Seasons of Love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles
In laughter, in strife

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love
Seasons of love
Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried
In bridges he burned
Or the way that she died

It’s time now to sing out
Tho’ the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends

Remember the love
Remember the love
Remember the love
Measure in love
Measure, measure your life in love

Seasons of love

This song has been going through my head all day, as it is New Year’s Day.  This song always makes me reflect on my year and what’s happened and how I would measure it.  It is from the Musical, RENT, which has been my favorite since I saw it with my aunts, mother and grandmother as a young teen.  I think this is a great way to reflect back on 2018 and see what a tough year it was, but also how much growth I’ve accomplished during that time.

The first six months of 2018 I barely remember.  I was just chugging along, going to my doctor’s appointments and trying to get a handle on my depression and anxiety.  I knew I was sick, but thought it was just that.  Smaller things.  I was spread too thin, working really hard at my job and doing well at it.  I worked my ass of on some projects that changed the way my team worked.  At home, I was trying my best to be the best wife I could while holding onto resentment and irritability at Connor.  I came home and napped for 2 hours every night and then on nights when Connor was out in the garage, I’d play Zelda and just escape for a few hours.  I wasn’t LIVING, but I was going through the motions.

Then my kitty got sick and almost died.  Then I started struggling at work.  Then the car ran through Connor’s business.  Then I had more issues with my step-kids.  It all came down at once.  My suicidal ideations became stronger and I just wanted to drive my car off the road.  Then I did and ended up in the psych ward thinking I’d driven myself off the road (turns out I didn’t).  Now, everything is different.  I have hope.  I have life.  I’m doing a lot better and I’m not just going through the motions.

I can stop my car on the side of the road and really enjoy a stunning sunset with the dark silhouettes of guardian trees.  Cups of coffee can be savored next to snoring dogs and purring cats.  Every inch is harder, but sharper and more beautiful when viewed through the rearview mirror.  There is more laughter.  More strife.  There is more love.  I’ve learned more truths in the last six months than most of my life.  I’ve burned the bridges of the dark thoughts I’d had before.  I can celebrate and love my life and my friends.  My life is full of love now.  There is hope.

Shoulds and Anxiety

 

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Fair warning ahead.  This post will have a lot of “should” spoken throughout.  I know I’ll be “shoulding on myself” but it’s kind of the point of what’s going on.  I want to talk about the lack of motivation and how it contributes to my guilt issue.  There are a ton of things that anyone may think they should be doing.  How they should look, how they should eat, how they should feel, what they should do in certain situations.  On and on and on.  I don’t know how anyone would not feel like they should all over themselves.  However, I feel that some/most people may not have such an issue with the shoulds as those with depression (side note, my spellcheck hates shoulds).

When I’m in the throes of depression, or what I think I’m entering now, my mixed state, my motivation to do things goes close to zero.  My shoulds go off the charts.  Right now, I have about a month before I go back to work.  So I should be doing the rest of my list of things I wanted to get done around the house, because I won’t have the time or energy to do them.  Am I doing or starting any of them?  Nope.  Nada.  I should be though.  I know I just deep cleaned my house last week, but I should do a room a day in order to keep it this clean; nope, not happening.  I still have things on my last list I wanted to do, like clean my fridge and organize my utility closet.  Still dirty and a disaster.  It’s almost time to get the Christmas decorations down that I don’t even particularly care for generally, and I’m dreading it.  I should read the 8 books on my nightstand and can’t even get myself to do that, and I LOVE to read.  I should give my dogs a bath.  I should get a craft table downstairs.  I should learn more about my new craft toy so I can play with it.  I should finish decorating my step-daughter’s room.  On and on and on; you get the point.

My point is, that with all these things on my theoretical plate, I have even less motivation to do any of them.  I feel overwhelmed and that makes me shut down and not able to do any of it.  I could have done something small today as I had about an hour alone.  What did I do?  Color.  Maybe I needed it.  I have been really anxious recently, mostly about going to work and my lack of sleep.  How will I get up at 6am when I wake up at 2 every single day?  I’m not even going to get into all of my anxiety about going back to work, they are crushing me too.  I will have the day tomorrow to myself to get some things done, so I may do one.  I do have a rule that I have to do one productive thing a day.  Perhaps since my washer is still broken, I can put away the three clean baskets I do have ready and clean.  They’ve been sitting for weeks, perhaps it’s about time.  Maybe because I’ve got so little motivation I should pick something smaller and more digestible to do.  Pick a thing, any thing.  I’ve been crocheting random scarves with this pretty green wool yarn, but I have a billion scarves and have no need of it, so what’s the point?  To keep my hands going and moving to deal with being anxious, and not using my phone to do it.  Coping?

The other part I’m dealing with is clearly my mind is going at top speed.  You can tell if you look up at my shoulds.  There is so much there that is spiraling around and doesn’t stop.  It hasn’t been that way for a while.  It’s only done this for about 3 days, so I cannot really confirm I’m in a mixed state, but I’m assuming this is what it feels like.  I spent an hour when I woke up pretend shopping so that I don’t impulsively spend money on amazon.  I just shop and find things I want and add them to my cart.  I’ll then hit “save for later” or add to a shopping list.  That way I still FEEL like I’m shopping, but don’t spend my money.  I do that on a lot of websites, it’s the only way I could find to stop my random compulsive nighttime shopping.  And it’s worked for the most part.  There are a few things I messed up on, but that I decided I NEEDED to have.  And one of them, I had in my cart for a week.  I want a retractable baby gate at the top of my stairs.  My dogs have been good about not going downstairs if I’m not there with them, but if I go down, I can’t keep them upstairs.  Downstairs is where the good kitty surprises are as well as cat food and pieces of wood to chew up (which I still haven’t cleaned from the other day).

So with all of this swirling around in my head, how do I pick one out and do it, so I don’t go down into full depression?  When I’m in full depression I feel worthless when I don’t do anything, and that just triggers a whirlpool of worsening despair.  What am I going to do when I go back to work and don’t have the time nor energy to do any of this?  When I work, I get home and am just mentally exhausted and can only take care of the minimum of chores, like feed everyone, make dinner and clean up.  By then, it’s 8 pm and I can’t/won’t do any more.  Weekends are for adventures and seeing the kids.  I’ll have to continue to do the next right thing and just pick something and force myself to do it.  And hopefully I can get out of this mixed state somehow.  Though I don’t have any clue how or when that can happen.

Finding Boundaries

I have always prided myself on being nice.  Growing up, it was very much a learned thing.  My parents would always stress being generous to others, which I completely agree with and have tried to impart on my step-kids.  I remember being in third grade and there was one kid who had no friends and was picked on.  He was bigger and smelled; he was probably living in poverty and who knows what else.  I realized that Sam (I don’t know if that’s his real name) never had anyone to sit with, and in lines to lunch, nobody would stand close to him.  I recall talking to my mom about it and she told me to sit with him at lunch.  So I did.  I ate with him.  I don’t have any more memory of the situation other than this, but it did stick in my head.

Being nice has become such a huge part of who I am, it’s one of the three core things of myself that I hold on to.  No matter who it is, I will always look for a piece of good in them.  They could be the worst person in the world and I’d try to find something in them that I appreciated.  It’s part of who I am.  I will try my hardest to reach out and do what I can to help others in need.  Selflessness is something I strive for on a daily basis.  For example, today at group, someone had only 3 hours of sleep and was struggling to stay awake.  I went to the store and got him a RedBull so he could stay awake on the drive home.  I didn’t need to.  It was out of my way and took me some time and $6.  But it was worth it to me and I’m glad I did.  Small things like this are very important to me.  I love doing it, but sometimes it will cause an unusual issue.

Boundaries.  Personal boundaries are something I’ve struggled with my whole life because of my reach for selflessness.  For one, I don’t really know what mine are.  They are usually derived from a feeling of self-worth and the belief that you are worthy of time and respect and your own space.  I have not felt worthy of boundaries most of my life.  I honestly don’t even know what mine would look like.  There is one thing I know I will not accept in any way, shape, or form.  I will not tolerate being beaten or physically abused.  If I’m hit or anything in anger, I’m gone.  I don’t care what is going on or how much I’m/he’s in love.  It’s not acceptable to me.  That however, is all I know.  I don’t know how much of anything else is okay.  By my loved ones or from strangers.  I’ll take all I can, just swallowing my resentment of what I’m doing for others and not being thanked or even acknowledged.  Maybe that’s a boundary of mine?  I need to be acknowledged for going above and beyond and doing a lot of things?

For example, Christmas.  I got all of the presents for every family.  I got them all wrapped myself.  The decorations were all put out by me, including outside and three Christmas trees.  Ornaments for swaps were all picked out by me.  I organized which presents go to which house and how many presents for each child to each home.  I took care of making plans and confirming where we were going to be and when.  I spent two days cleaning my house because we were having visitors over.  I spent a lot of time and mental effort on this Christmas.  And I got no acknowledgement of it.  If there was any, it was just a quick “thanks” kind of thing.  Nothing of significance that I can remember.  So now, because I am thinking that’s a boundary, I have to do the next step.

The next step would be to be assertive and confront the person who violated your boundary.  Don’t worry about being nice or kind.  Assertiveness isn’t being angry or mean, it’s standing up for yourself in a calm manner.  Being honest and fair to them by telling them you are upset by something or that something is not okay.  This terrifies me, I can’t lie.  But, I’m going to do it right now.  I need to practice on smaller boundaries when I find them, so that if a large boundary is crossed (like telling me what to do or that I can’t do something), I am practiced and able to stand up for myself.

What are your boundaries?  Have you had to stand up for yourself when you didn’t feel comfortable doing so?  How did you get the courage to do it?

***Edit: so I did confront Connor about not being appreciated and he responded perfectly and is still saying how much he appreciates all I do every day. Good husband. 🙂

Warning: Whiny Post Ahead!

I came downstairs today not knowing what I wanted to write.  Or even if I DID want to write.  I just know I need to.  I think I am in a mixed state right now.  A mixed state is when you have elements of both hypomania and depression all at once.  My hypomania often comes out in irritability as well as starting things I don’t end up finishing.  I can’t sleep (well, I can’t sleep on my meds very long anyway, but it’s worsened by hypomania).  My depression is mostly just unbearable grey and uncaring and in general I don’t give a shit about anything.  I am not necessarily in pain or sadness, but I don’t care about anything.  I don’t want to do anything but sleep.  It’s utter and total disinterest and nothing is good or okay or beautiful anymore.  I don’t even want to play Zelda or cuddle with my animals.  And that’s unheard of.  I don’t want to talk to anyone, I will avoid texts and people.   Today I have group therapy at 2, and I’m convincing myself I HAVE to go, even though another part of me is trying to convince myself to call and not go.

Tdday body wants to go a million miles a minute, but I also don’t have the motivation or desire to do anything.  I’m down on myself right now for not wanting to do it, and I feel guilty for being lazy.  It’s 11:15 am.  I’ve been up since 9 am and all I’ve done is watch Outlander and some Harry Potter.  I am annoyed at everything, even my dogs.  I wouldn’t let Lulu use the stairs to the bed and cuddle today.  We cuddle every morning.

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I’m irritated at all the things in the house that are broken.  I’m annoyed that I have to clean up Christmas things, I’m frustrated that I sorted out all the presents from Christmas into the kid’s rooms, and yet I know they’ll sit there until I get angry and yell.  I’m heartbroken about something I can’t really talk about in a public place, I’m mad that it even happens.  I’m stuck on what to do about it (groupies, you’ll hear about it today I’m sure, if I can get myself to talk about it).  Right now, I’m highly annoyed that my dogs are downstairs with me and grabbed a piece of wood from the fireplace.  They are currently tearing it into bits and pieces on my clean carpet that I spent last Friday making sure was spotless for my two families coming over.

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Look at that face though!

I am pissed that I’m not smart enough to figure out how to fix my own washing machine that has a clogged filter (Oh, there goes my broken washer error-ing out again.).  So, I’m irritable to say the least.

My hypomania is telling me all the things that I should do right now.  It made me come down and write for one.  Then I want to clean my house (again).  Or should.  I should clean my fridge.  I need to organize my front closet.  I got a new Cricut (a fun cutting tool for crafting anything I ever want to) for Christmas and I want to learn how to do it.  My sister gave me two wonderful journals that have prompts on what to write about that I want to start, but lordie I don’t want to physically write.    I want to wash my new blue scalp in a shower, but no way do I want to shower when I’m also depressed.

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Look at all that blue!

My head is also telling me that I want to shop.  I don’t know with what money, but I want to get new things for my Cricut like iron on transfers and cardstock and all the things.  I need to pay off my hospital bills first before I blow money on fun things.  My impulsiveness got me to get a second piercing in my earlobe, which I’ve thought about doing since I was 18.  I just finally got the impulsiveness to actually DO it yesterday.

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Impulsive at it’s finest

I’m just going to stop here.  This quickly divulged from a therapy whine to a pathetic whine.  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and enjoy your day.  Maybe when I wake up at 2 am tonight I’ll come down and write a legitimate post.  I just read an article about a study where they took a ton of people in MENSA and found that those with higher IQ’s are more likely to have a mood or other mental disorder.  I need to do a bit more research on the actual study though, not just the article about the published paper.

***I don’t even want to “advertise” this post on my social medias.  Let’s see how it does without it.  I feel like a twit for even publishing this in the first place.

Cognitive Impairments

I want to talk today about something I didn’t even really know was a part of bipolar until I read an article about it today (yes, I still constantly read about bipolar). I joined a Facebook group for those with bipolar, and it seems like there are the same 5 questions asked over and over in the 50k+ group.  One of the most prevalent questions have to do with medication.  Another asked about is always “is this a part of the illness as well?”  The symptom/side effect of bipolar I struggle with is the cognitive impairment.  These issues that come with bipolar is another super fun present, besides the mood swings.

There are a few ways these impairments can manifest.  One is often called “brain fog,” when you can’t pick the word you’re looking for.  You can SEE the thing you’re trying to name.  You can think of any other word, just not that one.  This is the most annoying one for me.  It feels like there is a huge comforter over my brain that the words can’t squeeze through.  They just aren’t accessible.  It drives me nuts sometimes, especially when I’m around people I don’t know.  I hate looking like an idiot, and it makes me feel like everyone thinks I am an idiot when I can’t think of the word chair.  Brain fog can also show as a slow or sluggish brain.  You usually have a certain speed that you think in or can recall information.  During brain fog, it drastically slows down.  You can’t access information or think.  The deepness of the fog (for me) depends on how down in depression I am.  When you’re manic (for bipolar 1) or hypomanic (bipolar 2), your brain speeds up and you can have a million different thoughts seemingly all at once.  Some people will say things they don’t mean.  Others will become angry and lash out at loved ones.  It’s nearly fun to have a brain that feels as speedy as Einstein (except the rage), but it is terrible and exhausting when you inevitably crash.

Memory lapses are also hugely common.  It becomes so hard to remember exact wording said during a conversation, or if you even HAD a conversation.  I find myself forgetting simple things like what I went into a room for, more commonly than I see others do.  Just today for example, my sister asked for a hair tie so I went upstairs to get it.  Somehow, I got distracted with something and completely forgot to get it.  Connor had to take out his hair tie and give it to her.  Brain fail.  When I woke up at 2am today, that was the first thing I thought of, as it just popped in my head.  Kind of like when I was a server and would wake up in the middle of the night remembering I was supposed to get table 3 a side of ranch.  It sucks.  I finally am so desperate to remember everything I have going on, I have two calendars.  I have a physical one hanging next to my refrigerator (which is color coded depending on type of appointment, of course) and then I put every single thing in my phone too.  Unless I forget one or the other, which has also happened.  I’ve also put the wrong time for a physical therapy appointment in my phone and showed up 30 minutes late.  I was so embarrassed.

It’s also hard for me to remember to do things.  I constantly have a running list of chores or things I want and need to do but will constantly forget things.  I have to make shopping lists now, or I’ll forget half of what I needed to get but come home with a million things I didn’t.  I’ll tell someone I’ll do something for them and then forget to do it until they remind me.  This happened a few times over the last couple of months.  For my HOA, I’m the vice president.  I told a board member I’d write an article for him and just couldn’t remember to do it.  Eventually I gave up and said to publish without me, I couldn’t get my brain to work.  Then, I told the president I’d do a review on something by Sunday, and Monday came around and I hadn’t done the whole thing.  I had to wake up early that day and make sure I got it done for her.  Thank goodness she reminded me.  Sometimes when I do remember to do something I said, I get really proud of myself, and that’s borderline pathetic.  But, what can ya do?  When you’re limited, you’ve gotta work around it.

There is a lot more that comes with the bipolar diagnosis than I initially expected or what shows up on WebMD.  I’m still learning every day what it means for me, and how to work around each thing.  Thank goodness for therapy helping me find out and thank goodness for support groups and the internet to show me more.  I’d otherwise just write it off that I’m losing my mind.  But not in the same way that I guess I already have!

Holiday Times

I have never been a huge Christmas person.  Don’t get me wrong, I love shopping for people, I love seeing my family (and now my in-laws) and I love seeing my step-kids, two niece’s and nephew’s face when they open presents.  But I’ve never been one to like the music or that does a lot of decorating.  Halloween is where it is at for me.  I kind of missed out on Halloween this year, besides being able to go with my niece and get the cutest picture in the world.  I didn’t get to do our annual party at mom’s house with the tons of trick or treaters etc.  It is also my wedding anniversary, so that sweetens the deal for me even more.  I couldn’t fully enjoy it, as I was recently diagnosed with my bipolar and was not yet stable.  I was still really depressed and had a hard time even doing my decorations.  Normally they go up on September 1st, and I didn’t get them up until October.  Unheard of.  Anyway, I digress.

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I’ve not been as enthusiastic about Christmas during my adult life.  I gave it the ol’ college try when I got my step-kids, as I got to experience the joy through them when they were little and we drove through the park that has the light show.  I finally got to see how exciting it was to see their little faces light up when they got a really neat Santa gift.  I loved helping them make lists for Santa.  And this year, I had the MOST fun when I got to take my niece and nephew to go shopping for their parents and they saw Santa.  I love seeing my two nieces and nephew more than I can even explain.  Besides my love for my step-kids, I didn’t know you could love little people so much.  Oh look, I digress again.

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Christmas not being my favorite, I’ve tried really hard to be Christmas-y this year.  I did a bunch of Christmas crafts with my free time, spending time with Evaline doing them, which is the best anyway.  I got a lot of lights up this year outside, including the obnoxious blow up decorations (which I actually love in my yard).  I had fun going all out this year.  I planned for it last year by hitting up thrift shops and clearance sales and getting a Christmas village as well as the outdoor decorations.  I still didn’t have the energy to put all of my outdoor lights out, but I did a ton more than normal.  I made two wreaths for friends and did two separate Christmas trees.  One is my decorative tree, and the new one is what I call my “nostalgia” tree.

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Every year since 2010 my mother has gotten us an ornament with the date on it.  Then when I married Connor, my in-laws all exchange adorable ornaments in a family tradition that has a different meal at each progressive house in one day, starting with breakfast at my house.  We end with dessert at my sister-in-law’s.  We call it the roundie round and it’s very fun.  It’s one of my new favorite traditions; I love picking out the ornaments for everyone.  So, because I had gotten so many of these in the past few years, I needed a new tree for them all.

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I went all out this year (for me).  Connor loves Christmas and says every year that he feels like he misses the entire season, that it goes by so quickly and this is why I have tried so hard to be a Christmas person.  I still can’t do Christmas music except the 3 days before Christmas though.  I just can’t.

My point in all this, is even though I am a nervous wreck of anxiety with being around so many people all at once, I’m learning to enjoy the season.  I still am super anxious when I’m at either family’s house and there is a cacophony of sound and voices and people moving around and enjoying themselves.  I get so nervous that the presents I picked out won’t be appreciated, though I try really hard to be thoughtful for every gift.  I dread taking down and storing all of the decorations; that’s so much work.  And now that my step-kids are teens, they are just hard to shop for in general.  They want gift cards and money, and that’s just no fun to shop for.  It’s mentally exhausting to prepare for everything, making sure I have each present ready to go in the right box to the right house.  Making sure I get the kid’s mother a present too that is thoughtful.  My house being utterly spotless for the visiting families (my whole family came over to my house today, including my Grampa and I loved it so much even though I was an anxious ball of nerves).

I think a reason that I’m so happy to be full of Christmas this year is that I’m finally stable.  I don’t feel depression like I used to.  I’m not FULLY stable, I still get some mood swings unexpectedly, but compared to the rest of my adult life, I’m the picture of stability.  I’m grateful my wreck didn’t hurt anyone else and that I made it through the inpatient ward with my diagnosis.  I’m so lucky to have my group therapy and that my work let me off for so long so that I could heal.  I’ve never been one to feel very grateful, depression usually squashes that right out of you.  But this year, I truly feel so grateful for so many things, there are so many people who have so little.  Especially those who have mental illnesses like mine.  Many aren’t as lucky to have such an amazing two families that love me despite my illness and love me like they do.  My in-laws accepted my diagnosis and were just worried about me; they all reached out to me and told me to call them if I ever needed anything.  I was so floored and so touched.  I didn’t expect it.  My sisters just took it in stride and didn’t blink an eye.  They loved me as fiercely as ever.  I’ve even been able to get closer to my middle sister than in any of our adult life.  I love them all more than I can even explain.

Even Connor and I are better than we have been in years.  We play and tease and flirt.  All in all, I’ve enjoyed Christmas this year much more than I did Halloween.  Everything was too raw then.  Now it’s a Wonderful Life. 😊

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.  Thank you for reading and sharing in my journey with me.

Group Therapy

When you think of a group therapy, you probably think of AA meetings that you see in television and movies, “Hi, my name is Frank and I’m an alcoholic.”  That sort of thing.  I’m not saying that’s not how AA meetings are; I have no idea.  I just know that my intensive group therapy I’ve been in since October is nothing like I imagined.  I had no clue just how they would work, how you’d learn or speak, how I would feel about all the people there, if anyone would have my same diagnosis, nothing.  I had no preconceptions other than AA meetings from various medias.  Now, after almost three months of going to group 9 hours a week, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I’ve learned and grown more in the last three months than I have my entire adult life.

Because I have my psych undergrad degree, I have a very small amount of knowledge of the principals of psychology and therapy.  I have a base understanding of how it works and what it does.  I know a lot of the biases and personality types and disorders.  I can tell you a lot of disorders and what their symptoms are.  Small things.  But enough to know I don’t know much.  The first day of my group, I got to see what everyone’s diagnosis was, in a shorthand version.  I felt like I was stepping into my abnormal psych class, because I’ve never met anyone that had a disorder like mine before.  I’d never known a person with schizoaffective disorder.  Someone with electric shock therapy (ECT) was something I’d only read about before.  There was someone with my same disorder as well (Bipolar 2).  Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as multiple personalities) and a lot of anxiety and depression.  I was thrilled.  I’d found my people.  People who would understand how it felt to be stuck in bed for days with no hope of moving.  People who couldn’t stand themselves, just like I felt.  Someone who was used to and practiced at managing bipolar and all that comes with it.  I knew I was safe.  I would be heard and not judged.  I would be accepted just how I was.

My first day, I was beyond terrified.  Not knowing what to expect, I showed up 30 minutes early and just sat in my car outside of the building, pumping myself up to go inside.  Once inside, I sat down on the only empty spot, and immediately one of the girls turned to me and introduced herself.  Allie was a spunky and kind woman who made everyone feel welcome and loved.  She always was happy and silly, and just brought such a fun vibe into our room.  Allie was bipolar as well, and had a planner where she journaled and kept her moods and mania symptoms written down to track.  I had no idea that was something to even do at that point.  I thought she was brilliant, and I tried to emulate her (I never remember to actually write, though I did for the first 2 weeks).  The next woman to speak was Annie.  Annie was one of the most beautiful women I’ve seen.  When I first met her, she was new in the program too, only having gone 2 more weeks than I.  She was suffering with intense anxiety and depression after having a few injuries where she couldn’t do her previous work.  She was always anxious and sad and worried that she always would be anxious.  She just graduated on Wednesday and is happy and healthy and not anxious at all.  She’s lively and silly and lights up the room when she walks in with her purse/pit.  I won’t go through any more people as it’s a confidential group, but those two are no longer in group, as they graduated, so I felt okay describing their personalities, if not their real names or distinct things about them.

Anyway, so I walk in and sit down and Allie chats me up.  She asks me about myself and where I’m from and tried to make me much more comfortable.  She explains the format and how everything is structured.  There is a form we fill out in the beginning of group that numbers our symptoms from 10 as the worst and 1 as the best.  Things like suicidality, anxiety, depression, drug/alcohol use, motivation, appetite, sleep, and more I can’t think of right now.  So I went through and filled it all out for that day.  I think I had mostly 10s except for drug/alcohol and delusions.  I can’t remember, though I am sure I still have that one in my giant Hogwarts binder (really, it’s a 3 ring binder with the Hogwarts’ seal on it).  I honestly don’t remember a single other thing of that group.  I know I didn’t speak, and I know I was shaking the entire time.  I was a ball of anxious nerves.

I was anxious for a good 2 weeks of group, then my therapist challenged me to start speaking up during group, for what good was it if I didn’t use it?  What’s the point of going?  So one day during check in, I spoke up.  I don’t know what I said or why or what was happening, but I opened my mouth.  I started talking and didn’t ever stop until this day.  I’m able to work through so much anxiety and depression through this group.  I know they’re there for me and genuinely care about my welfare.  They are great at giving advice and the therapists themselves are some of the best therapists I’ve seen (and I’ve seen and known quite a few).  We laugh and cry and laugh until we cry in there.

There are 3 hours in group and it’s separated into 3 distinct parts.  First hour is check in, where we fill out the form and talk about pretty much anything we want.  We can go over what’s on our sheet or we can talk about what has been going on.  Whatever floats our boat.  The second part is a learning section.  A lot of times it’s a worksheet for one therapist, or for the other, she’ll write the information on the board, just like a professor would.  I remember one class was about personality types.  Others have been about toxic people.  It varies wildly and will sometimes be something that we’ve requested to learn about.  The third group is usually something that is application based.  So there will be a worksheet or questionnaire that we put the principals we just learned into our own lives.  We’ll go around and answer the questions and the other members will challenge what we’ve answered (“don’t should yourself!).  The first and third groups are usually my favorites.  That’s where we often veer off topic and where I tend to learn more.  I’ve learned so much during those sections where we weren’t even trying to.

Well I’ve been blathering on for longer than usual at this point.  My basic thoughts are:  group therapy is amazing.  I’m going to move to NAMI groups, which is a free group in the area after I graduate from the intensive group.  I can’t imagine where I’d be right now without it.  I’m so grateful to every one of my group members (if you’re reading this, I adore you guys!).  I look forward to groups every day and am dreading not having it for the 9 hours a week.

 

Confrontation and Assertiveness

Assertiveness and standing up for myself is something I have been terrible at my entire life (that I remember anyway).  I hate, hate, hate conflict and panic whenever it’s around me.  I recently discovered that therapy is giving me the ability to show assertiveness, all be it in small things.  The other day, I had a perfect and small example of this happening to me.  Most will think this is the silliest example ever, and not a big deal at all.  But this is one of those situations I’d get stuck in and not be able to extricate myself from for a long time, no matter how uncomfortable I was.

There have been two little old ladies traveling around my neighborhood for the past week.  Now, I live deep in the woods in a community that does not want to be found, nor have anyone we don’t invite around.  I guess you could say we are in general, suspicious of outsiders.  Most of the neighbors have guns for protection (I’m going to say from lions, tigers and bears).  This is not the neighborhood to invite yourself into and go knocking door to door in.  We also have “no soliciting” signs at both entrances to the neighborhood, so these little old ladies should have known better.

They’ve been knocking door to door for the past two weeks or so, and in our HOA Facebook group, people have been making comments.  Their opening line is “have you ever lost anyone you’ve loved due to death?” because everyone has, of course.  This, understandably, causes a lot of turmoil for people who have recently lost someone.  It’s logically a good hook, but a cruel one to bring up the Jehovah’s Witness religion.  Just, not okay to do.  They also have left pamphlets all over, which is irritating in its own right.

Well, they finally made it to my house this week.  After having talked to neighbors about it, I had been biding my time until it was my turn.  I was cleaning the house and they came to my side door (nobody ever comes to that door, even though it’s the one we use) and looked through the window as I was washing dishes.  Creepy, strike one.  Then they knocked.  My dogs went insane, as they are supposed to do, strike two.  Once I got my girls put in their kennels (I admit I took much longer than needed to do this, hoping they’d leave), I went and opened the door.  Cue the ‘death’ line, strike three.

I lied and told them no, I’d never lost anyone, as I didn’t want to give them ground to bring up the rest of their rehearsed speech.  They kept pushing, asking about friends or grandparents.  I refused to let them “in,” both into my house or into their conversation.  When they paused, trying to think of what to say to someone who had no death in their life, I jumped in, “did you two ladies see in the front of the neighborhood, those no soliciting signs?  I know you’re doing what you see as your job, but we do not allow solicitors here.”  They said they’d noticed them and try and pay attention to them, where I interrupted again, “this is not the neighborhood to do this in.  We’ve been getting complaints; I’m the VP of the HOA and so I feel I have to warn you.  Please do not visit any more homes.  We, again, do not allow solicitation.  We don’t like visitors up here, and between armed families and dogs, it’s not a good idea.”  Or something to that effect.  They kept trying to bring up their religion, and I kept shutting them down.  I did mess up a bit and say that I didn’t need to find god, as Connor and I go to catholic church every Sunday.  I didn’t need a pamphlet and didn’t want one.  They started to say how it was nice to see such a young person going to church and I told them how my congregation has a lot of families my age with little children.  I would not let them have any space for conversation but was not mean at all.  I was actually quite nice (a lot nicer than some of my amazing neighbors would be; they’d be sarcastic and hilarious I think.  Maybe opening the door in a towel or something equally silly).  I thanked them for doing what they saw as their duty and warned them again.  I made sure to impress upon them that it’s not allowed at all.

During this very tiny confrontation, I had a thrill of adrenaline like I normally do during any kind of conflict, but I didn’t care this time.  It didn’t faze me.  I didn’t want these little old ladies to go to the wrong house, and I didn’t want them around anyway.  I saw it as my job as VP to do something about it, so I did.  I was so proud!  I know it’s such a small thing, and almost feel silly while looking back, but I don’t exaggerate when I say I’m absolutely the WORST when it comes to things like this.  I make Connor call companies to cancel.  I have never been able to just shut down or say no to things with strangers.  I don’t want to be mean.  I finally found a way to be assertive enough to shut something down, but still kind enough that I didn’t feel like a nasty person.  I still smile when I think of it.  It’s always the little wins that get me through this crazy new life I’m learning to lead.

Things, they are a changin’

Getting diagnosed with bipolar is an interesting thing.  On the one hand, it’s a disorder that has no cure and is going to be something I fight with to keep under control for the rest of my life.  I’ve always had it, I just didn’t know it.  So knowing now, I can actually track and keep better control of my life and moods.  But the weight of such a diagnosis is a terrifying thing to swallow.  It’s taken me a few months to fully accept and appreciate what it means for me.  It’s still a terrifying prospect having to make sure I have the right amount of sleep, as well as my other triggers, which I’m still trying to find out.  Getting my diagnosis has also caused a few other things that I was not expecting, and which I don’t believe have to do with my medication evening out my moods.  Though, having a calmed and evened out mood, without ennui, is an experience I didn’t think I would ever have.

This all being said, there are some changes that I have gone through since September 19th that I don’t believe have to do with medication.  Perhaps my intensive therapy, but not medication.  These are small things, but I’ve found that I like to focus on small wins a lot more than I used to.  I used to just focus on negative.  I finally got my head out of my ass a bit to see the forest for the trees.

  1. I’m much more able to be affectionate

I have never been one to hug people or show much affection.  I’ve always been uncomfortable showing love to those around me.  I didn’t hug those I cared about unless they initiated it.  Hell, I never hugged my daddy and told him how much I loved him.  Recently though, that’s gone out the window.  I will happily hug anyone and everyone.  I am so much more appreciative of those around me, I’m happy to show them how I feel, and don’t care if they don’t want it like I did before.  I’ve hugged Jack more in the past week than in the 10 plus years I know him.

  1. Kindness and understanding

I’ve never been one to be unkind to people, but I find myself being even more understanding of people and what they may be going through.  This one doesn’t have a great explanation.  A lot of my hypomania shows as irritability and annoyance.  I hide it from most people, but I’d have a constant stream of negative and just plain mean thoughts running through my head.  I’m not doing that now.  I don’t get annoyed by the small things anymore.  Even/especially with Connor.  I still get annoyed (who doesn’t when living with a man?) but it’s not a constant resentment and pissy mood anymore, which is such a huge relief to me, and likely him.

      3.  Impulsive Shopping

Okay, this one may be the medication, but it’s a side effect I’m grateful for, as well as my wallet.  Whenever I’m at the store, I’d pass something and say, “oh, I need that too!” and fill my cart.  Eventually, I’d end up with a full cart when I went in for milk and creamer.  It was a constant sore spot between Connor and I, but I felt helpless to stop it.  Usually it WAS something the house actually needed, but it was not what I came in for.  I’m still not great at this, but at least now I hesitate for a moment and think if I REALLY need to buy it now, or if it can wait.  I try and make a shopping list and stick to it.  I am still not great, but at least I can stick to a budget better.  If he gives me $300 for Christmas presents, I can spend $296.98.  I did that the other day and was so proud.  I used to split payment and charge my debit card for anything over the amount I was supposed to have spent, and the rest to our account.  I don’t do that now.

  1. Telling myself hurtful things

I am terrible at negative self-image and guilt.  I make everything my fault and feel terrible about everything that happens.  This is still a huge struggle for me.  However, I am being more kind and forgiving to myself.  Or trying to be anyway.  I have started to check myself when I say I “should” be or should have done something.  I know this is more to do with therapy than accidental, but it is at least something.  I’m able to sometimes step back and realize I’m being terrible to myself and stop it by changing subjects in my internal dialogue.  I’m trying to be as kind to myself as I am to others, though I’m not sure I can manage that.  I’m an angel to others (that was in sarcasm font).

  1. Who I am and what I want

This one is an ongoing thing, as I haven’t had a clue for most of my adult who I am and what I want.  I’ve learned a few core things about myself that I can hold onto as I go through episodes of despair; that I can cling to until I come out the other side.  I’m learning to say when I don’t want something and stick to it.  I’m finding out what I do love and what relaxes me and working to do that more.  I’ve got a LOT more work to do on this one, but the fact that it’s even an option now is a welcome relief.  I’m no longer subject to only depression where everything and everyone is just grey and holds no joy.

As the great Brandon Boyd of Incubus says, “It helps to know the difference between serenity and ennui.”  I finally have a little bit of serenity, and it is priceless.