Daily Archives: February 13, 2015

Family Freakout

So my kid had a big panic attack because she is convinced she snorted one of her nail stickers up her nose and is going to have a heart attack.
Which in turn ignites my panic issues.
And as we are doing the socializing thing at R’s tonight with him and the wife and granddaughter, I am already on edge. Social anxiety is a bitch and I wish it would die in a fire. There should be no fear doing something you’ve done dozens of times before.
Yet, with me…There always is if it involves, well, people.
All these meds that supposedly help with social anxiety, I might as well be popping tic tacs for all the good they do me.

It’s been a frustrating week. The external sound card on my laptop splintered apart again so I have no sound on it. The desktop signal isn’t strong enough to stream. I spent yesterday shivering and praying for death because I felt like I had the flu. My kid woke me six different times last night, and I didn’t go to bed until nearly one a.m. as it was because well, I was trying to have a social life in my bubble. Yeah, that’s not working out well with a kid who wakes up every hour or two and you need privacy.
I got home today only to get hit with my kid wanting her V’tine’s gifts from Grandma opened THIS minute, then the Avon lady showed up…
GRRRRRRR.

I know to hear me, you’d swear nothing good ever happens to me because I seem like such a bad luck magnet, I must be dramatizing. Oh, if only.
My life revolves around shit breaking and crappy things happening.
Occasionally, something nice happens.
Too often to be followed by something shitty. It affects morale.

Still…I keep going. Though there are times when life seems so hard, I wish my batteries would just die. Terrible thing to say, huh? I think more people feel that way on occasion than they’re willing to admit to.
What matters is the batteries don’t die and I keep going. I get so much stress and crap handed to me daily and I see how just a smattering of bad luck affects those around me…And I’m the one who’s got mental issues. So if I can keep fighting futility my mind tells me life is…
Guess I should get a pat on the back. Kick in the shin works.

And a whole lot of wine. Always tastes so much better when it’s someone else’s treat.
Just saying.

Off to quell my nerves. Not easy when the child is in the other room emitting high pitched barking sounds. But at least she’s gotten over her panic for now. Until the next catastrophe in 5 year old land. Like Olivia at kindergarten who won’t let her be in the “awesome pink club” thus her life is ruined.
It’s a bumpy ride but I get enough giggles to keep me interested in what happens next.


How to Help Someone with Bipolar Disorder

Picturephoto: idiva.com

We all need help from time to time, but someone with Bipolar Disorder just needs more help, more often. You may find the thought of helping overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. It starts off easy – educate yourself. Learn all you can about bipolar. You can’t help what you don’t understand. There are plenty of good books out there and even more websites. Once you gather the information you need, you will have an easier time to help your friend or family member.

Generally, people don’t like asking for help – and those with bipolar are certainly no different. In fact, they may ask less often for fear of feeling like a burden, or simply not being strong enough to ask and sometimes not recognizing that they need help at all. So, be observant. Watch your friend or family member. Do they need a ride to an appointment, help with housework, cooking, running errands or maybe childcare. Not only does your helping actually help, but so does the fact that you care. It is best to ask how you can help when your friend or family member is well, rather than waiting until they’re sick or in distress.

When they are sick they need encouragement. They need to be encouraged to continue with their self-care (see post on self-care) which includes following their treatment plan – such as taking their medications and attending all their medical appointments. Accept their reality and their limitations. Don’t push too hard. Talk with positive statements – laughing is important, so try your hand at humour.

Offer simple companionship – people with bipolar disorder often feel like they’re very alone. Your attention could make a difference. Watch for symptoms and triggers. For example, if you think the person is manic, avoid over-stimulation. If you think they are depressed perhaps encourage them to do one small thing or talk about good times. But avoid clichés – they won’t help. Always reinforce strategies for coping. Self-care is such an important part of their wellness. Don’t give up. Even if your friend or family member begins to isolate themselves or demonstrate impatience with you, don’t give up. They need you.

Watch for signs of suicidal thinking and be willing to act to get professional help if the need arises. Reducing stress is also helpful (see post on stress). If you’re worried about your friend or family member, offer to attend their appointments with them. This will give you the opportunity to discuss matters with their doctor and will also demonstrate how much you care. Stigma is huge with mental illness, so help and support is too.



So Easily Broken

Yesterday this “story” of mine was published on Stigmama.com at FICTION SERIES: So Easily Broken, Kitt O’Malley | Stigmama. Clearly, it is fictionalized autobiography. I simply wrote what surrounded me in third person. FICTION SERIES: So Easily Broken, Kitt O’Malley |…

A Guide to Self-Care for People with Anxiety

The image features a metal case, presumably a first aid kit, with the words "SELF CARE" on top.

Illustration by Jessica Krcmarik.

[The image features a metal case, presumably a first aid kit, with the words “SELF CARE” on top.]

 

Holy anxiety, batman. If there’s one thing readers want to hear more about, it’s my experiences with anxiety — namely, how I cope with it. It seems like a lot of us are still trying to navigate this tricky condition.

Therapy and medication can help, but a lot of how I manage my anxiety is based on a regular, consistent practice of self-care.

I think that self-care — defined as intentional actions taken to improve one’s sense of well-being — has made a significant difference in my overall mood, and has been especially helpful in dealing with my anxiety.

While the ups and downs that come with anxiety are not always within our control, there are a lot of things we can do to impact our mood and make the wave a little easier to ride. It’s not about getting rid of anxiety altogether — it’s about changing the way we respond to anxiety to lessen the impact.

So when I start to feel anxious, here’s what I do, step by step:

 

 

Step 1: ENGAGE with what’s making you anxious.

Okay, so your gut is probably telling you to run for the hills. Engaging with what’s making you anxious is probably the LAST thing you want to do. I know that my personal tendency is to avoid what makes me anxious.

But often times, we need to engage with our anxiety, because avoidance can make it worse.

A great way to do this is to write down what’s making you anxious in one column, and on the other column, write one thing you could do to make this situation less stressful or more manageable.

Here’s an example:

I’m anxious about writing my annotations paper.

– I could read over the handouts to get a better idea of how to complete the assignment.

I’m anxious about taking the train to Walnut Creek.

– I could listen to music on the train or ask a friend to go with me.

Most of the time, the steps I come up with are reasonable and helpful. Part of what makes me freak out is feeling that I have no control or ability to impact the situation — but when I write down steps that I can take, I feel as though I have a little more agency.

But if there’s a problem and I can’t figure out any steps to take, I know that it’s probably time to seek out a therapist, counselor, healer, or trusted friend to brainstorm some solutions.

Once I’ve written out what’s making me anxious and I’ve come up with one idea that could, at the very least, make things a little easier, I take my notebook and I put it aside. I then move onto the next step.

 

 

Step 2: DISTRACT yourself and give yourself a break.

For me, I know that once I’ve engaged with my anxiety, I need a break so I can steady myself. Once I’ve put the notebook on my bookshelf, I start looking for some healthy distractions to stabilize my mood.

What works for me may be different than what works for you. I like to watch something that will make me laugh on Netflix. I also like to play Nintendo, particularly games that are less action-based and aren’t particularly demanding (in case you’re wondering, this includes Mario Party, Animal Crossing, and a variety of puzzle games). I like to read a fantasy novel, or color in a coloring book, or bake a new recipe.

My favorite distractions will transport me to a new reality (television, video games, books), particularly if it involves roleplaying (which is why I pick up the Nintendo most often). I especially like distractions that utilize my imagination because they seem to distract me the most.

The key is to find things that are distracting without any triggers. I find that the internet is full of triggers for me, so I tend to avoid it when I’m taking care of myself. We should always be looking for healthy distractions — activities that bring you down a notch — instead of unhealthy distractions, which may numb you for a moment but create more stress or consequences down the line.

Once I’m distracted and feeling less frazzled, I go onto the next step…

 

 

Step 3: RELAX in a calming environment.

Hold on. What’s the difference between a distraction and something that relaxes? Distractions are things that take me out of my head, out of my body, and neutralize my mood. Relaxing, on the other hand, will place me back in my body, and help me to feel good again.

After I’ve distracted myself enough, I seek out a relaxing activity that engages my body. For some folks, it’s a guided meditation while they’re laying in bed, and for others, it’s a stroll through their favorite bookstore or park.

Visualize a place that makes you feel safe, and imagine something soothing that you could do in that space. Find something that makes your body feel less heavy — something that involves good smells, good tastes, good feelings.

Decide if that place is indoors or outdoors, at home or away. Decide if it involves people or if it’s something you do by yourself.

I’ve learned overtime that my safe space is a hot shower, maybe with cinnamon incense burning or my favorite soap from LUSH.

Why distract before relaxing? If I’m too anxious and I just jump in the shower, I spend more time thinking about what I’m anxious about than actually relaxing in the space. I need to bring the stakes down a little bit before I can actually relax. Distractions get me to a more neutral place so I can actually relax when it’s time to do so.

Your self-care regimen will probably look different from mine. But once you figure out what distracts you and what relaxes you, be sure to write it down to remember later on.

 

 

Step 4: If needed, REACH OUT for support.

If you haven’t already, it might be a good idea to seek out support from a friend, a loved one, a therapist, a healer. Simply going it alone is not always an effective way of caring for ourselves, and we often need the support of others to manage our anxiety.

When you’re asking for someone’s support or help, I recommend being upfront and using an “I feel and I need” statement to directly communicate your needs.

For example:

I felt so anxious earlier, and I need someone to listen. Can we talk?

I feel so paranoid right now, and I might need a new dose on this medication. Can we make an appointment?

I feel really stressed about this assignment and need some clarity. Can you help me understand it better?

I feel depressed, and I might need a therapist. Can you recommend one?

Articulating what you’re feeling, what you need, and a concrete step that you can take together can help make the conversation a productive one. Remember that people are not mind-readers, and the best way to getting what you need is to ask for it.

By asking the person if they can help, you also ensure that they are not taking on a stress that they can’t handle. You’re giving them permission to opt in, or opt out.

If you aren’t sure what you’re feeling or what you need, you can also say so. “I’m not sure what I’m feeling right now and I’m not sure what I need right now, but I thought that we could talk.” We can’t always articulate our anxiety, but talking through it with someone can still be helpful.

After I’ve gotten some support, I move onto the last step.

 

 

Step 5: REVISIT your list.

Remember the list of stressful stuff that we created at Step 1? When you’re able to, it’s a good idea to return to that list.

Sometimes anxiety comes from feeling overwhelmed, so commit to doing just one, maybe two things on that list. I recommend starting with the easiest thing on the list to get you going. Sometimes starting is the hardest part.

It’s important to take things one step at a time. Commit to just a few steps, and see what happens. You may find that after you get going, you feel motivated to take on more. That’s great! But if not, doing just one or two things at a time will hopefully lessen the anxiety that you felt in the beginning.

 

*   *   *

A lot of folks think of self-care as a way of dealing with stress after we’ve reached our limit. However, I disagree. It should not be exclusively a crisis resource, but something that we practice regularly. I do a little distracting and relaxing every single day. I set aside an hour or so to make sure that I’m taking care of myself.

If you’re interested in more about self-care, check out this fantastic video by my good friend Melissa Fabello:

If you don’t have the time, make the time. You wouldn’t wait until your house is flooded before fixing a simple leak, right?

Our bodies and our minds undergo a lot of wear and tear, because life, my friends, can be very stressful. So do the maintenance instead of waiting for life to blow up in your face; nurture yourself and care for yourself each and every day.

Why? Because you, without a doubt, are worth it.

Sam Dylan Finch is a queer activist and feminist writer, based in the SF Bay. He is the founder of Let’s Queer Things Up!, his blog and labor of love. With a passion for impacting change through personal narrative, Sam writes about his struggles and triumphs as genderqueer and bipolar with the hopes of teaching others about his identity and community. When he isn’t writing, he’s probably eating takeout and dancing to Taylor Swift.

Connect with SDF: Website ; Facebook ; Twitter ; Tumblr

Have you read Sam’s most recent article at EF? Check it out: 10 Harmful Myths about People with Bipolar Disorder


I Hate Cancer

I have someone that is heavy on my heart this morning.  He works with my husband and is just about to turn 40, and a few months ago he discovered he had cancer.  He had surgery to remove it, and since I hadn’t heard anything else from my husband about him, I assumed he was fine.  I just found out last night he is having to undergo chemotherapy as well.  He is generally one of the most cheerful persons I know, but I know he wrestles with psychological problems as well (he is afraid to fly).  I just am praying that he’ll get through this trial and live to see his son grow up.

I had another very close friend that is finally ending her battle with cancer triumphantly.   She will have a hysterectomy this summer since during her breast cancer treatment, they discovered she carried markers for ovarian cancer as well, which claimed the life of her mother a few years ago.

Cancer runs throughout my family–I have lost relatives to it and my own father underwent treatment for prostate cancer several years ago.  (Finding this out landed me in the hospital for a few days).  And my father-in-law is battling it now, about to go to M.D. Anderson in Texas for treatment of metastatic cancer from a tumor he had removed nine years ago.

I hate the disease, I hate how it steals your life slowly, and I hate to even hear the word. Please pray for all of these as they continue to fight.


goodbye boy i love you

This is going to be mawkish and sentimental.

Hyaenadog deteriorated astonishingly fast – three days of cortisone didn’t help. I stuffed him full of food and painkillers and showed him his lead, which I knew would give him a sudden, short burst of endorphins/adrenaline, and then I took him for a really nice little walk in gentle rain. And then I took him to see his vet. She was amazing, we talked and both stroked Hyaenadog and then, sitting on the floor, with his head in my lap and my arms around him, he got a careful and painless shot of Nembutal and died quietly. I sat with him and the vet (who liked him very much) for a while.

It was absolutely the right and compassionate thing do do, he had a good life with me and was eased into oblivion gently. I’ve never met a more serene and loving animal; my friends adored him – especially Synapse, who is as sore as I am right now. He was wild before I got him, and had been rescued from a wire snare meant for bushbuck or duiker or warthog. At first, he wouldn’t come inside. It took him a few days to venture beyond the lounge. And then he got used to regular food and a couch to laze on, and took to his lead and cuddles beautifully well. I didn’t want this, but it was kind and right and all achieved in the best possible way. It’s alright.

It isn’t just me shedding tears for him – three or four of his friends cried too. He really was unusual and handsome and affectionate without ever being unruly. He was never too much and he was always dignified. A friend called him the dog of night and brush. And he was.

I have never had a shitty Friday the 13th before this one and I’m still not superstitious about it.

The dog in the front, in the image I used as the featured image for this post, looks very much like him. It’s a painting by Andrew Wyeth and I cropped lots of sky out to make it fit better.

image

Apart from the word golden, bad manners, mange and the geography, this describes him as if it had been written about him.

A Dog Has Died

BY PABLO NERUDA
TRANSLATED BY ALFRED YANKAUER

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I’ll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he’d keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean’s spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don’t now and never did lie to each other.

So now he’s gone and I buried him,
and that’s all there is to it.

image

15. Requiem

Robert Louis Stevenson. 1850–1894

UNDER the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
 
This be the verse you ‘grave for me:         
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

image

And the next excerpt … February is the cruelest month for me, not April.

The Waste Land

BY T. S. ELIOT
                                  FOR EZRA POUND
                                IL MIGLIOR FABBRO

              I. The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
                      Frisch weht der Wind
                      Der Heimat zu
                      Mein Irisch Kind,
                      Wo weilest du?
“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
“They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Oed’ und leer das Meer.
Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: “Stetson!
“You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
“That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
“Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
“Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
“Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
“Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!
“You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!”

20 Days of Valentines—Day 17

The One

Click the image to find more singularities on Etsy.


So Much Time Alone

Being alone really doesn’t give me a true gauge of my feelings. Being alone makes me feel sad. Being alone doesn’t allow me to talk to anyone.

I’m on day two of the pristiq I am still depressed as far as I can tell. I don’t expect anything to happen yet. I don’t think it is making things worse.

My psychiatrist says I am very sensitive to medications so usually if something bad is going to happen then it will happen rather quickly. The good also usually happens sooner rather then later as well. This is both a pain and a good thing I suppose.

Tonight I am alone longer then usual as hubby had to go to a work dinner. It seems we are spending less and less time together these days. It makes me sad and it makes me worry. He isn’t treating me any differently but I can’t help that my mind always looks for the worse in everything. I’m very black and white..

hopefully it is just the depression and it will pass. Fingers crossed for the pristiq.

 


From A Distance


Most people are aware of the fact that I hate birthdays.  I hate getting older and I hate losing people that I love because they have gotten older.  It is also not lost on me that some of the most horrible things that have ever happened to me occurred on my birthday.  So, when I start to consider the possibilities of having a birthday party, I’m torn.  Perhaps I should just let this one go this year.  42 really isn’t a special number.  Then a part of me remembers that I could have not made it to this age, and I would like to celebrate that fact. 
In my head, I start to make up a guest list.  However, when I put it to paper, I am overcome by a harsh realization.  Anyone that I would possibly invite to a party, well honestly they are Joe’s friends.  Of course, over time they have become my friends, and for that I am grateful.  Yet, I can recall a time when I had a relatively long list of my own friends that I brought into the marriage that I could invite.  Those people have long since left my life. 
I have one friend, but she lives out of state and probably wouldn’t be able to make it.  It’s easier for me to tell myself that because if she said no, I would certainly feel rejected by my only friend.  This is what keeps me awake at night.  Have I spent so much of my life pushing people away, that there is quite simply, no one left?  Am I really that horrible of a person?  Don’t I possess any redeeming qualities at all?

I know I am quick to anger and accuse.  So many people have hurt me in the past, I can’t help but expect the worst.  Perhaps I spend so much time assuming that they can’t help but buckle under my expectations.
Do I push everyone away?  Is it easier for me to face life not ever having to compromise when I surely don’t want to?  I have no family nearby that I speak to, except my father.  He’s 85 now and quite possibly may have dementia.  Everyone else is out of state or cut out of my life.  It’s times like this that I question everything.  Why am I not good enough? 
I’ve given people that have hurt me chance after chance.  The outcome was always the same.  They hurt me again.  I’ve spoken of it often, but my suicide attempt in 2013 most assuredly scared off several friends.  Even those that had been around for 20 or more years.  I came out of the hospital to discover that I had lost several close friends due to my mental illness.  At this point, I’m really not sure which way is up.  

I would never want anyone that I do consider a friend to think that I didn’t care about them or respect our relationship.  Of course, I do.  I simply don’t have anyone in my life that I frequently see or spend time with.  Some of the people I consider close friends, I’ve never even met.  What does that say about me?  Am I just better from a distance?
When I begin to second guess all of my choices, and start to miss those that have departed, I have to slap myself back to reality.  I am aware that there was a reason for all of this, it’s just hard to see when you are so very lonely and sad.  I frequently tell myself that I let people go to preserve what is left of my sanity.  It’s true. I’ve committed myself to the belief that I would rather spend my days with my husband and my cats.
Perhaps I just need to accept that this is my life.  I have allowed this to happen.  I need to take full responsibility for my actions.  I guess the hardest part about this whole situation is knowing that I let people walk into my life, stomp all over me and then strut all the way back out again.  It’s stupid really.  I guess I just look back to the house full of people we had here for Christmas a few years ago, and wonder where I went wrong. 
To our friends that have stuck by me, thank you.  I don’t know where I would be without you.  Your support and love has not gone unnoticed.  I promise to use my past mistakes as lessons and try very hard not to push you away.