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.

 

Begin Again (Again)

Another year, another month in rehab; seems like this cycle never fails to repeat itself. Stress, depression, poor coping skills and ultimately, drinking. Drinking is not the origin of the problem, but the one that usually brings the issue to life in glorious Technicolor and Surround Sound. Learning who I am and why I do the things I do will more than likely be a lifetime project, but I am getting closer to my truths each time. How many times does one have to travel down a road before they recognize it leads to a destination that is not the one they want? How many times do I try again, only to fail? How many times can people be there for me, encourage me and help me when I just fall back to pieces again? Compassionate people have their limits and everyone has something they are battling, be it depression, simple unhappiness, a toxic relationship, addiction, avoidance and a painful past. The painful past doesn’t stay in the past; like a child coloring for the first time, it goes outside the lines of the past and bleeds into the present time, often without our knowing.

One of the things we learn in therapy is why we react the way we do to certain people, places and things (emotions can be included with things) and I am learning that my painful past is fully present in my present day. The strings that lead back to the original pain are like telephone wires, communicating and echoing the pain of the incident long ago. If I do nothing to cut those ties, heal those wounds and exorcise those demons, I will be destined to repeat this process over and over again, until I can fight no more or until I am dead and gone. This is not a post about blaming others for my past, but more to understand how the past is still manipulating my thoughts and with them, my emotional well-being. I have created a great deal of my painful past, simply by being a human being and trying to make myself happy, without having the understanding of how to create real happiness. Alcohol made me happy until it made me dangerous to myself and others; men made me happy until I realized the emotion I was feeling wasn’t happiness, but some ugly deformed cousin of happiness in which their happiness (supposedly) made me happy. The old saying “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” may be true, but it’s better to not pretend love when it’s lust you’re feeling. Not to confuse the two, which I have done for most of my life. If you’ve never felt true, unconditional and pure love from someone, how would you recognize it? The thrill of the love affair brings about emotions that could be mistaken for happiness, but I’m fairly certain that the formula for happiness does not include compromising ones morals or living in secret, experiencing alternating moments of bliss and shame. My life is what I have made it and will continue to be a mix of good and bad, but mostly what lies between the two. I am responsible for my happiness and my well-being. I am not responsible for everyone else on the planet, I cannot save anyone except possibly myself. Others may care, but their lives demand their time and attention, as it should be. The choices I have made in the past have led me to the place I am today as the choices I make today will lead me to tomorrow’s destination.

My painful past is not without its benefits, as pain is a sure sign of growth. I have learned how precious life is and how easily one (me) can believe that I am not worthy of such a precious gift and try to return it. I’m pretty sure God (or Buddha, or my Higher Power) doesn’t want me to take that gift and s**t all over it and return it to Him with a single finger salute. I’m pretty sure the idea is to live the life, to the best of my ability with whatever gifts and challenges that come with it; learn and grow, love and give, have and hold forever and ever. Understanding that to error is human and to forgive, divine is the formula and there is no pass or fail, there is only learning and growing. To love oneself seems simple enough, but for some of us, it is the most difficult challenge we face, every single day. So, I will begin again (again) and keep trying, keep learning and hopefully, ultimately, I will love myself as those of you who love me do. This is my wish and my most passionate prayer. For a life without love is no life at all.

BrotherWord-Love-Thyself

On Loss and Carrying On

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Today marks yet another anniversary of my dear friend JJ passing away and this year, the passing of other, more well-known people has added to the sense of loss. David Bowie, Prince and too many others to mention have left this earth and moved on but not without leaving an imprint on our hearts and in our souls. I will still hear songs by Bowie and Prince, just as I will replay conversations I’ve had with JJ. I still hear my father’s voice when I’m lost and seeking guidance and hear my mother’s voice when I’m doing something that I know would cause her concern and/or anxiety, so in that way, they live on because I will not forget. I will not let the sense of grief and loss keep me from living the life I know they all (well, maybe not specifically D.B. & Prince) would want me to. I believe strongly that we are all interconnected and the more I try to be solitary, aside from everyone else, the more I realize that’s not really possible. What my loved one goes through, I am emotionally right there by their side; when someone is angry and hurting, those feelings project out of them and I feel as though a barrage of emotionally-charged arrows are heading straight for me, like heat-seeking missiles. When I am with someone who is depressed, I cannot help but feel for them; I have been there, I know the way and I know how dark it becomes. I can tell myself it is their problem, their burden to bear and logically it is. But there is a voice that tells me that if I am able to help, I should. If I have a light to give this person to help them find their way through the darkness, how can I not offer it? If I bring happiness or even a temporary relief of a great burden or guilt, does that not benefit me as well?

Prince and David Bowie are part of the soundtrack of my life and they will call to mind the times I’ve had, good, bad and amazing with my friends, my family and you, my dear readers. I will do my best to cherish the good times and not let the loss overshadow the gifts that I’ve been given. When all else fails, I’ll put on their music and just dance.

That’s how I’ll get through this thing called life.

Out of Limbo

I have been in limbo many times in my life, as I’m sure you all have. The Catholic faith refers to Purgatory, the place between Heaven and Hell, or the waiting room of the Afterlife, as Purgatory (I’m pretty sure they don’t refer to it officially as the waiting room of the Afterlife, but I do). You are neither here nor there, but somewhere in between. When a loved one is sick and when there is a particularly difficult diagnosis that’s more like a death sentence; when someone is suffering from a crisis of any sort, be it physical, mental or spiritual. This is what I define limbo as, in my world. The time between realizing I’m terribly depressed and when the medications/therapy/prayers start to lift the heavy blanket of sadness that is my own personal Purgatory. The time between Monday morning and Friday afternoon and between the first day of summer until winter’s arrival are classic examples. You get the idea, I’m sure.

I have come to a point where I am realizing that I have been in emotional limbo for some time now about many people, places and things. I have been, subconsciously or consciously, holding my breath, waiting for something to happen, for Life to deliver my heart’s desire right to my door and I have been accomplishing absolutely nothing because all of these expectations/desires are based on the actions of outside forces; they are nothing that I have any power or control over. Talk about a guaranteed way to heartache and disappointment! So I have chosen to step out of limbo, out of unrealistic expectations, or any expectations at all; just let it be, whatever that is. It’s great to have goals and dreams but it’s important for me to realize that dreams don’t always come true, people will always be who they are at their core and whatever is comfortable for them is what will always be. Change isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and some have a life-threatening allergy to it, so to “Be the change you seek” I now believe means to change yourself and leave the rest of the world alone if you want to have any friends. Not really, but again, you get the idea. Helping people is at best a two edged sword, so why do I insist on grabbing the stupid thing with both hands over and over again? My definition of helping is more than likely someone else’s definition of torture, intrusion and unwelcome/unsolicited advice. I have to keep reminding myself of that when I think I’m doing something positive.

Life is my classroom and the lessons will never stop. It’s not failure if I learned something and I have learned a great deal in the past year. There have been some amazing times, incredible memories that I will always have and nothing can take that away (short of dementia, of course) so I will put my focus where it makes me the happiest, which is within my own personal hula hoop or sphere of influence, if you prefer.

That is the only space in this great Universe that any effort or intention I set forth will be met with success or failure, but it will be based on only my actions. There is a great illusion of control in that and I like that.

Dear Future Me

Dear Future Me,

By the time you read this, you may be really, really old. I hope you are and I hope you are taking good care of us. I am writing to remind you of a few things I hope you haven’t forgotten, but fear you may have. Remember when you promised to be grateful and not take things for granted? All of those aches and pains and moments of forgetfulness you may have been experiencing belong in your attitude of gratitude, your prayer of thanksgiving. For having grown old enough to have those aches and pains is a gift and must been seen as such. If you are to lament each and every time a petal of youth falls from the rose that we are, you will miss the beauty of the rose entirely, for your attention is on that single petal.

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The rose began as a bud, taking time to open fully; once that has happened, it is inevitable that it will slowly begin to die. For with each life there is a death, for each sunrise there is a sunset. Age is no different and therefore it is my hope that you are celebrating each and every morning that you wake up, see the beauty in the trees, the skies that create the masterpiece that is nature. That you hold the hand of the one you love and tell him so, a hundred times a day for a hundred lifetimes, should you be so lucky. That each ache and pain is testament to a life well lived, a milestone reached, challenges met and a host of obstacles overcome.

So, if you are wishing for a younger body or yearning for a day long past, please don’t. We have lived that part of our life and we are now entering yet another new phase, new chapter and new adventure. It will be unlike any we’ve experienced before (an ongoing mission to seek out life after A Certain Age) and just like a carton of ice cream, it’s the last few spoonfuls that are the tastiest because you know after that, it’s all gone. Live that life, love it without fear or agenda, just with pure love for the experience of being. Be the change you seek, continue searching, traveling and exploring. Be ever the student, asking questions and gaining understanding. Never say you’re too old, it’s too late; say yes and then take it on faith that things will work out. (Well, faith and a reasonable plan of action, of course). Let faith rule over fear and believe, truly believe, then go for it.

Just a gentle reminder in case we’ve forgotten or gotten distracted by The Ways of the World. Focus, grasshopper!! This is the best part!

Love,
Past Me

 

Clean Up on Aisle 23

One of the things that I dislike the most about getting off track is cleaning up the mess that I’ve made whilst (great word, isn’t it?) being off track. Getting behind in my assignments for school, putting off things that shouldn’t be put off, such as filing tax returns, getting the oil changed in my car and taking care of myself. That encompasses a huge part of my Eternal To Do List, as I’m sure it does for every person on the planet. How best can I plan so as to ensure success? That is the question of the moment for me. I’ve tried with varying degrees of success before but situations, times and attitudes change, so I can’t keep using the same tactic every time.

Exercise has long been the one thing that I cannot seem to successfully make a part of my every day life and it is without a doubt one of the best things I can do for myself and my mental, physical and social health. I’ve tried many times, but always with a half-assed effort and the petulant attitude of a rebellious 9 year old asked to clean the toilet. Not exactly jumping with joy and enthusiasm. Well, now I am a little more willing to admit that I do not always know what’s best for me and if my past performance is any indication, I should really seek assistance in this area. So today I am calling about some ballroom dance lessons I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m going to see if they offer something in the summer I could take since I won’t have school. That will also get me out of the house, so that would be doubly-good. (Not a real word, I’m pretty sure but I like it)

The other part of the clean up goes to forgiveness. As I told you in a previous post, I ran into someone that used to be a friend and I am still feeling the ripples of that episode of Freak Show Comes to Your Life and it had reignited some smoldering flame of Yuck that just needed a little stoking to once again become a raging wildfire of Bad Feelings in me. More like Unresolved Issues that I have zero desire to face, put to rest or especially forgive, if it involves me communicating with said group of Ill Will bearers. But I also know if I don’t forgive, I will be the one who suffers, not them. So this is one of my big clean up items. I look forward to it less than I do cleaning a toilet in a frat house of 20 guys with chronic diarrhea. Sorry for the visual, but that sums it up.

I look at this like laundry or dishes; you will always have to wash clothes and clean dishes. I will (by nature of being human) always have clean ups on Aisle 23 so I might as well suit up and get to it. I’ll let you know how it goes.