Monthly Archives: March 2015

Bloom Where You Are Planted

When I was 9 years old my Mom bought me a cross stitch sampler, which read, “Bloom where you are planted.” It hung over my bed for years in a little gold etched frame. And now at 41, I finally understand its meaning.

When I was young and things were not going my way, I would change my setting. This faulty theory of mind, encapsulated my twenties.

In my twenties I rented over twenty-five different places, sometimes I had a roommate, sometimes I lived alone. I rented apartments, rooms in homes, and even a trailer once. That’s approximately two moves a year for ten years, but some years were more sporadic than others. Some of these moves consisted of large black trash bags thrown into the back of my little Toyota hatchback.

My little red Toyota Tercel took me and my belongings up and down the coast of California, searching for what I couldn’t find internally. At this time most of my friends were working towards their futures; attending college, getting married, starting a family, growing professionally, but I was still running.

I attended five different community colleges in five different cities. And for all this effort I have about 45 units to my name and a trail of “W’s” when I made the effort to drop, and “F’s” when I didn’t.

My work record was slightly better, some jobs I stayed at for years, but some I dropped so quickly I didn’t even have enough courtesy to let them know, I was a no show. A disappearing act when there was too much pressure because I had convinced myself that it was this job, this school, this relationship, it was never me.

I’ve carried the lie. I liked the idea of new beginnings, a new apartment, new school, and new job, all new with possibility. The problem of course being the one constant, me. Me, not wanting to deal with the increasing responsibilities I committed to, me not wanting to deal with me. Wanting to think that in a different setting there wouldn’t be such struggles, and sometimes this is true …. But they are just replaced with new struggles.

So often when I am unhappy with my setting, with my circumstances … it is really me I’m unhappy with. It’s me that’s struggling internally and after all of these years I have to admit it to myself.

This is true of everything in life. Every relationship, job, school setting, living situation. None of it is easy, none of it is perfect and if I want it to work, I have to invest in it, I have to invest in myself, despite the heartache and challenges that come with it.

Being married and having children forced me to stop this unhealthy pattern of fleeing. I’ve had to learn to be still, to not run. I’d like to say it was an easy transition, but it wasn’t it. It was painful as hell and down-right ugly at times. I spent some of these years drinking to escape mentally what I couldn’t physically. I needed time away from the overwhelming feelings of it all being too much and not feeling like I was enough.

I’ve done some growing up, some investing in myself, through therapy, through medication, through learning new strategies, through failure, through Christ’s grace. I know now, If I want anything meaningful, purposeful with depth in my life, I have to stay and fight and give it my best effort, even when I want to flee, even when I want to start over.

It means looking at myself and being honest with my own brokenness and being willing to work on it in small chunks, it means having the courage to change, and to apologize when need be. It means spending less time avoiding and more time mentally present in my own life, in present day life and not the mirage of some other location, some other person, some other time, etc.

It means doing the best I can in the present. With the husband I have, the children God has given me, in the home I currently live, in the church I attend filled with other sinners like myself. It means facing Asperger’s Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, AA, and other labels and challenges that I’ve been presented with. It means not acting on my feelings but instead admitting they exist. It means trying my best to love what I’ve been given. Embracing what’s mine and drawing close to imperfection.

I’ve taken the old stitchery and its gold frame out of a box in the back of my closet and hung it in my daughter’s room. I’m praying that it doesn’t take her forty years to understand its meaning. I’m praying that her seeing her mother stay and struggle will give her the courage to face life and all of its uncertainties and to not run but to stay firm and planted in what’s beautifully and innately her own.

After Diagnosis

“Hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go.”
Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

I’m past the initial discovery of being diagnosed Bipolar. I’m past the newness of it, the excitement of having answers to life-long questions. I’m into the now what stage. I’m into the now I have to live with this diagnosis stage.

This stage is difficult because it’s all the reality, its realizing that I’m sick and have been for years.  It’s rethinking my identity, looking at myself with new eyes, accepting a label I don’t fully understand.  It’s learning new strategies. It’s explaining to family, the one’s that want to know, and avoiding answers to the ones that don’t. It’s shielding myself from certain critics.

It means asking myself new questions. Why is answered now. This is the phase of why me? It’s a time of questioning my future potential, and hoping it won’t be limited by this illness and the stigma attached to it. I’m almost at a loss, because I just don’t know how this will all play out.

My therapist has suggested that I have a new way of viewing my choices. I’m supposed to view with them with a sense of stability and question, “is this the bipolar or the rational me making this choice.”  I kind of find this insulting, though I understand the point of it. In hindsight I know I’ve been bipolar since I was sixteen years old, and this is my normal. This is me, I’ve drawn from my experience for over twenty years. It’s what I know. It’s the things I love about myself and my weaknesses, it’s all intertwined and almost impossible to separate completely. I know I need to make changes, and I’m fine with that but I’m not going to totally disconnect from who I’ve been for most of my life.

It’s a time of medication trial and error, wait and see outcomes. It’s putting my life in the hands of a professional, and hoping their chemical cocktail offers some relief. It’s a time of both hope and grief. Where I just have sit with it for a while and try to really comprehend this new life I have in front of me.

It’s a time of praying and hoping that this illness doesn’t have negative long term effects on my marriage and children. Both in terms of genetics and the mistakes I’ve made with them while struggling.

I’m in the rebuilding phase, without the benefit of a blue print, but none the less moving forward.

 

No matter what

This is a beautiful blog post toward personal growth.

In Others' Words...

There are people who can walk away from you. And hear me when I tell you this! When people can walk away from you, let them walk. I don’t want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left.

People leave you because they are not joined to you. And, if they are not joined to you, you can’t make them stay. Let them go. And it doesn’t mean that they are a bad person, it just means that their part in the story is over. And you’ve got to know when people’s part in your story is over, so that you don’t keep trying to raise the dead.

TD Jakes

I first saw…

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Suicidal Cancer

If you were diagnosed with cancer and had years of; treatments, prescriptions, hospitalizations, of pain, that stopped you from living any sort of normal life, with no guarantee of recovery, would you feel hopeless? If you had to live with this set of circumstances for years; five years, ten years, twenty years, a lifetime, would you question your ability to go on? How much heartache would you carry while others went on and lived normally healthy lives, while your existence was consumed with one thing … CANCER.

Sadly, for some people mental illness isn’t much different, it’s a debilitating illness that effects every aspect of their lives. This isn’t a cause and effect situation, there isn’t anything they did to cause it, nothing they could have done to prevent it.  They felt pain, suffered, saw a doctor, got a diagnosis, worked on treatment options and went on trying to live. For some, this means years of exhausting many treatments options, many hospitalizations, many broken relationships, many job loses, all due to an illness that unfortunately Science hasn’t been able to cure yet.

When we describe mental illness but give it a different title that people can relate to, like cancer, people are able to see it in a new light. When we think in terms of uncurable cancer, it seems understandable that there would be a loss of hope in one’s life. People are able to muster up some sympathy for a person in this situation.

I know as humans we judge others out of our own experience, traditions, and religion or otherwise personal belief system and I try to keep that in mind when reading others views on mental illness and suicide, but at times I find it difficult. I can always tell when some famous writer tries to tackle the idea of suicide and they have no personal experience in dealing with debilitating mental illness.

I can tell by their word choices and simple explanations. I can tell by the way they offer up meaningless options to the idea of suicide, solutions that would be great to choose if someone were well. Solutions they believe they would have chosen, and of course that anyone in their right mind would chose. The problem is when a person is at the point of suicide, there mind isn’t right, they are sick, and suffering.

People want to address the act of suicide but fail to see the victim’s lifetime of struggle, of pain. I can tell by the way they chose to judge the person who took their life, instead of understanding that that person is a victim as well. A victim succumb to their illness.

Some people want to throw out judgements that offer no grace, only damnation for someone who is clearly already suffering beyond what is bearable to them and mostly likely would be to others of us. We would never dream of doing this to someone who lost their life to cancer or an illness of the body.

As a society we fail to accept that mental illness can be a terminal illness for some. There is involvement on the victim’s part to make it terminal, but at the same time it’s important to understand that the body has a breaking point, it will quit after enough pain or illness is inflicted, but the brain is different.

The brain, unless physically injured, will continue on despite any amount of neurotransmitter dysfunction. Having been through hospice with my grandparents, at the end there seems to be a resolution, they are ready to die because of the condition of their body. But with mental this doesn’t happen, it can mean illness with no cure and no end.

I’m in no way condoning suicide, it’s not my judgement to make. I’m just trying to bring some understanding to it, hoping that with understanding will come grace. When someone takes their own life, I deeply grieve, for them, for their families. I’m grieved that the victim wasn’t able to find peace in this life, that they felt there wasn’t enough hope to give themselves more time.

I’m glad the scientific community is finally starting to make huge gains in the area of the human brain.   I’m hoping it will make mental illness more legitimate to society, to people that haven’t had it impact their lives in some way. I’m hoping for improvements in medication, and treatments so that suicide never has to seem like an option. I’m hoping that one day mental illness won’t be terminal.

Sola Gratia / By Grace Alone

 Ever tried? Ever failed?

No matter. Try again.

Fail again. Fail better.

~ Samuel Beckett

I am applying for college right now and am doing it with both excitement and trepidation. I have tried to be successful in the academic arena for years and have struggled. Years ago, before I had a family, there were a few semesters where I earned honors, but most of the semesters were marked with “D” for dropped or even worse when I was really struggling, an “F” because I didn’t even take the time to officially drop the course. My odds haven’t been the best I admit, I’ve attended approximately five different community colleges over the span of 15 years, with only 40 units to my name.

It’s easy to judge myself for this failing and I do. I feel shameful that I’m the only one in my family that doesn’t have a degree, that hasn’t succeeded professionally. I contribute some of my lack of academic success to not having enough discipline and immaturity. But in all honesty, most of those years were filled with the struggle of battling depression, and undiagnosed Bipolar disorder, of just surviving and supporting myself financially.  This is not a cop-out, it’s just part of hindsight that comes with accepting one’s self and being willing to grow.

Finishing my degree, has been more of a long-term goal for me because it has taken a back seat to the more immediate needs of my family, of working and of just the fact that I was so overwhelmed with life it seemed an unattainable dangled carrot.

While going to college may not seem a big deal to others, it’s huge for me. Its part of the process of grace I’m trying to have for myself, for my life, past, present and future. I’m giving myself another shot at this, despite my own cognitive internal doubt that has held me back for years from risking, from believing in myself, from investing in myself.

My husband/family want a guarantee that I’m going to finish this time. Their doubt used to stop me in my tracks, stop me from trying. I would go through all of the reasons it could not work, and then I would get stuck there and not commit to college out of fear, of uncertainty, of the risk of failing again. It was like a huge momentum that I would just succumb to.

My husband doesn’t want to invest the money and time because there’s a not a guarantee that I will finish. And he’s right, I can’t guarantee that the financial burden I’m taking on will definitely be well spent, I can’t guarantee that I will walk down the aisle with a diploma in twenty-four months.

I want to make this guarantee with all of the certainty in the world, but I’m not going to. I can guarantee that I will try, that I will put my best effort forward, that I have every intention of graduating this time. And frankly, that’s enough for me for once. It’s enough for me to feel like investing in myself again, to do something for myself for once that isn’t about my husband and children.

I’m excited that I’m giving myself the opportunity to succeed, I’m excited that I feel I am at a place emotionally where I can and want to challenge myself and take on a long term goal. Despite others reservations and self-talk that tries to stop me. I’m taking this opportunity in my life to give myself a second chance, I’m excited that I’ve found grace for myself and some amount of belief that has given me momentum to move forward in an area where I’ve been stuck for years.

I’m not letting the self-talk doubt stop me this time. When it starts I hear it, I hear all of the reasons I could fail, all of the things that could get in my way, all of the uncontrollable circumstances that could occur in life. And I let doubt run its course. But then I start the rebuilding process of Grace. That it’s ok to try, without trying there is no chance of success, that risking is part of life, being uncertain is natural, that it’s ok to succeed and it’s ok to make mistakes because both are necessities of personal growth.

I’m encouraged and I want to encourage you. When you get to a place where you catch your breath and you have room for more, take the personal challenge, invest in yourself, give yourself a chance to try, to make mistakes, to succeed.

Find grace for yourself. Sola Gratia / By Grace Alone my friends.

A Well Lived Life

Those brave of heart really want to know us. They hear what we say when we have no words. They are ok with who we are, even when we can’t find the grace to love ourselves. They see our weakness, see us and are ok when we bleed.

I have a morbid, sarcastic sense of humor and a very detailed memory. With that confession, I share these memories with a sense of self-reflection and admiration for those who have chosen to participate in this well lived life with me. Some of these recollections were painful as hell at the time but I can laugh about them now, some are still painful but have brought a significant amount of meaning to my forty plus years of life.

This is an unchronological, unfiltered list of my life well lived. Grab a glass of; wine, coffee, sparkling water, put on some; ABBA, Johnny Cash, Dave Matthews, Led Zeplin, and let the ride begin.

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Some of you were my first crush.

Some of you had to wipe my mascara stricken face from your shoulder.

Some of you I learned to “mother” with.

Some of you saw me in a speedo before my thighs touched.

Some of you were my brothers when I didn’t understand men.

Some of you learned with me that Grey Goose isn’t a flock on Animal Planet.

Some of you were my roommate and taught me how to cook.

Some of you cried over an Autism diagnosis with me.

Some of you taught me about faith by being Christ to me.

Some of you tried to be my trainer and realized that the only thing I do better than lift is drink.

Some of you are my last love.

Some of you laughed at my dark sense of humor.

Some of you are related to me and I’m sorry.

Some of you let me live with you instead of in my car.

Some of you became a foodie/ wino with me and we now shop at Lane Bryant.

Some of you have enjoyed my obsession with Neurophysiology.

Some of you were parents to me when mine were broken.

Some of you loved me when I hated myself.

Some of you learned that a Volvo can be totaled.

Some of you were my first love.

Some of you are with Christ.

Some of you taught me the love of the written word.

Some of you took me to dances because no one else asked.

Some of you taught me that the black & white only exist in a crayon box.

Some of you taught me that National Geographic boobs are still beautiful.

Some of you have loved me from miles away.

Some of you share my intense love of sports despite the fact that I kicked your ass on more than one occasion.

Some of you have been tattooed with me.

Some of you married me thinking I was Mary Tyler Moore.

Some of you know in my teens and twenties are erred on the side of law and that now I err on the side of gospel/grace.

Some of you should have stopped reading long before this list even started and can still do so.

Some of you unknowingly walked through the darkness with me.

Some of you annoy the shit out of me but we tolerate each other because you love my husband or children.

Some of you taught me that I’m both saint & sinner at the same time.

Some of you have taught me that love is not about sexual orientation.

Some of you are my soul mate.

Some of you were my parents when mine were broken.

Some of you helped me to remember things I wish I had forgotten while drunk.

Some of you know I’m serious when I say I should have been a lesbian with cats, those same some of you know that it wouldn’t matter I’d still bitch.

Some of you have been a far greater example to my children than I could ever be.

Some of you brought me to Christ.

Some of you are the reason I’m alive today.

Some of you know I almost lost my faith.

Some of you repeated a grade in school with me.

Some of you went to my first concert with me.

Some of you told me the truth on no uncertain terms.

Some of you broke my heart.

Some of watched me bitterly grow to hate the church but embrace Christ.

Some of you inherited me through marriage and again I’m sorry.

Some of you understand the kernel of truth.

Some of you remember that if you shit in the woods it only makes noise if the people skiing behind you catch up with you.

I encourage each of you to take the time to go through your inventory, be it your FB list, journal, photos, writings, etc. and reflect upon the living you’ve done, your life details and those who have participated in it with you.

My Yellow Ovals

I lay my yellow ovals on the sterile, porcelain counter
wondering how the day will transform
and when I should take my emotional temperature.
I don’t want to be bothered by it.
I want it to just be an unconscious
undertaking like it appears to be for so many others.
I want to just live.
I don’t want to have to be reminded of milligrams of stabilization.
Don’t want to report back
or have to ask others for mood feedback.
It strips me of my independence
and self-perception.
Makes me vulnerable in a juvenile sort of way.
Reliant on others opinions
and faulty neurotransmitters.
I’m too old, with too much life experience,spend too much time caring for others to be reduced to this sort of infantile bullshit.
But there are no alternatives.
I have tried
to exercise them away
to pray them away
to explain their existence away
from prying children’s eyes.
So I grudgingly start and end my day
the same way
by swallowing down
my broken reminders
My yellow ovals on the sterile, porcelain counter.

Genetic Happiness

What portion of our own personal happiness is based on genetics? Are we predestined to live out our happiness according to some biological measure? Some people do have a more natural ability when it comes to happiness, some people find it easy to be happy. For others it takes more effort. Do some of us have to try harder to be happy? Recent research says 50% of our happiness is predetermined by our genetics…. Does that thought make you happy or unhappy? What is our set point happiness?

I’ve always been intrigued with the concept of happiness. At times happiness has seemed so elusive, that I’ve had to question my own understanding and pursuit of it. In this pursuit over the last twenty years, I’ve read hundreds of Psychology and self-help books, and have watched many documentaries. It fascinates me, from a personal, psychological, spiritual and scientific standpoint.

I understand for some, the idea of pursuing something intangible makes no sense, and of course to those that are lucky enough to carry some genetic disposition to optimism, almost ridiculous. If you are still reading this, and don’t understand my need for this quest, by all means go back to your half-full glass of Chardonnay and salute the Creator for your gift.

Others would question whether happiness lies in genetics, whether some receive functioning neurotransmitters by sheer creative luck. And I understand the desire to take some responsibility for our own happiness, we want to say I did X, Y and Z and because of those actions/choices I earned my happiness degree. The problem with this reasoning of course is that some of us have done the same X, Y and Z and have still not graduated … we’re forever students.

I want to understand happiness in more specific applicable terms, than just platitudes. If one more genetically happy person tells me it’s a choice … I’m going to choke on my own vomit. Happiness is not just a choice carrot that is dangled in front of you …I’ve put an abundant amount of effort into trying to make it be, so much so in fact, my German ancestors must be rolling over in their graves with pride over my diligence. I’m trying to be happy damn it.

I’m not wanting to grasp happiness to give some sort of meaning to my life, my life already has meaning to it. This meaning reaches far beyond any sense of self I may have and looks beautiful on the face of my children and in these moments happiness seems tangible to me. My pursuit in no way diminishes them and I in no way expect another person to bring about this elusive happiness in my life, this is my pursuit.

For many years I accepted and told others that I was ok with the forerunner of happiness which is contentment. It’s disheartening though at times to work so hard and only be able to achieve 2nd place. Mind you, contentment does have its place and time, it’s admirable in its own right as is 2nd place but it doesn’t mean I want to give up on understanding how some achieve 1st place. And so onward I march.

My belief is as follows, and it’s not a credentialed or degred opinion, so take it as such.

I believe that as individuals we have a genetic happiness predisposition, a start point if you will and that this start point is not flexible in nature, it is written in one’s DNA and it remains a constant from birth to death. I believe our happiness set point is like other areas where genetics give us a heads up or not, it is no different than athletics or intellect. That being said, I think there is room for one to contribute where genetics leave off. To say happiness is a choice, is misleading, but to say that we can chose to make the effort to contribute to what we’ve been given, is more accurate and can be essential to our own well-being.

I found the documentary Happiness informative and it gave some credibility to some of my own ideas about a genetic happiness set point, I’ve shared just some of the basic information, it’s a documentary worth watching.

Happiness Psychologist Ed Diener, twenty-five year study of happiness, has given the following breakdown for happiness:

  • 50% determined by our genetic / set point
  • 10% determined circumstances/health/social status
  • 40% unaccounted for / intentional behavior, things we can do to be happy

Psychologist, Liz Seymour writes, “…variables such as age, education, health, income, personal appearance, and even climate are ineffective at overriding our genetically determined set point.”

“In other words, if your genetic set point favors misery, making a lot of money or even getting a rock hard body won’t tip the happiness scales in your favor. Sure, you may temporarily feel better following an achievement or gaining some material possession, such as a house, but within a year you’ll be back where you were before the changes occurred.”

I find encouragement in this breakdown, because it gives 40% variation to work with, to put my pursuit into context. These percentages don’t take anything from me, instead they help me to better understand where I stand. While my genetics have perhaps put me at a deficit of 5o%, they’ve contributed to my inquisitive nature and love of learning, and experiencing life, they’ve given me 40% to be undeterred in this pursuit.

 

Missing My Friend MANIA

Started my new meds.  My Pysch progress report would read, “Mania is gone and by all measures depression seems to have lifted”. This is progress and I should be happy, the medication has shown some success in balancing out my life. But, I miss my mania.   I say MY mania, because I imagine to each person there’s something independently personal about it.

I miss my mania because she came unexpected, crept into my life with her new perspective, different from the old drudge of depression. She brought with her energy.

I finally had the physical energy to formulate an exercise plan so I could achieve my long time goal of getting back into shape and losing weight. Every day I worked out for at least an hour, sometimes longer as I pumped music and lost track of time, lost myself to this new discipline.

Mania replaced the drudgery of slow moving depression. She brought an emotional and mental energy with her, and self-esteem. Years of depression meant low energy and after doling out scraps to my family it meant little or nothing left for myself. She told me I could change things about myself that I have struggled with for so long, she showed me a future I wanted.  She made me see I could actualize the self I wanted for such a long time.

With emotional and mental energy, I could sit and write every day, ideas would just come to me, words had special meaning, I didn’t have to sit and ponder in my thoughts. She told me to get off the couch, she wanted more for me than just dishes and laundry, she had ideas about going back to college, finishing what I started before I became so devoted to everyone else but myself. She gave me back a sense of self, she was a whirl wind of bravado.

I miss her.  I want her back, but I realize that she and I were unlivable to others. While she propelled me forward, she was bold and wasn’t afraid to take all that energy and direct it in one direction, on me. She was the selfish. She moved so quickly that she lost patience for those that couldn’t keep up. She drove and voiced things more aggressively. She was irritated with the small details of life and didn’t want to be bothered by them. My husband hated her, he preferred the slow me, the couch me, the more accommodating me. My children didn’t have words for the morphs that transpired in my life. But I could see while she valued me, she wanted less to do with them. She couldn’t be bothered to read a book to them or show affection, she was onto the next thing already, missing some pretty important parenting moments and opportunities. My best friend dreaded her presence as well, communication became more complicated to keep up with and self-preservation was at the forefront of her thoughts.

Now I’m left with how to reconcile what she started. I still see what she wanted for me, but I question if those goals were just too lofty for where I’m at in my life.  Is going back to college now doable, while helping three children get through school? My skinny self is almost unobtainable, exercise is burdensome again, and comes after my long list of other obligations, the pounds are creeping up again. Writing is more of a chore, the words are there but I have to make the effort to formulate them into sentences. Everything is taking more effort again, with much less of the enthusiasm.

Grieving her absence. Trying to accept that she can’t be a part of my life. I don’t think this makes any sense to my husband, children, or friends so I don’t even try to explain it. It’s my grief alone. Struggling to not be resentful over the fact that mental illness has resided in my life for so many years and made certain goals seem unobtainable. At the same time, trying to be grateful for the fact that I’m not bed ridden with depression, but that I’m functioning now. Trying to grasp onto the fact that I’m lucky, that some with mental illness aren’t as fortunate and bare an immense burden much larger than mine. I’m trying to reconcile it all in my mind. I’m trying.