Give Me a Reason

It’s been a bad day.

It’s one of those days when thoughts of death and fantasies of how seep through the cracks.  It’s one of those days that demand a reason—any reason—to keep on going.

Like the push of a kitty’s paws against my side as he settles me for a nap.

Or a job that needs to be finished.

So, I left Emmett to sleep under the covers and finished a project—cards for the people retiring this year from our school district.

Retirement1

This is the third year I’ve been hired to make these cards.  When I think about it, even though I ended up in partial hospitalization the last two years, I still got the cards made.  They nudge me toward life, these pieces of gratitude.  My hands remember beauty even if I can’t at the moment.  As I work the sun swings around to my westward-facing window, giving Henry his chance to bask.

Another day nearly done.  And I made it to the other side.

Behind the Curve

True Blood

♦ ♦

HerveauxIn desperate need of distraction from my flippity-floppity brain, I rented Season 5 of True Blood to see Robert Patrick as a werewolf.  And… well… kept going.

I’m really late to this party.  The show ended after seven seasons last year.  But there’s so much fun to be had.

Alcid, for one.

And the way Vampire Bill injects so much sexy smoke into Sookie!

So, if you’re not easily offended (everyone, even the tele-evangalists, say f*ck every other word.  It’s HBO.  They do it because they can), and you’re not squeamish (tanker trucks full of blood for every f*ckin’ episode.  Oops.  Sorry.  It rubs off), then you might enjoy this campy show.  Or maybe you were one of the five million die hard fans who found it ahead of me.  Or you got bored with it (how many ways can you have sex with a vampire? Yawn).

It’s Disneyworld compared to what’s playing in my head.

Ooo, new theme park idea…

Kind, Gentle and Generous

Give Him the Moon

Earlier this year I set a goal to stay out of the hospital or a hospital program this spring.  Three out of the last five years, I’ve ended up there.  It’s a good thing, really, to know when to make that call.  Lots of folks with mental illness aren’t able to do that for themselves, so I feel lucky and proud of the work I do to hang onto a little insight during the worst of times.

However, the program I’ve used in the past was eliminated, like many of the behavioral health programs across the state, because psychiatrists fled Iowa like rats on a sinking ship (some problem with Medicare reimbursement).  If I needed serious help now, I’d have to drive across the state and admit myself into one of the few psych wards left.  I’d rather not, really.

I needed to change things up—not just my perspective, but what I do to manage this transition from winter to summer.  I found some new resources this year to help—Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation (IPR) and Integrated Health Services (IHS).  Both are new state programs trying to fill the gaps left by the psych docs.  Also, with my mom’s passing last summer, I now live frugally instead of crushed by poverty.  It’s a huge difference.

So, with this new net under me, I started to address the critical and disapproving voice in my head.  I started to wonder if my drive to do more and be more was actually another facet of that mean voice.  I watched how I withheld comfort, left no room for rest or rejuvenation, and squeaked by on the least.

I wondered how it might feel to do the opposite—to be kind and gentle in my self-appraisal, to be generous with my time and money.  I wondered how that voice might sound.  I wondered, for instance, what my grandma might say to me when rapid cycling ruined all my plans for the day.  Or what my friend, Lily, might say about me going to Ireland next year.

Whenever I started to hate on myself, or rail against the unfairness of living with bipolar disorder, or scold myself for going to Des Moines twice in one week, I tried to stop and conjure the people who love me.  Their kind and gentle voices filled my mind.  Their immediate generosity helped me breathe.

Over the course of the spring, I’ve tried to make those voices strong in my mind.  This is some of the hardest work I’ve ever done.  I’m steeped in self-violence.  Recognizing the lie in that voice when it slithers into my thoughts takes time.  Then, countering it with petal-soft, open-armed sweetness is like speaking a foreign language.  But, I’ve learned a few words.  And my vocabulary is growing.

Being kind, gentle and generous to myself doesn’t alter the course of my bipolarity.  Rapid cycling fogs my brain and leaves me exhausted.  Emotions flip and tumble like Olympians.  Chores overwhelm me.  But, today, I have hope that I can navigate the hard road through Spring.  In my mind, I’m holding a warm, gentle hand.  It fits perfectly in mine.  Because it is mine.

The Healing Time

Finally on my way to yesStrange & Terrible Sights

I bump into

all the places

where I said no

to my life

all the untended wounds

the red and purple scars

those hieroglyphs of pain

carved into my skin,

my bones,

those coded messages

that send me down

the wrong street

again and again

where I find them

the old wounds

the old misdirections

and I lift them

one by one

close to my heart

and I say    holy

             holy.

© Pesha Joyce Gertler

Trust the Next Breath

Trust the Next Breath

May all your endings turn into beginnings.

Therapeutic Fan-Girling

scorpion

scorpio

Have I ever mentioned that I’m a Fan-Girl?  Yeah, maybe once or twice.  The thing is… when my bipolarness sinks its bitey teeth in and whips my brain around like a dead gopher, fan-girling is about the only thing that straps me in until the neck-snapping is over.  The little bit of my brain that isn’t devoured latches onto a story or a character and lives there, sometimes long after the bipolar hound is done with me.  It’s a strategy I learned early in life—to escape from the pain by joining the story.  There, I could let my creativity out to play.  Survival and fun—what more could an eleven-year-old ask for?

SimonI used to be ashamed of my obsessions—hiding my Leonard Nimoy Association of Fans newsletters in my underwear drawer, keeping my big file of Christopher Reeve pictures and articles hidden between my nursing textbooks.  But, I’m not alone in my fannishness.  Conventions all over the world celebrate the joys of fandom.  And celebrities I adore have admitted their own geek-leanings.

Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection.  It means never having to play it cool about how much yon like something.  It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult.  Being a geek is extremely liberating. — Simon Pegg

Nathan ComicConI’m a dork, I collected comics.  I still love cartoons.  I’d rather be at home on a Friday night than out at some club.  My sense of humor is that of a geek.  My likes and dislikes are that of a geek.  I’ve memorized every crappy sci-fi movie there is, but still haven’t seen Schindler’s List. —Nathan Fillion

I love what I love, and when I’m under bipolar duress, I love it even more.  So, excuse me while I soak in all the episodes of Scorpion on You Tube, Google the actors, then let the dendrites still sparking concoct a few story scenarios.  Let me relish the fact that the creators of this show also gave me Xena–Warrior Princess, AliasFringe and the new Star Trek movie franchise.  So I know these guys.  They’d my buds.

It’s safe and warm here in Fan-Girl World.  Come on in.  The squeeing never ends.

Really

Saw the Legs

ψ

Don’t mess with me today.  Really.

Phoenix

Merry Sidekick

As part of my quest for living a better life with bipolar disorder, I spent this past weekend in Minneapolis/St. Paul, reweaving connections with old and dear friends, and sending out a few new runners.  These are the kind of friends who will make me stand in their kitchen until they understand the difference between rapid cycling and mixed state; the kind of friends who find a restaurant for lunch on the other side of town because it will accommodate both their Paleo diet and my vegan preferences; the kind of friends who make me laugh until I have to hop to the bathroom to avoid leakage.

And when I have a melt-down (as I did on Saturday), these are the kind of friends who let me bolt back to my hotel without offense, who will hold my insecurities and shame like a porcelain bowl until I can shake the ashes into the trash.  We can say to each other after a morning of coffee and gab, “Are we done?  I’m done.”

These are people who allow me to be myself, who are honest and clear, who look at me with compassion and see all.  They are the keepers of my history since I can’t remember it.  They fit forgotten pieces into place.  They restore me.

This is a difficult time of year for those of us with Seasonal Affective elements included in the bipolar disorder.  Spring brings chaos, fluctuations in mood, and, for me, warp speed cycling.  This is the time of year I am most likely to be hospitalized.  I need the support of people who love me, but my tolerance for stimulation and novelty is severely limited.  It’s a quandary.  But my friends are willing to walk this weird tightrope with me.  And when I can rise up from the ashes, I am grateful.

F*ck Bipolar

(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.

 

F Bipolar Girl

F

F Bipolar Boy

March Madness

TumbleweedPhew!  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.

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