The Finger and The Moon

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Coming back today after a swift dip into the Dark Side.  This time I was triggered by an encounter.  I knew I was being triggered, felt the color bleed out and a numbness spread into my limbs.  Under the fear and vulnerability, a part of my brain murmured, “Huh. This is different.”  There is almost never a direct cause and effect to my flavor of bipolar disorder.  Watching something specific set me off was a new experience (I think.  My memory is Swiss cheese, after all).

At the time, I was horrified that I’d gotten myself in a position to be triggered, hated that I got sucked into opening up to someone I wanted to trust.  But, I also sent out an SOS to my Posse, and started Doing the Work, as my friend, Lily, says.

Part of The Work was to separate the event from the subsequent bipolar episode.  It’s like remembering that the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.  If you stare at the finger, that’s all you see.  Moonlight glints off the nail bed. It can be hypnotizing.  I dealt with the finger and was required to turn and face the moon.  The moon is familiar.  I know how to look at it—I have tools to deal with lunacy.  And I know that patience and acceptance is the only way to get through the night.

Another part of the Work was to hold in my mind that I was successful in turning away from the finger.  My sad and flagellating brain berated me for looking at it in the first place, but I had plenty of other voices telling me otherwise.  My posse told me I was brave to take a chance and compassionate as I gazed at it.  I needed lots of help to keep turning away and remembering that the moon was the proper focus of my attention.

I went through some white-knuckle days, but kept reaching out to the people who love me.  That act alone can be so hard when your brain tells you it’s weak, wrong, bothersome.  Oh, the crap our brains can tell us!

Today, I am so grateful for my friends and family.  And I’m even grateful for the luminous moon.

If you’re familiar with the Buddhist teaching about the finger and the moon, forgive me for bastardizing it.  I needed a way to separate the event from the symptoms that followed.  This worked for me.

The Weekly Penny Positive

I pick this one for me—touched by small kindnesses and sudden pops of beauty while swinging from high to low, from lethargic to frantic.  Watching for joy even as I mislay and forget details (like this post), dig out from the mess, and create new ones.  The robin swollen with eggs to come, listens closely outside my window for the worms beneath her feet.  The neighbor’s car gleams lapis lazuli in the parking lot sunshine.  Art in progress sings a whispery siren song.

It’s good to be reminded to watch and listen, because Joy is all around, waiting to be welcomed in.

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.

Comfort Me, O, My Soul

After some semi-comatose recovery time from my Taos-Fail, I wheeled my art cart into Starbucks yesterday and camped out for the morning.  Surrounding my surrogate-self on the page with the warm, chuffing bulk of pachyderms coaxed my sore brain to a softer place.

I also started working with my Panda Planner, a tool my therapist highly recommends.  Along with the regular planner-type stuff, it fosters brain health with headings like What I’m Grateful For, Things I’m Looking Forward To, and a nightly review that includes Wins for the Day.

I feel like I’m starting to crawl out from under the stress of moving (or not knowing when I’ll move) and get back to things that need attention.  Slowly.  Carefully.  I don’t want to startle the elephants.

Penny Positive #63

From An Optimist’s Calendar

I didn’t go to Taos today like I’ve been planning for months.  I missed my plane and figuring out the next steps was suddenly more than I could manage.  Instead, I retrieved my suitcase and came home.  Relieved.  Exhausted.  Aware, now, of how fragile and diminished my capacity has become recently.  Which is okay.

I took care of myself by coming home.  I will continue to do so.

It’s all Okay.

 

Arting Away The Megrims

I’m frozen. Anticipation paralysis. A mixed-state too fast-moving to be displaced by my usual trickery.

I have the Moving Out Cleaning Checklist from my landlord, but all I can do is read it. Over and over. I know I must pull together supplies to take to the art workshop in Taos, but I watch Season 3 of “Poldark” instead.

Still. I have my journal.

This morning my sister texted that she showed this spread to her Merry Widows group last night. Two of the members are professional artists. They said I must join the Artists’ Guild as soon as I get to Muskogee.

Somewhere, off in the distance, I hear ice cracking.

Waiting

Out-Out Patient Care at my mental health clinic came with pluses and minuses, like everything in life.  Was it better than going through a hospital program?  I think so.  Maybe.  It gave structure to my day, a safe place to be, no red tape or ridiculous bureaucracy, no crazy-making group therapy.  It also left me too much alone, no program except what I brought with me—my art supplies, a book about mindful depression that I never read, worksheets from my therapist on dialectic behavioral skills that irritated me in their simplicity.  Mostly, it was a different way to wait out the storm, which is really the most important skill in dealing with bipolar disorder.

I’m not right.  Not yet.  I still feel disconnected, separated from the rest of the world by a transparent, sound-muffling barrier.  People seem alien and unappealing.  The nightmares still come.  Agitation keeps me fidgeting between making my Solstice cards, playing Farm Heroes Saga or Cookie Jam on my phone, and jumping in my car to stalk the perfect binge food.  I’m not done with bronchitis, either, which adds another layer of weariness and self-pity.

So, more waiting.  And accepting each day as it comes.  Today I will do laundry, sort letters cut out of magazines, give my cats treats, watch Fringe on my bed with a cup of squash soup, sew beads.
 
And I will wait.

Learning

Learning how to write with watercolors

 

Learning how to use my Wanting

 

Learning how to stay when all I want to do is go.

 

Another Train


So, nobody said I was particularly wise.

In my desperation to tame the Binge Eating Disorder beast, I regularly cycle around to doing stupid things—things I know in my adipose-caked heart won’t work.  Like diets.  But when an authority figure (aka my new doc) blamed all my physical woes on obesity, and my trusted nurse practitioner suggested a ketogenic diet, I jumped like water in a skillet of hot bacon grease.

I learned two things:

  1. A ketogenic diet made my gut unhappy in violent ways.
  2. I will binge on anything, so changing the type of food doesn’t change the behavior one iota.

So, now I’m back to mindfulness and paying attention to my triggers.

All this food-stress didn’t help my bipolarness.  I’ve been roiling, inside and out.  My thinking is still in desperation mode, so I need to be careful not to jump on every thought-train that pulls into my station.  Another train will come.  And another.  Sooner or later, this anxiety and agitation will shift.  The urge to hop a train out of town will ease.  Eventually, I’ll be able to leave the station and go home.

But, I’ve got this ticket in my hand…

What Fresh Madness Is This?

I wanted to post something today, a little bit of art that might reflect the bipolarness of my now.  Not words.  Words feel acidic and tiresome in my head.

But I couldn’t find anything that I haven’t posted before—heads popping open with weirdness, lonely figures wandering in the Disconnect, wild jumbles of frantic images.  So I had to make it.

It’s almost 4:00 now.  I’ve been working on this card since 10:30 this morning.  Bathroom breaks.  Cat-watering breaks.  Little else.  I can feel that I’m hungry.  I know I need to take a shower (it’s been a couple of days).  But I look into this young girl’s face and fall into it.  The original didn’t have sleep-deprived eyes.  Those are mine.

I look at this young girl and feel her looking back.  We know.  We know the green monsters, and bitey teeth, and staring eyes, and nightmares that stick to our backs like tar.  We hold ourselves very still, because the madness feels new even though we know it is not.  We hold ourselves very still, because part of us believes a shift will come, a swing.  We will travel to a different place on our spectrum that will also feel new, but is not.

She knows there really is no Fresh Madness, just forgetting the feel of the Old Madness.  There are so many kinds, so many permutations.  Our brains, so clever in their Cooking Arts, never use the same recipe twice.  Or do they?  We forget.

Words start to dissolve and puddle, the brain-acid bubbling.

Shower.

Food.

Now.

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