Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What Makes Me Happy : My Inner Thoughts


What if I was skinnier, I thought as I mounted the scale in my bathroom for the 8th time that day. Would I be happier?
Would my depression, self loathing and emotional angst go away?
I look up into the mirror and see my reflection. I averted my eyes. I didn’t like what I saw. I looked into the mirror and saw someone that wasn’t…
Smart enough
Pretty enough
Stylish enough
The person I saw just wasn’t enough.
If I had all those things, if I were all those things…would I be happy? I convinced myself that it were true. That if I had all those things I would feel more worthy of being on this planet occupying this space. I would laugh more. I would cry less. I would be less depressed.  
My therapist didn’t seem to think so. My husband didn’t seem to think so either. She wanted to be to go deeper and find out what truly makes me happy. I raised an eyebrow when she said it because I don’t think that I have allowed myself to be truly happy. How was I supposed to know what made me happy when I spent years tempering my own happiness. I was afraid that if I let myself be too happy the fall would be much worse. If I got too high…when I dropped it would hurt more.  
So what truly makes me happy?
I thought deeply about the subject and decided to make a list. Things that would make me happy where I genuinely laughed and felt like nothing else in the world mattered except that moment. When I could be without guilt or shame or racing thoughts. When I could feel joy and it wasn’t from Mania.
Okay so that is a long list title but it’s the truth. I needed to discover what made me happiest in this life. Here is my list
Shopping
Writing
Singing and listening to music
Thunderstorms
Spending time watching movies or being stuck in a hotel with my family.
The laughter of my children
A very good meal.
All of these things make me immensely happy. These are the things that make me happy before I have a chance to dampen that happiness.
I know what makes me happy. What I don’t know is what happens next. How do I keep those ugly thoughts of worthlessness away? I can do all the things that make me truly happy and still be plagued by the inner dialogue that tells me not to be happy for too long. The voice that tells me that if I let myself get too happy, I will just fall so low later. Like when I weigh myself. If I actually lose any weight I can’t be too happy. I’m sure the scale is either wrong or I’m just going to gain the weight back. 

That reminds me…I need to weigh myself. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Zoetic

It’s so zoetic.
So immensely pathetic.
That I breathe my obsessions
That fuel my depression.

I’m envious.
I’m full of pettiness.
When I’m angry I can break things.
When I’m scared the anxiety stings.

Because my mind scares me
When I go from mood to mood.
Because my heart it scares me
When it beats faster than I want it to.

It’s so zoetic.
So fucking prophetic.
That my past will dictate
every move that I make.

It’s convenient
That I’m irrelevant.  
When I ache I can break down.
When I cry I curse the sound.

Because my thoughts frighten me.
How can I possibly make it through?
Because my feelings frighten me.
Tell me what am I supposed to do?

It’s zoetic.
So extremely poetic
That my falls don’t mean I’m out.
Isn’t that what life is all about?

It’s a consensus
that I’m overzealous.
When I’m high I can’t calm down.
When I’m low I’m flush with the ground.

Because my soul it terrifies me
with my constant negative point of view.
Because my obsession terrifies me

with the thought of losing myself to.

Yield

 I yield
To the pain and the depression
To the power of my obsession
To the rage and aggression
To the death of my progression

I yield
When my resolve is pathetic
When I’m no longer sympathetic
When my heart Is apologetic
When  I ache for the empathetic

I yield
To be free of the wanting
To break away from the hurting
To cure my mind of the longing
To know why I’m undeserving

I yield
When I need a familiar face
When I’m feeling out of place
When hope has no trace
When love is in need of grace

I yield
To the hope tears wash away
To the belief good times stay
To let the tears fall as they may

To the dawn of a new day

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Xanax

I take several medications to help me get through life. I take medications for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, acid reflux, high cholesterol and anemia. Dealing with so many medications can be difficult. You have to make sure you take them at the right time of day or make sure you take them the right amount of times daily. Once you are on them you cannot just stop. You must be weaned off them. You have to make sure all of your medications mix well together.  You also have to make sure that you get the right dosage.

I take Xanax for my anxiety disorder. But that wasn’t the first one that was prescribed to me to help with my anxiety. It was a lot of trial and error. I had to find the right medication at the right dose. Before I took Xanax I took Klonopin. I hate Klonopin. That medication led me to oversleep and it was difficult to function with it. I felt like I had narcolepsy when I took it. When I took it I would pass out immediately. 

One time I fell asleep in the middle of the day and was only woken when someone pounded on my door. It was my friend and she had my daughter who was in Kindergarten at the time. I had slept through three alarms and missed the time to pick her up. Thank goodness I had my friend down as the emergency contact.

I told my doctor that I needed something different. That is when he prescribed me Ativan. Ativan was like taking a placebo. It didn’t do anything. I might as well have been taking a sugar pill. It had no affect on my anxiety and it still made me sleepy. So I went back to the doctor and that is when they offered me Xanax.

I have been on Xanax for over a year and a half now. I am stable on the right dose and that is a really good thing.


I write about this because I want those that have decided to take medication for their bipolar disorder to know that there will be some trial and error. There will be ups and downs when taking medications. Do not be afraid to tell your doctor what works and what does not work. 

Weight

I was recently diagnosed with a mild case of OCD. I received the diagnosis because I have a history of obsessing over things. Sometimes they are minute tiny things and sometimes they can be big and intense.

OCD is short for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America,

“… those who have OCD suffer from unwanted and intrusive thoughts that they can't seem to get out of their heads ,often compelling them to repeatedly perform ritualistic behaviors and routines to try and ease their anxiety.”

Those with OCD become obsessed with something. They then begin to use a compulsion to get rid of the fear, doubt and anxiety.

The Obsession

My obsession lately has been with my weight. Last May I weighed 205lbs and I was miserable. I was overweight and suffered from hypertension at 32 years old. So I listened to my doctors and began the journey to lose weight. It is a year later and I am down 30lbs. I am proud that I have been able to lose weight and keep it off. The problem became when some real ugly thoughts began to permeate my brain. I realized that I had lost the weight before and gained it all back. I knew that I could not let up. I became obsessed with what I ate, when I ate it and how much of it I consumed. Then the fear and the anxiety began to build. It was intense and I needed some way to alleviate it.

The Compulsion

I began to weigh myself. The only thing that would get rid of my anxiety was to get on the scale and made sure that I had not gained anymore weight. I had to know multiple times a day whether the food I consumed that day made me gain or lose weight. It sounds strange but inside my mind I need to weigh myself to feel better. I weigh myself at least 7 times a day. I am afraid that if I don’t weigh myself I will gain the weight back. I cannot get through the day without getting on the scale.

The Treatment

After much discussion with my therapist we decided to do a worksheet and study treatment plan. The treatment requires me to focus on the thoughts in my head and finish them. If I have thoughts of not being good enough I need to challenge those thoughts.
“I’m going to gain the weight back.” I need to confront those thoughts.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Vulnerability

I’m not good enough.
I’m never good enough.
Those words rattle around in my head on a daily basis. It’s there when I first wake up in the morning. I hear them when I’m getting the kids lunches ready or while I shower and brush my teeth.
I am worthless. I am not worthy of love and affection.
I also tell myself those things. I don’t have to be depressed to feel these emotions. They are like the backdrop to my life. The theme music that plays as I go about my daily life. I take them in with every breath.
I feel so much vulnerability and shame just telling you this information about myself.
I had a conversation with my therapist about never feeling good enough. She pointed me in the direction of a researcher named Dr. Brene Brown. She researches shame, fear and vulnerability. Those are topics that most people are uncomfortable talking about.
I learned some very important things from listening to Dr. Brown. I learned that when we are vulnerable with people we open ourselves up to hurt and pain. We get to feel the heartbreak and the rejection. The depression and the alienation.  This is what causes most people to take a step back. No one wants to feel anger and grief. If we could avoid it…we would.
Yet, we cannot chose which emotions we want to feel.  We cannot avoid some and live with others. When we do that we do not allow the good emotions to prosper.
That is why we need to be authentic and vulnerable. When we are, we open ourselves up to the good things in life. We have to give people the chance to be empathetic and the opportunity to get to know the real person behind the mask.
That is difficult for me.
Being vulnerable.
 I am afraid if I am my most authentic self that people will see that I am really worthless and not enough. That is one of my worst fears. But as Brene Brown teaches, I also close the door on the opportunity to discover I am enough just the way I am. I may miss out on happiness and joy because of my fear of being open and vulnerable with people.

Vulnerability is not something that comes naturally to me. I spent a great deal of my life hiding myself from the world hoping that they won’t be able to see inside my heart. I know now that being vulnerable is the only way I can manage the shame that consumes me. It will help me to discover that I am not alone. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Uncomfortable

I watched a Ted Talk from a woman named Dr. Brene Brown. She hit on some really solid view points. She discussed that are prone to numb their uncomfortable feelings through vices of all sorts. They cannot take being vulnerable so they find some way to numb those feelings.  We are the most medicated, overweight society because we cannot sit in our painful emotions.

This discussion made me think long and hard about myself and what I have been going through lately.

 I took a hiatus from therapy because my therapist moved. Having a therapist that you have been pouring your heart out to for years ups and leaves, you need time to regroup and figure things out before you jump into bed with another therapist.

I went back to therapy because I was constantly having anxiety. I was having anxiety attacks every day. I found myself relying more on Xanax, my anxiety medication more and more. I am only supposed to take my medication twice a day. Once at night and the other as needed throughout the day. I normally would take my pills as directed. Lately I had been feeling like I wanted to take my medication three times, maybe even four times a day. I was feeling uncomfortable in this world and my emotions were taking over. I didn’t like the feeling of anxiety.  When I am in the midst of an anxiety attack it feels like I am drowning and I am fighting for air.

Well, I decided to see a new therapist and try to stop myself before I began a long and painful journey making my life worse than what it already was. I knew that I was getting close to relying on my medication to get me through life and I knew I was on the brink of an addiction.

What I was doing was what Dr. Brown was saying. I was unwilling to be uncomfortable and vulnerable so I was medicating the problem instead of facing it head on. We do not get to numb or single out the emotions that we do not want to feel. We must feel the bad ones in order to feel the good ones.


I knew that I didn’t want to risk not ever being happy because I could not and would not acknowledge my pain and sit in it. I didn’t want to numb the good moments along with the bad. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Term

I learned a new term today.
It is called “flooding”.
Apparently this past weekend I flooded myself.
Let me explain.
Last weekend I went to Las Vegas with some girlfriends of mine. We partied, ate good food and had loads of fun. I was so glad that I went on this mini vacation I came back feeling rejuvenated. I needed
Before I made it to Vegas, however, I had to drive to Santa Clarita to meet up with everyone. It would be easier for me to drive to them and then head to Las Vegas than to have them pick me up here in Bakersfield. That sounds easy, right? It is only an hour and a half drive. Well it wasn’t so easy for me.
·         I am terrified of the mountains. The Grapevine induces an irrational fear in me.
·         I was driving my husband’s car that I don’t normally drive.
·         I was going to a city I had never been before.
·         I have anxiety disorder.
Well, I got my playlist together and I got on the highway to Santa Clarita. As I approached the Grapevine, I could feel my mind begin the process of trying to shut down. I was almost frozen with fear.
My heart was racing, I felt like couldn’t breathe. I began to sweat despite the air conditioning blowing in the car. Every turn I felt closer and closer to the end of the world. I just knew a truck was going to jack knife, another car was going to speed up behind me and hit me. Every bad scenario played in my head. I hit a curve and I felt the car go over the line just a little in the next lane. I panicked and I began to cry. My body began to shake and I felt like I was going to die. I just knew this was it for me.
Long story short I made it on my trip. I made it through the mountains, to Las Vegas and then back through the mountains home.
I related the event to my therapist.
“I don’t recommend it but what you did was…have you heard of ‘flooding’?” she asked me.
I hadn’t.
“What is ‘flooding’?” I asked intrigued.
She goes on to tell me that flooding is a technique that can be used in psychology sometimes referred to as “exposure therapy” or “prolonged exposure therapy”. It can be used to treat anxiety disorders and post traumatic stress disorder.
She said that she normally doesn’t recommend it because it requires the person to immerse themselves in their greatest fear to be miserable for long periods of time. I apparently spent an hour and a half immersing myself in my greatest fear.
I must say, I was miserable and in pain. I was in tears and terrified the entire time. The fear was so thick I could taste it. I was afraid that I was crying because I was blurring my line of sight. Yet I made it. I overcame my fear and anxiety and showed myself that I could do it without medication.

So I learned a new term. It’s called “flooding”.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Relatioships

I value authenticity in my relationships with people. Authenticity in the way they treat me and others as well as authenticity in disclosures about themselves and their lives. I do not require that every person that is my friend or has a part in my life disclose everything about themselves. I am not the government. I do not vet people. But I have a difficult time trusting people who insist life is perfect for them and try very hard to cover or mask their faults.

 I like flawed people. 

I like people that have a history or a story or two to tell. Maybe it’s the writer in me but I feel a kinship and a trust with people that are honest about their flaws and have no problem admitting when life isn’t all sunshine and roses. This might seem weird, but I like to be around people who have had struggles, issues or imperfections they are afraid to talk about.

It’s because I consider myself a very flawed person. I have had difficulties in the past with meeting those people who seem to have the perfect lives. I like to call it “Facebook lives”. On Facebook, everyone seems to have the ideal life. They go on vacations all the time, climb mountains, their kids are well behaved, their houses are spotless, they get along with their entire family, they have the perfect marriage, they are in perfect health, they run 5 miles every day and they are better than you.

I can’t be around those people. The struggles I have with bipolar disorder, my family and life in general makes it difficult for me to be around people who I deem to be not genuine. We all have issues, we all have problems, and we all have struggles. I spent my life being around people who claimed their lives were perfect everything works in their favor and in turn it made me struggle with authenticity with myself. I spent a good portion of my life just trying to get my personality to fit.
I tried hard to hide the pain that I was feeling and deny my depression. Because of this, I never knew who I truly was and I felt that I was the only one dealing with the dark side of life. It worsened my depression and it caused me to think that I was unfit on unworthy to be happy or to be part of this world.

The best relationships for me are with those people who are truly authentic and can admit failure, defeat and pain. They can confess that yes they truly do not like their sister or had a difficult childhood. They can admit that they’re having problems with their marriage, or that having kids was much more difficult than it should be. They can admit that they used have a drug problem or one point in life had thoughts of suicide.


The more I surround myself with authentic people, the better my chances of being able to be extremely authentic with myself. It is the only way that I can accept myself and learn that everybody has struggles everyone has problems and that I deserve to be in this world just as much as anyone.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Quiet

Quiet

I am afraid of quiet.

When the house is calm

My brain is not.

There is so much noise

Racket in my head.

What to do today?

Why are you not productive?

Why are you worthless?

 I can’t silence the sound of the negative.

Silence the hurt and the pain.

The grief that resurfaces.

A motherless child

Afraid of the chatter.

The quiet opens the door

I play music and TV

Just to drown out the sounds.

The hushed tones scare me

The monsters wait for me

In the quiet.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Paragon

“Time to eat!” my mother called.
I heard her words but I had made a vow to myself that I was going to finish this book before the night was over. I was sprawled across my bed reading as fast I could letting my imagination take me to places I had never been before.
I hated my reality and so you could always find me lost in a book trying to escape the cramped quarters, trying to survive in a house full of people.
There were 9 of us. 6 girls and 3 boys. My parents resources were limited but they did everything they could to feed us and take care of us.
Because of this, when my mother said the food was ready to eat, you needed to be in the kitchen getting your plate.
I, lost in my imagination, wasn’t ready to come back to the real world. I laid there with my nose in a book for another hour.
Finally, I came up for air and decide that I was hungry now and wanted something to eat. My mother was in the kitchen washing dishes when I arrived searching for food.  My mom used to have this huge pot that we called the Jeffrey Dahmer pot. Okay, I know that may sound sick and creepy, but this pot was big enough to cook a body in.  This was the pot that she used to cook pounds and pounds of spaghetti. Well, that night was spaghetti night and inside the pot was nothing but remnants of spaghetti that was long gone.
I was confused.
I went to my mother and I asked her, “Where is my food?”
For a second she didn’t comprehend what I was saying.
 I asked again.
“Momma, did you take my food out?”
She finally realized what I was saying.
“You didn’t eat?” she asked.
I shook my head no.
With all the kids running around eating and making plates, she overlooked the fact that there was one kid missing.
I could see her shoulders slump and a look of sadness tugged at her beautiful features. I could tell she felt bad about the situation. She sighed and walked over to the oven. She pulled out a plate of spaghetti. It was her plate that she had sat aside for herself. She handed it to me. I knew what this gesture meant. This was all the food left. If I ate this, she wouldn’t have anything to eat.
I ate the food and my mother didn’t eat. I always remembered that. There may have been other times that she didn’t eat but I remembered that time because it meant so much to me. I almost wanted to give it back to her but I was a kid and I was hungry so I ate it.

My mother was a paragon of integrity, motherhood and self sacrifice. She is a person I model every day of my life. She always sacrificed for her 9 children until the day she died. We never had much money but she made sure we had everything we needed even if that meant she would go without.
I am the mother I am because of her. When my daughter had issues with anyone, she always knew that she could come to me and we would figure things out. I was always there for them.
My mother is dead and gone and yet she influences me every day. As I parent, I think about my parents and in particular my mother.
Did she suffer from a mental illness? Yes, I believe she did. Did that stop her from being the best mom she knew how to be? No it did not. 
She shows me that even though I have Bipolar disorder, I can still be a good and decent human being. I can be a great mother, wife and friend and not end up on a 20/20 about me murdering someone and using “Bipolar disorder” as a defense.

I am a walking example that this diagnosis is not the end. It is only the beginning of a new chapter in your life. I am ready to fill that new chapter with love faith, family and new adventures. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Outside

On the outside, my life seemed perfect. . I had no reason to complain. I lived a pretty successful life compared to where I had come from. I had a loving husband, beautiful smart talented daughters and the opportunity to pursue my dream as a writer.
On the inside, everything was hanging by an incredibly thin thread. The slightest breeze would send everything crumbling down. One false move and everyone would see it was all a facade and inside I was a mess.
I had come to terms with the fact that deep down I was a fraud and unfit for these people I called my family and friends. I lived knowing that if I let anyone get too close or see too much they would know and I would be alone. It was one of the reason I didn’t feel I had close friends. My husband had friends from kindergarten, friends that have stuck by him since he had memories but I was stuck envying him.
Outside, I seemed to have it all together. On the inside I was spiraling down and had no way of pulling myself back again. I did a good job of hiding what I was going through. At least I thought I was doing a good job.
 I went in to talk to my psychologists. I was telling her about the pills and the effects they had on me when something told me to just mention about my shopping issue. I began to just casually talk about my problem with shopping.

“So, it is just getting out of control.” I said. Not thinking that anything could be done about it.
She seemed concerned. My admission seemed to give her pause.
“Do you find yourself shopping even when you know that you can’t afford to or when you know you don’t have the money to?”
I nodded.
“Does it happen after bouts of depression?”
I nodded.
“Hmmm…” she said.
Now I was anxious and wondering when I could leave so I could take my Xanax medication.
“I’m looking at all your other symptoms and other issues you are having and I am thinking you may have bipolar II disorder.”

I knew my eyes were as round as saucers. Bipolar II? What the hell does that mean? I remember in college I had a roommate that was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. She was a very sweet girl and I loved having her as a roommate but there were times when she would sleep all day. She would fall asleep at night and would not wake until about 6 pm or 7 pm the next evening. I would poke her to make sure she had not died in her sleep. When she was awake she would be extra bubbly and full of energy. Sometimes she would go home for the weekend and just not come back on Monday. By Tuesday I would call her mom to make sure she was alright.
Wednesday she would sneak in our room while I was in class and leave me notes apologizing and telling me she was so sorry that she made me worry.
I remembered her and it was strange how much I missed her as a friend when she eventually dropped out of school and never came back. I don’t really like a lot of people but I really liked her. Maybe our connection was because we were both going through the same tough depression and being away from home for the first time was particularly hard.
I remember when I came home and told my oldest daughter that I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. I thought they were going to freak out or be as shocked as I was. She kind of nodded and said “I figured that was what they were going to say.”
I was even more shocked. It seemed my family thought that I was Bipolar before my doctors even discovered it. They could see my downward spiral, my mood swings, my sudden urges to rearrange the entire house and then my depressions where I would just sit on the couch for weeks and not shower.  Then I would decide to go and buy fabric and sew things all over the house and start making the kids clothes.
They were already figuring out what could be driving me before I was told by professionals.

It was because of them and my husband that I got the help I needed. On the inside my world was falling apart and though a bipolar II disorder diagnosis was not what I was expecting or what I needed…it was a relief to know what was wrong with me. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

No Sleep

Sleep is a necessity. It is a necessity that I neglected to take advantage of. I didn’t sleep for years and it only aided and added to my depression and sometimes to my mania.
It became worse when my mother died in 2010. It always took me a long time to fall asleep. When my head hits the pillow it takes me at least 20 minutes to calm the storm that swirls around in my head thinking about the next day and all the things I did wrong. Eventually I would began to think about my mother and grief would push me out of the bed and force me to find something to do to keep my mind off the pain.
Not sleeping made me feel bad all the time. It made my depression worse. It is hard to be a good mom when you’re not sleeping. I would go to bed at 4 am and then up at 6 am to get the kids ready and off to school. Then I would pass out from exhaustion waking up to find my youngest child who I stayed home with sitting on my back eating chips. Instead of taking her places and having fun with her, I was sleeping while she sat alone.

Instead of depression, sometimes it would lead to extreme mania. When I am having a manic episode nothing really matters. I only have time to focus on these projects. I would neglect the needs of my family and friends thinking erroneously that it was helping them in the long run.
I would become so energetic that I would get these grandiose ideas that felt I needed to implement right at that second. I have been known to take on more projects than I could handle. I started a publishing company; a body scrubs company, a jewelry making and selling company and a holiday basket company. Only one of these companies that made money was my publishing company. The rest were just hemorrhaging money.  It was taking a toll on my family because on the weekends I was always gone to craft fairs selling my items.
On top of spending all my time working on these projects I was taking care of the household and not sleeping. I would be up at all hours of the night making scrubs, writing, making jewelry and playing candy crush.
Anything other than sleeping.
I also started making websites, a cooking blog and three writing blogs. I maintained seven social media sites and I spent all my time doing that.
I thought, “These projects are going to make so much money my family is going to be so happy.” That is never the case.
Besides my writing, nothing else really made that much money and I was taking savings from my family. It took my husband sitting me down and making me keep all my receipts and keeping track of it all. That is when I realized none of it was worth it.
That doesn’t stop me the next time. Then instead of starting new businesses, I start three or four novels at once. I burn all the energy and would have nothing left for my family.
Sleep wasn’t a priority.
Eventually it began to change my body’s sense of time. I began to consider day time as the time I slept and night time as the time I worked and ate. It caused me to gain weight and I was miserable. The weight gain only began to make me depressed but I no longer felt good about myself.

It took medication and a conscious effort to change. At first I began to take sleeping pills hoping that would help me. That was before my diagnosis. Once I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I was given medication that could only be taken at night and would leave me drowsy. Soon I was going to bed at a normal hour with enough energy to get up in the morning and be productive.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Mania

 I sat sobbing one afternoon.
 It was not unlike many other afternoons I must confess.
However, this time I was crying and I actually knew what the hell I was crying about. I was crying uncontrollably and I could not stop. I buried my face in a pillow trying to catch my breath.
There was a spot deep down inside of me that was searing and in pain. That spot was suddenly now exposed and the pain it brought felt unbearable.
My kids were fine, the cats, my husband…everyone was fine. No one n my family had died recently but there I was, laying across my bed crying like there was no tomorrow.
“Hand over your credit cards” was still playing in my head. I kept thinking, what was I going to do without my credit cards?  How was I going to feel better?
My husband didn’t expect this response. He was dumbfounded. I had been spending way too much money and he was trying to save us from total destruction from Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Target.
Through my tears, my brain was logically trying to access the level of the threat. It came to the conclusion that something was wrong here. I shouldn’t be in this much pain over credit cards. I knew that what I was experiencing was a bad response to a sudden jolt of reality.
It was the end of a manic episode for me and I was not taking it very well.
Most people don’t understand what it means to be manic. They assume you are just in good spirits or extraordinarily excited.
When sufferers of Bipolar disorder experience mania they can have an abnormally elevated irritable mood. They have an inflated self esteem, insomnia, extremely talkative, and/or get involved with extremely risky behavior that usually has bad consequences. It can also lead to psychosis and hospitalization.
I experienced all those symptoms except psychosis and hospitalization even though there were occasions my husband entertained the idea of putting me on a 72 hour hold at the hospital. My mania was making me appear psychotic.
Mania was always a welcomed friend after bouts of depression so much so I never realized when it was getting out of hand. When I was manic, I would start to feel better about myself. I tried to give up food as my manic vice, but that only led to other ways to cope.
I began to shop and shop all the time. When my husband would tell me I needed to stop spending money so we could save or have basic necessities, I would try to stop but then I would get that urge and before I knew it I was spending money again.
I know many people say, “I’m a shopaholic.” And yes there are people that love to shop. It becomes a problem when you are spending more than you have and immediately afterward you feel like shit and want to kill yourself. I mean literally kill yourself. End it all because you bout three vases, a scratching post, hundreds of dollars in groceries that were not needed and other things we could live without just to push down the demons of depression.
It is more than just a normal shopping problem. It is a “I have to shop or I might die,” problem. When you have to lie just to buy some curtains you know you have a problem. I would take out credit cards without telling anyone and just spend until I max them out. When I came home I would pray my husband didn’t come home first then I would put everything away. When my husband noticed anything new, I would put it off as something I have had for years that he must have overlooked.
While I was spending the money, I felt amazing. It was like a drug that I was addicted to. It was one of the best feelings ever. I would just grab whatever I wanted and it felt so good. I don’t have expensive taste and that is what I used to explain away my problem. “Well at least I don’t buy Gucci or anything.” Yet, when you’re spending $100 at Dollar Tree on NOTHING you have a problem.
Before my diagnosis, I didn’t understand that this was a part of my disorder. I assumed something was wrong with me but I just thought I was a bad person. I could not explain to my husband why I kept doing this. Why I took out credit card after credit card and lied about it. He assumed I didn’t care and planned to just spend us out of house and home.
Now that we know what is really going on we have begin to curtail my spending together.

It took medication and lots of work. It took cutting up credit cards, paying them off and closing accounts to get me and my family back on track. We still have credit cards that need to be paid off from my manic shopping and spending. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Language

Languages are beautiful.
I spent over six years studying Spanish and I have a desire to learn Italian and French. I love and respect all of the many languages of the world.
With that being said, it is also imperative I point out how important good communication is between two parties. When two people do not speak the same language it is difficult to have good communication.
Good communication is especially important when you are lying naked and vulnerable on a massage table and the masseuse has no idea what you are saying. And…that masseuse has torture devices as fingers.
If you thought I was going to go into something profound about the history of language or something you would be wrong. I am here merely to tell you about an encounter I had on my birthday.
My husband got me a gift and as you can tell it was a trip to get a massage. It was a local place near us. I had been there before and rather enjoyed myself. Why wouldn’t I go again?
This time they hired someone new or she was new to me. I noticed when I came in to pay she didn’t speak English very well. She was a short Asian lady with short dark hair. As I said before, I only studied Spanish in school so I knew we had a slight hiccup.
I shrugged it off and thought, I don’t like to talk when I am getting a massage and what she has to do shouldn’t require much talking on her part so we should be ok. I went into the room and stripped down to my underwear. I got on the table, placed the sheet on me and laid on my chest making sure I left my back exposed.
She entered after and started some music. The soft sound of the waves crashing into the sandy beaches played through the speakers. It was a calming and relaxing sound and I settled in, anticipating a nice relaxing massage.
Then it began.
She began to knead me like I was dough and she wanted to reshape me into something else. I winced in pain as she focused on my upper back. I didn’t say anything at first. I thought, maybe it will get better. There could be some kinks she needs to get out.
Suddenly she did a move on my back that sent sharp pains throughout my body and that was enough.
I sat up.
“Stop! Stop!” I said.
She froze.
“Softer, please!”
She looked confused eyes wide.
I took a deep breath.
“Please, a little softer.”
She nodded.
Then the torture began again. Just a tiny, tiny bit softer.
“Please, softer.” I said trying not to sound too mean.
“It’s okay?” she asked.
No, it wasn’t okay, but I didn’t know what to do. I was already naked, the fee had been paid and I knew she couldn’t understand what I was saying.
“Yes, it’s okay,” I answered and lay back on the bed.
When the painful massage was over, she left room to let me dress. I started to redress thinking I’m going to need a massage to make me feel better about the massage I just had. Suddenly I heard a knock on the door.
“I’m not ready,” I said standing in only my pants and bra.
Of course she doesn’t understand me because she can’t speak English very well. So, she just walks right in and begins clearing the sheets off the table.
I sighed, dressed and exited. I left her a tip anyway.  If leaving me battered and bruised was what I had wanted…she did an amazing job.

So, that was my story about language barriers and how I ended up with a sore back the morning after my birthday.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Kittens

Grief is a difficult thing to overcome. My mother died in 2010 and in the next five years I would lose many more relatives that I was close to. Grief was all consuming at one time and I was pushed into a downward spiral of depression.

Good thing for me I have a service cat that helps me with my anxiety and my depression.
My Service Cat named Pat

When my mother died she was in possession of something that I have always loved and would always pull me out of my depression. She was the owner of a three week old kitten. It was the cutest kitten that I had ever seen. He was tiny and orange and tan in color. He was still attached to his mother and had not been weaned yet.

It was one thing that my mother and I had in common. We both held a strong bond with kittens and cats and could not see our lives without having one wandering and lying around the house. When I was little my mom bought me an expensive encyclopedia about cats and the different breeds. I studied it and learned all about cats and their behavior.

The stray cats in the neighborhood were fed by my mother and me. Even if it was the last slice of bologna in our poor house I would feed it to the neighborhood cats. I would wake up in the morning
and find cats waiting outside my window for me to feed them.

The last conversation I had with my mother was a call from her about the three week old kitten she had. I had just been home that weekend and was able to hold and cuddle with the kitty. We talked awhile and then we ended the call. That was a Tuesday. That Sunday she was gone and I was left with the kitten that I named after her.

Since her death he has been my service cat. Whenever I think of her or miss her I cuddle with him. He is also attuned to my anxiety and when I am sad. If I show the least bit of anxiety he comes over and rubs my leg with his head. 

That is why I love kittens and cats. It was why I adopted another cat a year after we moved here from Indiana. Now, he is no service cat. He for the most part drives me crazy. But, my cats are good at pulling me out of my depression on some days and those days when they can’t pull me out of it, they are there when I cry to comfort me and to cuddle. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Jump

I was a full grown adult when I learned to swim. Oh, I mean a full grown adult who was married with three kids when I learned to swim. My irrational anxiety induced fear of drowning in water that came up to my neck…water I could stand up in and it would only come to my chin kept me from learning.

Eventually, because my kids were learning and I didn’t want to have that fear anymore, I paid an instructor through the city to teach me how to swim. It took a lot for me to talk my brain out of panicking every  time I entered the water. I learned to float on my back and it took another two weeks before I could learn to float on my stomach.

One thing I noticed every time I went for lessons was that my swim instructor would always jump into the water. She jumped in without a care in the world. I on the other hand would ease in gently still afraid of going completely under water.

I realized that the way I entered the pool was how I entered my life. I was never spontaneous or adventurous. I was always cautious. It also reminded me when I played poker in college. I was incredibly good at Texas Hold ‘em poker but I was still very cautious. My husband was the “I’m all in!” type and I was more “let’s just bet a little at a time” type. I never wanted to take a substantial risk.

33 years of this and I realize…I’m bored with always playing it safe. I hate that my anxiety keeps me from just letting go and having some fun. When I am having a manic episode sometimes I am able to throw caution to the wind and have some fun, but mania “fun and uninhibited pleasure” normally always leads to regret and depression. I never make the best decisions when I’m manic.

My goal is to purposefully make the decision to do something not in my little box of comfort. I want to engage in an activity I would not normally do yet something that I would not regret. I just got that opportunity when my friend invited me on a Girl’s weekend in Las Vegas.

My friend would be driving me and a few other ladies to Vegas in her van. I was down to have some fun without my kids or my husband, It sounded wonderful that I would only have me to take care of for a weekend. The trip to Las Vegas was not the anxiety inducing part of the adventure. Oh no! The problem is that I have to drive to Santa Clarita and meet up with my friend before we head to Vegas.

I may never have mentioned this before but…I am TERRIFIED of driving through the mountains. I was born and raised in Indiana. There are no mountains in Indiana so I fear driving through them. Whenever we go to LA or anywhere in southern California, I always make my husband drive.

My brain tells me “You are literally going to die. You are going to fall of the mountain and die. That is your fate.”


However, I’m doing it guys. I am driving alone to Santa Clarita and I’m going to Las Vegas. It is hard to shut my brain up and to get rid of the thoughts of failure or doom. I live with those types of thoughts on a daily basis but I am tired of being bored with my life and want to jump in the pool. I want to jump in despite the fear I have.