Taking Care of Me Helps Me Find My Best “Me”

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Sometimes I feel like I am a child, stumbling along in the dark, and often directly into the path of a bright window, where love radiates and I learn a lesson.  I feel as if I have learned many lessons lately, and the most important one I have learned is this:

I need to figure out what it takes to be the best “me,” and then do THAT.

Throw myself into whatever it is that takes me furthest, whatever makes me happiest, whatever helps those I love the most, whatever serves the greater good but also grows me.

I am a seedling, growing under the care of love and the sun and I am constantly changing and growing and breaking through barriers, yet moving slowly and purposefully as so not to bruise my tender leaves.  I have to be patient with myself and I have to ask others to be patient with me, in turn.

At 35, one might think I should be all grown up and have it figured out.  Let me tell you something:

Anyone that tells you they have it all figured out at 35, they are lying to you with fingers crossed behind their back.

We ALL want to give off the impression that we have it together.  We don’t.  I don’t, you don’t, not completely.  Some parts of our lives are stronger and more figured out than others, but life is a lesson that you keep learning new things about until you are dead.  And if you stop learning, stop growing, become stagnant, your leaves fall off and you die.  You die and you walk around as a husk of a person because you had it in your head that you had to have it all figured out RIGHT NOW.

My goal this week is to be kinder and gentler with myself.  I have been criticizing myself harshly because, as of the last few weeks, I haven’t been as productive (at least traditionally so), as I may have hoped.  I’m going to cut myself some slack though, because I am needing time to heal.

I have been physically under the weather for almost three weeks now, and the mystery illness isn’t letting up.  I have a feeling that stress and strong self-criticism and not allowing myself to just rest and to just be, is what is continuing the sickness.  Not that the illness is in my head, because I think it is very real, just that I am exacerbating it by continuing to expect myself to be Wonder Woman and all things to all people and to check all sorts of things off my “to do” list every day.

So I am taking a break from the harshness of my own voice reprimanding myself.  I am going to try and take it easy.  I am going to try and figure out what makes me the best “me” that I can be, and I’m going to run with it.  Some of my very favorite people in the world are going through rough times right now, too, and I want to urge them, to urge you, to be kind to yourself this week.  To take it a little easier than normal on yourself.

It is positive to motivate yourself to do things, but when your voice turns cruel and you stop giving yourself credit and you decide you are a bad person, just stop.  It really is that simple — stop being so mean to yourself, and give yourself a break.  You will come out ahead, in the end.

 

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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.

Gaining Freedom from a Stilted Life

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Wow, how things do change.  I mean really, completely, 180 degree change.  So much of me, who I am, what I do on a day-to-day basis, who I love, what I tolerate and don’t, what I strive for and what I brush to the side, what is important and what can wait…it has all changed.  None of it has changed overnight, but I would say that I am a very different person than I was in, say, 2012, when I had to give up on my last job and start the arduous process of re-inventing myself.

And again, in 2014, when a relationship had laid me out, broken in pieces on the floor, and it was necessary to re-invent.  Finally again over the course of the last two years, more re-inventing, and now, more knowing who I really am.  Finding yourself and finding recovery, finding things you never thought possible about yourself, coming to different conclusions about the same issues that had tripped you up over the years, coming to grips with various events (traumas, even) with the use of radical acceptance and direct pleas to a power above and hour upon hour of therapy and quiet introspection.

The most basic thing that has changed, with all of this reinvention and acceptance and coming-to-grips-business, is that I have destigmatized my mental illness, at least TO MYSELF.  I don’t see myself as bipolar Rosa anymore.  I see Rosa, who happens to deal with x, y, and z mental illnesses.  In my own head, over the years (many, many years), I had become my illness in my head, to myself.  I had boxed myself in, and put packing tape round and created this tiny little space that I thought I needed to live in.  It is only very recently that I realize that I can live in the world, and not just in the box, and it is even more recently that I can put words on it.

Three wise women (Thank you, Mom, Goddess of Mindfulness, and Marilyn) in my life have consistently reminded me that everything I go through is not due to a direct cause of bipolar disorder, or BPD, or PTSD, or any other label.  Much of what I go through, the hard times and the good times and most-of-the-times is just LIFE, and everyone else is also going through LIFE.  Sure, the disorders I deal with may affect my outlook on life, or may color my reactions to life, but a lot of the bad things that happen are happening, because life is happening, not because there is a certain label on my file.

I have more positive things going on, since I have accepted that I am not just a label, than ever before.  I have started my custom jewelry business, and am working hard at getting it off the ground, my symptoms are better controlled, I take better care of myself, I am a better girlfriend, and a better daughter and sister, I am exercising and I stay busy.  I am teaching myself from the ground up how to set boundaries with others, and while it can be altogether confusing, I am changing what behavior I will and won’t tolerate from other people.  I am reaching out.

There is a part of me that can’t believe that I am just now “getting this.”  There is a very small part of me that doesn’t understand why it took so long, or how I could have flailed for so long, but I try hard not to beat myself up about that part of it.  The point is that there is progress and there is moving forward.

This is all 34 years in the making, of course, and I’m fully aware that if I am not vigilant about doing the things every day that I must do in order to feel decent, that this could just derail and fly off the tracks.  Every day is a new challenge, every situation that comes about I am treating as new, teaching my mind and my heart how to do this life thing, and how to do it well.

 

I finally feel like I have some freedom, have some breathing room, and can be completely and totally and authentically Rosa, without feeling the need for a “yes, but…”  That is a big feeling, a huge feeling, a hard-to-describe feeling.  A punched-in-the-gut-and-can’t-breathe-feeling.  I finally see, life is strange, but it is also, so very beautiful, so very fragile, and so very worth-the-wait.

 

How I Learned to Give Up Fighting the Moment


live in what is happening

I find that this is where most of my anxiety comes from:  thinking things should be a certain way, and being unwilling to accept that they are actually the exact opposite.  I fuss and I tussle and I tumble with “the way things are,” trying every day to bend it to my iron will.  Newsflash to those who might need it — the world doesn’t work that way, and it probably never will.

The way I see it, the way DBT teaches it, we really shouldn’t be trying to bend any thing or any person to our own will.  Life is meant to happen, and it is us railing against the facts of the world that make us so unhappy.  In many situations (not most, not all, but not just a few), there is very little we can do about any given situation, other than control our reaction and response to it.

For example, I may or may not have a small road anger (it’s not true RAGE, I mean, c’mon) issue, but I have been trying to practice radical acceptance in most matters, and have recently been applying that to driving.  It has been interesting.  This morning, someone honked at me because I didn’t move at a green arrow a half second BEFORE it changed.  Normally, I would have flown the bird high out the window, but today I gritted my teeth and thought, “gee, I wonder what that guy’s problem is…he must be having a hard day…thank you baby Jesus, that I am not that impatient or angry, amen.”

I felt pretty good about not flipping the angry man the bird, and felt so good about it, in fact, that I let some cars in front of me at a construction site.  My grandpa taught me over two decades ago that this was common courtesy.  Grandpa would be shocked at how people drive today, but that is besides the point.  After letting in three cars (and then moving because the light turned green), I couldn’t help but notice that I had invoked a spitting-mad, yelling tirade in the woman behind me, ,because she had to wait for the light to turn green again.

A few months ago, I could totally have been the pissed off honking man or the cursing impatient woman.  Thanks to DBT, ahem, the PRACTICE of DBT skills, I find myself no longer trapped in anger at situations where I have no control.  My mind is open and willing, and my patience for *most* people has greatly increased.

Practicing accepting situations beyond our control, as a matter of distress tolerance, is a mighty valuable tool.  I do have to turn things over in my mind repeatedly to get there, but I have been able to better manage my hostile, off-the-cuff reactions to other people’s inadequacies.

I have learned that I do not control the world around me, and I do not control the people around me, so what is best for me is to roll with the circumstances, and when things get too heated or when I start getting upset and to the point where I feel like my values have been stepped on, then I remove myself from said situation.

I really do think that radical acceptance is the hardest thing to practice in DBT, but I also feel it is most important (or at least as applied to my life).  When we can accept things for what they are, and not struggle and fight, life overall becomes much easier, much less painful.  I wish this is a skill I could stick in my back pocket and just pull out when I’m feeling like putting out the effort, but it is something that is best practiced daily, along with a heaping dose of nonjudgemental stance (and yes, I mean nonjudgmental stance toward oneself, as well).

Grief Anniversaries Compounding More Grief

I am so glad this weekend is over.  I’m glad DSB’s surgery is over and now everything is on the steady with that.  I’m glad I have the first round of inventory entered into the computer.  I beyond love love love my dishwasher for enabling me to keep a very clean kitchen at all times, although it was constantly being cooked in by a very messy DSB.  I am thankful for Klonopin, even though I get tired of taking it.  But mostly, I am just glad the first five days of 2014 are over, because I don’t think I could take much more.

I have spent more time today crying and boo-hooing and angsting and sobbing and catastrophizing today than I care to spend in about a month.  I mean, the waterworks will just not shut off.  The negative tapes were churning away in my head and I just felt so sad and hopeless.  And I couldn’t figure out why.

And I’m not saying this is the only reason, but it is likely a factor.  My grandmother died two years ago yesterday, and today would have been her birthday.  I wasn’t particularly close to my grandmother, but it was her death two years ago that sent me over the deep end.  I firmly believe that I probably wouldn’t have taken such a nosedive if that terrible timing hadn’t ended up the way it did.

I have a lot of my grandparents’ furniture in my house.  I bought some new silverware yesterday, and I cried when I found some of my grandparents’ old silverware tucked underneath some more current items.  Cheap steak knives is what they are.  Except they don’t look cheap.  And are probably not.  They were Grandpa’s and thinking about him and those steak knives brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

Isn’t it awful how grief compounds grief?  I’m over my grandmother being dead, and it’s only been a couple of years.  My grandpa is a whole ‘nother story.  He died in 2004 to be exact.  He died exactly 14 days after my 25th birthday.  I distinctly remember that I was on the Atkins diet at that time, and I heard the call right as I was starting to eat a steak dinner.  I couldn’t ever eat that particular blend of seasonings again.

There was a huge thunderstorm going on and I can remember the Big Dawg picking me up and taking me to the Assisted Living place where my grandparents had been living.  There was a big empty room, and Grandpa was on a stretcher, all wrapped up in white sheets.  And I totally lost it.

And I still do lose it, thinking of him.  I think of all the things I wish he had been able to see, to do.  I wish he had been able to meet DSB, to go fishing again, to make terrible soup, to hold his favorite dog, to see my sister get married and have her little boy.  He has so much to be proud of, and I can’t help but think that he absolutely MUST be up there looking over.  I don’t know how I would or could go on if at least some part of me didn’t believe that.

And maybe that’s strange to not know if there is a God, but to be certain there is a heaven.  I really don’t care.  I pray rarely, but I do talk to Grandpa, and the Bird Lady.  And I really do think sometimes they answer me back.  And I light a little candle and I send a thought, and that’s enough for me.  So that’s what I’m going to go do.  Light a candle.  Take a Klonopin.  Pray for dreamless sleep.

Amen.

Go Home

Sometimes, when I’m out and about, I get this feeling that I just don’t want to go home yet.  It’s almost a sense that there is something bad waiting for me there.  Don’t get me wrong, there really isn’t.  DSB is kind and sweet and the pups are the best.  But still, sometimes, I don’t want to go home.

On occasion, I don’t want to go home because I don’t want to interact.  I would rather think and be still and not have to utter a word, even if it was only one word. There are times that I don’t want to go home because I don’t want to face my poor housekeeping.  Other times, I just don’t wanna.

Today in particular, I didn’t want to go home.  I wanted to go see my mom and talk to her.  DSB and I had stopped by my godparents’ home, now vacant, with the Bird Lady dead and my godfather in a nursing home.  I have some happy memories of that place, and it reminded me and I remembered and now I feel sad.

I also was reminded of the year I spent there with Dr. Love, a year of near-constant bickering and arguing and passive-agressiveness and almost no love.  I feel sick when I think about that relationship.  It should have never happened.  But, it did.  I have to deal with that and those memories, and that made me sad and anxious and mad.

So, we did end up coming almost directly home from there.  I feel almost sick over today, when there is so much to be grateful for, which makes me feel even the more sick that I feel this way.

DSB saw his doctor and the cancer has not spread.  They are going to remove his left kidney, but he’ll be fine.  No chemo, no radiation, just a short hospital visit and about a month’s recovery time.

I saw my orthopedic specialist who informed me that my foot has healed completely and perfectly, and that I am in pain because I need to wean myself off the boot instead of trying to do everything all at once without it.

So, two happy, good, awesome things happened today.  I am not appreciating it and I hate that.

I feel as if I may cry, I feel as if I may throw a chair out the window.  I also feel as if I may just get naked and go huddle into the fetal position in bed and not come out until today has passed.

This isn’t fair.  I can’t let my emotions get hijacked like that.  I should have been on higher alert, or something.  I should feel positive and happy and relieved.  Instead, I feel anxious, sad, and angry.  I can’t see the good for the bad and that just isn’t fair to DSB.  I need to snap the fuck out of this ASAP before something truly dire does happen, like breaking all the glass windows out in my sunroom.  Because that sounds pretty good about now.

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.