20 Days of Valentines—Day 3

One Who Loves You

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20 Days of Valentines—Day 2

Suck it Up

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20 Days of Valentines—Day 1

Western Romance

As always, this is available in my Etsy shop.  Just click the image to go there.

 

Signs

Seems to be a MysticThe UU service in Des Moines this morning sounded interesting—a teen talking about trans-gender issues.  I’d missed the last couple of Sundays, so my intent last night was to shake off the bipolar ennui enough to get there today.  I was a little late, so grabbed a frappuccino out of the cooler at the gas station instead of standing in line at Starbucks.  But it was snowing, and slushy, and the roads hadn’t been cleared well.  On the road, I debated whether to keep going or turn back and watch the rest of Season One of Hannibal instead (I’m preparing for next season when Richard Armitage joins the cast—yaay!).

As I pondered, I shook my frappuccino.  The lid flew off, and sugared coffee doused me, my windshield, and everything else with me (purse, dash, floor).  Dumbstruck, then laughing, I grabbed at Kleenex and mopped my face.

“Okay, okay, I’ll turn around!”

After scrubbing out the car (sticky, but what a yummy smell!), washing my coat, purse, book bag in the tub, and sticking my head under the faucet to get the coffee-sugar out of my hair, I watched the snow plows rumble by.  That’s okay.  Sometimes I do have to get hit over the head to get the message.  Or, at least, splashed in the face.

Are you ready, Dr. Lecter?

spilled coffee

Brain-Sick

When the Voices ComeBrain-sick.

It’s how I describe my state in the worst of my bipolar symptoms.  It feels more positive than saying, “I’m having a bad day” or any other way of answering the question “How are you?”  But, after almost five years of blogging, I’m still hesitant to announce it.  As a rapid cycler, the icky way I feel now will change soon, so why carp?  Why give the demons a voice?  Then, the mood changes again, so I’m right back where I started.  To tell, or not to tell, that is the question.

Yesterday was one of those days where I didn’t dare pay attention to my own thoughts.  I went to the movies instead.  It’s a kind of meditation, giving the thoughts a padded corner to fuss and do their gymnastics while I turn my attention to the soft darkness of the theater, the popcorn, and the old friends up on the screen.  I went to three movies in row, seven hours of peace, seven hours of safety.  The twisted thinking and sorrow waited for me outside the theater.  We went to a nice dinner together where I ignored them with my journal and pretty fresh strawberries with whipped cream.  I forgot to take my sleep aid, so they woke me up early for another day together.

This is just the way of it.  There are days of moving forward and days, like these, where standing still is an enormous victory.  I’m thankful that I don’t judge either any more.  I’m grateful that I can simply accept being brain-sick.  It’s almost as comforting as returning to Middle Earth.  Almost.

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES

Fat Girls Rock

I swam 30 laps in the Y pool yesterday.  Fat girls rock.

SoulCollage card "The First Way"

SoulCollage card “The First Way”

This Mixed State

Old MagicThe Brain-Gerbil runrunruns in his cage, his fur sweat-slick, his claws clickety-tick in the Wheel.  Can you hear it spinning?  Whurrrrrrrt… Whurrrrrrrt… Whurrrrrrrt…   Can you see his eyes?  All instinct, all dead-panic, they stare unseeing.  He doesn’t even know he’s running.

And at the same time, mist rolls in on the Moors, grey-green smoke, thick and wet, chill enough to raise gooseflesh.  She stands on the cliff’s edge, a dark shape, the One Who Waits.  Her longing unfurls like fevered ribbons into the fog, unfocused, cast out like a line into spawning waters.

Focus.  Stop at the dentist, the eye doctor, the pharmacy.  Ask for year-end accounts for the rent recertification report.  Important.  Be thorough.  Be careful.  Remember to make copies of everything.  Rent is bound to go up this year.  How much?  Don’t think about that now.  Focus.  Focus.

More underwear comes in the mail.  It’s the middle of the story of finding the perfect fit, of finding comfort.  Out tumble little plastic packages, the sound like beetles hissing.  Loud.  They stare, shiny, from the bed.  Stare and stare.  Reach for one, but the plastic is too sharp.  Cover the pile with a towel.  Later.

Kodaline in the car.  It’s the Gerbil singing, the Ingenue, all of them.  Sing loud.  Sing with the moon-roof open.  Let all the air and sound go.

One day it’s here and then it’s gone
How are you still holding on?
How are you still holding on?

You’ve felt this way for far too long
Waiting for a change to come
You know you’re not the only one

Welcome Home

Now that I’m on FaceBook, I’m receiving more wonderful, life-affirming joy like this.  Thanks, Marshall!

(If this had happened when I arrived in Heathrow back in September, I would have been a puddle.)

Intensive Care

Collage art, greeting card artSince July, I’ve been in a program called Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation.  It’s Medicaid-funded and designed to help those of us with “serious and persistent mental illness to achieve goals that improve success and satisfaction in living, learning, working and socializing.”

It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced in any kind of health care service—thorough, gentle, involved, deep.  For these first six months, I’ve met with my IPR Facilitator (Aly) two to three times a week just gauging my motivation and willingness to go through the process—doing lots of assessments, looking at self-awareness and life satisfaction, and meeting in a small group to hear how others are doing the same.

I believe my participation in IPR is a big reason for my greater stability during the last half of 2014, but maybe not because of the actual work I do in the program.  I get to spend four to six hours a week with a caring professional, talking about my life and my illness, who gives me useful feedback.  Considering that I see my therapist weekly, that gives me up to seven hours a week of therapeutic support.

I can’t begin to explain how lovely that is, to have somewhere to go every several days a week where I feel safe, heard, challenged, and successful all at the same time.  I have felt parts of me relaxing that have been clenched for years.  The notion that I could be kinder and gentler to myself grew naturally from this place of safety and care.  The outrageous idea that everything about my life—the wild and warp-speed mood swings, the practical struggles with money and relationships, my weight, my compulsions, my delusions, my mistakes and mis-steps—could be accepted and given a place at my internal table became my new mantra.  “Yes, that, too.”

This increase in professional support prodded me to start searching in different ways for more natural support.  I found a wonderful, active community at the Des Moines Unitarian Church, signed-up for a class there in SoulCollage®, met some interesting people and sang.  I started reaching out to my old friends in Minnesota.  I joined Facebook, fer cripes sake.

World She InhabitsOver the last few weeks, my work in IPR has taken me on a new journey of discovery.  My focus in the program is on my Living Environment, to assess and eventually set a goal about where I live.  This could also include a “Staying” goal if my current home turns out to be best for me.  We looked at all the places I’ve ever lived, which ones I liked most and least and why.  Aly asked me to imagine my perfect space, perfect neighborhood, perfect part of the country—to dream big and with extravagance.  We’ve spent time tweezing out my values and preferences and laying them over my ideas about home.

One of the many assessment parameters Aly used was to imagine what the significant people in my life would say about my current living environment, about the idea of moving elsewhere, and what their concerns might be.  I try hard not to presume what others think about me, so I wasn’t sure.  But I thought in general they considered me successful  (This is an IPR term.  It means that you generally stay out of jail and the hospital, that you can perform self-care, do basic housekeeping, and partake in enjoyable activities in your home.  Luckily, I rock at being successful).

This exercise made me curious to know what my friends and family really thought, so I started asking them.  It’s always a little scary to ask people what they think of me.  They all carry memories that I’ve lost, things I’ve said in the past, events and experiences fried out of existence by ECT.  Plus, an outsider’s view of my often-times incomprehensible behavior can carry an emotional charge for them.  I’ve done a lot of weird and hurtful things in my bipolarness, and turning over those rocks can be deadly.  But, getting that outside perspective is valuable for someone with mental illness.  We get trapped in our own faulty musings.  Someone else’s reality can be shocking, but life-saving.

As it turned out, they do think I’m successful, but another theme started appearing.  As I’ve reached out to my friends in Minnesota, they all to a person have said, “We don’t know why you moved in the first place.  It never made sense to us.  This is your home.”  And even my sister, who orchestrated my exodus from Minneapolis, said, “You’ve worked hard, made friends and have a routine in Marshalltown, but Minnesota is home…”

My compulsive side would do something with this information.  I’m choosing to just add it to my IPR file along with all the other assessments and data.  It will be a while yet before I actually choose a goal in my Living Environment.  In the meantime, I want to keep practicing this kinder, gentler attitude.  I want to keep attending UU services on Sunday.  I want to schedule my next visit to Minneapolis and spend time with those people who still love me and remember me.  I want to spend time with the people here in Iowa who love and support me, too.  I want to keep an open mind, explore, evaluate.  I want to keep being successful.

Because, you know, I’m on an Adventure.

The Collaborator

Dumplings

As I was gleaning the other day, I found this little gem from Anne Lamott in an issue of AARP.  It cracked me up, so thought I’d share.

When I sit on my bed now, writing on my iPad, the top roll of tummy sometimes creeps over onto the screen and starts typing away.  In the old days, upon noticing this unsought collaboration, I would have decided to start a new diet, or to end it all.  Now I think, “Who knows?  Maybe it’s got something interesting to add.”

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