Satin Breeze

It’s been a hard couple of days—one of those deep depressions that makes the body too weary to move.  Sunday, after struggling through my workout, having my pre-workout supplement routine set up and being sociable with my family, I grabbed a big bag of Cheetos at the Kwik Star and watched a horrible movie on TV.  I didn’t care.  All I wanted was oblivion.  Damn new ways of behaving.  Damn it all.

I made myself nauseous and slept for three hours.  When I woke up with Henry and Emmett both guarding me on the bed, I rolled over and thought, Okay, that doesn’t work anymore.

Today I took a different tack.  I went to my regular water aerobics class, then stayed for two more.  I figured, the longer I moved in the water, the less likely I was to do something stupid (like eat or go back to bed).  Then, I drove to Des Moines to my favorite theater and camped out for two good movies, Moonrise Kingdom and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.  Quirky (the former) and Poignant (the latter).  High quality diversion at a discount (I had a coupon) with limited access to unseemly snacks (I don’t seem to have a problem limiting myself to plain popcorn at the movies.  This is a gift, thank you, Universe).

The weather today in central Iowa was perfect, so after the movie marathon, I walked to PF Chang’s down the road and sat out on the veranda for a supper of Dim Sum and Wrinkled Green Beans.  Still depressed, I could nonetheless gaze out at the big pond with its ducks and geese, feel the satin air slide over my skin, and appreciate the pedestrians wandering along the walkway  Toddlers bobbed on splayed legs, an elderly couple shared a piece of cheesecake, middle-school boys tried to look like a tough gang.  I breathed it all in, feeling my sadness, relishing the sweet garlic of the green beans, wondering about the little girl in pink sunglasses riding her daddy’s shoulders.

I took a turn around the pond myself, talked to the ducks going tail-up in the water to feed on the bottom, remembered other lakes and rivers I’d strolled around, remembered to ignore the regrets and dark twists my thoughts wanted to take.  I rolled down all my windows on the drive home, letting that luscious air blow through my hair, and sang as loud as I could with my iPod.

I wanted to think of Sunday as a failure, but that’s not right.  Diving back into pattern is expected in this process of change.  Each time I make different choices, like I did today, those old ways lose a little more power.  One binge in three weeks is actually quite miraculous for me.  That’s what I need to focus on, not the dire and dismal that my depression shoves in my face.

So, tonight, as Henry and Emmet settle nearby, I’ll turn my face toward the open window and take another hit of that satin, summer breeze.

Happy Summer Solstice

Reloading

This past week has been a long, slow slide out of mental wellness.  It seemed like my world sprang a leak, and the bright colors I enjoyed most of the summer gradually bled out.  Then, a needling apprehension crept in under my skin.  Overnight, Life became worrisome and difficult again.

I knew the respite wouldn’t last.  I knew the tide would turn and the next bipolar episode was inevitable.  What surprised me was that I forgot how to tread water when the flood came in.  I found myself flailing, overwhelmed by the increasing pain.  For 50 days I had my old brain back, and suddenly it was hijacked again.  The frantic, querulous voice in my head belonged to someone else.  The impulse to kill the pain grabbed me like a powerful undertow and dragged me back into compulsive eating and spending.  The smart, savvy Bipolar Badass was gone, and in her place bobbed a waterlogged poppet.

I can’t believe what a huge effort it took to fight my way back to the surface—how much effort it still is taking.  The Y was closed this week for its annual maintenance, which destroyed my routine.  I had to get creative about exercise.  I tried walking around the neighborhood, but the resulting pain (fibromyalgia + arthritis in the feet + obesity) left me hobbling and unable to sleep.  I went to the Aquatic Center (swimming pool, water slide, etc.) where they have a Lazy River—a waist-high channel with a current for tubing.  Forty-five minutes before the Center opens, they let people come in to water-walk in the Lazy River.  I did that the last couple of days and can feel my aches and pains receding.  The lap pool at the Y will be open again today, and the aerobic classes will start on Monday, so I can get back on schedule.

I spent $100 that I don’t have.  Part of it went on my credit card, but most came out of my checking account.  Luckily, the amount is manageable.  I still follow the practice of taking an allowance each week from my checking account.  For the rest of the month, I’ll just take less, which means no money for gas, or lattes, or a haircut and spending the barest minimum on groceries.  It’s doable.  I don’t need to go anywhere, I’m trying to cut down on coffee, and I can be shaggy for a couple of weeks.  And I’ve got enough turkey hot dogs and frozen entrees to last with a modest supplement of fresh produce.  I’m good.

The credit card purchase was a night of fine dining at the steakhouse down the street.  All compulsions merged that night—the drive to bury my growing mental discomfort with food and spending whatever it took to make it happen.  That was the turning point for me.  I waddled out of Jax’s, sat in my truck, and just stopped.  Even I could see I was out of control.

I took a couple of deep breaths and started looking.  I reminded myself that the anxiety, the nattering thoughts, the sadness were chemical reactions, not me.  I reminded myself that the only way through this episode was to relax into it, accept it, and use the tools that I have.  I reminded myself that I wanted to try something different with the compulsions—to use meditation and awareness of them in my body.  Was I willing to try that?  Could I gather enough self-awareness to even attempt it?

This is not the worst episode I’ve ever had—not by a long shot.  But, I really let my guard down.  Over that long, lovely stable period, I unbuckled my gun belt, unstrapped my sword, and emptied my pockets of grenades.  The Observer grew lazy sifting through normal, everyday reactions and bursts of ego.  It was so nice to relax—really relax—but I may have done myself a disservice by taking all the guards from their posts.

Now I know I need to keep a sentry on duty, even in the best of times.  I need the warning cry, the time to gather the troops and check the ammo.  Because I forget each state of my bipolar illness when I’m not in that state, I need checklists posted where I can see them.  Like a field guide, I need to use them to remind myself of the shape of the enemy’s tracks and the lay of the land ahead.

I’m back today. Frosty.  Armed.  That 50 day vacation is just a picture in my scrapbook.  What’s important is the engagement ahead.

30 Days of Gratitude: Day 15

Since I kill anything I stick in the dirt, I appreciate the gorgeous gardens I see all around me.  Flowers, vegetables, rocks, grasses, bushes, trees, landscaping (especially in Culpeper, since it is so nostalgic for me) or wild abandon, the variety awes me.  There’s something magic in running across a blaze of color on the street, or finding a hidden patch of tranquility tucked around a corner.  I appreciate the hard work and expense of those patches of beauty, the goofy doo-dads and statues stuck amongst the greenery, and the way they gather in the wildlife.  Seeing other people’s gardens always makes me take a deeper breath and release whatever tension I’m carrying around.  What a gift—right out there for anyone who happens by.

Eat, Laugh, Make Art

I stood out on the sidewalk this morning, waiting for the gals at Perfect Setting, and smiled into the blue summer sky.  The warm breeze brushed against my skin like silk, and the popcorn clouds held not a whisper of rain.

June as it was meant to be.  Perfect.

As was the entire morning, from the smell of fresh-ground coffee brewing in Pam’s little kitchen, to thanking the last guests as they left.  My favorite moments:  greeting guests as they came in and having them exclaim, “Oh, you’re the artist!”; watching everyone hover over my pieces, asking questions and laughing;

explaining art as play and inviting the guests to be messy and imperfect as they all created little collages to take home with them; the look on one woman’s face when she realized she had made something beautiful;

 the surprise of my niece and former sister-in-law attending from out of town; feeling strong, competent and clear.

I know everyone enjoyed the morning, because they all told me so.  There’s nothing better than creating joy.  When I give that gift to others, I also give it to myself.  I don’t have as many opportunities now as I used to, but I think that’s changing.  There was a breath of it in the silken breeze this morning.

And in the laughter.

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