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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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

 

 

I Wish I Could…(Almost Wordless Wednesday)

Today, missing a person in my life who hasn’t completely left it, but pushes me away tiny bit by tiny bit.  There is so much I want to say, that I won’t, that I can’t (for various reasons).  I had a person in my life for almost 34 years who I thought loved me, for me, and treated me as his own.  Now that things are different, I yearn to be able to turn to him as I did all of those years, but my mind and heart have been so damaged by the past year, and all of his words, his actions and inactions, that I have to leave it alone.  This may end up being the first DBT complete “burning bridges” that I have to do.  I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I don’t see any change in the future, and if I look back far enough, it wasn’t usually good enough to make me feel okay in the first place.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Because Saying “Screw Off” Can Be Hard to Do

tupac

 

Well folks, apparently it is altogether possible that there is an actual meme or photoquote or graphic to describe how I am feeling right now.  And really, leave it to Tupac to set me straight! Things continue on in my world, about as normal as the setting on a washing machine, but again there have been some blips on the radar.

My mom (QoB) and stepdad (Big Dawg) were together for thirty-some years when their divorce was finalized at the beginning of 2015.  Big Dawg did his part (to the best of his ability), in helping my mom raise me.  I won’t say he was perfect, but he wasn’t a demon either.  He was many times there when I needed him, although was just as often in the other room staring at the TV while I cried and fumed and fought and otherwise dealt with the the irascible mental illness within my brain.

He angered easily, although he never struck me or my sister (that I remember), but my clearest memories are of him losing his temper and yelling and doing the lecture-thing far too often.  It was through him that I truly believe I learned some really terrible coping skills and relationship skills, but I don’t hold him to blame for any of that.  It is what it is, it was what it was.

Somewhere between the announcement of the pending divorce and now, I have taken it upon myself to be extra-special-nice to Big Dawg.  Mostly because I feel sorry for him, now quite pathetic and alone.  When he and QoB very first broke up, I do believe (looking back) that he showered me with attention and affection, using me as a pawn to get to my mother.  I do see that clearly now.

What’s difficult, is that the attention he gave me, I had been thirsting after for most of my life, so I didn’t see it as negative at the time.  In fact, it is hard to see it as negative even today.  And maybe tomorrow, it will be difficult, too — I have no way of knowing.

What I do know is that my mind has been playing some fierce tricks on me, and I am at a point where I am on a wire above the city, balancing between giving him more benefit of the doubt, more opportunities, more chances, or just hopping off the wire onto my emergency inflated escape pad and giving absolutely NO MORE of myself.  Now, not no more of myself forever, but for quite some time.

I have a tendency to give too many chances, especially to the men in my life.  Oftentimes, people around me don’t understand it, and wonder why, oh why, is Rosa giving this schmuck another go at her heart and *fragile* psyche.

I have a hard time giving up on people, and I always have.  I can have been completely hurt by someone at age six through thirty, and continue to give more and more chances.  It has worked out in my favor a few times, but mostly it ends me up with heartache.  I don’t want anymore heartache at this point.

I am at a point right now, where I am unsure if I can follow through on current family commitments, nevertheless keep attempting to stoke the fire under a certain person’s ass, praying that they will take notice of me again and give me the time of day.  Praying I won’t always get chosen dead last for every little thing.

I grew up with a romanticized notion of how someone was, deep down, and now that the gold glitter paint is flecking off, I’m at a loss as for what to do.

I will make it through this Thanksgiving because I am tough and LarBear will be at my side, but I am not sure I am going to be able to follow through on anything after that.  I believe everything is going to need to be “up in the air,” and I will take it day by day.

Which, hmph, is what I am supposed to be doing anyway — mindfulness, keep it simple stupid, day by day, minute by minute, stay in wise mind, hug a tree.

 

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!

I Miss Her (and I Take Full Responsibility)

It hasn’t been an exceptionally long time since we’ve talked, has it?  I have started to feel poorly the last few days about not having the privilege to talk to you on the phone or even text back and forth with you, and so I obsessively counted the days since your last incoming call on my phone log.  Six days.  Soon to be seven, because it is 11:30pm and I am almost certain you are asleep.

I can hear you now, saying that isn’t so long.  I know you are busy with a real job, one like which I will never again hold.  I know you have many house projects, most of a sort that I just can’t identify with.  In addition, you have friends that demand your attention, bills that must be paid, cakes to be baked, and super-mom feats to accomplish.  None of those are things that happen in my day-to-day life, and, getting down to brass tacks, most of them never will.

I’m pretty sure, if I asked you, that you would say it’s no big deal…all of these things that you do.  I am the older sister, but you have been my hero for years.  I look up to you, I admire you, sometimes, perhaps more often than I would like to mention, I envy you a little.

I know your life isn’t easy, that there is nothing simple about raising an almost-two-year-old while working full-time and flipping one house and remodeling another and maintaining a relationship with your husband, not even skimming the top of all the other amazing things that you do.

It is completely selfish of me to miss the days when you were easy to get ahold of and I could grab ahold of a little bit of your time and press you close to me and feel like we were breathing the same air — that we had managed to grow up together and not kill each other and still be on speaking terms, even hugging terms.

Some days it breaks my heart when I think of my nephew, and I think that I will never have a bond like you have with any child of my own.  Some days it absolutely kills me.  But when I see you two together, and neither of you are paying any attention to the world around you, the love I see in its purest form blinds me.

That little guy has the best mommy that any child could ask for.  I know with the strongest conviction of my heart because his mommy has always been my sister.  My sister has always shown the bravest love, the most understanding, the highest respect, and the most tempered patience to me.  If she can shine that light a little further, which I know she can, and focus it on him (which I know she does and will and will always), he is going to be even more special than we could ever have imagined.

For right now, I will be a little selfish in my tears, and I’ll think of my sister and look forward to the next time we can have a little chat.  In the meantime, I’ll miss her, because that is just how I operate.  But mostly I think I will sit and smile and keep her in my thoughts, as she is human, like the rest of us, and could maybe use a little sisterly happy-thoughts headed her way.

weareheretolove