Participation Award

I did it. I got up on a work day, took a shower, did my hair and my make up. I ate some breakfast before I went to work. I did it.

These things may seem small and inconsequential to most people. These are things that normal humans do every day, just becuase. Because they are normal humans. I, however, am not a normal human.

I have Bipolar II. Usually classified as having extreme highs and extreme lows. I tend to trend toward the low most of the time. And my highs, while minimal, can be pretty destructive. Not like breaking chairs and punching walls destructive. But rather, destructive to my relationships and general well-being.

My highs, which are fewer and more far between than my lows, are times where I feel more confident than I really should. My two main “things” when I’m in a manic state are money and sex. Before my official diagnosis and subsequent treatment and medication and self-awareness, it could be pretty bad. I’ve done things in my life I am not proud of. I still experience these manic highs but am able to control them much, MUCH better than I used to. I’m on a pretty good path on that end and with some awesome support in my life currently, the highs are less … well … high.  I’m only getting to about the 3rd floor and not the Penthouse. I have mechanisms in place to help curttail any destructive behavoir and it is making a huge difference.

My lows, are another story.  I seem to have more lows than highs. These episodes last longer and are much, much harder for me to cope with and dig myself out of. And my support system is super understanding of these episodes but even with all of the kindness and love from these people, I still struggle with these sad days and dark thoughts.  My close friends call these episodes my “Hermit” days. They know that there will be times when I will essentially drop off the face of the earth and they won’t hear from me or see me for days on end. They know I’m hermiting. They will reach out and let me know that they notice. They know not to push me or judge me and that their gentle support will help me get through and once I’m out and on the other side of it, I will be more “normal” for a time.

But there are other people in my life, friends, co-workers, others, who just don’t understand. And that’s okay. I get that. I don’t understand it most of the time myself. My apologize sound like really bad excuses. Nothing I do makes much sense to a “normal.” It’s something I’ve come to learn after therapy and reading and living in these hazes. Not everyone will get it. They don’t have to. Whether they understand me or not has no bearing on how I handle my problems. Trust me, there is no person on earth who could pass judgement on me during one of my highs or lows that would cause me to feel worse about myself or give me more guilt than what I have already piled on myself. I am my worst critic. I am my own biggest hater. 

So on days like today, after a couple weeks of not taking care of myself. Of not showering or washing my hair for more days in a row than I’d care to admit publically. For eating chips and dip for dinner or Candy Corn for breakfast, or nothing at all for most of a day. After long stretches of just not caring about much of anything. To have a day where I took a shower, washed my hair, did said hair, put on make up, and ate something before leaving for work in the morning?  Damn straight I want a Participation Award.

I want a shiny trophy that simply said “You Did It.” Just to remind myself that there was a day that I was a normal human. Which means I can have many more.

What a Difference …

… a year makes.

As I look back on the last year, I realize that I am, at the same time, exactly who I used to be and yet someone completely different.

I recently spent a weekend with some amazing old friends, and met some new ones at the same time. I made new connections and renewed old connections and had, potentially, the best weekend I have had in a very long time. I was relaxed and I had fun and I was 100% me. No excuses. No awkwardness. No guilt. Just me.

I was told that my new life looks good on me. I received untentional feedback on the changes I have made and it made me realize something:

I really like my life and who I am becoming. I phrased that as an active process on purpose, becuase it is just that, a process. I am not done yet. This particular weekend rejuvinated me and made me realize that my happiness is 100% in my own control. It made me rethink my daily thought process. It caused me to decide to start focusing on the positive and to try to eliminate any negativity from my life. I had a stress-free, positive, happy, wonderful weekend and it was amazing. I want every day to be just like that.

No stress. No negative thoughts. Only happiness and positive energy. 

Happiness is a choice after all. When you get up every morning, you can make the conscious choice to focus on all of the fantastic things you have in your life, becuase there are plenty of them, and let that positivity overrun any negative things you have going on. Push that ugly shit aside and get on with living the best life you can. You get one chance at all of this. Why waste your time and energy on anger and frustration and unhappiness. Why waste you emotion on drama or guilt. Don’t do it friends. Life is beautiful. It is a gift you get once and you have the ability to make it what you want it to be.

As I reach the end of the first year of my new life, the month of May takes on new meaning for me. It is traditionally, at least in these parts, the month of Spring. The month of hope and a change in the seasons, welcoming in sunshine and warmth. And I will do that in my life as well. Only sunshine and warmth for me. Happiness and lots more hugs. Life is awesome and I plan to live my to its fullest. Taking my happiness where I can find it and burying any negativity or stress or ugliness under mounds and mounds of positive energy. If you plan to bring any bad juju around me … prepare to watch me walk away. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Here’s to an amazing Year Two.  More happy. More love. More hugs.

Yay me.

Old Habits: Common Denominator

I find myself regressing. And it doesn’t make me happy. I catch myself saying things in my inner dialogue that sound so, so familiar. Things I’ve said in the past. Things I promised myself I would never say again.

You get to a point where the situations keep changing but the emotions and feelings and self talk go back to the same old thing.

You get to a point where you realize you are the common denominator in the cycle.

Maybe this is just who I am. Maybe I am meant to be the person who always takes care of someone else at the expense of herself.

Maybe. But I am not ready to believe that just yet.

I’m ready to keep pushing myself to accept that who I am is good enough and eventually that person will be truly happy.

The fact that I have to continue to slog through drama and heartache and disappointment to get there is just part of the journey.

So I push on, trying to identify where I need to expend my emotional energy.

Trying to identify where I need to just let that shit go and move on.

I spent a lifetime giving all of myself for very little in return.

I’m halfway through my life at this point.

I think it’s about time I refocused on living for myself.

Selfishly.

Happily.

Hopefully.

Key to Happiness – Lower Your Expectations

I have been in a funk. It has been for a while now and seems to be getting worse instead of getting better. And I just can’t figure out why exactly. I mean, I have some basic and daily struggles, but overall life is actually pretty good. I have no real reason to feel as low and sad and … empty … as I have been feeling.  Honestly, looking back over the last year and a half … these last few weeks I have been just about as low as I have been during any of that time. The problem with manic depression is that you can fall into these pits and not really be able to identify what pushed you there. So dealing with that while also having a touch of OCD and perfectionism … that’s a bad cocktail of feels.  I feel 100% empty and alone and I don’t know why, which makes me kind of angry, so that layers on top of it. It’s a big ball of ugly that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I have always said the biggest hurdle to dealing with and living with and managing mental illness is acceptance and understanding. Both for myself and anyone I let into my life. I accept and understand what I deal with and what I need to do to get by on bad days. And I now only let people in my life that also are able to understand and accept this. So, I fully realized that I was spiraling and needed to do something about it before I hit the bleak, dark bottom. It became time to step back and evaluate what the hell my brain was trying to do to myself. Luckily … part of my spiral always includes the fun addition of crippling insomnia into my daily schedule. So bonus – plenty of time to think. It became a matter of constantly re-focusing my brain to something productive and not self-defeating. As I was reading through some affirmations and articles and trying to drill down to what had triggered this mess I realized that it is all me. It is all my own brain self-sabatoging. that pesky brain. At it again.

See … I made a very major change in my life not coming up on almost a year ago. I decided I had enough of being as unhappy as I was in a situation that, realistically, was not going to change. I spent a good couple of years working through all of it before deciding on the change that I made. And I was instantly happier and lighter and … better. I was me again. 100% me. Able to live my life as me and not as someone wanted me to appear to be to everyone else. No more guilt. No more censoring. Just me. And in doing that … my brain got greedy. It decided to start setting some expectations for my life that, honestly, are just not really possible. I mean, they may be at some point, but not right this second. Which is what my brain wanted. It wanted everying it wanted and it wanted it NOW. My brain is Veruca Salt.

 

My problem is I have some unrealistic expectations and a brain that doesn’t want to wait on anything. And let me tell you … it is true … all of those quotes. Expectations can really fuck things up.

Now. Now I get to try to self-talk my brain off the Great Expectations ledge. Convince it that my life is just fine like it is.

Hey Veruca: All those things you think you need for happiness … you really don’t. You don’t need a prince on a white horse to make you happy or take care of you. Take care of yourself for crying out loud. Prince Charming doesn’t exist Veruca. Everyone has issues and they don’t need your stupid issues on top of theirs. The key is working around both sets of issues without throwing temper tantrums because you didn’t get enough attention. Shut up Veruca. You are just fine. Take your neediness and lack of patience and go sit in a corner until you can use your indoor voice. You have a life that is just fine. A little hardship and growing isn’t going to hurt you at all. Suck it up lady. I know you got a taste of the potential your life holds and you’ll get there. Just be patient. I know you want the Golden Goose. You want the happiness and harmony, and you’ll get it. Eventually. And maybe you’ll learn a few things about yourself on the way. Knock off the temper tantrums. Quit kicking your own ass in the dirt. Get over yourself … and get back to yourself. You have you and you are pretty awesome. You don’t need a bunch of things or people or stuff to make you happy. Focus your expectations on yourself and what you can control. Stop setting us up for disappointment for crying out loud. It really sucks when life doesn’t deliver the rediculous things you demand. And I’m getting tired of feeling like this.  So for the love of all that is holy Veruca, lower that bar a bit and enjoy the life you have.

Perfect Timing: It’s Me

As I struggle through my new life I am finding that I have so many more issues than I realized. I’m a hot mess, plain and simple. And just when I think I’ve got it figured out some random, innocuous, and stupid thing will hit me up side the head and throw me into a tail spin.

I subscribe to a newsletter from a website called Psych Central, a throwback to my Psych Major days and the inner Psychologist in me that likes to pop her head out every now and then and get all up in someone elses business.  And like they say, doctors and nurses make the worst patients … the same can be said for this. I feel like I’m pretty good at helping others talk through issues but when it comes to myself … I can’t talk myself into or out of anything really.  So while I enjoy reading up on all things psychiatric … it also is a lot of self help related reading.

Today’s newsletter had an article that I needed and I needed it exactly right now.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I struggle in my relationships. And not just “intimate” relationships, but all of them really. I struggle with many things, and all if it takes place in my own messed up brain. If I identify-with-tinkerbell-a-lot-because-she-needs-attention-or-2312846don’t get enough information, I start to assume and I usually assume the worst. I lack confidence in myself and so I just assume that everyone else also sees me the same way. My days are a constant struggle inside my head, using self talk and other coping mechanisims, to keep myself from devolving into a crying pile of goo.

Luckily I have some amazing friends and people who care about me and they know this. They know how to deal with me and what to say, and what not to say. And I am getting better at talking myself off the ledge but I still struggle. The post on Psych Central that helped me so much today was titled “Relationship Distress 101: Is It Them, Or Is It Me?”  Chances are … it’s me.

My biggest take-away from reading this: identify your button and make sure others know about it. If I can identify the thing or things that set me off, and I can make others aware of them, as silly as they may be, I can help them help me . My main issues rarely stem from something someone else is doing “wrong” but from something they just may not be doing at all that I might need personally to help my brain chill the fuck out. I need information. Affirmation. Validation. And if I don’t verbally hear these things I start to assume and when I assume it never goes well.  It goes way beyond that old adage of making an ass of myself. I can throw myself into a full blown, bottomed out, bipolar-depressive, ugly-cry, ball of mess.

So … note to anyone out there wondering. I’m not needy, I’m wanty. Feed me with lots of attention, yummy food, backrubs a few times a week, an occasional beer or some nice whiskey or scotch, and I’ll love you forever.

#Tinkerbell

180 in 365

* NaBloPoMo: Day 17 *

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Looking back to one year from today, I still find it kind of surreal, the life I’m currently living. A lot has happened. A whole lot. Some really shitty stuff and some really great stuff and a crap ton of just general life stuff in between. My life right now is good. It’s not perfect. It’s not amazing. In some ways it’s better than it was a year ago. In some ways it is really, really, really bad. I have amazing days and I have horrible days. However, the one thing that is different from the amazing and horrible days I have now, compared to the amazing and horrible days I had then is this: I like myself and where I am going.

A year ago I was not in a great place. I was probably the unhappiest I have ever been in my life and at that point had been pretty damn unhappy for a very long time. I was at potentially the lowest point I have ever experienced it took me getting there to finally grow the balls to say to myself: “Hey dumbass … you don’t have to continue to live like this.” Now, this was a conversation I’d been having with myself for a long while. And I knew that at some point, I would make this change and do the thing that needed to be done for my own sanity. But I continued to put it off. Mostly out of fear. Fear of how I’d manage it. Fear of what everyone else would think about me. Fear of what my kids would think. A whole fucking truck load of fear my friends. It was holding me back and keeping me in a sad and unhappy and very ugly place. I was becoming withdrawn (more than my normal low swings) and just plain angry. I didn’t like my life and I certainly didn’t like myself. I was living in that space that many people live in, the whole “sticking it out for the kids” thing that we tell ourselves is the right thing to do. But there came a point where I was noticing reactions in my kids that indicated their own personal unhappiness with life in the current situation. And the day that I saw that reaction from my son was the day I decided that shit needed to change. My Mama Bear instinct kicked in at the first sign of unhappiness and displeasure in my youngest. I could rationalize keeping myself in a bad situation, but I could not fathom keeping my kid in a place that made him look at me and react that way. That was my trigger. After that switch was flipped, I realized that the “staying for the kids” mentality is really kind of bonkers. I found a great quote:

“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy is staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.”  ~ Jennifer Weiner

And it’s true and it’s what I told my son when I sat him down to tell him what was happening. The situation we had was not good for anyone and was NOT a good example of what a healthy relationship should look like. I owed him much, much better than that. And as unhappy as I was, that was my main reason for finally doing something about it.

And now, here we are. I’m 8-ish months out from being on my own again, for the first time in 20 or so years. It’s scary as hell and some weeks I’m not sure how I”m going to make it, but so far I’m 100% on surviving my days, so I’ll just keep at it. It’s not easy, but it is better. Now, when I feel lonely, it’s because I’m actually and literally alone in my house. And being lonely still makes me very sad, but somehow it’s a much better sad than a year ago. If a better sad is a thing. By and far though, the best thing to come of this is that I have come to like myself. And I’ve started to accept myself for who I am. And most importantly, I’m learning to not give a rat’s ass what anyone else thinks about that. The only people right now I worry about accepting me are my kids. As long as they are cool with me … I’m golden. And I ask them. All the time. My son, the non-confrontational, non-decision making, emotion hiding teenager that he is probably hates me for it. But I ask him if I’m doing okay by him. He always says yes, which is his way, so I try to watch for signs. So far I think I’m doing pretty okay at all of this.

Life is different than it was a year ago. We live with less, but we laugh a whole lot more. The time we have together is precious and I treat it as such. Life is different. But life is good.

 

Holiday Spirit

* NaBloPoMo: Day 14 *

As we get closer to the holiday season (I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is next freaking week. WTF. How has this year gone so quickly), I find myself being a little more contemplative than normal about this time of year. The holidays are gonna be a little weird this year, and I’ve gone back and forth between being sad about it and being fine with it. I find myself settling on the “being fine” side of things.

My sadness, quite honestly, mostly has to do with the fact that I can’t financially provide the kind of Christmas I really want to for my kids. That is really bumming me out right now and 98% of my sadness about the next couple of months is totally based on the money. But … the more I think about it … the more I realize that my kids could give two shits about that, which makes it easier to take. Still not super excited about that aspect of it … but I’m getting there.

At first I was a little sad about sharing their time, but I got over that pretty quickly. I have never been one who was stuck on the aspect that Thanksgiving and Christmas are one day. You can celebrate what those days are about pretty much whenever you want to, so that part isn’t really an issue either. With the recent passing of their grandmother, they need to be with my ex this year and I’m 100% cool with that. I lost my dad during the holidays and it sucked a lot and he wasn’t even much into the whole holiday thing. Their Nana lived and breathed the holidays with the family, so I know how hard this year is going to be. They need to be with him and his family as much as necessary.

So, as I work through all of this, I find that for the first time in a couple of years I am actually, honestly, kind of ready for the holiday season. The last few years I haven’t had much desire to decorate or be festive. I was so consumed with my general unhappiness (in particular last year) that I just didn’t have any “holiday” in me. But this year I find myself actually looking forward to getting the tree up. I’m not dreading the onslaught of Christmas music like last year (although I will NOT listen to it until after Thanksgiving thank you very much and I will always and forever do my very best to make it through the season without hearing
that piece of shit “Christmas Shoes.” Barf).

So bring on the lights and the decorations and the music. Please don’t bring on the snow because I fucking hate snow. Also – don’t get too cold because cold weather makes me stabby. But I’m totally ready for the rest of it. My holidays this year may be meager and simple … but they will be happy. And that is really what it is all about after all.

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Music Is Feelings Put To Words

* NaBloPoMo: Day 10 *

I know that I’m most likely not getting that quote exactly correct, but the concept is the same, and it the main reason I love music so much. It takes my feelings and my desires and all the things I can’t put into words … and gives them words and life and a way to be expressed. Every now and then a song will come along that will absolutely nail what I’m feeling and that happened to me this week. The best part of it is that this was shared among a small group of friends (more of a gang really) who are just trying to find our corner of happiness in this world. We are there for each other and support each other over the long distances between us. We laugh and vent and cry and just do what we need to do to get to the next day sometimes. But we all share the desire to find our best selves and be the best moms we can be and find our happiest selves.

The song I’m sharing today is “She Used To Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles. She wrote it for the musical “Waitress” which is the story of a waitress in a small town, trapped in a loveless marriage, dreaming of a better life. Can you say #nailedit?

I’m gonna do something I don’t normally do but I feel compelled to do … share all of the lyrics. They speak to me so perfectly right now and I want to share them. To type them out on this screen … letting them live through my fingers … reminding myself that you actually can re-write your ending and find that girl that you knew who was just reckless enough and grew stronger every day and found the fire that used to be in her eyes. At least I hope so. Because I need that girl to come back, with her joy and her fire and her happiness. I know she’s out there and I’ve seen glimpses of her, like a shadow through the trees. So maybe this song can be my call to her to come back and stay. I need her.

 

It’s not simple to say, most days I don’t recognize me.

That these shoes and this apron, that this place and it’s patrons have taken more than I gave them

It’s not easy to know, I’m not anything like I used to be, although it’s true

I was never attention’s sweet center

I still remember that girl

 

She’s imperfect, but she tries.  She is good, but she lies.

She is hard on herself.

She is broken and won’t ask for help.

She is messy, but she’s kind. She is lonely most of the time

She is all of this mixed up in a beautiful pie.

She is gone, but she used to be mine.

 

It’s not what I asked for.

Sometimes life just slips in through a back door and carves out a person, and makes you believe it’s all true

And now I’ve got you, and you’re not what I asked for

If I’m honest, I know I would give it all back for a chance to start over and rewrite an ending or two, for the girl that I knew

 

Who’ll be reckless just enough

Who’ll get hurt, but who learns how to toughen up when she’s bruised and gets used by a man who can’t love

And then she’ll get stuck and be scared of the life that’s inside her.

Growing stronger each day ‘til it finally reminds her to fight just a little

To bring back the fire in her eyes that’s been gone but used to be mine.

 

She’s messy, but she’s kind

She is lonely most of the time

She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie

She is gone, but she used to be mine.

Radio Silence

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I’ve been sitting on this quote for a while now, hesitant to share it on Facebook, as I know I will receive an onslaught of “what’s wrongs?” and “are you okays?” and I don’t want to have to explain in that venue. Honestly there isn’t much to explain. Hard to explain things that you don’t really understand yourself. I don’t know what causes my Biploar swings. It’s super annoying because if I could avoid whatever it is that takes me from a great place and puts me in a shitty place, I’d totally avoid it. However, it isn’t that easy. Life is way more complex than that, and I’m a complex person.

Being a complex person can make life interesting, to say the least. But it can cause some problems as you may well know. I think the majority of us are pretty complex folks and things like feelings and emotions and beliefs are not always cut and dried. There are lots of in-betweens and almosts and kind-ofs involved.

My current dilemma has to do with not knowing. Of being unsure. I really don’t like it. And my difficulty lies in that I’m in one way an introvert who avoids confrontation at all costs. I don’t like asking difficult questions or going to places that may be uncomfortable. But dammit, I want to know the answers anyway and when I don’t, it leaves me … thinking too much. And being stuck inside my own brain is not always a great place to be. Many people would describe me as outgoing and confident in a way that is true. But I’m also not at all. Not even a little. And when I’m stuck in my own brain, my insecurities take total control and I end up creating a million different variants of what the reality could be and none of them are ever good.

So currently, I’m in a situation where I just don’t know. I don’t know where I stand. I don’t’ know where things are going. I just don’t know and it’s making me a little coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs. Some days I think I know, and then I just tell myself that maybe that is just wishful thinking. Then I tell myself to stop being so negative. Then I tell myself to stop worrying so much and just let life happen. Then I ask myself “can you die from loneliness?” Then I tell myself to get a fucking grip and stop the pity party. Then I either drink heavily or cry myself to sleep. Sometimes both.

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A rational person would just ask the questions to get the answers, but I’m not a very rational person much of the time. So instead I assume and imagine and wonder and worry and make myself … well I make myself sad. And I know I’m doing it to myself … which also makes me sad. There is nothing worse than being a self-aware over-thinker.

When I become sad I tend to shut down. Which also does NOT help things much. Then, after I shut down for a bit, I over-compensate by regurgitating every inappropriate and funny thing I can find onto my social media pages in an attempt to convince myself and everyone else that “I’m winning at life!” and “I’ve got this!” and “Everything is fine over here!” when in reality I’m a giant puddle of goo on the inside that just wants someone to pick her up and put her in their pocket and take care of her.

So anyone who actually reads these on a regular basis and follows my ridiculousness on Facebook or wherever .. when I go quiet it’s only temporary. I’ll pull myself out of it either with some kick ass self talk or lots of vodka. And I’ll be dropping F bombs in public again real soon. It will take more than Bipolar Disorder, over-thinking, and crippling self-doubt to knock me out of this race.

* NaBloPoMo: Day 9 *