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.

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Accepting a Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis: First Stages (Again)

As time passes, old wounds can grow over as we pay so much attention to the current moment, but sometimes something happens, and while we might not even know what that something is, on Monday we may be fine, but when we wake up on Tuesday, you are covered in weeping sores.  Not on your body, of course, but those “emotional third-degree burns” that Marsha Linehan (Queen of all things DBT) refers to when she talks about people with borderline personality disorder.

It just so happens that Borderline Personality Disorder has been on my diagnosis list, off and on, depending who you ask, for a very long time.  Since this past April, it is now very much on my diagnosis list, and I have been instructed to process this.  And I have, and as much as I don’t want an additional label, I do meet criteria for the disorder and I have read books and articles and webpages about it, and it all just screams my name.  If you aren’t familiar with the disorder, I really would encourage you to look at the link I provided above, or even Google search for articles.

I have talked it over with my therapist, and it isn’t that I have BPD in place of Bipolar Disorder, but that the two illnesses interact to make each other much worse and much harder to treat.  I have put off making any kind of announcement on this blog about the “new” diagnosis, but now I am very certain it is something I am dealing with and have dealt with for a large part of my life.

I was afraid that I would be judged, that others would leap to conclusions about me, that people wouldn’t really understand, would just see a “broken” person.  There is a great deal of stigma about mental illness in the world, and there is even more stigma and misinformation about BPD out there, than most disorders.  This is something I am going to live with the rest of my life, and I will consistently  have to manage my life in such a way that I do not devolve into all of the maladaptive behaviors and patterns that it is so easy to slip into.

There’s really a lot to this, and much more that I wanted to say.  What I really wanted to do, though, was finally get the information out there, make the admission, state the obvious,  whatever.   I will follow-up with more thoughts about this (and all sorts of other stuff, too, I’m sure).  My world is shaky right now, but I’m doing as much therapy and DBT and whatnot as possible,  and if worse comes to worst, I always have LarBear and my family.  Not everyone can say that, and I am especially thankful for them and their patience.

Realizations and “Ah-Ha!” Moments

same heart

It seems that every-so-often, my heart and mind shift gears, and I realize that there are these things that I thought, these ideas that I had, have had for years, that are as incorrect as can be.  I’m surprised, I’m sad, secretly, I’m relieved.

I can remember the first time I was told to “not sweat the small stuff.”  It was my dad that said it, and he was quoting this book someone had given him for Christmas, and that was the book’s title.  I didn’t buy in.  It was a fine concept, as long as it was just a thought or a concept and not something I would actually be expected to implement into my life.  I think I was around the age of ten or so, and I was already a world-class worrier.  Dad went on to say that it was *almost* all “small stuff.”  This really didn’t vibe with my pre-teen self.

don-t-sweat-the-small-stuff-quotes-gzfa8jjpTo me, everything was important.  Every feeling, every tear, every perceived slight, judgmental look, backhanded comment.  To be more clear, what other people THOUGHT of me, was in no way “small stuff.”  To be fair, it wasn’t necessarily what other people thought or did or said, it was what I (often wrongly) thought that other people thought of me.  And so it went, pre-teen to 20’s Rosa to late 20’s Rosa to current Rosa.  I cared far too much of what other people thought.

That has changed.  Dramatically.  Within the last six weeks, dramatically and, to link in the general idea of this post — I have also come to lower my expectations of other people.  In not caring quite so much what others thought, I found a freedom in releasing other people to be horrible and terrible and, in some cases, simply not as perfect as I had previously thought they were.  I have come to understand that I cannot hold other people to the standards I try (and fail) to hold myself to — they are impossibly high.

The next step of the journey, of course, is to stop beating myself up for not being perfect, for not getting the results out of a project that I want, for not having children, or keeping a perfect house, or being able to handle any little bit of garbage that the world has to throw at me on any given day.

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From now on, I cut up my journey into bite-sized pieces, and while I will tackle what the world has coming toward me with gusto, I most certainly will do my best to not spend much, if any time dwelling on how I just don’t measure up.  I have plans, and I have written thoughts about those plans, and my plans have plans.  There are a lot of plans, and I vow not to be too hard on myself when a plan doesn’t come through, as I had envisioned.

love-processThe beauty of the art I make is in the process, not in the final product. These new tiny bits of information that I learn and adopt as my own on any given day, they are part of my process, and more than anything at this time in my life, I absolutely LOVE the process, and I will let all of those negative thoughts settle upon the leaves moving down the stream of my consciousness, and wave to them as they float away.

 

Clearly Clicking Ahead

Three weeks ago, it was Entirely Too Soon to tell you all just how much better it seemed that life was getting.  Now that I have had three weeks of relative (gasp!) happiness, steadiness of mood, positive feelings, and lack of severe depression, I am here to confirm that I am quite giddily at a (fairly) solid, maybe slightly elevated baseline.  After over a year of soul crushing depression that never let up for longer than a day during that period, what I feel most is sweet relief.  Over the past year, I was fairly positive that I was never going to ever, ever, ever experience a “happy day” ever again.  Thankfully, I was wrong.

lifeislovely

I feel clear-minded, I feel optimistic, I feel like issues can be worked on, I feel like my toolbox is full, I feel as if I have great love in my life.  I feel so good that I worry my mood is getting too elevated.  This feels a lot like hypomania, building into mania, but I would really like to believe that it’s just good, solid, level, positive feelings.  Bipolar disorder is cruel in that it makes a person unable to trust their own feelings, their emotions, their behaviors.

So, I choose to believe this is happiness.  I choose to believe that a combination of a happy home with LarBear and satisfaction with learning new things and the addition of quite a bit of mental health groups and programs has resulted in a happy Rosa.  It doesn’t hurt that it is Spring, and the weather has been beautiful.  It doesn’t hurt that I have finally crossed the line from willfulness to willingness, and that I am really and truly being honest with myself about my feelings and thoughts.

I have been keeping very busy, between DBT and individual therapy (both talk and art) and art groups and the newest addition, a peer mentor.  My mental health maintenance and my art are now primarily my “job.”  And really, I am working on it all several hours each day, but not so much that I am getting burned out and not so little that I am just sitting around wasting time.

I find that, the more time I can spend being creative and creating things, the happier I am.  For the last several months, it has been jewelry, and more recently, I have moved into papercrafting.  I find that I love learning new techniques and skills, and I find that I am quite good at working with my hands, which surprises me to no end.

I feel that, to make the creativity complete, I need to get back to writing regularly, even if it’s just a 300-word essay on the blog.  I miss it, and I miss the connections I make with other bloggers.  So, I’ll try once again and write semi-regularly.  That’s all I can do, is try.

My main goal, or the goal overall, is to not wallow in my misery.  That is easy to say when not depressed, but super terribly hard when in the depths.  For as long as I can, though, I am going to face any issues head-on, I am going to be effective, and I am going to use every skill I have to keep my mood relatively stable.

This happiness thing, whether it be hypomania on the road to mania or just true happiness, is something worth working for, something worth putting all of the eggs into the basket for.  To have felt the lowest of lows for so long, and to now feel like life is worth living and that the world around is so amazing and beautiful, yeah, I want to hang onto that.

happiness-flowchart

 

 

Hey Rose…You’re Not Actually Dying Right Now

This is how my anxiety starts.  First, my legs feel a little wobbly in the hip joint.  It quickly moves on to leave me with a feeling of dead weight in my stomach and then a tightness in my chest.  And then my throat closes up and I can’t breathe.  These are all just bodily sensations related to anxiety, and I constantly have to remind myself:  Rose, you’re not dying!

Sure feels like I am though.  I think most anyone with anxiety problems can relate.  And also to the fact that, sometimes, that shit comes out of nowhere.  I mean NOWHERE.  Sometimes I can talk myself through it, sometimes I can seek comfort with DSB or my mom, but a lot of times, I just have to take a PRN Klonopin.

I used to be better at working through my anxiety or panic attacks or whatever you want to label it.  Seems like now, though, the only thing that works is the Klonopin.  Now, mind you, I’m not doing this every day, several times a day.  It probably happens two or three, sometimes four times a week.  But that still seems like a lot.  It hasn’t always been so bad.

The flashbacks, the nightmares, the negative tape in my head, the images that flash through my mind.  They are more severe now than they have ever been and I can’t exactly pinpoint why, although I think it may be that I have stopped working on those things, stopped working on suffering through them, stopped working on the in therapy.

Therapy is a joke with my current therapist.  I leave from a session, not even knowing what we talked about, because it is mostly her talking and me half-listening, and not trusting her enough to actually talk about and work on the things that are bothering me the most.

It is crazy for me to stay in therapy with her, but I have talked with my support system and they say (and  I agree) that I still need therapy, at least to some degree, for now.  Maybe I need something other than DBT therapy, maybe I just need a different DBT therapist.  I know I will not go to group, and I am firm on that.  It doesn’t help me and I don’t like it.  If that means I can’t have a DBT therapist, I am fine with that.

I have been somewhat proactive today, in that I called and left a message for Goddess of Mindfulness to contact me so that I can talk with her about the issue, maybe she can make a recommendation.  I also called a few agencies here in town and found no one that is accepting new Medicaid clients.  I will hold off on making any more calls until I speak with Goddess of Mindfulness, and am hopeful she will have a suggestion or strategy.

I am trying to do something about this before my next therapy appointment on the 9th (next Friday, one week from today).  I really don’t want to go see her and have to fake my way through another session.  I suppose I could be brutally honest and just tell her like it is, but I don’t want to be kicked out of the center and I could really use some advice first.  It is clear to me (and my support system) that I need therapy, and it is clear, to me at the very least, that my current therapist is not cutting it.  I am hopeful that something will change soon.

I’m not a religious person, so I won’t ask you to pray, but light a candle or send good thoughts my way.  I could really use them right now.

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.

Cutting through the Bullshit

So, as posted yesterday, I’ve been feeling a bit off.  I blamed it on the weather, and that probably has a lot to do with it.  DSB did point out, however, that it has been sunny, even with the snow and ice and cold.  He does have a point.

I don’t like to use my sunlamp a lot because it can push me into a manic phase very quickly.  I only use it on dark and gloomy days and only September through the end of March.  I have never been instructed by a doctor or therapist on how to use the sunlamp, but have figured out through trial and error what works best for me.  Sometimes that is the best way to figure things out, trial and error (others, it is obviously not!). 

DSB pointed something else out when I was speaking with him about feeling “off” yesterday.  I have stopped taking my Ritalin as prescribed.  I am supposed to take it morning, noon, and early afternoon.  Within the last month, I’d say I’ve probably missed two out of every three doses.  

I just felt like I didn’t need it anymore, at the time.  Aren’t our bipolar brains effed that way?  “Oh, all is well.  Guess I don’t need that one anymore!”  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Of course, I didn’t talk with anyone about it, just kind of snuck around, not taking it, thinking no one would notice.  Well of course DSB noticed.  He notices everything!  As soon as I mentioned to him that I wasn’t feeling myself, he brought it up.  So busted.

So, I have made myself a promise.  I am going to get back on the Ritalin full-time and see how things go.  I don’t have an appointment with my psychiatrist for another two and half months, but I can always get in sooner if need be.  

It probably doesn’t help that I haven’t been in therapy for almost a month now, due to weather conditions mostly.  We are due another 8″-12″ starting this afternoon, and my appointment is tomorrow afternoon, nearly 45 minutes away.  I called her this morning and told her that I may need to cancel and she asked that I call her in the morning, saying that she didn’t know if she would even be coming in tomorrow yet.

I am feeling better today, after an in-depth talk with DSB and motivating myself to clean my disaster of a kitchen last night.  Today I’ve mostly just been spending time with DSB and doing a little laundry.  I plan on making spaghetti for dinner tonight and watching some Hulu with my better half.  I might even go crazy and take a shower, or use some other self-soothe skill. Skills coming on strong now, radically accepting that I can’t BS DSB about medication compliiance and, of course, the 8″-12″ of snow that’s coming.