Tag Archives: children

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.

 

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.

Control Freak

I have to read whole books on how to let go. Then I have to read them again, and again and again and again. They sit on dust filled shelves, until I’m at the end of my tear-stricken rope all because I can’t control the finite details in my life. I read my Bible to be reassured that while I’m not in control, God is. I know this … because I’ve read it over and over and over … and I get out my, Stop Being A Control Freak book and start the process of letting go all over again.

I have to let go and let God to maintain some sort of life semblance and sanity and I say that in the loosest meaning of the word sanity… it’s more like a bloody shred of existence some days.

Letting go means I have to be done with it and not try to manipulate and control the outcomes based on my fear, lack of faith, with my crocodile tears, with my over- controlling, over-bearing personally that loudly, takes charge of things and people without permission. Without any sort of forethought I charge ahead, because to be still, to be stagnant was never allowed in my family growing up. We physically and mentally moved, my Father stood still for no one. He was always marching two hundred yards ahead, with only the end in sight and a family trailing behind him. He came to be lovingly known as Captain Ron. We sailed, hiked, biked, swam, ran, camped, kayaked, skied, played tennis, Frisbee, football, baseball and often all in one vacation. We didn’t stop to let things be, to let things go, to see and feel a moment, we moved. If things weren’t as we desired, if people weren’t as they should be … we bore the responsibility of making them what they should be or we thought they could be, as his girls we moved mountains with our small, thick calves and spirited naive. Captain Ron out-walked my Mom, after twenty-one years of marriage she hung up her hiking boots.

I am my Father’s daughter, I move …. In a desired direction, dragging bystanders with me, despite resistance, because I cannot be still even after 40 years.

I have to let go. It means I have to accept that God may do or not do as I see fit. It means I have to stop … I have to be still, even within my own racing, reorganizing, prioritizing, mind. I need to be still and not feel guilty about it. It means I need to be grateful for what I have received despite what I deserved and grieve for what I didn’t deserve but received.

Letting go for this guilt-ridden Midwestern, German girl, means giving back to God that which was never really mine by fleshly name or birth. Their ties with God began long before me, they are his lineage.

Letting go hurts … it means I see dirty grout, dirty souls on my tiles. It means accepting mildew-lined shower curtains, teenage-boy shoe odors, late night Science projects, un-matching socks, over flowing trash cans, incomplete homework, unmet needs, unshaven legs, and frozen pizzas and I can’t fix it all.

These things exist, I can’t hide them …. Despite my downstairs closest. I can’t by my own fruition change them, I only have two hands.

Letting go means that my best effort isn’t pretty, it’s damn embarrassing at times. Letting go means accepting that. It means my life isn’t orderly, my marriage isn’t always harmonious, my language isn’t always holy, my kids aren’t always respectful, it’s an all-out, unorganized, mess at times, in fact if I’m honest, a lot of the time. It means that I’m too tired for anything but honesty anymore before God and Man and at times if I want complete honestly and humility from another human being I go to an AA meeting instead of Bible Study.

Letting go means we don’t have to be the neighborhood picture-perfect Christian family. It means, I don’t put Christian Easter signs on my lawn, it’s under watered and our gardener is underpaid. I don’t hang Christian platitudes on my front door, it’s smudged with finger prints and the path way is littered with bikes, scooters and half drank juice boxes. I certainly don’t put the Christian bumper stickers on my minivan, because I will pray for your soul only after I’ve driven you off the road and then for my own forgiveness.

Letting go means, I no longer have the short or long list of well-meaning, but over-simplified answers and their attached Bible verses. Especially when it comes to marriage and raising children.

Letting go means, accepting that some of my children have diagnosis beyond my control and because of that others don’t get enough attention. It means knowing the neighbors can hear loud, spirited language floating up from the trampoline in my backyard. It means my six year old daughter spits like her brothers. It means that fish have been laid to rest in my backyard because of miscalculated PH balances, accompanied by hamsters that were over loved and underfed. Letting go, means honesty with my children and no pretenses, saying I’m sorry to them and accepting their apologies. It means trying to parent them with the same grace I’ve been shown by Christ.

Letting go means that while I can’t leave my children with a legacy of unstained-righteous choices and holy living, I can leave them the example Christ has made in my life. I can leave them with the example God gave with his 12 disciples, who had a letting go/sin spread sheet longer than mine, and he worked through them. And right here, right now, despite my/your/their mistakes, sin, pain, he can work, let him.

I want my children to learn that their thick calves are not meant to move mountains, instead they’re meant to bend so they can rightfully let go and give it to Christ, because he’s the one true mountain mover.

Hollow Days

Some days, weeks and months I go through the motions.

I prepare meals, assist with homework, go to church, attend baseball games, attempt intimacy and provide transportation when needed. I say I love you and try to embrace my children, my husband and my life that is. Some days this doesn’t feel like enough for me and I’m sure it’s not for them.

It takes all my emotional energy to just exist, but it’s not much of an existence. I’m hollow. I’m flat. I’m a shell of a person.   My life consists of doing things for others out of obligation.

I signed up for this/my life fifteen years ago, when I thought I had some depression and that is was completely treatable by my morning coffee and Zoloft. I signed up for a lot not knowing there would be times when I had little to give. That when there was so little of me left, I would cling onto my last morsels of self, for preservation’s sake. This naivete meant not realizing that having lives depend upon you for sustenance and nurturing and not being able give it freely, produces a tremendous amount of unbearable guilt.

Some of the fifteen years were better suited for that morning fix, or I was better suited for it. There have been a lot of days, weeks, months, and this last year that make me doubt my decision and myself, I call them my hollows.

I want to feel love and connection to those I’ve committed my life to, but during the hollows all I feel is an urge to flee. I know logically that fleeing would fix nothing, that I cannot be free of myself, that I have to put my big girl panties on and address it here in this life that I’ve committed to. I know that love is more than a feeling, it’s a commitment and that the emotion of love will come back after the hollows leave. And I stay. And it does.

I want to appreciate my life, I want to enjoy it. I have so much. I know I’m fortunate. Many have it much harder and are not as blessed, but this line of reasoning doesn’t help me at all, I wish it would. I read about young moms that die of cancer and their grief stricken families, and I want to grasp this … and tell myself to stop the bullshit in my head. I want to. I want to hold this knowledge so tightly that it frees me from myself.

My family can sense these hollow days, I am more distant, angry, sad or irritated. My husband will try to fix it, though I’ve asked him to stop. I try to just move forward with the best of intentions on these days. I try to reassure them that I will come back around on another day, maybe tomorrow. I tell myself this as well. I want it for myself and for my family, I want better. A better me. I want years, month, weeks and days with no hollows.

The Art of Self Medicating

What do you call a meeting for people with Bipolar Disorder?

A.A.

It’s my joke, and I’ve earned the right to tell it, it’s both funny and sad.

I struggle with both Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder and according to statistics I’m not alone. Apparently, alcohol is the self-medicating drug of bipolar disorder choice, it’s reported that 60 % struggle from both.

I was Bipolar first, but didn’t have a diagnosis. The alcoholism diagnosis came in the form of an ultimatum from my husband, it was my family or the drink. In hindsight, when someone gives you this scenario and you need time to think about it, it’s pretty evident there’s a problem.

However, in my mind it wasn’t that simple or obvious. Drinking was when I felt ok, I laughed, I socialized, I had something to contribute and I had a lot to forget. I felt like I was being asked to choose between my sanity and my overwhelming daily reality and frankly that was no choice I wanted to make.

I want to say that I graciously made the right choice immediately, but I did not. When you are drowning, it is hard to let go of an imagined life preserver. I struggled with this dilemma for a few years, not all of it bad mind you. I wasn’t an all-out drunk, I was more of a binge drinker (AKA …following the cyclical torments of Bipolar Disorder) so I could handle myself for months at a time, drink occasionally and at times responsibly. But over time drinking was no longer fixing my problem, it was complicating my life to the point that I could no longer deny it.

Self-medicating, unfortunately causes as much if not more damage to ourselves and our families. We do it, unknowingly and knowingly. We realize that something within us is broken and need/want to fix it but aren’t sure how and why.

I’d like to interject at this point about my children. They have been such a paradox in my life, their existence has caused me the greatest amount of anxiety, and stress both personally and in my marriage.  But without their existence I don’t know that I would have chosen sobriety and even life for that matter. I want things for them that I feel I don’t deserve, so I push ahead for them.

I want to say just not drinking helped me, but A.A. touched me, it’s an incredibly beautiful example of courage. I needed to hear REAL, BOLD HONESTY. A.A. was no bullshit, no pretenses, it was people being real publicly. It’s uncomfortable at first to hear people openly talk about their lives and I cringed every time someone raised their hand to share. But after a few meetings it became my salvation. I felt so fortunate to be able to hear peoples’ stories, their grief, heartache, self-discovery, and second chances. In this one room, for this one hour, once a week, I didn’t feel alone, I felt connected to something tangible. Maybe it’s something you can only comprehend and appreciate after having desperation eat away at your heart and mind for years.

After 40 days of sobriety things began to become clear. I had developed some healthy habits in place of drinking; exercising, writing, reading my Bible but I was still just the shell of a person looking to fix within me that which was broken. Time went by. I prayed, I cried, I annoyed the hell out of my husband, pastor and friends and finally I was given an answer. Three individuals/professionals in my life approached me separately within a seven day time period and told me/diagnosed me as having Bipolar Disorder II. And I’m now beginning the next phase of this journey.

I want to say to you, that no matter which side of the bar stool you’re on, no matter where you’re at in your life… there is hope for this illness. Sometimes it comes in the way of blatant honesty around a table with strangers. Sometimes it’s the courage you find for the ones you love. I implore you to take that first step and begin your journey of wellness

Two Speeds

Being Bipolar is like having two speeds. Low and High, and nothing in between.

Low speed is not enough to accomplish what I’ve committed to. It doesn’t supply enough energy for the physical and emotional needs of a husband, three children, and pets. It doesn’t quite cover the laundry, dishes, and baking, cooking, volunteer commitments. Low speed means I can forget about a social life, even talking on the phone is cumbersome. Forget about exercising, having sex or any activity that requires much of anything. It means grocery shopping seems over whelming, and planning meals in my head hurts.

Low speed means constantly disappointing those in your life because you can’t quite keep up with their expectations, and you already have to deal with your own self-disappointment. It means less hope and seeing all of my flaws in 3D. Low speed is critical and self-defeating. It means doubting the quality of what I’ve previously done and grieving what I need to get to but can’t.

Low speeds means I’ve made social commitments I can’t fathom following through on, and promises I made to the kids to take them to do things. I feel despair at this speed for my children, that I’m not enough, that I have nothing to draw from and give them and I don’t know how to explain it in a way they can understand. I want to explain it though, because I don’t want them to internalize it, my illness is not about them, it is not their fault. Low speed means I think about whether I should leave my children to my family to take care of, so they have a chance at a happy childhood. At low speed I feel angry at my husband for not contributing more around the house and with the kids, for not being able to make up for my deficit.  I need help, but I’m too exhausted and embarrassed to have to ask.

AND THEN SOMETHING STARTS FIRING IN MY BRAIN, TELLING IT TO GO … AND I’M ONTO HIGH SPEED JUST LIKE THAT.

High speed. With racing thoughts, and jarring movements. This speed means that everyone around is annoyingly and irritatingly slow. It means less sleep and much more worrying and analyzing. It means being defensive and overreacting. It means certain volumes of noise are unbearable, especially repetitive noises. It means no details can be processed or focused at great length.  It means intense workouts, it means that time goes by quickly. It means socializing and talking nonstop. It means driving quickly and not as carefully.

High speed means euphoria, big ideas and plans, intermingling in my mind all at the same time.  It means I finally think things are coming together, that finally there will be some sense completion. I don’t want this feeling to end, that I don’t want to go back to low speed, I’ve spent too much time there already, in high speed I feel like I’m accomplishing the list in my head. I view myself as finally coming to be, because there’s a chance I’ll actually achieve some of my goals since I finally have the emotional and physical energy to do so.

This speed can be volatile and hard on my family. I bark orders, want things done correctly and quickly. I have patience for no one. I don’t want to sit and snuggle with my children, or read them a book, I have things to do. It means impulsively making decisions and then regretting them. It means being to open, revealing myself intimately and then later wishing I hadn’t. It means drinking and fantasizing about hugely optimistic goals for myself. This speed takes me from my children as well but in a more selfish, all-consuming way, and sadly with less regret on my part.

Just having been diagnosed correctly, FINALLY. I’m hoping that there will be a middle speed possible with mood stabilizers. I’m not anticipating perfection because from my twenty-plus years struggling with mental illness, I know its trial and error, while Science tries to catch up with the creator.

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