Six Steps: Part III

When I spoke with my friend Jean, who hasn’t let go of me despite my absence from social media, I told her about my reticence in blogging. I’m struggling, and I had the absurd idea that I should be much further recovered before I write anything. Well, I didn’t realize how absurd it was until we spoke. ūüôā She reminded me that you all, like me with you, would want to share in the struggle. We need to know we’re not alone.

Here, then, are the last two of the six steps.

5. Your choices are yours.¬†It might be tempting to tell ourselves that we’re making a change to please someone else. That way, if it doesn’t work out the way we would like it to, we know where to place blame. “You happy now?” we shake our fists in frustration. It’s because it’s so hard, that’s my opinion. Withdrawing from my medications is the number one most difficult thing, next to my father’s death, that I’ve ever been through. Does my decision have wide consequences/rewards? Of course, it does. The difference in who I am off meds with who I was on them is like – well, like the difference between milk chocolate and dark. I’m dark chocolate now. I’m richer with my emotions, like eating the most expensive caviar, but there is a slightly bitter bit at the end. Dark chocolate is an acquired taste. I’m teary a lot, over silly movies and TV shows. And my emotions are all over the place. God bless my mother, as she accepts who I am now in all its nakedness, reassuring me I’m much better to be around without being literally sedated. I suppose in a way I’ve been sleepwalking through the last 28 years. Does my family’s happiness at my condition mean they want to see me struggle? Not at all. I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s¬†my¬†life and I made this choice. Whatever happens, good or bad, it’s my responsibility.

6. Practice loving kindness.¬†Times like these, fraught with emotion, need lots of affection and tenderness. Everyone, including ourselves, needs our loving kindness or at least the benefit of the doubt that we are all doing our very best. My mind is sharper now, which I’ve decided is not necessarily a good thing. With no buffer between my mind and the memories of nearly thirty years, I grieve for all that was lost. I grieve the loss of who I might have been. I grieve at costing my family, especially my mother, so much sadness and fright over the years as they had to deal with a shell of a human being. So, yes, I need to practice loving kindness with myself as I try to keep myself mindful and free from the gaping maw of past defeat. I’ll never do it perfectly. All I can do is my very best, and sometimes be happy with half-efforts. That’s all we can do, any of us.

Six Steps to Take Back Our Control: Part Two of Three

Good morning. ūüôā If you are just tuning in, you can find steps one and two written in the previous blog post.

3. Politely listen but don’t necessarily follow well-meaning advice from family and friends.¬†It’s human nature to want to tell someone or share with that person our ideas about what we think should be done in certain situations. In some cases, this helpful advice comes from family members who have heard us sound entirely different than usual. In my case, it was other siblings who heard me on the phone coming off slurred, drugged, or very sleepy. That’s alarming. I agree. It was disturbing to me as well, even as it happened. Others, including friends who are still on medication and doctors who don’t believe it can be done in your case, offer entirely different words of advice.

4. Visualize all possible outcomes of your choices. I did not do this before I chose to wean myself off my psych meds, but I wish someone had suggested it. I like to play the “What if” game in my head these days. It helps me with most situations. If I’d played this game before I weaned off my psych meds, it might look like this:

  • What if I get anxious?¬†Coming off bipolar and meds for anxiety (specifically Ativan 2mg tablets 3x daily), this is a pretty likely event and concern. So, if I get anxious, I’ll have to cope.
  • What if I can’t cope?¬†What if I *can’t* cope? What do I mean here with this fear? What if I don’t have the *ability* to cope, or I do have the ability, but I’m afraid I won’t want to deal? Suss out those meanings for yourself. I might have to ask for help.
  • What if I ask for help and I’m turned away, or the person I call isn’t home?¬†Then I keep asking. If I have to call the suicide hotline for help, I’ll do that.
  • What if whoever I ask for help that person tells me I need to be admitted to a psych ward?¬†So, is this a terrible thing? It’s *incredibly* difficult to wean off meds by oneself. I’m sure I did it more quickly than I should’ve.

Anyway, you get the idea. Play devil’s advocate on this step.

Peace. xoxo

Chrissy

Six Simple Steps to Take Back Our Control: Part One of Three

I’ve been having the most difficult time putting my words down here. It can’t be because I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong. It’s my story, my life. How wrong could I get it?

It seems that my most effective/popular blog posts have been when there is a specific list to help change something in one’s life. Hey, who doesn’t like lists, right?

Six Simple Steps to Take Back Control

1. Question everything, and don’t be afraid of your doctor.¬†When we lose or think we lose control of our lives, it’s not always with a crash and broken bones. It’s sometimes pretty subtle. For me, it starts with my doctor says that I need Prozac because I am in a major depression. I’m 27 years old at the time. I can say no, but he’s a¬†doctor.¬†If I didn’t need a pill, surely he wouldn’t suggest it? What I learned years later, something most of you probably know but I will share anyway, is this: doctors have to dx¬†something¬†in your chart in order for the insurance to pay. It’s not as important as Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, but for some reason it scared me when he said that. So, being a little shell-shocked, I would have agreed to anything short of a lobotomy. Here’s the thing. Our doctors stumble in the darkness too. They aren’t perfect. Don’t be afraid. Honestly, I still get fearful, and have to tell myself over and over before an appointment: “He may have more medical knowledge, but I know myself¬†better.”

2. Trust your instincts.¬†I have been on psychiatric medications for over 30 years, and I’ve written before about trusting our instincts, especially with health concerns. I think I wasn’t absorbing¬†for me¬†what this actually meant. It means knowing how my body feels on drugs, identifying side effects you are absolutely not willing to live with, and letting that be okay. I’ve had two different reactions to my objection to side effects which made me so light-headed and clumsy that I fell twice in six weeks, once spraining my wrist. “You have to weigh the cost of living with the side effects on one hand or living with the symptoms of your illness on the other.” That was my psychiatrist.

I’ve gone on and on. Important things to ponder. I’ll cover steps three and four tomorrow.

Peace. xoxo

Christina

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

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

 

Recovery Never Ends (long post, sorry)

inspirational-quote-saying-no-claudia-blackSo sorry I have been quiet on here. I have another blog, another passion that has torn me away, Hooker With Yarn, Strings Attached, which is, as you may have guessed, about crochet and all things related to crochet. I have given up my first love, writing, because I’ve decided I’m not good at it, and why torture yourself to try to become something you¬†think¬†you should be? Fiber art is still creative art. It is simply a different medium.

But that’s not what this post is about. I just thought you should know that if you don’t see me on here, you might want to see what I’m up to over there. ūüėČ

Lately, I’ve been struggling with my nephew, and by extension, his mother my sister. My sister is doing fine, by the way. She has been clean and sober for several months and is living in her own apartment in Ann Arbor. It just goes to show you though, that for the Al-Anon, recovery really never ends. I have to stay on my toes. Just because she’s sober (less than a year) it doesn’t mean she doesn’t still try to be manipulative, or lay guilt trips, or get selfish and narcissistic. I have to work hard at taking care of myself, and it’s a full-time job.

My nephew is a paranoid schizophrenic, and he usually comes over to our (my Mom’s and mine) house once a week to do his laundry. For two weeks in a row, each time he came, he was talking crazy. About parasites in the water, and people controlling his thoughts from on the street, etc. This hadn’t happened since before he was hospitalized over two years ago. I asked him if he was taking his meds, to which he of course answered yes he was. I asked him if he was taking them correctly (he sometimes runs out before the month is up, which means he’s taking too much of something), and again he replied in the affirmative. But he also admitted to drinking off and on.

My sister was visiting from Ann Arbor one of the weekends he happened to “go off the deep end.” She talked to him (or at least listened to him rant) for nearly a half hour in my car in the garage while he smoked. She then decided to call his psychiatrist and let him know the symptoms she had been seeing, as an FYI. I didn’t know you could do that, but my uber T. told me that was a very good thing to do.

But when my nephew saw his psychiatrist, he made his mother out to be the crazy person, saying she was “homeless” in Ann Arbor, a “drunk,’ and didn’t know what she was talking about. He had just been under stress. Since then, he has come over one time. I asked him beforehand how he was feeling, because if he wasn’t feeling well I didn’t want him to come over (I myself take anti-anxiety medication, and it really put me in a tailspin both times). He said he was fine. I asked him if he was experiencing parasites in the water. He texted me back: “Parasites? LOL No. No parasites.” So I let him come over and he was fine.

That was one week ago. Then, this past Sunday, the day before my brother and sister-in-law were due to arrive from SF for a week, he didn’t respond to calls or texts. I felt angry. I’m used to people having the common decency of at least calling if they are not coming over, especially if I’m the one who has to go and pick them up.

He didn’t call until the next day, and then it was to say he had been sick and turned the phone off. Whether he was hung over over well and truly sick doesn’t really matter. Don’t people usually call the person that’s expecting them to say they are sick? He called to ask me if I would bring him some cigarettes.

I said no.¬†I felt a twinge of guilt when he said, “Oh, you’re concerned for my welfare, but only to a point, is that it?” He learned manipulation from a master, after all.

He texted me again yesterday to ask me to take him to the grocery store, that he had no cash on him. I know for a fact that grocery stores accept checks.

So I ignored it. I said no. 

It was a beautiful day yesterday, 65 for the high, and he lives right across the street from Meijers.

Was I wrong? What would you have done?

Peace out. xx

Take A Nap!

pooped Things can get pretty hurried and fast-paced during this time of year. Although taking a nap is generally a good idea under normal circumstances, during the holiday season it should be a¬†rule. ūüėȬ†

I posted earlier this month about dogs, and how we should try to be more like them. Animals know intuitively when they need a break. Dogs are not far removed from their wolf ancestors, who needed to conserve energy for hunting and gathering. When I take my Lucy out for a walk, you would think she’s on a hunt. Her nose is constantly to the ground, unless she hears a noise. Then she has to see what’s going on. ūüėČ But when she’s not playing, walking, eating, or otherwise occupied, she sleeps.

I find it difficult to sleep during the day due to some of the meds I take for bipolar disorder and CFS. But this is what I do when I know I absolutely need a nap and I’m having trouble. I go into my bedroom, close the blinds, get a light blanket, and turn on a cd, maybe¬†Sleepy Rain: With Delta Brainwave Pulses. I have other cds I listen to, including a Brahms Lullaby for babies. ūüėÄ Hey, whatever works.

Just be sure to get lots of rest this holiday season. It helps your immune system fight off these nasty colds and flu that are making the rounds.

Peace out.