-meaning people have all said, “look! she’s bipolar too.”
and that’s where it all gets sort of tricky. the thing is, she isn’t bipolar. not. at. all. and i know that she wasn’t thinking of me, or anyone like me when she wrote that blog post, but it still gets me in a rankle. her “motherhood bipolar” is cured by a good sleep, and, well, mine isn’t. and i take issue with that. i take issue with people using this word that has so much weight and meaning for me and using it as a buzz-word.
but. i realize there’s nothing i can do about it. people are always going to call the weather bipolar. or say they’re feeling bipolar. [if you feel like reading more on the subject, i love this bit, isn't everyone a little bipolar? - in case you can't guess, the answer is NO!]
the most i can do, is let whatever small number of you i can know what it is really like to inhabit that word, so that maybe you can use it more carefully, use it with more intention.
i wanted to show you these three bits of my life to show a picture of this vast space there is inside the word “mental illness.” one minute i can be treated as though simply marking a box on a piece of paper makes me a pathological liar. the next minute the box can be easily dismissed as only one box in a series of boxes that makes up my total person. and it matters so much how people, especially other medical professionals, treat that diagnosis. and myself in relation to that diagnosis.
i want you to see that people who experience symptoms that i’ve been experiencing my whole life on a grand scale (e.g. night and day for years on end) run home for help from their moms. and so people with mental illness are often so much stronger than you give them credit for – it’s like they are running the same race as everyone else, but they have to run backwards, without shoes, in the dark, and no one tells them where the end of the race is.
and i want you to check inside yourself and see where you get your ideas about mental illness from. is it from movies like single white female and the three faces of eve? is it from tv shows that i’ve never heard of and probably can’t bear to watch? is it from creepy short stories like the yellow wallpaper? or is it from average people? real people? the people sitting next to you at PTA or on the bus or in your congregation? because, let me tell you the honest truth, most of the people with mental illness are the people in your neighborhood. and you aren’t going to catch mental illness by shaking their hand or having a cup of tea. but you might learn something about compassion. about endurance. about strength. and about downright awesomeness. so go meet someone with mental illness this month and consider yourself aware.
and if you’ve earned the label “mental illness” yourself or someone you know, i’d love to hear your thoughts.