My grandpa and his horse with a glass eye.
10 Mar 2015 21 Comments
(Warning: F Bomb Minefield Ahead)
I woke up furious this morning. It happens sometimes. When I start to shift out of a long siege of depression, there’s no telling what form the sudden influx of energy will take. Anger is a safe bet.
I could see what a wet washrag of a life I’ve had the last two months, and that lit me up. So much hard work just to stand in place. I railed against the shittiness of dragging around a mental illness. I slammed into my car, grabbed coffee and journaled to bleed out the fury.
Fuckit! Fuck being a GOOD GIRL because THAT really works for me. Fuck being the poster girl for crazy. [A friend] asked me yesterday if I had a goal. The only one I could think of was “Stay Out of the Hospital.” What kind of FUCKING goal is that?! Is that the best this putrid hump of a life can give me? Staying out of the hospital, being miserable, and telling myself that’s OKAY?
I’m so sick of myself and my fucking compulsions and Mom’s voice in my head and constantly PUSHINGPUSHINGPUSHING to Do the Right Thing. Take Care of Myself. Fuck this shadow life. FUCK BIPOLAR!
It went on for a few more pages before I started to wind down. You get the picture. When I left Panera to see my therapist, I was still furious, but had a plan about how to use all that hot energy. I decided to make some Fuck Bipolar cards (see below).
I want to give these away, so if you have bipolar disorder or love someone who rages against it, let me know. Put your name and address in a comment (I won’t publicize it), and if you have a preference for either the boy or the girl. I’ll send you one, because I’m making lots.
Because Fuck Bipolar.
07 Mar 2015 15 Comments
in art, bipolar disorder, health, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art, triggers Tags: compulsive eating, compulsive spending, Integrated Health Services, IPRS, mental illness, partial hospitalization, structured support, therapy, triggers
Phew! February is behind us. Enough, now, of the darkness and bitter cold and on to mud below and sun above. Historically, March is the time I rouse from my mental hibernation and blink at the mess I’ve made while thrashing around in the dark. I spend too much money when I’m brain-sick. I eat compulsively. Fat and broke, I usually overreact. Last year and the year before, I put myself on strict money and food diets… and I ended up in partial hospitalization. Hmmm. Maybe this is a pattern I need to address in IPR.
The mission of IPR (Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation) is to help those of us with mental illness succeed at a goal we choose. My goal is to keep living in my apartment, not taking sabbaticals in the hospital, so my caseworker, Aly, and I look at any skills needed to do that.
Partial hospitalization gives me structured support, a place to do the hard work of managing my illness when it’s overwhelming, and accountability to professionals who understand me. One of my new skills is to seek out more structured support outside the hospital setting.
Seeing my therapist and participating in IPR every week are two kinds of structured support. Recently, I added a weekly meeting with my Peer at Integrated Health Services (where I worked for a time last summer). Allison and I sit for an hour and talk about doing the hard work of recovery. The more I can get this kind of help, the less likely another hospitalization. And since the Partial Hospitalization Program closed its doors last year, my only option now is full admission to a psych ward. To me, that’s not an option.
So, it’s also important to look at this pattern of deprivation in the early spring. As Aly and I talked through this, it seemed so simple. Now is not the time to white-knuckle anything—not my budget, not my diet, not an out-dated version of myself as responsible and in control. If there was ever a time for my Kinder, Gentler practice to kick in, it’s in March. Now is the time to acknowledge how ill I’ve been and how well I’ve coped. Now is the time to gently come back to cooking at home when the depression lifts enough to allow it. Now is the time to remember that this is what my savings is for—to pay the bills my illness created over the winter and to give me space to breathe. I’ll be able to live within my means again, but not right now.
This whole idea is radical—not clamping down to pay off my Visa bill or repaying the money I took from savings. The idea that I can do those things later, should do them later, boggles my mind. So simple. So very Kind and Gentle. It’s lovely to be my own best friend.
28 Feb 2015 8 Comments
I’ve never reposted an old post. I figure I either have something new to say or I don’t. And if I don’t, then this platform stays quiet until I do. But Leonard Nimoy died yesterday, and I can’t find new words. This man/actor/character has been a part of me since Star Trek aired on September 8, 1966. I was nine years old—impressionable, starving for attention, a little fan-girl waiting to happen.
So, I offer, again, the collage piece I made about him in 2011. Prototype. All the images used in this collage are original, pictures I saved from entertainment magazines as old as Star Trek’s first TV Guide cover in 1966.
I’m excited to present this finished piece. It carries so many layers of meaning for me.
As all fathers do, mine created the template for all subsequent relationships with the men in my life.
As a tween, I transfered my longing for attention and protection from my dad to Spock, the ultimate unavailable man. In my fantasies, I found the secret pathway to Spock’s heart. Of course he would never demonstrate his affection, never claim me as his, but I knew he would protect me. It seemed more than I could ever ask for.
My affection for Leonard Nimoy is deep and abiding. He was, after all, my first.
25 Feb 2015 4 Comments
22 Feb 2015 16 Comments
in art, bipolar disorder, cats, exercise, health, mental health, mixed-media art, money, relationships Tags: compulsive spending, daily plan, diet, Integrated Health Services, journaling, sleep, support
Yesterday a crack opened in the bipolar depression that’s been at me for weeks. Enough to let me remember to return to basics. Because I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and said to that shocked face, “We’re not going to the hospital this year. We’re not.”
First a call to the group I worked for this past summer—Integrated Health Services. Their whole mission is to keep mental health clients out of the hospitals and emergency rooms. I know I need more support now—I’ve been hearing from my providers all year that I don’t have enough in the best of times. I’m not sure what IHS can do, but I made an appointment for Monday with Rosario, my care coordinator, and with Allison, my peer, to sit and figure that out. They are both kind, heart-centered women. I feel safe going to them. The fact that I was just able to make the appointment helped. Doing something, anything, sometimes helps.
Today I will start using my Daily Plan sheet, the one I created after my partial hospitalization last spring. It will help me focus on small goals and remember to do every day tasks that get waterlogged by the swampy emotions.
I looked at how much money I’ve spent this month and cut back to the essentials. Today I’ll figure a budget to get me through to May (February is just the beginning. March and April can sometimes be even worse). I’ll try to make it something I can live with, not something that will punish me for being sick.
I cleaned out my refrigerator of all the liquefying vegetables and bought a few simple groceries. I swam at the Y. I sat with my fading bedspread for a while and sewed a blanket stitch around the frayed edges with gentle music playing and the cats behind my head on the chair. Henry’s belly makes a gurgling, crackling sound when he’s digesting, and I pressed my ear against his fur to listen while he slept.
My apartment is a sickroom now. No sudden moves. No grand expectations. Everything deliberate and gentle. I must tend to my sleep, get to the Y every day, maintain my journal, plan quiet visits with friends, try to eat fresh food. I will try to keep the structure sound while the storm carries on inside. I will treat myself as someone worthy of care and respect, as someone that I love.
21 Feb 2015 Leave a comment
In a room without a window, there burnt a fire, guarded by a high and strong fender, and a lamp suspended from the ceiling by a chain… In the deep shade, at the further end of the room, a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight tell… — Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
20 Feb 2015 18 Comments
There are days like today when there is nothing for it. The darkness is real and thick. The thoughts are alien and weird. Nothing helps. Nothing hurts. It is a day for soft music and sleep.
17 Feb 2015 17 Comments
It’s a little after 3:00AM now. I’ve been up since 1:30 after four hours of sleep—despite my never-fail sleep cocktail of Xanax and Benadryl. It’s February.
The one good thing about nights like this, when rapid cycling and mixed states turn my days and nights inside out, is that I don’t have to worry about getting up to go to work. I remember, years ago, trying to talk myself back to sleep. Before any diagnosis told me this might be part of my “normal,” before doctors, and my work ethic, and the State agreed that I was no longer employable, I fretted over my sleeplessness and dreaded the morning. I know most of us have had nights where we finally drop off at 5:00 in the morning only to have the alarm go off at 6:00. It’s a horrible, rock-in-the-gut feeling.
Now I just get up. Open the windows to let the cold, fresh air wash the stale taste of insomnia out of the apartment, stick my favorite mug in the microwave and sip chai while I putter on the computer. In a few minutes, I’ll close the windows and pull out my plush throw, rearrange the cats on my chair, and read for a while. When I get sleepy, I’ll go back to bed. It doesn’t matter anymore when that happens.
That freedom is exquisite. The absence of that particular stress is like a Christmas present, an emotional gift card that keeps on giving. It makes the discomfort of this spell easier to bear.
I’m trying to be more conscious of how winter torques my bipolar disorder. Fellow blogger-friend, Kitt O’Malley (and what a foin Irish name, that is) just posted a clinical piece about the relationship between BP and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It was the first thing I read when I sat down with my chai. (Synchronicity is alive and well in my spinny corner of the world.) It’s always nice to know I’m not alone in my otherness, that there are folks who go through the same kinds of extra grief this time of year, that a committee somewhere labeled it.
It’s the little things that help me keep going when I really don’t want to, little comforts, little efforts. I give my light box one more try and sit down to make a card—like the one at the top of this post. I haul my ass to the laundromat, normally a place I love, but now just one more chore I can’t quite accomplish. But I do it, and the gentle rhythm of the dryers, the warm scent of clean, comforts me. I let Richard Armitage read to me in the car, his facile voice assuming dozens of characters in a novelization of Hamlet, and it comforts me.
Now the chai and the soothing motion of fingers on a keyboard, the wandering off to read a bit of Rumi, the quiet trust of my sleeping cats all conspire with the space I’ve made for acceptance. I feel sleep sliding up behind me. It’s 5AM, and I don’t own an alarm clock anymore.
There is always something to be grateful for.