Daily Archives: November 22, 2015

A Fine Distraction

Makes Me Tired

Distraction gets a bad rap.  Motivational-type folk would have us paint it neon yellow and stick it in a cage.  It’s anathema to focus and achievement.  It leads us astray, eats our time, keeps us from becoming superheroes.   Distraction is the slithery serpent holding us back from paradise.

Well… no.

Mind PalaceOne of the many lessons my bipolar disorder taught me was that distraction is vital.  When one’s focus locks onto the pain and confusion of a tumbling mind, a trapdoor to another room can keep pain from becoming suffering.  I’ve spent years moving slowly from self-destructive and unhealthy distractions to ones that, at least, cause no harm.  My list of What To Do When I Get Wonky hangs on my Mind Palace door in case I need reminders (I like to think my Mind Palace is like Sherlock Holmes’—a tidy place where everything that needs remembering can be accessed immediately.  But, it’s really more of a Mind Dumpster).

cookie JamI’m finding it’s just as important to use distraction in the midst of physical illness.  I need something to keep me from cataloging every pulmonary gurgle and wheeze, to take my mind off how everything except Ramen noodles tastes like school glue.  So, I made my Winter Solstice cards and played lots of Cookie Jam on my iPhone.  I’ve tried to watch movies, but generally nod off half way through.  Same with reading.  I keep apologizing to Henry for dropping my book on his head.  He is not amused.

Now, between naps, I’m working on the “swaps” I’ll take with me to ArtFest in March.  I’ve never done anything like this, but I’ve heard about it.  When artists get together, they trade little pieces of their work, or bring goodie bags with samples of their favorite supplies and materials, or chocolate.  It’s a cool way to get to know people and appreciate the kind of work they do.

Since Teesha Moore is known for her art journals, I thought I’d journal for a few days with white gel pen on card stock as an hommage, then use that as the beginning of my Artist Trading Cards (ATCs).  I like working in miniature, so these tiny cards (3 ½ X 2 ½ inches) are fun for me (fun being a relative term when muffled by antibiotics and inhalers).  The finished ATC isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but my stuff generally runs wild, and I’ve learned to get out of the way.  I like it.  This piece will represent me well.

CIMG3418

So, anyway, where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Distraction.  Don’t let the Anthony Robbins’ of the world make you feel bad about it.  Focus can’t untwist distorted thinking or clear fluid out of lungs.  Setting goals can’t change a diagnosis.  But distraction can make all that a little easier to bear.  Paint that in yellow neon and put it in your Mind Palace, Tony.


The Very Distracting Elephant Has All Of My Attention

I almost never think about this because I kind of don’t really care, but it comes up now and then, at which point I’m forced to think about it, which often leads me to the conclusion that I still don’t really care.

I have ADHD as well as bipolar, which is pretty common. I often forget I have ADHD even though I’ve been diagnosed with it twice and treated for it twice, and I feel like maybe there’s a joke hiding in the fact that I generally don’t remember that I have ADHD. I guess part of it is that my ADHD is really mild and treating it with meds ended up exacerbating my bipolar symptoms a whole lot more than it alleviated my ADHD symptoms, so it’s really not worth it. Most of the time (but not all of the time), the meds you get for ADHD are stimulants, usually methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) or amphetamine salts (Adderall). I tend to think of these drugs as “legal speed” much the same way that oxycodone is arguably “legal heroin,” because prescription stimulants can be a little intense and cause a person to behave in ways that are similar to their illicit, street-dwelling cousins.

Way back in April, 2006, a few months before she turned 19 and after an inexplicable plummet in academic performance at the beginning of college, Laura’s well-meaning dad brought her to a specialist to get tested for ADHD. Currently, Laura isn’t 100% sure why she’s speaking in the third person, but she’s gonna keep doing it for a sec, so deal. The nice doctor (he really was super nice) prescribed Laura 18mgs of long-acting methylphenidate a day. Upon beginning treatment with the methylphenidate, Laura did not sleep more than 4 hours a night for about 6 weeks (“night” meaning between the hours of 7:00 and 11:00 a.m., after the sun was up). During the day, Laura spent hours and hours playing guitar in her room and doing little else. She…fuck it, I’m done with the third person thing…I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes while it was still dark out because I was afraid of this or that faceless, gloomy specter, likely a shifting amalgamation of horror movie previews, posters, photos, and fucked up memories. So, I was almost 19 and so afraid of the boogeyman that I kept every light in my room on all night and tried to keep blinking to a minimum. Once the sun came up and I heard my parents moving around the house, I felt Ok to close my eyes and get some sleep, but I still usually kept the lights on. The point is that I got bizarrely paranoid of shit I don’t and didn’t actually believe in (demons, ghosts, the remaining peppery flakes of my gothic-ass Catholic upbringing – side point: I posit that growing up Catholic predisposes nervous people to deeply intense but irrational fears, or at least that’s what happened to me).

So I was getting by on 4 hours of sleep, hyper-focused on creative projects, and immensely paranoid of the dark. It was a weird time. Through those long nights, I watched a lot of shitty romance movies and replayed the sex scenes over and over (bonus points If the DVD had a cache of scenes deleted from the film for being TOO HOT FOR THEATERS!), because, at 18, I had done most of the sex things I was then interested in doing, but not all of the sex things I was interested in doing, and I wanted to make sure my orgasming visage would be the right combination of sexy and cultivated* when said visage would smear itself all over my face.** Pro tip: don’t explore your own sexuality by watching adaptations of Nicholas Sparks books, you won’t have any fun. DO masturbate more.

Shit calmed down a lot after that first 6 weeks, but the paranoia stuck around, kinda shapeshifting. I felt I could sleep with the lights off, but I was convinced people were watching me from their windows when I walked around outside. It should go without saying that by “watching” I also mean “judging” which is a little funny to think about, when I root around in that notion a bit more and realize how important I must’ve felt. I went back to school for my sophomore year of college (which, for like a dozen reasons was a total blast, despite the really bad cockroach problem in my apartment), but over the course of that year, my paranoias got worse. In quiet elevators or train cars, I was never sure if I was talking or thinking, so my brain would go off the rails, whipping up waltzing cyclones of hateful language that I never use in real life, like just to fuck with me. Did I really just call that woman standing next to me a [blank-ity blank blank]??? I would never call a person that! She has to know I don’t think she or anyone is a [nope-ity nope nope]!!! So my solution to this was to bite my lips. Like real hard. ‘Cause if I was chomping down on my lips, I couldn’t be also using them to hurl obscene epithets at elevator strangers, right?

In a moment of clarity, I realized that the shit that was happening to me re: this paranoia nonsense and the things I was doing to cope with it were stupid and making my life needlessly stressful. So I called my doctor and told him I was gonna stop taking the methylphenidate and he said Ok. Fun thing (and my psychiatrist has told me this more than once): sometimes when you stop taking a medication, the side-effects you experienced when you were first taking it that went away after your body adjusted can come back. And mine did SO HARD. I became completely hypomanic (which I didn’t know was a thing at the time). I may have told this anecdote before but for like about 2 weeks, my poor, poor roommates had to deal with my assertion, nay, my insistence that the floor was a trampoline. Thusly, I would often start screaming, “THE FLOOR IS A TRAMPOLINE!” while jumping up and down in the living room (which should’ve scared the roaches at least a little, but totally didn’t, those fuckers are hardy as hell). I was bathed in awe, and the object of my awe was skyscrapers, which was pretty convenient since I live(d) in a major city. I haven’t had a hypomanic episode with that awe component in it for a really long time, but it’s not unusual for a person experiencing mania or hypomania to feel an intense reverence for X thing. People often land on stuff like trees or mountains or bodies of water, but it can really be almost anything. I considered skyscrapers to be these magnificent testaments to human ingenuity – from the minds of the architects who envisioned them to the hands of the workers who made their integrity incarnate. It was all very poetic, etc.

Then my dad died. I was reaching this unbelievable psychic climax when, without warning, my dad was felled in seconds by a faulty heart. I was still hypomanic during the first week or so of grieving my dad, which may be the most surreal thing that’s ever happened to me, if you don’t count psychedelics.

All this weirdness ’cause of some ADHD pills. When I returned to college post-graduation to study more Philosophy, I was put on Adderall, but this time, I was also taking mood stabilizers, so I didn’t have any significant episodes, none that I can readily recall, anyway.

So, it comes up in therapy now and then. The ADHD. My doc will occasionally remind me that I have it by suggesting it may have a minor role to play in such-and-such event/feeling/endeavor. My response is usually along the lines of, “Well, whatever,” and then I just move on. I don’t know exactly how to express the fact that I don’t really care whether or not I have ADHD…except, I guess, by saying that I don’t really care whether or not I have ADHD. But it’s probably fair enough to say that it has me sometimes, as in, by the short hairs but so what? Is it Ok to say “so what?” here? It doesn’t feel especially un-Ok. Plus, ADHD seems to fall into that category of Silver Lining Disorders where people who have it may experience some trouble, like in school maybe, but that trouble is often (sometimes tremendously) offset by the facets of the illness that are fucking great. People with ADHD are often more adventurous and creative than the average bear, and, I’ve been told, more easily think outside the box (sorry…) than their unaffected peers. There’s also a theory that ADHD may be the result of an evolutionary advantage re: hunting vs. farming, essentially making people with ADHD traits better suited to certain scenarios and more prone to hyperfocus, which, when aimed at the right target, can be really fucking fun. Look it up, it’s cool.

So, 1,500 words say that I have an illness about which I don’t really care. But maybe that I’m better than you (I am…on some days, on other days I’m less preferable than hemorrhoids, but this whole parenthetical is pretty typical of what I know and feel about myself as a person with bipolar, not as a person with ADHD). So, long story short, uh, comorbidity is a thing, it can lead you to some weird crossroads and…maybe not all disorders need treatment. I think I’m getting along Ok. The hand I drew doesn’t allow a ton of room for perfect, functional normalcy, so why try to force it? In this case, I insist for myself, that it’s better not to.

-LB

*This doesn’t exist. Humans, with little exception, look ridiculous when we come. That doesn’t make it any less hot, though.

**Yes, that phrasing was intentional, thanks for noticing!

Tagged: ADHD, bipolar disorder, Catholicism, comorbidity, dad, death, drugs, hypomania, masturbation, meds, paranoia, sexuality, side effects, therapy, treatment

The Very Distracting Elephant Has All Of My Attention

I almost never think about this because I kind of don’t really care, but it comes up now and then, at which point I’m forced to think about it, which often leads me to the conclusion that I still don’t really care.

I have ADHD as well as bipolar, which is pretty common. I often forget I have ADHD even though I’ve been diagnosed with it twice and treated for it twice, and I feel like maybe there’s a joke hiding in the fact that I generally don’t remember that I have ADHD. I guess part of it is that my ADHD is really mild and treating it with meds ended up exacerbating my bipolar symptoms a whole lot more than it alleviated my ADHD symptoms, so it’s really not worth it. Most of the time (but not all of the time), the meds you get for ADHD are stimulants, usually methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) or amphetamine salts (Adderall). I tend to think of these drugs as “legal speed” much the same way that oxycodone is arguably “legal heroin,” because prescription stimulants can be a little intense and cause a person to behave in ways that are similar to their illicit, street-dwelling cousins.

Way back in April, 2006, a few months before she turned 19 and after an inexplicable plummet in academic performance at the beginning of college, Laura’s well-meaning dad brought her to a specialist to get tested for ADHD. Currently, Laura isn’t 100% sure why she’s speaking in the third person, but she’s gonna keep doing it for a sec, so deal. The nice doctor (he really was super nice) prescribed Laura 18mgs of long-acting methylphenidate a day. Upon beginning treatment with the methylphenidate, Laura did not sleep more than 4 hours a night for about 6 weeks (“night” meaning between the hours of 7:00 and 11:00 a.m., after the sun was up). During the day, Laura spent hours and hours playing guitar in her room and doing little else. She…fuck it, I’m done with the third person thing…I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes while it was still dark out because I was afraid of this or that faceless, gloomy specter, likely a shifting amalgamation of horror movie previews, posters, photos, and fucked up memories. So, I was almost 19 and so afraid of the boogeyman that I kept every light in my room on all night and tried to keep blinking to a minimum. Once the sun came up and I heard my parents moving around the house, I felt Ok to close my eyes and get some sleep, but I still usually kept the lights on. The point is that I got bizarrely paranoid of shit I don’t and didn’t actually believe in (demons, ghosts, the remaining peppery flakes of my gothic-ass Catholic upbringing – side point: I posit that growing up Catholic predisposes nervous people to deeply intense but irrational fears, or at least that’s what happened to me).

So I was getting by on 4 hours of sleep, hyper-focused on creative projects, and immensely paranoid of the dark. It was a weird time. Through those long nights, I watched a lot of shitty romance movies and replayed the sex scenes over and over (bonus points If the DVD had a cache of scenes deleted from the film for being TOO HOT FOR THEATERS!), because, at 18, I had done most of the sex things I was then interested in doing, but not all of the sex things I was interested in doing, and I wanted to make sure my orgasming visage would be the right combination of sexy and cultivated* when said visage would smear itself all over my face.** Pro tip: don’t explore your own sexuality by watching adaptations of Nicholas Sparks books, you won’t have any fun. DO masturbate more.

Shit calmed down a lot after that first 6 weeks, but the paranoia stuck around, kinda shapeshifting. I felt I could sleep with the lights off, but I was convinced people were watching me from their windows when I walked around outside. It should go without saying that by “watching” I also mean “judging” which is a little funny to think about, when I root around in that notion a bit more and realize how important I must’ve felt. I went back to school for my sophomore year of college (which, for like a dozen reasons was a total blast, despite the really bad cockroach problem in my apartment), but over the course of that year, my paranoias got worse. In quiet elevators or train cars, I was never sure if I was talking or thinking, so my brain would go off the rails, whipping up waltzing cyclones of hateful language that I never use in real life, like just to fuck with me. Did I really just call that woman standing next to me a [blank-ity blank blank]??? I would never call a person that! She has to know I don’t think she or anyone is a [nope-ity nope nope]!!! So my solution to this was to bite my lips. Like real hard. ‘Cause if I was chomping down on my lips, I couldn’t be also using them to hurl obscene epithets at elevator strangers, right?

In a moment of clarity, I realized that the shit that was happening to me re: this paranoia nonsense and the things I was doing to cope with it were stupid and making my life needlessly stressful. So I called my doctor and told him I was gonna stop taking the methylphenidate and he said Ok. Fun thing (and my psychiatrist has told me this more than once): sometimes when you stop taking a medication, the side-effects you experienced when you were first taking it that went away after your body adjusted can come back. And mine did SO HARD. I became completely hypomanic (which I didn’t know was a thing at the time). I may have told this anecdote before but for like about 2 weeks, my poor, poor roommates had to deal with my assertion, nay, my insistence that the floor was a trampoline. Thusly, I would often start screaming, “THE FLOOR IS A TRAMPOLINE!” while jumping up and down in the living room (which should’ve scared the roaches at least a little, but totally didn’t, those fuckers are hardy as hell). I was bathed in awe, and the object of my awe was skyscrapers, which was pretty convenient since I live(d) in a major city. I haven’t had a hypomanic episode with that awe component in it for a really long time, but it’s not unusual for a person experiencing mania or hypomania to feel an intense reverence for X thing. People often land on stuff like trees or mountains or bodies of water, but it can really be almost anything. I considered skyscrapers to be these magnificent testaments to human ingenuity – from the minds of the architects who envisioned them to the hands of the workers who made their integrity incarnate. It was all very poetic, etc.

Then my dad died. I was reaching this unbelievable psychic climax when, without warning, my dad was felled in seconds by a faulty heart. I was still hypomanic during the first week or so of grieving my dad, which may be the most surreal thing that’s ever happened to me, if you don’t count psychedelics.

All this weirdness ’cause of some ADHD pills. When I returned to college post-graduation to study more Philosophy, I was put on Adderall, but this time, I was also taking mood stabilizers, so I didn’t have any significant episodes, none that I can readily recall, anyway.

So, it comes up in therapy now and then. The ADHD. My doc will occasionally remind me that I have it by suggesting it may have a minor role to play in such-and-such event/feeling/endeavor. My response is usually along the lines of, “Well, whatever,” and then I just move on. I don’t know exactly how to express the fact that I don’t really care whether or not I have ADHD…except, I guess, by saying that I don’t really care whether or not I have ADHD. But it’s probably fair enough to say that it has me sometimes, as in, by the short hairs but so what? Is it Ok to say “so what?” here? It doesn’t feel especially un-Ok. Plus, ADHD seems to fall into that category of Silver Lining Disorders where people who have it may experience some trouble, like in school maybe, but that trouble is often (sometimes tremendously) offset by the facets of the illness that are fucking great. People with ADHD are often more adventurous and creative than the average bear, and, I’ve been told, more easily think outside the box (sorry…) than their unaffected peers. There’s also a theory that ADHD may be the result of an evolutionary advantage re: hunting vs. farming, essentially making people with ADHD traits better suited to certain scenarios and more prone to hyperfocus, which, when aimed at the right target, can be really fucking fun. Look it up, it’s cool.

So, 1,500 words say that I have an illness about which I don’t really care. But maybe that I’m better than you (I am…on some days, on other days I’m less preferable than hemorrhoids, but this whole parenthetical is pretty typical of what I know and feel about myself as a person with bipolar, not as a person with ADHD). So, long story short, uh, comorbidity is a thing, it can lead you to some weird crossroads and…maybe not all disorders need treatment. I think I’m getting along Ok. The hand I drew doesn’t allow a ton of room for perfect, functional normalcy, so why try to force it? In this case, I insist for myself, that it’s better not to.

-LB

*This doesn’t exist. Humans, with little exception, look ridiculous when we come. That doesn’t make it any less hot, though.

**Yes, that phrasing was intentional, thanks for noticing!

Tagged: ADHD, bipolar disorder, Catholicism, comorbidity, dad, death, drugs, hypomania, masturbation, meds, paranoia, sexuality, side effects, therapy, treatment

As Evidenced By…

Thursday was my first time seeing Sadie since I dropped in on the on-call therapist.  There were new developments in that situation, as well as me being in the midst of a stressful day.  Mom was having surgery that wouldn’t be over until after my therapy appointment, so I had to leave her there and […]

Tribepolar

I avoided the net all night on all devices like it was the plague because once my rage fest ended, I was a little (lot) scared of what venomous replies might have been earned.

To my surprise…I got a lot of support and understanding from wordpress bipolar bloggers.

You people are my tribe. We are the Tribepolar.

I love every one of you even when you click like but don’t comment. (It’s an effort at communication, props!) I know some days I do the same thing so I’m a hypocrite. Often, I don’t know what to say or have anything to say. But I read, I understood, and hey “like” says as much. So I am gonna let the love/hate balance of the like button tip toward love if only because it is one way to engage without having to…Test your social skills, if they are limited like mine are.

I don’t know that I am “okay” today. That Jaws theme is playing in sync with the oompa loompa ovary squeezes and my entire body feels like a truck hit it. I tested out my increased Restoril dose last night (15 to 30) and I couldn’t drag my butt out of bed til after ten. I was sort of awake but so leaden and hungover…And I didn’t even stay asleep all night so…what the fuck. I won’t be doing that shit again. I’d have less of a hangover from a couple of Mangoritas, for fuck’s sake. Doctors are stupid. Proof an education and experience don’t make you actually GRASP things like bipolar.

 Fuck biohazard house and the social brainwashing of “if you really loved your kid, it’d be clean as a surgical suite.” Nope. I’m done with that pressure being applied to me. If a spotless home is the only way to prove you love your kids, the world has become too sad to exist in. Seriously. Can you even picture caveman days and some Child Protective employee wandering the caves, making sure no whoolly mammoth carcus bones fell onto the ground? Society’s priorities are screwed up. Long as the trash is out, the paths are clear, and she has clean clothes, fresh food, and gets bathed…FUCK YOU SUPER PARENTS AND CLEAN FREAKS.

I have completed my one task for the day. I showered. It’d been a couple of days. Lots of grooming involved. (Weed whacker blades need sharpened.) I feel better but it was a battle of its own. Not something a McMuggle would ever understand. And with the Jaws theme in the background reminding me I am in for a week of misery..Meh. I am gonna vegetate and not feel shitty for it. Kid is clean, fed, content. Cats are fed and watered. I’m tapped out.

And ya know what, tribe? IT IS OKAY TO ADMIT THAT YOU ARE TAPPED OUT.

We spend so much time feeling outside pressure to “snap out of it” “push yourself” “try harder”. I think it’s a byproduct of this new “shiny happy” therapy that’s emerged in the last 15 years. Probably why I’ve lost total interest in counseling aside from crisis times. It’s harmful, not helpful, to be told “yes you have a chemical imbalance” only to have it added, “But you need to regulate your emotions and steep yourself in denial by having only an optimistic view.”

When I started therapy back in 1993 (the kind I paid for, not the stuff the school forced on me for being a misfit)…There was optimism, behavior modification, et al. BUT there was also a professional acceptance of depression and its limitations. Best therapist advice ever received: “Some days you just have to admit you feel depressed and you are not going to feel better. Set one goal, accomplish it, and tackle the rest when the mood cycles upward.”

I have lived that for twenty years now. It’s been helpful, comforting, grounding.

And now the party line says it’s enabling myself to be lazy, to wallow in sadness, blah blah fuck you.

Much like my love of old cars,hair metal, and Pac-Man arcade games…I much prefer retro therapy approaches. New school is bullshit and I think more harmful than helpful.

Of course,I am old so maybe too set in my ways to be open to this new shiny happy therapy, which is all some have ever known. I am just unfortunate or fortunate enough to have been through both. I don’t find it crazy to go with the faction that worked.

So today…I am going to vegetate and not sweat the petty things or pet the sweaty things.

Again…thanks for the support in spite of my spaz out. No nuke buttons will be pushed. I just gotta stop reading Spam comments with all their “you could be getting more views if you wrote more posts like this one” blah blah blah. Sure, it’s a blog, not the great American novel. But as a writer since age 8, it’s offensive to see some fashion blogger with a million followers and gushing comments when the extent of their writing ability is lesser than my six year old’s. Call it ego, whatever. I miss quality. Fuck quantity and popularity.

Let the Tribepolar inherit the Earth and make the popular vapid sheeple our bitches.


The Spike

It was The Year of Living With Rex, and for me that meant dangerously. I was undiagnosed and unmedicated, except for wine. I had already been through an episode of cutting. I was clueless and stubborn, isolated and emotionally abused. Tired to my soul and trying to claw my way through my last year of college and a relationship that has affected me to this day.

Then the pain started. Without warning, I would feel a railroad spike being driven through my right temple. It was blinding, all-consuming, and lasted for as much as 30 minutes straight, sometimes. If I was lucky, it was only a few seconds, but I was seldom lucky.

I didn’t know anything that would make it better. All I could do was lie down and weep until it went away.

As this continued, the fear grew in me that I had something dire, like a brain tumor. In addition to my major depressive episode, I was living with massive anxiety.

I don’t know how I made it through my senior year. I don’t know how I made it through the train wreck I was living.

But here’s how I made it through the railroad spike.

Actually, it was kind of amusing, if you weren’t me and it wasn’t happening to you. I went to a doctor, a neurologist, who took one look at me and said,”I can give you any test you want, but I’ll tell you what it is right now. Your jaw is crooked.”

It was Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) syndrome. And this was before it got trendy and over-diagnosed, the way way gluten sensitivity is now.

My jaw was indeed as crooked as could be. When the doctor put his fingertips on my jaw and asked me to open my mouth, we could both feel it slipping sideways. I’ve been told it feels like my jaw is going to fall off in the doctor’s hands. It made clicking and cracking noises that I had somehow never noticed, and occasionally seemed to get stuck briefly.

How did this explain the railroad spike? When I was anxious, my jaw muscles would clench – and since my jaw was crooked, they would tighten up unevenly. Causing much pain.

“What can you do for it?” I asked.

“We could break your jaw and put it back together, but there’s no guarantee that would work,” he said. (This was in the ’70s. I believe treatments have improved since then.)

While I contemplated whether I really wanted to have a surgically broken jaw (I did not), he gave me a prescription to calm my anxiety so the muscles wouldn’t tighten up and trigger the pain spasms.

Good ol’ Valium.

Now I was officially medicated with benzos and self-medicated with wine. It did take down the anxiety, but plunged me even further into the depression. And I was still living with academic pressure, isolation, no psychiatric diagnosis. And Rex.

I finished up the year, grabbed my diploma, and lit out for my home state as fast as I possibly could. Rex threatened to send the police after me if I took my things while he wasn’t home to supervise and prevent theft of any of his goods. Fine, I thought. Just let him try. I was across two state lines before he got home from work. No, geographic cures don’t work, but sometimes retreating to a safer place can help.

So, all in all, a truly rotten experience. But did I have a psychiatric problem? After all, a crooked jaw is a decidedly, visibly, diagnosably physical ailment.

Of course I did. The crooked jaw was just one component of my condition. The anxiety was another –  a big, huge, whopping one. After all, I’d had a crooked jaw my entire life, and it never sent me railroad spikes until that year. And the depression made it all harder to see and to get away from.

If you ever needed proof the mind and the body are so intertwined that you can hardly tell one from the other, there it is. Physical problem + psychological problem = pain, of both sorts. Good luck trying to sort the two out. And medicating one without making the other worse.


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: anxiety, bipolar type 2, depression, mental illness, my experiences, physical pain, psychological pain, psychotropic drugs, self-medicating

Design Fault

Saddle, seat post, handlebars, brakes, brake cables, inner tubes, spokes, tyres, wheels,  chain, pedals …. As will be readily apparent to regular followers of this blog, a bike mechanic I am not. I sit on the saddle, my feet find the pedals and the wheels turn – I am on my way.

Over the past few months, however, something I could not name has beeeen going wrong. Regularly. About every 3 miles or so. Nick, the guy at the bike shop, told me what the part was called when I went in to have it fixed a while back. I quickly forgot the name of the part that was the problem. It was fixed, right? Who needs to remember a detail like that?

Fixed it was not. After a while – a few weeks – maybe a couple of months – the same thing started happening again.

Bicycle parts identified

Now, by this time I figure you are wondering what the name of the part that keeps going wrong is called, so I looked it up. The front dropouts are the culprits. They keep coming out of the plastic holder type things that keep them in place on the front wheel. I keep checking that they are snug by pushing them back in to their plastic holders, and they try to wiggle out every time I go anywhere.

This has never happened with my previous bikes. I popped into the bike shop a few days ago for some chain cleaning foam spray and asked Nick why it keeps happening. He offered to glue the front dropouts in place when I can book a slot to bring the bike in. So, I’ll do that. Eventually.

Eventually. Not right now. (Too much pressure). I’ll get round to it. (Can you go away now, please?). There are so many other things I have to do. (For other people who don’t understand.) Please can someone else help me out with this please? I can’t ask. Not again. (Read my mind, divine my inner most inertia and stale hopes, and help me).

There are so many eventuallies in my depression. There is so much that will happen – soon. One day. Next week or month or year. My responsibilities are many, like unread books lining the shelves that surround me. I run my fingers across their uncracked spines, their eager titles of hope, despair, longing and lethargy. Will somebody please take away these responsibilities I hoard day by motionless day? Box them up, label them and stack them far away from sight. Like that I can merely remember them, rather than slice open the tape that binds them closed, and stare at them with dread, with longing.

Monotomy

One monotonous day is followed
by another monotonous, identical day. The same
things will happen, they will happen again –
the same moments find us and leave us.

A month passes and ushers in another month.
One easily guesses the coming events;
they are the boring ones of yesterday.
And tomorrow looks nothing like tomorrow.

C.P. Cavafy  (1863 – 1933)               


This Week in Gratitude

I used to do a link-up that was a 10-things of thankful, and I did quite enjoy doing it every weekend.  The format has changed now, and I can’t find any linkups, so I decided that at the end of every week, I will go out on my own and do a gratitude post.  There are so many things out there to be thankful for, yet it is easy to not bring them to one’s consciousness in a mindful way.  SO, this is part DBT exercise, part because-I-wanna exercise, and mostly because I want to remember the good stuff, for when the time are NOT so good.

Without further adeiu:

  1.  This week, I am thankful for the four-cup coffee pot my mom purchased for me.  I had a huge coffeepot before, and the result was always that I would drink the entire contents every morning, which would leave me sick.  Ok, so yes, no self-control.  To remedy the situation, I gave up caffeine, but have started to miss it oh-so-much, so this is the solution.  The theory — the less coffee that is made, the less I will drink.
  2. LarBear has been a champ this week (well, every week), but especially this week, with helping me get a caffeine fix every morning even when there was no coffee pot.  I’m not sure why a large coffee at McDonald’s must cost $1.95, but it is clear we will be saving money now with brewing it at home.  Oh, and LarBear can avoid going out in 25 degree weather, all for the sake of a cup of coffee.  I think he will appreciate that!
  3. The very small mouse problem that started a couple weeks ago in my basement (this is what happens when you live in the country), is no more, after Mom’s boyfriend hooked us up with some poison.  I placed it carefully where the dogs couldn’t get to it and there has not been one sign of a mouse ever since.
  4. I am thankful that I have found it within myself to continue to work on giving second chances and third chances and fourth chances to people in my life who, well, may not deserve it (from the outside looking in).  It can be really hard to give up on someone who has been around your entire life, although not impossible.
  5. In a related thankfulness/gratitude moment, I am grateful that I can still see the good in most people, even when it is buried very deep below the surface.
  6. I am excited about Thanksgiving plans, getting to see the Big Dawg’s side of the family, and possibly going to see my maternal grandfather’s side of the family a few days after the big Turkey Day.
  7. Somewhat related, I am very grateful that I am *with it* enough to think about doing these things, and being around all of these people (that I am not used to).  Baby steps, Rosa.
  8. I am grateful basketball season is upon us, and I have already made it to two games at the local college.  Go Bods!
  9. I am thankful for interpersonal communication effectiveness skills learned in DBT, as it seems like LarBear and I get clearer with each other every day, and my other relationships continue to improve, as well.
  10. I am grateful/thankful/proud that I have cranked out almost one post every other day for over a week, and don’t feel any signs of slowing down yet.  I am grateful people still read, still comment, still like, and still listen, even after all this time.  Some of my favorite people are my online blog friends, and I am glad I didn’t mess that up too terribly with my extended absence.

What are you grateful for this week?  Making these lists may seem a bit mundane now, but they are very helpful to look back on in the future when things might not be so rosy.  I know they have helped me tremendously!


Filed under: Gratitude Tagged: anxiety, Bipolar, bipolar disorder, blog, blogging, building structure, DBT, depression, dialectical behavior therapy, distress tolerance, effectiveness, Family, gratitude, happiness, hope, joy, love, mental illness, mental-health, mindfulness, relationships, SAD, seasonal affective disorder, self-soothe, thankfulness, willingness

So Much For My Salmon!

Yesterday I shared my horror at discovering that the guvvy is mucking about with the food supply again–this time in the form of “GMO” giantized salmon.

At the very moment of that writing, a fillet of what looked to be perfectly normal Atlantic salmon reposed in my fridge.  I purchased this, mind you, before I had any idea that Frankensalmon could be even now glaring at me through the fish counter window.

After reading the GMO fish article I reflected a moment, then decided not to pitch it based on its petite proportions.  After all, I am petite (?). 

So this evening I decided to eat it, despite the fact that I was not at all hungry.  I have been struggling with this damn depression for many months now, which has ruined my appetite and made me even more petite.  But I gathered my resolve.  I must eat if I am to have strength to fight this monkey off my back, right?

So I took a pack of this yummy gluten free rice ramen, which tastes like cardboard soaked in hot pee.  A nice piece of fresh salmon will flavorize it, right?

Removing the fillet from its brown paper wrapping, I inspected it for signs of illegitimacy.  There were none.  I smelled it.  It smelled like fresh salmon.

Atina, my now-20-month-old Belgian Malinois, was driving me crazy humping her fleece blanket.  She does that.  Often.  She is a sex-crazed teenager.

So, to get her mind off of humping for two minutes, I cut a strip of raw salmon skin into tiny bits, made her sit and look deeeply into my eyes, and handed her a bit of salmon.

You would think that any dog would be in ecstatic transports, being the lucky recipient of a piece of salmon, no?

No.

Atina rolled it around on her palate, gave it a cursory chew, and spit it out on the floor with a look that said, “Awww, wadja do THAT for?”

“Girl,” says I, “You have just become the Royal Tasteress.”

I threw the rest of that fucking fish in the freezer, to be disposed of next time I go to the dump. 

I really think this is a sign that after our Thanksgiving duck I need to become a better vegetarian.

My main problem is motivation.  No, wait.  My main problem is that I’m too fucking depressed to care whether I eat or not.  It’s a vicious cycle, because the less I eat, the more my nutrition suffers, my body falls apart, my brain doesn’t work right, and everything sucks more.

If I had a lovely dark skinned South Indian kitchen staff cooking for me, I bet I’d eat.  There is nothing that will make my senses happier than dosai (a crepe made out of lentil paste) filled with spiced potatoes, with sambar (a piquant soup served with dosai and related dishes), coconut/green chili chutney, tamarind chutney, and slurping it up gloriously with the hands.

I think of my beautiful brown friends in South India who fed me so lovingly, and begged me to stop crying because it was making them sad.  But I couldn’t stop crying because no one had ever been so kind to me before.

One woman in particular touches my heart to its core.

She is a big woman in a culture that values petiteness, and she feels this acutely.  Also she is very dark, and Indian women are obsessed with trying to make themselves fair.

I think she is the most beautiful woman in the world.  When she wraps you up in her soft-strong hug, chuckling from somewhere in her soul, you feel embraced by the Cosmic Mother.

When she confided her sadnesses to me, I said, only half joking, “Oh my dear, you are so beautiful, can I come and live at your house?”

She looked very seriously and long, her deep brown eyes into my mood-ring blue hazel ones, and said,

“Yes.”

Unlike myself, who live in a tin can with a bathroom in it, my friend lives in a mud hut with no bathroom in it.  Cooking is done over an open fire.  Panthers, tigers, snakes and rabid domestic animals are the local hazards, not counting the men.  My friend’s husband beat her because she miscarried her baby, then he left her for another girl.

I have to think of her more.  A large part of me wishes I hadn’t left.  Another, larger piece of me wants to go back and find her.   I would learn how to cook dosai, iddlies, vadas, biryani…anything to make those deep brown eyes light up.

But no salmon.

I don’t believe my friend has tasted salmon.


9 Thoughts on Recovery

1) Fighting for recovery…

Fighting my way to recovery has been a battle I refused to lose.  I think it’s hard for the average person to understand how someone who lives with a mental illness has to learn how to get her life back.  It is not easy and some people will not be able to ever recover from it.  But many people do and they do it by fighting.

2) Analogy…

Imagine if you are going along and “doing life” and all the sudden everything you knew changed.  Your friends were gone, you lost your job, and you were faced with dealing with the consequences of matters you didn’t bring upon yourself, but your illness caused everything around you to go up in smoke.  Worse than a rug being pulled out from under you and more like a dam bursting with rushing water heading right toward you–that’s the essence of describing what it takes to survive.

3) Returning to life…

In the past year I started quietly asserting myself as a Mental Health Advocate.  As the year has gone by my voice has gotten stronger and louder.  Self-esteem, dignity, respect and confidence gently worked their way back into my persona.  I have become a different person.  The very thing that caused me pain, bipolar disorder-has also given me insights, knowledge and compassion like I have never felt before.

The one thing I have learned is that faith and hope and belief in recovery are critical to have in the journey.  When you get to a stage 4 of mental illness, recovery is bleak and perhaps not expected.  But I refused to become a statistic.  I kind of like defying the odds, I always have been that way.  

4) You gotta know it to beat it…

I will say that the amount of time I spent studying bipolar disorder and mental illness in general, was far greater than the energy I spent working toward a Master’s degree and the stamina it took to become an Olympian.  I consider learning about my illness as one of the key success factors.  I highly recommend becoming a student to those who suffer.

5) Respect it..don’t fear it.

I love the ocean.  It is fierce and constant and sometimes calm, but you better be careful of the riptides.  I am not afraid of it, but I respect it.  This is similar to how I view bipolar disorder.  There was a time when it scared the hell out of me.  But that fear paralyzed me from living.  I had to learn to swim with the ups and downs and not fight the diagnosis, but accept it.  Respect what my brain was going through. Learn to let the current carry me to safe waters.  

6) Stick to the vision…

I have a vision for how I want my life to look.  It may be a little foggy some days but I still know what I want.  I have a vision to become a national speaker on Mental Health Recovery.  I want to write a book about it in the hopes of helping other people.  I want to shed light, a big bright light that even people who get to stage 4 can still recover.  

A vision is not the same thing as having goals or objectives.  The vision is like a dream but with much more direction.  Setting goals and objectives that lead you to your vision keeps you on track.  

7) Move in the direction of your dream…

It would be great to have everything we needed all at once, but it does not happen that way.  Big dreamers make their dreams a reality by moving in that direction.  The dream may take different forms and even change a little.  But you’ll be more likely to make that dream a reality if you accept you will have to collect what you need a long the way.  

Sometimes things will fall into place easily and other times it will be a struggle.  But reaching the dream depends on continuing to move.  My dreams I keep private until I achieve them, so I will keep you posted.

8) You gotta walk not run…

You don’t sprint if you are running a marathon.  Recovery is a long distance race and it requires pacing yourself.  Some days I get frustrated that my pace is not faster.  I have to remind myself that I am in this for the long haul.  

9) Celebrate the wins…

I have learned how to be proud of me.  There is no one who knows how much I have been through except myself (and God).  I can smile by telling you you will have to trust me on that one.  I will say this, I don’t get my insights by reading alone.  I have many experiences to draw upon.  I celebrate where I am and where I am going.  I make a habit of it.

Hope I have given you a few things to think about.  I hope you have a greater understanding of how hard it is to recover from a mental illness.  I also hope you know it is possible.