Maniacal Ribbons

Twinkle Magic* * *

As someone with an artist’s studio in my 475 square foot apartment, I’ve learned the art of using space creatively.  I need to be able to see my stuff, or I forget that I have it—so lots of glass jars, open cubbies, and stuff on the walls.  I also try to keep my art stuff on or near my work table, so while the creative juices bubble, I can look up, look around, and see the perfect next step.

I love the challenge of it, just like I love the challenge of turning every inch of my apartment into beautiful, useable space.  It makes me feel creative in a different way, smart with a tape measure and calculator—capable.

BacksideWhen Tammy sent me her pile of discontinued silk cord, I knew I needed them out and visible instead of tucked into little plastic bags.  Then, I thought of the huge jar of trim and ribbons that sits on the backside of my table.  I forget about that stuff back there.  Wouldn’t it be great to have ALL OF IT out?  All the reds in one place?  All the greens there for me to sort through  and find the perfect choice?

All last week I sorted, counted, drew and cut patterns, tried and discarded ideas, hit walls of frustration, and went colorblind.  I knew I was leaning into mania with all the ideas flying and the urgency behind finding the perfect solution.  I wasted a lot of card stock, bought gadgets at Menard’s that didn’t work, but I wasn’t so far into the Red Zone that I couldn’t see the spin.  I could still stop and take a deep breath.  I could still put it all away for a while and go do something else.  I could ask for help.

So, I asked my friend, Cheryl, to help me brainstorm.  Cheryl is a Stampin’Up demonstrator and a fellow Crow in her hoarding and love of bright, shiny objects.  So we noodled for a while, looked up stuff online—like how to make your own ribbon spools.  Then, we went down to her treasure trove to dig around.

3 SpoolsShe had saved all the little plastic cores out of her ribbon spools, and uttered the crafters’ creed.  “I knew I’d use them someday.”  She also handed over her stash of thin cardboard, an old glue gun, and a couple of paper punches.  Mission Control, we have lift-off.

Over the weekend, I made 42 new ribbon spools.  I hung two more spindles from the coatrack I use on the back of my bathroom door for my ribbon storage.  Soon, I had all the ribbon of any quantity from my big, backside jar on spools and sorted by color families.  Cool!

After trying several designs for ways to hang my silks, I settled on this smaller card with a combination of slits and holes.

Ribbon Card

It ended up with a greater capacity than I imagined.  I love it when things work better than expected.

Card Capacity

And it took up very little space when hung on the coatrack.

Capacity Hanging

Last night I finished.  When I hung the last card, I still had an empty hook on my coatrack.  Point. Set. Match.

Whole Rack

I still have remnants of trim and ribbon that are too short or too delicate to put on spools.  They’re back in the jar waiting for the next brainstorm.

Now, if I can just find that receipt from Menard’s…

My Life on Speed—An Update

updates

Almost four months ago, I started treatment for Binge Eating Disorder.  Basically, that consisted of taking an amphetamine, journaling about the changes in my compulsive thoughts and eating, visiting my med provider (Sarah) more often, and fighting with insurance.

I’ll start with the ugly and work toward the beautiful.

Gorey1. Dealing with insurance is a nightmare of Edward Gorey proportions—decoding the telephone directory-sized formulary, shuffling piles of contradictory paperwork, making my pharmacy do what the insurance company tells me to tell them to do, stopping Sarah from following the pharmacy’s incorrect instructions, filing forms for an exception to the formulary, filing an exception to the prescribed dosage, discussing the exceptions with non-English-speaking Call Center schlubs who have no authority, resubmitting forms, getting Sarah to resubmit forms…

It took all four months to get it straightened out with me double-checking everyone else’s work.  This process would make a sane person stark raving (and has.  I’ve discussed this with lots of neuro-normal people who ended up screaming on the phone or curled up in a puddle at their pharmacies), so I had to tackle it one little piece at a time.

I’m well aware that insurance companies try to get customers to give up.  They don’t want to pay for anything.  But, I survived filing for disability.  I know this game.  And while it was stressful, and I used a lot of colorful language, I got the exact drug I needed and gained even more respect for Sarah.  She and my (new) pharmacy—these worthies—stood with me on the battle field.  Their loyalty and integrity will earn them a place in Valhalla.

Yield2. There’s a reason amphetamines are contra-indicated for people with bipolar disorder.  Luckily, Sarah and I both did our homework about how they might cause mania and insomnia.

When the zip I got from my pills crossed over into agitation, I stopped taking them.  Since I’ve never been very clear about that line (it feels so good to feel good), the symptoms got scary sometimes before I recognized them—like forgetting appointments, or tearing my apartment apart to find a photo I wanted to use, or getting completely overwhelmed by a movie, or driving too fast while texting.

Whenever I woke up to being scattered or dangerous, I stopped.  I made myself safe or quiet.  I notified Sarah.  And I waited.  The mania always receded.  This is one of the benefits of rapid cycling.  I can always count on my mood changing.  I just had to take my brain-skillet off the fire of the amphetamines to let it happen.

Double AhThose are the ugly parts of My Life on Speed.  The rest is pretty darn lovely.

3. I’ve experienced very little depression since May.  Historically, I suffer less depression and more hypomania in the summer, but not to this extent.  I checked my old journals to make sure.  I expected the Vyvanse to flick me into mania at times, but did not expect the overall shift up in mood.  Sarah and I are cautiously hopeful that this trend might continue into winter.

Oh!  I don’t want to pin any real hope on this, but what if the Vyvanse could keep my mood from sinking into that suicidal basement come February?  Since I’ll also have a caregiver for the first time in my life (from Lutheran Services of Iowa) to help motivate me to keep my apartment clean, this winter could be very different.

4. When I take the Vyvanse, all the compulsive thinking about food goes away.  Small amounts of food give me a sense of satiety.  I don’t need more.  I don’t want more.  There have even been times this summer when I forgot to eat.  I can’t express how weird that is.  I know there are people in the world who lose their appetites when stressed—I thought they came from Pluto.  I have wanted to eat while I was puking from the flu.

Brain That Wouldn't DieI’m seeing now how much space food occupied in my head.  The absence was unnerving at first—like walking into an abandoned house with just a few sticks of furniture left behind by the previous owners.  But, I’ve come to love all this room.  And I’m taking my time redecorating.

Whenever I stop the Vyvanse to let manic symptoms settle, the compulsive thoughts return.  I feel them crowd in—pushy, rude, overbearing.  But I can remember what their absence feels like, and somehow that helps keep me from bingeing as much as I used to.  And even then, I don’t punish myself anymore—for being weak, or gluttonous, or just wrong.  I have evidence now.  Binge Eating Disorder is real, not a character flaw.

5. The final sweet treat is that I’ve lost 30 pounds.

I’ll just leave it at that, because… you know…

I’m on an Adventure.

Something New For My CV

Louis CK

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The DSM (psychiatry’s Bible) came out with a revised and updated version in 2013 with oodles of controversy.  Along with weird restructuring, the Powers that Be (think Nicene Council with prescription privileges) dropped some diagnoses and added others.  One that gained full blessing of the Holy Order was Binge Eating Disorder (BED).  It came with criteria and suggested treatment.  No one paid too much attention.

But in the two years since, more and more providers are taking BED seriously.  Drugs used to treat ADD and ADHD have been somewhat successful in treating the compulsive/impulsive aspects of BED.  Cross-training has always been the drug companies’ bread and butter.

In a casual conversation last week with my nurse practitioner, I mentioned how I gave up trying to lose weight this year.  She asked a few questions, then said I met every single criteria in the BED diagnosis:

  1. Recurrent and persistent episodes of binge eating
  2. Binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
    • Eating much more rapidly than normal
    • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
    • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
    • Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
    • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating
  3. Marked distress regarding binge eating
  4. Absence of regular compensatory behaviors (such as purging).

She knows I’ve managed bipolar disorder without medication for five years, but she wondered if I might want to try Vyvanse, the current darling drug for BED.

Vyvanse is, basically, Speed, so we both knew mania and insomnia could be side effects.  Great.  But, since I’m sensitive to medication, I’d probably know right away if the spin was more that I could handle.  We also talked briefly about self-monitoring and keeping charts (I’m boss at keeping charts).

So, what the NP and I decided was to wait until I was out of my Mean Season and more stable, then start Vyvanse mid-May.

All my life I’ve dreamed of a magic pill.  I doubt this is it.  But, what have I got to lose besides a few nights sleep and some mad spring cleaning?  At least I get official credit for something I’ve known all my life—I have little to no control over what I put in my mouth.  No diet, motivational bestseller, or cognitive therapy ever touches that wild and mindless drive.

Not that I’m looking for more craziness to add to my resume, but there’s comfort in being recognized.  I’m not lazy or lacking in willpower.  I’m not weak.  My brain just works differently than most people’s.  Funny how that keeps coming up.

I’m on an Adventure.

Cracks in the Sidewalk

????????????????????It’s always a shock when reality stubs your toe—especially when you thought the path was clear.  Oops, where was I when the sidewalk heaved?

I was managing this Week of Ultimate Change like a boss.  Before the Y closed for its annual week of maintenance, I called around to find another pool.  But with the rise in parasitic infections in public pools and school starting soon, all the pools I called were closed or closing.  So, instead, I parked my truck and walked everywhere.  I thought putting new inserts in my old sneakers would be a good idea, but ended up getting blisters.  Oh, well.  That’s what Band-aids are for.  The weather was mild this week, and I loved tramping all over town with my iPod.

True to my word, I followed up on the referral my group counselor gave me for Peer Support information.  What I got back were more referrals, so I fired off more queries.  I have a feeling I’m knocking on doors still under construction, but I’ll keep at it.  At the same time, I made sure my mental health records transferred to my new clinic and got an intake appointment scheduled for September.  All the ducks started lining up.

I checked on my mom, coordinated schedules with my sister to share duties, paid attention so as to not over-extend myself.

At TOPS, I neither gained nor lost, which seemed miraculous with all the change swirling around me.  But, I chalked it up to lucky brain chemistry and tried not to eat to celebrate.

And writing came easy this week—bits and pieces of my current story in Shitty First-Draft form (that is a technical term).  I can feel the words pulling me now, which is the pay-off for putting butt to chair and pen to paper every day.  I spent several hours everyday on my memoir as well, sorting through 800 pages of rough copy.

I knew I was enjoying one of my respite phases, a break in the bipolar Push Me-Pull You, but I started to take credit for it.  All this work I was doing, being all responsible and productive, must be good for me.  I know better than to take ownership of my brain’s haphazard chemical stew, but ego is a determined little bugger.  And its voice is so lovely.  Look how easy this is, it said.  Look how you’ve cleared the path…

So, of course,  there came a day when I tripped.  I completely forgot about my meditation group.  Only after my friends called to make sure I was all right did I really stop and Look.  I felt the agitation, the ramping up of ‘productivity” into spinning, the push to quiet it with food, the antsy itch to bolt.

Sly, sly Mania!  It knows I’ll ignore it as long as I can, because it feels so good.  But it gives itself away eventually, whether by grandiosity or giddiness or obsession.  The energy of it won’t let things stay tidy and organized.  Cracks break open in the sidewalk.  As Yeats said, “the centre will not hold.”

Being manic doesn’t discount the work I’ve done this week.  It’s just a reminder to not get cocky and to watch where I’m going.

I Choose Life

handmade greeting card, collage artComing down from a stretch of mania—that feeling of a greasy rope flying through my hands.  Later I’ll feel the burn, the skin of my palms flayed.  Now it’s just the rope.  Too fast.  No grip.  And the foreknowledge of when the frayed end finally comes—and goes—I’m done.  Then, it’s the limp fall.  Out of control.

I couldn’t go to the hospital today, or yesterday.  I spent all day Friday there, finally realizing I couldn’t help my mom.  She won’t or can’t choose life, says no to food, to therapy, to any action that will move her toward living.  A stubborn non-choosing. I counted off all the ways I’d done what was expected—held vigil for three weeks, cajoled and pleaded, coordinated with my sister, planned to provide care if and when she goes home—trying to be something I’m not, trying one more time to be good enough and worthy.  I was ready with my bag of distractions today, ready to camp out once again after working out at the Y and after meditation group.  But as I fast-walked around the Y track, sliding from mania to depression with the rope smoking my hands, I chose life.

Today, I sucked in the cool air.  I lifted my eyes to the white, cumulus clouds rowing a jewel-blue sky.  I saw a movie, sat journaling at the Hy-Vee cafe with soothing chai tea and kept choosing life.  I’m not done with Mom.  I’ll never be done with Mom.  But I won’t sacrifice myself for her anymore.  No more.

These past few nights, waking up at 2AM, I tried something new.  I laid a quilt under my bedroom window, piled pillows—a poor girl’s zafu—and sat meditation.  I tried to find a different rhythm, tried to let it speak to me instead of chasing or forcing it.  And when the discomfort got too big, when it gripped the place under my left breast, when my brain sighed in sorrow and begged for mercy, then I rested in the Fantasy Man.

He stands in the near distance, his back to me, looking ahead.  Jeans, dark blue dress shirt, dark hair.  Relaxed, but alert.  Hands in his pockets.  Long grass waves against his legs in a silent breeze.  The sky is overcast.  I walk toward him, and that’s enough—to know I will reach him, to see the comfort coming.

Friday night, I dreamed Hugh Jackman was wildly in love with me.  He was ready to leave his wife for me.  And it broke my heart, because what I admire most about him is his devotion to her and his children.  “You can’t do that,” I told him.  “That’s not who you are.”

Broken-hearted.  The core of my bipolar-ness.  I feel the shards rubbing against each other under my breast and fantasize about a heart that is worthy and more than enough.  As my mood shifts this time, I do more than manage, I choose.  On the bed this afternoon with Henry and Emmet close, a breeze slid through the open window.  It slid over my skin like smoke.  It slid me into a place of hearts whole and beating life.

Chocolate Covered Cherries

chocolate-covered-cherriesSo, here I am, practicing living and accepting my life As Is, and what happens?  I’m dipped, like a juicy cherry, in chocolate fantasy.

It’s a pattern.  I see a movie (hero) that touches some core hunger, and my imagination gallops off with me hanging on by my teeth.  It happened with Christopher Reeve in Superman.  It happened with Indiana Jones.  It happened with Christian Bale in The Dark Knight.  Now I’ve been kidnapped by Thorin from The Hobbit (and his portrayer, Richard Armitage, by association).  Scenarios, stories, images spring fully formed from my fevered brow like Athena from Zeus’ forehead.  I scribble them all down to try to get them out of my head, but there’s no draining this well.  More Stories take their place.  Details, dialog, complicated plots.  I’ve been invaded.

Thorin Oakenshield, Richard Armitage, The HobbitThis manic brainstorm is lush and intoxicating, sexy and completely distracting.  I can live there instead of the Real World, which is painful and plodding. The desire to stay there is incredibly strong, but I’m supposed to be facing my reality, right?

I do the best I can, which isn’t much.  When the Stories in my head take a little break, I place myself in space and time (I’m in my truck, my hands on the steering wheel, Annie Lennox is singing about broken glass…).  I take a few deep breaths and feel my body.  Here I am.  Then the Story picks up again and I’m onto the next scene.

I’ve decided it might be better to just ride this pleasure cruise until the mania shifts.  And it will.  I’ll do my best to reorient and ground in the Real, but I don’t think I can stop my brain from doing this.  I’m not sure I want to.  I like chocolate covered cherries too much.

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