My Anti-Hate Campaign…

…Or Training Myself to Grow Where I’m Planted.

In the wilting swamp of summer, with depression and agitation kicking up a Pig Pen Black Cloud, I found myself hating Oklahoma.  What I gained by moving seemed minuscule compared to what I’d lost.

Thankfully, I’ve done this work long enough to know I was not seeing the whole picture. I needed clarity.  I needed objectivity.  I needed to turn the Bipolar Bus around.

So, I started my Anti-Hate Campaign.

I pulled out a blank journal and started making A Plan—to be specific, to separate my “hates” into piles, and to brainstorm ideas on how to make changes.  I approached this journal like any other, painting and collaging the pages with care, using colors I love, letting the art of the process lead me.  Loving the journal itself encouraged me to pick it up and tackle the next phase.

I found that most of the “hates” I labeled unmanageable carried some seed of change, either in my perception or in a sideways action.  The state’s poverty and poor education system overwhelmed me, so I noodled about becoming more informed about specific problems.  I subscribed to the Tulsa World and looked for speaker forums to attend.  As other ideas come, into the journal they go.

The cooler weather brought all kinds of physical and mental relief.  I came back to ideas I’d had in April about making my duplex into a place of sanctuary and inspiration.  I rearranged my sitting room, painted and hung a screen door to be used as an Idea/Celebration Board, and found the perfect, Feng Shui-enhancing poster of Wonder Woman.

Outside, I asked permission to create a rock garden between the edge of my cement patio and the privacy wall.  I spent a satisfying day leveling ground and hauling rock, then sitting in my sister’s borrowed patio chair to enjoy the breeze and my handiwork.  Artful doo-dads and whirligigs will be added in due time.

Because of my journal and texts with my friend, Cheryl, I realized that hating where I live is just another bipolar symptom.  Anger, agitation and loathing rise up and attach themselves to whatever is handy.  An unfamiliar, uncomfortable place is a perfect target.  As I continue to do this Work of shifting perception and turning toward joy, I will learn to recognize that symptom sooner and take steps to be gentle with it.

And I will feel my roots growing deeper into Oklahoma’s red earth.

Penny Positive 2.24

(Okay, I have to admit I want to punch this jolly clown in the face today.  Just a typical downswing, but it sure makes me growly.)

Just Don’t Scare the Cats

I don’t know why I’m always surprised by how awful this illness can feel.  There are episodes that seem like the first time (though I don’t think this is what Bryan Adams had in mind).

Little annoyances pile up and become life-jettisoning disasters.  This morning, after fighting with my shower curtain and flooding the bathroom floor, I collapsed on the bed and bawled full-volume.  I didn’t try to stop, hoping the release would activate some mysterious brain juice.  But all it did was scare the cats.

While Emmett huddled in the corner, Henry leapt to the rescue, yowling and circling my body.  He’d pause to sniff my face, then circle again. Or pause and grumble at the window to make sure no predators attacked while I was in this weakened state.

My boys.  My old, grandpa cats.  Saving me from myself.  Again.

Eventually, I wound down and started pulling together a plan for how to get through the day.  And the boys went back to their naps.

Walk Me Through This One

 •

My mind is a swamp.  A swamp littered with broken glass.  I know how important it is to put on my big rubber boots.

I have to navigate Medicare’s blockade.  Again.  Still.  I need to work with a doctor who doesn’t believe me and seems outraged when I ask him to address my needs.  And this might all be my swamp, bubbling up and belching gas.  A hallucination?  Reality?  Somewhere in between?

It makes my gut ache, all this wading around and watching for gators.  The glass shards glitter in the foggy light, slicing across thin rubber.

I realize I take high offense at being disbelieved, as if I know nothing of my own body or the patterns of my Everglade mind.  It is a kind of erasure, wiping away my years of struggle and learning, all the experimentation, all the adventure.  It denies my intelligence.

So, I take a big lungful of the swamp gas and blow it out.  Offense is a state of mind.  An unhelpful state of mind.  My task today is to adjust my perspective.  I cannot be erased by another.  I know who I am.  I know what I know.  And I will play the Game.

Synchonistically, I started an online course today called Creative Mindfulness.  And I will meet with a new therapist who is versed in Cognitive and Dialectic Behavior therapies as well as Mindfulness.

“Calling All Angels.  Walk Me Through This One.”

Where The Hell Am I?

Just when I think my brain is running its last lap in this summer’s Looney Marathon, another starter gun fires, and we’re off on a downhill luge sled. Is this the Circles of Hell Olympics?

Oh, yeah. Right. It’s bipolar disorder.

I’m just not managing it very well this round.

Part of it is the swampy atmosphere — rain six out of the last eight days with 100% humidity in between.  The weather has turned me into a sweaty, gummed-up, ice bag-sitting Howler Monkey who can’t bear to leave my A/C and ceiling fans.

Another part is the new ear worm that comes with The Black listing all the vital coping tools (read: people) I lost in the move.  Distorted thinking is the true gem of mental illness. It’s exactly as clever, well-reasoned, and creative as the host brain, so everything it spins sounds completely true.  It takes tweezing through the rationale to find the flaws, and I’m too sweaty to hold the tweezers steady.

know I need to move my body. There’s a perfectly fine pool available six days a week and a yoga class that caters to the inflexible, but I can’t talk myself into leaving my cool, dry hidey-hole.

know I need to find a different therapist.  Alice is a lovely person, but she’s not equipped to help me. Just the thought of starting over again, searching for a therapist who accepts Medicare an hour away in Tulsa… Scarlett O’Hara sashays out of The Black and tells me to think about it tomorrow.

Yet, as I write this, I realize my sister will help me. She asked yesterday what she could do. Yesterday I had no idea. I was speeding downhill too fast in that stupid luge to see anything clearly. But maybe she can help me get my bearings. Maybe I can figure out where I am.

Marco…

It feels like I haven’t blogged in a long time, but I see that’s just not true (Hello, distorted thinking!).  Maybe the disconnect comes from playing Marco Polo with some of my friends back in Iowa and Minnesota.  If you’re not familiar, MP is a messaging app that creates little videos.  It was my friend, Cheryl’s, genius idea to use it, so that we could see and hear each other while giving updates.

I’ve taken my buddies to the Flea Market and introduced them to the baristas at my new coffee shop-home.  They’ve toured my duplex and The Peach Barn (Fried Pies!).  Most importantly, I’ve shared the ups and downs of my illness as my rheostats rebooted after the electrical surge of moving.  That’s something I’ve only done here in my blog, where words can be safely crafted and kept separate from a voice and face that feel too vulnerable to share.

In real-time, I try not to unload when my moods deep-cycle.  I might mention it in passing, or say “I’m having a hard day.”  Right or wrong, I believe too much truth will break the people I love.  And I can’t bear the uncomfortable silence or awkward attempts at sympathy that usually follow.

But, I needed support.  I needed to be real.  So, there were blubbery posts, and manic posts, and little videos where I looked and sounded like a zombie.  No one ran screaming into the night.  No one shamed me.  In fact, the love and support that flowed back to me helped more than I can say.  I thank my friends for that.  Thank you, guys.

It’s still weird, living here on the Moon, where huge fireworks displays light up every front yard on the Fourth of July, and fried bologna sandwiches are a restaurant menu item.  But, when I wake in the morning, and the first thought that floats up out of the dark is I’ve made a huge mistake, I can gather more and more evidence to the contrary and send that distorted thought packing.  It still has to shuffle off into 100 degree and 90-something percent humidity, but shuffle off it does.  All I need do is shut the door and whisper, …Polo.

Setting the Poop on Fire

I realized this morning that I’d started to give up.

This long season of depression has granted me an occasional hour or two of relief before rolling back in.  I distract my conscious thoughts with Netflix and sewing, but have lost interest in exploring my surroundings or reaching out to others.  I know I’m in trouble, so this morning I sat down to journal and let all the ugly thoughts out of their cages.

I was about to see my new therapist for the second time, which just made me miss my previous therapist more.  I knew if I didn’t start processing all the “forbidden” thoughts in my head, I’d never stop crying in her little closet of an office.  So, I scribbled away, which is the only way I know to capture the distorted thinking and actually see it.

I lasted ten minutes with the therapist.  Long story short, I felt disrespected and dismissed.  I will not be going back.

Part of me is very aware that my depression could be warping my perception.  Another part of me is mad as hell, and that’s the part that rises up every time my boundaries get trampled.  It’s the spark that lights up my personal Bat Signal.  Or BadAss Signal.

I have work to do.

I texted my sister and will be meeting her and her grandsons for lunch tomorrow.  We also had a very supportive exchange about feeling out of place and longing for things that we’ve likely romanticized.

I called the other therapist in my shrink’s office and just now made an appointment with her for Monday.  I know this woman is at least kind, because my sister sees her and talks about her.  Kind is a good place to start.  Kind is enough.

If my 17-year-old cat can still unload a huge poop, then gallop through the house reestablishing his supreme authority, so can I.

Consider this my psychological dump.

The BadAss is Back.

There is Beauty in the Fractures

I’m feeling fractured and heart-broken.  It’s just a feeling.  It will pass.  And using Tom Hiddleston as an archetype of broken-heartedness somehow helps.  And the red.  The red is right.

Blessed Assurance

These are the things that keep me going:

1.  An Etsy customer sent me this photo.

She said, “As you can see, I’ve discovered a way to set up your artwork in my apartment; I couldn’t have your cards just sitting in a shoebox in the closet. When I’ve sent out cards to friends and family, I simply replace them with something else fabulous from your shop. It’s a wonderful system; It helps me foster relationships through writing. And you should know, they always love them.”

Another customer said, “You are a warrior woman who is in Amazon training. I join you in your training and I fight the good fight as a secondary teacher who has seen enough of school shootings and is ready for both kids and teachers to feel and to be safe again at schools. Love your positive cards that pack a pint-sized punch. Going to keep some and share some with those in need of a pick me up.”

2.  Choosing to be Grateful

3. Subsonic Purrs. 

4. The moments, however fleeting, when a crack opens in my anger, or paranoia, or hopelessness, or wanting and something wise creeps in—something gentle, something breathable—that reminds me of who I am.

5.  Daily Confirmation of the Power of Art to Heal.  I trust the process completely now.  I sit with no ideas and in a few hours something remarkable creates itself.  No mistakes, no judgment, no hesitation, no Time.  It is Magic.  It is Grace.

Back at the Table

It’s been a long while since I sat at the studio table and fiddled with my piles of art fodder.  All I’ve been able to do for several months is doodle in my art journal—which is exactly what I needed to dissipate the anxiety and bipolar flares brought on by moving.

Spreading out in my new digs means using the living room as my studio, with a whole wall in the kitchen devoted to wet work (not the CIA/NSA kind).  All the supplies in the photo at right used to be crammed onto that little shelf unit on the far left and in the containers on the table.  How did I do that?

I’d become an expert in carving out space in my little 450 square foot apartment and fitting everything together like a jigsaw puzzle.  So much so that arrangement is still a little wonky here.  New space, new jigsaw.

I sent for an IKEA file cabinet and a two-drawer unit to sit on top.  Now I can file new techniques I want to try.  All the books I rip pages out of sit together.  All my vintage photos are within arms reach.

But, I didn’t christen the Studio for a long while.  And I didn’t worry about it.  Eventually, the stress would ease.  Eventually, the bits and bobs I love would call to me.

Of course they did.  And I went back to making the larger versions of my Penny Positives—little collage pieces on 3.5 X 2.5 playing cards. This morning I took pictures of the thirteen I’ve finished and put them in my Etsy shop.

It was a grunt.  Mornings used to be my most productive time, but I’m still struggling with early morning depression and thick mental fog.  Most days, that lifts.  Sometimes not.  But, I’m determined to tick one, small task off my To Do list each day and to reinforce a new routine.  Hard work, but necessary.

So, for anyone who was waiting for me to make those Penny Positive cards, there are a few in my Etsy shop now and more on the way.

Bit by bit, breath by breath, life, work and my mental shenanigans are finding their way back to the Table.

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