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!

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A Life Worth Living, Week One

Sometimes there is a good thing going, and it gets ruined by a handful of people.  That is what happened with me and Ten Things of Thankful.  I deign not to participate in it anymore, but I do feel like it is important to get some thankfuls out there at week’s end.

There is a saying in DBT, that you are working toward “a life worth living.”  Amen to that, because in the throes of all that hell and depression and anxiety and mixed episodes, it DOES NOT FEEL like you are living that life.  If you stick with it long enough, however, you start to find little happy flowers popping up in your flowerbeds and you can go out anytime you like and smell the wet earth and lightly-scented flowers.  That, my friend, is a life worth living.

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The following are the events, people, dogs, and other things that made my life worth living this week:

1) Here, right now, in this moment — I can go to the grocery store by myself without massive panic and anxiety.  I even got myself some pretty good deals with the minimal amount of money I had to spend.  I am getting to a point where, *sometimes* I don’t need that boost to get there.  That is huge for me.

2) I thought I was going to lose a chat friend, and then I didn’t, and the chats are better than ever.  Not panicking, not pushing that person away, not going over the top…things I would have done before, they didn’t happen.  I processed it angry, I processed it slightly pissed, and then I processed it neutral.  In all things, neutral won out and wise mind prevailed.

3) I have made plans for the week.  I am having ice cream with Dad today, I am having dinner with my stepsister tomorrow, and I am having a make-up party with my best friend from high school on Tuesday.  I am looking forward to all three events and it makes me feel good that I can get out and do these things.  Having people around you who care helps create a life worth living.

4) All of my prescriptions are waiting for me at Walgreens.  This may seem like no big deal, but it took years of fighting several years ago to get me on the insurance I needed to afford my meds and it has taken years of fighting to deal with the Walgreens system and finally figure out what it was that I needed to do, on my part, to make sure my meds were there and ready and there were no problems.  Figuring things out like this create a life worth living.

5) Sometimes things come about that make you realize who your true friends are.  The ones that stay and listen and give advice, and the ones who can’t be bothered.  Learning which people to keep in your life and those which exist only so you can serve their every need, that is a big life lesson.  Sometimes the time comes when you have to “cut the fat” so to speak and let a few go.  Learning how to do this through effective communication is learned in DBT and builds more credence toward a life worth living.

 

I know I  have been blogging about DBT a lot lately, but it truly is the best thing that has ever happened to me, as far as my bipolar goes (well, except maybe Lithium 🙂  It is a good therapy for nearly every disorder, and the tenets really do help people even without the disorder.  All you have to do is practice the skills, and the happiness will come.

If you’re feeling froggy, feel free to link up to this post with your own list of what made life worth living this week.  I would truly be honored.  Or, if you don’t want to do a list of your own, leave just one thing in the comments.

How a Day-Planner Keeps Saving My Behind

That might sound a bit dramatic, but it’s true.  This past winter, I was in the midst of a terrible depression.  I was unmotivated.  I couldn’t make myself do anything — no household chores, not visiting anyone, I could barely go to work.  I had the most atrocious therapist at the time, but she did finally hear me as I tried to tell her how bad things were getting, and she put me into a group at the local mental health center.

I don’t recall the name of the group, but for all intents and purposes it was a DBT group, because it was based on the DBT idea of “building structure.”  Building structure is the idea that, by putting tasks and events into your life, you can improve the quality of your life by things seeming less stressful, less depressing, and you isolate less.

With bipolar disorder (as with many other disorders), having a routine is important.  As I have mentioned before, getting out of my routine or not having enough things lined up to do can really get me out of whack.  The DBT-ish program at the mental health center was intended to do just that.

It started out very simply.  Week one, you take a grid that you label the day at the top, and it goes from 12:00AM — 12:00AM.  The first class, you simply write in the things that you did that day.  As the classes progress, you begin to pick out goals and insert them into your schedule.  For example, one of your goals might be to knit more often, so you would write “knit” at 3:00PM for the next day.

There was and is no punishment for not meeting your daily goals.  Sometimes you have to cross things out and put them at another time or another day.  The important thing is that you just keep working on inserting goals, events, appointments, and daily activities into your schedule.

I did not initially think this class was going to be helpful for me, but it turned out that it really was.  I bought the cutest little (PINK!) day planner for $3 off Amazon, and I each night, I would write down my goals for the next day.  As the next day went on, I would check things off that I had accomplished, or move things around, or even add things to the list that I hadn’t anticipated doing.

It became a routine for me.  A part of my evening routine, writing and checking and reminding myself of things.  It felt really good to check things off and it felt really good to write things down, knowing I had the ABILITY to get these things done, because I had done it before.  When we are depressed, we question our ABILITY to do almost anything.  With this system, you had already proven to yourself that you could.

As the class ended, I was back to feeling like the old Rosa.  The happy Rosa.  The goal-oriented Rosa.  And I wasn’t missing any appointments, either, with the  help of my planner, which is just another side-benefit of this exercise.

After DSB and I called it quits, the day-planner got moved here and there, and now it’s sitting in my desk.  Having felt quite unproductive (with good reason) for the last six weeks, I think it’s time to pull it out and start the exercise again.  Building structure isn’t just for people with mental health issues — it’s for everyone.  Everyone can learn and make gains with this skill.

The planner is out of the drawer and so far I have written laundry, clean kitchen, blog, and have ice cream with Dad.  What would you write down for tomorrow?

Sometimes, You Can Just Be Done

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Today’s Reverb prompt:

What was the greatest risk you took in 2013? What was the outcome?

I read this prompt early this morning and have been pondering on it all day long.  As long as I am medicated and fairly stable, I don’t really take risks.  I don’t even generally take calculated risks.  I was always that kid at the playground who said, “Hey guys, this is a bad idea!”  I was the college-aged kid who said, “We really shouldn’t be doing this!”  And I’m the person now who says, “We can’t do that…it’s too dangerous!”

So, a risk-taker I am not.  As I pondered over the prompt some more, it hit me.  I have done something risky this year.  While it is probably not considered “risky” for other people, it was for me.

I have been in therapy for the past eight years, solid.  Most of it was weekly, some of it twice a week, thrice a week, a few months of every few weeks.  And now down to once a month.  I feel like I’ve made progress and that I am at a point in my life where I don’t need it the way I used to.

I hadn’t seen my therapist in just under a month, the last time I saw her.  We reveled at how well I am doing and at how many of the symptoms of PTSD I had been experiencing have gone by the wayside (through difficult and careful work, I might add).  We talked about how the Intermediate Treatment Group I was in for almost a month had helped that along, and we talked about plans for the future.

I told her I wasn’t sure I needed much more therapy.  She doesn’t know me very well, but she seemed to agree.  I am going to come in a couple more times on a monthly basis, and then, maybe be done with regular therapy.  Of course, the door is always open if I want to go back, and I can see that at some point in my life I might want to.  But for now, I’m going to attend these little monthly sessions, make sure life keeps on going steady and well, and just see what happens.

I never thought I would see a day where I wouldn’t be in therapy.  It wasn’t presented as an option and that makes me sad, although I don’t think I could have really done it until now.  I just have much better coping skills than I ever had, and, thanks to the group I just went through, have much better planning and scheduling and structuring abilities.  Which makes life better because, well, it just does.  It makes ME better, anyway, and that’s what really matters.

My Path to a Happier Place

Over the past couple of months, I have been involved in a group therapy curriculum that focuses on achieving goals through gainful activities.  It also emphasizes staying in a routine and building structure.  Much needed stuff to stave off depression and anxiety, or so it turns out.  I was a damn mess not that long ago, and now I feel like anything is possible.

I am keeping my house clean, cooking every single night, socializing, blogging regularly, and my spirits are high.  I don’t feel like I owe this to anything but what I learned in group therapy.  I’ve learned to keep a planner handy, and to schedule myself activities each night for the following day.  I’ve learned that it’s better to stay busy and it keeps you from wallowing.

As I have been doing increasingly better, I also find that I am changing directions, in a way.  I am becoming more accepting of my traditional role in my romantic relationship.  Actually, it would be easier and more succinct to say, I’ve accepted it.

And I don’t think it had sunk in that I had accepted it a long time ago, until I had a comment-conversation with the lovely blogger, Kim.  I don’t know why I didn’t come to it sooner, the term “traditional” to describe what DSB and I are.  In all those months of therapy, I couldn’t have an “ah-ha!” moment?

Turns out free conversation between bloggie friends might have better results than paid therapy, at least sometimes.  Both of my recent therapists told me that “traditional” gender roles just do not work in a relationship.  I call bullshit.

So DSB doesn’t do the dishes, or cook (very often), or clean, or take out the trash.  So what?

He does work out in the shop nearly every day, takes care of the lawn/leaves/snow, and is generally an all-around handyman.  And he kills spiders, mice, snakes, and all matter of creepy-crawly things.  It’s basically called division of labor.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair, but I know that he does a lot of things that I just couldn’t or sometimes wouldn’t, do.  And that’s how he feels about housework.

I told DSB today that it was a lot easier to be happy than to be sad or depressed or anxious.  I told him it was almost a choice to just accept what is going on around you.  A choice to be happy.  Another “ah-ha” moment.  Now, I don’t believe for a second that you “choose” to be depressed or anxious or manic, for that matter.  I do believe those are chemical processes.

But what I also believe, is that we can make our own happiness.  By accepting, by loving, by getting it out there.  We can make ourselves feel better, if just for ten minutes, by doing something small.  And pretty soon those ten minutes here or there add up.  I know that, even in the darkest of my depression (which I know will recur, and I will be ready), if I could do one nice thing for myself, I felt, temporarily, a little better.

Unfortunately, the brain often doesn’t have access to these thoughts when actually in the throes of depression.  Which is why I’m writing it all down so I can read later, silly.

I really do feel like I have been saved by a schedule, by acceptance, and by love.  This go-round, I won.  And next time, I’ll be ready.

Deconstructing the Structure

I have been going to a mental health group titled “Intermediate Treatment Group” (which means nothing, other than it’s a step below “Intensive Treatment Group,” which I have also attended when the times were rougher).  I  have been going Mon-Wed-Fri for an hour, and it’s an hour’s drive round trip.

I have learned a lot from this group, like how to better manage my time and how to be more productive.  How to set goals.  How to create activities that help to achieve said goals.  I’m at the point where I get it.  I’ve been through the entire manual almost twice, and the teachings have sunk into my otherwise-addled brain.

As of October 28th (I know that by looking back in my blog, which is the main reason I write), I was wanting to continue with group and had decided such.  Now, just eight days later, I think the time has come to finish things up.  I wonder to myself how it is that I’ve come to this conclusion.  I really do feel the group is helpful, but I also feel that I have “reached max benefits,” as they call it.

And that’s what I would call it, as well.  I can gain nothing further by continuing to go to group.  I’ve been through the material more than once and I genuinely have that, “I get it!” feeling.  I have been much more productive, I have been better about structuring my time, and I am reaching out socially (although on an Internet-based level, I still feel it counts).

And that is what they want you to take away from completing group.  I’m there.  I’ve reached the finish line.  I think my therapist will be okay with it.  I recently went from seeing her weekly to seeing her every other week, and that has been a huge relief, because I really don’t care for her, which is another blog in and of itself.

I have a lot to keep me busy.  I have a house to maintain, relationships to keep up, a small but important workweek, and goals I hope to achieve.  And as I learned in group, having goals means you need to have activities to achieve these goals.

My life has been broken into little, easy-to-swallow pieces and there would have been a time in my life where I resented that.  I am more accepting of my limitations now.  I know I will never have a high-powered or high-stress job.  I know that I might always need more support than the average bear.  I consigned myself to a lifetime of medication and pdoc appointments a long time ago, and I realize that I might need a bit of talk therapy here and there throughout the course of my life.

I’m okay with all of that, on most days.  Sure, there are the days where I rage against it all, but those are coming fewer and farther between.  I attribute that to having loving, caring, and, most of all, accepting people around me.  I really feel like I can move on from where I’ve been stuck the last while and do something great.

I don’t know what that “great” thing will be, but you’ll be the first to know when I figure it out.  😀

 

Not Quite As Easy As it Should Be

The weekend will officially be over in about two hours and I must say that I am thankful for that.  DSB’s kidney incision opened up and has been draining…four months later, and I am desperate to get him in to see his surgeon tomorrow.  What DSB really should have done, and my mom and sister both agree, is to go to an urgent care center to have it checked out.  Nope.  Not him.  “Bunch of butchers.”  Better to die of blood poisoning, I suppose.  It has been a very frustrating and scary situation for me, so I have been driving him crazy, checking and monitoring.  Ah well, I suppose that’s love.

I didn’t have to work a full day yesterday because it was so slow, so I went to QoB’s house and we set things afire.  I helped her get her goat and chicken chores done, and we sat and bullshitted a bit.  I am nervous about how my winter hours are going to pan out, because she still wants me to work a solid 15 a week and I just don’t know where that work will come from.  I really don’t want to sit down in a cold shop and read my book for five hours a day.  I am sure we will come up with something, I just want that something to be come up with soon so I can stop worrying about it.

Group therapy continues this week.  I am really looking forward to it.  I like the scheduling out of activities and tasks.  It is very soothing to me.  And I must say I am doing so much better on some fronts, like showering, keeping the kitchen clean, and doing laundry.  Those other parts will fall into place, I hope.

I have no individual therapy this week and in a way I think that’s good, because I feel like I need a break.  My therapist can be very intense and I feel really pressured to come up with a lot to say.  The trauma work is coming along very slowly and I have put time in my schedule tomorrow to write an un-sent letter to Blow, an abusive ex-boyfriend.  I think this will be quite difficult, but I am fairly certain that I will feel better once I do it.

I am having coffee with Sister Sara on Tuesday and I am really looking forward to that.  We don’t get together very often, but always have lots to talk about when we do.  I am interested to know how her kiddos are doing and it also gives her a chance to do something out of the norm.  I hope she enjoys our little visits as much as I do.

Speaking of sisters, my fabulously wonderful, pregnant sister is really hard to pin down.  I have been trying to get her to commit to doing something, even for a few hours, for weeks now and it seems like it just never happens.  I know she is busy, I do understand that.  It just seems like she could make a few hours for her big sis, and no, I really don’t think I need Dad as an escort.  I don’t understand.  I have even volunteered to come up and see her in the big city.  People have different priorities.

My mom has also been super-busy, working on her goat/chicken/duck paradise.  I feel like I have barely seen her.  I want to reiterate, I know that people are busy.  I get that.  It just sucks when I don’t have as much going on and the people I want to spend time with always have packed schedules and missions they want to accomplish.

I have missions I want to accomplish, too.  I am hoping to keep working on housework this week, trying to get all the mud up off the floors that the dogs have left in the last few days after a rain.  It is so overwhelming, it’s mind-boggling.  Even my mom, who does not shirk at the most difficult task, says “I would cry if that happened to my floors every time it rained.”  Welcome to my world, the world of where keeping the house clean isn’t quite as easy as it should be.