Tag Archives: friends

Saying Good-Bye Well

Yesterday, I said my last good-bye to Mark Stringer, the minister at First Unitarian Church of Des Moines.  He told us six months ago that he was leaving the ministry, and I’ve been grieving ever since.

It’s weird—we never had a private conversation, just exchanged a few words as I shook his hand on Sunday on my way out the door.  But in the three years that I’ve been going to First Unitarian, I’ve been able to share enough of my story with him to make a connection.

No, that’s not quite right.  I felt connected to him.

From the first service I attended, I knew this guy got it.  His sermons seemed like extensions of my therapy sessions, filled with the importance of mindfulness, compassion, acceptance, and awareness of our own realities.  He made me laugh and cry—usually at the same time.  Finally, after searching for years, I’d found a spiritual home and someone who spoke to the things that mattered to me.

PTSD makes me vulnerable to abandonment-thinking.  Bipolar disorder distorts any thinking into darker twists of hopelessness.  I knew I needed to work this through or I’d probably never go back to the church once he was gone.

So, I attended every Sunday service (once I was recovered enough from my last bronchial bomb).  I cried ( okay, sobbed) through each one of them, Kleenex box clutched tight.  I made myself look him in the eye after our hug at the door and thank him for the opportunity to do this work.  Some mornings I was too verklempt to say the words, but Mark would hold my watery gaze and say, “I understand.”

While I grieved, I also noted every friend at church who sought me out, every acquaintance who grinned when our eyes met.  I forced myself to see that FU (you gotta love a church with those initials) offered me real community and relationships beyond Mark.  I made a point of wandering around after services to find people I knew and admired in order to weave another thread into our connection.

Yesterday we held his celebratory Farewell Tour at the performing arts theater of one of the city’s high-end high schools (very lovely).  We needed room enough for the whole congregation to honor Mark’s sixteen years of service.  He came to us straight from theological school and is moving on to be the Executive Director of the Iowa ACLU.

I wept like everyone else, touched by his words and deeds (he performed the first same-sex marriage in Iowa), amazed at all he and the church had accomplished (doubled the membership and increased FU’s legislative presence on issues of justice).  But, my tears were of joy and gratitude, not grief.  I spent yesterday talking to my friends, making sure I told the speakers and the choir now much they moved me, and asking questions about the ministerial search process.  I did what I set out to do—I said good-bye well.

It might be good for me to get involved in the Search process, since who “ministers” to me is so very important.  But, I’m tucking that thought away until I learn more.  Will the various committees be able to use a bipolar member who lives an hour away and who may not be able to follow through?  Can I allow myself to be that vulnerable?  Can I get involved and accept my limitations?

It wouldn’t be an Adventure without some mystery and a little risk.

Here’s the first sermon I heard Mark deliver.  Seventeen minutes is an eternity in blogland, but it might be worth your while.


Reblog – My Friend Biasini

Originally posted on HorseAddict:
You and your horse. His strength and beauty. Your knowledge and patience and determination and understanding and love. That’s what fuses the two of you onto this marvelous partnership that makes you wonder, “What can heaven…

Why I Didn’t Get Depressed When I Got a F**k Off Letter

Brenda was a friend to my husband and me for many long years. We partied with her, and talked with her, and grieved with her and supported her when her marriage ended.

I became closer to her than Dan had, although he had met her first. Then we grew apart. Then I heard that she had given up on me. I wrote, asking for one more chance.

Recently, she sent me a three-page letter. When a mutual friend asked what it said, I replied, “Basically, ‘fuck off.'”

I’ve written before about the friends I’ve lost due to my bipolar disorder (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-2W) – the pain and loss I sometimes still feel, my unsuccessful attempts to apologize or rebuild the relationships, the continuing rejection, the knowledge that those important people are gone from my life forever.

But this time, the rejection didn’t seem to bother me as much.

Why? I wondered.

I know that people sometimes do drift apart, and there was an element of that in the death of the relationship.

I knew that I had refused many invitations and stood her up many times. But apparently, when I did show up, I brought along an extra person, “my misery.” It seems like a trap: don’t accept an invitation, or be unwelcome when I do because of my constant companion, which I was unable to just leave at home. In those days, and sometimes still, the Black Dog was always with me. But Brenda saw it as something she couldn’t compete with, something that was always more important to me than she was.

In a sense that was true, though I didn’t see it as a competition. It wasn’t like I valued my disorder more than I valued her. Feeling miserable was important to me, in the sense that it seemed ever-present, but it was important to me in a bad way – the thing that dragged me down, the thing I fought against, the thing that did make my life a misery. But it was a misery I could not put down, much as I wanted to, even for people I cared about. At the depth of my depression, it was simply a part of me. I am sometimes amazed that I came through it with any friends left. But I have.

To be fair, Brenda also blamed her own misery after her divorce as a contributing factor to our parting. Then there would be four of us present – two people and two miseries – and evidently it was too much.

Most perplexing to me, though, was Brenda’s contention that her growing religious fervor and burgeoning political conservatism contributed to her decision to cut ties. I freely admit to being a liberal and to disliking organized religion, but I have friends who feel otherwise and yet remain my friends. There’s lots we agree to disagree on or simply choose not to talk about. Even my mother and I had profound differences but never gave up on each other.

According to Brenda, her religious and political leanings required “personal responsibility” – including responsibility for one’s moods. As she put it, despite her reactive depression, her happiness was a choice. One that she made and I didn’t.

She compared mental illness with high blood pressure and diabetes – conditions that one must take personal responsibility for treating and trying to control. The fact is, I was trying to control my disorder, with therapy, with medication, and once almost with electroshock. I know she knew this, as once we went to the same therapist.

And that’s why I said, “eh” when I got the letter. By Brenda’s own criteria I was doing my best. And that’s all anyone can do. I couldn’t go back and change my misery, or try harder to find relief. And I couldn’t simply choose to be happy, which I don’t believe is possible for most people like me. If you can manage it, more power to you, and to Brenda.

I think what bothered me most about the letter is that Brenda has a degree in psychology and is teaching psychology in college now. I wonder what her students are learning from her.



Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: bipolar disorder, depression, friends, mental health, mental illness, my experiences, public perception, social skills


Surprise parties are fun for everyone, right?


While many people enjoy the surprise element (probably the guests do more than the honoree), even neurotypical people can shy away from the practice. Coming home to a darkened house, only to be greeted by bright lights and loud noise, can be an alarming experience.

For a person with bipolar depression, autism spectrum disorder, PTSD, or other mental conditions, it can be a nightmare.

My husband once decided to throw me a small surprise party. We and another couple were cleaning up an old house while a few friends gathered back at home.

One of the people had actively discouraged Dan from having the party. Robert had experienced depression and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), and knew how difficult such an event would be for him. He also knew about my depression and some of the incidents associated with birthday parties in my mind.

For instance, when I was a young teen, my “best friend” and I were supervising a party of younger children. During the game of Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey, while I was blindfolded, she kicked me in the ass. Literally. In front of all the kids.

It was the occasion of my first major meltdown. For years afterward, I would not even admit to having a birthday, much less let anyone celebrate it.

Robert had experienced similar traumas involving groups of children, humiliation, and abuse. He was not able to cope with surprise parties and thought I might freak out as well.

Fortunately, decades had gone by since my traumatic party experience. I had been diagnosed and properly medicated and counseled about my issues. Dan knew me well enough to realize that I could tolerate a small, low-key surprise party. And so I did.

Still, Robert was right to be concerned.

Common events at surprise parties are triggers for many people. My friend Joanie has panic attacks when there’s lightning. Would flash photography set her off? I don’t know, but I don’t want to be the one who finds out. If the party is held in a restaurant, a person who hates being singled out in a crowd of strangers may have problems. People hiding in one’s home could cause flashbacks of a home invasion. My startle reflex is hypersensitive and could easily be triggered by sudden, unexpected shouts of “Happy birthday!”

Even opening presents in front of others can be difficult if one is weak in social skills, appropriate facial expressions, or spontaneous conversation.

So how do you give a surprise party for someone with certain types of mental illness?


If you think you must, ask the person what kind of party he or she would prefer, and abide by those wishes. You can suggest a surprise party, with the time and place being the surprises, but again, abide by the person’s wishes.

Prepare a small, low-key surprise rather than a party. Give a present a day or two before the actual date. Pack a slice of cake in the person’s lunch. Or take the person out to lunch. (Warn the restaurant personnel not to march around singing and waving balloons, if you mention that it’s a birthday lunch at all.)

Do not have party games, unless they are non-threatening ones such as mad-libs or trivia. Forget ones involving physical contact like Twister or ones that involve sensory deprivation like Blind Man’s Bluff.

You may wish to avoid serving alcohol, especially if the honoree is on anti-anxiety medications. Booze-fueled parties tend to become loud and rowdy.

Make it short. Personally, spending an hour with a group of four or more, even if they are all my friends, is about all I can take. And then I want a lie-down afterward.

Personally, I could live my life happily without ever having another surprise party thrown for me (even though the one Dan threw would have to be called a success). Nor will I be upset if I never get invited to another surprise party. I’ll be too busy worrying what it might be doing to the honoree to enjoy myself.


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: being overwhelmed, childhood depression, friends, mental illness, my experiences, parties, psychological pain, social skills, triggers

The More Things Change…

Daily Prompt – Panicked Wow, it has been ages since I have sat down to write a post and a lot has happened. We have booked the movers, the cleaners, and the telephone/cable/internet company. Our official move date is May … Continue reading


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!!

Do you have friends??

I don’t know if this issue is related to bipolar or just me. But while I have many many aquantainces and people that love me, I don’t have a best friend! And I haven’t in many years. You know that person you talk to almost daily and that you want to call first thing when life happens and you need to vent. 

I have my husband and he’s a really good guy. He tries to listen when I need him to. And he does he best to support me while I’m working it out. But he’s not a girl. He doesn’t have conversations like girls do, and I miss that. 

I have had close friends over the years. I used to think that I had them so I could help them through a hard time, or times. And I have I’ve done it many times. And then it feels like they outgrow me and move on and then they don’t need me anymore. Sometimes I still believe that because it hard. 

But now I think it’s more that I was able to help them with whatever their issues were and once they are back on their feet they just go back to their life. I helped them in a way that allowed them to move forward to better things. How could that not be a good thing?

It is but it’s also lonely. And this is where the Bipolar comes in. Because sometimes I do really good at keeping up and other times I don’t. I realize that’s something that everyone deals with at different times because of kids, or job, or whatever. But for me I just get tired. I get tired of searching for someone that will be my friend and that I can share life with. You know, have over to the house. Show up at their house when I don’t want to be at mine for whatever reason. I haven’t had that in nearly 20 years. Of course, I had young kids for much of that time AND I moved  across the country after I graduated high school. It’s hard to make friends without school to help out. There have been people who are really sweet to me and tried to include me. 

I guess maybe because of the unending brain overdrive I think to much. I feel like I am a burden. I feel like the things other people have to do are more important than me. And that might be true sometimes, but not always. Plus there’s the fact that I have a tendency to over react to situations around me. Even if it’s only something I think happened. 

I am trying to work on it. I’m trying to keep in better touch with the people who put the effort in and show me their love. But I think the truth is as you get older those people diminish anyway. Not because they don’t want to but because life gets in the way. And if you have kids you can pretty much forget having friends. You can’t even finish a whole conversation most of the time when the kids are young. 

But still I see people around me with friends and people who care about them. And I don’t really have that. Sure there are people who care but it’s not like I see them and hang out with them. It’s exhausting trying to find friends when all of your are and have been across the country for 20 years. It’s harder to build a bond once you are out of school and once you have been hurt by people. It’s like your a turtle and you just pull into your shell and ignore the world. And that I think is even more so if you are bipolar. 

Relationships take effort. And especially when you are married and have a family it’s hard to find that effort. I am trying to find it again. But it’s an uphill battle and one that I am not sure I will win. I am awkward in group situations too. I end up talking to much and then I feel like I stole everyone’s time. When I try to be quiet it’s extremely hard for me, and I don’t get to bond that way either. Then there’s all the other things that come along. You finally find a friend and it’s a person who is so needy you can’t handle it and basically have to vault the friendship. Plus, I get bored. I don’t want to hear the same story and the same issues over and over. Let’s mix it up. Talk about something else. Man, I don’t know. 

I thought this was gonna be a good post. I think it has mostly ended up with no answer and no solution. Maybe one day I will figure it out. I sure hope so. But until then I have an awesome family and amazing kids. And I’m ok with that, mostly. And maybe one day I will meet that perfect best friend and we will live the next half of our lives making memories and driving everybody crazy!!

Thanks did reading! Be blessed today!!

Resurfacing After a Period of Extreme Selfishness

I have barely looked at another blog, have stopped interacting with nearly everyone I follow on FaceBook, have ceased communications with the small handful of people that I had usually communicated with on a semi-regular basis, and I went underground.  My friend Marilyn had talked to me previously about hunkering down and waiting for the storms to pass, and I guess maybe I took that to extremes a bit.

The positive news about my (relatively) short hiatus from all others in my world is that:

  1.  I have been smoke-free since January 3rd.  Parts of it were hard, parts of it were nearly impossible, but I have made it this far and I don’t plan on turning back.  As a bonus to this accomplishment, I did this without totally wearing out my (now) miniaturized support system.  (as in, no dogs or boyfriends or close family members were harmed in the obtaining of over three months smoke free…yay!)
  2. I have lost 67ish pounds since December, thanks to a healthy eating plan (that is sustainable in the long-run) and almost-daily aerobic exercise.  It turns out that “those people” were actually right about exercise being good for your mood, body, and overall well-being.
  3. I have become “more social.”  That doesn’t mean I am hitting up the grocery store or going to parties or any such nonsense.  It means that, at the YMCA where I exercise every day, it is kind of similar to how it was on the long-ago “Cheers” sitcom, where everyone really DOES know my name.  I must say, it does make exercising easier, to have all of those supportive people around.
  4. I have more “stuff” figured out in my life.  Although therapy  has been helpful, I have mostly grown in life because I am learning what makes me happy and I am learning to say “no” when something doesn’t feel good and I am (constantly) trying something new every day to grow myself.

I have missed blogging pretty terribly, and have missed some of my blog friends even more, but my hopes is that I can reconnect with people easier now that I am a bit more stable.  I would love to start writing in this thing again.  I don’t know if anyone really cares about that, save for me, but I do miss writing things out.  I have been keeping an altered art journal, and writing pretty regularly in that by hand, and I plan to keep that up, but again, am hoping to maybe throw a few words up in this space every now and again.

If there is a thought in your head that I have forgotten about you, chances are pretty much 99% that this is not the case, that I just needed to disappear for awhile.  I am not going to do a bunch of shout-outs right here and now, just know I have missed you and I hope we can catch up soon.  I am bringing a happier, calmer, and healthier Rosa to the table, and I hope you stop by and say hi soon!

Filed under: Life Worth Living Tagged: anxiety, Bipolar, blogging, borderline personality disorder, BPD, change, coming back, community, depression, exercise, friends, lifestyle change, mental health, mental illness, mental wellness, PTSD

The Tools for Tackling Bipolar Disorder

When you’re facing bipolar disorder – which is, when you have it, nearly every day – there are some things you can do to lessen its hold on you. But in order to do so, you’ve got to have the right tools. Try to collect as many as possible for best effect.

Shall we take a look at what they are?

The Usual Suspects

  • medication – to tame your symptoms, level your moods, get your brain back in gear, and/or regulate your energy
  • psychiatrist – to prescribe your medications (a primary care physician may also do this)
  • psychotherapist – to discuss with you the issues you haven’t resolved, the problems you still have, and the things the medication can’t do


The two most important tools you need for self-care are sleep and food. Without either, the body can’t function properly, and if the body doesn’t function, the brain is less likely to function properly either.

Ideally, the food should be nutritious and eaten regularly, but let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen. But you’ve got to give your body something to run on. If there are carrot sticks there, eat them; if there is mac-n-cheese, eat that. If there’s Raisin Bran, well, it’s easy to eat and requires no preparation. Try for at least one substantial meal per day – two is better, if you can manage it.

(Of course, this advice doesn’t count if you have an eating disorder. In that case, see your doctor or psychotherapist or support group.)


Find support where you can – a friend who’s willing to listen, a support group online or in real life. Try for a combination of these and don’t rely on any one of them for too much. Maybe you have a friend you can phone once a week; a support group that meets every two weeks; and an online group or two of people who really understand, with links to helpful articles and blogs. Before you know it, you’ve got a support system, especially if you count your therapist (which I do) or have a supportive family (which I don’t).

Spoon Theory

If you don’t know what this is, see https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/. Basically, Spoon Theory is a way to measure how much energy you have on any given day – and an understandable metaphor for explaining your symptoms to others, and a shorthand for other people who are also up on the theory. It can also help alleviate the guilt of not being able to do all the things you are “supposed” to do in a day. It’s not an excuse, but an explanation.


Let’s face it, it’s all too easy to dwell on your symptoms and how miserable you are. And if you’re at the bottom of the depressive well and your meds haven’t kicked in yet, there may be nothing you can do about it.

But maybe there is. Do you know a person who tells good jokes – or really bad ones? Do you have music you used to play but have forgotten about? Do you know of a TV show that features people whose lives are an even worse train wreck than yours? Do you have a go-to movie that never gets old no matter how many times you see it? (Mine is The Mikado. )


If that distraction involves creativity, so much the better. Coloring books and pages for adults have been the trend for a while now. (Some of them are really for adults.) Jenny Lawson draws and also puts together tiny little Ferris wheels. I know someone who can make little sculptures out of drink stirrers or paper clips. The point is, you don’t have to paint masterpieces. Just keeping your brain and your hands occupied is a good idea.


Soft warm, fluffy things and smooth, silky things are soothing. They just are. Cats and dogs come instantly to mind (they also provide distraction). But I also have a collection of teddy bears and other plushies that I sometimes cuddle with. These are “comfort objects,” which is an actual psychological Thing. (I wrote about them once: http://wp.me/p4e9wS-k9.) I even took a plush bunny with me when I went to have a sleep study.


This may be the most important tool of all. Be stubborn. Take those meds, even if you hate them. Eat that egg, even if you don’t feel like it. Go to that appointment, even if will take all your spoons for the day. Call that friend, even if you don’t think a joke will help. Post on your support group, even if you feel you are alone.

We can’t let bipolar disorder beat us. Not when we’ve got so much to beat it back with.

Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: being overwhelmed, bipolar disorder, coping mechanisms, creativity, depression, friends, mental illness, mutual support, my experiences, Spoon Theory, support systems

Hiding In Plain Site

Daily Prompt – Hideout When you are a kid you can always find the perfect hideout. I had two best friends when I first moved to BC, Lani and Eve. We were inseparable. We played together and ultimately got in trouble … Continue reading