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chastised for not using my sun lamp by my medication provider and ended up with a new lamp because the older one was so outdated.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.

This Week in Gratitude

I used to do a link-up that was a 10-things of thankful, and I did quite enjoy doing it every weekend.  The format has changed now, and I can’t find any linkups, so I decided that at the end of every week, I will go out on my own and do a gratitude post.  There are so many things out there to be thankful for, yet it is easy to not bring them to one’s consciousness in a mindful way.  SO, this is part DBT exercise, part because-I-wanna exercise, and mostly because I want to remember the good stuff, for when the time are NOT so good.

Without further adeiu:

  1.  This week, I am thankful for the four-cup coffee pot my mom purchased for me.  I had a huge coffeepot before, and the result was always that I would drink the entire contents every morning, which would leave me sick.  Ok, so yes, no self-control.  To remedy the situation, I gave up caffeine, but have started to miss it oh-so-much, so this is the solution.  The theory — the less coffee that is made, the less I will drink.
  2. LarBear has been a champ this week (well, every week), but especially this week, with helping me get a caffeine fix every morning even when there was no coffee pot.  I’m not sure why a large coffee at McDonald’s must cost $1.95, but it is clear we will be saving money now with brewing it at home.  Oh, and LarBear can avoid going out in 25 degree weather, all for the sake of a cup of coffee.  I think he will appreciate that!
  3. The very small mouse problem that started a couple weeks ago in my basement (this is what happens when you live in the country), is no more, after Mom’s boyfriend hooked us up with some poison.  I placed it carefully where the dogs couldn’t get to it and there has not been one sign of a mouse ever since.
  4. I am thankful that I have found it within myself to continue to work on giving second chances and third chances and fourth chances to people in my life who, well, may not deserve it (from the outside looking in).  It can be really hard to give up on someone who has been around your entire life, although not impossible.
  5. In a related thankfulness/gratitude moment, I am grateful that I can still see the good in most people, even when it is buried very deep below the surface.
  6. I am excited about Thanksgiving plans, getting to see the Big Dawg’s side of the family, and possibly going to see my maternal grandfather’s side of the family a few days after the big Turkey Day.
  7. Somewhat related, I am very grateful that I am *with it* enough to think about doing these things, and being around all of these people (that I am not used to).  Baby steps, Rosa.
  8. I am grateful basketball season is upon us, and I have already made it to two games at the local college.  Go Bods!
  9. I am thankful for interpersonal communication effectiveness skills learned in DBT, as it seems like LarBear and I get clearer with each other every day, and my other relationships continue to improve, as well.
  10. I am grateful/thankful/proud that I have cranked out almost one post every other day for over a week, and don’t feel any signs of slowing down yet.  I am grateful people still read, still comment, still like, and still listen, even after all this time.  Some of my favorite people are my online blog friends, and I am glad I didn’t mess that up too terribly with my extended absence.

What are you grateful for this week?  Making these lists may seem a bit mundane now, but they are very helpful to look back on in the future when things might not be so rosy.  I know they have helped me tremendously!

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.

 

Bright and Shiny

That’s me, in the moment.  I just came home from a two-plus hour workout (arms and cardio) and am feeling on top of the world.  My relationship with LarBear is going great, I finally have some non-itch-producing laundry detergent and one load down, I am blogging for the first time in five million eons, and Kizzie is possibly done unearthing moles out of the backyard for today.  Sometimes, its the little things.

Yesterday, the day before, the day before, so on and so on, lots of anxiety.  Actually, lots of anxiety since my last ECT one week before this past Wednesday.  ‘Tis a serious death anniversary week for me, one of my hardest, and it has been just as brutal this year as in years past.  I did get to see QoB last night though and do a little crying on my Momma’s shoulder, which helped immensely, even if she doesn’t realize it.

A lot of the anxiety I am having is also because I am having a really hard time remembering things and am also, at times, extremely confused and almost disoriented.  The beauty of ECT, though, is that I have forgotten a lot of the bad stuff, or, at least the details are not so crisp.  Very few nasty and scary memories still play in my mind as if on a movie screen.  Things are either blurry and hazy or not present at all.  I am hoping some of that stuff never comes back!

I think LarBear and I are going to try going to church this weekend.  Maybe.  No commitments but possibly.  We found one that seems promising, just have to give it a shot.  I have been trying to find things to do to build structure, and that would be one of those things.  I am also going to add DBT groups back in, as well as the good possibility of a water-walking class to go along with the water aerobics I am going to start doing at the YMCA.

Lots of good stuff here.  I hope to be back soon, friends!

Instead of Dying

I choose today to not go back and read blog entries, although some sort of cues as to where I have been for the past several months likely would have been helpful.

I am waking up from my first four ECT treatments, and a ten-day inpatient hospital stay.  I am unsure when I went in, or how long I have been out, but I know it wasn’t long ago, and that I haven’t been out of the hospital much longer than a week.

The one thing that does stick in my head with certainty is that I did two of the ECT treatments inpatient, and two outpatient.  I don’t know why this might matter, but it must.

So here I am, I’m out and about and well, not really depressed — more anxious, bordering on terrified and lost.  Definitely not suicidal.  Grossly different than months past, I do know that, although I am unclear on specifics.  The past months are cloudy at best, completely scrambled at worst, and really, might be totally forgettable.

I will have at least one more go — next Wednesday, we have a date.  Beyond that, I don’t know.  My psychiatrist does not seem to think it would be prudent beyond this point, cuing memory loss and the turn-around that the depression has taken.  What no one wants to mention is that I am barely on a mood stabilizer, and mania is breathing down my neck.

This is what it feels like to me, of course, only, and, you know, I am only the patient in this case.  I am being the good dog and going to talk therapy and art therapy and coloring at my dining room table and trying to remember my life.  Remember the details.  Remember the conversations and the books and the how-it-happened’s.

LarBear has been great help with all of this, and, although I did doubt and push away from him at a point, I also had a breakthrough and I do remember and feel our love.  And that breakthrough didn’t happen in a vacuum and it didn’t happen in a happy moment, but it did happen and I am grateful to remember and to have had someone so close to me lately that I CAN be filled in a little bit.

What hits me hard is how different life seems to be now than what I th9ought it was.  The people around me are all different, different, different.  There is nothing familiar about, especially family life compared to say, a year ago.

And the memories, well the floodgates have opened and I am being bombarded with scenes from all over my lifetime.  Some good, some bad, scary, indifferent, neutral, random, just-there-like-a-movie.  I can’t say its easy.

It really is like someone unscrewed the top of my head and whipped egg beater around in my brain.  My memories, my mind, scrambled for lack of a better term.  I won’t even go into how beat up my body feels.

So friends, if you’re reading, I’ll come around and see you soon.  Normalcy must reign and I am sure I will be blogging and reading again regularly.  This is a lot harder than I thought it would be, and I thought it would be really hard.