Letting Go

I weaned off all psych drugs in 2012 after reading Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic, which told the statistical downside of treating mental illness with medication. Ever since, I’ve been a LOUD advocate for finding other ways of managing or, for those who need those drugs, additional ways of coping and self-care.

Like a lot of people on a crusade, I was entrenched, rigid in my thinking, self-righteous in my correct view of the world. We’ve seen how that usually ends up.

About a year after I moved to Oklahoma in 2018, the depressive side of my bipolar disorder moved in and never left. She would take a day-trip once in a while, but as time went on, she became more and more the clueless, stinky houseguest.

I know the drill when Depression comes to visit—remember that she lies constantly, get busy finding an artful distraction, get regular reality checks with a therapist, and try not to eat everything in sight. Over time, I stopped being able to do any of those activities. I knew I was in real trouble, and I had no other options left.

I had to try medication.

Two weeks ago, I went to my psychiatrist (whom I fired last winter) and told him I would take whatever he recommended. He was shocked into kindness after fighting with me over this for three years. He spent extra time explaining his choice and our plan of action. I cried through the whole appointment.

As any student of human nature will attest, changing a person’s opinion or point of view is nigh unto impossible. Facts don’t make a difference. Persuasive arguments blow past without leaving a mark. Even one’s experience of events serves only to reinforce what is already believed (selective perception). Faith, Belief, Opinion operate out of deep need, not reality. And there are so many different realities anyway.

I cried in my psychiatrists office because I was letting go of a deeply held belief. Who was I if I did this thing I said I’d never do? I felt betrayed and ashamed. I felt like a fake and a liar. I also felt cautiously hopeful and curious.

What other ideas, opinions, “facts,” could I let go of if I let go of this? What do I believe that might be holding me back?

This attitude of quiet curiosity is an old practice, but I’ve not been able to practice much of anything in years. I’m more amazed and grateful for this way of holding my experience than I am for the relief I’m receiving from my medication. And I suspect that the two go hand in hand.

Ain’t that just the way of things. More Adventure Ahead.

Getting Real

I just got back from getting my Real ID. It’s a perfect morning in eastern Oklahoma—bright, clear, cool—so the short drive over the Arkansas River with the pretty foothills in the southeast pulled my shoulders down from my ears. I’ve been fighting a sinus infection for the last week. Getting out and breathing in the beauty of today was better medicine than anything on my nightstand.

Getting a Real ID—the one that gives a person more access than a regular driver’s license—takes some preparation. This kind of red tape is stressful for me. Ghosts of Doing It Wrong rise up and cluck. But when I dug out my passport, it surprised me by still being valid. It also rolled out wonderful memories of my whirlwind trip to England in 2014 and stirred my current fantasy of visiting Scotland some far-off day.

Whirlwind Souvenirs

I was Real when I traveled to England, but realized I’d lost that sense of myself. Too much stress. Too many changes. Too many dreams abandoned—Trump, Covid, Oklahoma and adapting to life with my sister. My bipolar disorder wrapped me up like a quilt and bundled me into a safe, padded room.

Today, my illness feels lighter. Today, my art is coming back, like red-tailed hawks came back to Iowa after DDT left the ecosystem. The birds migrated to a place where their eggs could be viable, but eventually came home again when it was safe.

My art seems to be laying eggs again, too. I’m getting new ideas, using new elements, trying scarier and out-of-my-comfort-zone things. Like making little watercolor and marker sketches of my own to illustrate my cards.

A walk through my sister’s lovely backyard garden gave me lots of deadfall and other treasures to make some different kinds of cards. Sewing something so fragile feels like a meditation, and I haven’t been able to meditate in a long while.

My therapist and I are also working with a new (for me) kind of therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Lots of familiar behavioral and mindfulness elements presented in a new way. One of my first tasks was to sort through What Is Important To Me. Honestly, I wasn’t sure anymore, so that took time. And now I’m journaling about how I move toward those things or values. You can see how much progress I’ve made so far.

With this unmoored sense of self, I will have to dig to find ways I am actively seeking the things I say I value—if I’m doing that at all. And it’s scary to think how much they might have changed or if I just abandoned what I loved and valued. But that’s what therapy is for, right? To set a new course. To Get Real.

And maybe, when I’m a Real Girl again, and the Covid pigs fly, and the Border Unicorns prance open, I’ll take my passport to Scotland and breathe in the beauty there.

Oh, today I am blessed with Adventure.

Team Thanos

I was always Team Thanos when the Avengers movies came out. Honestly, the guy was misunderstood. Cut the population in half with no suffering. Cut across all political, social, and income levels. Bring the Earth (and every planet) back into balance. Covid is trying, but it’s not nearly as fair.

Tighter restrictions are back in place since the rise of active cases. I know a lot of people who refuse to get vaccinated, and others who think being vaccinated is the only precaution they need to take. Here in beef country, ranchers are dosing themselves with cattle dewormer instead of getting a shot. I think we deserve a visit from Thanos.

Today, I’d be happy to provide one of his vacancies. After a spell of soul-crushing depression, I got up this morning determined to Do The Work of managing my illness. I packed up my traveling art studio and headed to Starbucks… which is closed again. And it’s not like arting is a comfort anymore, though if I work really hard at it, I can find some distraction from the ugly in my head.

And from the growing sclerosis that continues to crystalize around my heart. It’s easier to feel nothing, to shut all doors, to cancel anything that brings me in contact with people.

Easier, but it also makes me feel less human.

Yeah, okay, I’m contradictory and contrary. Bite me.

Still determined, I stopped on my way home to get a healthy smoothie, pulling out the little bit of Bipolar Badass that hides in my hindbrain. I will art on my bed with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD running in the background, and I will try to distract myself by making cards for the people I still have feelings for, even if I have to root around a while to find a soft spot in my heart.

If I can find it, I can nurture it with art. I know I can.

But if Thanos shows up for supper, I’m splitting a pizza with him.

Walkabout

I don’t often pull out my Walkabout Journal. It’s used for creating art out of whatever I find on my walks. Usually, the amount of trash I see depresses me more than inspires me, so I sorta gave up on that concept.

How-some-ever, last week I visited Civitan Park for the first time. The park is close to home, and offers trails plus some scraggly woods. When I found a funky snack bag, I knew I needed to look a little closer at the trash there.

Civitan Park

I found a few more interesting things (though I left the used condom where it lay in the parking lot), and talked to a beautiful tree that was dying and losing all its bark. Then, I came home and worked on this for a couple of days.

I went to the park originally to sit in my car and journal. That has taken the place of camping out in a coffee shop like I used to do pre-Covid. It’s nowhere near as satisfying, but it gets me out of the house and making art in a different, albeit cramped and chilly, environment.

This winter has made me a little claustrophobic with Covid’s lack of options. I do so miss the thick smell of coffee in a shop, the patrons with their laptops, and the baristas’ banter.

My Sissy has a lovely Keurig coffee maker, and I subscribe to Hugh Jackman’s Laughing Man coffee cups, but it’s just not the same (though this add is one of my favorite things in life).

I like the idea of making Car-Journaling into a full event—arting, walking, and scavenging for Walkabout fodder. I’ll be on the lookout for other parks to visit now, instead of just waiting for warmer weather and the lure of my coffee shops’ outdoor seating. Winters are mild here compared to what I’m used to. I don’t want to waste them.

One Giant Leap

As I tried to think outside my bipolar management box this summer, I kept coming back to the increased isolation caused by COVID-19. So, I asked my sister if it would be possible to live together.

Not only was she agreeable, but completely willing to sell her house so we could find a place that fit us. In just a couple of weeks, we found the right house with a lovely garden situated in a quiet neighborhood. She takes possession tomorrow and we will be moved in by the end of the month.

I know this will make a huge difference in my mental health. Just to hear someone else puttering around. And I believe my sister when she says it will be good for her too.

So, here’s to stepping outside the box!



A Report from the New Normal

A friend reminded me that I hadn’t posted here in a while.  Fact is, I have nothing useful to offer.

Severe depression seems to be my new COVID-era normal.  Art can’t touch it.  Drugs rarely provide enough energy to do a load of laundry or make a run to the grocery store.  Not often enough to consider myself “functional.”

In another time and place, I would be hospitalized.  As it is, I try to keep my head down as I slog through the Suicidal Ideation mire.  One foot in front of the other.

With no other options, I am shamelessly asking for help on FaceBook—from the friends and family who know me there.  Help comes.  Groceries and prepared meals from real live people near me; in cold boxes and online deliveries from those far away.  I’ve asked that folks clean out their desks and attics for collage fodder—old pictures, papers, receipts, music sheets, letters—anything flat and weird that might kindle a spark of creative oomph.  I’ve asked them to remind me who I am to them, if I mean anything at all, since I’ve lost perspective about all that.

I can’t wait for the cycle to shift anymore.  I may get a boost now and then, but my little marble rolls back to this trough with no real mood change.  Like everyone else in the world, I have to do things differently.  I have to ask for help, not once, but repeatedly.  I have to get over the shame of that, get over my upbringing, get over myself.

Just one more fucking Adventure.

Switching the Message

I am changing as the world changes.  My world kaleidoscopes inward, spiraling smaller and smaller.  Some days, it scares me.  Some days, I’m content.

Lately, I find little desire to create.  The art I made before holds little meaning or the kind of depth this changing requires.  Some days that scares me.  Some days, I’m content.

What soothed and distracted me before has lost its power.  I am left alone with my brain—the labyrinths and dark pits.  Some days they scare me.  Some days, I’m content.

I need a new banner, a new battle cry, because this—all this—feels like a battle.  But more like the battle a chick wages to emerge from her egg shell.  Something new is being birthed—in me, in the country, in the world.

I can’t choose between these two:

Never give Up. Never Surrender. —”Galaxy Quest”

Oh, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in ‘t! —William Shakespeare

So, I choose both—the common sourced from silliness and the erudite sourced from genius.  Something new will shake out from their pairing, something with flavors of fear and acceptance, I’ll wager.

And I am willing.  Still on the Adventure.

Floating a Little

 

 

• Post Title and Inspiration:

Mary Oliver — Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled–To cast aside the weight of facts–And maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.

Floating a Little

Working ahead in the Glue Card a Day Challenge.  So grateful for a medication that lets me float a little today.

 


• Post Title and Inspiration:

Mary Oliver — Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled–To cast aside the weight of facts–And maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.

Floating a Little

Okay.  Maybe not floating so much this morning.





• Post Title and Inspiration:

Mary Oliver — Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled–To cast aside the weight of facts–And maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.

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