I felt like when I left home that I was on a journey, and I still am.—Heath Ledger
Artful, Conscious Living with Bipolar Disorder
05 Apr 2017 2 Comments
I felt like when I left home that I was on a journey, and I still am.—Heath Ledger
07 Mar 2017 23 Comments
I woke up this morning feeling like—as my friend, Lily, so delicately puts it—dog shit on the bottom of God’s shoe. Also, furious. But I pulled on my swimsuit, intending to take it out in the water. Except I was 90 minutes early.
I raced to the nearest salon. “Can someone cut my hair right now?”
“Yes!” the hapless pixie piped. “And today all haircuts are $10!”
“Great. Shave it all off. I can’t stand it another second. I’m tired of trying to look like something.”
And I left feeling like my outside finally matched my inside. Furious. And the closest I’ll ever come to looking like Charlize Theron.
I roared off to misbehave and brought home two bags full of art supplies. Now we’ll see what fury can really do.
01 Feb 2017 21 Comments
Tomorrow I take off for a three-day art workshop in Taos. I met the artist, Orly Avineri, at ArtFest last year and fell in love with her spiritual ways. We’re going to do strange and wonderful things to old passports.
I’m ready for a change of pace, change of scenery, change of mind. I can’t wait to get in my rental car in Albuquerque and hit new roads in a beautiful part of the country. I can’t wait to see what an AirBNB private suite will provide Taos-style. I can’t wait to be with artful folk. Inspiration wafts in the air like bread rising in the oven.
My friend, Sue, will reprise her role as Cat Whisperer. Now that Henry is in his dotage, I need her gentle cat ways to keep from worrying about his finicky bowels and time away from him when there’s not that much time left. Emmett, as always, will be fine under the bed linens where he feels safest.
Once I’m done sorting the first draft I can see what it is. Is there a heart? Is there a through-line? I’m absolutely great with not knowing. It will come. It always does.
So, in a calm and clear state of mind, I’m taking precautions as I haven’t flown since my assignation with Richard Armitage in London three years ago. I’m chewing a couple of Airborne with my morning Shakeology immunity-booster smoothies. Religiously.
But the cootie-infested air on a plane laughs at such feeble measures. I am healthy and well will be my whistling-past-the-graveyard mantra as I squirt hand sanitizer in a pentagram around my seat.
Whatever. It will be worth any bug or virus.
Adventures always are.
05 Jan 2017 8 Comments
Thanks to everyone who offered an opinion about whether A Mind Divided stays or goes. Honestly, I wasn’t fishing for compliments, but holy crow! They just kept jumping out of the water! If I thought my ego was gassy before… well…all I can say is somebody better light a candle.
I’m still pondering. But I also want to keep showing up in a significant way.
As my therapist and I started working through Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manuel for PTSD and Substance Abuse, she suggested I use my art journal to create a sense of safety. So, this:
While I don’t have the dual diagnosis this book targets, we substitute food for drugs and alcohol sometimes. I’ve been told Binge Eating Disorder is a completely different mechanism than addiction (that wacky, clever brain!), but sometimes it’s useful to look at how I eat to numb and distract. Bipolar disorder, Binge eating disorder, trauma, anxiety—they all twirl together in a Regency Allemande.
This actually feels very much like my brain—chaotic, lively, jumbled—with the brooding Mr. Darcy circling the perimeter. There are worse things than being a Jane Austen novel.
08 Oct 2016 18 Comments
in art, bipolar disorder, cats, death, depression, distorted thinking, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art, video Tags: distraction, meditation, partial hospitalization, rapid cycling, suicidal ideation
One of the earwigs of my flavor of bipolar disorder is passive suicidal ideation. I’ve learned that thoughts of death, the desire to be dead, and fantasies about my funeral are all just symptoms of my illness, not some conclusion or solution I arrive at on my own. I’ve come to understand them as just one Tootsie Roll in the party favor basket of worsening depression. I can root around in my stash to see if the other treats are there—insomnia, social isolation, hypersensitivity, lack of interest in things I usually enjoy, persistent hopelessness and despair. This is not the Halloween candy I want, but it’s the loot I’ve been given.
One of the ways I counter these distorted hobgoblins is by remembering I have the ultra-rapid cycling form of bipolar disorder. I can count on the witch’s brew of my brain chemistry to shift in hours or days. All I have to do is distract myself until that happens. I’ve gotten pretty good at that.
The other thing I can count on is the complete unpredictability of my illness. My care providers and I have tried to track patterns and triggers. We’ve charted seasonal changes (sometimes), stress (sometimes), length and depth of mood shifts (no pattern there). This year has been like no other, but that’s like saying snowflakes are different. So what?
All I can really say is that last year around this time I got pneumonia. Since then, I’ve been depressed except for the tempering effect of my cross-country trip out West and back. I’ve had burps of hypomania, and a few good days, but each dip downward has been lower than the last. And the good days are rare.
That’s a long time to keep distracted. It’s a long time to push against the negativity and the whispers of a Final Relief.
Earlier this week I found myself shifting from passive to active suicidal ideation. That’s a clinical and un-scary way of saying I starting planning how to get the job done. If it weren’t for the promise I made to my cats, that I wouldn’t abandon them, I might have followed through. I like to think not, but it was deep and dark in my head.
Instead I called Lutheran Hospital’s out-patient psych department and got on their waiting list for an intake interview. Since my therapist had called them two weeks ago to get information, they bumped me up the list, and I’ll get that interview next week.
It sounds so easy when I write it out like that, but it took all the skill, energy, and courage I had in the moment to make that call. It meant stopping the forward momentum that had been pushing me for months and turning in a different direction.
Once I made the call, the relief was immediate. I’m still severely depressed, but the suicidal Junior Mints melted—which makes a nice treat for my cats since I’m out of catnip. They deserve a treat. Even if it’s only a mental construct, they saved me. My heroes.
And now, in the spirit of changeability, for something completely different.
24 Sep 2016 6 Comments
20 Sep 2016 27 Comments
in art, Bipolar Bad-Ass Training, bipolar disorder, distorted thinking, management, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art, quality of life, symptoms, TV and Movies, video Tags: crisis, Integrated Health Services, Justice League, memory loss, mental health care, mindfulness, partial hospitalization, rapid cycling, Wonder Woman
I’ve been in trouble for a while now, mental health-wise. The amnesia that comes with severe symptoms keeps me from remembering that this is normal. My brain yammers that I’m getting worse, that my social skills are devolving, that all my tools are useless, and that, maybe, by brain is starting to liquify. But, the reality is I’ve been here before.
One of the many vital roles my therapist assumes is that of Archivist. She starts a sentence by saying, “When you’ve been like this before…” and suddenly I can breathe again. I spend so much energy and attention on navigating the whip-quick changes of the rapid cycling aspect of my illness, it’s very hard to pull focus and take in the larger picture. Shifts happen in the slow time of seasons. My Richter Scale rarely registers a catastrophic event, but like earthquakes, the tension builds over time to an inevitable break.
Recovering this broader perspective helps. I’ve survived 8.9 quakes before, so how do I do that again? Before, I would check into Mercy Hospital’s Out-Patient program (day-care for the neuro-diverse), but like so many other mental health care programs and hospitals in Iowa, it no longer exists. The programs that are left focus on folks who need functional help. I don’t need help doing my laundry (usually).
My Integrated Health Caseworker said something like this yesterday, “You’re so high-functioning, you fall through the cracks.”
It’s a Catch-22, being a Bipolar Bad-Ass.
Friday, I went early to my therapy appointment. I brought my wheely cart of art supplies and camped out at their little corner table in the waiting room. They thought that was a brilliant idea, and invited me back whenever I felt the need. So, I went again yesterday and stayed all day.
There’s no therapy, no expectation of interaction beyond a quick hello, but it’s a safe place that’s quiet and welcoming. Sorta like going to a coffee shop, except the baristas love and understand me. I call it “Out-Out-Patient Care.”
My therapist and I are also exploring alternatives. What about a Mindfulness class that would provide structure and an emphasis on Doing The Work? What about some sort of retreat? These things cost money, so we pulled in my caseworker to help hunt for grants.
I am grateful everyday that I function as well as I do. AND it’s hard work to find services that fit me. AND it’s hard to think outside the box when thinking is most difficult. But, I have an actual team helping me now—my own little Mental Health Justice League. I’m not feeling much like Wonder Woman at the moment, but with a little help, I might be able to find that lasso.