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 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.

What I Know Here, Today, in the Now

My friend, Marilyn, often tells me I am doing better than what I think I am, struggling about the same as most people (sometimes a little less, even), and I often have a hard time wrapping my head around that little nugget of wisdom, although it is often very true.

I have “survived” a great deal in life, and here I am, still kicking almost 36 years into this great life that I have created.

I know what makes me happy, what makes me sad, what works and what doesn’t, and when I can keep these things at the front of my mind, I can exist in a state of fairly ok-ishness.  Of course, there are ups and downs in life, but everyone has ups and downs.  I think I just tend to experience mine a little more fully than some in the world.

There is very little in my life right now that is inherently “bad” or “negative.”  It has taken many years of therapy, but given enough time and the right support, I can usually get even the negative situations worked out fairly well.  When I am not in a full-on manic state or a full-on depressive state, I can say that I actually live a pretty full and happy life.  Of course, I have my moments, but I am beginning to learn and accept that everyone on this planet has their moments.

We all have certain things we struggle with more than others, whether our issue is bipolar disorder, some other mental illness, a physical issue, or just tough circumstances.  The point is to keep going, and to keep trying to make one’s life increasingly more peaceful, more happy, with more love.

I am currently dealing with some issues related to medications and a disruption in my routine.  It has thrown me for a loop, but I am dealing with it, how I know to deal with it.  In a week or so, I am going to be able to hit the exercise routine again, and in the meantime, I am getting the nutrition part of things under control.

I am crafting daily, have had some good sales at the gallery, and am working on some really beautiful new pieces for the gallery.  That makes me very happy; it is something I derive a great deal of pleasure from.

I have been getting back into my reading and am thinking about trying my hand about doing some shorter, yet still glowing,  book reviews….some that I had promised to do long ago, and some that no one has asked me to do, but that I feel the book is worthy of praise and is important for others to read.

So I am still that DBT girl, standing in front of my life, asking myself to keep trying, but to try a little harder, even though I am doing the best I can.  I will probably always be that girl, and that is fine by me.  It is progress, not perfection, that I am after.

 

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.

Removing the Option to Quit

Today is the first day that we have had actual Autumn-like weather.  It is dreary out, the days of sunshine prior are slowly erasing themselves from my memory, until it feels like every day for the past ten years has been this way.  This removal of hope that happens to me from time to time, it’s happening, and like I sometimes (but not always) do, this time I am refusing to give myself the option to quit on myself.

I have too much going for me to give up.  I can’t promise that the thoughts won’t sneak in, but for this moment and for at least today, I will not quit on myself.  I will keep plodding, one foot in front of the other, and I will come out victorious in the Spring, surviving and possibly even conquering this beast in my brain that seems to be so loud and demanding through the colder months.

Continuing on from my last post, that strategy of hunkering down and just slogging through it will remain, will keep on.  I am not going to detail the daily woes of life, because that gets me nowhere.  I accept that I am depressed, moving through a mixed cycle, cycling, paranoid, racing thoughts, nightmares, feeling unsafe, and avoiding most people, most places, most interactions.  I acknowledge and then I move forward.  Maybe tomorrow will be better, I really have no way of knowing for sure, but I can work my hardest to keep shuffling toward days filled with more sunlight and green carpets of grass and natural warmth on my skin.  I will not let today’s troubles swallow me whole, spitting me out to be useless and lying still on the carpet all day.

I will do the things I need to do, I will follow the lists, I will cherish my blessings, and I will persevere, because there is really no other acceptable answer.  Above all, remember that a simple kindness can be the push that gets a person through a hard day.  Don’t be shy, throw a pebble at my window.  I will likely be both surprised and grateful, and will almost certainly return the favor.

Hunkering Down: Wise Advice From an Even Wiser Friend

A rough few days had left me feeling emotionally raw, reactive, completely in emotion mind.  Without a shred of reason to be found within  my decidedly ailing body, mind, spirit, I phoned a friend.  Kind of like you can do on that show, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” although I’m not sure that show is still on or if it’s still played that way.  Either way, the premise is the same — unsure of yourself, phone a friend and get some insight.

I didn’t directly ask for advice, but she knows me pretty well and she told me something she has told me time and time again — not everything is because of mental illness, a lot of it is just life.  Life sucking, maybe, but just life, not a symptom.  Not something to have a med change over or make any sort of drastic change over.  Her advice to me:  hunker down, a lot of it will pass.

And she’s right, a lot of this will pass.  A lot of the bad feelings are from having several major changes and being uber-busy, and now the settling comes.  We are moved, settling in, the house is set up, settle down a little more, make new routines, practice better habits, interact more or less or not at all with certain people.  Change, a lot of it, over the past few months, and change, even more than that, over the past couple of years.

It’s time to settle down, let the dust clear, see what shakes out.  Feeling bad doesn’t necessarily mean I need to have a med increase or a routine change or for anything AT ALL to happen.  My friend’s wise words, “hunker down,” made so much sense when she said them.  They made even more sense when I sat on my front porch in the fresh air, with the sun shining warmth on my face, contrasting with the cool breeze through my hair.

It was funny when Dad said almost the same thing not even an hour later, except he said, “I’m glad you were able to defend in place today and keep from going to the hospital.”  He said that, because this morning I was feeling terrible enough that I was thinking of going to the hospital, and I cancelled on seeing him or my nephew.

So, defend in place, hunker down, that’s what is going to be happening for me.  Can’t hurt, might help.

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Emotion MishMash Equals Anger, Rage, Panic

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Sad, angry, happy, irritable, hostile, giddy, appearing stable, sad, lonely, panicked, giddy, irritable, hostile.

Mad, sad, crying, hysterical, eerie calm, thankfulness, slow descent back to an impressive depression, then just a big solid block of sadness, quickly surpassed by feelings of irritation at every spoken word, movement, gesture, genuinely baffled by how ugly people can be.

All of this turning into genuine anger, first directed at the self, stabbing words into my skin as if with a knife, getting myself so unsettled again that I go through crying, more anger, hostility, to anger at other people/things/objects/ideas, and again circling back to hating everything about myself and secure in the knowledge that I am ruining the life of myself and everyone in it.

This gets old and it gets tiresome and it gets lonely.  My feelings all are over the place, some of which I am accustomed to, but the anger, the hostility, the sharp tongue — I never get used to that.  I never get used to the piece of me that can and will tear another down with words, hurling just the right ones in the most sensitive spots for maximum damage.  The difference between before and now, is that I am depressed enough, I don’t really care that I am hurting other people.  That is not good.  Every jab looks to land a mat-dropping blow.

I can control it to an extent, but there are times when I feel so bad, that I don’t control it and I let my mouth run wild and I hurt people.  For the most part, it is brushed off because the other person knows it isn’t really the Rosa inside who is saying these things.  Sometimes it doesn’t get fixed that easily.

I deleted over thirty people from my Facebook over the last week, because I am convinced someone is leaking information about me to my ex step-father.  To be clear, I am done, done, DONE with that relationship and any relationship I may  have ever had with that ENTIRE side of the family.  It’s a shame, because there was one or two people that were somewhat decent, but for the sake of my mental health, I can have NO contact.  I want him to forget I exist.  Let him think I went to Alaska to can salmon or something.  Rosa, disappeared from his world, never ever again going back.  I have my reasons, many reasons which are really not worth spelling out here, because I don’t care to embarrass anyone, but done, just done.  Goodbye.  Again.  Stay gone.

I started this post shaking with anger, and that was after I wrote a long, ranting email to a friend of mine.  I need a way to get over this anger, to make it stop, to do something productive with it, if it isn’t just going to go away nicely.  Suggestions, as always, are welcome in the comments.  And even if I get mad about a comment, I won’t attack anyone, and that is a promise (that I feel that I can keep right now at 9:45PM on a Friday night).  That’s the best I can do for now.