Lonely

After seeing Avengers: Endgame on Friday, I’ve been profoundly moved.  I know it’s fan-girly, maybe bipolar, definitely grief.  I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that.  We all knew there was a Phase One in the Marvel-verse that was coming to an end with this movie.  It is superbly executed.

Something’s come to an end with me, too—some fracture in the way fantasy has soothed me in the past.  Pretend Boyfriends don’t call to me the way they used to.  Barely a whisper anymore.  And so rare.

It’s left me feeling lonely and hollow.

This song came up on my iPod yesterday as I worked in my art journal, trying to feel some connection to the other people at the coffee shop.  I played it on a loop until I could cry, until I could let myself feel all I was feeling.  I think Cap would understand.

Ω

It’s not your eyes
It’s not what you say
It’s not your laughter that gives you away
You’re just lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long
All your actin’
Your thin disguise
All your perfectly delivered lies
They don’t fool me
You’ve been lonely, too long
Let me in the wall, you’ve built around
And we can light a match and burn it down
Let me hold your hand and dance ’round and ’round the flame
In front of us
Dust to
You’ve held your head up
You’ve fought the fight
You bear the scars
You’ve done your time
Listen to me
You’ve been lonely, too long
Let me in the wall, you’ve built around
And we can light a match and burn them down
And let me hold your hand and dance ’round and ’round the flames
In front of us
Dust to dust
Ω

 

Oh, And Happy Valentine’s Day

Traveling

sorrows-mother

I haven’t posted much lately because it’s been scary inside my head.  There’s a fine line between sharing my practice of bipolar disorder and giving voice to the blackest symptoms.  When self-loathing and unrelenting despair become the landscape of my mind, there’s no scenic overlook.  While I strive to be honest here, I also know the scenery will change as my brain rolls on down the road, and that perspective provides a much better photo op.

While I attended Lutheran Hospital’s out-patient program, I stopped taking medication for Binge Eating Disorder (BED).  We needed to see if it was causing my headaches and contributing to the irritability and rage.  Subsequently, all the BED symptoms poured back in—food mania and uncontrollable bingeing.  I gained 15 pounds and hurt all over.

BED creates a downward (outward?) spiral—more weight causes less activity which gives all that food more permission to stick around.  I was already morbidly obese, but was at peace with my body.  Without the Vyvanse, negativity and self-hatred stuffed my head like a Christmas turkey.  The spiral became a hopeless vortex.

Nothing in my bag of tricks helped.  Death fantasies dogged me, but I knew two things would always stop me from actually taking my life—my cats (who are getting old) and the book I haven’t written.  In a weird perversion of logic, I decided that I’d better get cracking on that book if I wanted it to be a party favor at my funeral.  At least I’d have a project to work on.

So, this past weekend, I stayed with my friend, Lily, in Minneapolis and met with another friend, Jinjer, to talk about her experience of self-publishing.

coming-back-to-myselfAnd a very bipolar-ly thing happened.  Being with these friends, who love me unconditionally, traveling out of the struggle of my everyday life and into a few days of watching Netflix in jammies and spicy tea in handcrafted mugs, jolted the positive neuropathways awake.  The hateful Muzak in my head stopped.  My friends’ tender care helped me remember myself.  All the bits and pieces that BED and depression tore off me, fluttered back like Monarchs to their winter home.  Art happened.

And a book will happen.

While I knew Jinjer self-published at least two books, I had no idea one of her many talents was designing books.  So instead of beginning a steep learning curve, I gawked at a path as smooth and clear as asphalt.  She will take my manuscript (when finished) with the accompanying artwork and midwife it through the process.  I started working on the second draft as soon as I got home (and also started back on Vyvanse).

This book is my legacy, not a parting gift.  It’s proof that I lived and survived bipolar disorder, BED, PTSD and whatever acronyms stick to me next.  Like this blog, it speaks to the speed of landscapes passing through a traveling mind.

I’m still on an Adventure.  And I’m making my own Atlas.

sorrows-mothercoming-back

 

Unboxed

In a Box.

The Darkest Hour is Just before the Box Pops Open. —Ancient Feline Proverb

Last Thursday was the third day in a row of fighting suicidal thoughts.  Fantasies of death consumed me.  My therapist scheduled extra sessions.  I sent lots of SOS texts to friends.  It was the worst of the worst.

I took a nap that afternoon and woke up different.  I couldn’t understand what was happening.  Was that sunshine coming in the bedroom window?  When did the grass get green?  What was this weird feeling in my body?  Energy?

I washed my face and put on my shoes.  Could I actually, like, go do something?  I ran errands.  In my car, driving to the auto parts store to get a windshield wiper I’ve needed for months, delivering the cards I made for the school district, I felt the sun, smelled the flowering trees, took deep breaths.  No intrusive thoughts.  No darkness.

Over the next few days, that sense of being normal continued.  Story ideas started coming back.  I made dates with friends and kept them.  I vacuumed.  I ate a bowl of vegan chili and felt something weird.  Full.  I could actually feel that I’d eaten enough and stopped—which started a conversation with my support staff about the correlation between the brain chemistry of bipolar disorder and binge eating.

Such an odd feeling of transition, to have the box of depression spring open after months of darkness and containment.  Like most cats, I don’t immediately hop out.  The eyes must adjust.  Safety must be evaluated, trajectory calculated.  And I must remember that this rush of freedom will not last, at least in this brilliant form.  I will be hopping in and out of the box all through the summer.  But I know that the lid is off.  The Mean Season seems to be over.

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.

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.

Beg Pardon?

CAPTAIN AMERICA THE WINTER SOLDIER_FZ-00497_RA.JPG

Luke Skywalker… er… my therapist, Ben, asked me today,  “If you were a Marvel superhero, which one would you be?”

Immediately, I said Captain America.

I thought he asked me which one did I WANT.

Oops.

Talking to Myself

handmade greeting card, collage artCycling again, and trying to experience it differently (My endless mantra—”Let’s try this…”).  Working with the practices in Radical Acceptance, I breathe and notice how the despair and sorrow feel in my body.  I try to give all that pain room and accept that this is my experience for now.

I’ve done this work before, realized that I feel nothing in the belly when depression is deep, constriction in my chest, constant pressure of tears trying to escape.  The new piece is acceptance and compassion for the whole of my experience—being kind to it all.

It’s too hard to do alone, so I’ll ask my new therapist to help me when I see her on Monday.  I want to run from the pain, numb it however I can, find diversion to keep from noticing it.  And that’s standard psychological practice—when symptoms are too overwhelming, find healthy diversion.  So, I wonder if I’m going too deep, trying to offer space when I should be sitting at the movies being distracted.  I’ve done both this week.

One thing Tara talks about in her book, is compassionate self-talk—telling yourself that you care about the suffering that’s happening.  When I read that passage yesterday, I realized that’s something I’ve done all my life through my stories.

I’ve always been a little embarrassed by my fan fiction.  It’s not considered “real” prose by literary types, just obsessive verbal stalking by lonely fan-girls.  To counteract my shame, I try to write well and develop a solid plot.  I do research and all the other things “real” writers do.  But they still feel like dirty secrets.  I’ve often wondered if my fantasies are pathological, even though every therapist I’ve ever seen says they’re good for me.  I go there, the place in me that holds and generates my stories, when my symptoms swamp me.  I feel ill and desperate when I go to that Haven, so I question whether it’s healthy.

But the stories that spin out are always loving, kind, supportive and validating.  The characters who show up tell me the things I can’t tell myself.  They are the friends who always  have time for me, the lovers who “see all my light, and love my dark.”  They take care of me, which reminds me of what I need to do to take care of myself.

Take the story that followed me around all day yesterday:

Tom HiddlestonI was at a party at Tom Hiddleston’s house with my boyfriend, Benedict Cumberbatch.  Tom hosted the party because Chris Hemsworth and his family were back in town (London) as were Anthony Hopkins and his wife (he lives in the US now).  David Tennant and his wife, and Simon Pegg and his wife, were also there.

These are all characters than have inhabited my Haven before.  It’s an ongoing stream, like real life, where people come and go.  Acquaintances become friends, friends become lovers.  We meet, part, meet again in different circumstances.  What we share and learn about each other carries over to the next scenario.  Sometimes these streams become solid enough to write.  Mostly they just live in my Haven and wait for the next development.

David Tennent, Simon PeggAt this particular party, Tom asked if I would sing for them (I sing a lot in these stories—always beautifully and with stunning effect).  I didn’t want to.  In the story I was sliding into depression and didn’t know some of the people there.  But I agreed anyway.  After singing the Alanis Morissette song “Everything” (which happened to be playing on my iPod), David and Simon wanted to set me up with a music producer they knew.  Their insistence was too much, their enthusiasm pushed me too hard.  I escaped out the front door to the street.  I was overwhelmed, embarrassed, worried that I’d ruined the party, worried that I’d wear out these new friends like I’d worn out everyone else in my life, worried that Benedict would leave me now, and basically felt wretched.

Anthony HopkinsSir Anthony came after me.  I’d never met him before that night, but enjoyed his company at dinner.  He brought a jacket—I’d run out without one—and asked if he could walk with me.  He asked what happened, and I told him.  He asked gentle questions that gave me space.  He talked about his own struggle with alcoholism and depression.  He understood.  He reminded me that my friends’ enthusiasm was just their way of loving me.  We talked about acting, and music, and living fully with mental illness.  He’d seen work I’d done (of course, I act in these stories, too), and said he had a script at home that he wanted to send me. He thought we’d be brilliant in this piece together.

Benedict CumberbatchWhen we went back into the house, Benedict was waiting.  Not worried, just present, ready to provide whatever I needed—comfort, acceptance, steadfastness.  Tom was worried that he’d caused me distress (because I think that’s what Tom Hiddleston would really do).  The rest of the party didn’t pay much attention to Tony and me going out—they had moved on to other conversation and high-energy story-telling.  And I was fine in my vulnerability, cocooned in love.

This story played out all day yesterday.  I was in a lot of distress, and when journaling and movies quit distracting me, the Story would come back and a new piece of comfort and space opened up.

I think I’m done being embarrassed by my stories.  I think I finally understand how important they are to my mental health.  When I need love and acceptance the most, I give it to myself through them.  And, really, I think that’s pretty cool.

I Choose Life

handmade greeting card, collage artComing down from a stretch of mania—that feeling of a greasy rope flying through my hands.  Later I’ll feel the burn, the skin of my palms flayed.  Now it’s just the rope.  Too fast.  No grip.  And the foreknowledge of when the frayed end finally comes—and goes—I’m done.  Then, it’s the limp fall.  Out of control.

I couldn’t go to the hospital today, or yesterday.  I spent all day Friday there, finally realizing I couldn’t help my mom.  She won’t or can’t choose life, says no to food, to therapy, to any action that will move her toward living.  A stubborn non-choosing. I counted off all the ways I’d done what was expected—held vigil for three weeks, cajoled and pleaded, coordinated with my sister, planned to provide care if and when she goes home—trying to be something I’m not, trying one more time to be good enough and worthy.  I was ready with my bag of distractions today, ready to camp out once again after working out at the Y and after meditation group.  But as I fast-walked around the Y track, sliding from mania to depression with the rope smoking my hands, I chose life.

Today, I sucked in the cool air.  I lifted my eyes to the white, cumulus clouds rowing a jewel-blue sky.  I saw a movie, sat journaling at the Hy-Vee cafe with soothing chai tea and kept choosing life.  I’m not done with Mom.  I’ll never be done with Mom.  But I won’t sacrifice myself for her anymore.  No more.

These past few nights, waking up at 2AM, I tried something new.  I laid a quilt under my bedroom window, piled pillows—a poor girl’s zafu—and sat meditation.  I tried to find a different rhythm, tried to let it speak to me instead of chasing or forcing it.  And when the discomfort got too big, when it gripped the place under my left breast, when my brain sighed in sorrow and begged for mercy, then I rested in the Fantasy Man.

He stands in the near distance, his back to me, looking ahead.  Jeans, dark blue dress shirt, dark hair.  Relaxed, but alert.  Hands in his pockets.  Long grass waves against his legs in a silent breeze.  The sky is overcast.  I walk toward him, and that’s enough—to know I will reach him, to see the comfort coming.

Friday night, I dreamed Hugh Jackman was wildly in love with me.  He was ready to leave his wife for me.  And it broke my heart, because what I admire most about him is his devotion to her and his children.  “You can’t do that,” I told him.  “That’s not who you are.”

Broken-hearted.  The core of my bipolar-ness.  I feel the shards rubbing against each other under my breast and fantasize about a heart that is worthy and more than enough.  As my mood shifts this time, I do more than manage, I choose.  On the bed this afternoon with Henry and Emmet close, a breeze slid through the open window.  It slid over my skin like smoke.  It slid me into a place of hearts whole and beating life.

Chocolate Covered Cherries

chocolate-covered-cherriesSo, here I am, practicing living and accepting my life As Is, and what happens?  I’m dipped, like a juicy cherry, in chocolate fantasy.

It’s a pattern.  I see a movie (hero) that touches some core hunger, and my imagination gallops off with me hanging on by my teeth.  It happened with Christopher Reeve in Superman.  It happened with Indiana Jones.  It happened with Christian Bale in The Dark Knight.  Now I’ve been kidnapped by Thorin from The Hobbit (and his portrayer, Richard Armitage, by association).  Scenarios, stories, images spring fully formed from my fevered brow like Athena from Zeus’ forehead.  I scribble them all down to try to get them out of my head, but there’s no draining this well.  More Stories take their place.  Details, dialog, complicated plots.  I’ve been invaded.

Thorin Oakenshield, Richard Armitage, The HobbitThis manic brainstorm is lush and intoxicating, sexy and completely distracting.  I can live there instead of the Real World, which is painful and plodding. The desire to stay there is incredibly strong, but I’m supposed to be facing my reality, right?

I do the best I can, which isn’t much.  When the Stories in my head take a little break, I place myself in space and time (I’m in my truck, my hands on the steering wheel, Annie Lennox is singing about broken glass…).  I take a few deep breaths and feel my body.  Here I am.  Then the Story picks up again and I’m onto the next scene.

I’ve decided it might be better to just ride this pleasure cruise until the mania shifts.  And it will.  I’ll do my best to reorient and ground in the Real, but I don’t think I can stop my brain from doing this.  I’m not sure I want to.  I like chocolate covered cherries too much.

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