I felt like when I left home that I was on a journey, and I still am.—Heath Ledger
Artful, Conscious Living with Bipolar Disorder
05 Apr 2017 2 Comments
I felt like when I left home that I was on a journey, and I still am.—Heath Ledger
30 Mar 2017 23 Comments
Sometimes I wonder if the total of my existence is a practice in patience. The Art of Waiting. The Zen of Dealing in the Now. I get so many opportunities.
Anyhoo, this is what I’m up to while I wait for my lungs to clear and my voice to come back.
I found a British detective series at the library starring the 5th Doctor Who (Peter Davison). “Dangerous” Davies is literally the Last Detective his boss would send on a case. He’s a milquetoast, a butt of all jokes, a kind and gentle copper in a department full of cynical creeps. I loved it.
I always need something to do at my craft table when I’m sick. Luckily, the birthday present I made for my therapist took a wrong turn, and I had to rethink it. I’ve been sewing beads for six days now, which is a perfect, mindless activity for a head full of snot. And I like where the piece is heading.
Before I got croupy, I’d cut squares for a quilted wall hanging. A friend, who works at a paint/flooring shop, gave me all their upholstery sample books last summer, and I pulled out bits I thought might look nice in my bedroom. I used a very old scarf of my grandma’s as a focus and built the progression of squares around that. In my infirmary, I’ve sewn the top together, layered it with batting and a back, and am now ready to start quilting. I think it will look lovely on my wall.
I’m not journaling much, but I did try something new. I’ve shifted from paint to organic stuff that stains. Organics like tea and spices are subtle and leave the paper soft. Coffee is my favorite. I make a pot, then take the filter full of wet grounds and scrub it over the paper. The thin filter eventually ruptures and I leave the scattered grounds on the paper all day. Sometimes I add a few drops of ink to the grounds for subtle color.
07 Mar 2017 23 Comments
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.
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.”
And I left feeling like my outside finally matched my inside. Furious. And the closest I’ll ever come to looking like Charlize Theron.
I roared off to misbehave and brought home two bags full of art supplies. Now we’ll see what fury can really do.
15 Jan 2017 24 Comments
in anxiety, art, art journaling, bipolar disorder, cats, depression, distorted thinking, health, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art, TV and Movies Tags: acceptance, bedbugs, melancholia, mindfulness, Northern Exposure, PTSD, self-compassion
After almost three weeks of Clear, Calm Mind, weeks when I made art with quiet joy and dug into the second draft of my book about being bipolar, weeks when decisions made themselves; after weeks when the Dark Times of last autumn faded, the inevitable shift came.
First, just a melancholia set in as I watched the last season of Northern Exposure (like getting weepy over Hallmark commercials). Mopping up with Kleenex, I would have called myself hormonal if I still had any Girl Parts. But after the final episode, I felt bereft. I’d binge-watched all six seasons of the show, and now it was over. I have a bad feeling about this, my Inner Han Solo muttered.
Later that day, I shut down during therapy. We hit something big, and it blew all the circuits. My therapist talked and all I could hear was the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons (Wah-wah-wah).
It takes me a bit to catch up with the shift. I have to find a little spot of compassion and mindfulness where I can change gears. What do I need? What do I have to take care of and what can wait? I will stay home today and do art at my table instead of going to church and the Writing as a Spiritual Practice group that I love. I can make this decision without guilt or self-loathing. It’s what needs to be today.
Tomorrow I will focus on preparing my apartment for the new bed-bug prevention regiment. There’s a lot to do—vacuum, get everything off the floor, pull the furniture away from the walls. I don’t quite understand what will be done, some kind of silicon mist, so I need to get as much stuff under cover as I can. Then, on Tuesday, the cats and I will camp out at friends all day while this procedure takes place. I’m not sure what kind of clean-up will be required once we get back. All I know is that I can’t vacuum for three days.
Stuff like this is stressful on my best day. I had found a rhythm with the quarterly bug-sniffing dog’s visits, but I guess Radar wasn’t as accurate as advertised. Now management has decided on this annual preventative hoo-haw instead. It’s so disruptive and worrisome.
So, I breathe and try to turn my thinking. I don’t have bedbugs, but if my neighbors do, I’m at risk. So this is a good thing. Proactive. And only once a year. I can do this.
And if it’s all I do this week, it will be enough.
24 Dec 2016 12 Comments
I’m planning a The Hobbit binge-watch as my Christmas celebration. And with the fourth season of BBC’s Sherlock starting on January 1, my fan-girl is quite happy.
♥May your holidays be filled with squee.
20 Sep 2016 27 Comments
in art, Bipolar Bad-Ass Training, bipolar disorder, distorted thinking, management, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art, quality of life, symptoms, TV and Movies, video Tags: crisis, Integrated Health Services, Justice League, memory loss, mental health care, mindfulness, partial hospitalization, rapid cycling, Wonder Woman
I’ve been in trouble for a while now, mental health-wise. The amnesia that comes with severe symptoms keeps me from remembering that this is normal. My brain yammers that I’m getting worse, that my social skills are devolving, that all my tools are useless, and that, maybe, by brain is starting to liquify. But, the reality is I’ve been here before.
One of the many vital roles my therapist assumes is that of Archivist. She starts a sentence by saying, “When you’ve been like this before…” and suddenly I can breathe again. I spend so much energy and attention on navigating the whip-quick changes of the rapid cycling aspect of my illness, it’s very hard to pull focus and take in the larger picture. Shifts happen in the slow time of seasons. My Richter Scale rarely registers a catastrophic event, but like earthquakes, the tension builds over time to an inevitable break.
Recovering this broader perspective helps. I’ve survived 8.9 quakes before, so how do I do that again? Before, I would check into Mercy Hospital’s Out-Patient program (day-care for the neuro-diverse), but like so many other mental health care programs and hospitals in Iowa, it no longer exists. The programs that are left focus on folks who need functional help. I don’t need help doing my laundry (usually).
My Integrated Health Caseworker said something like this yesterday, “You’re so high-functioning, you fall through the cracks.”
It’s a Catch-22, being a Bipolar Bad-Ass.
Friday, I went early to my therapy appointment. I brought my wheely cart of art supplies and camped out at their little corner table in the waiting room. They thought that was a brilliant idea, and invited me back whenever I felt the need. So, I went again yesterday and stayed all day.
There’s no therapy, no expectation of interaction beyond a quick hello, but it’s a safe place that’s quiet and welcoming. Sorta like going to a coffee shop, except the baristas love and understand me. I call it “Out-Out-Patient Care.”
My therapist and I are also exploring alternatives. What about a Mindfulness class that would provide structure and an emphasis on Doing The Work? What about some sort of retreat? These things cost money, so we pulled in my caseworker to help hunt for grants.
I am grateful everyday that I function as well as I do. AND it’s hard work to find services that fit me. AND it’s hard to think outside the box when thinking is most difficult. But, I have an actual team helping me now—my own little Mental Health Justice League. I’m not feeling much like Wonder Woman at the moment, but with a little help, I might be able to find that lasso.
22 Aug 2016 5 Comments
Is it really that time of year again? Seems like I just celebrated my favorite holiday. Oh, that’s right—I only rearranged my Pretend Boyfriend Gallery after painting my bedroom so that every day can be Richard Armitage Day.
I can be a tad less stalk-y today and just wish him a happy birthday.
Hopefully, the 2016 Armitage Drought is near an end. No sightings since his creepy portrayal of The Red Dragon in “Hannibal.” Lots of projects are finished, but either in post-production or on some shelf in Wonderland.
Or, like Urban and the Shed Crew, released everywhere but here.
If we pay money to hear Meryl Streep sing badly, wouldn’t American audiences be captivated by a former social worker who takes street kids under his wing? All that hope and feel-goodness? Maybe Richard should have sung badly in that one.
Then, there’s Berlin Station, a 10 episode CIA series due this fall on EPIX. EPIX. What the flugelhorn is EPIX? But look at all the great people in this series! I will be breaking into someone’s house who has cable. Scouting possibilities now.
Someday I’ll see him play Chloe Moretz’s dad in Brain on Fire, about a young woman slipping into insanity. Hmm. Richard. Crazy girl. Sounds familiar.
And if there is any mercy or compassion in the Universe, I’ll get to watch him don armor and take off on another noble quest.
But until I can sit in the dark with him again, all I can do is wait, surround myself with his former glories, and remember London.
12 Jul 2016 17 Comments
I’m finishing up a Haven marathon. If you’re not familiar with this SyFy Channel show that got cancelled last year, think Stephen King (it’s based on one of his stories) when he’s not at his best. Hokey, repetitive and, at times, incomprehensible, but with enough great characters and moments of genius dialog to keep my attention. Gloria, the smart-ass coroner, is worth it all by herself. And Dwight, the Chief of Police, isn’t hard to look at either (This GIF is from an episode where they switched bodies—one of my faves).
The folks in Haven, Maine have Troubles—like attracting bullets, or talking to the dead, or blowing up anything they touch. I always liked that understated description for the load of misery the townsfolk suffer. Troubles. I’ve unofficially adopted it this summer. As in “my Trouble is flaring up.”
Which it did today. I got a naggy, creepy-crawly feeling that something bad was about to happen, sort of a Stephen King version of anxiety. Everyone looked suspicious and a little dangerous. And I was worried about screwing up my art projects.
However, I finished a couple of things without unfixable mishaps. I put together my first art journal in over a decade. Even though the memory of making those first ones got lost in the ECT void, I kept the written instructions and assembled all the ingredients over the past couple of weeks. I watched the Dark Fret try to stop me from finishing today, but pushed on. Somehow, it helped to have this new journal done. I did it. While Troubled.
I also finished a new piece for my front door. The text comes from Stephen Dunn’s poem, Reversal, which I loved so much I posted it a few days back.
I worked on this for weeks, waiting after each coat of paint or bit of grunge to see what would arise. Working with matte medium and fabric for the first time, I panicked over the result, then took sand paper to it and loved the effect. Yesterday I tore apart an old alarm clock for the gears. Today, I finished it with gloss medium and hated it. My Trouble screamed, “Ruination!”
The negativity and fear my Trouble conjures up slips into my body like an old, familiar song. But, practice helps me turn down the volume and remember there are no mistakes—just unexpected detours. Art work, fiction, life may not turn out the way I envision them, but they turn out. Most of the time, those detours are the best part of my day. Troubled or not.
30 Jun 2016 27 Comments
“What ‘real artists’ have is courage. Not enormous gobs of it. Just enough for today. Creativity, like breathing, always comes down to the question, “Are you doing it now?” The awful truth is that there is always one small creative act for which we can find the courage. As with housework, there is always something, and all the little somethings add up, over time, to a flow. Courage, after all is a matter of heart, and hearts do their work one beat at a time.” — Julia Cameron in The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart
Blogging is so incestuous. I read David Kanigan’s post from Monday, and knew I had something to say about courage, comfort zones and whacking the scales off our sclerotic dendrites. At least I thought I did. Or I wanted to think about those things. Or my ego wanted to jump up and down screaming about them. In public.
I feel pretty brave. Except when I don’t. Driving out to Artfest in Washington this spring didn’t feel particularly brave. Except when I got home and spent the next two months rapid cycling and ducking from my brain’s suicidal dodge balls. Latching onto art journaling to keep from getting hammered by red rubber didn’t seem brave, just a case of self defense. It never occurred to me that drawing and painting when I used to be too scared to do either might be stripping some of the plaque off my craft.
What really felt brave was buying The Hollow Crown and sitting down to over eight hours of Shakespeare. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so dumb. I listened to the pretty words, knew they were an old form of English, but couldn’t translate them. I could feel my brain straining, flabby gray-matter-muscles forced to climb a junior high fitness test rope.
Oh, but, the music of the language! That was the liniment for my bruised brain. Plus, Great Performances emptied out The Royal Shakespearian Theater to cast these four plays, so all the British actors I adore speak this unintelligible music.
I take comfort that I’ve never read Richard II, Henry IV (either Part One or Part Two) or Henry V. I have no bits of them embedded in my hind brain next to the passages of Romeo and Juliet Mrs. Christensen made us memorize in ninth grade.
And, yet, it feels brave to be dumb, to be a Monty Python Gumby shouting, “My brain hurts!”
Sometimes, being brave means finding the right anesthesia. Sometimes it’s embracing my full-out Gumby-ness. Either way, my art benefits.
And now for something completely different.