These Things Do Pass, Only With Time

It has been nearly a week before Thanksgiving that I last blogged, and I am working really hard on not being sorry about that.  So much has happened in that space of time, and so much has remained the same.  I have had some people suggest to me that I shut down this blog, just as people have in the past when I have gone walkabout for longer than a few weeks, and maybe, in all fairness to everyone else that might be the thing to do.  For me, however, I have decided time and time again that shutting this blog down is simply not an option.

Because this blog is for me.  It’s my place to vent and think things through and scratch that writing itch and have a record (for myself, for the future Rosa, something for me to ponder light years from now when I am old and grey, when I get this world figured out a little more).  I don’t think it hurts anyone for me to blog infrequently, although maybe it is an annoyance to others at times, but I can always be reached here.

So the blog will stay, and I might write often and I might not, and some weeks I might stay up on my reading and some weeks/months may go by before I show up around your blog.  Life is not so predictable, and I’m not sure anyone would really want it to be, even though I know sometimes we wish for things to be slightly more predictable.

The crippling depression that plagued most of 2016 has mostly lifted, mostly after I was chastised for not using my sun lamp by my medication provider and ended up with a new lamp because the older one was so outdated.  And, whew boy, did it ever provide some ramped up rays, because I was feeling amazing, in no time, and before you knew it I had tripped into a hypomanic state, well on my way to mania.

So, for the last few weeks, almost a month, I have been trying to quiet down my brain while stimulating it constantly, because that was the only thing that was comforting.  The hypomanic episode slid into me deciding to:

  1. Give up caffeine completely, cold-turkey
  2. Give up Xanax, cold-turkey
  3. Quit smoking, aided by nicotine patch
  4. Reorganize and de-clutter several areas of my house
  5. Drastically change my eating habits in an attempt to lose weight
  6. Move more, in general, than I have in the past year combined

So far, I have stuck with all six of these things.  I went through most of the last month feeling like I had a severe case of the flu or maybe lithium poisoning, but it turns out that it was just withdrawal.  It’s over for the most part now, but my body is still adjusting and every day is a new challenge.

In addition to this, I have decided to actually start working on real issues in therapy, instead of the same crap every week.  I told my therapist last week that I thought maybe I was finally ready to do something about my PTSD, because it is giving me such trouble, increasingly so within the last few months.

I was referred almost a month ago into a medically supervised weight loss program, and yesterday had my initial meeting with the supervising doctor.  Just on my own, I have lost 18 pounds from December 15th of last year to now, and am excited (and slightly overwhelmed) about the plans for weight loss we made yesterday and will continue to work on.  I really like the doctor — she was very understanding and seemed quite empathetic.  She also at some point wants me to work on my emotional/mental issues with food and body image and exercise, and, as she says, I am not currently being treated by the mental health center for my eating disorder and I need to talk to someone about it if I am ever going to have sustained weight loss and a more healthy relationship with food.

I’ve honestly been doing quite a bit of ignoring everyone in my life except a few people, and that is  how I have been coping with all of the depression of last year and the mania recently, and because it is honestly just easier that way sometimes, but I have a feeling that once some of the PTSD issues are alleviated somewhat, that maybe I will be better about reconnecting with people, even though it has never been a strength of mine.

Change and more changes.  With the six things I mention earlier having been accomplished and/or continuing to work on, I finally feel like I have a chance at a much higher quality of life, and I haven’t felt that way for an extended period since long ago.

100% Success Rate For Over 35 Years

That’s right, I have kept myself alive 100% of the time for over 35 years now.  Maybe that’s a funny way of looking at things, but when you live a life that very often involves suicidal ideation or, on the flip side, very dangerous and risky behavior, you have to figure that 100% is a pretty good number at the end of a 35 year stretch.

For all of the moments of “give up” I have had in the past, the fleeting “give ups” that I have at present, and the “give ups” that I know are going to be thoughts in my future as a person who deals with mental illness, I can say that, at this very moment in time, I have no “give ups” in me, at this current time.

Of course, that could change within the next hour or week or month or whatever period of time you can conceive of.  And, it probably will.  But when things are semi-ok, when I have a day, even just a single day where I feel like I have passed through like a semi-successful human being, I need to write it down, to commemorate it, to throw it a freaking ticker-tape parade.  Sometimes I can go really long stretches without a day like today, and every great once in awhile, I will have a string of “give up” free days.  I don’t have a string of them at the moment, but I have today.

Today was a pretty good day.  I had only very fleeting thoughts of going up, and for the most part my mind just kept pushing me to go on farther, harder, faster, better, more efficient, more brave.  I went into a craft store today, and I did not totally freak out while inside, and spent the better part of 30 minutes in there.  That is no small feat, because as a general rule for the past months, I go absolutely nowhere, not even usually to appointments.

But I had a gift card, and the wise mind part of me knows that, if I have materials that inspire me, I will be more likely to do crafting-type-stuff, which, generally, makes me feel a little better.  I pushed myself to go to the craft store, and I had my lucky, ever-consistent LarBear with me, and I did ok.  I didn’t do amazing or great, but I did ok, and I ended up with some new beads that I am pretty excited about.

Even bigger than that adventure, was the fact that I went into a Kwik Shop gas station and picked out my own bottle of water and used the restroom and stayed inside the whole time, even waiting in line with LarBear to pay, and didn’t flee to the safety of the car.  This is an even bigger deal because I have never ever been inside this gas station or into any place of business in this section of town.  I pushed myself because I knew I had to.  I pushed myself because I want to get better and be able to go more places.  And maybe, just maybe, I pushed so hard because I really, really needed to pee.  Whatever the motivation, I’ll take it.

I know I do better when I use skills like build mastery and build structure, which is basically exactly what it sounds like.  Building mastery can range from doing everyday things like cooking a meal to learning a new skill.  It is basically (in my eyes), anything that you can do that you can look at and say, “that is me being productive.”  Building structure is also just like it sounds, keeping a day full and not having too much down time.

Building structure and building mastery are the two skills that are going to give me real success, in the long run, if I can keep them up.  I am looking at what I have done today and I am pleased.  I have made a plan for what I am doing tomorrow, and I have detailed it out on paper.  If I can stick with it, I will have possibly another day of success.

A more stable length of time is started with stringing one day together after another, and so I have my evening yesterday when I made a new recipe and cleaned up the house a bit, and I have today, with the shopping and getting out in public and cooking a healthy dinner.  Hopefully I am able to follow through on tomorrow’s plans, or at least some variation.

Right now, at this moment, I have no “give up” in me, and there is really nothing else I can ask for, more than that.

Favorite Version (Good Intentions)

good intentions

 

You know what they say about good intentions, right, friend?  How they done paved dat dere road to Hell.  Well, you know, I think sometimes maybe that fits and works, but sometimes it is our good intentions that hold us together like a favorite, old, comfortable, unraveling sweater.

It is only through good intentions that the Rosa I love best is here, today.  The Rosa that I enjoy the most, who laughs and makes jokes and tries to comfort those around her holds hands and has a kind word.  The Rosa that is there for people, struggling to get out of herself.

The Rosa that decides to try a brand-new recipe on a whim with no fear, the Rosa that hobbles to the damn pool and practices weightless exercises until time stands still and the chlorine lingers in the nostrils for hours.  Who talks to strangers, smiles at small children, hugs fiercely.  Who cries herself awake and then turns to precious LarBear for comfort, knowing it will always be given.

Is passionate about more than how long it is possible to stay in bed, completely immobile.  That girl that does things and has a good time doing them and fights back when the darkness starts circling come around nightfall every evening.

She is my favorite, and she might be your favorite, too — its easy to love the one who battles and battles and fights back some more, even when it seems like all those neurochemicals zipping around upstairs are dead-set against any happiness today.  Its worth acknowledging that it isn’t easy being this version, no matter how lovable.  Because it’s a constant up-and-down, and while there is more “up” than “down,” the downs are quite low.

So there are a lot of tears and a lot of gasping sobs and big empty and vast fields of grey fog, covering the blackness of night.  But instead of giving in, which, really, is what the urge is every day — there is always, always forward movement.

More activities, more people, more places to go and see and things to do.  Build structure, build mastery, practice living in the moment.  This moment won’t come again, precious steps must be taken to pay attention, to not avoid or ignore it into oblivion.

Sweet, Sweet Relief

somewhere beautiful

 

Although I have blogged infrequently over the last nine months, looking back through the posts I can see what I already know — it’s been an up-and-down all-out battle.  After months of ECT and hospitalizations and stays in the crisis residence and many med changes to count, I am extremely relieved to say that I have found some peace lately.

Middle ground has always been the most sought-after state for me, and lots of people with bipolar disorder.  Moving from paralyzingly depressed to euphoric highs to muddled mixed states and back and forth, again and again, does take it’s toll.  When some middle ground is experienced, and I mean middle ground lasting more than two days, then it is time to celebrate.  For me it is, at any rate.

It has been over a year since I have had an extended spell of relatively stable mood.  Well over a year, in fact.  At this point, I can truly say that I feel pleased with how my life is going.  I am starting to figure out who I am again, or, who the “well” Rosa is.  It seems like every time I reach this point, I redefine myself and this time is no different.

I have been back in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) groups for the past six months or so, and, just as anytime I have participated before, they have done me a world of good.  My relationships are better, I put up with less crap from people and also (I think) give out less crap.  I have finally started getting into some things that interest me again, and I work really hard on Building Mastery and Building Structure because those are the two skills that seem to help me really *get it.*

Building Mastery is basically doing and learning to do things that make you feel competent.  It can be anything, from getting on top of daily tasks regularly to learning how to ice skate.  I have recently been doing a lot of cooking and domestic-type-things that help me to exercise this skill.  I made a pumpkin pie tonight for the very first time ever — never would I have thought that I could have a greater sense of satisfaction than going through all the steps (find recipe, buy ingredients, put together, bake, present) by myself and having the end product turn out so well.

The DBT skill of Building Structure is just what it sounds like — adding tasks and routines and making one’s life FULL of meaning, with a healthy balance of sleep and recreation and work (work not necessarily meaning paid employment).  I practice Building Structure by using a day-planner and scheduling out all of the appointments that I am responsible for, and then adding a few tasks or goals to each day.

I find that the more I get up and do in the course of a day, the better I feel, and the more motivated I am to do more things, and eventually conquer tasks and items that during the past nine months have been next to impossible.  I realize I make this sound very easy, but in fact it is very difficult and, to be honest, it took almost five months of me dragging my feet in DBT group this go-around to make much progress.

But once a little bit of progress has been made, at least for me, it snowballs and things get even bigger and better than they were before.  I am doing things now that I haven’t done in months, and for some years.  Some people might think, “Oh big deal, she’s showering regularly and wearing clean clothes.”  Well, HELL YES it is a big deal!  We all have things we struggle with, some things are the same and some are totally our own, but it is up to everyone to tackle the part of life that works for them best.

So yes, thank the moon and the heavens and the stars above for DBT — for once again pulling this extremely anxious and depressed and moody and mercurial Bipolar Rosa out of the fire, or at least for this episode.  The fairly-stable Rosa remembers that, sometimes, these patches are stability are somewhat fleeting — best to enjoy while one can, and celebrate that sanity which is all too fleeting.

 

Building Mastery Decreases Stress

7weird

 

It’s that Weird Wednesday challenge again, coordinated and directed by Mental Mama.  I know that last week, I had a hard time coming up with weird things about myself, but I just thought of one.  I sometimes don’t know the day of the week, and I certainly never know the date.  I guess it’s not that important in my little sphere (other than to know when “Under the Dome” or “Extant” are on), because every day is so much the same.  Maybe that’s a little weird in and of itself, like I am Bill Murray in the “GroundHog Day” movie.

Moving on, this week’s topic is:

What weirdest thing you do to relax?

Well, I do things like this.  I learn a tiny bit of something new from a friend, and then, even though I don’t quite understand it, or what I’m doing, I make the text of my entire post purple.  I would have made the font size bigger, but I couldn’t remember how.  Maybe in an upcoming edit.

One of the best things for me for stress relief is to try and do something new, something I have to concentrate really hard on.  This is called “building mastery” for all you DBT folks out there!  For example, when I was having my little mental health breakdown earlier this past month, I tried to teach myself to crochet.  It was a wicked failure, but it felt good to try and it definitely kept my mind off things.

crochet starter kit

And because I still have the supplies and the links MM sent me, I can whip out this project at any time.  I have a few needlepoints, too, that I should work on but it gets too complicated for me when the color of thread changes every fourth stitch.  Unrelated note, QoB is the ultimate needle-pointer.  Her hands are too bad to do it now (not sure she’d be able to find time, either), but back in the day, she rocked it.

Another thing I like to do when stressed is put lotion on my hands and then enjoy the smell.  Yes, that’s me over there, sniffing my hands.  It’s actually a combination of several DBT skills — distract, TIP/Chemistry, self-soothe.  My therapist could probably list off several more.

When I need to relax of calm down in a hurry, the best thing I can do is talk to someone.  Be it my mom, my dad, my sister, one of my online friends — I’ve really got to talk things out sometimes.  I think that’s pretty ordinary, though — venting about things.

My final answer to stress reduction is to clean my kitchen and dining room area.  These are the two areas where I spend the most time, so they get trashed out the most easily.  It usually only takes about ten minutes, just throwing some trash away and then unloading and reloading the dishwasher.  Those ten minutes, though, can save me from an entire day of antsy-pantsying.

Finding Meaning in a Bait Shop

Almost one year has passed I stopped working any sort of formal job. When I quit my last position, I was sure that I would find something else, once the mania and depression and overall craziness blew over.  Sure that I would breeze right back into the mental health field, armed with my several years of experience and (nearly-useless) Bachelor’s Degree.  It turned out that, instead of this happening, as had been the pattern for several years (work, severely decompensate, period of unemployment, back to stressful job, rinse and repeat), I ended up choosing another route.

And it was a route that I was not altogether convinced, at first, would even work out, nevertheless be the best thing that had happened to me.  Every member of my treatment team encouraged me to file for disability.  My family and DSB and everyone I asked agreed.  No one thought that I should go back and repeat the stressful job to severe decompensation to unemployment and back again cycle.  The cycle that has gone on my entire adult life.

I had a good part of my identity tied up in my career, as do many people.  I was terrified that I wouldn’t be working with the mentally ill, that I wouldn’t be advocating for them, that I wouldn’t be able to help people get up out of the mire.  Most of my self-worth was entrenched in this work, and I just didn’t know how I would fare without it.

I filed for SSDI/SSI in April of 2012 and was approved in June of 2012.  I didn’t receive a check until November 2012, but thankfully my parents and DSB were able to support me during that time.  It wasn’t my concern at the time, but I never wanted for anything.  I was too busy being depressed and irritable and generally unwell.  

Time has passed and I really feel like I have evened out.  I’m would even consider myself content, happy on a good day.  Not working took quite a bit of getting used to, but I found things to do to fill up the time and I am working at my parents’ businesses on a very part-time basis.  DSB and I are able to spend a lot of time together, which is simply wonderful, and I also spend quite a bit of time with my mom, QoB.  I think not working has really allowed my relationships to get stronger, as well as allowing me to focus on what is really important:  love and family.

I will be working more this summer, as my parents’ businesses are somewhat seasonal, but I have worked out a schedule with BigDog and QoB so that I will only be working about 12-15 hours per week.  I am pretty sure I can handle that and I know it will be a huge help to them to not have to hire someone for those hours.

Working at the shops really gives me a sense of achievement, as it puts me out in front of the public and forces me to interact with others.  In other words, it puts me out of my comfort zone, and that is a good good good thing.  Building mastery and building structure, both DBT skills, are very key to my success as far as my mental state goes.  I need to feel useful, like I am challenging myself.  I also need to stay busy with structure in my life.  This small bit of work does that.

Not everyone with a mental illness has the incredible support system that I do, and I am immensely grateful that I have several people that I can always count on.  I don’t think I would be faring as well if not for these people, and for them, I am eternally grateful.

ABC 123

Life has been quite the struggle later.  Between crippling anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, negative tapes, and insecurity, it’s been miserable.  I think I had a real wake-up call when I realized I was spending five to six nights per week at QoB’s house, calling Goddess of Mindfulness frequently, and being told to get a grip by my med doc.  Sometimes you don’t realize how bad it is getting until you’re already there.

So, I made a conscious decision to do things to make myself feel better.  I have started taking my Cymbalta regularly.  I am doing my sunlamp every morning.  I have tried to decrease my dependence on QoB and Big Dog by not going over every night, and instead, getting things done around my house.  Staying busy has been the key.

I know that both Dr. Love and QoB say it is ok to just “hang” but there are so many things that I want to do that I haven’t been doing due to the lack of motivation that depression and anxiety brings, that it is feeling good to get caught up.

I have cleaned the top two levels of my house, and it’s just a matter of time before I get the basement finished.  I’ve tackled some small projects that have been bugging me, and have been working at building mastery by cooking.  I have also really been working on mindfulness, especially in regards to my eating habits.  I find that if I pay attention, I am not really hungry during the times when I was usually eating.

It doesn’t take as much as I think it does to feel satisfied, and the integration of some new-found foods has much helped.  I was really in a rut with eating junk food and am now eating a lot of vegetables and some fruit.  I have also been concentrating on eating whole grains, and limiting sugar and salt.  No more empty carbs!

For example, I have been eating a lot of spinach salads, squash, sweet potatoes, brown rice, chicken breast, and the like.  I am making a meatloaf for dinner tonight that isn’t particularly healthy (covered in bacon), but it’s for Dr. Love and he deserves some good comfort food, taking a break from eating work food.  I fully believe that I can be rational about the meatloaf and just eat a normal portion.  YES I CAN!

Sacred self has also been a big part in feeling better.  I took Kizz for a walk last night and am trying to get into that routine.  I bought myself some new shower stuff and am spending time doing things that I enjoy.  Some of the skills mix together, but it never ceases to amaze me how much they work.  I am not keeping a diary card, but maybe I should be.

Back to basics, baby.  Goddess of Mindfulness and the IOP program gave me the greatest gift — my DBT skills — and they are something I can always bring more focus onto when the going gets rough.  It’s just getting around the willfulness that depression and anxiety create.

Keane, Somewhere Only We Know