Tag Archives: friends

Marco…

It feels like I haven’t blogged in a long time, but I see that’s just not true (Hello, distorted thinking!).  Maybe the disconnect comes from playing Marco Polo with some of my friends back in Iowa and Minnesota.  If you’re not familiar, MP is a messaging app that creates little videos.  It was my friend, Cheryl’s, genius idea to use it, so that we could see and hear each other while giving updates.

I’ve taken my buddies to the Flea Market and introduced them to the baristas at my new coffee shop-home.  They’ve toured my duplex and The Peach Barn (Fried Pies!).  Most importantly, I’ve shared the ups and downs of my illness as my rheostats rebooted after the electrical surge of moving.  That’s something I’ve only done here in my blog, where words can be safely crafted and kept separate from a voice and face that feel too vulnerable to share.

In real-time, I try not to unload when my moods deep-cycle.  I might mention it in passing, or say “I’m having a hard day.”  Right or wrong, I believe too much truth will break the people I love.  And I can’t bear the uncomfortable silence or awkward attempts at sympathy that usually follow.

But, I needed support.  I needed to be real.  So, there were blubbery posts, and manic posts, and little videos where I looked and sounded like a zombie.  No one ran screaming into the night.  No one shamed me.  In fact, the love and support that flowed back to me helped more than I can say.  I thank my friends for that.  Thank you, guys.

It’s still weird, living here on the Moon, where huge fireworks displays light up every front yard on the Fourth of July, and fried bologna sandwiches are a restaurant menu item.  But, when I wake in the morning, and the first thought that floats up out of the dark is I’ve made a huge mistake, I can gather more and more evidence to the contrary and send that distorted thought packing.  It still has to shuffle off into 100 degree and 90-something percent humidity, but shuffle off it does.  All I need do is shut the door and whisper, …Polo.

Reaching Out and Reaching In

A lot has been said in recent days about reaching out when you’re in trouble psychologically. And that’s always a good idea. Reach out to your friends, your family, your therapist, your psychiatrist, your church or synagogue or temple.

hands people friends communication

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com  

Unfortunately, not everyone has those resources. And sometimes when you reach out to them, they do not reach back to you or even respond in hurtful ways.

Sometimes – many times – you’re just not able to reach out. That’s true of me, anyway. When major depression hits me like a truck, I get immobilized. Uncommunicative. Isolated. I usually have the wherewithal to get to my therapist, if my husband drives me, but not much more.

My family and friends can tell when I’m in trouble. And they do reach out, even when I don’t reach back.

My mother always knew when I hit a particularly bad spot because she could recognize it in my voice – it lacked animation, even if I was talking about something I loved. Not that I talked much or felt much. Depression can damp down all your feelings sometimes. You don’t cry, you don’t feel sad. You feel nothing. And it shows to someone who knows how to look and listen.

This is called “flat affect” by psychiatrists. The person’s face, voice, mannerisms do not reflect emotions, sometimes not even anxiety or despair. And sometimes people adopt a flat affect so as not to betray their inner turmoil. (It can still leak out around the eyes, even to relative strangers. And I don’t mean crying.)

My husband knows I’m depressed when I turn monosyllabic. Ordinarily, I enjoy talking to my husband about anything and nothing – things we’ve read or heard, what’s happening at work (his, mostly), funny things the cats did, and so forth. But when I stop responding and communicating, or respond only with “yeah,” “nah,” and “meh” sorts of answers, or don’t laugh or at least groan at his jokes, he knows I’m headed downward.

I stop communicating other ways, too. I don’t post on Facebook or only pass along the occasional pass-along. I skip commenting on posts regarding things I usually care about. I spend hours alone reading, if my sometimes-dubious powers of concentration let me. Or I sleep, and nap, then sleep some more. I certainly don’t leave the house or even make plans to go out. I don’t call friends. I isolate. I don’t reach out, like the memes say I’m supposed to.

I am fortunate to have friends that do reach out to me. John would lend me books, talk about them with me, and listen if I needed to vent. Peggy would call and invite me to visit, even when she knew I wasn’t leaving the house. Pete sometimes IM’s every day just to check in and JB assures me that when he IM’s and I don’t feel like chatting that’s still okay. Robbin calls me and tells me all about her life even when I can’t talk about mine, then says, “Let me know when you surface.” If she doesn’t hear from me for awhile, she calls again and reminds me that I can call her too. (She can also “read” my voice and knows when there’s some topic I’m avoiding.) My husband offers a hug or kisses me on the head. My mother prayed for me. I am fortunate indeed to have had people like these around me when I really need them.

Reaching out to others is good. So is reaching in to the suffering. Best is a combination of both. But that takes work and not everyone is able to do it.

If you can reach out, reach out.

If you can reach in, reach in.

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet in the middle, where hope lives.

 

Bipolar Travel Tips

photo by Dan Reily

Last week I blogged about “Running Away From Home” (aka the geographical cure) https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-F9. This week I want to talk about actual travel – for business or pleasure. Travel was one of my greatest joys and one of the things I’ve missed most since bipolar stole so many parts of my life. I am delighted to be able to say that I am beginning to reclaim it.

I know that many people aren’t able to travel at all because of their bipolar disorder, but for those who can, here are some tips to make it easier.

The basic thing to remember while traveling is this: self-care. You may find it hard to do while on the road, but it is essential to keeping yourself functional. Just give yourself permission to do the things you have to do. And find ways to avoid the things that trigger you.

Business Travel

Business travel is the most difficult, and something I’m no longer able to do at all. Oh, I can drive an hour for a half-day training session, but I want to be back in my own house and bed when it’s over with. But the kind I used to do – four to seven days, with coworkers (sometimes in shared hotel rooms), and especially with booth duty – are simply beyond me. There’s no time or space for self-care.

If you must travel on business, however, I recommend bringing along a comfort object (https://wp.me/p4e9wS-k9) such as a small plush animal, a favorite pillow, or toiletries that have a soothing scent like lavender. Fuzzy slippers may have to do as a comfort object if you have to share a room. It’s also a good idea to bring along portable snacks such as nuts or raisins in your purse or briefcase, as regular meal schedules are often thrown off by meetings and other events.

“Me” time is hard to arrange, but do try. One trick that works for me is to find an unused function space and sit there with a pad of notepaper. Zone out. Then if anyone comes looking for you, claim you were just consolidating your notes.

Visiting Relatives

Avoiding arguments is one of the particular challenges of visiting relatives – particularly in-laws.

On one of the first visits I made to my in-laws’ house, I noticed that they shouted a lot. When that happened, I would go into the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea. That’s a strategy I have often used. It’s also a grounding method I can use when things are spinning out of control. When everything around me is chaos, the simple, familiar, soothing action of heating a pan of soup or a teakettle can bring me closer to stability. Whether I really want soup or tea is not the question.

My husband noticed that I kept skipping out to the kitchen and asked why I kept making tea. “Because you’re all shouting at each other,” I replied.

“No, we’re not,” he said.

“Listen to yourselves.”

Just then an argument broke out over where to go to get some sandwiches. “You take the 422 to Souderton, then turn…” “Nah, you follow Cowpath Road then cut over to the 309. That’s shorter.” “But there’s more stoplights!” With each comment, the volume grew. Dan and I went out and got the sandwiches and when we got back, the family members were still arguing about the best way to go. Dan had to admit that I had a point. He just couldn’t hear it until I shifted his perspective.

Another technique you may find helpful when hit with nosy questions from relatives is the “Boring Baroque Response,” described here – https://wp.me/p4e9wS-cY.

Leisure Travel

My friend Robbin says that when you travel, the only things you really need to have in your carry-on are your meds and some clean underwear. Anything else you can buy when you get there if your luggage doesn’t manage to arrive when you do. It’s also good to talk to your pharmacist beforehand and make sure you have enough meds for the scheduled length of the trip. (Do not do what I did and take your entire supply of meds and then leave them at the bed-and-breakfast.)

Once I went to DisneyWorld https://wp.me/p4e9Hv-2K. (Okay, twice, but the first time was epic.) Surviving it was an exercise in self-care. The things I learned there are applicable to almost any travel situation.

It helps if you go with a person or people who understand your disorder and your needs. When you’ve exhausted yourself, it’s good to have someone who can think of options – “Of course, we can go back to the hotel now, if you want, or we could sit in this café and have a cold beverage while you rest your feet for a while.”

The point is, you don’t have to go on what a friend calls the Bataan Fun March – you don’t have to ride every ride, see every scenic overlook, visit every church or castle. Give yourself permission to take a nap or read a book or lounge around the pool, if that’s what you need to do. (If you’re on a guided tour and want to skip an event, let the tour guide know, so the head count doesn’t come out wrong after an event or stop.)

Finances tend to prevent the kind of leisure travel I used to do, but at least now if I can ever afford it, I can also survive it.

 

It Takes A Network…

The old saying goes “It takes a village to raise a child”. Well, it takes a network to raise up those with chronic illness and I am very happy to be part of The Chronic Illness Bloggers Network (CIB). The network, started by Julie Ryan of Counting My Spoons and now helmed by Jenna Farmer …

A Really Good Day

Well, if there was ever a time to be reminded of the necessity of my continuing existence, yesterday was it. It was one of the BESTEST DAYS EVER! Not only was the weather perfection itself, I got to go to lunch and I heard from different people during the course of the day who made me feel that my life really matters.

First of all, I spent most of the day and evening texting back and forth with my oldest daughter, who is going through some tough stuff following the sudden, grisly death of her father-in-law. She never really knew him, but the circumstances of his death are so sad that it really got to her, and it made me feel good to have her reach out to me in her distress. She has so much compassion and she’s all about family, and I love the fact that this amazing woman is my daughter. We didn’t always get along so good when she was a teenager, but at 35 she has long since forgiven me my transgressions as a mother, and I think everyone should have someone like her in their life.

Then I got a Facebook Messenger message from a childhood friend I haven’t talked to in some time who, for some reason, was thinking of me. She lost her son 11 years ago, and we share the bond of mothers who have had to say good-bye to a child. She proceeded to tell me I was an inspiration to her, having lost my husband as well and surviving as best I can, and ended the conversation by thanking me for letting her vent and being a friend. We go back to the third grade, though we weren’t that close in junior high and high school, but we found each other on Facebook several years ago and she is one of the people I admire most. Needless to say, this made my day.

So did the post from a complete stranger in my online bipolar support group. The question in the original post asked if we felt ashamed of not being able to work, to which I answered honestly. I went on to note that I used to be a nurse, but the only thing I’m capable of now is writing, and even that is hard to commit to. This fellow responded by saying that as a nurse I’d already given the world plenty of my time and talents, and that I was helping people in another way by sharing my story. He also said even my simple post was well-written and hoped I would go on to write for publication in a larger market. This didn’t hurt my feelings either.

The capper to my awesome day was a private message from an administrator at my nursing website, where I’ve been for over 15 years and am a site guide. (I used to be a moderator there, but bipolar got in the way and ruined things for me.) She wanted to know if I would like a free shirt from the company. These are nice collared polo shirts that the admins wear to nursing seminars and expositions, and they don’t give them away. I was flattered that she had thought of me and said I’d love to have one. Now, this administrator and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye, and once she gave me an official warning for insulting another member. Which I indeed had done, and I deserved the warning, but I was angry about it for months. This was just prior to being diagnosed. Eventually I got over it, and she got to where she felt she could trust me again, but this gesture of friendship years later means a lot.

So, that was my day. I just hope I can remember it the next time I get down on myself and/or depressed. It doesn’t get much better than this!

The Park as Good Medicine – Part 7

Family Reunion Every time I think this series is over, something else happens to earn another chapter! I have talked about Miley, the cute little Mexican rescue dog we adopted last September. She was found by the side of the road in a plastic garbage bag with her 5 siblings by a volunteer from the …

SLS 04/08/2019 – “Heartlight”

Okay, I am a little late on this one, but I didn’t want to pass up a chance to write about the guy I have had a crush on for 50 years – Neil Diamond. He, along with Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager, was inspired by the movie “ET” to write a song. I believe it …

Don’t take things so personal……

Has anyone ever said “don’t take it so personal” to you?

They have to me. More times than I can count and for as long as I can remember. But it hasn’t been till recently I have really stopped to think about what that means. I understand that I shouldn’t let people I barely know have control over my emotions and my thoughts. It’s pretty easy to not let discussions with many, if not most, people get to me. Sometimes I have emotional reactions but in the long run it doesn’t linger.

But how do you make things with the people in your life that really matter less personal? It just seems like an oxymoron to me. Talk about my parents, my siblings, my kids, my husband, and a few other select people and not taking things so personally gets really hard!!

Why wouldn’t I be upset if I am watching someone I love walk a road they don’t have to if they would hear me out? Or if there’s something they KNOW they shouldn’t be doing, yet won’t hear your warning?

They say it’s about essentially being disconnected, even from the people you love, in order to not feel that a situation is personal. I used to not even hear that when it was said to me. I couldn’t even see a difference in what people close to me say to me and what people I barely know say.

I see that difference now. What I don’t understand is when someone is unwilling to hear what you have to say and I am supposed to pretend I don’t know what’s going to happen or that the issue doesn’t exist. Live and let live, and all that.

Well, I am finally starting to get a handle on this. At least I think so. First, I am an all in person. It might take me a while but once you reach my inner circle I am all in and it isn’t something that changes easily. It is also a fiercely protective loving experience. When you are someone I care about pushing me away isn’t really something you can do unless I allow you to do it. I see the good in people, and when I talk to people I can hear and see the pain of a painful past, or a hard situations. It’s almost like I can actually physically feel their pain and hurt. It costs a lot when this happens which is why I’m so careful. In many ways I can see that underneath everything else I am a person who wants to see the good in people, that at my core I am trusting, and many times it doesn’t occur to me that my words can have as much power as they often do.

I want people to see my pure heart so that they can trust it. Even when everyone else might act a certain way, I will act differently. I will be a safer place where pain can be left behind and beauty comes out. I like being that person.i like knowing that people feel they can trust me when what ends up being some pretty serious issues.

I’m trying to figure out how to “take things less personally” but to be honest I’m not sure that I should. People who know me well love me for my passion and stubborn refusal to give up, on anyone(well, almost). Is that really something I can give up? Or more to the point “should” I? I understand my intensity and passion can sometimes not be conducive to conversations. But I honestly don’t mean for it to come out that way all the time, or I see it has stubborn passion for someone that I love. Just because most people aren’t like me does that mean it’s automatically my illness, or that I choose to be this way? I don’t know. But I do know that I am always willing to stand behind what I say. I might change but if I choose to spend my energy trying to get someone else to see my side it’s because I love them. I love them with a passion and intensity that you likely won’t find again.

The other hard part is that when I seemingly go off these cliffs of emotional tragedy I do it with the full understanding that things could change forever, and that I could lose someone I love in the process. So when i bring a topic up it couldn’t be less spontaneous. I have usually spent a lot of time thinking about it and I have decided I am willing to risk loss. That doesn’t mean I think it will happen. It just means I AM prepared for that. So those words aren’t easy. While it seems like I have an answer for everything or ask too many question, I don’t. I just kind of view a lot of discussions as throwing stuff out there and seeing if anything sticks. Brain stormin, in a way, only much of it is in my head. So no, I don’t go off these cliffs easily, I go off them knowing they are going to be hard but praying that something I say will do some good.

So ya, my conversations are personal. My family is personal and those few close friends I have, they are personal. I’m trying to find a way to make what I see as giving up, sitting down, or being quiet a good thing. Because everywhere I look when people give up, sit down, and get quiet bad things are about to happen. And I’m just not sure I could forgive myself for being part of that.

You Can Never Have Too Many Moms

The month or so between February 19th and March 23rd is a tough one for me and it just got tougher this week. No wonder I have been in a depression. The challenges during this time include my father’s passing on March 2, 2012, and our stubborn but precious dog, Joie, passed on February 28, …

Unexpected

So, I started off the month of March knowing that my meds wouldn’t make it through the month. I had an insurance change and the new one isn’t effective until April 1. Anyway, my sleeping meds ran out last Tuesday. My husband has let me take his, but they make me so drowsy when I wake up I don’t really like to take them. But when the choice is sleep or sleep very little you take the pill.

I got in a kind of a fight with my sister last week, except it wasn’t really a fight to me. I was trying to suggest that what she thinks is happening might not in fact be the case. But I guess it came out badly and I assumed she knows things that she doesn’t actually know. I don’t know.

But I do know this. More times than not in these situations I end up feeling like my experiences and what I think isn’t as good as someone else’s. Now she did not say that to me. I do t think that she ever would. But she did tell me basically not to take it personal. My Mom told me the same thing. While I can see that and I understand in theory the ability to do that. Not taking stuff personally really isn’t who I am. Sure, on some things but on the things involving the people I love and care about they ARE very personal.

And it’s not just that they are people I care about. It’s that so much of who I am and what I do is wrapped up in being an advocate for people who are different or who can’t or won’t stand up for themselves. Even at work. Many people have some of the same thoughts and issues I have, but often they don’t say anything. And so I do! It is personal to me when I share my story or when I try to get someone to see a different perspective through asking questions.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been right and had to keep my big mouth shut instead of saying I told you so. But the worst part is that often my advice isn’t even remembered. When that I told you so moment comes, I have to pretend like I didn’t already give the advice that would have resulted differently. I get tired of people telling me that I’m wrong or that I do something in the wrong way. When the truth is it isn’t wrong, it’s just different. Just one time that when things get hard someone chooses to say “her deliveries wrong, but maybe I should consider what she is saying”. But that doesn’t happen. People are too busy finding me wrong to think that what I am saying could be true.

And the sad part is. There are certain things about me that will never change. I will always be loud at times. I will always be passionate and uninterested in hearing people’s excuses. I spend every day trying to think of others and treat them the way I would want to be treated. But it seems because I am those things I don’t deserve the same thought in return. And before you start thinking I’m over reacting. I’m not. Because I have the ability to look at myself and be very honest and truthful other people seem to think they should do that as well. That what I’m saying must be wrong and that they have a duty to tell me how imperf3ct I am. It’s not something that has happened once or twice. Or that happened more when I was younger. It happens again and again. From people in all different areas of my life. Do you know how many times someone has apologized to me?? Well, none. I’m sure there was someone in there. But most of the people who apologize to me are people who really have no reason to apologize. Those times when I would most like to hear it, it’s “crickets”. Except for my husband. He tells me he’s sorry. He has apologized more than once for small things and for the really big things. More and more I realize he is the ONLY person that sees me for me and sees the good things instead of always the bad things or the different things. He has taken the time to know me, and he uses what he knows to help make our relationship better.

I’m tired of being different. I’m tired of watching while people are able to be fake and impersonal with others and I simply don’t really have the ability to do that. Some would say it’s because I don’t want to. But that’s not true. Truthfully, it’s because I view all those things as lies and partial truths. The fact that people have to lie and be fake in order to live in this world truly pains me. It’s not honest, genuine, and it definitely isn’t real. What’s worse is that so few people are like me, and so few people truly share my illness. It isn’t fake and it’s not going to go away. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am as stubborn as they come, so if they believe thatwhy is it so easy for them to say that if I wanted to change other things. Some things sure. But those things that have been with me in many cases since before I can even remember doing them. Why is it ok to be kind, and follow rules, and to be conscientious?? But it’s not ok to be stubborn, outspoken, and question everything? Because that’s what it boils down to. People view my questions as a judgment that what they are saying isn’t right or that I don’t agree with them? When nothing could be further from the truth. I ask questions because I want to know things. I ask questions because people’s thoughts and motives nd childhoods matter. I ask because when I speak I want to be confident in what I’m saying and I want to be as logical as possible.

But it’s hard for me to stay neutral with my illness. I’m not a person that sees it everywhere. In fact the opposite. It takes a lot for me to even really want to approach that subject with someone, outside of my own experiences, and I NEVER do it lightly. It isn’t something that I want people to have. It’s something I do my best to talk people out of thinking if I can. I advocate good and extensive testing. But I know what it’s like to live in my head. I know what I thought as a teenager and I am painfully aware of how different my mind is. It’s because of that that I never want someone else to suffer. If I can help someone avoid that I will do whatever I possibly can. And it’s not something I want someone to take my word on. I just want someone to see my life and what has happened to me and find value in it enough that someone else’s life might be changed.

As much as sometimes people might think so, I don’t want to hurt anyone. But there are truths in this life that don’t change. And have a way of coming out with time. Watching someone hurt themselves when they don’t have to is hard. But being dismissed, rejected, and ignored is even harder. Shouldn’t we err on the side of caution. Shouldn’t we deal with the truth instead of just doing the same things and hoping they will change.

I have good kids. 3 good kids. I have a son in college and I have been a mother for almost 20 years now. I know my kids aren’t perfect. But people love them. I have someone tell me on a regular basis how good, or hard working, or kind they are. From everybody: co-workers, ex co-workers, teachers, friends, friends parents. It is something that I am very proud of. Sure we are all born with different personalities but parents play a big part. And while I’m not now and have never claimed to be perf3ct I/we had to have done something right, right?!?! Or maybe not. Sometimes by the way people act I think “well maybe God just gave me good kids cause he knows I’m such a mess that I couldn’t handle something different”. Truly, sometimes I believe that. Because it’s sure not like too many people close to me act like I’ve done a good job!! Or seem to listen to me and think “well, she does have good kids maybe she knows a little something”.

So I’m tired. I’m frustrated and I’m pretty lonely. People say they are there or will be there. And some are. But none of them really understand or know me. They don’t trust that I know things, sometimes with no reason to know it. They put me in a box “of oh that’s just her” and they forget to look at me and really see me. They forget that I’m a person and that sometimes there are a lot of really great things about me. But I almost never hear that. I’m tired of being everyone’s cheerleader and building them up and making them feel special, just to have almost no one do the same for me.

Thanks for reading! I will stop my loud and rambling thoughts now. Be blessed!!!