Fury Road

I woke up this morning feeling like—as my friend, Lily, so delicately puts it—dog shit on the bottom of God’s shoe.  Also, furious.  But I pulled on my swimsuit, intending to take it out in the water.  Except I was 90 minutes early.

Fury boiled.

I raced to the nearest salon.  “Can someone cut my hair right now?”

“Yes!” the hapless pixie piped.  “And today all haircuts are $10!”

“Great.  Shave it all off.  I can’t stand it another second.  I’m tired of trying to look like something.”

She did.

And I left feeling like my outside finally matched my inside.  Furious.  And the closest I’ll ever come to looking like Charlize Theron.

Furious helps.  Furious brings the Bad-Ass, which is now in full display.

I roared off to misbehave and brought home two bags full of art supplies. Now we’ll see what fury can really do.

ψ

Muttering

mousy-ladiesI’ve stalled out in a mixed-state depression.  It’s nothing new, not even very noteworthy, but I’m always surprised by how it changes everything.  My perception becomes bleak and twisted, my body slow and creaky.  I miscommunicate and send mixed messages, because every part of my brain is mixed.  I’m confused and confusing.

Depression with rage is so uncomfortable, and so isolating.  I hate everyone.  Or am scared of them.  Ancient resentments and regrets rise up like specters out of unholy ground.  This is the part of my bipolarly existence that sees a life as a hermit as the only option.

I have a couple of mantras during these times:

Keep Your Mouth Shut

It Will Shift Soon

Just Wait

pretty-magazinesSo, I’m muttering mantras.  And looking at pretty magazines.

temp-poldark-poster2And watching Poldark.

 

 

 

And making art.

making-art

 

Lots of art.

Take-Aways

anton/compassion

…be attentive to what is arising within you, and place that above everything else… What is happening in your inner most self is worthy of your entire love; somehow you must find a way to work at it.

—Rainer Maria Rilke (from the cover of an IOP handout on PTSD)

•Mindfulness and Self-Compassion change the  physical structure and chemistry of the brain.  Now there is scientific proof.

•Books I’ve ordered on the studies and effects of neuro-plasticity that have been referenced in IOP:

  1. Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse by Lisa M. Najavits
  2. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Richard Mendius and Rick Hanson
  3. Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being by Linda Graham
  4. Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart by James Doty
  5. The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Mark G. Williams, John D. Teasdale, Zindel Segal, John Kabat-Zinn and John Teasdale
  6. Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind by Kristin Neff

I’ll be in the program one more week.

Courting Joy

img_0913

Joy must be courted.

Shy, elusive, hesitant,

she shrinks from brash grasping.

The desperate and the howling miss her timid whispers.

Joy cannot be commanded or held fast.

She slips into the quiet space

opened for her by breath

and surrender.

Joy must be wooed

with  no expectation of relief or transformation.

She comes in small ways

and in small acts;

a moment of forgetting,

lost time in the act of creation,

a companion’s purr.

And though our instinct is to clutch at her

to keep from drowning,

we must let go,

and allow her to hold us

in her own way.

Brain-Sick

I'm Not OkayThere’s nothing new to say about rapid cycling mixed states.  I’ve railed against them and given in, pulled out every tool in my toolbox and given up, called for help and stayed silent, pushed against the maggoty words they whisper in my ear and believed every word.  My response to the turmoil in my head has been as varied as my illness.

But if anything is new, it must be the time it takes me to accept, breathe, and allow whatever my head and body chemistry need to do.  And I’ve gathered a larger support network around me, so that when I call for help (usually a few texts back and forth) I don’t have to burden the same few friends over and over.  Spread the Horror, that’s my emergency motto.

Thank you, all my Go-To People, who get those scary/sad/frantic texts and respond with such kindness and love.  You make all the difference.

Thank you for riding shot-gun on my Adventure.

 

Welcome Home, Old Friend

Rage

Rage seems to be intrinsic to my flavor of bipolar disorder.  In a mixed state, where symptoms of both depression and mania manifest, my “manic” is some form of agitation—anxiety, compulsive behavior, or rage.

I made the journal spread above in the midst of anger so black and sharp I could barely breathe.  I painted over the picture on the right—mini-me with my dog, Rebel—then slashed at it with a steak knife.  The violence stunned me, violence aimed at myself, at the innocent and vulnerable part of me.  I painted in the gouges, then echoed the savagery on the opposite page.

I left it that way for several days, coming back to take in the images and process the layers of Truth I’d uncovered.

I used to believe there must be a reason I got so mad.  I used to sort through all the old betrayals, snubs, and layers of unfairness in my cheesecloth memory.  But, there’s no reason for my rage other than funky brain chemistry.  Trying to justify it only throws napalm on the fire.

Rage is just another part of me, like the creeping hopelessness that sits on the other end of the spectrum, like my blue eyes, like the way I put words or colors together.  And like everything else, the only thing to do with it is welcome it home.  That’s when I pulled Thich Nhat Hahn’s Anger off my bookshelf and found the words my Rage needed.

Today, this moment, contains no rage.  This morning I wrote in my journal next to The Dalai Lama:

Dalai Lama

“When the symptoms are big, there’s always this base undercurrent of failure, a deep Mariana Trench of wrongness, that awful and vague sense that I should be doing something else/more, that I should be something else/more.  It negates all that I do and all that I am.  It robs me of any satisfaction or sufficiency.  Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to these journals now.  They are so immediate.  The rush of rightness washes over me without any censor.  Pictures together tell an immediate story.  Color bypasses thought.  The soft texture of the Pan Pastels signals instant comfort, and I feel masterful… I feel incredibly lucky and grateful for this tool.”

Yes, I do.

The Adventure Continues.

Primatives

Unknowing

Listen, she saidThe only thing I know for sure about my flavor of bipolar disorder is that I know nothing for sure.  On days like today, when my mind feels cool and friendly, I can marvel at the potential this unknowing offers.  Living without answers keeps me in the questions.  It makes me curious, willing to experiment, and to move on if the experiment fizzles.

Unknowing can be a great relief.  When mixed with mindfulness, there’s an untethering that happens.  My attachment to being functional, to plans, even to my concept of Self loosens.  Unknowing helps me accept whatever is in the moment.  Unknowing allows me to accept all of me as my mood, energy and cognition rise and fall.

kingsmountainThese rapid cycling, mixed states plant barriers that force me to cut a new path.  The first step is to sit with the beauty of the barrier.  I imagine touching the rough, unyielding surface and see an Irish megalith—part of my DNA and a complete mystery.  It requires respect and acknowledgment.  If I don’t see the barrier, I can’t dream a different trajectory.

This weekend I came down with a bad cold.  Over the course of a day, I lost my voice and terror drowned out all other sound.  “I just got over pneumonia.  In a couple of weeks, I’ll be driving across the country.  I can’t get sick now.

And the monolith rises up, demanding attention.

Card DisplayI am sick, so I need to tend that.  I leave for ArtFest in three weeks, and I’m ready.  As I sit with this old stone, I can see that I’ve been pushing too hard.  Because I was accepted as a vendor, I’ve been cranking out my most artful, most outrageous cards.  I refurbished a display unit my friend loaned me.  I wanted ArtFest to see a particular side of me—professional, laid-back, confident.

And the craggy rock cannot be moved.

I am all those things, but my illness makes me much more.  My moods, my energy, my capacity will swing on my trip.  I could keep my fingers in my ears and pretend it won’t happen, but then I’ll crack my head on this immovable menhir.

I need to be quiet now and listen to the silence of my DNA.  As I breathe in the mystery, I can feel my grip loosen.  Expectation.  Ego.  Fear.  Judgment.

I’m fine.  And now it’s time for a cup of tea.

Look! A Baby Wolf!

Do certain lines from movies and TV dig like earwigs into your brain and become part of your vocabulary?  (Please tell me I’m not alone in this). Whether it’s John Cleese in Monty Python and The Holy Grail:

 

Or Gina Davis in The Fly

 

Or most anything from Firefly:

 

continental_divide4A truly horrible movie came out in 1981—John Belushi, Blair Brown, Continental Divide.  This was Belushi’s attempt at being a romantic lead.  Yeesh.  When Brown tries to make him tell the truth, he weasels out of it with a great line that stuck in my head.  “Look, a baby wolf!”

Sort of like the dog in Up!:

 

So, that’s my shorthand for Let’s not talk about how crazy I feel.  Let’s look at something shiny instead (Another Firefly reference, thank you very much).

Look! A Baby Wolf!

Rehydrating1Rehydrating2

I learned how to rehydrate old paper.  I found a set of German books so old they didn’t have copyrights.  Best guess is that they’re from the 1830s.  The acidic paper in books this old falls apart with a touch and soaks up anything moist.  So, as background paper for my cards, I can’t really do anything but use them as is—which is gorgeous.  I love the beautiful type and the design element of foreign text.  But I wanted the option of dressing them up if I wanted to.  After a little Googling and found a ridiculously simple rehydrating process.  To my amazement, it worked.  I feel so science-y!

Rehydrating4

Get a container with an air-tight lid.  Set a smaller container of water in the center.  Carefully tuck the ancient paper around the smaller container (that’s the tricky part—curling the paper without it crumbling to bits).  Seal the container and let it sit for a day.

Rehydrating3That’s the whole process.

The book pages came out a little more supple, a little better able to hold color.  They still sucked up the moisture of inks and sprays, but I’m sorta digging the subtle results.

Rehydrating6

Another day of rehydration, yielded bolder colors.

Rehydrating7

Awesome Sauce!

I Forgot

Startled AwakeI forgot how hard this is.

Bipolar Disorder.

I forgot how it opens a plug and drains out all the color.

I forgot how it pours sludge into every thought.

I forgot how it grinds the gears of decision-making until they smoke and fail.

I forgot how much courage it takes to put on my coat.

I forgot how much the people who love me can’t stand it either:

I forgot how exhausting their good intentions can be.

I forgot how much I have to fight it.

I forgot how hard it is.

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

As winter progresses, I watch this long spell of nearly-normal fade in the rear view mirror.  It’s a horrible feeling, watching that image of the real me shrink and shrink as the bipolar hitchhiker takes over the wheel.  I can feel the Vyvanse losing its grip and rolling under the tires.  I worry that I’ve forgotten how to do this—how to manage a life instead of living it.

Hello DarknessAnd, of course, all that is a story.  I’ve promised to guard against telling stories.

So, let’s just say it’s an adjustment.

There is more depression and distorted thinking, more fibromyalgia pain and insomnia, more compulsive eating and anxiety.  But, the truth is we all expected this, even while we hoped Vyvanse could beat back winter (we being my therapist, nurse practitioner/med provider, and me).

Miracle enough that an amphetamine meant to curb my eating disorder also managed to smooth out my moods for six months.  I don’t want to get greedy.  Six months of feeling joy and gratitude for my life, of sitting in the driver’s seat, can’t be minimized.  Ever.

And all is not lost yet.

Vyvanse acted like a screen door, keeping the bipolarness on the front porch.  But as soon as the drug flushed out of my system each day, the rapid cycling and mixed states poked their heads in and wanted coffee.  They’re just pushier now.  And obviously, they’ve been lifting weights this summer.

I couldn’t tell if V was helping at all the past few weeks.  I just knew I was miserable the moment I woke up and couldn’t discern any difference throughout the day.  So, I started taking V as soon as I got out of bed.  Now, by the time I finish at the Y, I can feel a lift.  The depression is still there, but quiet and more polite.  Again, this seems huge.

I’m trying to use these moderate shifts of mood to prepare for the hairier, meaner moods that will crash through the door.  I got groceries this morning and made two quiches (one to freeze).  If this pattern holds, I’ll bake a chicken/wild rice dish tomorrow and stick it in the freezer, too.  I can’t cook when I’m brain sick, so doing this feels smart and kind.  I am nurturing and being nurtured—like being my own grandma.

This is all new territory.  Mental illness tries to keep me from seeing that.  It tells me all is lost and will forever be lost.  But, that’s just a story.

The truth is—

—I’m on an Adventure.

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