She Don’t Wanna Be Saved

monet

I climbed out of a cavernous void recently.  Skin caked in filth, clothes turned to rags.

Every time my fingers grasped the sides of the abyss it seemed solid, but the edges would disintegrate and I’d tumble down digging the heels of my hands and feet into the walls to gain traction. I’d lay my head back and gather my thoughts ….maybe I’d rest for another few days, maybe for another week, before starting to rise again.

Words finally allowed me to summon the strength to heave myself up and out with a final thrust.  I crumbled onto solid ground in surrender once again, completing another cycle.  There’s safety in surrender if you do it right.

Days later a friend’s wife killed herself.  She didn’t make it out.  The edges kept crumbling and no words made it through to her.  The sinking and tumbling kept on and on.  She stopped the endless falling.

I’ve been visited by death this week.  In multiple forms. Death is a close friend of mine. She and I chill late at night and play mahjong. We talk politics and she tries to tell me where to invest my money.  I tell her to fuck off.

One day she’ll come for me for real.  And I’ll go.  But for now, I grab onto steer clear of the abyss trying to hold tight to the memory of the the pathway out. When I find myself down there again I hope I’ll remember to feel around for the rough patches – those gritty spots I can cling to for support.

mahj

Jungian Egg Yolk

egg

My moods have been scattered and unpredictable.  Suicide has been on the table plenty of days and I have told on myself to my therapist, to my psychiatrist, to my bipolar support group.  Because I’m not embarrassed that I consider it as an option – my brain is built in such a way to lead me down that road.  Just as it is built in such a way to convince me that drinking all day and night is the best idea for me whenever I have an uncomfortable feeling.  Illogical thinking is part of my neuropathy.  Illogical doesn’t equal unintelligent.

So, the solution, I have found, is to tell on myself.  Every fucking time.  And it gets old.  But it’s necessary.

So I walk into my therapist’s office and say “I want to kill myself.”

She says, “Do you have a plan?”

I say, “No, it’s more of a wishing I would die thing.” and we move on.

Or I walk into my therapists office and say, “I’ve been thinking about hanging myself,” and she says, “That sounds specific.  And I say “Yeah – it’s getting more specific.” So she calls my psychiatrist who meets with me and increases my meds or changes my meds and increases the number of appointments he sees me until the thoughts of hanging myself go away.

And then I don’t want to hang myself anymore.

But that doesn’t come without major consequences.  Med changes wreak havoc on the body.  Constant support groups, therapy appointments, psychiatrist appointments, AA meetings, take up enormous amounts of what would be “free time.” The stigma of medication regiments and labels dangle over your head as a constant reminder that you’re unwell.

But, it’s true – within time you don’t want to hang yourself anymore.  If you commit almost all your free time to getting well and caring for yourself you’ll regain the desire to live.  Until……..

Until you walk into your therapists office and say “I’ve been thinking about taking 100 sleeping pills and getting in the bathtub when no one is home.” and it all starts again.

And these sessions are generally 6-8 months apart – but they happen – they cycle – and ONLY if you have a support group and a GOOD therapist and psychiatrist will you make it out alive.

My psychiatrist recently told me that I am, what he would consider, a Jungian bipolar patient.  Like an egg with an extremely delicate shell, but a rich yolk full of creativity and intelligence.  That I need to be treated with extreme care.

I don’t know that a delicate egg can exist in the normal world without cracking.  I’ve cracked before.  Used drugs and alcohol to fill the spaces.  My therapist has told me that when I’m feeling vulnerable to wrap myself in cotton.  I wonder if they’ve spoken about my being an egg.

But in the scheme of the world I’m generally seen as a strong woman.  A warrior.  And I don’t know how that fits into the perception of a thin shelled egg.  Unless through experiences and lifes lessons I’ve built an armor around myself  – and underneath that armor you’ll find that thin shell, if you’re determined.  If you really need to – but, honey you’re not getting to it without some serious effort.

metal armour egg

Pounding the Ice

ice

My official diagnosis is A-typical rapid cycling bipolar with hypomanic episodes.  I have the more severe version of an extremely severe mental illness.  I have the version that cycles rapidly and wildly with no warning.

As an added bonus, I also get the add on of “A-typical,” meaning, it’s the abnormal version of that ridiculous diagnosis.

My psychiatrist expressed to me that one of the features that makes my case so A-typical is that I “present” as normal to the general population.  He finds it fascinating that I am able to hold a job and function in the world, maintain a marriage, be a mother…. and be successful at it.  He finds it compelling that even his staff doesn’t pick up on how friendly I am with death.  That when I call and ask to speak with my doctor they push my name to the bottom of the list because they believe me to be this charismatic woman who’s capable and functional.

This week I cycled from a hypomanic episode where super spy movies were AMAZING and I daydreamed about being a secret agent dressing in black, to a sort of normal phase where I am back to being able to again extend the niceties that come with human existence without nausea.

But with this last episode something fundamental has shifted in my thinking.

It strikes me that no matter what I do I will always cycle.  Drugs and alcohol didn’t stop it.  Sobriety didn’t stop it.  Medications don’t stop it.

I am an ever cycling cycling cycling cycling cycling round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round woman. There is no end to a circle. So what does this mean for me?

After hearing of my recover from this recent episode a dear friend texted:

“So, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel?”

I considered my response.

I had done my due diligence.  I had called my psychiatrist and told on myself.  I had gone to my meeting even though I didn’t want to.  I filled the prescription I wasn’t interested in taking.  I took it.  It made me ill as fuck –  and I took it anyway.  And I did feel better after about 5 days.  I did.  But it’s temporary.  And I don’t consider it a light  at the end of a tunnel.  Tunnels are straight.  And they end.

I closed my eyes and tried to picture myself coming to the end of this metaphorical  tunnel, but I didn’t see it.  Instead I saw myself trapped under the ice of a lake – a huge round frozen lake.  And I was pounding against the ice, drowning.  Pounding furiously at first, but as time wore on with less energy and less vigor… drifting along with the current, watching life through the haze of the ice, ready to give up and sink to the bottom.  The only saving grace was that every once in a while I heard tiny cracks …. tiny sounds of hope…. and I kicked,  and the ice broke and I pulled myself up with great relief and elation…..

Warmth, in the real world. It’s surreal at first. And it can last for a while.

But you always begin to slip back under, being swept away again with the tide.

Every once in a while when the ice breaks open I’m surprised to poke my head out and see a full blown goddamn RAVE going on at the shore. And I’m thinking “Really?  A rave?  ~ AMAZING~ I’m in”  And the party is on.  But as I spin around to the deep base of the house music, somewhere I know that this rave is highly unusual.   But after so long circling the lake, don’t I deserve a RAVE?  I know I’m going back in that fucking lake any minute anyway.

And so I pose the question, how many times can you feel relief with escape from the ice before you become indifferent to it….. knowing it’s temporary?

There is no light at the end of any tunnel.  There is just cycling.  And learning to live with that and managing the dynamic personality that comes with it.  The reality that people are drawn to me without knowing why.

I recently asked a BP friend why she doesn’t kill herself and she said, “Most of the time it comes down to curiosity.”

I said, “I know what I’m capable of, there’s no mystery there.”

She said, “Not of myself, of everyone else around me.”

So, my vow is to remain curious of those around me.  To be authentic about my needs and desires.  To be honest about my limitations, because regardless of how I “present” I have limitations. To enact self care more then I have been.  And to live a life that excites me.  And do things that I love daily. Because if I don’t create an exciting life for myself I don’t know how I’ll convince myself to live it.

Google Can’t Save Me

psychic

As a modern-day hack psychic in disguise, Google poses as the solution to all my problems.

“Call me upon your screen and I will find for you the answers to your universe.”

Google, you temptress. Be gone from my sight and do not DARE to return, for I do not trust thee!

But before you go….

Can you tell me if my skin patch is psoriasis or eczema?

Can you tell me what the life expectancy of stage 4 liver failure is?  Can you be more specific?

Can you tell me if I should have another baby or if that would destroy my sobriety and mental health?  Why are you directing me to yahoo answers, google?  So rude.

Can you tell me what time my nail studio opens?  And closes?  On a federal holiday?  Do I have to pay the meter?  Are you sure?  I cannot get another ticket.

Can you tell me how many times a week I should do cardio to ensure I will not have a heart attack?  How do I live long enough to see my daughter have a baby?  Will  she want a baby?  Really Google?  That seems a little guessy to me.

But either way….

Can you tell me if I should eat carbs?  What a good breakfast is? Should I eat the carbs with my breakfast?

Can you tell me if there’s life after death?  If there are multiple lives?  How to get this one right?

Can you tell me what to do?  How to be?  Where to go?

Google –

Can you save me?

Radical Self Care

truthbomb_375

As an adult woman, there is no one who will care for me.  This is simply factual.  This is not a statement meant to evoke  feelings of self-pity, although it does connote a little bit of the “woe is me, none cares,” thought process.

But that is not the intention nor is it the fact. As children we are religiously cared for, our needs anticipated and met minute to minute.  However, as we age, even if we’re married or in a committed loving relationship, it is up to us to monitor our own moods and assess and meet our own needs.

The task falls to me to monitor myself, and make decisions based on where I am on my own personal spectrum of wellness in order to keep myself at neutral.

Self care on a daily basis means being deeply in tune with yourself and taking steps to keep yourself in the place I refer to as neutral.  I characterize neutral as your peaceful space…. your sweet spot.

Feverishly attempting to keep yourself in your most blissed out space 24/7 would drive most people toward the insanity of chronic, poor short-term decision making.

Neutral is indicative of a meditative space where we observe the world around us with the buffer of time and logic, before reacting.

As a member of AA and a woman who carries the diagnosis of bipolar disorder since 19, it has taken me almost 2 decades to accurately classify my moods, identify the habitual destructive behaviors that accompany them, and consciously and forcefully insert radical self-care in place of those old behaviors.

Often when I bring up self-care, people equate it with selfishness.  However, believe me when I say that selfish behavior, the easier behavior,  would be to do nothing and stay in the old, grooved, comfortably sick actions.

I choose not to do that.  I choose self care. These are the steps I take daily to care for myself.

I do metta meditation.  I contact like-minded people and check in through text or phone call.  I take part in a daily gratitude email thread where I write things I am grateful for and read what the others are grateful for. I attend meetings on regular meeting days.  I attend yoga at least once a week.  I see my psychiatrist bi-weekly and at times, a therapist weekly.   I am of service to people through sponsorship or mentoring.

Another aspect of self care is the decision to treat yourself kindly in all aspects which includes not engaging in negative self talk.  To not denigrate yourself under any circumstances.  To remember the mantra; not perfect, not perfect, not perfect.

Failure is a teacher.  Handling your mistakes with honesty and integrity builds character.  Striving to live perfectly is as crazy making as trying to live in a chronic state of bliss.  It’s an unreachable and misguided goal.

When you’re caring for yourself daily , but still find yourself in a destructive mood, then it’s time to break out RADICAL SELF CARE. I characterize Radical Self Care as your “emergency button.”  These are the moments when you realize – I am doing everything I usually do to remain in neutral – but for some reason I am NO WHERE NEAR it.  I am verging on catastrophe.

These are the ways I enact RADICAL SELF CARE. This is enforced when I feel a potentially damaging emotion surfacing.

Assess the emotion:

Am I angry?

Habitual Action: Lash out at someone, say something I will later regret

What I do:

I separate myself to minimize the damage.  Maybe switch into deep breathing, listen to some calming music, do a short meditation if possible (guided works best because if I’m angry I can barely handle sitting still and I need someone to talk me through it.  The “buddhify” app works great for that).

If I am resentful of a person I will do a “spot check,” which is an AA app, where I write an inventory of my resentment and email it to my sponsor.  The key there is that I identify the resentment, no matter how obvious it is, share it with another person, and take responsibility for my part immediately.  Did I have unrealistic expectations?  Did I take something personally that wasn’t about me?

This is important to acknowledge the resentment without complaining about it for an hour to someone on the phone, which is a waste of your and their time.

Am I depressed?

Habitual Action: Over eat and sleep

What I do:

I write a gratitude list and take a bath with some oils that are soothing. Doterra Oils are amazing, specifically Serenity or Balance.  I feel that depression is an emotion that cannot be downplayed and should be treated with great care.  Getting a massage, letting yourself sleep, allowing for a deep guttural cry – these are all deeply cleansing.  Switch into full-on self-care mode.  Treat yourself like a baby.  Let yourself feel the feeling and move through it.

If it continues beyond a day or two – I have a daily/weekly practice of a therapist, or a community I can reach out to. Having a community of like-minded people is key.

Am I manic?

Habitual Action: Shop with money I don’t have or start a project I’ll never finish

I can choose to channel the energy into positive spaces rather then destructive ones.  I can do any of the number of things I typically avoid, such as lesson planning or cleaning up.  I can exercise, I think outdoor exercise is best while manic because it brings in a connection to the earth. I also use this surge of energy to write a blog entry or a chapter of my novel.

 

It’s important to remember that there are physiological feelings that mask as emotions.

Checking if you are hungry, lonely, or tired is important because they can masquerade as anger or depression.  This is why it is important to sleep well, eat well and stay rooted in some sort of community.  That will help you avoid confusing biological feelings for negative emotions.

Self care is not selfish.  It is quite the opposite.  It is keeping yourself in a neutral space of grace which allows you to perform at your best and be of maximum service to those around you.

As I sit here writing, sipping my peppermint tea listening to soothing music, I ready myself for a full day of chores and activities with my 7-year-old where I will be fully present, fully capable and completely neutral.

Namaste

Be Suspicious of What you Want ~ Rumi

etherial

The key to life is knowing who you are.  I realize this now.  The issue with this is, well….. knowing who you are.

So many factors shape us from the time we’re born.  Where we’re born, who we’re born to, etc.

I believe we come into this world, incarnated with an imprinted self, and we express that self fully as children. This is why we admire children in their innocence ~ those little beings who haven’t yet learned the rules of society. The little balls of energies that seem to know what makes them happy and go for it full-throttle.  They don’t understand anything EXCEPT to attempt to make themselves happy all day, every day.

As we age, we accept that being miserable is a part of life.  Things don’t necessarily go “our way” all the time and we have to “learn to deal with that.” We spend our time learning things we don’t necessarily enjoy so we can work toward earning a degree that is coveted, but that we don’t necessarily want.

If our inclination is toward the arts we’re taught to develop a strong plan B as the arts are flimsy and unreliable.

If our inclination is toward healing we are encouraged to work toward certain medical fields as they earn the most money. As if being a “healer” alone isn’t enough, but being a “healer” with an enormous house, now that is a sign of success.

Our self worth becomes a matter of the opinions of others.

What facial expression do you get when you tell a stranger your career? Personally, I get a mixture of pity and admiration for my ability to tolerate my field.

Let’s assume your career isn’t what defines you. And your sense of self is completely separate from the job that provides you the money to pay for the home that keeps you warm.
What if your self is a combination of your best qualities. And what if it’s completely separate from the body you wear. What if your self is all of the good in you? And if you get to know that part of yourself and behave in a way that amplifies that part – then that would be getting to know yourself. And when you “knew” yourself, you could behave as yourself. Surgically removing all the “should be’s” and “false desires” that you’re not even sure are yours.

Be suspicious of what you want. Want what the best parts of you want. And drop the rest.

Change of Worlds

 

galexy

I feel a close connection to other worlds.  To other realms.

I never understood why this life felt so foreign, but the older I get the more I realize that this life is finite, but the universe is infinite.  That there is no end and that energies continue.  That change comes daily, minute by minute to ready us for the biggest changes.

“There is no death. Only a change of worlds”    – Chief Seattle [Seatlh], Suquamish Chief

This has been understood.  For ages.  Forever. That we are not born into this world, but out of it.  That we exist in this spacesuit for earth [Ram Dass] – our pumping, breathing, beating spacesuits that allow our energies to exist on this earthly plane, until the biology that holds it together stops functioning.  It could be soon, it could be far off in the distance according to man made time, but it is 100% guaranteed.  Your spacesuit has a finite ability to do it’s job.

And then we die.  Our bodies stop working. And people with working spacesuits mourn.  Because they no longer have direct and immediate contact with the energies of their loved ones.  And it is more effort now to connect.  And also will be too long, within the frame of man made time, until the energies exist on the same plane to communicate effectively again.  And although time and space is infinite, and never ends or begins, it seems unfair.  That their biological suit stopped functioning.  And their “time” here was up.  And they had to move on to another world.

Too soon.

Before we were ready.

No one is ever ready.

Fragile suits on loan.  Earthly materials returned to the earth when the lease expires. Energies released to infinite space.

Ram Dass Spacesuit

To Live by the Sun or the Moon

I haven’t know to which life I belonged. Most genuinely.

One from which I was bred.

Or one to which I was led.

Each represents me partially.

The yin and the yang of it all.

To live by the sun or the moon.

Without both each would forestall.

Questioning my location during life’s roll call.

 

But it hears your here

No matter where you are

The light and the dark

Codependent entities

Fully reliant identities

 

To choose one would be the end of me

 

 

An Exit Interview

I’d like to do an exit interview with everyone around me who’s dying.  To ask them how they might’ve lived differently. I know we have our Tuesday’s with Maury’s and our general hindsight type quotes, but they’re more etherial and I’d like specifics.  “Buy an expensive mattress because it’s worth the expense in the end.”  Something practical and useful.

I recently realized that mostly everyone dies for a reason that is self created.  Most of my life I thought of death as sudden – as if being caught in a tornado, or being hit by a car, or having a heart attack were all equally tragic.  But when our bodies fail us early in life, it’s mostly because we mistreated it.  We chose to eat poorly, smoke, drink alcohol, do drugs, or do something that would shorten our time on this earthly plain.

My father-in-law recently died of lung cancer, a smoker for 50 years.  My father is slowly dying from sclerosis of the liver, from years of IV drug use and drinking.  My stepfather is dying of heart and liver failure, from years of eating shit food and smoking. All of these men intellectually understood that these behaviors would shorten their life.  But I watch their frustration at the end as it approaches. I assume it’s simply a fear of death, because neither my father or stepfather have a lust for living.

As the consequences of their actions catch up to them an anger wells up in me.  The selfishness of their actions, to consciously decide to check out early.  To leave me with so many funerals and arrangements in so few years.  Their deaths aren’t tragic.   They were planned and expected.  Living beyond your 60’s takes a mindful focus on health that neither of them chose.

So I’m in my late 30’s.  And my fathers are dying.  The next phase begins, with a few less parents and my own growing child. My choices clearly my own, to care for my body.  To avoid an early checkout if at all possible.

The Truth in the End

People remember what is most recent. The truth, in the end, is that the beginning was a long time ago.

When faced with the death of a loved one the funeral becomes a glaring reality.  The scope of it, the tone of it, the turnout that will be shown at it.

This gathering of people who come together to celebrate the life of a person.  It can be moving.  And if they’ve lived a life of generosity and kindness – well then people need a place to share about it and melt into agreement about it while clinking glasses and grabbing shoulders.

But what if they’ve changed as an older person?   What if their  last 20 years were cold and hard.  What if they stopped contributing to the world in any way and became incapable of kindness?  What if those 20 years in no way represent their first 60 years?  What if they stopped growing as a person, and instead shrunk into themselves wrapping hate and resentment around their shoulders like a morbid reverse cocoon where they eventually emerge dead instead of beautifully alive?

Then do they still expect the funeral, the turnout, the obituary that would have honored that younger version of yourself? Because didn’t they live through that 60 years of kindness?  And doesn’t that count for something?

Forcing yourself, as a family member, to remember the old and forget the new is harder then it looks.  To press on your memory in ways that bring forth the shiny version of this person, the version that better represents them before their lights dulled.  It’s harder then it looks.  And to phony up your demeanor, for the sake of those who have been absent for the past 20 years.  Well that too, is harder then it looks.

And, truth is, in the end, I don’t know if it’s possible.