Making It Real

handmade greeting card, collage artBack in October when I took the first week of Peer Support training, I applied to my sister’s P.E.O. chapter for financial assistance.  The ladies who interviewed me were lovely—kind, supportive, sure that the Iowa board of directors of their group would approve my request.  One of them had even read this blog.

It was a nice way to spend a morning, but I didn’t set my hopes too high.  I’d been negotiating philanthropy and human services long enough to know my chances of being disqualified for one reason or another were more likely than not.  The ladies said it would be after the first of the year before a decision would be made.  Okay.

After my wake-up call in January about my growing debt, it was hard not to hope for reprieve.  My sister called to say something had gone wrong with the application and had to be done over.  Okay.  A few weeks ago, she called again to ask questions that I’d addressed in my initial letter.  Okay.

I thought I was staying relatively detached.  There might be a slim chance out there in the ethers, but I needed to concentrate on the Work in front of me—finding the strength to stick to my budget without the stress triggering one more hospitalization.

And that’s really the bottom line for me.  How much can I push against the illness without blowing up?  How long can I keep with this budget and work on my compulsive eating?  I’ve never thought in terms of time.  There’s no benefit to that, is there?  There’s just today, doing the best I can, practicing my Start with One Serving mantra and doing everything on the cheap.  I know the intensity of this time is temporary, but I can’t focus on an end date when I don’t know where it is.

This week I received a letter from the P.E.O. board.  They will be sending me about half the money I asked for.  Don’t get me wrong—I’m grateful for it, grateful for anything, and glad the waiting is over.  But no immediate reprieve is coming.  Instead I can now plot out an end date to the extreme financial squeeze.  July.

That doesn’t seem like much.  Four months.  But when I look at the two months I’ve already spent doing this hard work, experiencing the worst of my bipolar symptoms with just my therapist standing fast beside me, I can’t comprehend four months.  I feel myself contract even more, hardening to anything but The Work.

This isn’t good.  Becoming rigid like this invites a kind of shattering that takes a long time to heal.  I need to let in some softness, find a way to play and laugh, figure out a way to be with people that doesn’t end in rage and resentment.  (Ah. I think we’ve hit on the agenda for my next therapy session.)

Because this shit is real now.  I’m not spot-training anymore, I’m going the distance to an actual finish line.  Can I pace myself and push my limits at the same time?  Am I ready to be a bipolar Olympian?

laurel leaf crownReady the laurel leaves, boys.  I’ll see you in four months.

Happy Irish Day

Celebrate being Irish!  (not St. Patrick—he was a dick.)

Here’s Glen Hansard, one of my favorite Irish singers.

And a link to my Pinterest Board “The Old Country.”

I’m proud my ancestors journeyed from County Cork.  Researchers say an inordinate number of immigrants were bipolar—it took grandiose self-confidence and manic energy to leave home and jump into the Void.

Thanks, great-great grand-da.

Some day I’ll go back and tip a pint to ye.

Radio Station KFKD

handmade greeting card, collage art, HitchcockI had a difficult day yesterday.

The floor fell out of my little stable platform and the bipolar elevator rocketed into the basement.  Wham!  Just like that, in the middle of doing laps at the pool, I turned my head for air and nearly choked on a sob.  I had to stop and clear my goggles before I could go on.

It happens like that sometimes.  With rapid cycling, a person never knows how the next episode will present itself.  I’m always surprised.

I’m living an antithetical life, the twist in my brain said.  All my energy is focused on negativity—not doing things instead of living and doing.  What kind of a shit-hole existence is this?

I couldn’t shake this nihilistic mindset.  I spent most of the day in bed.

Change is hard for anyone.  Geneen Roth in her book Women, Food and God says this about change:

The biggest obstacle to any kind of transformation is the voice that tells you it’s impossible.  It says:  You’ve always been like this, you’ll always be like this, what’s the point.  No one ever really changes.  Might as well eat [or spend money, or do whatever it is you're trying to change].  By the way, have you taken a look at your arms recently?   And excuse me, did you forget to put on makeup or is that what you look like when it’s already on?  Why do you even bother?  And did you just say what I think you said to your boss?  Who are you, Queen of the Universe?  How many times do you have to fall flat on your face before you learn to keep your mouth shut?

Anne Lamott calls it Radio Station KFKD.  [Geneen Roth] calls it The Voice…. The Voice feels and sounds so much like you that you believe it is you.  You think you are telling yourself the truth.

RadioAnd if Radio KFKD is loud for neuro-normals, imagine how loud it gets for us neuro-diverse folk as we try to address compulsive behavior or add healthier activities into our routine.  Even when I recognize the propaganda coming across those air waves as doo-doo, that doesn’t stop the transmission.  When I’m brain-sick, more transcievers pop out of my mental landscape and boost the signal.  The genius of propaganda is that even when it’s identified, it can still sniff out the tiniest crack and infiltrate like smoke.  Or DDT.  And like Geneen Roth said, pretty soon I think I’m telling myself the truth.

I still get suckered.  That’s part of mental illness.  But, I’ve also developed a pretty good doo-doo filter.  It might take a while to sift out the choicer pellets, but eventually they show themselves for what they are.

Toward evening, the lead weight of the depression lifted enough for me to realize that Radio KFKD had taken over my thinking.  I am not spending all my time not eating.  I’m working on a practice my therapist gave me for increasing mindfulness.  The mantra is Start with One Serving.  Prepare one serving.  Enjoy one serving.  If I want more, I can have it.  But, again, just one serving.  This makes me pause.  It makes me wake up a little from my normal food-haze.  Pausing and waking up are the only ways I’m ever going to change this behavior.  And it’s hard.

I’m not using all my energy to not spend money.  I am paying off my debts.  This is a fine and responsible goal.  I have less discretionary funds now in order to reach that goal, but eventually those debts will be gone.  I will have done something amazing, and new, and difficult.  And then I’ll have a little more money to work with again.

I had a difficult day yesterday.  But just as fast as the elevator plummeted, it rose.  That’s also the deal with rapid cycling—Radio KFKD switches off like magic sometimes.  I was back in the pool this morning, doing my laps.  And I didn’t need to clear my goggles once.

Wait! What?

Refined Bad Ass, Patrick Stewart, handmade greeting card, collage artI just realized that what I do every day is not spend money and not eat.  All my attention is focused on these anti-compulsions.  Awesome!  I’m so completely Bad-Ass now I can hardly stand myself!

Thaw

Promise of SpringThere’s melt in the streets.  And a strange sound over my head—water drizzling down from the eaves into the downspouts.  Winter is letting up—at least it’s affording us a breather.  A collective sigh rises up from the whole town.  Folks hunched over their coffee cups at the café sit up a little straighter.  Smiles come a little easier to winter-tired faces.

My own internal winter is letting up as well.

Wednesday I hit a wall of despair.  Swimming my laps in the pool, I knew I couldn’t go back to my apartment for one more day of fighting myself and losing.  I gave my self permission to go to Des Moines.  After six weeks of frugal living, I allowed a therapeutic splurge.

The movie was awful, but the actual movie is never the point.  It’s the going.  It’s the ritual of driving through Starbucks, going into Panera for my bagel, sitting in the huge, empty food court and writing in my journal with earbuds firmly in place.  It’s the familiar rite of ticket, popcorn, and finding the perfect seat.  It’s making a nest and soaking in the previews—all those good movies coming.  The rhythm of ritual is comfort and safety.  It’s my rosary with a different kind of bead.

Afterward I went to Barnes and Noble to read magazines and fell asleep in the big easy chair.  So tired.  Worn through by this long depression.  Then, meditation with my friends, who were so glad to see me after six weeks away.  And in our quiet conversation, I felt the melt begin.  A subtle shift of temperature.  A warming of my mental air.  I thought the day and my friends might have just cheered me a little—I’ve been fooled by false springs before.  But, the thaw seems to be holding.

I can feel my brain recalibrating and leavening as the mental ice floes break apart.  It’s a little easier to do what I want instead of being driven by compulsion.  There’s a suggestion of joy, like the tremor of seeds under the frozen earth.  And it’s enough.  Just knowing winter doesn’t last forever.  It’s enough.

Open the Window

Open the Window

Image

This Is Now

handmade greeting card, collage art, Rumi, poetry

Image

We Are The Mirror

handmade greeting cards, collage art, Rumi

Image

Every Moment

At our Thursday TOPS meetings we draw a Pledge for the coming week.  It’s usually something healthy and weight-related we’re called to do every day—a reminder to keep proper nutrition and management at the front of our minds.  The penalty for not fulfilling the Pledge is a dime.  Not a huge deterrent, just a nudge.

This current bout of depression started its dive two weeks ago.  On my way down I jettisoned any semblance of control as the darkness took over my eating.  I bought what was cheap and could numb the pain.  I included fruit and vegetables, but that was like throwing a life-preserver to someone bitten in half by a shark.

The illness and the distorted thinking twisted me in knots of self-loathing.  I felt hideous inside and out.  It was intolerable.

So, when I weighed in today I knew what the scale would say.  I tried to remember that it was just a number, not an indictment.

In the meeting we talked about our goals and vision, why we continued to attend the meetings, and what we wanted.  I felt defeated and helpless against the constant cycle of compulsive eating, shame, and celery.  I hated myself.

Then, one of the women drew out our Pledge for the coming week.  “Every day, tell yourself you are worth the struggle.”

There were so many ways my twisted brain wanted to argue with that statement.  But I just took a deep breath, came home, ate too much, then sat down at my work table.

The only positive voice in my head—when there is one—is baritone and British.  I thought I might just listen to that affirmation if I could imagine it in the Voice.  So I made a piece to stick on my bathroom mirror where I would be sure to see it every day.  Many times every day.

Every Moment, Benedict Cumberbatch

When I read these words, I know they’re not just about obesity and compulsion.  They’re about poverty, madness, and loneliness.  They’re about getting up after falling on the ice for the umpteenth time.  They’re about laughing when it would be much easier to cry.  They’re about taking a deep breath and looking up at the stars instead of keeping my head down in the cold.  They’re about Remembering who I am.

And if I need to hear these words in a British accent to believe them, then so be it.  We do whatever works.

Stuck

stuckLast week I got stuck in the snow and ice.  I spent about a half hour rocking my truck back and forth, almost tipping over the edge to freedom only to fall back into the rut.  Eventually, a boy with a truck and a tow line happened by and hauled me out.  First he wanted to try his hand at rocking out of the rut (Ah, the optimism of youth!).  While he played in my truck, I stepped off the snow-hidden curb and fell with my foot caught.  Things got twisted and made funny noises.  I may have uttered a few disparaging words about winter.

Unfortunately, my brain seems to be stuck and making its own funny noises.  For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been mired in depression, able at times to rock back and forth, but always ending up in the rut.  When I’m in this gutter it’s too easy to focus on all the failures and pain—my application for rent reimbursement was denied since my HUD apartment building doesn’t pay property tax; after doing a week’s worth of records-gathering and making copies for my rent review, my 2014 rent only went down by a dollar; I can’t stop binge eating.  Saturday I got up, determined to knock some of the whingeing out of my head.  I got dressed for the Y and stopped by the library to get a new pile of DVDs.  By the time I checked out, I was exhausted.  I went back home, pulled on my jammies, and crawled, defeated, back into bed.

When the rut gets deep and my mental tires smoke from spinning, I try to remember the good stuff.  And there is good stuff.  There’s always good stuff if a person looks long enough.  I’ve made it through a whole month without using my credit card and sticking to my White-Knuckle budget.  The UU Fellowship I attend asked me to be their go-to presenter and will pay me a stipend of about $50 to provide two programs a month.  I was approved for Medicaid, so I’ll at least be on the waiting list for the Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation program.  And because I have Medicaid now, I can continue to see my therapist every week instead of scaling back to save money.

Then, there are my friends and their gifts.  There’s Rob and Carol.  There’s David and his gift of The Measure of My Days—a beautiful, inspirational book.  And Michelle’s gift of two fabulous CDs of music (The Polar Vortex 1 & 2).  And emails.  Lots and lots of emails filled with support and love and inspiration.  Those are just my bloggy friends.  Here at home, I’ve been given bags of fabulous junk to make art—sequins from India from Sheila, Czech magazines and bric-a-brac from Robyn.  Dee invited me over to look through her collection of vintage photographs and to pick out ones I could use.  Penny and Karen take me to lunch.  Cat takes me to breakfast and keeps my phone working.  All these tow lines keep the tension steady so that when this current rut flattens out a bit, I can drive on.

Tow Lines

Still, today, the despair and pain are thick.  I’ll go to the laundromat in a minute—a cozy place that’s warm and smells like home.  I’ll get my Peppermint Mocha, and sit with my journal, and do all the things I need to do to keep rocking.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  And I’ll remember the tow lines attached to me that keep me tethered to the world outside this rut.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

Blog Stats

  • 88,879 hits
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 934 other followers