A Splash of Reality, An Explanation of Sorts

I last wrote a few days ago about the immense changes I have undergone with respect to my person, over the last few years.  It was a sunny post and a hopeful post, with nary a mention of even a minute of negative head space.

That afternoon, I read an article about “Myths of Disability,” which didn’t faze me too much, but I was stunned by what I read in the comment section. I always feel possessed to at least glance through the comment section of everything I read.  I’m uncertain why, especially when there is often such rampant negativity, ignorance, and misunderstanding.

(On a side note, it always makes me feel a bit better about the general positive trend of the comments section of my own blog and *most* of my blog friends)

What I gleaned from this particular comments section, is that there are people out there (how many, I’m not sure) who believe that people who live with disability are “less than” and therefore “deserve less than” and also are (!!) “mostly scamming the system.”

As I was reading these comments, I was thinking back to positive blog posts I have written, where the sun has been peeking out of thunderheads that had been gathered for weeks, months, years, and I wondered to myself, if I post something positive, do people presume that I am “cured” or in some way, “without problems?”

In other words, am I giving off the impression that all is perfect and life is full of sunshine and unicorns and glitter, and that it will stay that way forever and ever?  I certainly hope not.  What I am attempting to get across is that, in anyone’s life, there is good and bad, but that you can change your reaction to and perception of events so that it is less harmful to your emotional well-being.  DBT skills have taught me (and continue to teach me) how to do that, how to change my reaction and perception of events, people, feelings, circumstances.

What I celebrate in positive posts is the MOMENT, and I celebrate the current moment for being increasingly positive, because I know that the next moment or the following moment or next Thursday or in November or in 2017 that there WILL be down times.  I will fall, stumble, flail, be unable/unwilling to pick myself up at *some* point, and at that point, I will start the process all over again.

I fully accept and understand that my life will always be tinged by mental illness, but that I have learned how to pick myself up and carry on as best I can, also fully knowing and accepting that I will have to repeat that cycle of life over and over and over until I am buried and gone.  Do I do myself some sort of disservice during times of fewer symptoms to celebrate, to write obsessively and glowingly about how good life feels in this moment, here, today, now?

I really don’t think so, because when hard times hit (and they will, eventually), I can look back at these positive entries and they do give me hope, tiny little bits of hope that my situation and mood and circumstance and flight pattern WILL change, yet again, and again, and again.  I will be reinventing myself over and over for the rest of my life, in some sort of haunted synchronicity with the chemical ups and downs of mental illness, and that might sound yucky, but that is my life, and I choose to love it.  In this moment.

Gaining Freedom from a Stilted Life

via inkbeauty.wordpress.com

Wow, how things do change.  I mean really, completely, 180 degree change.  So much of me, who I am, what I do on a day-to-day basis, who I love, what I tolerate and don’t, what I strive for and what I brush to the side, what is important and what can wait…it has all changed.  None of it has changed overnight, but I would say that I am a very different person than I was in, say, 2012, when I had to give up on my last job and start the arduous process of re-inventing myself.

And again, in 2014, when a relationship had laid me out, broken in pieces on the floor, and it was necessary to re-invent.  Finally again over the course of the last two years, more re-inventing, and now, more knowing who I really am.  Finding yourself and finding recovery, finding things you never thought possible about yourself, coming to different conclusions about the same issues that had tripped you up over the years, coming to grips with various events (traumas, even) with the use of radical acceptance and direct pleas to a power above and hour upon hour of therapy and quiet introspection.

The most basic thing that has changed, with all of this reinvention and acceptance and coming-to-grips-business, is that I have destigmatized my mental illness, at least TO MYSELF.  I don’t see myself as bipolar Rosa anymore.  I see Rosa, who happens to deal with x, y, and z mental illnesses.  In my own head, over the years (many, many years), I had become my illness in my head, to myself.  I had boxed myself in, and put packing tape round and created this tiny little space that I thought I needed to live in.  It is only very recently that I realize that I can live in the world, and not just in the box, and it is even more recently that I can put words on it.

Three wise women (Thank you, Mom, Goddess of Mindfulness, and Marilyn) in my life have consistently reminded me that everything I go through is not due to a direct cause of bipolar disorder, or BPD, or PTSD, or any other label.  Much of what I go through, the hard times and the good times and most-of-the-times is just LIFE, and everyone else is also going through LIFE.  Sure, the disorders I deal with may affect my outlook on life, or may color my reactions to life, but a lot of the bad things that happen are happening, because life is happening, not because there is a certain label on my file.

I have more positive things going on, since I have accepted that I am not just a label, than ever before.  I have started my custom jewelry business, and am working hard at getting it off the ground, my symptoms are better controlled, I take better care of myself, I am a better girlfriend, and a better daughter and sister, I am exercising and I stay busy.  I am teaching myself from the ground up how to set boundaries with others, and while it can be altogether confusing, I am changing what behavior I will and won’t tolerate from other people.  I am reaching out.

There is a part of me that can’t believe that I am just now “getting this.”  There is a very small part of me that doesn’t understand why it took so long, or how I could have flailed for so long, but I try hard not to beat myself up about that part of it.  The point is that there is progress and there is moving forward.

This is all 34 years in the making, of course, and I’m fully aware that if I am not vigilant about doing the things every day that I must do in order to feel decent, that this could just derail and fly off the tracks.  Every day is a new challenge, every situation that comes about I am treating as new, teaching my mind and my heart how to do this life thing, and how to do it well.

 

I finally feel like I have some freedom, have some breathing room, and can be completely and totally and authentically Rosa, without feeling the need for a “yes, but…”  That is a big feeling, a huge feeling, a hard-to-describe feeling.  A punched-in-the-gut-and-can’t-breathe-feeling.  I finally see, life is strange, but it is also, so very beautiful, so very fragile, and so very worth-the-wait.

 

Dear Gramps

I have read of such loss lately, Gramps, and just like it always does, any loss (whether it’s mine or my family’s or the guy down the road or my good friend losing her dog or a tragic ending in a book) reminds me of the late August night, almost 12 years ago, when Big Dawg came and picked me up in a raging thunderstorm to go see you one last time.

I remember I was on a low-carb diet at the time, and I had just started eating dinner — flank steak and broccoli and salad.  I still can’t use that particular seasoning rub to this day, without nearly breaking down in my kitchen.  I don’t remember exactly what was said, but whatever was said, I had hopes in my head that I was going to get to talk to you again and hear your scratchy and gruff voice say my name, Rosie.

It didn’t turn out that way.  You were wrapped in a white sheet from head to toe and on a gurney and I touched your chest and put my face close to yours and my whole world exploded and, while I don’t remember the exact details, I remember hearing a howling noise and then realizing that noise was me and shutting my eyes tight and saying something about how I had just seen you a few days before and you had been FINE.  FINE, DAMMIT.

I turned back around because I wanted to kiss your cheek before they took you away, but I was in a big empty room, just me and QoB and BD and some nursing staff.  I couldn’t tolerate that I had ruined my chance to say goodbye to you by getting overly emotional.  Whoever thought it was a good idea to wheel you off at that point was obviously a person that did not know me deeply.

The next week was a blur.  I tried to go into work, failed miserably.  Everyone around me was a complete wreck.  I can remember going through pictures to put up at the memorial service and I remember breaking down into tears time and time again.  Hysterical tears, hot tears, fast-moving, and unforgiving tears.

I still don’t remember much of that time, but I do know that I think of you all the time.  The wounds have healed over some, but I still have regret.  That I didn’t see you often enough or say thank you enough or stop by with a box of Cheez-its (our special favorite) just to say hi.  It was so hard being around Grandma, I just wanted my Grandpa back, the one who gardened on his knees for hours on end, even when he could barely walk, and the Grandpa that taught me how to drive by having me take back-roads from Topeka to Silver Lake at every opportunity.

The grandpa after the apartment with Sparky was sad, when he had to live with grandma again, when he didn’t feel as good physically, when PTSD from his time in the Navy rattled him as it never had before, when he couldn’t drive, couldn’t walk, couldn’t do whatever the hell it was he wanted to do.  Because he was like that, he was a man who did whatever he pleased.  If he wanted to whip up a bunch of refrigerator pickles, then he was going to do it, and if he felt like taking a drive or going to all of your basketball games (even though he could barely walk), then that is what he was going to do.

I find that every year that passes, I lose more of my memories of him.  Some are extremely fresh in my mind, some not so much.  In a day or maybe a week where there has been so much loss, the pang to my heart from Grandpa being gone is next-to-unbearable.  Should I be over this MUCH better 12 years down the road, yes.  I don’t need anyone to tell me that.  Some things are really hard, and this is one of those really hard things.  Every loss reminds me of him, and everytime I think of him, I am frightened by how much I don’t remember.

I hope you are proud of me, Grandpa, up on that big pontoon boat in the sky, and I am pretty sure you are.  Sometimes when I don’t feel like being tough, I think about your life and it gives me strength.  I hope you would be happy for me, too.  I have found love and love conquers all, and I know that you knew that.  It is still a month and several days until the anniversary of your death, but I wanted to be the first one to say how I miss you so, and how I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the love you poured into me when you were here.  I know you weren’t into religion or going to church, but I do believe that you and Sparky (and Mom’s childhood dogs) are out there somewhere, catching crappie after crappie, and moving around with the legs and back of a 16-year-old.

Always, Forever, Amen.  I love you.

 

 

Free-fall

Standing at the top
My knees suddenly buckle
All the certainty and hope
It flows from me in salty tears
I know, suddenly, what is happening
I am losing my peace,
And as quickly as it had come
It is leaving me again

I lie crumpled, wrinkled at the highest peak
And slowly feel my body tip over the edge
It starts at a slow tumble
But my bones are all broken
And my head is not attached
The laws of physics take over
I roll more and more quickly down the slope

Midway, my body meets a patch of thorny branches
And I am punctured, deflated further
Now an unrecognizable rag doll
Toppling down from a height she did not appreciate
Nearly as much as she should have,
Especially knowing this exact fall from grace
Was bound to happen, as it always does.

Making Choices About Who to Give Love and Time To

At some point, I made up my mind to stop projecting my thoughts of self-hatred onto other people.  I mean, I’ve made up my mind to do that a few times within the course of my life, but I have really committed to it, at this juncture.  I had grown tired of feeling belittled and invalidated by the comments of others, and found that, while sometimes the other person was at fault, sometimes it was all in my head.

Even keeping this in mind, there are times in our lives when we have to go through the people in our circle, and evaluate who is helping us and who is hurting us.  Sometimes it is the person we least suspect who is actually hurting us.  Often it is a person we don’t think of often, who we don’t talk to much, or just aren’t that close to anymore who is injecting poisonous and negative thoughts into our lives at every random encounter.

This has been the case with my life, I have found.  I have shored up my defenses and boundaries, where it really was lacking and was necessary, but found that I had a few little relationships with others here and there, some I thought very important, some not so much, that I have recently realized that I would simply be better off without.

Last week, I went about the process of figuring out how to terminate the peer mentor process that I have been going through.  After examining what happens at our appointments, thinking about what positives this time-consuming activity brings to my life, I realized that this program is not a good fit for me.  Very little productivity comes out of these meetings, and it is all too clear that my peer support person is working on nothing with me, and is in fact harming me with some of her suggestions.

She suggested I quit DBT groups.  Wow.  Really?  I mean, yes, they drive me crazy, but they are one of the main things keeping me going.  She doesn’t take medication, and is somewhat anti-medication, as well.  She has a negative view of LarBear, and is very opinionated and judgmental.  I just don’t feel I am getting anything positive from the relationship, and in fact I generally feel more anxious and worse in general (about myself) after I see her.

So, I made the decision after speaking with my DBT therapist and my regular therapist, and QoB, LarBear, so on and so forth.  I am no longer going to subject myself to these appointments just because I feel like I *should.*  I am also not willing to be in contact with someone who is flailing along, while trying to help me.  If you are a peer mentor, you should have your life at least somewhat together, you shouldn’t be laying out all of your own problems at each meeting, and I shouldn’t feel like I am the one giving you advice at all times.  I don’t feel comfortable in this relationship at all, anymore.  It is therefore over.

And that is exactly the problem I am having with a few of the smaller, more acquaintance-type relationships in my life.  As if I have explained myself over and over, and the other person isn’t willing (or able) to change.  And in some cases, I just feel like the other person doesn’t care, and I tire sometimes of chasing my tail to make other people happy.  I need to chase my tail to make myself happy, not to benefit other people.  Sometimes there is only so much you can give of yourself to others, and if they don’t give a little back, you can’t keep giving yourself, over and over.

One of the biggest parts of my mental health road right now is to surround myself with people that nurture me, not those who hurt me.  I am putting distance between myself and other people for a reason, and one of the biggest things, is if you never reach out to me, I might just stop reaching out to you.  What happens then?  Change has to happen, is what happens then, and if no change happens, then I might have to give up on some things that I thought could be good, because it turned out that they couldn’t.

 

Accepting a Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis: First Stages (Again)

As time passes, old wounds can grow over as we pay so much attention to the current moment, but sometimes something happens, and while we might not even know what that something is, on Monday we may be fine, but when we wake up on Tuesday, you are covered in weeping sores.  Not on your body, of course, but those “emotional third-degree burns” that Marsha Linehan (Queen of all things DBT) refers to when she talks about people with borderline personality disorder.

It just so happens that Borderline Personality Disorder has been on my diagnosis list, off and on, depending who you ask, for a very long time.  Since this past April, it is now very much on my diagnosis list, and I have been instructed to process this.  And I have, and as much as I don’t want an additional label, I do meet criteria for the disorder and I have read books and articles and webpages about it, and it all just screams my name.  If you aren’t familiar with the disorder, I really would encourage you to look at the link I provided above, or even Google search for articles.

I have talked it over with my therapist, and it isn’t that I have BPD in place of Bipolar Disorder, but that the two illnesses interact to make each other much worse and much harder to treat.  I have put off making any kind of announcement on this blog about the “new” diagnosis, but now I am very certain it is something I am dealing with and have dealt with for a large part of my life.

I was afraid that I would be judged, that others would leap to conclusions about me, that people wouldn’t really understand, would just see a “broken” person.  There is a great deal of stigma about mental illness in the world, and there is even more stigma and misinformation about BPD out there, than most disorders.  This is something I am going to live with the rest of my life, and I will consistently  have to manage my life in such a way that I do not devolve into all of the maladaptive behaviors and patterns that it is so easy to slip into.

There’s really a lot to this, and much more that I wanted to say.  What I really wanted to do, though, was finally get the information out there, make the admission, state the obvious,  whatever.   I will follow-up with more thoughts about this (and all sorts of other stuff, too, I’m sure).  My world is shaky right now, but I’m doing as much therapy and DBT and whatnot as possible,  and if worse comes to worst, I always have LarBear and my family.  Not everyone can say that, and I am especially thankful for them and their patience.

Choosing To Not Give In

It seems that I have had a string of not-so-great days.  It is odd, because my stress should actually be decreasing, instead of skyrocketing.  I now have hot water, a working septic, and central air conditioning…which I hadn’t had for about a month.  Those little “daily tasks” which were made so difficult by lack of those things, have been made much easier, but my mood has begun to plummet into darkish places, and I’m running in place, trying to stop that downward trend.

In other news that should be reducing my stress level, QoB has decided to stay put right where she’s at, no moving hours away, and one would think THAT would make me feel better.  It doesn’t.  To further decrease my stress level, we don’t have to move into a rental, but she is finding a house that we can afford to buy and I have great credit, such to the point that I can get a mortgage in my name.  Her goal is for us to save money from the point we are paying out right now, in the new place, and still own.  So, it sounds perfect, does it not?  It sounds like all of my really big, fat, ugly stress problems should be gone, doesn’t it?

I know.  Shit.  That’s just not the case.  If anything, my anxiety is more pronounced, and I hate to say this, but my mood is going downhill.  Towards depressed, with increasing agitation and annoyance and irritation and flustery-blustery-yuck.  I don’t want to see anyone, talk to anyone, deal with anyone.  I am able to handle LarBear and the dogs, and that’s about it, other than brief interludes here and there.

I have no desire to do anything for the 4th of July, and if I were going to be frank about it, I’d say that, really, actually, I can’t stand the 4th of July.  Everyone drinking, small fires and explosions everywhere, I hate being outside in the dark, heck, I don’t like being away from home when it is dark outside.  I am afraid of the dark, at 34 years old.  The whole holiday seems entirely too much about alcohol and blowing things up and eating picnic food.  No, thanks.  I am officially done pretending that I like anything about the 4th of July celebrations.  I don’t even want a freaking sparkler or those poppers that you throw on the ground.

In trying to pinpoint where this increase in depressive symptoms, anxiety, and irritability comes from, I have made little progress.  I talked about it with my therapist today, and we think it could just be a cute little bipolar cycle.  Ya know, bipolar, making it’s rounds, duck-duck-duck-GOOSE!  The fact that changes are ahead doesn’t help, but at least they are more manageable changes than what they were going to be.  I mean, yes, LB and I will be moving, but the circumstances are better.  Other than that, much else stays the same.

So, like I said at the beginning, a few bad days does not make a bad life, and a few bad days doesn’t even make a bad episode.  I’m a few days away from this being an actual episode, and maybe I can calm it with enough DBT and Klonopin and ice cream, that it keeps from becoming an actual episode.  I certainly hope so.  I think, what is most disappointing to me, is that I almost had myself convinced that I had this disease whupped, as in, permanently, as in recovery = permanence.

I will keep choosing, every minute if necessary, to not have this rule my life: