Monday, January 9, 2017

A Year of Run

What an interesting year 2016 was.  So many changes in my life.  So many tough things, some of which got better, others which got worse.

But a very important thing happened in 2016.  Something I never expected.  Something that kind of sneaked up on me.  Something that's changed me for the rest of my life.

In 2016, I became a runner.

In a nutshell, I'd been unhealthy for years.  All kinds of medical struggles.  They weren't dangerous, just life-inhibiting.  In 2014 some things changed in my life which improved my physical and mental health.  More changes happened in 2015, which enabled me to begin walking.  Really walking.  For miles and miles and miles.  With zero intention of running.  Zero desire to run.

Until my third 5k.  I'd done my first one entirely walking, except those last 20 yards; gotta push across the finish line, right?  My second one, I added just a little running here and there.  Basically just enough to beat my time from my first one.  By the time I got to my third one, I knew I'd have to run a significant amount to improve my time.  This was all in the summer and fall of 2015.

I think I ran about a third of that last one - run until you can't breathe, walk until your heart stops pounding to the point you think it will explode, repeat.  It was incredibly difficult.  I couldn't walk the few blocks home, because I'd injured myself by pushing so hard.  And I remember thinking in that moment, "I want to run!"

It took several months of resting a little, going back to it too soon, injuring myself again before I really took healing myself seriously.

At the end of 2015, a year of HEALing, it was time to choose a new word.  I don't do New Year's resolutions.  I choose one word.  One word to guide my year.  Sometimes it's a lot of work to choose my word.  I have so many ideas run through my head.  Several of them would fit.  God and I have to talk it over for a while before I settle on one.

Last year wasn't like that.  I immediately knew what I wanted.  I wanted RUN.  I wanted to run!  But I fought it.  It seemed like such a narrow focus.  How could it possibly govern my year?  How could it affect my spiritual life?  How could I use it to govern my relationships?  How shallow a word was that to choose?!

But when I took it to God, He said it was perfect!  I still didn't know how it would play out, but I trusted it would.

It did.

I ran.

I am a runner.

Let me say that again - I AM A RUNNER!

I don't run fast or far, but I run.  And I love it!  I never, ever thought about running before.  In fact, I mocked my friends who ran.  Why would I torture myself like that?  But then I did it.

Running makes me feel powerful.  Running makes me feel cleansed.  Running makes me feel free.  Running makes me feel alive!  Running is and does so many things.

In years past, when I've reviewed my year through the eyes of that One Word, I've looked at the ways it had an impact on all those individual areas of my life.  When I chose RUN as my word, I expected to look back and see how I let it inspire me to RUN to Jesus or RUN to or from this or that.  But it didn't.  And I've learned something.

I've learned that God doesn't compartmentalize.  I do.  I'm the one who sees my physical health, emotional health, financial health, relational health, mental health, spiritual health, etc. separately.  God sees me.

I've learned that any progress in a positive direction is spiritual progress.  Because everything is spiritual.  I am a spiritual being, so my entire life experience is spiritual.

Progress in a positive direction makes me more whole.  Running makes me more whole.  God knew that.  And He knew that it was good.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Bipolar Self

I don't know where my baseline is.

I want to be as close to stable as possible.  But what's the real me?

Is the real me on the lower, more calm part of the spectrum?  If so, is every up day an anomaly that isn't really me and something I shouldn't be chasing?

Are the up days me, and should I fight the down days to swim my way back up?

How up can I get and still be normal before I'm into hypomania?  Or is that very up state that I see as hypomania where I am meant to be and I need to strive to be there?

If I find a medication that takes me to that higher state, should I find a way to incorporate it into my daily life?  If not, because the fact that it requires medication is a sign of a false high, what does that say about the mood stabilizer I take each day to keep me out of the pits?

And if they are all the real me, as I sense they are, how do I ever find balance?

How do I know what to strive for?  When to reach for the more up place?  When to settle in to what is in the moment?

How do I find peace in who I am when who I am is always in such a state of flux?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Preparing for Battle - A PTSD Plan

A little personal journaling as I process through my current PTSD episode --

The world is at war.  Every day is a battle.  You can choose to meet that with peace, but it will take work.  You must strengthen yourself every day.

Daily (preferably morning) -
  *  half hour meditation
  *  one General Conference talk
  *  one verse of scripture

Practice these for one week.  Assess daily.

See how you feel after a week.  Do you feel stronger and better able to live in peace amidst the war?

Right now I don't feel strong.  I don't want to be on the defensive all the time, just waiting for the attack, so that I'll be ready.  But I've worried that if I weren't on the defensive, the attack would come anyway and blindside me, as has happened so often in the past.  I would be knocked down hard.  Painful and bloody.  In the past, I've always thought that to protect myself I had to be hard.  Being hard is being strong.

But I know that's the emotionally immature form of strength.  True strength is soft.  Gentle.  Kind.  It comes from sure footing in oneself that grounds you in who you are.  You can stand immovable without being a brick wall.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Seriously, who the crap am I?

Transitions are tough.  Even when the new state of being is positive.  Even when the other side is wonderful.  The change can be difficult.

I remember reading that transitions are especially dangerous mental health territory.  Well, I already have mental health issues.  And now I'm in the middle of several transitions.  What a surprise I'm having a tough time.

My youngest child just graduated.  I was so focused on all the pain-in-the-butt things that were going away that I didn't look much further ahead.  And now I find myself on unsolid ground.  Not sure of my footing.  Staring at a bunch of building materials with no idea what I want to create.

My oldest will be twenty-six in a few months.  For over twenty-six years (I'm including my pregnancy), my whole life has been focused on my kids.  Their safety.  Their happiness.  How to help them be good people.  That's a long time in one job.

My youngest will be eighteen in a little over a month.  And as my kids have become adults over the last few years, my role has changed somewhat.  They're in charge of, and in control of, more of their lives.  They're responsible for their choices, whether they act responsibly or not.  In a little over a month, I will not be legally responsible for anyone but myself.

And I'm having some trouble processing that.

The transition has happened slowly, in theory.  One child at a time.  A couple years in between each one.  So why does this moment feel so shocking?

Because she's the last one.

I've been a stay-at-home mom for most of their lives.  Significantly longer than I was single and childless.  When I no longer have minor children at home, but still choose not to work, what am I?

And what do I want to be?

See, here's the thing.  I have all the choices in the world.  My husband has no desire for me to work, for both physical health and mental health reasons.  Although he would support me if I chose to work.  Because he supports me in pretty much anything I want to do.

And that's the key phrase.  What I want to do.  And I have no idea.  What do I want to do?

My health is better than it's been in years, but it's still a day to day thing.  There are still days I can't get out of bed.  Still lots of fatigue and pain.

But there are other days.  Days when I feel pretty good.  Days when I feel powerful.  Days when I believe I can conquer the world.

I'd love to be able to plan out my life.  I'd love to live by schedule.  I'd love to know how I want to spend my days.  To write it all down and live by it.  But with the freedom to set it aside if a friend needs me.  And I'm just not sure how to balance that.

I yearn for structure.  I've always been a planner.  But when my health fell apart eleven years ago, I had to stop committing to things.  I had to stop planning.  Because it just felt so bad when I let others down, when I had to cancel at the last minute.  When I couldn't do that one thing I'd so looked forward to and worked to make happen.

I'm scared to plan again.  I'm not sure why.  And I guess I've planned all along, just on a different level.  I'm not sure why this feels so different.

Yes, I am.  I don't want to waste.  I don't want to use my time badly.  I don't want to just pass through day after day.  I don't want to look in my rearview mirror and see emptiness.  Days of nothing.

Before now, even if I did nothing else all day, I still parented.  I still did something productive, just by keeping people alive and on task in their lives.  When that's not my job anymore, what value do I have?  Especially if my days are spent just doing whatever I want.

I know I'll find my footing.  I always do.  And it will be great.  And I will be happy.  But right now I feel like I'm dancing on quicksand.  In an earthquake.  With a tornado approaching.

And I have to decide whether to hunker down or face the storm.

Monday, May 9, 2016

How to Be a Good Friend

Yeah, I have no idea.

There are people who think I'm an awesome friend.  There are people who think I'm a horrible friend.  And there are people who've thought both at different times in our relationship.

I've thought both about myself, too.

Being a good friend is such a subjective thing.  Everyone has a different idea about what makes a good friend.  About what makes a close friend or a best friend.  Even about the difference between a friend and an acquaintance.

I've probably put way more thought into this than most, because I feel it's something I struggle with.  And it's something I think I should want to change.  I tried to want to change.  I even tried to change.  But I think I'm done.

I'm at a point in my life right now where I'm just gonna be me.

I'm not going to be what others want me to be just to avoid guilt or to feel like I'm measuring up to some mysterious golden friendship crown.

Because, to be honest, I just don't have the energy.  If you need a lot of output from your friends, if you need attention (really, any attention) to believe I care and we're friends, you shouldn't choose me as a friend.

I can do great short term.  Maybe we meet when we both have a mutual need.  Or one of us has a need when the other of us has a surplus, and we connect.  We're good for each other and good with each other.

I can drop everything to help you with your crisis.  For a while.

But then, for whatever reason, I just don't have anything else to give.  Maybe it's because my life has so many recurring and ongoing crises.  Maybe it's because of my chronic fatigue or my bipolar disorder.  Maybe it's because I'm just a crappy friend.

And then I will disappear.

Not on purpose.  Not because I'm trying to be mean.  Not because I'm consciously deciding I don't want to be your friend.  But because I have to take care of myself.  And taking care of myself often means neglecting everything and everyone but my family.  Sometimes everyone other than myself.

I will retreat.  For who knows how long.  You might reach out.  You might not.  When I'm gone like this, I probably won't reach back.  I might not even acknowledge you've tried to contact me.

I see you reaching.  I sense your need.  But I can't fill it.  And you can't fill mine.  Because I need to be alone and lick my wounds or find my way.  Or whatever.

I know I've wounded people with this behavior.  I see it.  But I'm doing triage, and I just can't see your need to be with me as a life or death thing.  Or if I do, I pray someone else will treat it, because my hands are tied behind my back.

Sometimes my behavior causes others to pull back, hoping I'll notice they've left and their absence will cause me to reach out.  But that doesn't work.  Because if I notice, which is a big if, it's entirely possible I will just be grateful to not have to fix it.  To not have to figure out the steps to the dance we were engaged in, where I was stepping on your toes.  I'll just be glad the dance is over and head to the punch.

I just truly don't know how to do the dance and am no longer interested in learning.

This is the kind of friend I can be now.  I can be happy when good things happen in your life.  I can be glad to see you when we run into each other.  I can occasionally muster the energy, physically and emotionally, to do something together.  I will think kindly of you when something reminds me of you.  And no matter how much time has passed, I will still consider you my friend.

It doesn't take much for me to consider someone my friend.  Do I know you?  Have we had positive interactions?  Yeah, that's about it.  That's all it takes.

If we're not friends, and you want me to feel that way too, you'll probably have to tell me.  Even then, I'm not sure I wouldn't still introduce you as my friend should the need arise for me to introduce you.

And if you choose to move on, if you decide (for whatever reason) that you're better off without me, I'll most likely wish you well and let you go.  I won't argue.  I won't ask you to stay.  It's just not in my nature.  I'll support your growth in whatever way you seek it.

I know a lot of this will sound harsh to many people.  That's okay.  We're all just finding our way.  And this is just one little trip on the journey of my psyche.  It's a crazy, winding path that's sometimes light and sometimes dark, but always mine.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I Needed to Boot Vanilla

Sometimes your computer chokes.  It might run super slowly for a while first.  You get the sense something's wrong.  Eventually, you can't put up with it any longer.  You have to call your computer friend.

Maybe you're the computer friend.  Maybe it's a spouse.  Maybe you don't have a computer friend and have to take it somewhere to be fixed (in which case, I feel very sorry for you; everyone should have a computer friend).

The first thing your computer friend will say is, "Did you shut it down and restart it?"  Trust me.  That's what he'll say.  (I'm going to say he, because my husband is my computer friend.)  Know why he'll say that first?  Because it truly does fix it a ridiculous amount of the time.  Those magic computer boxes just need to shuffle some things around and put them back in their places - they do that when you restart.

But sometimes it doesn't work.  And sometimes you can't get it started again properly.  Maybe you need to boot vanilla.

To boot vanilla means to start your computer up as basic as possible, without all the bells and whistles.  To only load the essential programs.  The minimum needed to gain access to the system.  Not enough to run any of the normal programs you use.  This requires a special vanilla boot disk or a vanilla install file.

From there, your computer friend can do some troubleshooting.  He can search for things he knows might be possible problems.  After asking about your recent activity, he might be guided to look for a particular virus.  And if he still doesn't find anything, he will try adding programs back in one by one.  (Yes, I know there are many possible ways to handle this process.  Let's just pretend this is the one every computer friend does.)

As he adds each program back in, he'll watch for errors.  This way, he can hopefully find the source of your frustration.

I needed to boot vanilla.

My life kind of choked.  Things were running choppy.  I was functioning sluggishly.  Some days I couldn't get past the boot up screen.

I have several life "computer guys."  This time I took myself to my psychiatrist and therapist for repair.  (I just happened to have appointments scheduled with them on back to back days.)  We did lots of troubleshooting.  We figured out some workarounds.

But eventually I decided I just needed to boot vanilla.  I needed to get rid of everything in my life that wasn't absolutely essential.  I've actually been stripping things out for a while now.  Activities.  Obligations.  Friends.  And, more recently, social media.  I kind of feel like I've put myself into quarantine.

I think I've gone bare bones as far as I can.  Well, as far as I can and still be somewhat healthy.  I'm hesitant to add things back in, because I don't want to freeze up again.

But I will add things back in.  Very.  Very.  Slowly.  I will go for a short time to a few activities.  I will spend some time outside my home.  And I will very carefully tiptoe back into social media.  Very carefully!  Probably in a ways but then back out again.  Social media is a slippery place with lots of potential viruses, many of which I know I'm susceptible to.

I'll be running a different machine when I'm done.  After all, we have to make upgrades over time or become incompatible with new programs.  I've made a lot of changes lately; it's not surprising there were conflicts.

I think my main error has been trying to do a system restore.  Trying to go back to the way I used to be.  But I've altered too many things for that system to do the job.  I need to let the new me become.  Whatever I am going to become.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Master Healer

Today started out rough.  I woke feeling anxious.  No particular thoughts causing me distress, just a discomfort in my body.  I had a Harry Potter audiobook on; I use the Harry Potter audiobooks like white noise while I sleep.  They relax me.  But soon my agitation grew, so I switched over to some soothing music.  But that felt like sandpaper on my nerves, so I switched over to my meditation soundtrack.  No.  Just no.

My anxiety grew.  Intensified to the point that I wanted to crawl out of my skin.  I always feel my anxiety most strongly in my shoulders.  I shake my arms to try to dispel the feeling of tension, the feeling like I'm being held down by my shoulders.  Shaking my arms doesn't really help, but it's my natural reaction.  Well, I guess it helps a little.  Sometimes it gets me through the worst of it.  Not today.

My anxiety climbed.  Maybe I just needed silence.  So I turned it all off.  And that was better.  My body's stress didn't go down, but it leveled out.  I just breathed in the stillness for a bit.  Deep breaths.  Willing my body to relax.

I prayed for help.

I felt prompted I should listen to a church talk.  Luckily, I have several on my mp3 player that I sometimes listen to when I walk.  I searched through my list, not really looking for a particular talk, just the right soothing voice.  Then I saw the one.  Jesus Christ - The Master Healer.  If there was anything I needed right then, it was healing.

It was given by Elder Russell M. Nelson, a leader in our church, who does (in fact) have a very soothing voice and manner of address.  As I listened to his words, I sought release.  I sought a connection with God that would take away my current suffering.

And then a panic attack hit.  Hard.

Suddenly I was gasping.  Crying.  Sobbing.  It felt like my throat was closing up.  The distress in my body grew.  My headache exploded.  I cried and cried, clenching at my throat and pressing my hand against my forehead.  I had been propped up in my bed, but had to get rid of the pillows and lie flat to try to relieve my throat.

Talk yourself through it.  You can do this.  Talk yourself down.  I tried to remember all I've learned to get through a moment like that.  Nothing.  And then a vague recollection of how brief it was likely to be.  A knowledge that even though it felt like I would die, I wouldn't really.

I began to pay attention to my breathing.  Even though I could feel my throat constricting, the muscles tightening, my breathing was still fine.  No restriction.  No limitation.

But still - panic!  Ridiculous, overwhelming panic.  And the talk continued.  The soothing voice strengthening me even then.

I let myself cry.  I let my breaths heave.  I let my body work through whatever it needed to work through.

As the talk ended, the panic began to subside.  But the anxiety was still there.  How would I get rid of that?  I need to go to church.  I have a calling to perform.

Slow down.  I felt prompted strongly to slow down today.  I have a tendency to rush around in the morning getting ready and to be highly energetic in my calling.  Today, I need to slow down.  I need to not do anything which will feed the adrenaline.  I need to relieve my body.

Stretch.  I felt prompted to stretch.  I stretched my legs.  I did the stretches for my plantar fasciitis.  It helped.  I could feel my body releasing a little.

Wash your face.  Okay, that might sound like a strange prompting.  But I have a very minimal morning hygiene routine.  Generally just a quick splash of water on my face.  Today I was supposed to wash my face.  Gently.  Circular motions.  Massaging my face slowly.  Warm water.  More release.

Lotion.  Put on some lotion.  I put some baby lotion in my hands, rubbed them together a bit, and gently applied it to my face.  A similar massaging action.  Lovingly.  Slowly.  And my body calmed.

There is still a remnant of anxiety in my body, just under the surface.  I still need to go slow today.  I still need to be gentle with myself.  Mindful of myself.  But I will get through it unscathed.  I will be the better for it.

I believe I was touched by the Master Healer this morning.  I was guided through healing techniques I had learned but couldn't recall in that moment.  And I'm grateful.  And I testify.  Truth.