When the Mind is Full

Image result for busy mind

via Addicted to Success

When you have made the calls

And sent the messages, the texts, the emails

That you feel are only the truly fair ones to send

And you still end up alone in your full mind

With it buzzing away and you not being able to reign it in

You turn to your list of “coping skills”

There is a brief moment where you feel hope

But in your gut, decidedly, you can sense the pointlessness

It is in this position that you find yourself, once again

Full of words, with no one to spill them to

In a situation where you would feel it is fair

To release all of the blackness into another’s ear

And so you sit with the feelings

Because wise ones told you if you rolled with the emotion

Rolling like a wave

That it would go away.

With time, apparently, though who knows how much.

Symptom Smack-Down…Take THAT, Beastly Irritability!

It is not exactly official, but any therapist I have ever had, as well as my mother and numerous boyfriends have said that I am the queen of being hard on myself.  Now, I like the idea of being a queen (Let them eat cake! Ha!), but I don’t think this is the sort of thing that I need to continue to be proud of.

There are tricks to not being so hard of yourself, and I learn and then unlearn and then relearn them about every three days.  Or more often, if the circumstances merit.  Just like the rest of life, your response to life will really vary based on hundreds of different factors.

I have been trying especially hard in the last ten days to be gentle with myself, because I have had some physical maladies (getting both toenails pulled surgically from my big toes) and rehab time with those maladies, and some psych med issues, not to mention being far off my routine (mostly because two toes have been keeping me at home, fairly immobile) — well, it was really too much for me to think that I wasn’t going to have a stumble or two.

Now, the beauty of getting older (and I mean, one of the MAIN beauties) is that, every once in awhile, you learn your lesson.  Sometimes you have to repeat it two or three or five hundred times, but it gets learned and it sticks in your head and, every great once in awhile, the stars align just so and BAM! you work yourself through your issues without going into great drama and hysterics.

I say maybe, because although the last ten days was fairly manageable, I had some seriously hysterically tearful moments.  Happily, I can say they were short-lived and didn’t put a damper on my entire life.  I have found that there are things (things, yes, these things) that can be done to make life a bit easier.

For me, I have rediscovered that I need quiet/alone/introvert time at least a few hours every day, and if I don’t get it, I become very, very cranky.  This has maybe been a hard lesson for LarBear to learn, but as an example, about thirty minutes ago, I yelled, or maybe just said loudly, “Ok, I’m going to the office,” and he (for once) didn’t take  it personally.  He is starting to “get” me, after all this time, thank goodness.  So here I am, with my headphones on.  I shut off my peripheral vision (just in my imagination), and have been sitting at my glorious desk, crafting this superb document for the interwebs (ha!) and doing my very best to stay in the moment.

It really does work, at least for me.  A few of the other things that help me are music (loud in headphones, preferably), taking a drive, a shower, lighting a new candle, putting on makeup, sitting on my front porch, writing things down in my planner, and last, but most certainly not least, I do a lot of journaling in my altered art journals.  I also make these little books out  of scrap paper.  I am going to end with a few pictures of altered art journals and the mini books so you can get an idea.  They are pretty awesome, another amazing thing I have learned from art therapy.

 

 

 

 

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:

 

 

Reflections on an Imperfect Time

peace

I am currently in a place I never thought I would be.  I did not believe in the recovery model for mental illness even a few months ago, nevertheless thought I would be in a place in my life where the “recovery” stage would be very real and tangible in my day-to-day existence.

I never thought I would have any extended time of peace, and I never thought I would define peace as the picture to the left does:  “it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

I am there, hallelujah, amen, thank you.  There is chaos all around me, but my heart is calm, it is steady, it is beating strong.  All of those thoughts I had of giving up, have vanished.  Those thoughts of giving up that I had almost constantly through every day of the last several years of my life, the ones I didn’t *know how* to get rid of, the ones that kept me cycling through the hospital and the crisis residence and at the mercy of people (supposedly) saner than I on the other end of a phone line…gone.

I have been through months of adversity without losing my steadiness, and there are even more big changes to come.  I am ready.  I know how to climb the mountain and I am familiar with the path and the twists and turns, and I know it will be hard as Hell and that the Devil himself may stand in my way, but I know within myself that I am ready for this adventure.

selfish

QoB is moving away, and my contact with her is sure to greatly decrease.  I am learning that my mom is not the young person she used to be, and that it is time for her to turn her thoughts and her activities and her energies into herself, her new relationship, and into being a cherished Abuela.

It is hard to let her go, to stop calling her so often, to not count on her for every little thing, to really *grow up* here at age 34.  I have had my mom by my side my whole life, she has gone to bat for me countless times, and now, I need to go to bat for myself and count on LarBear to be my touchstone.  This doesn’t mean the relationship I have with her will be any less special, it just means that it is time for me to learn to count on other people.

I *DO* have other people I can count on in this life, and she deserves all the happiness available to her, and if that happiness is retirement and open prairies and big blue skies, then I wish all that for her and more.  There is such a thing called a telephone, and it isn’t like I will never ever see her.  It will just be less.  It is only within the last month, I think, that I would ever have been able to accept this for what it is.

With QoB moving away, retiring from the life here, comes the need for LarBear and I to move.  Physically move, that is, into a new home.  Of course, this creates stress and upset and all of the above, but we need to start living within our very own means, and know that we can still be okay.  We don’t have a terrible income, and it is enough that we will be able to find a nice-enough place to live.  Of that, I have no doubt.  I only wish the process were speedier, more certain, less of a time-suck.  I am ready to find the place and get the stuff moved and BE THERE.

what everyone is doing

The part of the recovery model I am most focused on now, which is also part of DBT, is that I am building A LIFE WORTH LIVING.  The past several years, I have been eking by, and I’m done with that.  I do not want to define myself by my mental illness, and I don’t want others to identify me that way, either.  I am a strong woman and I have a good man by my side, and I honestly feel I can tackle whatever is around me, that needs tackling.

I have even more support outside of my relationship with LarBear, whether it is the constant support of my mental health center contacts, or my Dad, or the Big Dawg.  I have places to turn to.  More than anything, I want LarBear and I to build a beautiful life together, and we are well in the process of doing that.

I don’t want to be “the crazy one” forever, and I tire of being looked at that way by family, acquaintances, the like.  I believe that I am even *more* sane and well-balanced than the average bear, because I am insightful into my life and I *do* examine my own thoughts and behaviors and I also spend great gobs of time practicing DBT and going to therapy and the like.  Practicing my skills isn’t something that anyone should look down on a person for.  Chances are, some of the skills could work for you, or for you, or for my mom or for LarBear or any number of people.

I have more skills in my toolbox than most people, and I think that is wherein the true advantage lies.  I have those skills and I am in touch with different things that help me to feel better, such as writing and making jewelry, and I do not let a single day pass in which I do not create something, anything.  It is so very important — not the product, but the process.  It doesn’t matter if you try a new recipe or build a Lego village or paint a picture…the creativity that dwells within us, heals us, and there is a multitude of proof or evidence out there that healing can happen, no matter how desperate you feel your situation is.  If I can do this, you sure can, too.

live beautifully

Crispity, Crunchety, French-Fried Edges

I had been doing so well on blogging regularly, but the last week or so has really taken a toll.  I have been completely without two very important medications for four days one week, and then totally without any sleeping or nightmare medication for three days the following week.  Add that to a very busy schedule, and I find myself feeling a bit worse for wear as days go by.

Of course, I’m gonna come through it, and things are already looking up, but I am fried around the edges.  Social contact has become difficult — heck, I don’t even want to be around LarBear half of the time.  I just want my music and my sunlamp and for everyone to leave me the Hell alone.  I haven’t been doing much Facebook, haven’t been returning messages or emails.

This time of year is classically difficult for me.  I haven’t had a “good” winter in over fifteen years, and for the last few years have ended up in the hospital or the crisis residence shortly after the holidays.  Heck, this Spring, I even had to do ECT.  I still grasp at straws as to things that make me feel better, but sometimes it is grasping into thin air.

I have jewelry pieces I have been wanting to make for Christmas, and I have all of the supplies — I am severely lacking in the follow-through department, however.  They aren’t hard pieces, but I just look at the supplies, then out the window at the grey nastiness, then back in at the supplies, and ughhhhhh.  I cannot get any motivation going, and as Christmas approaches, the stress of not having these things done or even being worked on grows greater.

So, I’ve been doing a lot of flailing, sitting still, kicking and screaming against doing anything the last week.  I have been trying my very hardest to stay positive, to stay in wise mind, but I find myself full of negative feelings and emotion.  As much as I can, I am turning my mind away from those thoughts and feelings, but gosh durn, it’s hard sometimes!

Thanks to DBT (and almost 20 years of dealing with bipolar disorder), I have discovered a few things that work to bring me back to Earth.  I have been relying heavily on music, breathing exercises, building structure, building mastery, and routines.  Yes, I must have my routines — they may seem to be silly and frivolous to other people, but my routines are sometimes the only things that keep me going.

In addition to the medication issues over the last two weeks, I have been dealing with a LarBear who is struggling to deal with the realities of his (negative) family situation while embracing a “new” family that has traditions and celebrations out-the-wazoo.  It is overwhelming for him, and he has said as much, and has certainly acted as such.  I don’t know much to do except to just ease him through the season, but it definitely adds to the stress level.

Through the course of blogging today, I am feeling a weight lift off my shoulders, and realizing that this dang thing is more therapeutic to keep up than I had realized it still had the power to be.  If you are my dear friend, and I have mentioned a piece of jewelry for you for Christmas, know that it may be more of a New Year’s gift, and remember that I am human, and it might even turn out to be a “Happy February” gift.  Doing the best I can here, and there’s always manana, manana!

Ten Things of Thankful: Coping Skills Edition

sparrow

 

Through living most of the last twenty years of my life with Bipolar Disorder and PTSD, I have picked up a trick or an idea or a method that works to help calm the pain inside my addled head.  Much of it is learned from DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), a lot of it is common sense, and so much more came to me through the process of trial and error.

Captain Jack is right — it is often how you think about a problem, and your attitude toward a “problem,” that is the issue.  While I don’t often think of these skills after the storm has passed, when I am in the thick, I am really thankful for the ten random things listed below that help me get through:

  1.  An extreme attempt to change body temperature.  From going and standing out in the winter air in shorts and a t-shirt, to a cold compress to the back of the neck, this is my number one go-to coping method.  It also works in the form of a super-hot shower, a super-cold shower, frozen bag of peas behind the knees.  I don’t know the science, but the temperature change trick almost always snaps me out of hysteria.
  2. Coloring or doodling.  I have several “adult” coloring books and a seriously large collection of markers, pens, colored pencils, crayons.  This is becoming a more popular choice among many anxious people, and has even turned into a big of a “fad.”  The thing about this “fad” is that is REALLY works.  If you can get yourself coloring or doodling, you will find that you can turn your mind over much more easily than if you are just sitting and angsting.
  3. Phone a friend.  Not just for “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”, this coping strategy works especially if you have one person in your life that can talk to you for five minutes and bring you outside yourself.  For me, this person is usually my dad and sometimes my mom.  They both know me well, and often five minutes after picking up the phone, I am mostly calmed down, or at least I have a plan to calm down.
  4. Get a hug.  A hug, or really any physical contact, can be helpful.  LarBear knows that if I am really upset and he rubs my neck or my back, that I can start to calm down.  There is something reassuring about human touch, something that makes us not feel so alone.  Sometimes I can calm down if LarBear simply sits and holds my hand for awhile, even if he says nothing.
  5. Get up and move.  Of course, this is easier said than done.  In the midst of hysterics, its tough to get up and do anything, but I find that if I can even get up and do a little pacing, or, even better, find a small area of the house to organize (like a drawer or a shelf…think small!), I can calm myself.
  6. Five senses meditation.  This is a great grounding exercise and it is exactly what it sounds like.  Out loud, name five things you can see, five things you can touch, five things you can taste, five things you can smell, five things you can hear, five things you can feel.
  7. Get it in writing.  Blogging is great for anxiety, but journaling or even free-writing can be helpful.  I have numerous written pages, where I have been extremely anxious, and have put pen to paper for a set amount of time (usually five minutes) and written down things as they flew through my brain.  It is an excellent way of letting thoughts go on down the road.
  8. Mind your breath.  After the temperature-change exercise, the thing I do most to calm down is to focus on my breath.  There are many ways to do it, but my favorite is to do a breath in to the count of five and a breath out to the count of seven.  You might have to play with it to see what works for you, but if you can put all attention on your breath, you may be able to calm yourself that way.
  9. Hug a tree.  No, seriously, I mean it.  Go outside and hug a tree.  Panicked, anxious, sobbing your eyes out?  Go hug a tree.  This is a very grounding exercise, and, similarly, sitting or laying in the grass can be almost as helpful.  Concentrate on the textures and feelings through your hands or on  your legs.
  10. PRN medication.  As an opportunity of last resort, after I have tried all of these things, or if I have tried several and none are working, I will take a teensy dose of Klonopin.  I don’t do it everyday anymore, or even every other day.  It is meant for short-term, very occasional use, and I really don’t think there is anything wrong with using that tool in my toolbox, as long as I am not abusing it.

Do you have any coping skills that you use, that I haven’t mentioned?  I would love to hear from you and have a blog post full of what works for everyone!  In the meantime, as a PLUS-1, maybe take a few minutes and put a Ten Things of Thankful list on your own blog.  ‘Till next time!

10thankful-banner

Taking Off the Training Wheels

I am happy to say that the last month or so has been going fairly well.  Sure, there have been some slight ups and downs, some blips on the radar…but overall, I am actively coping with my life, with this illness, with the relationship between the two, and with the bigger picture.

I have been in individual talk therapy for over half of my life, or since I was about age 16.  I find therapy to be extremely useful and heaven knows that Goddess of Mindfulness, was around to be a party to most of that.  She was the world’s best therapist, and she probably is still out there, therapizing those in need and playing the magical singing bowls.

I have done further individual therapy at the community mental health center in my town, which I have also found helpful.  Fifteen-plus years of therapy will lead you to a lot of “ah-ha!” moments, and while I don’t think I am necessarily done having those moments, I feel like I need to test my coping skills in this life I am leading, without the direct benefit of individual talk therapy.

After discussing this with my current therapist, The Scribbler (takes vigorous notes), we decided that I would take a one month break from individual sessions.   I will still have expressive therapy, group DBT, and medication appointments weekly — just leaving out the talk therapy for the moment.  To me, this is kind of a test of sorts.

I have a safety net.  I can call her and reschedule for a sooner appointment at any time, but I really feel like maybe I can use the natural supports in my life and the coping skills that come from DBT and really deal with anything the next month is going to throw at me.

I have no doubt I will need therapy again at some point, but I think it is really important that I take this break so I can prove to myself, not to mention anyone else, that I really can deal with issues as they come in a calm and wise-minded fashion.  At least, I think I can *right now*.

Who knows where I will be this time next year, or next Spring, or any of the other times in space when I traditionally crash and burn.  This is my little experiment, and I hope that I can document a good bit of it, so I can come back and look at it later, because that always seems to help.

still becoming