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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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.

 

A Splash of Reality, An Explanation of Sorts

I last wrote a few days ago about the immense changes I have undergone with respect to my person, over the last few years.  It was a sunny post and a hopeful post, with nary a mention of even a minute of negative head space.

That afternoon, I read an article about “Myths of Disability,” which didn’t faze me too much, but I was stunned by what I read in the comment section. I always feel possessed to at least glance through the comment section of everything I read.  I’m uncertain why, especially when there is often such rampant negativity, ignorance, and misunderstanding.

(On a side note, it always makes me feel a bit better about the general positive trend of the comments section of my own blog and *most* of my blog friends)

What I gleaned from this particular comments section, is that there are people out there (how many, I’m not sure) who believe that people who live with disability are “less than” and therefore “deserve less than” and also are (!!) “mostly scamming the system.”

As I was reading these comments, I was thinking back to positive blog posts I have written, where the sun has been peeking out of thunderheads that had been gathered for weeks, months, years, and I wondered to myself, if I post something positive, do people presume that I am “cured” or in some way, “without problems?”

In other words, am I giving off the impression that all is perfect and life is full of sunshine and unicorns and glitter, and that it will stay that way forever and ever?  I certainly hope not.  What I am attempting to get across is that, in anyone’s life, there is good and bad, but that you can change your reaction to and perception of events so that it is less harmful to your emotional well-being.  DBT skills have taught me (and continue to teach me) how to do that, how to change my reaction and perception of events, people, feelings, circumstances.

What I celebrate in positive posts is the MOMENT, and I celebrate the current moment for being increasingly positive, because I know that the next moment or the following moment or next Thursday or in November or in 2017 that there WILL be down times.  I will fall, stumble, flail, be unable/unwilling to pick myself up at *some* point, and at that point, I will start the process all over again.

I fully accept and understand that my life will always be tinged by mental illness, but that I have learned how to pick myself up and carry on as best I can, also fully knowing and accepting that I will have to repeat that cycle of life over and over and over until I am buried and gone.  Do I do myself some sort of disservice during times of fewer symptoms to celebrate, to write obsessively and glowingly about how good life feels in this moment, here, today, now?

I really don’t think so, because when hard times hit (and they will, eventually), I can look back at these positive entries and they do give me hope, tiny little bits of hope that my situation and mood and circumstance and flight pattern WILL change, yet again, and again, and again.  I will be reinventing myself over and over for the rest of my life, in some sort of haunted synchronicity with the chemical ups and downs of mental illness, and that might sound yucky, but that is my life, and I choose to love it.  In this moment.

I Have Hope For Hope

mission in life

Hope.  It comes and it goes, it fluctuates wildly over the course of every day.  Some moments, I feel downright defeated, and others I feel as if I can take on any little issue that comes my way.  Today was a day where hope varied widely over the course of the day.  What counts is that there is hope in this moment, and so I have hope for hope, hope in the future.

If I am being entirely honest with myself, and can put to side all of the niggling irritations that I sometimes let consume me, I don’t want my life to look like it does now in five years, or even five months.  There are things I want to do, to accomplish, to weave into my day-to-day routine.  I want things to be *better* and I want things to be *ok*.

If I am being completely honest, “things” ARE better than at certain moments in the past.  Quite a bit better, actually.  Sometimes I go back in time and wade through blog entries of years past, and I see that I have come a very long way in many areas.  At this moment, I can count back even a month or two or six and see what a vast distance I have traveled.  Rosa on the bipolar train, it goes around in circles, but it is altogether *better* than it ever has been, even while I can see many improvements that I want to make.

if you dont ask

I have a secret, y’all.  Someday, I want to work again, even if it’s just a little bit.  I want to work in some capacity where I am helping people, like I used to, in my former worklife.  It obviously can’t be as stressful or have as much responsibility behind it, but I itch to do something, anything that makes a difference in someone else’s life.

I feel like I come from a place where I have all of these tools I have learned, and I really think maybe they could help a person or two.  I don’t have everything figured out, but on a clear day, I have quite a bit figured out.  I don’t claim to be better than anyone else, or know more than anyone else, but I do have a unique angle, I do have a life that other people (I think) could relate to.

I’m thinking about talking with my DBT leader about someday (we’re talking months, maybe a year) being in a peer support role, where I attend DBT meetings as someone other than a client.  I have had years and years of DBT — I truly believe it is something I would be good at.

If I could teach just one person how to find willingness, man, that would be something.  I have a few blog friends who consistently over time have encouraged me to write a book.  It is only in the last month or so that I have started to take that advice seriously, and have thought, just maybe I could.  Maybe I SHOULD.

mind will believe

If I can rise over the negativity that seems to settle cloud-like around my brain nearly every day, without warning, then I think there is hope.  I think that this photo to the right is true, that your mind believes everything you tell it, and maybe I should start telling my mind that I CAN and I WILL and surround it with love.

None of this is rocket-science, and I may lose sight of everything I have written today by the time tomorrow gets here, and maybe this is all just a little bit of hypomania thrown into the mix, but things are really starting to make sense, to click, and I think the key just might be the hope I am holding out for hope.

Does Pain End?

HOPE

link

Slightly better times are here, but not in permanent way.  I am still experiencing a tremendous amount of hopelessness, suicidality, despair, depression, overwhelming sadness, non-stop crying spells, mind-blowing anxiety.  What I have now that is different, is each day I can sometimes find a little pocket of time that is not destroyed or taken over by the monsters in my mind.

If I am really careful, I can stretch that little pocket of time upwards of an hour before the lows inside of my head start to drag me back down.  The past week, I have been able to get lost in some jewelry projects, good quality time with LarBear, entertaining online chats, Kizzie snuggles, and some magic in the kitchen.

Now that I have these pockets of positive time, it almost make things worse.  It’s like a tease — oh, here, you can feel semi-decent for an hour, but then it will be snatched right out of our hands and you will be back to fearing your own shadow and crying off all the makeup you so carefully applied and choking back sobs until you feel like you could vomit.

So I have my hour here and there, and I force myself to do things, creative things, hands-on things, fun things, in those short stretches of time.  Because they aren’t long pockets of time, the don’t always come everyday, and I may jump back and forth out of a “good pocket” several times in the course of one day.

I am lacking in the area of my brain where hope is created, and really do feel like this is probably going last half past forever.  Or really, that it will change, but only change inasmuch that it will be just a different version of Hell.  So, I posted the HOPE sign at the top, because that’s what I’m clinging on to with my shredded fingernails.

Pain ends, pain ends, pain ends.  I repeat it to myself over and over.  I don’t buy in, I don’t believe it, but I repeat, repeat, repeat.  Because deep down inside, there is hope that things will be better, and that itty bitty, tiny shred of REAL hope is all I have to hang on to, as far as thinking my mental health will some day ever be in “recovery” or “remission.”

Because really, I just don’t believe it.  I don’t think “recovery” or “remission” can be applied words to what is happening to my brain, and I’ve never been able to understand the use of those words on this particular disease.

 

 

Taking Back the Happiness Key

Keys

I’m not old by any means, but at thirty-four years of age, I have learned a few things.  Many of them have solidified here in my brain quite recently, but there is no less reason to celebrate, and no other reason to not be joyful that the lessons WERE learned.  I believe that one of the most important lessons I have learned references the above photo, and not letting others hold the key to your happiness.

I spent the majority of my life figuring this one out, and now that it is fairly stuck in my head, I have absolutely no intention on letting it slip back out again.  Not to say that I won’t have moments when I don’t misplace said key or loan it to someone that isn’t worthy, but overall, the key to my own happiness resides within me, and I can’t be any more pleased to have finally figured out this life lesson.

Part of a Rosa problem, is to let the actions (and sometimes inactions) of people around me, bring me down.  Through DBT and individual therapy, and just a whole lot of pondering, I have realized that what other people do or don’t do, is entirely up to them; it is my REACTION only that I control.  If someone acts offensively toward me, I might wonder what that had to do with me, and be very confused (or scared or upset or other negative emotion).

Here recently, I have realized that sometimes people behave badly for no reason (or, no reason to do with something I can control).  I can walk away.  AND, I can walk away with my head held high, because I have learned another lesson the hard way — this is not about me, and not everything IS about me.  I am not the center of most people’s universe, so just because they throw sticks and stones my way, doesn’t mean it is about me.

I wish I could have realized some of these lessons when I was much, much younger.  Growing up in a household where one parent often flew off the handle for (seemingly) no reason, and spending a lot of time thinking that things were my fault — much displaced guilt, shame, fear.

Being in romantic relationships where I was constantly being bullied, although I could never see a *why* in it, but just figured it was something I “had” to take — how I wish I wouldn’t have lingered in those situations so long.  Knowing that I may not have, knowing that I hold the key to my own happiness and it is my reactions to other people (and their behavior) that I am able to control…wow, if I could only have known those things then.

So where to go from here?  I have already stopped taking the bullstuff of others so personally.  When someone around me is having a bad time, I don’t always assume it is because of something I have done.  If I am feeling down or blue or sad or anxious, I have tools that I pull out to make myself feel better.

It doesn’t always work, but it seems that I have learned to better comfort myself, rather than constantly seeking comfort from another person.  Now, I still do seek comfort from others, but I am also now much more likely to do the things I know how to do to comfort myself first.  This makes for better relationships all around, especially if I am not begging someone else (generally QoB or my Dad or LarBear) to comfort me all the time.

comfort myself

via teachingliteracy.tumblr.com

 

 

 

This Week in Gratitude

I used to do a link-up that was a 10-things of thankful, and I did quite enjoy doing it every weekend.  The format has changed now, and I can’t find any linkups, so I decided that at the end of every week, I will go out on my own and do a gratitude post.  There are so many things out there to be thankful for, yet it is easy to not bring them to one’s consciousness in a mindful way.  SO, this is part DBT exercise, part because-I-wanna exercise, and mostly because I want to remember the good stuff, for when the time are NOT so good.

Without further adeiu:

  1.  This week, I am thankful for the four-cup coffee pot my mom purchased for me.  I had a huge coffeepot before, and the result was always that I would drink the entire contents every morning, which would leave me sick.  Ok, so yes, no self-control.  To remedy the situation, I gave up caffeine, but have started to miss it oh-so-much, so this is the solution.  The theory — the less coffee that is made, the less I will drink.
  2. LarBear has been a champ this week (well, every week), but especially this week, with helping me get a caffeine fix every morning even when there was no coffee pot.  I’m not sure why a large coffee at McDonald’s must cost $1.95, but it is clear we will be saving money now with brewing it at home.  Oh, and LarBear can avoid going out in 25 degree weather, all for the sake of a cup of coffee.  I think he will appreciate that!
  3. The very small mouse problem that started a couple weeks ago in my basement (this is what happens when you live in the country), is no more, after Mom’s boyfriend hooked us up with some poison.  I placed it carefully where the dogs couldn’t get to it and there has not been one sign of a mouse ever since.
  4. I am thankful that I have found it within myself to continue to work on giving second chances and third chances and fourth chances to people in my life who, well, may not deserve it (from the outside looking in).  It can be really hard to give up on someone who has been around your entire life, although not impossible.
  5. In a related thankfulness/gratitude moment, I am grateful that I can still see the good in most people, even when it is buried very deep below the surface.
  6. I am excited about Thanksgiving plans, getting to see the Big Dawg’s side of the family, and possibly going to see my maternal grandfather’s side of the family a few days after the big Turkey Day.
  7. Somewhat related, I am very grateful that I am *with it* enough to think about doing these things, and being around all of these people (that I am not used to).  Baby steps, Rosa.
  8. I am grateful basketball season is upon us, and I have already made it to two games at the local college.  Go Bods!
  9. I am thankful for interpersonal communication effectiveness skills learned in DBT, as it seems like LarBear and I get clearer with each other every day, and my other relationships continue to improve, as well.
  10. I am grateful/thankful/proud that I have cranked out almost one post every other day for over a week, and don’t feel any signs of slowing down yet.  I am grateful people still read, still comment, still like, and still listen, even after all this time.  Some of my favorite people are my online blog friends, and I am glad I didn’t mess that up too terribly with my extended absence.

What are you grateful for this week?  Making these lists may seem a bit mundane now, but they are very helpful to look back on in the future when things might not be so rosy.  I know they have helped me tremendously!