Daily Archives: June 27, 2014

Stranger Danger

I finally got a call from my Case Management Agency, and they set me up a meeting with my new case manager. I still am unsure of exactly how these meetings are going to go, or exactly how they’re going to help me, or really about anything. The lady sounded nice enough on the phone, actually sounded like somebody I would hang out with, until all of a sudden the conversation certainly started to take a turn.

She was asking directions to my house.

These meetings are going to happen at my house.

I don’t let anyone in my house.

This is a whole new ballgame now.

My anxiety was triggered into overdrive. I let my house go this s*** because at least I know I can close the door and control who comes in. My apartment is my nemesis. It taunts me. I suppose it haunts me a little too. And now someone I’ve never met has to come into my house, and obviously will be required to make some sort of judgement about how I am able to live my life.

This is kind of my worst nightmare. But hey, my therapist keeps telling me that I have to face and accept my fears. At least it forced me to get up off the couch and throw out all the rotten food in the fridge. It took 4 huge bags and 2 trips to the dumpster. I feel like I was forced over a hurdle in a sense. But I’ve never been one for running, let alone while jumping obstacles.

Doesn’t make the whole situation any less tertifying, overwhelming,  or anxiety inducing though.

Baby steps.

Seriously though they should give the poor woman a fucking office. If I was able to entertain guests with clipboards at the drop of a hat I wouldn’t need their help in the first place.


Silver Linings, Sugar Skulls and Symbolism

Last week I finally watched the movie Silver Linings Playbook. I have to say I loved it and the message that you can overcome hardships by keeping a positive attitude. Plus my football team the Philadelphia Eagles were featured, always a good thing. I tend to be more on the depressed side with my bipolar versus manic, so maintaining a positive outlook can be hard, but I always maintain hope. Hope or faith, whichever you prefer, keeping a positive outlook and looking for the silver lining in a crummy situation has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. It doesn’t mean sticking your head in the sand and ignoring how bad things are. It means acknowledging that things are bad, but that they aren’t totally bad- there is always some good to be found, I feel.

What good can be found in being bipolar? A lot, actually. It’s taught me to be more in tune to my own needs, to take better care of myself. I’m learning to tune out the garbage other people might say and to honor my own voice. I also remind myself that it’s only bipolar, which obviously one will still live after being diagnosed with. I’ve met and come in contact with some amazing people who suffer from mental illness and I learned something from all of them. 

I admit that I allow what other people say and do to affect me far too much. From family and  friends to fellow bloggers to coworkers to random strangers, I let their opinions get in the way. It clouds my own judgement and I wind up feeling disappointed, silly or “less than”. I’m slowly learning that my own voice, my own opinion is the only one I really and truly need to listen to. This new found realization, long in the making, came from a strange source: Mexican Sugar Skulls and home decoration.

My friend was visiting my condo the other day and I was showing her the sugar skull artwork I was going to be purchasing. I had heard an opinion that decorating my bedroom with skulls was a bit odd, but this friend really liked the idea and when she explained why, I was even more convinced I was honoring my own opinion. Mexican sugar skulls are sugar candies shaped like skulls and decorated in a festive manner, believed to ward off evil spirits on Halloween. The skulls are also used to honor loved ones who had passed away and to generally make death seem less scary. My friend and I looked over the artwork and color scheme I had chosen and she said that for me, the sugar skulls made sense- that to her, they represented my bipolar. She said that through my life (and my blog) I was taking something scary and turning it into something else, something good. Much like a brightly decorated skull, I was changing the outlook on my bipolar by approaching it with light and humor. I was really glad someone was seeing things as I was seeing them and acknowledging my own efforts towards keeping positive, to boot!

So whether it’s always looking for the silver lining or finding your own sugar skull symbol, mental illness or whatever hardship you are facing- it doesn’t have to be scary. Being diagnosed with a disease or facing financial problems can overwhelm anyone. The trick is to listen to your own voice and looking at the situation positively rather than catastrophically. Trust and have faith in God, Allah, whomever you worship.  Is there a rough situation or scary experience that you overcame with positivity? Please share your story in the comments!

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: bipolar, hardship, humor, mental illness, mexican sugar skulls, positive, Silver Linings Playbook, symbolism

Is Weight Loss Possible For The Mentally Ill?

The Barriers to Weight Loss Are you having trouble losing weight? I’ve made it no secret that I am. I blog an update of my weight loss journey every week. If you are struggling with weight you are not alone. Over 80 percent of people with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and […]

The post Is Weight Loss Possible For The Mentally Ill? appeared first on Insights From A Bipolar Bear.

Camp Fearless

My son, Alexander, went to Sleepaway Camp this week for the very first time.  I agreed to this with some serious hesitation.  It’s not just that he’s eight and never spent a night away from home on his own before, it’s that he absolutely needs to fall asleep with the light on, is deathly afraid of any insect, even the smallest gnat, and is a little OCD about things like icky, sticky things on the floor or sink.  So I wasn’t sure how he was going to handle Lights Out!, or a night spent sleeping under the stars where all manner of creepy crawlies could brush up against him in his sleeping bag, or a shared sink where other kids might inadvertently squirt toothpaste on the ledge.  Hazards, hazards, everywhere and my sweet son full of fears.  I told myself that the camp was only an hour from home so in the event of a disaster (i.e., your son refuses to sleep without a light on and we just can’t accommodate this), I could always dash up to fetch him.

On Sunday, when I dropped him off at his cabin, I helped him make his bed and unpack and then we stood there, eyeing each other.

“Okay,” he said.  “You can go.”

Go?  He wanted me to leave, just like that?  He didn’t want me to stay and help him get acclimated?  Check under the bunk bed for centipedes, check the four corners of the ceiling, and the center, for spiders?

“Really,” he said.  “Go.”  His hug was brief; it told me that he was ready to begin his adventure and didn’t want any lollygagging sentimental mushiness.  It was a hug that told me he might not be afraid of this at all.  I wanted to cry as I left him standing on the porch of his cabin, because I was so proud of him that he was jumping into this week of being away from me, from home, from everything that was familiar and safe on his own, with self-assurance.  When I walked away, I had to keep myself from looking back for him again and again, to let him be.

Two days into the week and I received a letter from Alexander: “I’m having a great time at camp.  I wished you could’ve sent me both weeks.  How are you?  Please write back!  I love you!”  No need to fetch him home.  No hint of any troubled waters.  In fact, according to my son, things were going so well, that he wanted to stay another week!  Which meant: 1. He was sleeping without a light on (something he’d never ever managed to do); 2. He was either wearing a full suit of mosquito netting or he’d somehow, perhaps through the pressure of his peers, realized that full-on terror at the sight of a gnat was a bit silly; and 3. He’d managed to live with the fundamental messiness of a cabin full of boys.  Which really meant he’d faced his fears and walked through them to the other side which was freedom, and in this case, was a week of canoeing and archery and swimming and arts and crafts and camp fires and ghost stories and messing around with a gaggle of eight year old boys.

But Alexander hasn’t been the only one away at Sleepaway Camp.  I’ve been at Camp On My Own, too, for the past 5 ½ weeks with 1 ½ to go while my husband has been away on a teaching gig in Greece.  It’s been the kids and me for all that time, except for the one week that they’re at Sleepaway Camp when it’s just me—or me and the two dogs and two cats.  This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve been on my own for this long.  A ridiculous thing to admit at almost (next week!) 42.  But it’s true.  I left my parents’ house and went off to college where I was in a relationship for 4 years and when that ended, within a week, I met my husband and we pretty much moved in together within a week or two—and that was when I was 22.  Sure, there have been a few days here, a week there, when I’ve been on my own when my husband or I have been traveling, but never this amount of sustained time. 

When I first contemplated being on my own for these 7 weeks, I panicked.  How would I manage the kids and all of the meals and the giant house and its upkeep and all of the animals and their upkeep, not to mention my upkeep by myself?  How would I stay on a stable path?  Listen to the healthy sane voice and not give space to the voice that likes to do me in or lure me over to the dark side, where I believe the worst about myself, believe that I am inadequate, a failure, incapable of living the life I’ve been given?  How would I hand the nights alone, the silence?  Not having another adult—my friend, my constant companion—in the house to talk to, to check-in with across the day? 

This was my dark room, my spiders, my ooze on the floor.  I was filled with fear.

Then it happened.  I kissed my husband goodbye at the airport and he went away.  I got back into the car with the kids and turned around to look at them, and said, “Okay.  Now our adventure begins.”

And it has been an adventure.  There are things I’ve had to do that I would have run to my husband to fix.  An exploding pipe under the sink.  Bats invading my house—I even caught one in a net!  Me!  And even released it outside against a tree where it crawled up and away (thank god). Broke up a fistfight between a bunch of teenage girls.  My car breaking down en route to my grandmother’s funeral on I-80.  Fan belt snapped and tension pulley seized up while I was going 75mph.  But I calmly guided the almost un-steerable car to the side of the road and called AAA—all without dissolving into tears.  Not to mention keeping the house in general working order, keeping all the animals (including an extremely geriatric dog who seems to be on the verge of her 9thlife), healthy, including keeping the kids healthy and most importantly happy.

I can do all this and still feel whole in myself.  I haven’t fallen apart because I’ve been alone.  The silence and loneliness haven’t decimated me.  In fact, the opposite has happened.  For the first time in a long time, I get to be the sole decision maker.  I don’t need to check-in or compromise.  I go to bed when I want to, wake up when I need to.  Eat what I like.  Keep a schedule that I like.  Watch what I like on TV, or don’t watch anything at all.  I don’t have to be afraid to be with myself, to be alone with myself because now, as opposed to a few years ago when I was aiming to destroy myself in most any way possible, now, I’m good company.  Of course, I’m looking forward to my husband’s return, his body curled up next to mine on the couch at night in front of the TV. when we watch a movie together, working in the kitchen together on a shared meal, the give and take of conversation, but Camp On My Own has shown me that I, too, can be fearless.   


My Summer Plans

After the year I've had, I decided to spare no expense to have a great summer vacation. I have scrapped my budget for the summer.

I'll be taking three vacations (Raleigh, NC; Washington, DC; and Ocean Grove, NJ).

I'll be going to see three Broadway plays: Once, Avenue Q, and Book of Mormon. I'm also going to see Fuerza Bruta Wayra.

Tonight I'm going to see Dave Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall.

Tomorrow I'm going to Spike Lee's block party in Brooklyn. Last weekend I met Spike Lee at a pop up shop for the 25th anniversary of Do The Right Thing. I bought a book and two t-shirts. He signed the book and I took a picture with him.

Last weekend I had a dinner party for about 30 friends and family. Everyone had a good time. The food was good. The kids played in the park across the street. And the adults sat around and talked. We also played Taboo. I'll be having a game night next month.

 Aren't the plates, cups and napkins so cute!

I cut and dyed my hair last week. This is the first time I've colored my hair (other than black rinses I used to always do in high school). I really like how it came out! What do you think?

I haven't watched much TV lately. But I want to catch the second season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. What shows will you be watching?

This week I went to the Montclair Museum with a coworker and her daughter. We had a great time. I loved the museum exhibits.

 Me and a bust of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He's one of my favorite historical figures.

I'm hoping to go see Amma in NY in July. She's called the Hugging Saint. She stands in line for hours and hugs everyone that comes.

I've already mentioned in other posts about the 10-week memoir writing workshop I'll be taking through Gotham Writer's Workshop. I'll also be taking a workshop through them on how to get published.

I'll also be going out to brunch with former students. Here are the restaurants we'll be going to: Max Brenner, Sarabeth's, and B Bar & Grill.

I'm also hoping to do a lot of reading. I have 20 books that I want to read. I've read two already.

What are your summer plans?

Crap, I Need a New Therapist

I just had some news ... for the first time in about fifteen years, I'll need to find a new therapist. Those of you with conditions requiring regular therapy will get me here. Getting a new therapist is a pain in the ass.

The sound of silence

Day two, my mind has been quiet. It’s nice. It’s a little frustrating because it;s been a little too quiet. As in lack of creative juices flowing.

If only my outside world were so quiet…

The uzi child has been channeling satan all day. Loud, defiant, aggressive. It’s exhausting. August will be bittersweet. I don’t want Becca to go back to the UK but I can’t wait for my kid to start kindergarten. I am hoping a more structured environment with a static full day schedule might calm her down.

I was productive yesterday and today. Yesterday was hausfrau duty. Today was yard work. I don’t feel any great sense of accomplishment though. So much in life is such a rinse, lather, repeat cycle. Neverending. I don’t find that a negative attitude. It’s just realistic.

My mood was okay.

Twelve hours of taking Uzi fire seems to have worn Bex and both down and our moods have crashed. I suppose this is what the professionals would call a trigger. Yeah, it’s a trigger for my anxiety disorder which stresses me out and makes me depressed. I don’t expect a perfect child…Just less…demonic.

But tomorrow’s a new day. It could be good.

And to quote the movie “Wayne’s World”…monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Lies, Lies, Lies

As much as I don’t like to admit it, the depression has got a pretty firm grip on me. Last night’s sleep came a little earlier than it has been lately, but was interrupted several times during the night so I didn’t get the kind that refreshes and renews. I can’t believe I’m having this much trouble sleeping when I am on three heavy-duty tranquilizers, but it is what it is and I’m not happy about it.

My brain is also apparently enjoying its visit to the dark side and has been refusing to let go of the dangerous, yet seductive ideas floating around inside it. I don’t suppose I have to spell out what most of those ideas are about, only that they’re a torment because I’m not going to do anything about them except fret about the fact that I’ve been thinking along those lines. It’s a good thing too, because I have the time, the necessary materials, and even the opportunity (Will has a club meeting tonight and will be away for several hours). The trifecta of doom, if you will.

Fortunately, I also have a great support system, and I asked them for prayers last night. And God must have heard, because this afternoon as I was exchanging miseries with a couple of my friends who are in the same boat, it suddenly occurred to me that my brain is lying to me. It’s telling me all sorts of nasty untruths and making me think things are worse than they are. It’s saying “Everything is hopeless” and “It would be better if you weren’t here”. Better for whom? Will would never recover if he came home from his meeting to find me in a bad way. The family would be devastated, and then they’d be furious with me for leaving them. And what if everything I think I know about the afterlife is wrong and it’s worse on the other side?

No, when you get to the point where you realize your brain is outright telling you lies, the healing has begun.  What I’m struggling with right now might not be what I consider living, but it sure as hell isn’t dying. And in a way, this is highly instructive because I know now that having these thoughts doesn’t mean I’m going to act on them, or that I’m awful for thinking them. Pushing them away and pretending they don’t exist only prolongs the misery; it’s better to simply acknowledge their presence and then remind myself that it’s all bullshit.

Rest assured, Constant Reader, that I’m only telling you these things because the danger has passed. Not that I think I really would have done anything foolish, but when I’m this uncomfortable I tend to look around desperately for a way out, and there don’t seem to be too many. I said yesterday that I wasn’t going anywhere, and I meant it. Doesn’t mean I won’t think about it again, but it IS bullshit and I know it.