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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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.

Free-fall

Standing at the top
My knees suddenly buckle
All the certainty and hope
It flows from me in salty tears
I know, suddenly, what is happening
I am losing my peace,
And as quickly as it had come
It is leaving me again

I lie crumpled, wrinkled at the highest peak
And slowly feel my body tip over the edge
It starts at a slow tumble
But my bones are all broken
And my head is not attached
The laws of physics take over
I roll more and more quickly down the slope

Midway, my body meets a patch of thorny branches
And I am punctured, deflated further
Now an unrecognizable rag doll
Toppling down from a height she did not appreciate
Nearly as much as she should have,
Especially knowing this exact fall from grace
Was bound to happen, as it always does.

Week in Review: Positivity and Thankfulness in the Face of Extreme Sleep Deprivation

I went from posting six times last week to not even touching this blog this week.  My thoughts have been super disorganized the past several days, due to a lack of sleep which is coming about thanks to problems with my CPAP machine (device that treates sleep my extra-severe sleep apnea).  So, while I HAVE been lying down for three or four hours at a time, I have been waking (according to the technician who downloaded my unit today) multiple times a night because I am, well, jeez, I’m just not breathing, consistently.

That kind of sleep deprivation is something of the worst kind, because while you *think* you are sleeping, you aren’t getting even close to any sort of sleep that is restful.  This leaves one with disorganized thoughts, gaps in time and memory, and a feeling that some sort of slow-growing mold is encasing the brain, rendering the little electrical impulses normally found there to be quite subdued.

To all of the bloggers I follow, I’m sorry to say that I just deleted my inbox full of notifications, feeling that I had to give myself a “re-do” for this week, and that I couldn’t do that with all of those unread posts making me feel guilty.  So, I’ve missed some of what y’all had to say this week…my bad, but sometimes it can’t be helped.  I *am* going to go back and answer comments on my last two posts here in the next day or so, but I thought it was prudent to throw a post up here so that anyone who noticed I was *back* last wouldn’t think I’ve totally dropped off again.  Just not the case, at all.

Some really great things happened this week, and remain unmarred (mostly) by the trials and tribulations of sleep deprivation.  I had a really good therapy appointment this week, and I also made peace with my peer support specialist.  It is amazing what can happen when you just ASK for what you NEED, and when you are also communicative about what your expectations are and just very HONEST about every single thing you can think of.

My schedule has now straightened itself out to the point where it is the exact same every week.  There will be no more panicked thoughts (I hope) in the middle of the night, thinking there is somewhere I am supposed to be at such-and-such time the next day.  Now, everything has been set up to repeat, and I can just roll with it (and hope it *mostly* stays that way).

This is a huge relief, because it was one of the things I have been so bent out of shape about.  I also found a great place to meet in the community with my peer support person…a small cafe that is very empty midday, has very comfortable furniture, is bright and full of windows, and lacks the dark and trendy feelings of most coffee shops.  I love it so much, I might hang out there sometimes, even when we are not meeting.  They also have really inexpensive drinks and desserts, a plus, no doubt.

I have further cleared things up with my peer support person (who really needs a blog nickname, what I have so far is The Trucker’s Wife, what do you think?) by using F.A.S.T. (a DBT skill in which you ask for something but keep your self-respect, as in no over-apologizing or the like) and just good ol’ common sense.  I have decided to give her another chance, and would probably actually give her many more, because, while she is not the best at returning phone calls, she IS good at returning emails (yay, a way to communicate!!) and she does appear to care, and she is quite kind and understanding, and is letting me do the self-help book more on my own.  It appears that this will all be working out, quite well.

I have several other things, which I am quite grateful for at this present moment, and which I’m going to list-post, because, yeah, I know that no one really wants this post to go past 700 words (least of all me):

  1.   Celebrating good use of DBT skills this week in interacting with others.  A few arguments were avoided, my anxiety was calmed more than once, and things just feel more level, even *with* the sleep deprivation.
  2. I do have the insurance to monitor and fix this sleep deprivation problem.  The problem right now is getting in to be seen at the sleep center, because they are so backed up.  I do have an appointment on Tuesday, and my medical supply store RT offered to help me on Monday, if I need it.
  3. People can be really decent to you when you treat them with more respect than what they are expecting to get.
  4. The relationship between LarBear and I gets better by the minute.  We have laughed our butt’s off this week at many different things, as well as spent a lot of good quality time, several productive discussions, and he is really just everything I ever wanted out of a significant other, and always thought that I could never get.
  5. Thinking about what I might do post-DBT…maybe become a peer support for the group.  Just throwing that out there as a wild and crazy idea, and that is also way down the road (about a year), but I think it might be really cool.

I found this photo/word/thingie on FB, and thought it was just exactly how I feel about my life right now, so I wanted to share it with y’all.  It’s with this that I’m out, off to celebrate number 6, which was finding some really nice steaks in my freezer!

numinous

Pretending to Believe

coffee-health-benefits-and-coffee-quotes-L-0JOka4There are three reasons I am coping today:

1) Coffee

2) LarBear

3) Kizzie

4) Lucy

Okay, so liquid brainpower, my boyfriend, and my two dogs are the only reasons that I am hanging onto a shred of sanity.  A very tenuous hold on the shred of sanity, I might add.

I have been up, up, up in the clouds lately.  Feeling like nothing could go wrong, like my world is in perfect order, like bipolar disorder had taken a vacation and left me with something that I laughingly call “recovery.”  My friends, there is just no such thing.  One does not “recover” from a severe and persistent mental illness.  One battles it on a day-to-day basis, one does not graduate into a life where there are no symptoms.

At least, that’s what I believe.  Today has been really rough.  There has been a lack of sleep thing going on for the past, hmmm, several months, and it is catching up with me.  I spent the entire day in tears, had to cancel all of my appointments, and, in general, I was forced into hibernation.

Right now, it’s been three minutes since the tears stopped, and they are starting back again, now that I am thinking about them again.  I refuse to let today ruin the progress that I have made lately, and I choose to believe that tomorrow might be a better day.  One day full of crying does not an episode make.  Of that, I am living proof

So, I will do what I know to do.  I will blog and I will journal and pet my dogs and ignore my phone and watch some trashy TV and read my book.

I will wake up in the morning and things will be all right again, I won’t be crying, and I can resume my precarious journey through this recovery thing that I don’t really believe exists, but that maybe one day I might believe in a little, if I just keep trying.imagesWFGPH81B

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.

Processed with VSCOcam with x4 preset

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.

 

Entirely Too Soon to Tell

As recently as yesterday, I was tending to suicidal ideations and paranoid thoughts in my head.  As recently as three days ago, I was ready to go to inpatient hospitalization.  As recently as last week, I had spent the past three months in tears, every single day, for at least three to four hours, off and on.  For, it seems, the very longest time, maybe up to a year, even, with a few brief respites, I have fared with quite poor mental and emotional stability.

It is entirely too soon for me to tell you this, but I laid in bed for a very brief time tonight with itchy fingers.  Itchy to type and tell you the “news.”  Itchy to share my newfound hope, my clearheadedness, my thoughts that it feels as if my life has taken some sort of major turn, and it feels distinctly like Rosa in general is a well-loved Tetris game, and the blocks are falling in very satisfying configurations.

Just as the grass is getting greener and the buds on flowering trees are forming, I can almost hear a more positive and happy and WHOLE version of myself unfurling.  I am sure it sounds trite, convenient, unrealistic, impossible, and (let’s not mince words here) frigging annoying as fuck that I am spinning out into what appear to be much calmer waters with the onset of Spring.  It really IS too soon to tell…but I wanted to tell you, that’s what it feels like.

I have had so little joy, and have been buried quite deep really in the pits of despair for such a gawdawful long time, that I really feel the need to celebrate this first day of hope, of feeling satisfied with *things* in general.  The intellectual Rosa knows that this is my mood cycling up (but hopefully not “too” up) in pace with the weather, the time change.  The intellectual Rosa knows that this is almost another year (already???) of DBT under the belt, practicing it every day or as faithfully as the severely downtrodden and willful can.  It’s also another med change, although just a baby adjustment.

I have another idea about happiness in general, and I was oh-so-fortunate to find the following:

maybe happiness is

I ran across that gem on Facebook, and it spoke to me.  I saved the link at first (as I am apt to do with things that really speak to me but that I don’t want to share because otherwise I would share every other post some days), and then came back to look at it again the next day, and to be frank, I’ve looked at it no less than 30 times in the last week, thinking to myself, could this be?  Is this all “happiness” is? — which begs the question, why have I been letting the rest of the world determine what MY happiness is to ME?

Good question, Rosebud.  Its a good question and its a great question, and the answer for now is that I don’t have to have an answer to that.  What is best and what is good and will make me whole again, I fully believe, is to determine my own happiness.  Yes, that simple.  All of the willfulness in the world has been inside of my fragile psyche the majority of my life, and I (once again, for those who are counting) will be letting that go and putting willingness back in my  heart.

Today was so amazing and wonderful from a standpoint of making myself get things done and do things I have been afraid to do and fend for myself and not make the assumption that I am weak and hopeless and can’t do anything for myself.  So, since today was so great, and that’s what it was like, my new mantra, in addition to the one above, is simple.

I have identified happiness, and I know how to get there.  Or at least I did today.  Maybe someone can give me a nudge if this theory falls all to hell tomorrow or next week or in July.  And feel free to remind me that it was too soon to tell.  It’s really hard not to get excited when the shift is a complete game-changer.

proud