Why I Don’t Mix Charity and Cake

Sandy Sue:

If your’e starved for BritWit (as I often am), here’s PrettyFeet, PopToe’s rant on charity bake sales.

Originally posted on Pretty Feet, Pop Toe:

"It's for the victims of eyebrow plucking in Essex" “It’s for the victims of eyebrow plucking in Essex”

In every office there is that one person who feels the need to foist a charity bake sale upon the workforce. That person is never and shall never be me, for the simple reason I take great issue with the charity bake sale. For those of you who have gone straight from the womb to the underside of a well furnished rock, a charity bake sale is where a group of people bring various home-baked goods to their place of work and sell these items to colleagues, with the monies gathered being directed to some charity or heart-blisteringly worthy cause.

The altruistic soul who suggest the charity bake-off/buffet/coffee morning (they have many guises but all with the same trite format) just can’t resist the call of a worthy cause and what is more, they can’t resist the urge to make sure that everyone can see them…

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Saying Yes

Coming of AgeThe last couple of weeks created a lot of thrashing around for me.  In IPR, I was required to recount my history—something I’m loathe to do as it is only painful and seems to trigger the dark side of my bipolarity.  At the same time, I cast off my life-long dream of ever controlling my compulsive eating enough to lose weight and started seriously working on accepting myself as I am.   Self-love and PTSD may be strange bedfellows, but they seem to be making progress together.

I had a Bathroom Revelation—you know, when you’re in the shower or on the pot, your mind blissfully drifting, and BLAM! the Next Great Idea materializes out of the ethers (so to speak).  E=mc2 came to Einstein this way, so who am I to question a loo’s creative holiness?

Anyway, this simple thought came:

Mindfulness is Not Enough.

And from that, I understood that nothing would ever be enough.  Nothing I do will ever cure me of this mental illness.

Of course not, right?  Everyone knows there’s no cure.  But everyone isn’t me, and I was sure I could crack this nut.  I would find the Key—my own, personal Incantation—that would unlock this prison.  If I worked hard enough.  If I followed every lead.  If I…

But, suddenly, I understood what Luke Skywalker tried to tell me this summer about striving, how there was no way to win that game.  Working hard at managing my bipolar disorder became another club to bludgeon myself over the head.

What happens when I let go of that dream as well?  What happens if I really accept all of who I am—obese and bipolar, creative and destructive, intelligent and compulsive, single and romantic, mindful and delusional?  What happens when I relax into all of that?  Allow all of that?  Say, “Yes” to it all?

So far, it means pulling back from the rigidity of my routine, from documenting every gnat’s ass detail of my brain flatulence.  It means trusting myself a little bit more, following my instincts a little.  And crying a lot.

This is new territory for me, this saying “yes” business.  It’s different than galloping after compulsions or riding a manic wave.  Saying “yes” comes from a loving place, a place of plenty and safety.  When the depression was darkest last week, it meant holding myself and saying, “Yes, this is part of me, too.  I’m not broken or wrong.  I am simply this, too.”

There is benefit from a Plan when the illness is raging at either end of the spectrum or when I’m sliding into those two extremes.  That’s when I forget what helps.  That’s when I can’t remember “yes,” and a Plan is needed to wade through to the other side.  But I’m trying to live looser in the between times.  Instead of scribbling out a Daily Plan, I look at this on my way out of the door.

Nurture

Create

Connect

 

And maybe that’s enough.  We’ll see.

Because I’m still On an Adventure.

Patch Girl

Every once in a while I have homework to do for my Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation program (IPR).  Last week I gave a little presentation about someone famous who suffers from my brand of mental illness (Stephen Fry, of course), and showed part of his documentary “The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive.”  Stephen is one of my heroes, so it was fun to share him with others.

Now, I’m tasked with writing my Life History.  Groan.  If I had not done this a million times before in a million different ways for a plethora of mental health professionals, I might not mind mucking around in all that sour, spilt milk.  So, I tried a different approach—inspired, no doubt, by watching three seasons of Once Upon a Time in four days.  I offer you the results.

♦ ◊ ♦

Patch Girl

a Life History Fairy Tale

The Voice

Once upon a time, in a land of Patchwork People, a baby girl was born.

“Oh, no!” Mother cried, pushing the baby away.  “She is missing a patch—a huge patch!”  She narrowed her eyes at Father.  “This is your fault.  Go at once to the doctor and make sure we have no more of these disappointments.”

“Yes, dear,” Father said, because his only wish in life was to make Mother happy.

“Get that thing out of my sight,” Mother said to Sister.

“Gladly!” Sister cried.  “She will be my dolly.  I will dress her so no one sees the missing patch.”

“Good,” said Mother.

“Humph,” muttered Brother behind his book.

But as the Patch Girl grew, she tired of the clothes Sister made her wear.  They were too tight, too scratchy, and much, much too heavy.  One day she stripped them off and stood in her natural patchy-ness.

“Stop!” Sister yelled.  “You are my dolly, and I will dress you however I like!”

“I am not a dolly.  I am Patch Girl,” the young one said.

“Humph!” Sister sniffed, pointing.  “A Patch Girl with a big, ugly hole where a patch should be!”

Patch Girl looked down and, sure enough, there was big, ugly hole where a patch was meant to be.  “Give me my patch!” she yelled at Sister.

“Ha!  I don’t have it, stupid child!  Go away and find it.  You’re not my dolly any more.”

Patch Girl ran from the farmhouse with glee.  If I find my patch, Mother will love me, she reasoned.  If I find my patch, Father will protect me.

She climbed over fences and danced around trees.  If I find my patch, Sister will play games with me, and Brother will come out from behind his book!  If I find my patch, we will live happily ever after!  

She ran first to the barn to look for her missing patch.  Esmerelda the Cow swayed in her stanchion, chewing her cud.  The mouse family scurried across the cement floor to their homey-hole.  Hay dust drifted in the sunlight like golden snow, and the air smelled green.

“Oh,” Patch Girl whispered.  “What a magical place.  Surely my missing patch is here.”

She touched Esmerelda’s wet nose and felt the breath huff out her nostrils.  “Do you have my patch?”

The cow blinked her soft brown eyes and swallowed.  “Ask the Cat,” she lowed.

Patch Girl tip-toed further into the barn to a warm, dark nest behind the bales of hay.  Mother Cat lay on her side with three kittens suckling.  Patch Girl saw their tiny paws kneading Mother Cat’s white fur, their perfect little claws flexing in and out.

“Oh,” Patch Girl sighed, feeling full and whole.  She touched one finger to the calico kitten’s head.  “This must be my patch.”

“No, dear,” Mother Cat said.  “You already have that patch.  See?”

Patch Girl looked down and saw one of the patches next to her hole glowing with golden light.

“But, I must find my patch,” she told Mother Cat, unhooking the calico kitten’s claws from her patchy body.

“Go see Grandmother,” Mother Cat suggested.  “She may have your missing patch.”

Patch Girl hurried from the sweet-smelling barn and followed a grassy path through the apple orchard.  At the end of the path, through a flowery trellis, she found a white cottage ringed by violets and dandelions.  Patch Girl rounded the cottage and spotted an old woman digging in her flowerbed.

“Hello,” said Patch Girl.  “Are you Grandmother?”

“Oh, I’m much more than that,” the old woman smiled.  “What is that flower there?”

Patch Girl bent to where Grandmother pointed.  A delicate face looked up at her—fuchsia veined with purple.  Patch Girl sniffed the flower, and the petals were so delicate they went up her nose and tickled.

“It’s a petunia!” she laughed.

“Exactly!” Grandmother laughed with her.  “And that is what I shall call you—My Little Petunia.”

“Is this my missing patch,” the young one asked hopefully, the flower’s tangy scent still in her nose.

“No, dear.  You already have that patch.  See?”

Patch Girl looked down and another patch around her hole glowed like a fire opal.  “Do you have my missing patch, Grandmother?” she asked, tears wetting her cheeks for she already guessed the answer.

Grandmother brushed the dirt from her fingers.  “Come with me, Little Petunia.  We have work to do.”

“Work?” Patch Girl jumped up, forgetting for a moment about her missing patch.  “What kind of work, Grandmother?”

“Why, we have lace to tat and embroidery to stitch.”

She stepped into the cottage and rummaged through a wooden chest full of baubles and trinkets.

“Oh,” Patch Girl breathed, picking up a tiny porcelain tea cup, then a brass Chinese dog with smoke drifting from its mouth.

“Or…” Grandmother’s muffled voice came from the bottom of the chest where she was digging.  “…should we start with the watercolors?  Wait! I know!”

She pulled herself out of the trunk, a little flushed from being head-side down.  She held up a paper tablet in triumph.  The bright red cover displayed the noble profile of an Indian Warrior.

“Stories!”  Grandmother said, placing the tablet in Patch Girl’s outstretched hands.  From her silver curls, she plucked a sturdy pencil with a fine eraser.  “Write me a story, Little Petunia.”

Patch Girl smelled the wood of the pencil, the dusty magic of the paper.  Once Upon A Time she wrote on the first line of the first page.

“Oh, Grandmother,” she sighed, feeling full and whole, “surely this is my missing patch.”

“No, dear,” Grandmother said.  “You already have all these patches.  See?”

Patch Girl looked down and, sure enough, a patch next to her hole glowed amber like the lights in the library.  Another glimmered azure blue like the little square in the watercolor palette.  And still another gleamed like a tapestry with rosy stitching.

Patch Girl burst into tears, for while her patches were wondrous and beautiful, the hole of her missing patch had grown deeper and more painful.

“If I find my missing patch,” she sobbed, “Mother will love me, Father will protect me, Sister will play with me, and Brother will come out from behind his book.  I must find my patch, Grandmother.  Then, we will live happy every after.”

“Oh, dear,” Grandmother worried.  “I don’t have your missing patch, my Little Petunia.  Perhaps The Mage has it.”

She pulled out her sewing box and sorted through the scraps.  “It is a long journey, and you need something to hide that hole.”

“Sister stuffed me in doll clothes,” Patch Girl sniffed.  “I didn’t like that.”

“Ah, try this.”  Grandmother’s blue eyes twinkled.  She fastened a scrap over Patch Girl’s hole by safety-pinning it to the surrounding patches.  “You are a clever, clever girl.  Your cleverness will keep those pins strong and in place.  No one need ever know about your hole.”

“But, I can still feel it, Grandmother.  And it hurts.”

Grandmother smoothed the make-shift patch with her big hands, then dug in the pocket of her apron.  “Have a cookie, dear.  It will help.”

She led Patch Girl out of the cottage where a sliver moon smiled in the night sky.

“Listen to the stars, My Little Petunia, they will guide you,” Grandmother said, waving her onto the road.   “Good-bye.”

“Good-Bye, Grandmother,” Patch Girl replied, nibbling the cookie (it did help dull the pain of her missing patch).

She travelled long and far.  Night became Day.  Days became Years.  Sometimes Patch Girl forgot why she was on the road, and then the hole of her missing patch ached, and she remembered to look for The Mage.

She searched in churches and universities, for surely Wise Men labored there.  She took jobs and quit them again when no Mage appeared.  She befriended other travelers who adored her for her wondrous patches, but Patch Girl never let them too close for fear they might discover her safety pins and the secret behind them.

Once, she met a Scribe who looked up from his book long enough to smile.  He reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t remember who.

“Marry me,” she told the Scribe.  “Protect me.”

“Humph,” he answered, returning to his book.  “If you like.”

But the Scribe could neither protect her nor come out from behind his book for long.  So, Patch Girl continued her search.

One day, a Black Imp danced out from behind a tree.

“Halloo, Patch Girl.  I understand you seek a Mage.”

“Yes,” she answered.  “Do you know him?”

“Know him?”  The Imp cavorted around her and made her laugh.  “I am him!”

“You?”  Patch Girl eyed him skeptically, but she was weary from traveling.  She had lost many of the safety pins Grandmother had given her, and just wanted the search to be over.

“I see your hole, Patch Girl.”  The Imp leered at her.  “I have just the thing to fill it.  Let me fill it and you need never search again.”

The Imp’s promises were so appealing, Patch Girl didn’t even cry.  She knew at once that he wasn’t The Mage, but she no longer cared.

Mother will never love me now.  Father will never protect me.  Sister will never play with me again.  And Brother will never come out from behind his books.  This is what I deserve.

The Black Imp dragged Patch Girl to his hut where he cast a powerful spell upon her and threw her into a cage.  He filled her hole with all manner of vile things, but none of them was her patch.  The Imp shared her with his minions, who promised to protect her and help her find her patch, but they never did.

One night, as Patch Girl cried herself to sleep in her cage, Grandmother appeared to her in a dream.

“Where is My Little Petunia?” Grandmother wondered.  “Where is my clever, clever girl?”

“Here I am,” Patch Girl cried.  “Right in front of you!”

“So you are,” Grandmother said.  “Leave this horrible place at once!”

“How, Grandmother?  I’m locked in.”

“You’re a clever girl,” Grandmother winked.  “You’ll find a way.”

Patch Girl woke with a start.  She could hear the Black Imp and his minions snoring nearby.  Creeping to the door of her cage, she felt for the lock.  Then, she took her last safety pin, straightened it out, fit it to the lock, and pushed the door open.  As she ran from the hut, the covering Grandmother had placed over her hole so long ago fluttered into the mud—lost forever.

Patch Girl ran as far and as fast as her weak legs could go.  The hole from her missing patch gaped wide.  The surrounding patches, once so strong and beautiful, sagged pale and limp.  Those who met her on the road cried out in terror and in pity.

“Try this elixir, “ they said.

“Take this potion.”

“Stand out in the rain and let the lightening strike.”

Patch Girl tried everything every Wise Woman and Fool suggested, but nothing patched her correctly.  She stood under the night sky and wept.  She no longer wanted to search for her missing patch.  She no longer wanted to live at all.  It was too hard, too painful, and much much too heavy.  So Patch Girl left the road and laid in the soft grass to wait for Death.

While she waited, and it did seem to be taking Death a long time to find her, Patch Girl gazed up at the stars.  She heard their quiet song as they trembled like jewels in their velvet setting.  She smiled, remembering Grandmother’s instructions, and rested in the stars’ serenade.  She reached into her now-silver curls and found a pencil with a sturdy eraser.  She smelled petunias nearby.  In her pocket, she fingered the brass Chinese dog and many cookie crumbs.

Near the road, something rustled in the tall grass, but Patch Girl wasn’t afraid.  As she watched, Mother Cat stepped into the starlight with her three kittens trailing behind her.

“Hello, Patch Girl,” Mother Cat said.  “Did you ever find your missing patch?”

“There never was a patch,” Patch Girl answered.  “I was born as the night sky was born—full of wondrous lights that can only be seen because of the dark that surrounds them.”

“And what of your happy ever after?” Mother Cat asked, climbing up on the jeweled light that radiated from Patch Girl’s wondrous patches.

“Oh, Mother Cat,” Patch Girl chuckled.  “That’s just a fairy tale.”

“Ah,” Mother Cat purred, arranging her kittens.  “You finally did find The Mage.”

“Yes.”  Patch Girl smiled up at the singing stars, her fingers tickling the kittens.  “Yes, I surely did.”

The End

Old Song

Uplifting Songs

The bronchitis has run its course, but the wake of bipolar ping-ponging still bounces me.  And I’m desperate to find some equilibrium.  Looking at my journal entries from last year around this time, I was a little shocked to see that I’m repeating myself.

From last year:

Kind of back to normal.  I’m still not sleeping well.  Just want to curl up in my chair and watch back-to-back movies.  Feels like I’m starting over after being sick.  So maybe I should look at what I want my life to be now.  What do I want to focus on?  Work toward?

I could have written that yesterday.  It makes my ass tired to think I’m back at this place.  Every time I get sick, every time I go through a long episode of mood swings, I have to pull up my socks and refocus.  I’m always battling my weight and compulsive eating, my inertia, my disappointment in absent friends.  BlahBlahBlah.  I’m sick to death of this same old song.

My TOPS membership will be due in December, and I decided not to renew.  I’m also resigning as the Weight Recorder.  Now I know that making decisions under the influence of bipolarness is unwise.  I also recognize this throwing in the weight loss towel as part of a different cycle.  I give up, say I’m going to accept myself the way I am, gain weight, panic, and go back to trying to control my eating.  So I fully acknowledge that these decisions are sick-brain-driven and, most likely, temporary.

But, I would like to accept myself the way I am.  I would like to, once and for all, let go of the fantasy that I can lose 150 pounds and be at all desirable to the opposite sex.  I’m not hideous.  I’m just an obese, middle-aged woman on the way to crone-hood.  I want to accept that and find some happiness in THAT, not wait for a body or a partner that are never coming.  I mean, I went to freaking England by my fat self and had a fabulous time.  I don’t want to wait anymore.  For anything.  Or anybody.

And I guess I’m grieving that old fantasy, both embracing the full truth of who I am and pushing it away.  But the more I can wrap my arms around myself, the braver I’ll be about going after what I want.  Like deciding to spend two weeks in Tucson this winter.  I’m renting a little house on the desert because I loved Tucson twenty years ago when we vacationed there and have always wanted to go back.  Because my allergist said I would do better in a warm, dry climate.  Because my shrink said to get out of the dark this winter.

So, I’ve been taking my cats on practice runs to get them used to being in the car for long stretches.  Because I want them with me in the desert.  And we’re figuring it out.  Like I’m figuring me out.  And we all may get car sick on the way.  And we all may cry, and mew, and protest.  But at least that’s a new song.

Frail and Exotic Flower

Frail & Exotic Flower

⊂  ⊃

This is one of the flavors of my depression, feeling translucent and fragile, a melancholy scrim of gossamer floating untethered in the sharp October air.  This is when I yearn for deliverance, rescue, capture by warm and gentle hands.  My weepy mind slides into fantasy to protect itself from the hard edges of the world.  It pulls Heroes around itself like cashmere.  And it tries to sleep.

I am here, now, in this place of soft sorrow.  One eye on the Hero, one eye on the rhythm of the Real.  Train whistles in the distance mourn and warn traffic.  The pumpkin colored oak tree across the street paints across gray canvas and readies for winter.  I am both hibernating in the safe corners of my mind and stepping out to do laundry, meet a friend, have a birthday meal with my sister.  I am both insulated and exposed, denying and tolerating this phase of my bifurcated moon.

But, duality is home to me, my nature, and this season will pass to the next.  All I must do is wait.  In the cashmere and in the banging drum.  Both.  Always both.

National Mental Health Awareness Week

What is mental illness?

nami 2A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.

Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

Learn more about treatment and services that assist individuals in recovery.

bingo

Find out more about a specific mental illness:

Find out more about conditions sometimes related to mental illness:

What does recovery look like?

As people become familiar with their illness, they recognize their own unique patterns of behavior. If individuals recognize these signs and seek effective and timely care, they can often prevent relapses. However, because mental illnesses have no cure, treatment must be continuous.

Individuals who live with a mental illness also benefit tremendously from taking responsibility for their own recovery. Once the illness is adequately managed, one must monitor potential side effects.

The notion of recovery involves a variety of perspectives. Recovery is a holistic process that includes traditional elements of mental health and aspects that extend beyond medication. Recovery from serious mental illness also includes attaining, and maintaining, physical health as another cornerstone of wellness.

The recovery journey is unique for each individual. There are several definitions of recovery; some grounded in medical and clinical values, some grounded in context of community and some in successful living. One of the most important principles is this: recovery is a process, not an event. The uniqueness and individual nature of recovery must be honored. While serious mental illness impacts individuals in many ways, the concept that all individuals can move towards wellness is paramount.

Merely Agog

Mental illness by the numbers

Check out NAMI’s fact sheet, Mental Illness: Facts and Numbers, to find out more about mental illness.

(Thanks to Kitt O’Malley for posting the information from the NAMI website.)

Kiss Me

In my fevered state, I’ve been looping this song of Ed Sheeran’s.  Sweet comfort.

Mildred’s Grog

Mildred's Grog

Oh, for a cup of grog.  Or a hot toddy.  Just when I thought I was shaking off the annual lung crud, I’m back to being feverish and sore-throatish.  Methinks a secondary infection is taking naughty advantage of me.  I’m afraid this means a trip to the quack on Monday if this new development doesn’t skedaddle by then.  Poo.  Ah, well.  At least the first round of depression has come and gone.  That’s lovely.  So much easier to deal with one bully at a time.

Der Rapid Cycle

BrunnhildeI’m at that phase of The Chest Cold/Bronchitis Opera where initial mania (Ooo, goodie!  I get to sleep all day and eat Raman Noodles!) gives way to the longer aria of depression.  I’ve been singing this part for several years now, and sometimes the Dark Solo can go on for months.  As can the bronchitis itself.  It’s a nasty, double whammy.  Sorta like Brünhilde losing her immortality AND getting thrown on a pyre.  Heh, Heh.  That Wagner.  What a cut up.

This season, though, I’m finding the depression to be different.  Not easier—that strum und drang never gets easier—but simpler.  This time, I have the gifts my mom left me to help me through the whole Ring cycle—her almost-new Honda and a small monthly income from investments.

sisyphusI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—the stress of poverty kills.  The hopelessness and desperation it creates turns a person into a sack of mindless meat.  It yanks away the will to live and leaves said person on bloody knees.  It’s a weight that can’t be shucked off or reasoned with—like Sisyphus’ stone (Oops.  Wrong Mythos).

I thank my mom every day for taking away my need to choose between medicine for chest blight and gas for her wonderful car.  I thank her for taking away the stress of being squashed-flat by poverty.  Eliminating that stressor has already made a huge difference in how I deal with my bipolar disorder.  Now I have a real chance to manage it.

But I still have to manage it.  Last week, someone asked me if, since I had a little more money and didn’t have the stress of my Peer Support job, I’d ‘get over the whole bipolar thing now.’  I wasn’t sure how to answer.  It’s not like a cold sore that flares up when you get nervous and then fades away.  It’s not a case of hives.  It’s a mental illness.  I still have to strap on my breast plates and take the stage.  Every single day.  And belt out that damned song.

Don’t be fooled.  The fat lady sings because she has to, not because the show is over.  This is one show that never ends.

Pulling the Plug

I am What I amAfter my session with Luke Skywalker yesterday morning, I decided it was time to call it quits on my stint as a Peer Support Specialist.  I’m quite proud of myself for hanging in as long as I did, and for staying relatively stable through the stress and uncertainty.  I learned a lot about what I need and what I will tolerate.  But, I have bronchitis now, and that means being sick for at least a month.  I was waiting for something to tip the balance on whether to stay or go, and this is it.

The part of me that thinks in black and white wants to consider this a failure, but I’m not having any of that.  I may be returning to a less stressful life, but I’m not the same person I was when this whole job journey started.  I’m more flexible and resilient than I was.  I bring all that back with me.  And, who knows?  There still might be a job out there for me.  But, first, there’s bed and Kleenex.

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