Mania and Me

Warning: This is not a feel-good post, nor is it a poor me post. This is a real, unedited, unfiltered informational post about mania and my manic experience in general. The important thing to remember is I know the way back with my eyes closed and I am not currently a danger to myself or others.

The first thing that signals the possibility of an emerging manic state is irritation for me. To be clear, humans irritate me about 98% of the time on a good day, so this is another level of irritation. Something that I would typically be able to react to for a moment, then let go becomes something that literally consumes my every thought, emotion and action. I can hold a grudge like a lover leaving for a long voyage, desperately and tightly, every muscle in my body in a death grip. Like a locked jaw on a mad dog, I cannot let go. My logical, Spock-like mind has been hijacked, gagged and bound and locked in a deep hole in a dark place no one can find. I am once again feeling as though the conductor’s chair is unmanned and the train is still running full speed ahead to an abruptly ending track and off the cliff we go…weeeeee! (but that’s much later)

The next thing that happens is a rage that, alongside the fixation, works me into a state where my heart is pounding, my pulse is racing and my thoughts are a cyclone of incomplete thoughts, repeating themes and an overall sense of chaos and loss of control.

Enter the third stage – control. What can I possibly control in this shit storm called my life? One thing and one thing only; what I eat, or don’t eat. I developed this skill growing up and some of you know the backstory, but it is not really important in this particular situation. I will literally starve myself because the powerful illusion of control that it provides is like heroin to a junkie or good sex to a sex addict; a nice tall glass of Scotch for the alcoholic or a crazy good sale with someone paying for it for the shopping addict or all of the above for me. Fill in the blank, you know what I mean.

The next and last step is to shelter and seek help. Whether that means leaving work, placing a call to my psychiatrist, a friend or all of the above. I know where this road goes, I know how the early stages feel like a blessing with more energy, thoughts and ideas flowing like rivers after the thaw, white waters raging powerfully. At some point, I’m not riding the waters, I’m under them. That’s typically when things have gone a bit too far. I like to believe that I am a strong person, but I am no fool. Mania is not a fuzzy, cute kitten that purrs and cuddles; it is an attacking lion, blood thirsty and lethal. Left alone and untreated, it is death; death of sanity, death of reason, of sound mind and spirit.

So, I’m off to call the good doctor, yet again. If I were to say that I am tired of this fight, it would be yet another statement of the obvious. There is no alternative that is a good alternative; wishful thinking and willpower will get me only one thing and that’s dead and/or delusional. Neither one looks good on me, so fight on I will.

Thanks for being there, for accepting me, the good, the bad and the “Oh My God Did She Just Do/Say That?”

Thank you for extending a hand, lending a shoulder and for drawing me out when I wanted to fade to black. I consider myself one of the fortunate ones, like someone who is struck by lightning, not once or twice, but many times and still lives to tell the tale. That’s my silver lining, making lemonade from lemons. It’s never all good or all bad, only more lessons to learn from, more opportunities to adapt, overcome and excel.

For educational information, resources  and/or to get involved, please click on the link below to go to the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website.

https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI

 

O.M.A. – Other Mother Always

My ex-husband’s mother, Margie, passed away last month and her birthday was yesterday. I am still coming to terms with what that means to me personally and to those who knew her and loved her. She told me once that when someone new comes into your life, you don’t kick anyone out, you just make more room in your heart for them. That was the essence of who she was; loving, all-inclusive, funny, fiercely protective of her loved ones and generous to a fault. She was my rock when I felt I like the riptide of mental instability was pulling me under; she reminded me I was more than a diagnosis and she never gave up on me. She is one of the first people to give me a mirror that wasn’t shattered, distorted or warped; I could see the beauty, the promise, the goodness and the strength that she saw. For this and for too many other reasons to mention, I will carry her with me in my heart, speak her words of love and compassion, make room in my heart for those who need a safe harbor and I will continue to talk to her, sing to her and if I ever do get married again, I know she will be wearing her dancing shoes and dancing up a storm, as promised. Until we meet again.

Fate’s Saving Grace

There are those who go through Life blindly trudging their way through each day, with no direction or purpose in their stride, just trying to make it through until they can escape into the refuge of the night and the fantasy of sleep, only to rise again in the morning and repeat the monotony of another day. They seem to believe that this is their destiny, to accept what is offered to them, no matter how incomplete they may feel, for this is all that they deserve. They like themselves, but do not truly love the person they are; they do what is expected of them and never question what they are told. They exist, but do not enjoy or love the life that is theirs.

If Fate looks kindly upon these people and if they can keep their eyes and hearts open, someone will enter their life who will help them to realize that they are indeed a very special person; that they can realize their hopes and make their dreams a reality. This someone will not tell them what to do, but offer them a way to accomplish what they desire; or maybe by speaking to them, listening to their words, can help them help themselves. By being a different kind of mirror for them to see themselves through, without all the insecurities and faults they see; with a clearer reflection of who they really are.

To encounter a person such as this is a very rare find indeed and should be treasured for their talents and dedication. In a world that is mostly negative and cold, it is exceptionally refreshing to find someone who is positive and warm, genuine and caring and truly desires to help those who do not know how to help themselves.

Such a person may sound like a dream or a character from a child’s book of fairy tales but I have found a person who is all of this and more; she has helped me to realize that I was one of those people stumbling blindly through my days and has given me the praise, encouragement and wisdom that has enabled me to love myself enough to demand more from Life than what is offered, to realize that dreams can become realities and to know that nothing is impossible so long as you believe. I do believe.

 

Missing You

 

I miss my morning email from you, like a big hug from far away.

I miss the thrill that it gives me, the lift to my spirits

I miss your eloquence, your intelligence and your point of view

I miss your stories of everyday activities, dearly held dreams and even your darkest fears.

I miss the connection, the history and what we’ve built together.

I miss the knowing, the laughing and the encouraging.

I miss the reminiscing of happy days, the sharing of hopes and dreams,

seeking out our truths, discovering life is not always what it seems.

I miss you, every bit and part and piece of you. Like an addict without her drug,

I feel your absence like a painful wound; darkness where light used to live.

I’d almost forgotten what life was like before I met you.

I’ve become addicted to your wit, your humor and your unique perspective; your point of view.

I crave the conversation, the debate, the exploration of thoughts and philosophy of living.

As with most creatures rare and beautiful, you seek solitude and safety when the world becomes too much;

too much noise, too much pain, too many voices, too much chaos.

I know you are hurting and I wish I could make it all go away.

But you are there and I am here, you walking your path and I, on mine.

I can’t promise I’ll be here forever, no more than you can promise me.

But I know we’ll meet again one day.

Maybe not this at this time and in this place,

perhaps not in this body and not with this face.

I found you once before and I truly wish no more

than to find you once again.

I miss you

and wonder

do you miss me, too?

 

 

Crossroads Crossing

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I am at a crossroads in my life,

Turn left for a wild dream, an impossible possibility

Keep right to continue the course I’m on,

chained to my desk, in my cubicle, confined.

It’s not a cell if there are no bars, right?

Golden handcuffs encircle my wrists, keeping me from straying.

I have been here for two decades already and feel as if

I’m at the Hotel California, workday edition.

I can check out anytime I like, but I can never leave

(well, at least not until I’m 55)

It’s a place of topsy-turvy logic, where the rare and ever-elusive

common sense is supposed to roam, but I have yet to see it.

Where bad and mediocre are rewarded,

good is overworked, anonymous and taken for granted,

worked into the ground, ground into bits.

I ask myself – how much more can I take?

Of biting my tongue so much I have only a stump left

and words pile up likerocks in an empty well,

Feelings of frustration and stagnation rule the day.

Perhaps the crossroads really isn’t about choosing a direction or changing course;

maybe it’s more about attitude and acknowledgment.

Acknowledging the fact that with the soul-sucking atmosphere of any cubicle colony,

comes a steady income and the sense of security.

Keeping an attitude of gratitude and understanding that today’s hardships are

the lessons I’ll need tomorrow.

Understanding that wherever I go, I take myself with me.

Of having faith that there is a greater good and a reason for it all;

Knowing that this, too shall pass.

It all shall pass and all too quickly for the good times, the days of summer and

the wild nights that only youth in its arrogance can orchestrate.

In their place now are quiet nights of contemplation and relaxation,

Looking forward to a new chapter, a new direction and creating new memories,

Traveling and exploring, finding beauty in everyday life,

love in everyday interactions.

I am at a crossroads and I close my eyes, spin in a circle then open them,

walking forward, trusting my intuition to guide me.

With an open mind and my preconceived notions unpacked and left behind,

I move forward, always forward, away from the past, fully living in the present, heading

for a future that is unknown yet I’m certain full of promise.

Issues, Therapy and Me

I couldn’t write about issues without including this song; it’s been the anthem for my whole life, especially when it comes to love. Enjoy.

I know it’s been quite a long time since I last wrote, but I have been going through an awakening, of sorts. Actually, it may be more of a emergence from a long-term state of denial. I have known for quite some time that there are some deeply seated, dark and painful memories that have haunted me in my weaker moments from time to time. I say in my weaker moments because like anyone who is in denial, there is a certain amount of energy and headspace that you have to maintain, like throwing a sheet over an attacking mountain lion, basically. As long as the sheet stays in place, the big kitty can’t see me and therefore, cannot bite, chew and eat me. But once the sheet slips, the eyes lock, the body lowers and the hindquarters twitch, pupils dilate and the mouth waters in anticipation of that delicious first bite into my sweet, white flesh. Denial is the sheet and the memories are the mountain lion; so long as my state of denial was firmly in place, I was protected from those memories and if they even came up, they were  heavily photoshopped and edited to the point of being unrecognizable. That is another component of not only denial, but basic human survival. Our mind will do whatever it takes to get through whatever is happening, whether that be fracturing into different personalities, wiping the memory entirely from the mind or rewriting the scene to be an entirely different experience and transporting oneself to that beautiful, safe place. At any rate, I have known on an intellectual level for some time now that therapy would be something that could potentially help me to really, truly work through the memories, the events, the recurring thoughts and anxiety that are frequent visitors to my psyche. Having my 50th birthday approaching may have been the extra nudge from the Universe that I needed or maybe I had made an agreement with myself a long time ago (when I thought 50 was basically on death’s door) that I would deal with any demons I picked up along the way well before that specific birthday; whatever the case, I found a therapist named Lisa, had a getting to know you session and now have an appointment to come back and begin therapy.

The type of therapy that Lisa would like to do with me is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) and I actually know someone who has had many sessions with her therapist and was amazed at the results. It is a relatively new form of therapy and does not involve pharmaceuticals in any form, so therefore there is a belief in some circles that it’s not real therapy. I believe the people’s experiences speak for themselves and there are a great deal of them. It has shown great promise with victims of rape, violent crime, natural disaster survivors and those diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) including but not limited to military veterans. In the book I’m currently reading entitled “EMDR” by Francine Shapiro, there is a woman who survived the Oklahoma City bombing and her story, along with many others are nothing short of miraculous. Should you wish to learn more about EMDR, click on the link below.

http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

Now, all that said, there is still a certain hesitation to open Pandora’s box, to remove the sheet and face the mountain lion; there is a comfort in stagnation for me in many ways. Change is pain and pain is what I’ll do anything to avoid even if it means more pain. Funny how that works. These issues have been my unwanted passengers for decades now and have effected my life in every possible way imaginable. Even then, they have not been successful in their desire to see me fold, quit and ultimately take my life. I have dreamt of being free of them all, the burden lifted, the darkness made to light. Well, dreams are all fine and good but at some point, I must wake up. This is my awakening and I’m going to share it with you as I go. I believe that we as a whole have more in common when it comes to dealing with demons and living through horrific events than we are aware. If any portion of my story reaches someone else, causes a shift in thinking, an opening where hope can shine through, I’m all for that. That’s basically why I keep waking up each morning, apparently. I have to believe that all of the negative that has attached itself to me throughout my life thus far has simply been for my education and in return, to share those lessons, revelations or insights.

In the words of the great Malcolm X –

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”

All that being said, I will be more than happy when I have been able to get the lesson wrapped in a shell of pain, unwrap it, throw away the shell and take the lesson with me as I move forward, a bit more stronger and wiser. I’m happy to have you on this journey with me and as always, amazed and pleased that someone is still reading what I’m writing. Thanks for that and thanks for believing in me.

Wishing you a great 4th of July everyone! May you celebrate your own personal independence in whatever way you choose. A huge thank you, hugs and kisses to all our military service men and women out there. You are the heart and soul of all of us. Words will never be enough to thank those who are with us and those who have fought and sacrificed their lives for what they believed in and what we enjoy today; freedom.

Out of the Rabbit Hole I Go

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The mind is a beautiful, complex and multi-faceted thing; it can transform the humdrum everyday ordinary world that we live in to a place of mystery and intrigue, wizards and warlocks, magicians and Merlin. Simply by picking up a book and delving into the words, our minds bring forth every color, character and conversation in such a way as to make us feel as if we are truly living in the story. This is one of the things I love about the mind and as you can imagine (having such a beautiful mind as you do) that with every action there exists an equal and opposite reaction (shout out to Newton) and with every rose there is a thorn (shout out to Poison).

For every magical, fantastical and amazing journey I travel in my mind, there is an equal and opposite journey, which is disturbing, dark and often in a barren desert of desolation, shades of black and slate. It is a forest where trees of self-loathing and doubt grow tall, reaching for the sky, stretching upwards, blocking out the sun of self-worth and self-esteem. It’s the ocean of hurt caused by living a life built on mistakes and bad choices; the riptide always pulling me under, telling me to surrender, to quit and just let go. That’s the only way out of the pain, it lies with the skill of the Devil himself. It pours salt in those wounds, and the mind delivers memories that come as lightning bolts to my brain, branding the memory, embedding it forever to remember as another loss, another failure, another broken heart. Sometimes I feel as though I’m just an ant on leaf in a roaring river of white water, being swept away, holding on for dear life to the fragile grip I have. The emotions make me feel it, the mind makes me believe it. So, I have often wondered how much control do I actually have over this maniacal mind? I have struggled with my emotions for my entire life (as most people with a pulse have) and while I don’t believe I will ever “master” my emotions, I believe I have a better understanding of why feeling them is so necessary. Not allowing the painful memories to be remembered sets you up to forget the lesson that made it so painful, which sets you up to make the same mistake again and again. Not feeling the bad feelings by self-medicating or denial leads to addiction and a loss of connection to reality, a state of constant effort to suppress, forget and wish it into oblivion. If it sounds exhausting, it’s because it is. The truth shall set you free, yes, but as they say…this may hurt a bit.

Ok – so ramble, ramble. Sorry I think I got a touch off path. What all this is about is what happens after I fall down the rabbit hole of these thoughts, these emotions and the resulting isolation, depression and exhaustion. It’s not as extensive as the aftermath of a really good (bad) manic episode, but it has its own challenges; reconnecting with those you l love and who love me, hoping they will still be around and don’t take the time away personally. Rebuilding the self-esteem, the picture of me I carry around in my mind and validating changes that I need to make. The things I need to do to make my life more of what I need it to be and in time, the legacy I leave behind when I go wherever I will go (shout out St. Peter, with any luck). Time to get out of the rabbit hole and back into the world; open the blinds, let the light in and try, try again.

Thanks for stopping by.

Lead Me Not Into False Expectations

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” -Semisonic

It’s another New Year, another time for new beginnings, resolutions (if you’re into that sort of thing) and a blank page in a yet unwritten book. I am wary of making resolutions due to the fact they are usually slightly unrealistic. If I were to make a resolution that I wouldn’t go all Hulk-like in traffic, but I had done nothing to change my frame of mind or manage my emotions, then I’m fairly certain my effort would be met with failure, or at the very least an inability to magically transform my commute from December 31, 2016 to January 1, 2017. When you think about it, it’s really just a change from one calendar to another; from a Sunday to a Monday. If my resolution is to not drink but I have a full cupboard of alcohol that I see every time I reach for a glass, it will be more difficult to not grab that bottle and have “just one” drink. If I haven’t dug deep to find out the “why” behind the drinking then my resolution is dependent upon my mood; if my mood goes dark and dangerous and I haven’t developed any healthy coping skills, then guess what? Chug-a-lug. Another great reason for my resolutions to fail is that I make them based on what I think I should do, not what I really want to do. Making a resolution to lose weight, so that the hot guy I have a huge crush on will notice (and hopefully fall in love with) me. Making a resolution to start attending mass on a regular basis because my parents (God rest their souls) would be pleased, as they look down upon me from Heaven. Or even better, so that I can get in God’s good grace and therefore avoid the fiery alternative. These are all great resolutions, as great as resolutions can be, but they are doomed to be unsuccessful if I haven’t invested in them long before January 1st.

I prefer to set intentions rather than resolutions. They are much more forgiving, loosely defined and honestly, give me an out if things don’t go according to plan.

in·ten·tion
inˈten(t)SH(ə)n/
noun
1.
a thing intended; an aim or plan.
“she was full of good intentions”
2.
MEDICINE
the healing process of a wound.

– Google Search

I love the second definition because the majority of my intentions do involve the healing and recovering from wounds, be it physical or emotional. My intention is to forgive those who have wounded me, but that may take not days, but years. My intention is to forgive myself for the wounds I have inflicted on others. My intention is to accept my faults and failures and love myself unconditionally, which will be my intention for every New Year until my Last Year.

I feel the danger in resolutions is that they lead us into false expectations; by changing my physical appearance, I will find love. By doing things for others, I will be accepted and loved. It’s not the resolution so much as it is the expected outcome. Realistically losing weight will not guarantee that the hot guy falls in love with me, especially if he’s gay, married or simply not interested. Not drinking alcohol is a great resolution, but there is much more involved than just not raising a glass to my lips. Forgiving others is a great idea, but that means letting go of old hurts and grudges. If they have been your constant companion for years and help you to feel righteous in your belief that they are in the wrong, then it will take much more effort than simply thinking you forgive them. One must take personally responsibility for their role in what happened and own up to it. My dad used to say, “It’s not the making of a mistake that should embarrass a person, so much as their failure to benefit from it.”

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Learning from mistakes so that we don’t make the same ones over and over is more helpful (in my experience) than making a resolution that is unrealistic.

So, Happy New Year to one and all! May this year bring you comfort when you’re distressed, company when you’re lonely, a hand to hold when you’re frightened and a safe harbor during Life’s many storms; the courage to face your fears, the strength to slay your dragons and the faith to believe that there is more to Life than just crossing days off the calendar and making unrealistic expectations. Peace and love to you all!

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Not So Happy Holidays

Well, we have made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas, now all eyes are looking toward the New Year and the promise of new beginnings. Some will look upon the end of the holiday season with a sadness, a realization that the magic of the season has left along with the clearance-priced ornaments, Christmas cards and the ever-present box of chocolates. Others will welcome an end to the forced cheerfulness, the endless demands of the holiday season, including but not limited to Black Friday shopping, the unspoken expectation that everything must be FESTIVE and everyone should be DELIRIOUS WITH HAPPINESS. You must get the perfect gift, sit alongside family members you haven’t spoken to all year and do your best imitation of a happy, loving family. I think more effort is spent each year acting like we are happy, not alone or lonely; pretending we are immersed in the joy of the season, when in reality, we are immersed in a sadness that colors all the holiday lights a brighter shade of grey because everything and everyone is grey. For those of us who feel this way during the holidays, there doesn’t seem to be a place where we can just be what we are, which ultimately is some degree of depressed. Maybe it’s the forced merriment, maybe it’s the manic pace of the season, the never-ending demands of shopping, decorating, attending parties, kisses under the mistletoe and boatloads of eggnog or the over abundance of alcohol and sugar-laden foods or maybe it’s just the fact that we can’t be with the one we want, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because the holidays always make us think of family members who are no longer with us, loved ones who maybe don’t love us like they used to, family that isn’t quite family any more. Maybe it’s because the real message of Christmas has been drowned out by the crass commercialism and unrealistic expectations set forth by some ad folks in some corporation somewhere. Whatever the reason, no matter how many, those of us who struggle through the holidays don’t stop struggling when the holiday season comes to a close. If anything, we may experience some tiny measure of relief when they pass, but depression is not a seasonal disorder; it is a year-round, take no holidays, 24/7 kind of condition.

My wish is for the spirit of Christmas (the real spirit) to burn brightly within my heart, be shown in my actions and be shared with all I encounter, this New Year and all throughout the years. Just because the calendar says January and the Christmas tree and decorations have been taken down, the Christmas music has (FINALLY) stopped playing in the stores doesn’t mean that goodwill towards your fellow man has to be put away, too. Keep those thoughts in the fore front of your mind, keep the love alive in your heart and above all else, love yourself, celebrate everything that makes you who you are, even if you’re not crazy about those traits. I personally am not overjoyed when my mood takes a trip on the Rocky Roller Coaster ride that only bipolar disorder could design but it’s a part of me; it’s not a curse nor is it a blessing, just a part of me as much as my curly hair and hazel eyes. It has taken me a long time to accept it, not rage against the unfairness of it all, wishing things could be different while doing nothing to change anything. For the best gift we can give is love; to oneself first and foremost and from that self-love, we can send it out to others.

If there is someone you haven’t connected with in a while and they’ve been on your mind, pick up the phone, give them a call and reach out. Chances are that they are thinking of you, too. We don’t know how many Christmases we will have, how many opportunities to say we love them, we are sorry or we just miss them. The smallest gesture can make the biggest difference to someone who is starved for kindness.

Thank you for your support, your encouragement and your love. You continue to make a difference in my life and I appreciate you tremendously.

Happy New Year to you, my friends.

Thank You…Again

Thank you for the endless chatter and non-stop noise,

as it makes me appreciate the peaceful quiet.

Thank you for the irritation,

as it makes me value the calm.

Thank you for the lessons carried to me by tempestuous storms,

as it helps me to realize knowledge comes in many forms.

Thank you for my sense of humor and sense to walk away,

as it keeps me from acting out in a not-so-pleasant way.

Thank you for the tough times, the hard times

as it makes me appreciate the good times even more.

Thank you for the patience I thought I’d already lost,

as I really need to keep my calm, no matter the cost.

Thank you for the people who love me even when I don’t love myself,

as without you, I’d be housed in an urn, stored on a shelf.

 

 

Weddings Always Make Me Cry

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I was fortunate enough to be at the wedding of two truly amazing people yesterday. I have known the bride for years, as she is one of Devon’s core (Hard Core!) group of oldest, best friends. Her now-husband is an intelligent, quiet and thoughtful man who absolutely and whole heartedly loves her with every cell in his being. The feeling is mutual of course and though I know they have struggles, tough times, trying situations and all, I have every faith that they will grow old together, hold hands when they walk down the street, gaze into each other’s eyes like they are seeing them for the first time, every time. These two are hope for happiness, a shining example that True Love is alive and well, working its magic and giving glow to all those around them.

The wedding was a simple ceremony, but the collective love was so great, it created a wave that just flowed between each and every person there. It touched our hearts, tears of happiness and joy were shed, laughter rang out and strangers became friends; troubles forgotten for the time, just being in the world of these two wonderful people. This is the magic of love, that brings people together, wraps them in a powerful blanket stronger than steel, more valuable than gold. Like armor against a harsh world, their love is their power, their truth and their salvation. I know the challenges that Life can present are oftentimes enormous, but I believe that these two will meet whatever the encounter on the Road of Life with a strong faith in their love and the willingness to do whatever it takes to make it through it. It makes my heart happy to see a gorgeous, confident woman looking absolutely radiant in her wedding dress and remember the young teenager that I first met so many years ago. I never gave birth to a daughter, but I have many daughters of my heart and she is the first.

So, I raise my cup of coffee and wish for you again for all the happiness your hearts can hold, all the sunrises your eyes can see and as much laughter as your body can bear.

Cheers!