Just Relax

RelaxThere must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. ~Chinese proverb

Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at other times move forward with it. ~Ray Bradbury

It seems like everywhere I go people are talking about relaxation these days. My therapist asks me about my stress level, like it’s something that can be quantified, measured on a daily basis. lying down

I probably mentioned already that I’m participating in an study for bipolar disordered people on a site called Optimism. I love the name, but the site is both complicated and ambiguous.

The site tracks your mood every day, how well you coped, hours slept, quality of sleep, whether or not you exercised, and took medications, if relevant (here’s where I find some ambiguity. It doesn’t ask if your meds make you feel like you’re on auto-pilot, or so thirsty you could drink a gallon of water and it wouldn’t be enough, so tired you’d just run a marathon…only you hadn’t). It then goes into three different categories: stay well strategies, triggers, and symptoms. 

Relaxation fits under the Stay well strategies, along with adequate sleep, plenty of water, and routine, just to name a few. I use a relaxation cd daily. One of the choices on the cd is A Walk on the Beach. The narrator uses the elevator technique to take me deeper down, until I’m so relaxed I’m actually somewhere way in the basement. Ha ha ha

If only it would stay. Not minutes after that, I checked my email, and there was something from an editor or promoter of a book I’ve signed up to read on Netgalley. Now, I love reading more than anything, and I just finished my third book for them. I have three more books in the queue before the book this promoter spoke of. All the relaxation I’d just had given to me went right out the window. I had no idea what to say to this person, so I took my usual route. Say nothing, and keep plodding along. My dog, Lucy, would have peed on the email and gone on her happy way. 😀 We should all be so lucky.

dog

Gambling on Goals

goalsGoals are so crazy popular, aren’t they? I mean, I went looking for one quote on goals for this post, just one, and they were all so contradictory. Some said set your goals high and don’t stop ’til you achieve them. Others said it starts with the spirit, and if that wasn’t true, forget about it. Then there’s the one who says to set small goals and build upon them. So even the meaning of the word goal is somewhat sketchy.

I know of a famous, at least famous on my terms, writing website, which has a whole board (forum) dedicated to the topic of goals and the achievement (or not) thereof. I belonged to it at one time. I did find it somewhat useful, but mostly I felt bad about myself for not achieving the goals I’d set out for the week. I might or might not have been the only person who felt that way, but it’s interesting to note, don’t you think? dont-worry-about-goals

Now, I know I could be feeling this way because I’m still coming off a manic phase and it’s hard for me to focus on any one thing. At Goodreads I’m reading five books at a time still, one of which is a book I’m reviewing for Netgalley. If you haven’t checked out Netgalley, you really should. And then there is Optimism, and the six month’s study I voluntarily upped for. Don’t forget the origami cranes. 😀 My brain also recently lit on zentangle, because it’s supposed to be so good for stress. I bought books and everything. I’ve only made one so far, but my mind is studying and learning (which I think is the opposite of what it’s supposed to do). How is a brain like that supposed to do anything except make it through the day? LOL strongest

With the above thought in mind, I took myself to the gym yesterday morning at 4:00 a.m. I just did it. My goal was to get in there, to buy a pair of headphones, sit on a cycle, and ride for at least fifteen minutes. My biggest worry about achieving the goal was, of course, the stares I might get. But–surprisingly–people didn’t even look at  me; even when the gentleman behind the counter had a hard time getting the cash register to work and it took what seemed like an eternity. No one stared at me while I fumbled with the outer packaging of the headphones, or while I figured out how exactly the cycle worked. In fact no one seemed quite otherwise occupied. Such a monumental surprise for the fat girl who expected finger points and taunts.

I had planned on going later that day (6-7 was a great time, because people were eating dinner) and every day after that. Then I got sick. Really suddenly, like wham, you had enough fun, no more fun for you. I know my thinking is distorted because I’m sick, so I’ll try not to take that too seriously.

Here’s my point. In between setting goals, life happens. So we need to become as flexible as a Gumby toy. Things can change in an instant. So, what am I saying, that I’m not going to the gym anymore? Heck no! But I couldn’t go today, and my body feels like I got hit by a Mack truck (Say, did you know there’s a r/l thing as a Mack truck? I saw one when I was driving a while back!). I’m saying sometimes it may be two steps forward one step back, but there’s always that one step forward.

Don’t forget to loveyourself intensely during this process. It’s hard. You’ll want to rail against everything. But don’t. You’ll be okay. Hang in there, and trust God. Trust your friends.

Peace out. xxlifer

5 Things Not to Say to Someone in a Mixed State

conversationThe art of conversation is fraught with land mines on a good day. When you have to deal with someone in a mixed state, you’d better be sure to speak to your higher power too. 😉

Now, I can joke about this, because I’m the one in the mixed state. Not that it’s funny to be in a mixed state, but you know the saying “If you can’t laugh about it you’ll go crazy.”

But this experience, I think, helps me to know a little about what may be more appropriate and productive as opposed to—well inappropriate.

Without further adieu, here are five things so not to say to that poor sap in a mixed state:

1. It’s all in your head.

2. You really need help.

3. Do you speak to your mother with that mouth?

4. You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.

5. I need to take a step back in our friendship.

There ya go. I’ll be the first to admit mixed state bipolar is a whole lotta crazy, but I also know it’s not voluntary. It’s a sickness. I look back on the days in June of 2013 when all I had to deal with was severe depression with tender fondness.

We’re all in this screwball thing called life together, and we only get one go around. I think we need as many mates as we can get.

That said, take care of you. If you really can’t deal, you can’t deal. Some people, I’ve learned the hard way, can understand a manic episode, but they can’t stick around and deal with it. Those are two very different definitions, and it doesn’t reflect badly on the person at all.

Love you madly, dolls. Peace out. xx biploar twofor

Putting On That Other Pair Of Shoes

forgivingGentle readers,

I’ve been trying and trying to write this blog, wanting it to be gentle and light, to bring you good vibes so you’ll come back and keep reading. But my mind and heart are heavy with all the colossal blunders I’m making that I keep wanting to slough off onto my illness. A mixed episode of bipolar disorder is nothing to laugh about. It’s like a modern version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My loved ones never know who they’re going to be speaking to from one minute to the next.

Until I got into Al-Anon, I used to get so mad at my sister when she wold blame her absurd or borderline abusive drunken behavior on her disease. Even after becoming a regular around the tables, it took me a long time to get that being a drunk is a disease and not a choice. I know, ridiculous right? Who in their right mind would choose the humiliation and shame attached with being an alcoholic? She is responsible for any fallout, and she has to try to amend as much as she truly can, but she has to love herself first and foremost. That’s why it’s called a selfish program.

I wish there was such a thing as a teleporter, so I could teleport myself to a tiny, solitary island far, far away from any living people until I Get Better. Until then, I keep apologizing, then praying and trying again. I’ve started taking my Flexeril (20mg per pill, a muscle relaxant), which I had a WHOLE bunch left over from when I initially hurt my back years ago along with 3x daily dose of Xanax. It makes me sleepy, and a little loopy, which is a weird trip to be on with all the racing thoughts and flighty ideas in my brain. But it makes me a little less prone to blurt out the first thing I’m thinking—I would do anything to not hurt my mom or my sister. Go ahead. Let me have it. Tell me I’m using, that I’ll become a drug addict. I’m already addicted to prescribed Xanax, what’s a little Flexeril thrown in?

I better stop now, because I’m very tired, and I know I’m not making sense. I guess the take-away from this is: be very careful when we go to judge or feel resentful of someone else. We never know when we’re going to be the one struggling with a problem which can easily be judged and resented. But only when we accept ourselves and love ourselves where we are can true change begin to happen.

When I talk to my sister now, and I hear her go into “beat up on Carol” mode, I try to jump in and get real logical with her. She did the best she could at that time with the information that she had. Now she knows better, she can do better.

This is my first ever dysphoric mania episode. I feel so lost at sea. And it’s super hard to take that same advice and apply it to myself. All I keep thinking is “Idiot. Stupid. Mean. Jerk. Way to go, jackass.” It is probably the reason that I still have suicidal ideation and that many with this type of mania attempt suicide.

Argh. I’m blabbing and I’m getting totally incoherent. Please be gentle with yourselves today, no matter where you are on your journeys.

Peace out. xx better

The Blogosphere Status-Checking Neurosis

i-forgot-to-post-on-facebook-i-was-going-to-the-gymCome on. Admit it. You check your FB status more than a couple times a day, and get a little charge every time somebody “likes” it, or the more the comments pile up. Want some help?

Okay. My name is Chris, and I’m a status-checking junkie. In fact, I’m thinking I might close my FB account for good. Have to think some on that.

Here, read this quote from Finding God in the Dark: “The blogosphere is reality television for people (conservative Christians) who consider themselves too good for reality television . . . Status updates about perfect playdates or craft projects, or magazine-quality photographs of picture-perfect birthday parties induce lots of fawning compliments (and private eye rolls) from other moms. Moms are the most underrated competitive people-group on earth. If I had to go to a rumble in a dark alley, I’d be sure to take a few stay-at-home moms with me.

“Facebook can let your friends know what you’re reading, what you’re watching, what you’re buying, what you’re thinking, when your birthday is, who you voted for, and what you’re doing this weekend. And it had all better be awesome.” (emphasis mine)

Chew on that for a bit. It’s sort of controversial, and I’d love to know your thoughts about it. ❤

Peace out. xx

Feeling Helpless? Try This!

helpEver feel helpless? When I feel that way, it’s usually because I’m feeling overwhelmed. Then I will remember one of these three things:

1. Breathe. Mmmm. There. Feel better? When I’m helpless, or when I get the thought in my head that says, “I’m helpless,” weirdness descends. Shortness of breath. My chest is tight. Constricted. It sort of feels a little like drowning. So I take a deep belly breath That’s what I call breathing through the diaphragm, because you have to push your tummy out–it seems confusing but it’s not. Do it as many times as you need until the world starts to make a little sense again. You’re not helpless, love. You have everything you’re supposed to, right now this minute.

2. Be in the moment. We are too much forward-thinking and backward-thinking and not enough right-now-thinking. Stay in the now as much as you can. If you’re reading this post, really pay attention. Read it out loud. If you’re reading it on a tablet, turn it upside down and read it that way. LOL When I was a kid and I was bored but couldn’t go to the library because I was grounded or whatever (who, me?), I would take a book I’d already read and read it upside down. 

3. Be your best self. Do the best you can and let it go. We all do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the time. When you know better, you can do better. But this is now.

Peace out. xx

Love Yourself Through the Process

exercise-cartoon1When I saw this cartoon it made me laugh so hard, and I was drinking coffee at the time. 😀 Then I realized it’s all about expectations and how what we think about things make them difficult. I hope that makes some sense. We dive into recovery and expect so damn much from ourselves from day one. God forbid we don’t meet those expectations. So when we can learn to laugh at ourselves it’s f***ing fantastic!!

When I told the brilliant Dr. Walker this morning (therapist) that it wasn’t fun making paper cranes anymore, and I told him the whole story about how everyone on Facebook (yes I have that much power) knows about my promise to make 1,001 paper cranes in the memory of an old cherished professor. So now it felt like a crushing burden, and it wasn’t a joy any longer. I kept putting it off each day until I was too sleepy. So he said “Why does it have to be 1,001? Why can’t you just make as many paper cranes as you want, keeping the fun in it, thinking of your old prof while you’re making them? The gift is not in the quantity of the cranes, it’s in the gifting of them, it’s in the meaning of them.”

forgiveHow’s your mood lately? Me, I’m ever working on irritability. 😦 I’m a work in progress. Mania is still at an all-time high, so it would be better if I could be in a rubber room right now, but it’s not an option. LOL  

Not so happily, I got in an argument with my sister again on the telephone this morning. Two bipolar people trying to both be right at the same time is so not good. We made up a safe word for when either of us feels things are getting out of hand: orange. Yes, orange. As in: “Orange you glad I asked you to stop talking?” 😉

After that conversation I got off the phone and just wept. But post-therapy, I decided the conversation belonged right here, along with my bad feelings, because I was being way too hard on myself: crapThen I walked away from the crap, literally turned my body away, wiped the stupid tears from my face, walked outside and looked into this:

beauty (That’s me ecstatic about the sunshine and higher temps of an impending spring day.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: no matter what you are recovering or healing from, it’s a tough process. To borrow a phrase, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We didn’t get damaged in a day, and we’re not going to get stronger, healthier, more empowered in a day either.

The biggest take-away I want for you to keep in your head with this post that took me forever because I kept nodding off (It’s so not you or the subject matter! Lack of sleep and problems adjusting meds is all. It’ll pass.) is this:

beautiful1

Be careful who you give your power to. Peace out. xx

7 Do’s and Don’ts in a Manic Phase of Bipolar Depression

7. When you wake up, startlingly wide awake after just a couple hours of sleep at night, don’t listen to your brain when it tells you you’ve had quite enough sleep. Do perhaps drink a glass of water and try to lie back down. If you can get it, this is a most excellent investment: Delta Sleep System. I think Jeffrey Thompson must be some kind of genius, because this puts me to sleep every time, even when I don’t stay asleep because of being manic.

6. Don’t get up instead, lurch over in a drug-induced stupor to make coffee and get onto Facebook. FB is a never-ending loop of “shiny” from which one never escapes. Not good for the manic phase. Do try guided visualization. You don’t have to buy these. There are plenty super great ones available on YouTube. Here’s one that I try to stay awake to, but her voice is so soothing it conks me out every time:

5. Don’t go onto sites where you know you can read books for free in exchange for reviews. (I have 13 books in a queue because of such a dilemma. “Oh look, another book that would be perfect for me to review!”). Do try, hard as it is, to have no more than two books going at one time.

4. Don’t announce to the world a huge almost impossible to fulfill goal if there is a chance in hell you may not fulfill it. Case in point: I announced on Facebook that I would make 1,001 origami paper cranes for the family of a favorite professor who passed away last year. The deadline is May 16th. My goal was 14 cranes a day, which started out doable. I’ve made a total of two cranes. Two. Which means if I want to catch up, I have to make 54 cranes today, or recalculate completely so that I make more than 14 cranes a day to make the goal. Do find something both meaningful and meditative to occupy and burn up all that excess energy you have.

3. Don’t drink tons of caffeine. I know, I know. Your body is exhausted and your mind is racing. Don’t drink more than 1-2 cups of coffee/tea in the morning if you need that jump start. Any more is just asking for a train wreck. Do drink lots of nice cold water. Sleepytime tea is fine too. Hot water with lemon is good, so I’ve heard, but I’ve never tried it myself. Any other decaff tea/herbal tea you can find is wonderful, but make sure it’s decaff. Your body is a precious, precious vessel and it needs as much rest as it can get, even during the day right now. Napping at this point is fine.

2. Don’t take your aggression out on your family, or the ones you live with. Right now, they may be your biggest supporters. Do tell them you need space right now, and don’t be afraid to leave the room physically if you need to be alone. Picture Marlene Dietrich, the blond beauty, saying, “I vant to be alone.” <grin>  Be prepared to apologize, and make amends.

1. Don’t speak whatever comes to your mind to strangers! This is difficult. I am learning it the hard way. Part of mania is that it can make you want to tell people they’re “doing it wrong.” Do keep your thoughts to yourself. Count to five, because right now ten is too hard. Walk away. Fake-smile (you know what I mean, the kind that doesn’t quite reach your eyes). Pretend you’re the fictional heroine of your favorite book. Just do what you need to do to get through the moment, because you don’t know how every stranger will react to confrontation.

I hope this helps. It helped me just to write it. Peace out. xx 523527_470164159680997_689013679_n

There Were Never Such Devoted Sisters

Sister-Quotes11

My sister and I are more alike than we are different, and sometimes this makes us competitive, even—I have recently learned, in our respective illnesses.

We each grew up with an abusive, hard-working, hard-drinking father. My shostra (sister, in Polish) is 13 years my senior, and she grew up in the 60’s, a turbulent, changing, experimental decade. The way we each dealt with our abuse was different. Carol turned to drugs and alcohol. Me, the ever helpful codependent, did my best to help her stay sick and keep the rest of the family intact until I was in my late 20’s and got help for  myself (by way of a major depression and 1st hospitalization). Not to say that I didn’t do my own share of rebelling. When I was in grade school I was famous for getting into actual physical tumbles (a.k.a. fist fights) with other girls (girls can be so mean to each other), and once, because I had short hair, when a boy called out to me (as a safety girl) whether I was a boy or a girl, I shouted back, “That’s for me to know and you to find out!”…and he promptly chased me all the way home.

But I was always the writer. Writing was my way of coping with the chaos around me. Starting at around age eight, I kept “chapter stories” of the perfect family, in my eyes. Yes, the kids in the chapter stories misbehaved, and yes, they got in trouble, but they weren’t called names and they weren’t given the silent treatment, and so forth. Everything was always talked about, so very “Brady” like. LOL

My shostra was always the other type of artist, the kind that would make you so jealous if you could see her work. Clay and steel sculptor, mixed media, painter, you name it, she’s done it. She has taught at Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, which, if you don’t know, is a major, major feather. Part of me has always been so proud of her, and part of me has watched her, casually draw up a sketch of something or other and had to fight back this evil, jealous side that couldn’t make a straight line to save her life.

When my dear shostra was dx’d with bipolar I disorder, her doctor told her that she probably had it from a very young age and if she’d been diagnosed earlier, she may not have become an alcoholic. I have been dx’d with everything from major depression to borderline personality disorder to now finally, two years ago, bipolar II disorder. Though I may have been borderline, I very possibly “aged out” of it, which sometimes happens.

I never experienced true mania until during these–what is it, three now—past hellish weeks. I must have had something like hypomania during a hospital stay for a doctor to diagnose me with bipolar II. And I’m pretty sure this episode started out hypomanic. If it had been caught properly by the first doctor who saw me before I went back to my previous shrink who diagnosed me correctly last Friday (I think. I’m losing all sense of time), it would most likely NOT have turned into full blown mania. Mania, for me, is not fun. My sister enjoys when she has an episode. She gets tons of stuff done, loves not sleeping and on and on.

But–the whole point of this post is to say, when I told her Dr. Sack said I’m in a manic episode, she was all like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. What—are you trying to be manic now? Do you want to be like me or something?” I was floored. It was like all the air got sucked out of the room, or gravity ceased to exist. Who would want to be manic? Oh. Good. Lord. I pray, even though all that I can manage ceaselessly is “Help please God,” all the time, for this to just go away.

So. Yeah. LOL Competitive even in sickness. And now guess what? She’s writing. So not only is my perfectly creative shostra a talented mixed media et al artist, now she’s writing a memoir of her alcoholism. Oh, but I’m not supposed to say, “Hey, that’s my territory.” But I feel like the shadow. Always the shadow.

Still, although she can make me cry, she makes me laugh in my belly. I love her…..all of her, not just the easy parts. I hope she feels the same about me, prickly and all.

Just for fun:

Peace out. xx

Anticipation…..it’s making me wait!

dr. walkerIt was hard to wait all morning to meet my new therapist, Dr. Walker. Anticipation and expectation had my mind going in all sorts of directions. “Will he want me as a client? Will he decide I’m just too much to deal with? What if he gets sick of me?….What if..he can’t fix me?”

Then I got lost. There are only two things that can terrify me more than anything. Getting lost and not finding my way or, worse than that, when a spider drops off the ceiling without my knowledge and lands on my person. I think the spider is scarier. ‘Cause I found my way to Dr. Walker.

What do I like best about him? He’s funny and has a great laugh. I told him how my irritability from the mania has spread to strangers. You know how people will sometimes pull right up to the gas station door if they just have to run in to buy cigs or a Pepsi or something? Even though there are perfectly good parking spots for just such a reason, including handicapped spots? Now, I know it’s really cold out, true. But I park in the spots and, by extension, so should every other person on God’s green earth.

Yesterday, two people were pulled up in front of the gas station when I parked and went in. As each of them came out of the door, I said (I still can’t believe this), “Is it that cold out? You see there are parking spots to park. In fact, I’m in such a spot.”

And you know how Dr. Walker reacted? He laughed. LOVE that. Because by the time I was done telling the story I was laughing too. I normally would shrug off people who park there. What’s the big deal? So what? Walk around them. They’re in a hurry; there’s a fire. 😉

The other thing I like is his approach to treatment, although I only remember two things he said, one of which is above. I made a quote meme out of it. The other thing he said at the end was, “I need you to contract not to suicide, because I can’t treat you if you’re dead.” Ha ha ha ha

Peace out. xo

Learning

standing

Distraction, distraction everywhere and not a point to land on.

bipolar-bear-meme-6014The good news is I’m sleeping better. Five and a half hours of sleep last night.

Bad news is I’m still flitting from thing to thing to thing like a bird in a cage who can’t decide on a perch to settle. As I’m writing this post, I am surrounded on the table by origami papers (for the 1,001 paper cranes, of which I have yet to make one), a jigsaw puzzle, and a book on anxiety. I’m reading all at the same time (picking whichever book fits my fancy at the moment): The Husband’s SecretWhen Panic AttacksThe Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, and The Most Beautiful Girl (for Netgalley). What are you reading?

I have another appt with my psychiatrist at 3:15 tomorrow afternoon. I made an appointment with a therapist (it’s been soooo long since I really got to talk to someone professional) for Wednesday at 12:45. Oh. Oh look, shiny! (I’m joking because otherwise I’d be crying.)

That’s all she wrote. Wish me luck.m

Have a safe and happy Monday. Peace out. xo

A Rose by Any Other Name

pink roseI’m so incredibly nervous writing this, and at the same time . . . feels like home. I have been completely overwhelmed by the positive responses to my last blog post. Just–flabbergasted, truly. Those lovely comments came on the heels of a little over seven months of severe depression and severe anxiety, which brings me to why it’s been so long since I’ve posted.

So many times, when one grows up in an alcoholic family, or any sort of dysfunctional family, it becomes all about the alcoholic for so long, or about the person or sickness that draws the most attention from the family–not that they don’t each have difficulties, but the alcoholic or whatever stands out like a fresh pimple. You see? It has been true for me.

It is time now for my recovery to be about me. There is plenty to talk about just in my case, trust me. I have blemishes beyond blemishes. I even am an imperfectly flawed person, which I hope makes sense to some metaphorically-inclined soul out there.

Recently, as recent as last Friday, I was finally dx’d with bipolar depression and told I was in a manic episode (not hypomanic). I had only been sleeping maybe 2 1/2 hours a night, and I was unable to focus on anything; not TV, not reading (I had five books going at once, but had not finished a book through since Doctor Sleep at Christmastime, very frustrating for me, a book lover); extremely irritable; and easily startled awake from a catnap during the day.

My dazzling doctor gave me samples of a new bipolar med which is not supposed to cause weight gain (a big problem–get it? I crack myself up, truly). It’s called Latuda, and since it’s only about six months old, there’s not a chance my insurance would pay for it, and it would cost about a thousand bucks to get filled. Yeah.  *respectful pause for that number to sink in*

I’ve been on it two days, and last night I slept 4 1/2 hours straight through. w00t!

There’s a lot more I have to say, about the last seven months, and a lot I want to say about the mental health care system in the U.S.A. and Michigan in particular, but I’ll stop here. I don’t want to bog you all down too much on my first day back in forever.

My gratitude bucket overflows. Peace out. xoxochange

 

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