Bronchitis: End of Week 2
Things are getting weird.
But also, things are in motion.
Artful, Conscious Living with Bipolar Disorder
21 Mar 2017 8 Comments
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.
15 Jan 2017 24 Comments
in anxiety, art, art journaling, bipolar disorder, cats, depression, distorted thinking, health, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art, TV and Movies Tags: acceptance, bedbugs, melancholia, mindfulness, Northern Exposure, PTSD, self-compassion
After almost three weeks of Clear, Calm Mind, weeks when I made art with quiet joy and dug into the second draft of my book about being bipolar, weeks when decisions made themselves; after weeks when the Dark Times of last autumn faded, the inevitable shift came.
First, just a melancholia set in as I watched the last season of Northern Exposure (like getting weepy over Hallmark commercials). Mopping up with Kleenex, I would have called myself hormonal if I still had any Girl Parts. But after the final episode, I felt bereft. I’d binge-watched all six seasons of the show, and now it was over. I have a bad feeling about this, my Inner Han Solo muttered.
Later that day, I shut down during therapy. We hit something big, and it blew all the circuits. My therapist talked and all I could hear was the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons (Wah-wah-wah).
It takes me a bit to catch up with the shift. I have to find a little spot of compassion and mindfulness where I can change gears. What do I need? What do I have to take care of and what can wait? I will stay home today and do art at my table instead of going to church and the Writing as a Spiritual Practice group that I love. I can make this decision without guilt or self-loathing. It’s what needs to be today.
Tomorrow I will focus on preparing my apartment for the new bed-bug prevention regiment. There’s a lot to do—vacuum, get everything off the floor, pull the furniture away from the walls. I don’t quite understand what will be done, some kind of silicon mist, so I need to get as much stuff under cover as I can. Then, on Tuesday, the cats and I will camp out at friends all day while this procedure takes place. I’m not sure what kind of clean-up will be required once we get back. All I know is that I can’t vacuum for three days.
Stuff like this is stressful on my best day. I had found a rhythm with the quarterly bug-sniffing dog’s visits, but I guess Radar wasn’t as accurate as advertised. Now management has decided on this annual preventative hoo-haw instead. It’s so disruptive and worrisome.
So, I breathe and try to turn my thinking. I don’t have bedbugs, but if my neighbors do, I’m at risk. So this is a good thing. Proactive. And only once a year. I can do this.
And if it’s all I do this week, it will be enough.
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.
15 Aug 2016 10 Comments
I forget that neuro-normals don’t always know how to bring crazy into a conversation. I also know other folks with mental illness aren’t always as open as I am (i.e. in-your-face TMI) and have real reasons to keep their condition private. So I grok that asking me how I am might be intimidating. Old taboos, stigma, Midwestern Nice—for whatever reason, some folks are more comfortable asking other people how I am.
My sister told me about one mutual friend who said, “I know I’m not supposed to ask, but…”
I guess it’s possible, during one of my Swampy Brain days, that I might have sprayed venom like a velociraptor if a human being invaded my space (which varies depending on the amount of Swamp). Or muttered an F-word-laced answer to a direct question. Or maybe just burst into tears. It’s possible.
Gosh, I hope not. I want people to ask after me—especially on those Everglades days. When my hold on Reality is shakiest, I need to know people haven’t written me off or (horrors!) forgotten about me. Kindness makes me cry, but I hope that isn’t a deterrent.
Come to think of it, inquiring directly about my state of mind could get pretty messy what with all the spittle, and weepage, and colorful expletives. It might take someone with a HAZMAT suit and no sense of propriety.
I can live with second-hand concern. I’m still touched by it. And I apologize if a squirting, prehistoric potty-mouth responded to anyone’s approach. I hope they try again. I’ll use my words next time.
30 Jul 2016 13 Comments
Today is Paint The Bedroom Day. The first coat is on the walls and ceiling, so I’m freshly laundered and off to The Brew House to eat, rest and journal.
ETA for the second coat—1:30.
Henry is showing his age today. He only banged on the door to get in a few times. In his youth, this Alpha Tom would have hammered the door as long as it took for me to remove said barrier. But, like most old guys, he’s more interested in going back to his post-breakfast, mid-morning nap.
29 Jul 2016 2 Comments
More Great Animals
10 Apr 2016 19 Comments
A short day on the road. Honestly, I should have planned more of those, but oh well. Live and Learn.
I saw another one—doberman-sized—in the “living room.” And when I shook out my robe, his bigger brother fell out.
Now, I’m not an insect weenie, generally. I either squish bugs or catch and release to the outside. But, this was sort of the Last Straw on my Exhausted Camel’s back. I packed up in record time (checking to make sure I had no hitchhikers) and got the hell out of Dodge. Or Kansas City, as it were.
Once I was on the road, I texted my host, said it was too bad we didn’t actually meet (he’d brought someone home with him last night. You know bachelors. I didn’t think it was cool to stick my head up from the basement to say hi), and why I bugged out so fast.
In all fairness, he apologized sweetly and gave me a partial refund (Okay, I did sleep in the bed, but really?).
In no time, I found myself back in familiar territory. I stopped at my gas station, took a small token of thanks to The Cat Whisperer, put my valiant Corvus through the car wash, and went home to my boys.
And, of course, there’s a notice on my door that Radar, the bedbug sniffing hound, will be here tomorrow. Sigh. There’s no rest for the bug-conscious.
It’s good to be home.
05 Apr 2016 9 Comments
As I said in my previous post, yesterday started out in bipolar sludge. But, it didn’t stay there.
I asked my Cat Whisperer to send photos of The Boys, and she responded lickety-split. It helps to see that, while they miss me (evidenced by nervous spew), they look and act like themselves. Emmett hides. Henry dominates. Eating and drinking and litter-boxing continue. Nothing there for my worrisome thoughts to stick to.
I abandoned my Great Idea of taking most of my food with me in a borrowed cooler. What seemed like a frugal adventure in South Dakota got boring food-wise and too high maintenance for me (like finding room in someone’s freezer every night for my ice bag). In rebellion and shear peevishness, I stopped at KFC for lunch. Then, at a gas station near Williams, California, I trashed my week-old Clementines and dumped the ice. Instant relief.
I noticed how the light, slanting in from the west, lit up the hillsides like chartreuse fire. Those terran White Whales, furred over by tender spring greenery, breached the flat olive groves with house-sized barnacles casting long emerald shadows. The beauty of all that blazing green did something to my brain. Or my brain changed channels enough for me to appreciate it. Tomato. Tomahto.
I get my own little patio to commune with the trees and a completely private space. More beauty. More hospitality. More gratitude. I cooked up my Ramen noodles (not all foodstuffs ended in a dumpster) and felt better.
I don’t even mind (much) that there’s coffee and a coffee maker, but no cream or sugar. And nothing even remotely resembling breakfast. There is, however, a tiny bottle of olive oil and a toaster over. The second “B” in B & B, I find, is open to much interpretation.
I don’t care. It’s a brand new day.