Friday, January 31, 2014

Up/Down Part II

The documentary "Up/Down" examines bipolar disorder and the public perception of the disorder as well as the personal experience of the disorder. I've shared my mock interview based on the documentary's questions but I was also inspired to interview my husband using the film's questions for friends, family members, and partners of people with bipolar disorder.

Here is his interview.

What was your understanding of bipolar disorder prior to being exposed to it?
A mental health disorder characterized by shifts from one extreme mood to the next.

How has this person's bipolar disorder affected your life and emotions?
Hannah's depression/bi-polar spectrum condition has made me think much more deeply about mental illness and my own earlier battles with depression when I was in my early 20's. From time to time it has created stresses on the relationship but I think I am pretty good at captaining the boat when the mood shifts for the worse.

What was this person like in a depressive episode and how did you respond to it?
Extremely negative and seemed to be stuck in this conditional loop that wouldn't end. I learned how to listen better and learned some of the more appropriate ways to create dialogue with Hannah. I learned how to address suicide and how to talk down a crisis.

What was this person like a manic episode and how did you respond to that?
Hannah's manic moods aren't particularly extreme; however, she does perhaps get into moods where she believes she can take on the world. I deal with this by listening to her and just acting normal. I don't try to keep pace, I just keep listening and try to keep understanding.

How do you view bipolar disorder now after being exposed to it personally?
Let's not lie -- it's a pain in the butt to deal with, but it can be managed and I know that individuals with bipolar disorder can live happy well adjusted normal lives with support, treatment, and hope.

Up/Down Part I

I happened upon this documentary the other day and it really spoke to me. "Up/Down" focuses on bipolar disorder, public perception, and interviewing those with the disorder. I am coming to terms with having bipolar II and I thought it would be useful for me and interesting to answer the interview questions from the documentary.

So here's my interview!

My name is Hannah, I'm 24, I'm a seasonal worker, doula, and stay-at-home pet mom, although I also identify as unemployed. I have bipolar disorder.

Could you give me a general explanation of how you felt before you were diagnosed?

I was very lonely and depressed. I self-identified and was labeled depressive and cranky by family and friends. I felt like I lacked natural social skills and often felt out of place or like I didn't belong. I experienced a lot of anxiety and it was labeled as a personality trait, like I was just a "mother hen" not really a health issue. So it felt like I was inherently flawed or broken. I came to believe that I would be alone and become the spinster, cat lady in the family because even though I wanted to be social and have friends it just didn't seem like I was capable.

And how long have you felt the symptoms of bipolar?
Looking back I can see irrational and depressed behavior way back to grade school. Since I have bipolar II my mania is subdued and a little harder to identify but I can see the jumps in my moods from down low up to "everything's all right," at least back to 4th grade. Having those moments where people look at me like "whoa, who are you?" because I had just been depressed and cranky and suddenly transformed into a Chatty Cathy. I remember being teased for being "too sensitive" when my moods would take a dive at the drop of a hat or after someone's off-hand comment, it didn't take much to set me off and I remember thinking "why does that bother me so much?" but being unable to pull myself out of a nosedive. It was embarrassing and frustrating and isolating and it started this vicious cycle of low self-esteem that kept getting lower and lower and making me more susceptible to negative thoughts so that by the time I hit my late-teens, early-twenties my lows were getting really, really low. So the suicidal thoughts started showing up around 15 or 16. Cutting, wrist banging, self-harm around 16. The suicidal ideation didn't get really bad until after college and the worst was 2011-2012. Then St. Patty's Day weekend 2012 I had written suicide notes and uh, thankfully let on what I was planning to my now husband who stopped me from leaving the house and eventually called the cops when I wouldn't stop trying to get away. I spent the night in a crisis center. We had some really rough nights between fall 2011 and through 2012.

Can you tell me when you were diagnosed and how it felt once you were diagnosed?
Well, I didn't realize it at the time but I was diagnosed with cyclothymia when I was almost 16. At the time I didn't realize that was a subthreshold of bipolar. I thought it just meant my depression came and went. So when I was diagnosed bipolar II in 2013 I was taken off guard. I was defensive. I think I rejected it because it had taken me so long to identify as someone with depression, changing that label from depression to bipolar was a big step. And even as someone who had struggled through depression, well what I identified as depression for many years, even with that history I retained prejudice against bipolar and other "more serious" mental illnesses. I felt like bipolar made me "crazier" than just having depression. So I was upset. I felt scared and weak. I thought it meant heavier medication and more side effects which I was not interested in. I thought, at least for a while, that it meant I couldn't be a mom. I've processed it more now and I realize it's nothing that makes me "crazier" or "less crazy," it's just a label for how my brain works.

Did you tell any of your friends, family members or partners? If so, how did they respond? If not, why not?
I didn't really. My husband was there when I got the diagnosis in 2013, so he knew. He said that he had already suspected it but didn't say anything for fear of freaking me out. So he was fine. He was sort of validated. My family knew about me and depression so they were familiar with that idea even if we didn't talk about it a lot, but I didn't update them on the bipolar diagnosis. I recently wrote in a letter, sort of off-hand, and mentioned it to my sister. And she hasn't really responded but I know she has claimed to be bipolar herself and mentioned, "something is not right, I think I'm bipolar," so I felt comfortable letting it slip to her. But I don't feel safe enough, or confident enough to talk with my family about it because of the rejection I anticipate or the minimizing which is hurtful and feels like a rejection. Other than that, I have one friend from high school and middle school that I can talk to. He has bipolar himself and um, there's nothing I can say that would phase him, so we can talk honestly. But I just don't have the space in other relationships right now for that discussion.

Could you give me a general explanation of what it is to be manic? Both the positive and negative sides.
Well in my case, it's "hypomanic," even though we refer to it as feeling "manic." Just easier to say. But for me it becomes difficult to sleep and I'll often start sleeping in after staying up til the wee hours of the morning. I often become really goal oriented and develop to-do lists of different projects and cleaning or sending people letters or cards. Sometimes I will write lengthy emails or reach out to people that I otherwise don't feel comfortable or confident enough to reach out to. Instead of being shy I become more social. I become infused with optimism when I'm usually a cynic or a pessimist. Money becomes an issue. I have to watch myself carefully so that I don't go on spending sprees. And before I was diagnosed in 2013, I didn't really see those spending sprees as mania so that caused some trouble with finances. Now I'm sensitive to it. But on the upside, I can become a social butterfly, cracking jokes, and being more productive. On the downside it usually messes up my schedule pretty bad. Screws up my sleep schedule, the husband gets annoyed because I am constantly go-go-go and hyper and often anxiety comes with it. And we're both rational people, but with that kind of anxiety I can't be reasoned with and it's frustrating for both of us when I'm just nonsensical.

If you could, try to give me a general explanation of what it's like to go through a depressive episode?
The depressive episodes are much more familiar to me. It is just amazing how quickly they slow my life down and sometimes completely stop it. Getting out of bed in the morning is a monumental task. Sometimes I'm not able to get out of bed until 1 or 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I don't care about anything. I won't take the dog out for a potty break, I won't want to get up to go to the bathroom, I'll just hold it until I'm forced to run to the bathroom myself. My face sort of numbs out. It's physically difficult to express emotions or smile or react to stimuli, like a funny movie won't break the surface. Often I lose my appetite but will also overeat bad foods. A sort of negative logic takes over and I lose my ability to thinking rationally, self-harm and suicide are frequent conclusions in my mind trying to cope with my thoughts or problems. Sometimes I get really angry and lash out or try to bang my wrist on a wall or counter. Other times I can't feel much of anything. Lately I've been able to cry more but I used to not be able to cry at all. Umm, pulling my hair out of frustration, losing motivation to shower or get dressed, forget about sex, no desire there. It's just a total hi-jacking of my life. It's very, very difficult to get perspective when I'm the hole of depression. I also get anxiety when I'm depressed and will become housebound. Often the hubby has to force me to go out and even a trip to the grocery store can get me freaked out.

Could you tell me about a pivotal moment involving the disorder? For example, a manic or depressive episode that changed your life.
There have been a few moments like that... I guess there are two big ones I think of, the first when I was in high school and had my first major episode of self-harming while on a band trip and the second when I was 22 or 23, before the St. Patty's Day detention. They were both depressive episodes and while I was caught up in the throes of depression there was still a small part of me that felt like a fly on the wall and I remember thinking, "wow, this is so bad, I didn't know it could get this dark." On the band trip I took some slant tweezers and scratched up my forearms, both of 'em, from wrist to elbow on the inner side and even though I was in a hotel room with three other girls and on this trip with all my other band peers I felt totally alone. The second episode I mentioned, I was engaged to my husband and in the middle of months and months of depression. He told me to drive downtown and meet him for lunch, which was a big effort for me. I remember picking at a scone while he had a regular lunch and we were talking and I was crying in public. I was ready to give up and he was so worried, and I remember putting my engagement ring on his pinkie finger and it fit perfectly. And I said, "Good to know. You can wear it when I'm gone." It was so horrible and so sad and he was so desperate to get me help and at the time we couldn't find a therapist or doctor that would help me without insurance because we weren't married and I wasn't working, so it was a really dark time where we felt pretty alone. That lunch date hurts more to remember than the cops coming into the apartment and hauling me out in cuffs. Putting that ring on his finger and seeing his reaction still haunts me. I guess he held it together other days, but that day I could see how tired and desperate we both were. So those times, I guess they were pivotal in showing me how serious my condition was and how dangerous it is to have uncontrolled, untreated depression.

Do you take any medications? And if so, what kinds? And if not, why not?
I don't take any medications right now. I have dabbled in them and spent years trying different medications and combinations, even supplements and natural remedies. But because I want to be a mother and because the side effects were as bad as the disease I don't take any right now.

Do you find any benefits with the medication?
Benefits from the medications for me were taking the edge off, kind of leveling out my emotions but it leveled me off below happy. Below okay. I was still sad, I was still immobilized for the most part. It helped curb the suicidal thoughts but it wasn't helping me get back on my feet. So it gave us a break from the worst of things, it helped save me when the depression was getting really bad. Short term, it was a lifesaver. Long term, they became a crutch.

Are there any downsides to the medication?
Oh lots of downsides. Saving your life is a big benefit but when you get past the crisis to everyday living the downsides suck. My family and my husband have told me that the drugs change me, change me to where I'm not "Hannah" anymore. It levels out my feelings to deadpan. Messes with my appetite, my weight, my sexual desires, and the physical withdrawal symptoms are horrible. Worst headaches of my life coming off of antidepressants. Messes with my gut and digestion, made me nauseated. Just horrible. Felt flu sick for weeks. The taper was excruciatingly slow trying to fend off the side effects.

Are you seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor? And if so, do you find it helpful?
I have found it helpful but I'm not seeing anyone regularly right now. We had a bit of insurance drama and the anxiety from financial matters and insurance led me to curtail treatment which was scary at the time but turned out to be a good thing. Not picking over everything and worrying constantly and seeing multiple doctors every week sort of helped me calm down. So it's very helpful, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Look at anything too closely for too long and you're bound to find something wrong and it got to the point where I needed to back off for a bit. Now we use a preventative care approach where I see my counselor when I need extra help and try to keep my moods in check to avoid needed serious treatment again.

How would you say you differ before and since you started treatment?
I am much more aware and in-tune to my emotions and my mood cycles. My husband and I have developed a whole new vocabulary related to mental health and really worked hard to cultivate open communication and support. Taking care of my mental and physical health has become a day-to-day focus instead of a yo-yo diet type of fad, it's constantly on my radar now. When I'm doing well the episodes become manageable and I'm able to get myself out of a depressive spiral or calm down during a mania and even if I do slip into one of those extremes I'm more accepting and bounce back better now. It's always a challenge but I have more tools now.

Have you experienced any discrimination or stigma related to the disorder? And if so, how?
Oh yeah. I have had my mental health impact my work and been unable to really talk about it. At one point I used FMLA leave to get through an especially hard time in 2009-2010, which was a huge validating move for me but made for some awkward social situations. I feel the stigma around my family a lot. My dad doesn't understand why I can't just "think my way out of it" and sometimes my mom or my siblings will tease me and act like my health issues are personality traits and it hurts. It hurts a lot not to feel accepted and understood by those closest to you. I have had some amazing support from friends that I didn't expect though, finding people I can talk openly with is a rare and beautiful thing.

Why do you think there is a stigma surrounding bipolar disorder or mental illness in general?
Definitely. I'm sure I have contributed to the stigma myself from time to time. When I was diagnosed I got defensive and didn't want to accept it because that stigma lives in me. I think it's a fear of the unknown, not just from the unknown nature of mental illness and the mysteries there but often people with mental illness are unpredictable and whether we mean to or not we rock the boat, and that's hard for people to be okay with or roll with. "Making a scene" is generally looked down upon and while we've gotten used to the slow people waddling around on crutches or Miley Cyrus types going for shock value, we still haven't gotten used to mental illness. I think with time and exposure, acceptance and understanding will come. Right now we're in a transitional phase.

Many males have refused to be interviewed for this project, why do you think that is?
I think it's related to the stigma of mental illness and the expectations and social roles put on men to be strong and stoic. Women have been labeled hysterical and weak for millennia, we're used to it.

Have you accepted the disorder as part of your life?
I am getting there. I think I still retain a vain hope that it will just disappear one day but at the same time I'm willing to adapt a healthier lifestyle so I can thrive no matter what, mental disease or otherwise.

What are your thoughts and hopes for the future?
Someday I hope to feel validated enough to speak openly about bipolar and depression and anxiety as part of my life. It's such a big part of every day for me that it's hard to withhold, it's nothing I ever wished to have as part of my identity but it is an important part of my life whether I like it or not. When someone asks, "What'd you do today?" I'd like to be able to respond honestly instead of carefully avoiding the details about managing my illness. I'd also like to be a mother and with that comes the hope that I can manage my disease and create a stable life not only for myself and my husband but our family as well.

What would you like the general public to know about bipolar disorder?
It's not as scary as you think. Just because we're more emotional and maybe not always reasonable with our feelings and reactions doesn't mean that we're throwaways. We're deeply feeling people with a lot to offer and while we may be sensitive we don't necessarily have to be handled with kid gloves. Sometimes we aren't in control and sometimes you may not have a clue what to do, but just being there and listening is a great gift to someone with this disorder. I think learning more about bipolar is a great opportunity to expand compassion and patience for fellow human beings, because that's all we are-human beings with the emotional volume turned up from time to time!

In your own words try to describe what it's like having bipolar.
Having bipolar is a paradox sometimes. It is an ingrained part of me yet at the same time an alien invader. All the symptoms and strife come from within me but it can feel like someone has hijacked my brain. It's like having an evil, Siamese twin living in your head and sometimes she gets full control of your body and mind no matter how hard you try to ward her off. As hard as it is, sometimes I can't help but be thankful for the rocky path it has directed me down. The insights and compassion I've experienced because of my disease wouldn't have come about if I hadn't been sick and I don't think my husband and I would be as close and as in-love and appreciative of each other had I not been afflicted. So as much as it's horrible, traumatizing, and scary it is also the bearer of blessings in a roundabout way.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

In The Works/Acceptance

I have another post in the works but wanted to mark down some thoughts right now related to a documentary I watched earlier in the week called "Up/Down."

You guessed it, it's about bipolar disorder.

I spend a lot of time reflecting and mulling over my feelings, my mental health, my past, and the future so whenever I have a "well, duh" moment it makes me feel a little embarrassed that whatever I discover hadn't occurred to me earlier. I suppose that relates back to my perfectionism/worthless feelings too, "why couldn't I figure it all out the first time I thunk on it?" Maybe being human has something to do with that? ;)

Anyways. Chewing on the documentary I had a "well, duh" moment. I'm finally coming to accept that I am bipolar and have been for quite some time.

Looking back on my life with the lens of bipolar disorder I can see where the disorder has touched my life and I feel so much better. Somehow it's easier to forgive and accept when I understand why certain things happened or felt they way that they did.

It reminds me of a Golden Girls episode where Rose describes the St. Olaf cinema experience during her youth. The cinema was built originally for silent films and had not been retrofitted with speakers when "Citizen Kane" was released. Apparently one of the townspeople read lips and would do all the voices for the movies. This person misinterpreted"rosebud" as "rowboat" so Rose remembered the movie with "rowboat" (utterly confused as to why the cast found it so difficult to located a rowboat) until years later she watched the movie with the real soundtrack and realized "rosebud" was the key to the plot. It transformed years of misinterpretation, finally making sense of the movie.

I'm not saying bipolar disorder makes sense of everything for me, but I believe it has released a little wave of compassion and acceptance for myself that I have experienced very little in my life. Maybe even some forgiveness as well. All good things.

Funny how one can be grateful for a disease, huh? Especially when the media cultivates such fear and shame. I believe fear and shame was my first reaction when the psychiatric nurse diagnosed me last spring. I balked and resisted the diagnosis and treatment, the husband said it was a pretty dramatic reaction, but now here I am, coming around to it and embracing it as a puzzle piece in my life. Just a puzzle piece in the larger Hannah.

Oh! Funny moment (well, humanizing moment) from watching the documentary. It mentioned cyclothymia was a subset/subthreshold of bipolar and while I recall my therapist diagnosing me as cyclothymic when I was 16 I never considered it a form of bipolar until days ago. Totally missed that boat, but that's okay. :)

In other news, we've obtained chemical treatments for the animals to finally oust the flea invasion. I'm relieved, slightly skeptical, but overall hopeful.

Also have the new Melitta on duty. Sort of a funny sequence-we began our Melitta patronage with a 10-cup, #6 filter system. Broke the glass carafe. Got a 6-cup, #4 filter system but tossed the smaller filter top and kept the #6 filter size. (It was a bigger filter than carafe so filling the filter full filled the whole carafe up in one go, it just worked out better.) Broke the glass carafe. Now just recently replaced with another 10-cup carafe and it seems HUGE! Like King Kong carafe! But that's what we started with all along haha

Let the coffee flow!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Movie: The Apartment

The hubby and I enjoyed this 1960 film with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine earlier this week. We always enjoy older movies for the "holy cow, look how different life was then!" factor but this movie also struck home in some surprising ways.

The whole premise of the movie is a ladder climbing insurance worker lends his apartment out to executives at his work for their extramarital trysts. It just so happens that he falls for one of the girls being used by an executive.

That's not the part we related to. We related to (SPOILER ALERT) a suicide attempt and subsequent caretaking/observation. Watching Jack Lemmon freak out about leaving his razors out while the suicidal woman recovered in his apartment reminded the hubster of his worries during my spells. Watching the two play Rummy reminded us of our forced activities to distract me from my pain (and we happen to love playing Progressive Rummy together).

It wasn't morbid though. We felt a little sad thinking of the horrible things we've been through but happy to be headed toward the light at the end of the tunnel. I felt a moment of guilt for putting him through such stress, but only briefly before feeling deep respect and appreciation.

My husband doesn't often talk about what he went through and he's still afraid to let me know when his nerves are fraying for fear of triggering a suicidal episode. It was important seeing his truth, hearing part of his story. My first reaction is to feel guilty but when I brush those reflexive thoughts aside I can see the sweeter side, the love and care, his dedication-and I become so grateful and feel such respect for my husband. The dark times are rough, but provide the perfect opportunity to see the worthiest, noblest parts of people and he has surely impressed his worth upon me.

I've been crawling out of a deep hole for a long time and every time I think of "once I'm outta here" I think about being able to take care of my husband, show him that I love him and care for him, and support him in ways that I haven't been able to for a while now. I'm just so glad that he has had enough faith in us to stick around for those brighter days.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Okay, I'll Just Say It

Okay, I will just say it, "I'm not all right."

The first week after the hubby went back to work I held it together, but after my bad day on the 12th I haven't been back to good. No more cleaning. No more getting out of bed before 9:30 am.

Last night was another bad episode. Crying, numbness, difficulty speaking. Sometimes I can prevent myself from falling completely into despair but too often it feels like the only option is bottoming out and sleeping it off. I think it's connected to some self-punishment habits and my deep rooted feelings of worthlessness.

That worthlessness came up last night during a financial chat-not even a discussion! The hubster happened to say something in a certain way that lead me to feel blame which triggered my worthlessness feelings which triggered an emotional lockdown.

It took close to an hour but eventually I broke. The walls crumbled just enough to let some tears and fractured sentences out for my husband to decode. It was a moment of emotional honesty neither of us were really prepared for, I shared something with him that I hadn't really confronted myself...

He said, "I'm sorry what I said made you feel like it was your fault, like you failed somehow. I know you have problems with perfectionism..."

"Do you know what it means to me when I fail?" I asked, sniffling and fighting back tears.

"Yeah. I know you struggle with trying to be perfect, like life is a pass or fail, no in between. If you're not perfect you don't feel good enough."

"That's not all though, it's more than just feeling worthless." My tears streamed in free fall now, breaking through my mental dam along with the words, "I'm unlovable. If I'm not perfect no one wants me around. I remember when I was younger, I was so lonely, I felt like no one was paying attention to me. I sat in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen playing checkers by myself, hoping at the very least someone would kick me. Just notice me at all. It felt that the only positive attention I got was when I brought home good grades or did something well. And when I did do well my siblings resented me for it, hated being compared to me. I was rejected no matter what I did. You wonder why I struggle with forgiveness and acceptance so much? I don't know acceptance. I have too little experience with acceptance."

He rested a warm hand on my knee, squeezing gently as he heaved a heavy sigh. "I'm sorry. I had no idea. That's horrible. I didn't know."

Silence settled in for a moment as I tried to regain my composure. We both understood something important had just happened. It was just too soon to appreciate the perspective gained. The emotions still ached inside me, everything was too raw, too fresh. When you're bitten by a poisonous snake dealing with the pain comes before learning a lesson.

I suppose my revelation was something of a healing wound. Lancing my soul to drain some poison. Dr. Subconscious cutting to the chase. Not to sell my conscious short, I can navigate some mental mazes quite well but sometimes certain puzzles require a deeper reasoning. I think our minds hold some data back, let it age like a gourmet cheese, only to be released into the light of day when certain internal tumblers align. For whatever reason last night's episode seems to have aligned the final tumblers.

So the emotional pu pu platter before me includes feeling worthless, unlovable, unacceptable. All of those feelings maintained by my longstanding mental patterns of self-hate. Years of blaming and shaming myself for every misstep, reinforcing the belief that I'm unlovable and always withholding forgiveness, all in the pursuit of acceptance.

As a child I learned attention, acceptance, and love were conditional. I see now that it's a flawed premise but it's guided my life for over two decades. I've put others before myself, struggling to say "no" and opting to sacrifice my wellness in an attempt to gain acceptance from others. Quite often I feel a stinging emotional whiplash whenever I do something for myself or "just because I want to." Guilt and shame for taking a reward without accomplishing something.

It's getting old. I'm worn out. I'm tired of living in fear. I'm tired of feeling hopeless. I live my life as a pass/fail class where passing is 98% and 97% or lower is failing. It's a no-win situation and I feel like it's time to leave the game. Time to strike out on my own with some radical acceptance and a no-fail situation.

It's my turn to make up the rules.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Project: Advent Calendar Tree

For Christmas my parents gave me an unpainted advent calendar and after weeks of off-and-on painting I finished the project!

Here is what I got for Christmas:

And here is the inspiration for my project, our German heritage santa figurine:

I painted the back a burgundy color and started the front with dark green and a big blue egg blob:

I texturized the tree with a fan brush and mimicked the scroll work and floral accent from the santa:

Then I added in the snowy house depiction:

Taking apart the calendar for the clear coat spray, which I did inside because it was cold and regretted because of the horrible stench that the hubby gagged at, promptly opened all the windows, turned on all our fans and whisked us out of the house for several hours:

The finished, glossy finished product!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Well There Went The Week!

This week hasn't gone quite as smoothly as I had hoped. Sleep has been difficult and I have lacked motivation in the mornings. 

This evening I dozed on the couch (ya know it's a good hard nap when you awake slurping drool in a panic) but when I moved to the bed and picked up my Kindle I found the sleepiness had drifted away.

Reading the free download "nothing" book has been a comforting refuge this week and tonight I came across a surprisingly touching segment. 

Part of the plot involves a woman running a boarding house and a new lodger arrived looking ill. It was soon revealed that he wasn't suffering from a contagious disease but rather depression. Days later she finds him singing to a small audience in the parlor and remarks that she is glad he is feeling better. His response was something along the lines of, "If only I could find a way to keep hold of the good feelings."

If only I could find a way to keep hold of the good feelings. 

I feel that wistfulness and melancholy now. My spirit is downtrodden after several days of feeling down and meaningless. My hope and faith have been taxed, not quite strong enough to endure the challenges of my fluctuating mood.

To complicate things the hubster has been having his own bad days. He's not quite able to comfort me just as I'm not quite in a good place to comfort him. Today was rough. Bitter. My patience too short and our personal banks overrun with individual angst.

He did make a good point about forgiving myself. Being okay with not being okay and giving myself a break. It's a tall order but a good point. I tried some affirmations and they helped relieve some pressure and anxiety, but it will take many more to lift the haze.

I had been looking forward to this weekend, including a baby shower, holiday party, and the Seahawks playoff against the "Forty-Whiners" but now it seems daunting. Hopefully the time alone driving will help me recenter myself (I'm headed south tomorrow and driving back north the next day). Sometimes it's easier to be kind when no one else is watching.

Last week the hubby expressed his concerns about the schedule of this weekend being too much for me. Something along the lines of "asking for trouble" and triggering anxiety. I argued that being such a hermit I need to take all the chances for socialization possible but now that I'm here I'm less confident.

We will just have to see what happens. 

Last night I forced myself to stay in bed despite being unable to sleep. I alternately tossed and turned or read from my Kindle until about 3:00 am. Tonight I'm saying "screw it," hitting the couch and watching my girls. Sometimes it's better NOT to be left to my own devices, namely my corrosive thoughts.

So here goes nothing! Hope I don't feed the dark beast and trigger a massive backslide by letting down my guard with my late night Golden Girls binge! But maybe being a little bad and cutting myself a little slack will help bring back the good?

Then I just have to figure out how to hold onto those good feelings...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Weekend Ups and Downs

The weekend started off well enough with my parents coming up for the Seahawks game Saturday. Even Sunday morning wasn't terrible even though some tension between the hubster and I caused some bickering. The hike that afternoon (after I watched Kaepernick win again ARGH!) stirred the pot and soon we were in full fledged snit mode. Thankfully the continuous rain and my angry trudging didn't trigger or a mudslide or an epic fall.

The main gist of the conflict focused on a possible expenditure but everything was really about our individual insecurities. Misdirected feelings led us down a complicated path full of barbed comments and misinterpretation. It turned out we each felt bad and needled each other, exploiting the weaknesses in each others' emotional underbellies. The hubster was feeling insecure about his job position and changes at work and I was feeling insecure about not working or bringing in regular money. I stood up for myself a little but not wholeheartedly, so my feelings of worthlessness came back to bite me in the ass later that night.

I haven't had a really low night in a long time but last night was pretty intense. After some talking and crying and general paralysis I took a melatonin and managed to clench my fists and mantra myself to sleep before staying up all night. This morning moped into this afternoon and I stayed into bed until about 1:30 pm. Not awesome but at least I've showered and brushed my teeth before the hubster gets home.

Tomorrow will be a new day.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Teaching Myself

Don't hold me to this, but I'm kinda working on writing a memoir. Basically I've started reading about it and working on random writing exercises. Very early stage stuff. I still can't see myself as a writer (even though I went to school for a degree in English) but life keeps leading me back to words, so here I am again, trying something new.

Anyways, this post isn't about a memoir project, it's about some realizations I've gained in these early stages of work.

First, it's not about where I'm going, it's the journey. Reflecting on my memories, haunting or happy, and analyzing, reflecting, and processing makes me realize that sifting through my feelings and finding my truths is the real point to writing. I already do this quite often while trying to combat my depression, but trying to boil down and refine meaning from my life is a much more challenging task than just teasing out feelings!

A finished product isn't as important as the transformative process of writing, thinking, and creating.

Second, I struggle to internalize my insights because I lack self-validation. As much as I wish to throw off hurtful rules that have guided my life for so many unhealthy years (namely that I am worthless, not good enough, and have no authority) I fail to transform insight into altered behavior because I don't respect myself. How can my insight be meaningful if I don't respect the source of the revelations?

Historically, I take in other people's advice, comments, and opinions like air. It goes right down and settles in my soul. Societal norms, advertisements, media-it all gets under my skin. Well lately I've been in turmoil, a small part of me resisting that pattern, challenging the "norm," another part of me wanting to blindly forge ahead without questioning the system.

My need for acceptance and validation lends itself well to herd behavior but wears on my soul. I have been forfeiting power over my life for far too long. Following the rules like a good girl and trying to fit in with a dysfunctional norm has exploited my weakness, the original lesson I learned so long ago that I am worthless. My life has been based on a lie. Now that I recognize this, it's up to me to change it, up to me to rewrite the internal laws governing my life. Up to this point all incoming information has been revised to support the conclusion that I'm worthless, now I have to reverse it all. I have to save myself from the inside out.

It's on me.

I'm terrified of that responsibility. I've been avoiding ownership of my life for fear of failure and disappointing others, and in doing so I have disappointed myself.

I have changes to make. I realize that the pressure and expectations I toil under come from within and not from others. Like a broken slave I have been brainwashed. I have learned bad lessons, been bombarded with misinformation, and lived my life based on erroneous beliefs. It doesn't matter how the damage was done or what mistakes have been made. I can change now. I matter now. I have authority to change the rules that I live by.

Change is happening. It's messy, it's confusing, but it's happening. Part of that mess is declaring my authority as teacher, my authority to question as well as generate valid conclusions-and believing in that declaration. It's not self-evident, it's a practice of faith. I believe in me.

I believe in me.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Melatonin Hangover & Some Odd Dreams

Last night the hubby and I tucked into bed and chatted about the day before drifting off the sleep. 

Ha, right. That was the plan. 

Instead an all too familiar tension in my stomach and a wave of dark thoughts curtailed my sleep. Anxiety was settling in. Before the hours of sighing, tossing, and turning could ensue the hubby brought me some melatonin. Before I knew it I was off in dreamland, wading through intensely detailed, nonsense dreams in a heavy sleep. 

This morning was a rather slow start because of it. I was finally able to oompf myself outta bed after 9:30 am, but not without the cursory guilt trip and fear over backsliding fought to keep me in bed til noon. I can't imagine using prescription or other OTC sleep aids when melatonin can pack such a punch for me!

Anyhow, the dreams. 

I jotted down some key parts on the mirror this morning but still can't recall all the details. Here is what I can remember:

I was in a small local shop. Housed in a renovated home it seemed to be a florist with a little toy shop and Christmas decorations. Family friends were there with me and I was helping my friend's younger daughter pick out gifts for her class. There was some wibble-wobbling and consideration but we finally decided on 3-inch tall Disney figurines (similar to the Vinylmation collectables) and small notepads. We picked out almost thirty of each of the items and piled them into our arms.

Then my dream shifted. Still set in the same location but instead of helping the young girl I was sitting on an old sofa in a waiting area at the shop and chatting with family and friends. 

I can't remember the exact conversation but I remember some feelings. Whatever the topic was somehow I made some comment revealing how much I had struggled the past couple years and I remember the honesty I felt and resolve, a peacefulness tinged with a little fear of rejection. I also recall the shock and confusion of my mother and our mutual friend as they tried to reconcile the truth I told them and the person they had thought I was. 

That section of the dream was somewhat familiar. A familiar theme to my thoughts and dreams where I violate peoples' expectations and shock them with honesty. I suppose it's a fantasy of mine to be able to stand up for myself, express myself and own my identity without conforming to expectations of others. Funny how we can't know ourselves without the reflections provided by others, yet our identities often become clouded or inhibited by others projections.

Then the dream moved forward again and I was loading a used pre-lit, artificial Christmas tree into a truck along with an assortment of decorations. I drove the truck "home" which was no place I recognized and proceeded to put the tree up and decorate it, but there were some very odd decorations. 

The weirdest decoration was a slip. A large white slip that covered the entire tree. The directions implied that the slip go over the tree before adding the garlands and ornaments but I only put the slip over half the tree before realizing how stupid it was and how I couldn't see the needles. It was all very odd. 

I threw the slip aside and proceeded to cover the tree with the rest of the ornaments and garlands. White, gold, and silver. It felt bridal. I felt rebellious for disregarding the "tree slip," but satisfied with the tree decorated in my own fashion.

After that dream apparently I dreamed something about a rather large, fat guy dancing with bottles of coca-cola. Don't remember all that. But the dream after that I do remember, it took place in a band room....

It was a band class reunion and I was rather a mess not having practiced and barely able to read music. Talk about feeling in over my head! For whatever reason I was sitting next to my high school beau (if you know anything about band seating you know trumpets and bassoons are in very different sections) and I remember feeling some awkwardness. Not because we didn't want to see each other, but because something was very wrong and he was upset and I could sense it, and he knew that I knew something was wrong.

Before you know it, we were talking and crying and I had figured out that his wife was sick. Very sick. Like MS or some other horrible ravaging mysterious disease. It was awful. Yet beautiful. We still had a connection and I was able to comfort him without any weird tension. It was just a natural chemistry lending itself to a sensitive moment, nothing more. Just a moment of supreme clarity and understanding. A moment for him to cry and break down with someone he trusted and knew would understand. And that was it. We returned to our music, tears streaming down our cheeks. Playing for that moment, our past, our separate futures, and for his wife.

Those are the dreams. 

Man I wanna pull my bassoon out and see if I can still manage an F scale!

In other news, I've been managing to clean more but still feeling sluggish. The hubby and I are feeling some anxiety over me being home alone again and avoiding backsliding. We've decided that it's all right to have those feelings, be aware of the risks and situation but don't want to over analyze or worry ourselves into breakdowns. Day by day, we'll be vigilant but forgiving.

The pets are all right but still shedding flea dust so flea treatments are in our future, and lots of vacuuming. Iroh is enjoying having his fountain back (originally decorative it is now nearly entirely dedicated to his hydration and entertainment) and Millie has taken to sleeping on my side of the bed during the day. Fio has sprouted a wart or something on his nose and it otherwise his barky, scratchy self!