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.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

It Rained

What the crap is wrong with me?!  Seriously.  I just don't even know.  I'm so lost.  I feel like I'm not connected to anything.  Just floating out in the ether somewhere.

As far as writing, I'm stumped.  I feel like I've lost a part of myself with my inability to write.  I just haven't been able to write.  I don't know how to explain it.  It's not writer's block.  It's not a lack of ideas or time or anything like that.  It's just a plug.  Like someone's put a stopper in, and my writing just won't flow.

I've barely written over the last year and a half.  (Maybe before that; I don't know.)  I don't know if anyone's even reading my blog anymore, except for people who happen here based on a search for a certain topic.

I don't know why I haven't been able to write.  There are many possible explanations.

I've been more emotionally healthy (on the whole) for the last while.  For a long time I wrote therapeutically.  I wrote to work through all the horrific emotional battles I was waging.  I don't have as many of those lately, so it hasn't served that purpose.

I've been exercising a lot more, becoming much more physically healthy over the last year.  I wonder if that outlet has supplanted this one.  Also, since my hysterectomy put me into instant menopause, I just don't have the multitasking abilities I used to have.  I have trouble focusing on more than one thing at a time.  So since I've been focusing on losing weight and feeling better, I struggle to focus on anything else.  Like, it's tough for me to make a menu and shopping list to keep my family fed.  It's tough for me to stay on top of the household money and making sure bills get paid.  Forget about cleaning the house!

Besides focus, there's also the energy component.  I just don't have the energy for much else.  Now, it's possible that's changing.  When I first started working out, just under a year ago, I was coming from a place of near inactivity.  Like, almost nothing.  And from a place of extremely low energy (which is related to not being active, but I'm not sure about which was the cause and which was the effect; I have lots of thoughts on that).  If I worked out, I was just too tired to do anything else.  Or in too much pain.  Sometimes that's not the case now.  I hope I'll be able to move past that soon.

But I'm afraid I'm also stuck in a pattern.  For almost a year my main focus of each day has been to work out.  I find I'm having to really put thought into making other things happen.  Oh, there's so much more to this than you know!  I feel like I'm just giving the tiniest bit of snippets to explain (because otherwise this post would be seventeen pages long).  But I need to get some of this out.  So even if what I've said sounds like I'm being lazy and not using my time or my life well, please know that I don't think that's the case.  Perhaps I'll be able to explain it further in the future.

For now I'll just hit on one other potential cause of my writing drought.  I wonder if it's been connected to my mood stabilizer.  I'm a mood writer.  I have to feel driven.  I have to NEED to write.  I have to need to get it out.  Almost like throwing up, it has to be forcing its way out of me to feel right.

When I met with my psychiatrist Tuesday I asked to reduce my meds by half.  That's what we chose to do.  This is the second day of that dosage.  Today I'm writing.  I can't swear those two events are connected.  Let's wait and see.

When we met, she also strongly pushed me to get back to things I love.  Writing is one of those things.  So I may feel driven because the meds are finally allowing it or because it's an assignment.  I don't know which.

But I truly don't care right now.  It just feels SO GOOD to write.  Like feeling the barometric pressure rise before the storm hits, or does it drop before the storm hits?  Either way, the air becomes uncomfortable, and my body aches for the rain.  Today it rained!

Monday, March 14, 2016

One Word - RUN

Each year I choose a word.  One word to define the year.  No specific goals really.  Just a direction.  A focus.

Last year my word was HEAL.  This year it's RUN.

I take my time choosing my word.  I think about it.  I ponder it.  I pray about it.  I spend a good long time observing my life, myself, the world.  And, eventually, it comes to me.

The thing is, my word is all-encompassing.  It's about every part of my life.  It's about physical, emotional, spiritual - everything.  So it's usually a word that can be used in many different ways, that can mean many different things.

RUN is different.  At least I think it is.

I never know how a word will play out.  I choose it at the beginning of the year; then at the end of the year I review.  I'm always amazed at how the word fits into all the little corners of my life.  If you read my post about last year's word, you'll see what I mean.

But right now, at this point in the year, I still can't see how my word is going to be anything but physical.

That's okay.  Maybe my word will work differently this year.  But I don't think so.  I think somehow it truly will play out in many areas of my life.

For now, I'm going to let it be what my heart wants it to be.  I want to run.

I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.  Honestly, I've mocked my running friends for years.  Although I liked to run as a child and played a lot of sports growing up, once my body changed proportions at around 14 the desire to run just for fun was gone.  Running seemed like work.  It was great for softball, a lot of work for basketball, and something I only coached for soccer.  No longer of interest to me.

My interests shifted away from sports at 14.  I joined marching band, which became my life.  Running was unnecessary.  By the time I graduated high school, I'd left any desire to run long behind.  It wasn't even visible in my rearview mirror anymore.

I got married.  I had kids.  And fifteen years ago my body fell apart.  The world fell out from under me.  I went to bed for a year and a half.

I've written about that a lot (here, here, and here are just a few).  So I'll keep it short and just say, I've been clawing my way back ever since.

Last year was my year of healing.  It led to this year - the year I will run.

Because I will.

So far this year my life and my body have fought me.  A lot.  A month of super long hours of reclamation work at our rental left me with no energy to work toward running.  Then I was hit with a bout of bronchitis for two weeks in early February, difficulty breathing and incredible fatigue.  And another bout of bronchitis from the end of February through early March.  And if there's one thing I need to be able to do if I'm going to run it's breathe.  I do have to breathe.

Right now I am still scratchy-throated.  I still feel like I'm breathing through gauze.  But that's better than feeling like I'm trying to breathe through a rock, which is how it felt when I started.

I believe it's getting better.

It will get better.

And then I will run.