Daily Archives: April 30, 2017

Picking Up on Feelings

As if it weren’t difficult enough to deal with my own feelings, at times I’ve had to wrestle with the feelings of others.

It started when I was a teen. I had already experienced my first major meltdown and was trying to put myself back together. Like most teens, I wasn’t really sure who I wanted to be. But unlike most teens, I was dealing with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and a shredded sense of self-esteem that made me even less sure of who I was, who I wanted to be, and who I ought to be.

I began to notice that I was picking up the characteristics of whomever I was with. When I was around Binky, I was light-hearted. When I was around Marie, I was a misfit. When I was around Fran., I was trying to fit in. And so on. Intellectual, silly, moody, outdoorsy, smart-alecky, boisterous, quiet – I became them all, in turn. None of them, it turns out, was really me. Or at least not completely me.

And when I was alone – who was I then? I was alone a lot of the time, and my default setting was depressed. I cried at unlikely songs. I hid in books. I cocooned before cocooning was a thing. I had a banner on my wall that said, “I’ve got to start acting more sensible – tomorrow!” I blamed my troubles on living in Ohio. I got drunk on ginger ale.

I was a fractured mess.

Later, in my 20s, as I went out in the world and began to interact with different people, I realized that I was picking up on their moods, rather than their character traits.

Most of those moods were unpleasant ones. And I reacted to them with – you guessed it – fear and depression.

Even if I was in a hypomanic state, I couldn’t maintain it if anyone around me was angry or depressed or resentful, or even just crabby. It felt like I was hanging on to my good feelings by my fingernails, and the least inattention would cause me to lose hold and crash.

As for anger and blame, there was no way I could do anything but cringe and apologize endlessly. (It was only much later that I learned how annoying apologizing and self-deprecation can be to those in the vicinity.)

One person became a master at using this to control me. A sigh and a glare were all it took.

Nor did the bad feelings have to be directed at me. I couldn’t be in a room with people who were yelling at each other. At times even disagreements on television would bother me.

I did develop a few coping mechanisms. If other people were the source of the bad feelings, I would make an excuse to leave the room. A breath of fresh air was usually too transparent, and you can only plead a bathroom break so many times, so making myself a cup of tea was my go-to excuse (which also led to a believable increase in bathroom breaks).

My husband has caught on to my interior mood sensor and reactions. Since even raised voices can trigger me, we’ve developed a signal that he needs to take it down a notch, usually when we’re talking politics – sometimes he even manages to chill out the emotional temperature of an entire room. And if he’s having a snit, I can ask him how long it will be till he gets over it and he lets me know whether it’s a big deal or not.

Now even sighing and glaring is a joke with us. He’ll puff like a steam engine and lower his eyebrows until they touch. Then we’ll both start laughing.

After my most recent and worst meltdown (which I’m surprised to realize was about ten years ago), my therapist told me that my shattered, scattered emotional state gave me a rare opportunity to choose which pieces of my former life I wanted to incorporate into my rebuilt self.

Maybe it’s a good thing I tried on those different identities as a teen, so I don’t have to now.

I know it’s a good thing that I’ve learned better ways to manage what emotions I allow into my life.


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: bipolar disorder, childhood depression, coping mechanisms, husband, mental health, my experiences, psychotherapy, social skills

Light the Way: Beltane, 2017

Elder leaves against a Beltane sky: 2017

Feel the power of the earth, wherever you are.

It may be your garden; it may be a friend’s, or, perhaps, your local park. Better still, a wood, a meadow, a glade. Even, perhaps, a hill or mountain side, with the wind so strong you can almost lean into it. Feel it, the element of air, thrill, and support you.

On Castle Hill, Huddersfield: love you.

Visit the seaside, at least once, early: preferably, at dawn, or soon afterwards. Walk along the beach while it’s still empty, save for the sea birds, and your own company, or that of a silent someone you love, and trust to keep still.

Feel it: the power of water, the wonder of it. Walk in the rain, let it dampen you, if not drench you. Just once, just the once.

The light on the water

This earth is ours, and we are the earth’s, as a poet once said.

Tonight, by some people’s reckoning anyways, is Beltane: a pagan fire festival. Do you have someplace you can safely make, and then watch, and put out, a fire? Maybe you have a firepit, maybe, if you’re lucky, a hearth. If not, you can always burn some candles.

When hearth means home

Feel it, the power of fire. Everything it evokes in us: comfort, fear, delight. Fire was a key element in so much of what makes us human: warmth, a place to gather, the cooked food which gives better nutrition.

Some speculate that it was fire that drew the wolves which would eventually evolve into dogs. Maybe, even, the wild creatures that, over time, became domestic cats.

Chaircat of the garden: Beltane, 2017

Feel them, the power of the elements: earth, air, water, fire. However much we may kid ourselves, these are the things that sustain us, that draw us together; and yes, which we fight over: the basics of life. And yet, foolishly, we try and control them; even, to deny them to our fellow human beings.

We, the creatures who have denied others access to water; who grab land from each other at the drop of a pound coin, a dollar bill. Who deny the plants and minerals of the earth to others. Who leave our fellow humans to starve, to shiver, and to die. Who sometimes abandon our children, our old ones, our companion animals.

But we can change. We can strive to be our better selves. Our better angels, if you prefer. The ones that care, not just for others, but themselves, too. Who care, not just for ourselves, but for each other.

This Beltane, let us light the way. Fight fire, not with more fire, but with the ties that bind us to each other, as well as to this earth.

Beltane blessings to us all, as we make our ways through life.

 

 

Tagged: air, Beltane, cats, dogs, earth, fire, gardens, humanity, joy, Loreena McKennitt, love, May Day, paganism, Robert Frost, seaside, the elements, The Gift Outright, The Old Ways, water

The camps of chronic illness explained (with a little help from Monty Python)

This post is so bitchen cool and also right on, that I gotta reblog it. Plus which I’m wicked happy because I just could not squeeze anything worthy out of the old content canister today, and here comes Kara and drops this doozie of a post.

Please click on the original post so you will be commenting on Kara’s blog. And if this is your first exposure to this amazing lady and wonderful writer who often causes me to choke from laughing so hard (thanks pal), please follow her blog. Then you too can have your tea go up your nose. Trust me, it cleans out your sinuses.

Polishing Dookie

Those of us who enjoy life with one or more chronic illnesses likely fall into one of three camps. Positivity porn slingers, Tell-it-like-it-is’ers, and Neutral floaters.

giphy1Positivity porn slingers: Perhaps you’ve just been diagnosed and now that you’ve finally got your diagnosis you feel that there’s hope, that things will get better. Or perhaps you’ve had your diagnosis for decades and you’ve FINALLY figured out how to live with it. You see other chronic illness patients who seem to have a dark cloud hovering over them and boy, do they ever complain! You vow that you won’t become like them. After all, a big portion of owning your disease is having power over your mind. Youavoid these people like they’re lepers. Some of them might actually be lepers.

b089c7711c3bc30d651ecd7e835764d9Tell-it-like-it-is’ers: Ah, the complainers. My compadres. It’s likely you’ve been around the block a few too many times, have possibly…

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I have trouble telling my doctors about my symptoms and difficulties communicating in general

It occurs to me that I have barely ever managed to verbalize the fact that the meds are ruining my life to the doctors prescribing them. This could be for a lot of reasons.

First and foremost, it seems like I go blank when I enter a doctor’s office. I’ve always been nervous in doctor’s offices and hospitals. I just answer the questions they ask me.

Another reason is that sometimes, in the past, when I have tried to bring up these things, they have been minimized by medical professionals. I’ve been told things like, “Other people are on the same medications and they cope just fine.” Well, I just told you I was not coping “just fine,” you know? Had I been coping just fine, I wouldn’t have mentioned it.

And other than those things, there is the fact that I worry nothing can be done about it, so why even bring it up? If they can’t reduce the meds, and can’t get me off the meds, then there is nothing to do besides just continue to roll with the punches.

Other than that, since I have been on the corticosteroids I have always had trouble with numerous things, leaving the house, communicating with people (I often fail to check emails or Facebook messages, just the idea of looking at them gives me anxiety), reading my mail, answering and making phone calls. I do not use text messages at all. I don’t use instant messengers, Skype, etc.

On the other hand, I have no problems communicating in more public spaces on the internet, like internet forums. I have a couple of Youtube channels, I have no problems (usually) making videos, replying to comments on them. I think the think with internet forums and public Facebook groups and posts is that there is no pressure. If you’re talking about something on a forum and you just fucking disappear for two weeks, no one cares. It’s a forum. People do that. This is less true of communicating directly with people via texts, instant messengers, Facebook private messages, phone calls, etc.

I never liked telephones much but I wasn’t especially horrified of them, either. I just can’t seem to deal with any human contact of any sort, unless it’s completely impersonal and public.

Family

We had my grandsons birthday party at our house today. It ended up just being family. But no less than 3 times did I look around and think I am so blesssed. I even started thinking about the future. When our grandsons have babies(yes it hopefully at least 15 years away for both of them), but I was thinking about it. I was thinking about how much I have always wanted a house full of people that love each other and are real with each other. 

I don’t ever remember a time where I did that. Where I took the time to not be stressed or irritated at something that happened. Just having the thought was new for me. And I liked it, a LOT!! 

My son has his prom tonight. Him and a group of friends went to eat in the big city of Little Rock, and then they are coming back for the dance. Justin called me in his room to put his bow tie on, and he looked so good and grown up!! I may have teared up, but I did NOT cry! Yay me!! We got to take pictures with him and then one of the other moms went with the kids and sent me the pictures they took in Little Rock. 

It hasn’t been a secret that I am having a difficult time with him graduating. So much so that I took a leave of absence from work. It’s subconscious. Even though I am so proud and happy for him. Honestly, I’m not really sure what my deal is. He’s going to college in town. So it’s not like he’s going far away. Honestly I think if he was a would have a complete break down at some point. It’s like this issue is all my brain can handle. So when work is stressful it’s like I have an even shorter fuse. So leave of absence was a good choice for me. 

I used to think that things like that weren’t ok because I am still physically capable of doing my job. But I have slowly been learning that I have to take care of me. If I don’t take care of me I won’t be any good to anyone else. AND when I take care of me I can stop in the middle of the chaos and savor the moments with the people I love. 

We have a new family member too. Actually he has been family for a while. He is Justin’s best friend. He is living with us for a while. So our house is full of schedules, and places to be, and working kids, concerts, over nighters, skating parties. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Tonight after prom justin and chase will come home (eventually) and they are bringing 2 other friends. While I have told him 4 times they have to be quiet. I am fairly confident they will be. They asked about one friend and then I got a text asking if another one could stay. My very first thought was I always wanted to be the house where the kids hang out. I just got my wish. 4 high school boys in my house being high school boys. I’m sure there will be more days like this. My daughter is 12 and I’m sure we have sleepovers coming in her future as well. 

I like knowing my kids friends. I like that Chase calls me his other Mom. I like that I can talk to them and relate to them. I like that I somehow managed to get exactly what I want. I am so thankful that because of my medication I can have those moments. Those moments that no one can take away and that I will carry with me forever. I love that my house is often full and loud. That our kids want to be with us and have special times together. I am blessed and I will not soon forget these precious moments. 

I know this was long and possibly repetitive. For that I’m sorry!

Thank you for reading and I hope that you are blessed beyond measure. And are able to have those moments where you realize you have everything you have ever wanted!!