All is Well, All is Well, All is Well: How to Settle the Up-Down Roller-Coaster of BPD and Bipolar Disorder

And all is well, because, even when things aren’t really all that well, they really might be anytime in the next few seconds or days or weeks or months.  A year, maybe, at worst, but things tend to get back to a sort of homeostasis with me and stay that way for at least a week, sometimes longer, not usually shorter than a few days.

At the ripe old age of 36, I’ve discovered that the almighty “how are you doing” question is quite highly overrated and can really only measure a very finite period of time, and is really only a relevant question if you want to know how I am doing right at that moment.

Maybe it isn’t this way for everyone, but I have very little ability to look back over the past lengthy period of time and give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down, mostly because, at least for me, life is, in general, quite up and down on a given week.

I don’t even like filling out that paper at the therapist’s office that asks you to rate your week “on average,” because in a given week I can have suicidal thoughts while during the same week feel intense feelings of contentment and happiness.

No, it’s not like that every week, but it is like that a lot of weeks.  I highly suspect most people are similar.  That borderline diagnosis that they like to slap on me from time to time, that I don’t resist that much anymore, sums up the generally extreme reactivity I have to my environment and the emotional “third degree burns” that do seem to continually pop up no matter how much therapeutic salve I slather on them.

I am getting to the point (GASP!) that I am just beginning to accept all of this.  So I am emotionally reactive, so things seem terrible and horrible and beautiful and wonderful all at the same time.  Well, that is just a day in the life of Rosa, and probably a lot of other people, most who wouldn’t dare admit to such crazytalking.

I think so many of us, and even more of us who deal with mental illness of some sort, believe that the up and down and up and down of the bipolar/BPD/borderline/whatever-you-wanna-call-it roller coaster is just one big fat symptom.  I think maybe, just maybe, it’s life, and even more, it’s what you make of it.

I don’t want to spend my whole life (as I have spent much of this blog), bemoaning the lowest of lows and glorifying the highest of highs (not to say that I will not continue to do so, because writing about it is therapeutic in itself).  Instead, there needs to be more living in the moment, more striving to make each day better with the choices that I am able to make about what activities I participate in and who I surround myself with and what I feed my brain and my body.

I have felt this sense of wellness before, about my general feelings that I am likely and very quite possibly a little crazier than at least some, and the feeling of wellness has always occurred when I started taking care of my business.

I am building structure, I am exercising daily, I am eating right, I am taking care of my relationships, I am taking care of what I feed my brain, I am sitting in front of my sunlamp and I am engaging other people (outside of the Internet) through social activities (such as at the pool in exercise class or at the mental health center in groups), I am attending multiple modalities of therapy, I am creating something new everyday, I am crafting jewelry and papercrafts and hugging my dog and being nice to my boyfriend and getting plenty of fresh air and all of those things I know I need to do.

How did I learn to do all of that?  Well, it’s all pretty simple DBT skills, actually put to use.  That’s the key there:  put to use.  

As an aside, I took a test (for fun) while I was collaging at art therapy today (because my AT is an absolute nut and quirky and everything an art therapist should be), and it determined that I demonstrated a moderate internal locus of control.

Meaning that, I believe that if something is going to happen, I have to make it happen.  I don’t believe in luck, I believe in actively doing.  It struck me that this is what I am doing now.  While for the longest time I was waiting for some external force to come and sweep me out of depression, it turns out that all I really needed to do was make some choices, force myself to start building structure, using DBT skills, and those skills build one upon each other.

Right now, and for the past little while, things have been good, really pretty good, rising up from being pretty roller-coaster-ish…and I attribute that to DBT, to making things happen, and to getting off my butt and DOING.

The act of not doing is so much easier, but the act of DOING, doing ANYTHING at all, is what is keeping me going.

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The Struggle to Make Noise into Music

Roughly two months ago, I was talking about “still waters” and not rocking the boat.  I always have these fantasies that those feelings of stability will have some sticking power, but I have been downright down and depressed and agitated lately, and more lately than that, physically ill and the most exhausted I have ever been.  All through this period, I stopped caring about things.

At first it was a conscious decision, like, “eff that.”  Then it became quieter, until I wasn’t reaching out to anyone but I was doing my best to keep up pretenses and did a lot of cancelling appointments, making excuses for why I couldn’t/wouldn’t be there/had disappeared.

I am not right on top of pulling myself out of this sinkhole, but I am more aware of it, at least.  I have started smoking again (yeah, I know, I know, I know) and am going through the whole beating up of myself over that failure.  I have barely been to the gym in the last month, and have even given up on my calorie tracker, MyFitnessPal, most days.  I am trying to resurrect all of that slowly, but to lay it all out there, it’s not working for me.

I have let issues get so big, piles so high, and issues so neglected that I am extremely overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed to the point of panic attacks and almost nightly nightmares, which is not a good place to be.  I haven’t felt like reaching out to anyone, somewhat because the response I am afraid I will get it how PROUD people are of ALL MY HARD WORK.  When it comes out here that there has been no hard work, just continued survival and nothing else, I don’t want to have those words ringing in my ears.

On a related note, I get so sick of myself saying, things are great, things are mediocre, things are terrible, and then up and down and back all over again, that it is a lot of the reason why I don’t blog often.  If I am this sick to death of me, I don’t figure anyone else wants to hear this shit either.

 

 

 

The Borderline’s Dilemma: Don’t Fight the Calm Waters in Life

I am generally one to exaggerate any given idea, event, moment, description, but it is truer than true that my life is really pretty darn okay right now, and has been for a little while.

Yes, there are bumps in the road, but I am using skills more frequently (and without overthinking) to get through the bumps, and the bumps pass much faster than they ever used to.

For once in my life, I can say that my stress level is relatively low, and while that is super and great and amazing, the mental health issues I deal with can make me take calm and serenity and throw it out the window, to replace it with something a lot more familiar, like drama.

Yes, I am saying it:  My life is good right now and it is a daily, sometimes moment-to-moment struggle to not sabotage the hell out of it.  I have my slips mostly with LarBear, and he is very forgiving and never holds those little fits against me.  He knows what is going on, just as I do.  Things are good, and it is hard sometimes when things are good, because that is just so unfamiliar.

 

I laughed when I saw this post on Facebook, but there is such a grain of truth to it.  How many days in the last five years did I basically not get out of bed, or get up and get showered or dressed?  A lot, y’all, too many to count.  I spent months at a time not even leaving my house.

Now that I have regular activities like church and social whatnots and am exercising at the local pool every day, I am finding that I actually LIKE being out and about.  I don’t like to be out all the time, but I like it more than I ever thought I would.  Because things were the opposite for so long, sometimes I start to fall into a pattern where I ignore my social obligations, my appointments, the pool, these new people I have met, but I find myself turning the mind quickly back to this semi-stability that I have gathered (through a ton of hard work).

 

After years of angst, I finally have the people in my life that I need and deserve, and I have enough self-respect to cut ties when things are toxic or harmful in some way.  I still give people far too many chances, but I rarely let another person really harm me without slamming the door in his/her face.  I truly believe that the church family that has come into my life recently was meant to be, that the people in my exercise classes and at the YMCA were meant to be in my life right now for specific reasons.  I especially see now how my relationships with family members have changed for the positive, and how it could not have happened before.  And of course, some may tire of hearing it, but LarBear was certainly paired with me by something more purposeful than chance.

I really think that the key to my happiness now, and the methods that I employ to stay that way and to avoid fighting the peace within and without, is that I am doing things in my life every day that I love, with people that I love, with intention and purpose.  I have an amazing amount of love in my heart that is poured in by others, and my heart is full enough to pour into others, as well, which makes my heart even fuller.  Being positive and doing what is effective, is what works.  Keeping a close eye on your mood and your thoughts and your feelings, is very important.  I think so much of it just boils down to paying attention and to living a life you love.  That may sound oversimplified, but that is my sound bite.

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.

 

 

 

 

Another Day, Another Monkey Wrench, Solutions Welcome! (gibberish and rambling are included!)

 

I am not sure why I can’t seem to remember that I am absolutely powerless to control pretty much anything, especially the whim and will of other people or the weird Kansas weather or (to a degree) how my body will react (generally dramatically, whichever the direction) to a big medication adjustment or how my frizzy-ish hair is going to handle the day’s vacillation in humidity.

Here we are, another week has gone by, there have been ups and downs, but I am surviving, and am in fact surviving in somewhat decent humor.  A bit over a week ago, things were getting a bit too roller-coasterish with my mood, and my Seroquel was increased (for the second time this month) and I really thought that was not going to affect things (overall), too much.  I was, of course, terribly wrong and while it has given me moments of extreme grogginess, the really irritating thing is that I am just extremely hungry at all times, no matter what I have just eaten or what else I have done that day.  In addition, the sugar/carb cravings are back and I really do put a lot of that on the Seroquel.

Some of it is me, though — me not handling anxiety well, me not handing “change” well, me just reverting to slacker (eating) ways.  The other problem the past week or so has been that I have not been able to do my normal exercise routine, partly because of bad knees, but mostly because of serious toe infection (both big toes) and extreme ingrown toenails.  My primary care, thankfully, decided that now was the time to pull both toenails.  They  have actually been giving me trouble for years, so in a sense, I am happy to start over with a fresh nail bed, but it was quite painful and remains a bit more than slightly painful, the dressings are not easy to change, and I have had to back off of my daily trips to the pool to do aqua aerobics.

I am on Day One of no exercise, and one would think I would be faring better, especially considering years and years of slackerdom and the past year in which I barely moved from the couch.  No lie, however, I am going quite stir crazy and have been bouncing from project to project to project.  Nothing is satisfying the itchiness inside my brain, and to keep that itchiness company, my stomach is constantly complaining that it be filled.  It is a miracle that I am not hugely over-eating my plan calories allotment, but the desire is definitely there.

I am going to have to figure out some more creative ways of telling my cycling brain to shush, of telling my growling tummy that it is not in fact starving, of settling the  feeling in my legs of wanting to bounce around, and so forth.  I am employing all of the usual remedies, like chair exercises, doing new crafts, working on special projects for others, reading, talking Kizzie and Lucy’s ears off, browsing the internet, trying to organize different spaces.  I think I need something totally different, and I have thought about it all day and decided that maybe YOU have the suggestion that I am needing.

So please, do tell, what amuses you when you feel similarly?  I am pretty open to suggestions, provided it includes nothing illegal, smoking cigarettes, or imbibing in any kind of mood-altering substance.  Let’s hear it!

Resurfacing After a Period of Extreme Selfishness

I have barely looked at another blog, have stopped interacting with nearly everyone I follow on FaceBook, have ceased communications with the small handful of people that I had usually communicated with on a semi-regular basis, and I went underground.  My friend Marilyn had talked to me previously about hunkering down and waiting for the storms to pass, and I guess maybe I took that to extremes a bit.

The positive news about my (relatively) short hiatus from all others in my world is that:

  1.  I have been smoke-free since January 3rd.  Parts of it were hard, parts of it were nearly impossible, but I have made it this far and I don’t plan on turning back.  As a bonus to this accomplishment, I did this without totally wearing out my (now) miniaturized support system.  (as in, no dogs or boyfriends or close family members were harmed in the obtaining of over three months smoke free…yay!)
  2. I have lost 67ish pounds since December, thanks to a healthy eating plan (that is sustainable in the long-run) and almost-daily aerobic exercise.  It turns out that “those people” were actually right about exercise being good for your mood, body, and overall well-being.
  3. I have become “more social.”  That doesn’t mean I am hitting up the grocery store or going to parties or any such nonsense.  It means that, at the YMCA where I exercise every day, it is kind of similar to how it was on the long-ago “Cheers” sitcom, where everyone really DOES know my name.  I must say, it does make exercising easier, to have all of those supportive people around.
  4. I have more “stuff” figured out in my life.  Although therapy  has been helpful, I have mostly grown in life because I am learning what makes me happy and I am learning to say “no” when something doesn’t feel good and I am (constantly) trying something new every day to grow myself.

I have missed blogging pretty terribly, and have missed some of my blog friends even more, but my hopes is that I can reconnect with people easier now that I am a bit more stable.  I would love to start writing in this thing again.  I don’t know if anyone really cares about that, save for me, but I do miss writing things out.  I have been keeping an altered art journal, and writing pretty regularly in that by hand, and I plan to keep that up, but again, am hoping to maybe throw a few words up in this space every now and again.

If there is a thought in your head that I have forgotten about you, chances are pretty much 99% that this is not the case, that I just needed to disappear for awhile.  I am not going to do a bunch of shout-outs right here and now, just know I have missed you and I hope we can catch up soon.  I am bringing a happier, calmer, and healthier Rosa to the table, and I hope you stop by and say hi soon!