Daily Archives: November 20, 2014

Still in a mixed episode, saw my pdoc today.

I saw my pdoc today. I don’t think he’s taking me as seriously as things are. He put me on 150mg Wellbutrin, for negative symptoms, and now I’m on 300mg of Gabapentin.

Hopefully this helps end it.

I’m so sick of this fucking episode. I’m going up the wall with irritation and frustration. I can’t do anything for very long, I get so frustrated so easily. One thing goes wrong, fuck it. I have been knitting though.

We got nailed with 2 feet of snow yesterday. I left an hour early for my pdoc appointment because I had to get the snow off my car and was worried the roads would be bad.

I knit 2 hats today. Whoopdi-do. I haven’t been riding in a while. It’s too cold, it’s too snowy to drive out there, I haven’t had the drive. Hopefully the Wellbutrin helps. Everything just sucks lately.

I’m down under 100lbs again. Fuck. I can’t keep weight on.

Mysticism

Sun Blue Sky

My grandfather died when I was twenty-one. Upon returning home from his memorial mass where I gave his eulogy, I experienced an altered state of consciousness when crossing the Bay Bridge. My skin tingled, I felt an energy push out of my skin, and I felt a new cleansing energy fill me to replace the old energy. At first the experience concerned me, for I was driving after all, but I signalled a lane change, safely changed lanes, found that I was still aware of my surroundings, and decided it was safer to continue driving that to stop in the middle of the bridge. I went on to experience at will, usually by staring into a candle flame, a series of altered states that felt either cleansing or seductive. Ever since that time, I have identified with mystics. Since I had a history of severe suicidal depression, I realized then that if I saw a psychiatrist and described my experiences, I would likely have received a diagnosis of mental illness. Because I ascribed religious meaning to the experiences and believed that God was calling me to some purpose, such as seminary training or a ministry of some sort, I did not seek psychiatric help. Instead, I attended the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at Newman Hall, the Roman Catholic community at the University of California, Berkeley, where I was a student. I went back to my family’s religious roots to make sense of what I had experienced. Today I understand that my mystical experiences can also be explained as symptoms of the manic and hypomanic states of bipolar disorder.

My current belief system is not limited to a Christian viewpoint, though I do love Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness. Never have I ruled out other religions, or secularism for that matter, as valid and valuable belief systems. Honestly, as long as you seek truth and love, you’re going in the right direction. I am open to any explanation or definition of a higher power, whether that be a scientific explanation, nature itself, consciousness, existential freedom, humanism, pantheism, Western monotheistic concepts of God, or Eastern religions and philosophies. For simplicity, I use the term God to encompass any and all meanings of higher power or greater order, including most importantly love, truth, and universality.

That said, when I was thirty, I went on a one-week contemplative retreat, the topic of which was the Christian mystics. I had no idea that going on a contemplative retreat meant spending a week in near total silence. I went on the retreat because of my interest in Christian mysticism, and left with a new discipline – contemplative prayer. This discipline, practiced by the mystics, gave me a new way to pray, to open myself to God’s love, and to experience God’s presence in my life. In the busyness of life, I often forget the lessons I learned on that retreat, and find that I must return to mystic visionaries to remind myself that I, that we all, can have a close, personal, sometimes maybe even exhilarating and ecstatic, relationship with God (or whatever concept that most closely reflects the meaning of truth, love, and universality).

Mysticism can most simply be understood as the direct experience of God. Mystics seek to directly experience God through physical and contemplative states. God cannot be known by reason or the five senses. Instead, the soul experiences communion with God through direct, personal experience, intuition or insight. Throughout history there have been mystics claiming to have known God through visions or other revelations. Many have argued that these mystics suffered from neurological or psychiatric disorders, which may very well be true. Regardless, I for one find inspiration in their experiences and in the wisdom they gained and subsequently shared with others. Mystics continue to inspire and to raise questions as to the cause of their mystical experiences. Were they suffering from the symptoms of mental disorders? Were their visions the result of severe austerities including self-imposed near starvation and sleep deprivation? Or, were their experiences divinely inspired? Could they have been inspired not just, but in some cases two by some combination of these factors.

As a former psychotherapist and as someone who both identifies with mystics and has struggled with the sometimes exhilarating and sometimes terrifying symptoms of a brain disorder, namely bipolar disorder type II, I believe that mystical experiences can be both divinely inspired and biologically based. God speaks to us, loves us, holds us close to Her/Him/It, in our illness, in the midst of hardship and suffering, as well as in health and joyous celebration. She/He/It is there when we soar high, as well as when we fall.


Filed under: About God, Bipolar Disorder, Hypomania, Mania, Mental Health, Mindfulness, Mysticism, Theology Tagged: altered state of consciousness, altered states, bipolar disorder, love, mystical experiences, mysticism, truth, universality

Solstice Card v.2014

J.K. SimmonsCreating my Winter Solstice cards is something I look forward to every year.  It’s work and joy bundled together, my way of connecting to the people I love and admire.  It’s also my version of a holiday gift.  I stopped trying to give gifts when I went on Disability, but I can still send a little bit of art.

I also send one to a someone involved in making movies, someone whose work particularly touched me that year.  It feels important to tell folks how they help me manage during the worst of my bipolarness.  I don’t imagine they get that kind of feedback very often.  I sent one to Peter Jackson after the first Hobbit movie saved me from a winter of despair.  This year, I chose a long-time favorite, J.K. Simmons (if you haven’t seen Whiplash yet, run to your theater this second).

Original Artwork of Collage Assemblage Artist Andrea Matus deMengWhen I got back from England in September and immediately got sick with bronchitis, I took myself to the Barnes and Noble to comfort myself by looking through art magazines.  I knew I had to start thinking about my Solstice cards as they often take months to complete (I usually make about 60 of them), but had absolutely no ideas in my snotty head.

Then, I opened the September/October issue of Somerset Studio and found the feature on Andrea Matus de Meng.  Her work stunned me.  Could I do something like this for my Solstice card?  Wait.  Instead of using vintage photographs this time, could I draw something provocative?  The thought of doing my own sketching lit a fire and I went to work.

The bronchitis is gone, but the fire isn’t.  I’ve been hard at work on my cards for about six weeks.  I open my Pandora station, microwave a mug of chai, pull on my ratty and paint smeared sweatshirt, sit at my table and let the magic happen.  Here’s what that’s like:

Gathering Materials

It takes some trial and error to figure out what materials to use.  First I pick the card stock for the card itself—this time, Poppy Parade from Stampin’Up®.  I love the quality of their card stock.  This color is discontinued (I can get the “retired” products cheaper), but I had a bunch on hand.

Step 1I knew I wanted to use paint instead of ink this year, so I sorted through my collection of Lumiere acrylics—luscious paint with a metallic sheen.  Then, I just started experimenting.  The photo above shows all the materials I ended up using for each card.  It’s even a little shocking to me when I see everything together in one pile.

As a base for the collage, I took sheets from my parents’ farm bookkeeping ledger, cut them to size, and painted them.  I wasn’t sure which color would look best, so I painted a few of each color.  They all worked, so I continued this first step using six different Lumiere colors.  I like leaving interesting details unpainted (like the row numbers on the ledger), but I knew they’d probably get covered over later.  That’s okay.  It’s my little secret.

Step 2Next, I collaged pages from a tiny, antique book.  I’m assuming it’s some sort of accounting or actuarial text, but it’s in German, and I really have no idea what these little tables are.  I don’t care.  The graphics and foreign language rock!  Once the Mod Podge dried, I painted them.

Step 3Next, I added music from a Temperance song book from the early 1900s.  I love this little book.  Some of the song titles include “Away! Away! The Sparkling Wine,” “The Teetotallers Are Coming,” and “Beautiful Water” (because they tried to promote water as a beverage instead of demon booze).  Music adds a nice graphic, and I love using it.

Step 4After the music dried and got its coat of pain, I added a fun layer of graphics.  This started as pieces ripped out of vintage dress patterns, but I didn’t have many of those.  What I did have was some seamstress’ tissue paper from the 1930s—deliciously yellowed and fragile.  So I drew some of my own simple graphics with a marker and used that.  Tissue is great for adding depth while letting the color and design underneath show through.  Along with this layer I collaged equations from an antique German geometry text.  Again, I couldn’t resist foreign language and numbers.  Yum!

Step 6After drying and painting came the last layer on this background collage—letters from a vintage children’s reading primer, a section from an old spelling handbook, and either bits from another German book on Hieroglyphics or one on Chemistry.  Once that all dried and got a touch of Bronze Lumiere, I was ready to put together my central image.

I drew my Winter Solstice shamans on a 1906 copy of The Youth’s Companion, a newspaper-like publication for young adults.  I thought the small, delicate type face would lend an interesting texture.  The faces also got a touch of white acrylic paint and a touch-up with black gel pen.

Shaman 1

Then, I went to work on the shaman’s headdress.  From my bucket of fabric scraps, I pulled a nice, gold brocade and sewed beads onto strips that would become a sort of drape (think ancient Egypt or Mayan).

Shaman 2

Next came the feathers.

Shaman 3

Then, the headband.  The gold braid and pearls came from a necklace my mom wore before I was born (so, yeah, it’s really vintage).   I added more pearls from my bead stash (I’ve got a little bit of everything).

Shaman 4

And, finally, microbeads to tie the headdress together.

Shaman 5

Step 7I also wanted to do something a little different for the greeting inside the card.  I have a “Solstice Greetings” stamp, but I thought the nature of the outside ought to be reflected on the inside.  So I opted to dash a couple of layers of Lumiere on The Youth’s Companion and hand-write my holiday greeting with white gel pen.  I layered that over a snippet of music from a 1932 The Etude magazine, then spritzed it with Gossamer Gold Moon Shadow Mist from Lindy’s Stamp Gang (great stuff).

I’m pleased with all aspects of this project—the stretch to my creative muscle, the meditative time with my bits and bobs, the chance to give something that delights me, both inside…

Step Final Greeting

And outside.

Step Final Front

May your holiday season be as rewarding and juicy.

 

 


Secondary care assessment & diagnosis

The waiting is almost over.. possibly. Having presented myself to my GP in early July this year and handed over a letter detailing my lifelong (I am in my 50s) undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, my Secondary Care assessment and diagnosis appointment is next Monday.

I haven’t been to work this week, just couldn’t leave the house. Particularly having slept so very little; racing thoughts, agitated, OCD at 2am and every hour thereafter.

If you’ve been following my random posts on this blog you’ll have heard me say that this diagnosis is almost certain to be one of Bipolar II, possibly with some other issues.

Since I was discharged by Primary Care (after a few appointments) 6-8 weeks ago (because Secondary- had taken me on) I have had no support at all but my health continues to decline quite markedly. Hence the reason for my GP visit.

Actually there was advice, of sorts, to tide me over: ‘if in crisis, go to A&E or ring the Samaritans.’

Needless to say, this hasn’t been any comfort to me during these weeks of ups, downs and – more frequently – mixed states. They’re the most dangerous of course, as you’ll probably know.

So, next Monday.

See you on the other side!


Why I Don’t Mix Charity and Cake

Sandy Sue:

If your’e starved for BritWit (as I often am), here’s PrettyFeet, Pop Toe’s rant on charity bake sales.

Originally posted on Pretty Feet, Pop Toe:

"It's for the victims of eyebrow plucking in Essex"

“It’s for the victims of eyebrow plucking in Essex”

In every office there is that one person who feels the need to foist a charity bake sale upon the workforce. That person is never and shall never be me, for the simple reason I take great issue with the charity bake sale. For those of you who have gone straight from the womb to the underside of a well furnished rock, a charity bake sale is where a group of people bring various home-baked goods to their place of work and sell these items to colleagues, with the monies gathered being directed to some charity or heart-blisteringly worthy cause.

The altruistic soul who suggest the charity bake-off/buffet/coffee morning (they have many guises but all with the same trite format) just can’t resist the call of a worthy cause and what is more, they can’t resist the urge to make sure that everyone can see them…

View original 514 more words


CBT Workbook

I have been experiencing bipolar disorder very very much lately. I know I have, I’ve been tracking my moods for a month and I am in the middle of another wave. So I have been preparing for it and looking up therapy I can do on my own. I printed out the NHS Foundation Trust’s …

1825 Days

Tomorrow marks 5 years since my relationship with my ex-fiancee started. It was truly a beautiful start and we had so much promise. He was my best friend, my champion, my greatest supporter. I was so looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him, only to be irreparably broken.

There is no way to explain the way I felt about him. Saying I loved him is too tame a phrase. I felt him in every fiber of my being, and looking at him made my heart swell. I would have followed him to the ends of the Earth (which essentially I did).

I also don’t have words to describe the pain I have felt in the years since we split. I am not the same person I was. I think about all the experiences I had with him, both good and bad, and I am a different person as a result.

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold.” Frodo Baggins, Return of the King

Filed under: Self Discovery Tagged: acceptance, change, depression, heartbreak, pain