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.

 

You Are Enough

Today was a hard day for me.  For absolutely no reason.  I woke up as is now typical at 2AM, went back to sleep at 4AM, woke up at 7 and decided I needed more sleep.  I forced myself to sleep and didn’t wake up until 11AM.  I felt like the worst person ever.  For some reason, I’ve always slept really well during the day when I’m not supposed to, and when I’m depressed, I sleep for 18 hours a day sometimes.  I guess when I didn’t wake up at an acceptable time, I slid back into the fear and loathing that I feel when I sleep too much when depressed.

When I did get up, I immediately decided that I was the worst person in the world and not worthy of love.  I was telling myself that I was a lazy piece of crap and a terrible wife and stepmother.  I love my husband and step-kids and hate when I feel that I’m not good enough for them.  Thankfully I didn’t get any suicidal thoughts, because then I’d check myself back into the hospital or have to call my psychiatrist(s).  Now, knowing that I feel worse about myself when I’m not productive, I decided I had to get up and moving and do something.   I decided to go to the hardware store to get paint, as my stepdaughter wants to redecorate her room into something more teenager-like rather than the pre-teen she has now.  I think it’s a great idea and we have come up with a really cute design.  Now I just have to do it.   I went to go pick out paint and such and ended up spending a lot more than I thought I would on supplies.  I didn’t even get anything I didn’t need, which is what I usually do when shopping. “Oh!  That’s fun, I need that too” is something that happens all too often.  I’m a much too impulsive shopper and it’s caused a lot of issues.

So, still miserable in my head and fighting negative looping thoughts, I got home and put up some more Christmas decorations outside.  I put some solar lights in Berkley’s garden (where I buried his things and planted a tree since I didn’t have him to bury) and lined my walkway with little solar light bulbs from the dollar store.  Then I went inside and finally finished another painting project I’ve wanted to do forever.  The walls on my stairwell are/were all scuffed up from moving things up and down the stairs and it drives me nuts.  So I got my little paintbrush and fixed it all.  I actually got to put away the paint that I’ve had out since I fixed my bathroom paint weeks ago.  I’m glad that’s done.  But I couldn’t get started on my stepdaughter’s room.  It felt overwhelming to pull everything down from her walls and push it all in the center of the room.  Taping and prepping was just too much for me today.  I knew I couldn’t do it.  I wanted to also finally put up my Christmas tree, but I knew that would be too much too.  I did get it assembled and fluffed but I couldn’t get myself to put up any ornaments.  Baby steps I guess.

I am learning to reach out to Connor and tell him when I’m feeling down or upset about things, as it’s something I have hidden from him for years.  I started randomly crying for no reason really.  I hate crying.  I have no idea why, but I feel weak and don’t want to succumb to emotions like that.  I told him how I felt, and he did what he knew how to do.  He sent me a video that was talking about how you are worthy of love and that “you are enough.”  I cried when I watched that too, as I was asking him if I’m still a good person with dust and dirt in my house.  If I’m still worth loving even though I struggle with being productive and getting things done.  The video was his way of responding to my asking for help, as he doesn’t usually know what to say in these situations.  He’s trying so hard to understand and work with me on my illness and he was very thoughtful in sending me that video.  I’ll see if I can link to it at the end of the blog for those who need to know they are enough as well.

Finally, in the evening after forcing myself to do as much as I could, even though I felt extremely down and overwhelmed, I decided to cook dinner.  I HATE cooking so much, but I’ve been trying to learn to at least tolerate it.  I’m just not great at it.  I got a free week of Hello Fresh, so decided I was going to do one all on my own (Connor had to help me on the last one).  I did it and it actually worked.  Of course, I was not hungry at this point, being upset all day.  All I ate yesterday was some cheeze-its and a bowl of cereal at 3AM.  This medicine makes me not hungry (YAY!  Maybe I can lose the weight I gained back in my hypomanic state!).  But, when Connor came home, he sat down at the table with me as I was coloring (he suggested I do that when I complained to him as well, as he knows it calms me down).  He was going to come downstairs and do the tree with me too, but I could see how much pain he was in so told him to go lay down.  I finally felt okay.  Not good.  Not happy or good about myself.  But okay.  The hamster wheel of negative thoughts was finally slowing down.

When I feel that way, it makes me panic that I am going to go down into a depressive episode again.  Depression for me is the absolute worst.  Hypomania sucks and is very destructive, but the depression ruins my relationships and costs me so much.  So, when I have a bad day like today, my anxiety goes into overdrive and doesn’t help the depression.  It’s a vicious cycle and one I’m terrified of.  But, I made it through today.  I did it.  I didn’t lapse into deep depression and lay in bed all day.  I was productive and got things done.  And that helps.  Even though it was hard, and I had to focus on one thing at a time, I did it.  And you can too when you’re struggling.  Just do the next right thing that you can handle.  Even if it’s just showering and getting up.  It’s something.

Here is the video Connor sent me in case anyone is interested.  I want to keep it for myself when I struggle again.  https://youtu.be/bUMFZM5WBrI