What matters (you)

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via istockphoto.com

I have made a concerted effort to not post/share other people’s content as much anymore on social media. It’s too hard to keep straight what is the truth, what is opinion, what is purposefully misleading and divisive. It burdens me and my heart, however, to go silent on some topics that I was loud about for awhile; I don’t want to seem like I stopped caring. I’m not going to highlight exact issues here, please expand your mind.

I offer this.

If you’re in pain and suffering, please let someone you love know. Even me. I am, unfortunately, something I have coined “spoonie flimsy,” which I would define as not being able to be¬†there, 100% of the time due to chronic illness, but I always, always care, and love to be as there as I’m capable of being.

If you feel like no one cares about the issues you care about, take heart.¬†Your issues are my issues. Let’s take our truths off of Facebook and Twitter where there is only yelling and deafness and competition. Please tell me over a cup of coffee, or a phone call, or even a private message (where we can both sip our drinks and pretend to be in a cozy cafe of our own making). Please continue to invite others to do the same. No, I don’t think you should stop posting and sharing what matters to you, you’re an adult/human/individual/worthy creation and you should follow your heart insomuch as you don’t purposefully hurt other people with your choices.

If you feel as though no one is taking care of you, don’t be afraid to care for yourself.¬†The best way to teach other people to treat you is to treat yourself with respect, self-care, and love. Honor your body, your mind, your soul. Connect with God (if you will); if that’s not your bag then connect with stillness.

If you feel misunderstood, seek to understand. Yes, this sucks sometimes. You may learn things you don’t want to know. Start with trying to understand yourself (the scariest thing of all).

 

I love you. You’re important. If it mattered to me before, it still does.

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The puzzle piece.

f5ba46271830943139e54c603e1e098c_08e6b4a7a3a7cc2f68ea3320651660-autism-puzzle-piece-clip-art_5617-5703Autism. ADHD. Sit still. Participate. Listen. Be quiet. Don’t talk so much about dinosaurs all the time. People aren’t going to want to be your friend¬†if you “______.” Pay attention in class. You have to. You have to. You have to. You have to. You have to.

I have to say, the school district, classes, teachers, extra helpers, and services my child receives at PUBLIC school are AMAZING. Public. We don’t pay any extra. He gets things I couldn’t afford to pay for myself and would probably not have thought of. Everyone loves him, accepts him, and assists him.

But.

It’s their¬†job to make sure he’s able to conform to and fit in with society. (Really, it’s institutionalized learning’s job to do that for/to all of our kids…)

So I got confused… I believe my husband¬†and I got confused. We thought it was our job to make him fit in too.

This gives me pause, because I don’t ever want him to not understand that¬†due to his differences, he will face¬†some challenges. I’m different, and I have challenges (re: bipolar disorder II). I am open with him about that.

However.

It is so easy for us to want him to mold himself into something “easier to manage” at home, too. Avoid meltdowns, please be quiet, no we don’t want to talk about dinosaurs anymore, please stop repeating yourself, calm your body.

I’m not sure why it took me so long, but since I have been achieving some big progress with my own mental health journey of peaceful acceptance, it¬†dawned on me that perhaps my son never feels totally accepted, even at home.

What really got me is that recently,¬†when we’d have an argument, or he’d do something that was not okay (for any 9 year old child, not just an Autistic one, you know 9 year old boys are kind of turds, really), his eyes would well up and he’d say “I’m sorry for my Autism.” This is heartbreaking.

But what am I doing to challenge that his Autism is “bad?” How am I reinforcing that he’s a cool person, all on his own, his uniqueness, creativity, and mannerisms included in his awesomeness? And that he is also not wholly defined by his neuro-atypicality and is a complete individual without bounds and chains?

Last night I told him… I wanted him to stop holding back who he was at home. I wanted to hear those weird dino facts. I wanted him to wiggle and dance and bounce. I wanted all of him.

You know what? In those moments, he wasn’t Autistic. He was a 9 year old little boy and he said, “I’m happy, mom. I’m so happy.”

ūüí©

spoon-02I’ve really been working on understanding and embracing my untidiness¬†lately. No, I don’t necessarily mean physical clutter, grime, and general housekeeping issues. I mean… all of it. My untidy, messy life.

It’s hard, you know? I want so much to just be¬†better. To be¬†fine. To be¬†healed. But I am…

 

  • chronically ill/exhausted
  • a (recover-ing/ed) addict… but
  • fat (haven’t kicked that food addiction business)
  • cursed/blessed with a mental disorder
  • a parent to a (wicked awesome) special needs child
  • prone to hiding when I’m overwhelmed
  • (blessed to be) married to my polar opposite, which causes some… communication differences, shall we say

I want to be that person who can be counted upon. I want to pick a diet and stick to it. I want to throw on my walking shoes and get outside. I want my house to be clean 100% of the time, with all my laundry put away.

I want to keep up,¬†and in my mind I struggle with punishing myself for not being able to, among other things I struggle with. The crappy thing is, I still have¬†to do regular people stuff as someone who’s not a “regular people.” There are no free passes. I guess you can stick me in the spoonies club.

Then throw in days like I had last Monday, where the dog got into the canned cat food and¬†ūüí©ūüí©ūüí© all over my builder-beige carpet. (Of course, the carpet). And then I stepped in dog poop outside and tracked it up my carpeted stairs. (I was tempted to just burn the house down and start over, but I didn’t. Very. Tempted.)

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. Like, I really, really don’t. But sometimes I wish people knew how it felt inside my body so they’d know why I’m so flaky, hard to get ahold of. Why I “change my mind” sometimes. So many times.

What sucks is that I’m in control of some of it, but I’m also really¬†not.

Addiction to food is my first love; I have struggled with food since I was very young. Addiction to substances was so much easier, such instant reward to the brain. It was also a lot easier to hide; I lost weight when I transferred my love of food to love of substance. I’ve been clean now for almost two years. I’m grateful. Really. But,¬†when I went off substance, I went back to food. Pretty quickly. Not overnight, but pretty quick. Add in the complication that¬†I also have immunodeficiency issues with food, and…

Addiction¬†(its own kind of sickness)¬†fuels the drive to eat “food” (by which I mean, the wrong food); the craving is often really for substance but by Grace… >>¬†the food that triggers me makes me sicker/more fatigued/more depressed/fatter >> weight gain and mental trauma resulting from food makes me lower energy, which makes me long for something to “fix” me, giving me cravings >> I know I should change my habits but this brings us back to addiction. It is a self-defeating cycle. Addiction >> health breakdown >> exhaustion >> need for fix >> addiction… Ugh.

How often I am tempted to go back to substance…¬†just because it will maybe take my focus off of food and I will begin to lose weight again. Even though substance totally destroys my life all together. It kills my drive to succeed at anything, my relationships, makes me completely selfish and awful. Not overnight, no… just over time, my life is just that… substance. That is it.

I’m struggling right now and I’m tired of pretending I’m not. It beats me up inside to look at the positive words I found to share in the summertime, and yes, most days I am able to see the light, even now. I try to remind myself that every day I get through is a day I survived. Sometimes even thrived. But it is so hard when I myself, and others, expect things I’m not able to live up to and I have to disappoint. It is hard to verbalize how much of your energy is taken up just fighting yourself in your own mind. How sometimes a victory is eating three cookies instead of 11.

My mantra and saving grace these days is 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Trying to cling to that.

Clinging to Jesus, and nothing else. That’s where I’m at.

straightforward

the passing of time is irresistible

it doesn’t ask permission

its direction is simply forward

straightforward into the now and beyond

i can see time as it brushes by my eyelids

leaving crows feet

maybe others could see wisdom

it is hard for me to see past exhaustion

(does any one really sleep?)

tender feather weight wings of pressure building daily into a solid weight

this pulls down  your eyes and your shoulders and your soft tissues

time

time, you unkind wanderer

i didn’t think i was going along with you

but suddenly i notice that my feet are shuffling

i follow you in the direction of your quest

forward, forward, forward

straightforward into the now and beyond

there are realizations that lift the head

my child is now nearly as tall as I am

his vocabulary rivals my own

i am not surprised

i am his mother

i don’t tolerate lack of knowledge

and yet i cannot keep up with his dichotomy of scientific facts and tidbits

but time adds more

time adds more and more things to know

i feel my ability to know slipping

as my need to know increases

i wonder how i’ll be in old age

i wonder where i’ll go in my mind

i wonder about the path of the passage of time

straightforward into the now and beyond

Challenging my truth… keeping house.

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Because there’s no place like HOME.

I would like to preface this post with this: I am not a doctor, nor am I trying to be.¬†I am not a medicine hater – if that is what works for you, then please, please do what works. I, myself, am moving away from it after years, and years of medication, for my bipolar disorder.¬†What I have discovered¬†for myself, for my journey, is that maintaining the¬†health of my soul, and the health of my thought life, are the best medicines. I am hoping and praying they are the only therapy I need. If not… I’ll revisit. Please create your therapy plan with the help of those you trust and quality, professional doctors. Please find doctors who listen well, and treat you with respect. This is very important.

My brain has waves of energy – something I will always navigate. I’m on kind of a neutral energy wave right now after a fairly good “high” and so joy isn’t a constant vibration, I have to make sure I’m seeking it. I haven’t found enough time for scripture lately, and¬†I was very restless last night… My husband¬†and I had a small disagreement we mutually blew out of proportion… Fault¬†was a 50/50 split. He went to bed before me; we had made up, but I felt out of sorts and despondent. I has been my life-long tendency to feel that way whenever my¬†relationships aren’t “perfect”, especially¬†when that¬†disharmony is with my husband. But I’ve learned to check in with myself.

I asked myself if I really had to feel this way… And I realized I didn’t. I realized I was giving my husband too much responsibility – I was unconsciously asking him to be perfect (when I am decidedly not holding myself to that standard), and I was asking him to make me feel happy and peaceful. None of those things can be accomplished by another human being, even one so dearly loved. So I shot up a fumbling “Whose am I?” to the only One who knows… And I was at peace again.

Learning to question¬†reality. Reality vs the space in my head. I don’t want to say “I’ve arrived” because you always keep learning, always want to grow. But my brain doesn’t feel like a prison anymore. What felt like a cold, decaying prison cell with unfriendly jailers is beginning to feel like a house. A home.

There are rooms in my brain house now. Rooms, closets, storage, workspaces, sanctuaries, places to be creative. There are chores and maintenance, and sometimes like in real life you have to look at the clutter and say, “I just can’t today… Too tired…”

It’s hard to fix messes from a place of exhaustion or a place of powerlessness. And sometimes not fixing the mess can drain you more, especially when you beat yourself up about it. You must learn to say, “Okay mess, you just have to sit there and I’ll deal with you tomorrow but I’m going to let myself really rest and not make myself feel guilty.” (We are commanded to rest, y’all.

Sometimes you get stuff done. You are a powerhouse. You are doing dishes, and vacuuming floors, and making everything WORK. You are finding the parts of yourself, of your mind, of your thoughts that need a little tidying up, and you have found the strength to get after it.

Sometimes you get creative and you make BEAUTY. You get a new picture and hang it on the wall; you grab some flowers from the farmer’s market and place them on your table. Your brain house is a HOME and you can enjoy it and flourish.¬†

But¬†SOMETIMES… You find that you’ve tripped, and you’ve fallen into the cat box and Oh my goodness…¬†that is disgusting wtf,¬†get out of the cat box¬†– that is for crap what is wrong with you?!

So if you’re wise? You get out of the cat box, because you don’t belong there. (Go take a shower, girl.)¬†That receptacle is there with a purpose – it’s a toilet. It’s there so you can¬†scoop cat crap out and¬†throw it away. That receptacle is so that filth is kept to a manageable level that you can deal with, so things don’t get out of hand. It has one job. Reign in the crap, so you can deal with the crap.

This is also a good time to point out that CRAP IS A PART OF LIFE. THERE WILL BE CRAP. THINGS ARE NOT PERFECT IN THIS WORLD. But… You don’t make a seat in the middle and settle in to watch TV. I’m sure this reads as humorous (and it is meant to), but it’s also serious.¬†

How often do we become so consumed with our crappy, destructive¬†thoughts that we make them a dwelling for our being, instead of understanding that they can be dealt with and removed? And don’t tell me you’ve never sat down and watched a season of something terrible on Netflix from your brain’s cat box before, cause we all¬†have, honey.

The beauty is you DON’T HAVE TO. You don’t belong there! Take a look around and realize that you’ve tripped and fallen into the cat box and GET UP.

Get into your brain’s kitchen and whip up something nourishing for your soul! Seek truth and fill yourself up with that!

Get into your arts and crafts room and make some beauty. Look for it. See what’s already there and make some more.

Climb into the tub in your brain’s house and find some relaxation.

For the first time in my life I am not trapped in a jail cell in my mind. My brain makes sense. It’s not perfect but it’s a good brain. It’s good. Because I know WHOSE I am. And that shows me who I am. I can be at home… any time, and any place. Love to all of you.

Challenging my truth… “Surprise!”

So this won’t be the focus of this post, but I went vegan the first week of June of this year. I have experienced overall positive effects. Definitely some trial and error, but overall I’m super happy with my decision (health wise) and I’m 100% on board with the socioeconomic and spiritual positives.

That said… did you know that Trader Joe’s has delicious vegan chocolate chip cookies? :p

My clothes have started fitting different – I was feeling like I was losing some weight (slowly, which is what I’m after), so I decided to check the scale today. I haven’t weighed myself all year, other than at the doctor. So… SURPRISE: apparently I’ve lost a whole two pounds. My normal reaction to this would be to freak out, cry, hate myself, cut myself down and ironically (though I know you get this if you get food addiction) to go binge.

I have worked so hard, so so so hard over the last few months to develop healthy self-talk… that it’s starting to stick. I looked at the number. I said a few thankful words to myself that it wasn’t¬†higher than the last time I’d checked, and I felt something I haven’t felt in awhile – motivation.

Not the crazy, LET’S GO ON A DIET!!!!!! kind of motivation that plagues extremists like myself, but a quiet voice that said, “Ah, well I can probably do better than that.”

So I thought about it. When I chose veganism, it was 50/50 on health/convictions. I told myself, “you have permission to take as long as you need to, to fix things up.” I realized that health and wellness isn’t all physical, and it’s not a race.

How many¬†programs had I gone on? Only to totally fail and hate life. So I’m going to make ONE health goal happen per month. August is: drink enough water. Not MORE water, but ENOUGH water. Mindfully, with care, and with love for myself. Hydrate this body. I have been doing a terrible job of hydrating and I keep putting more focus into sugary drinks, coffee, tea, caffeinated things.

If I start organically making some other healthy choices alongside my goal of the month, well then awesome. Organic is the key word – forcing myself to completely change everything about my habits overnight has never worked for me. I’m too fascist. I beat myself up over mistakes.

So here goes the rest of my life… one month at a time.

Challenging My Truth, pt 1 of…

tumblr_o1bkm0IViW1rz97e3o1_1280[Insert declaration/apology for lack of posts. Blah blah, blah.]

32. Thus far, in a little over ONE month, year 32 around the sun has been the most productive period of personal growth I have experienced in years. It’s about time, too. It’s not that I haven’t been growing until now, it’s more like the Gardener, His helpers, and myself have been planting seeds in my life, and this year all the plants bloomed.

I decided awhile ago that I was going to live my life in outrageous honesty. Radical truth. If this meant I discovered some stuff that wasn’t so great, cool. If this meant it was time to finally acknowledge and honor what was great, awesome.

I am wont to post loooooong posts, and I am kind of over that (as are you, more than likely), but this is a looooooooooooong topic. So I hope to make this a series, but I am not good at sticking to things so we’ll see how it goes. (See, honesty).

Today’s Subject #1: Mild-to-Moderate Agoraphobia & Vehophobia

Although this is actually the most recent discovery¬†I have made of myself, or at least the most recent I’m acknowledging after burying it deep and making excuses, I’m starting here because it involves you. More than likely, if you’re reading this, you’ve been affected by this so I want you to know.

Ever since I can remember, the act of getting into a car and driving it has freaked me out, particularly if I’m driving to:

  • a place I’ve never been before
  • somewhere in a very metropolitan/busy/confusing area (i.e. Seattle; WTF one-ways)
  • somewhere outside of a 10 mile radius of my home
  • honestly could be driving¬†anywhere on the wrong day
  • a commitment (appointment; friend date; Buy Nothing pick-up; recording studio time) – the added pressure of¬†having to go somewhere, even somewhere I really, really want to be, somehow makes the anxiety go up

This has actually evolved into just not wanting to go anywhere. Even if I’m not driving. If I am leaving, I prefer it to be with my husband, where he is driving, and we are going somewhere familiar. And often I don’t even want to do that.

This is where it has gotten out of hand.

I work from home, which has probably deepened the trench of “hiding-out” in my life. On the one hand, it is a grace and mercy that allows me to stay comfortably employed (I had to fight against this disorder¬†most mornings¬†when I worked outside of the home). On the other hand, it does little to challenge my most comfortable patterns.

So, this has evolved (or devolved?) into me not leaving the house much. Even to see the many fabulous friends I have in my neighborhood who I could simply walk to see. I have driven myself further, and further, and further into my comfort zone.

This is very confusing to my psyche, as I am an extreme extrovert. I LOVE people! I love getting to know people, sharing thoughts, spending time. But apparently not enough for the light to overcome the dark.

So here’s why I’m writing this, beyond me figuring out stuff that I need to figure out.

To anyone and everyone who needs this from me:

I’m sorry for canceling on you.

I’m sorry for any number of excuses I’ve made.

I’m sorry for being late to stuff. I was talking myself into putting on pants. Pants are freaking scary.

I’m sorry for avoiding making plans in the first place.

I’m sorry for seeming disinterested in your thing. I’m not actually disinterested. I’m having a mild panic attack.

I’m sorry for seeming like I want you to be proud of me and/or grateful to me, just for showing up. You’re actually correct. I do want you to be proud of me cause it was probably very hard for me to get there. I don’t need special attention and I don’t feel like God’s gift to “x” gathering I’m at; just know that me showing up is special because it means I overcame the battle in my brain.

The saddest sufferer of my condition is my son. I should be taking him to the park. I should be going on trips to the zoo. I should be, I should be, I should be. I am not. I am trapped. WE are trapped.

I’m not sure where to go from here, but I’m beginning to live¬†in the light. I’m here, raw, sharing my heart. Encourage me, I guess. Know that I’m not avoiding YOU, I’m trapped in my head. Perhaps even though it is enabling, you can offer to drive. Many friends do this for me; I think they’re on to me. I think they know what’s going on IN HERE (this old brain cage of mine).

I am challenging all of my truths – by this I mean the things I’ve told myself and assumed are true. I know that I allow myself to believe I am scared to leave my nest; it’s my default¬†pattern and one I need to challenge. Leaving my life of addiction behind has been a journey – I’m over 15 months sober now and it really reveals what you’ve been hiding from. I’ve been hiding from life and I’m ready to step into the light.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. If you know me and love me, thanks for your patience. I love you, too.

Long and overdue

So there are a few reasons that I haven’t blogged in forever, and one of them is practical:

My laptop totally died. It was a little over five years old and we tried to install Windows 10 on it and it just went “nope,” and went to its technical grave. We ended up having to replace our desktop as well (we are now total Apple fanboys with a sacrilegious Samsung TV), and laptop replacement was just not a financial priority. So it’s me and my iPad up in my office and you can see how well that went as far as blogging goes.

I missed blogging a lot, so I tried to think creatively. This is my solution:


A cheap Bluetooth keyboard from Amazon cleared things up and I’m here blogging because I can type like a normal person. Perhaps you can handle the little glass keyboard for long drawn out periods of typing but it drives me nuts.

Reason number two:

Business, depression and the case of “do not wanna.”

I had a fabulous summer of productivity. I gave up some unhealthy habits, reconnected with God, got involved in a couple of Bible studies, changed my work schedule to an earlier shift to have more productive off-time hours, and generally was just succeeding my way through life. I wrote some of the best songs I’ve written thus far and developed some close and wonderful relationships. This is bipolar dream-time. A mania of positivity and light. My ability to focus and “do all the things” at an all time, ramped up, super-human high.

It’s been a rough few years since I have had steady positive manias. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2 due to some very uncharacteristic behavior on my part, I had manias over and over and didn’t recognize them for what they were because they were so good. The looked good to me, and they looked good to others. Painting 9 paintings in a month when I was pregnant, when I’d never painted anything before. Unpacking my whole house, pretty much solo, down to paintings hung on the wall, in two days.

These unhealthy manias looked like insomnia, partying, and self-destruction. Things I never would have accepted in my life before I began to seek out voraciously, but nothing satisfied me anyway. Just temporary placation to fill a void that had begun to build up inside of me… Just caving into what I thought I wanted. I mean… that’s kind of the bipolar M.O. Something sounds like a good idea, and you do it. You’re “invincible” and nothing can stop you. Nothing can hurt you. Nothing can touch you. Until it does. Then the crushing guilt, the instability, the fear that next time you could do worse and worse things and hurt more and more people. I think I have written about this enough times that I don’t need to elaborate any further.

What I’m not sure I’ve covered before, and perhaps it doesn’t¬†matter because it’s whirring around in my brain and I think it’s going to come out regardless, is how I now don’t really believe that the things I did at that time in my life were all that “uncharacteristic.” I’m going to tread very lightly here and say that I am not a doctor, nor am I a psychologist, and to say that I speak for the bipolar community at large and that my experience is universal would be ridiculous and grandiose. So please know that I am speaking to my own life and no one else’s.

As I worked my way through the last four years of my life with counseling, self assessment and awareness, and the help of those who love me, I have come to the conclusion that there was a darkness inside of me aching to burst out and that yes, I suffer from mental illness, but it was only the broken padlock to a storage unit full of crap that needed to be dealt with. Do I think that my bipolar broke the seal on that stuff and let it all out? Absolutely. Do I think that part of the equation was beyond my control and “not my fault?” Absolutely. I think that if I were psychologically built “normal,” I would have been able to continue to keep it all inside and had a “normal” life, just like everybody else. Resentments, disappointments, anger, confusion, self involvement, selfishness, self-loathing… how many of us experience those things in life? Pretty much everyone. Those thoughts and attitudes are the cornerstone of unhealthy human behavior, and they need to be dealt with. You have to look those things square in their ugly faces and say, “look, we need to figure this out.” When you don’t, it leaks out instead of being worked out. And that happens to everyone, not just the psychologically atypical.

So I dealt with it. I dealt with my crap, I acknowledged the parts of me that needed fixing. I made a lot of apologies. I made a lot more mistakes. I corrected behaviors and then fell back into them again. I prayed a lot. A lot of other people prayed for me. And I was (am!) blessed enough to be surrounded by people who were and are pulling for me, supporting me, and doing their very best to understand my complications.

This summer I had one final experience, after my baptism, that looked like the old me that I was trying to leave behind. The me that picked temporal satisfaction over lasting and healthy enlightenment. I divorced her that day. I had one final talk with her and said, “I’m clinging to you because you’re safe. I have been okay with you being here because you’re not a challenge, and everyone expects you to not do any better. Heck, a ton of people really enjoy you. Doing¬†better is terrifying because it means you can do worse. Staying in a non elevated¬†position means not disappointing anyone… not disappointing myself. But you’re not me anymore, and I’m leaving you behind. GO. AWAY.” I was free. I just let go (there’s a poem like that floating around the interwebs somewhere).

So then the mania that had flooded my brain and my body again became glorious because it wasn’t tainted. It was full of the grace and majesty of Christ and the blessing of healthy pursuits and the beauty of raw creativity. It was energized and magical. My connection to Holiness was direct and pure. I wanted things that were REAL that the world doesn’t understand to be real but I do. I do.

Now we’re getting to the downward spiral, and honestly, some heartbreak for me personally. Followed by more enlightenment, it gets better, seriously. ūüėČ

My husband was observing me. He was enjoying my mood, my better wife-dom, mom-dom, all-the-things-dom, but he was getting concerned. He came to me and said, “You’re doing too much. You need to slow down and you need to drop something from your schedule.”

Mania me is extremely overconfident and self-righteous. “Um… no I’m not! I’m handling this all amazingly! I’m reading three books right now and studying the Bible with you every night and being a good mom, and praying regularly, and feeling connected with God, and helping counsel friends who are going through hard times, and, and and…”

Look at me. Look what I can do. Look how strong I am. Look how useful I can be. Useful. Useful. Useful.

Oh, to be useful. Dependable. My mom is useful. I never have understood it. She can handle being on several committees at once, and come home and knit stuff, and make some hand-made cards, and then go to her sister’s house for coffee. I don’t get it. This is like her M.O. She’s a behind the scenes, make it come together, never need the spotlight type of gal. And if she says she’s going to do something… she makes it happen.

I always wanted to be like her, you know? When I was a little girl I thought I’d grow up to be this pro-mom type because that’s the type of mom I had. And I never, never did.

Except when I’m manic, and not a self-indulgent, emotionally stunted mess! Hey, that version of myself can get it done, man! But she slowly tapers off. She wanes and waxes, and I can’t depend on her to stick around when I need her to. Manic me writes checks that depressed me, and heck, sometimes even just plain old stable me, cannot begin to cash.

The school year hit me hard because it is an always¬†type of thing. I HATE ALWAYS THINGS. I already have a job, and I already have a family, and I love them to death, but they are ALWAYS things, and I just don’t have enough room in my psyche for more of that, thank you very much. EVERY Monday through Friday my big second grader has to wake up at 7:00 am and take 45 minutes to put one leg in his underwear and perhaps a sock on in the correct direction. EVERY Monday through Friday I have to clock into work by 7:00 and I’m expected to talk¬†to people! (If you ever read this boss, I love and appreciate my job, and know how lucky I am to work for you) The nerve of life to go on with the same level of expectation every day, of every year, for years and years and years.

The first thing that I lost was my direct, energetic connection to God. What had felt like iMessaging a buddy who was always near their phone started to feel like two tin cans and a string. I never doubted God was there at the other end, but I couldn’t hear Him clearly and it felt like betrayal, honestly. It felt like I had the rug pulled under me, just when I thought I was doing well and obeying him and being a good and faithful servant. It almost physically hurt. All I wanted at that point was to sleep.

So I started lacking the energy to go to four nights a week of commitments. I’d miss one here and there and feel that wretched guilt piling up inside me again. Flake. Commitment-phobe. Worthless. Disappointment. Your friends aren’t going to trust you to do what you say you’re going to do. They won’t understand that the thought of putting on pants makes you want to cry. That you aren’t fun and bubbly and talkative right now so they won’t think it’s “you” and you’ll find yet another way to let everybody down.

Finally a week came where I went to nothing. I did nothing, I saw no one. I never changed out of my pajamas. Missed all 4 commitments. I was so ridden with guilt over this that it drained as much of my energy as if I’d gone¬†to all of them! I had to do that horrible things wives do occasionally and look my very loving and wise husband in the eyes and say, “You were right.” And I quit everything.

It was the right choice. This was about a month a go and I have turned around completely again. My mania is back (or is it stability?) I’ve seen friends a few times, started attending church again, and I redecorated my whole first floor (it looks amaze). I permed one of my My Little Ponies’ hair on q-tips. (Yes, yes I did.) And I’ve realized a few things.

  • I have stopped looking at my bipolar disorder as a negative and started looking at it as an alternative brain wiring. I will continue to call it bipolar for the benefit of discussing it with other people but internally, I’m comprehending that it’s the way that I am.
  • I am seeing the spiritual parts of it, as they may wax and wane, as a gift. With tears in my eyes, the other day it occurred to me that maybe not everyone gets to feel the direct connection to God like I am blessed to a few times a year. Maybe those periods of time are a day, a week, or an entire summer. Maybe I go 4 weeks not feeling that immense joy and light, and maybe I go 8 months. But those times exist and if they are something gifted to me by God then however much time He chooses to bless me with I will celebrate. When we go back to the tin-can phone system, He and I, I’ll try to remember that one day he’ll shoot me an iMessage. And even if He never does again, He did. He did.
  • The creative parts are a joy that I cherish. When the muse is flowing I am a powerhouse of song writing, and thoughtful expressions of dynamic thought. When it’s time to be creative, it’s time to be creative. When it’s not time, maybe I should read a book. Or take a class on HTML5. Or do nothing. Maybe I am to learn the art of waiting.
  • Not all parts of me are good. Not all parts are bad. I think that true mental and emotional health for any of us is to get to know our faults and positives and figure out which faults are fixable, and which are just those you cope with. For example, if I say it is an excusable part of my character to belittle someone I love for sport, I am an asshole. You can, and probably should fix that. But if I somehow feel like I am at fault for going through periods of depression, of nothingness, and therefore feel like I should be able to “fix” it when I am likely never going to be able to, I am doing myself a disservice. I should instead figure out how to prepare for and deal with those times in a healthy way that causes the least amount of damage to myself and others.
  • I will likely¬†never be “dependable.” This means I: will never volunteer for the PTSA; may not be able to show up to your party that I was so excited for, because pants; will do my best to stay in communication with my friends but may drop off the face of the earth for a bit (please don’t take it personally); will probably not be traditionally¬†useful. Around 60% of people with bipolar disorder cannot hold employment and I have been at my job for over 8 years. Around 90% of marriages where one person is bipolar end in divorce and I have been married for almost 13 years. (And I don’t believe in bad luck, so you can hush it with that #13 business.) I have just enough inside of me to overcome the odds and anyone who isn’t okay with that probably has no business being in my life. (For both of our sakes.)
  • I AM: creative, thoughtful, passionate, loving, transparent, honest, loyal ¬†and diplomatic. In the zombie apocalypse I will probably not be able to help with the horses, or grow the vegetables, but I will be able to entertain. I’ll bring my ukulele and my bad jokes.
  • I am blessed, blessed, blessed to have a long queue of people who seem to love me just the way I am.

If you made it through this long-winded post, well, thank you. Thanks for sticking with it. It’s hard to stay in a period of self discovery when you’ve hit the skids. It comes so naturally to “learn about myself” and others when my energy levels are high and buzzing with electricity. The triumph of this entire cycle is that I was able to keep learning through my depression and to not turn back to destructive forms of comfort to cope.
Looking forward to 2016. With thankfulness, Christina.

Thank GOODNESS success isn’t a destination.

wordpressanniversaryIt is extremely fortuitous that I would choose to write a blog after so long, on this particular day, as WordPress is informing me today is our one year anniversary together. I haven’t been a great partner (kind of flaky, really), so thanks for putting up with me buddy. Hopefully we keep a closer relationship this next year. If you want to skip a super long entry with a lot of detail and just hit the tie-in for the title of the blog, you can skip down past the horizontal line near the end of the post. Otherwise, buckle up.

You may wonder why I’ve been so silent for so many months, or perhaps you were relieved to avoid exposure to my jibber-jabber, but I’ve been through a really dark season and I just didn’t feel like putting any words out into the universe. I could fill you in on every detail of difficulty, but I’d rather not. Suffice it to say, life’s been pretty taxing. I don’t know that it has stopped being so, but I have chosen to grasp my pieces of sunshine in between the tornadoes and move forward from here.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t handle the slump by being super fabulous and successful with my LEAP protocol (ehem, food rotation, anyone?) – or my gym game… Or my sleep game. I never threw caution to the wind completely, but… I stopped tracking calories. (Yes, believe me, even with my limits I can pack in some serious calories, and some of them are very, very delicious.) I also convinced myself that just because it didn’t make me sick (i.e. any food from my approved list), I could eat it whenever I wanted and as much of it as I wanted. I “tried” to stick to rotation, but I was super sloppy. I also became a sugar maniac. I found really inventive and delicious ways to make banana bread, banana ice cream, peanut butter and banana smoothies, four ingredient peanut butter cookies, homemade granola with homemade almond milk. I also found apple + strawberry bars at Trader Joe’s, and my own personal prepackaged form of crack: Dang Caramel Sea Salt Coconut Chips. Dang those coconut chips. Dang them, for sure.

So… I stopped losing weight. Yes, I’ve lost 50 pounds. That, all by itself, is a true accomplishment, and I give myself credit for it. Not losing any further weight doesn’t undo the success of the weight loss that I had already achieved, and this was a new train of thought for me so… I decided I was cool with staying there for awhile. And really, I truly was. It felt good to really appreciate the hard work I’d already done, and not feel like I had to keep pushing for more. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cooling your dietary jets for a short time and letting yourself plateau. Except… I wasn’t really acknowledging that my plateau was all about me and my behavior. I just pretended that I was in a natural weight loss plateau and I’d pick back up again. When I didn’t lose any weight for a few weeks, I thought, “Okay, well, I don’t want to change my eating habits right now, so, I guess I’m just not going to lose weight for awhile, that’s cool.”

Then we were playing scale ping-pong. Up two pounds, down three pounds. Up one pound, down two pounds. I felt like a liar on days I knew my total loss was really 48 pounds when people asked how much I’d lost and I said “50 pounds.”

Know what you don’t feel like doing when you’re eating sugar all the time (and yes, that definitely includes copious amounts of fruit sugar)? For some reason, you just don’t feel like going to the gym!! So now we had the perfect storm of too many empty calories and not enough movement.

So… last Thursday… I stepped on the scale. I kind of knew. I mean, it had been warning me with those up and down three pound gains, that the storm was brewing and the JIG WAS UP, LADY. There is was: a five pound gain. I felt sick. I felt… defeated. I also felt a very scary feeling that I had not felt in a long time: utter failure. Historically, this is always the point where I start gaining and then I’m back where I started, or even heavier than before.

I let myself mope around for the morning. I talked down to myself, calling myself a loser, and fat, and stupid, and making sure I knew that I’d never get where I wanted to be, and who did I think I was? I reached out to my friends and talked about how upset I was. Then I asked myself to get real specific. What did I really feel? I felt… out of control. That was an interesting thought, because while the opposite of a loser is a winner, and you can’t always swing yourself right back into feeling like a winner when you feel like you’re the guy that came in right after the bronze medalist, there’s a really clear opposite to “out of control,” and that is “under control.” When I was losing weight steadily, it’s because I was keeping things under control. I had my food under control, I had a good gym routine that was working for me. I ran the show, and I wasn’t just letting life “happen” to me. All of a sudden, correcting that five pound weight gain had nothing to do with beating myself up because I was a failure, it was about cause and effect. If I wanted to feel like things were under control, I had to get in control of myself, and my habits again. And I had no doubt I could do it because I had been right on track for quite some time. The best way to get in control? A plan.

Believe it or not, as soon as I decided to focus on the control aspect of the issue, things changed immediately. At the end of day five (I’m including Thursday because I got my butt to the gym that night!), I have not only lost that 5 pounds, but two more – that’s right, 52 pounds! I’ve already turned it around. I’m not tooting my own horn, or trying to tell you how special I am. I’m not special, I’m just a survivor of being fat and unhealthy, and I decided to stay a survivor and not a victim. Here’s what I did, and hopefully this helps you if you fall off the health wagon and need some motivation:

  1. I made a TWO WEEK menu. I am going to send this post to my nutritionist after I am done writing this, and there is not a single thing snide or superior thing about her, so I’m going to give her permission to go ahead and roll her eyes and mouth the words “I-told-you-so” at the screen when she hits this portion. Rotation is a complete pain in my… It’s a real pain. And it’s pretty much impossible to be successful if you don’t make a menu. I am realizing that the very last post I made in January was about struggling with all of these things, and menu planning/rotation is something I haven’t gotten around to explaining yet. To be brief, you cannot eat the same food/food family (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, brussells sprouts, radishes and kale are all in the cruciferous vegetable family) more than once every three days. You can eat as much of those foods, one, or all, on day one, but on day two and three you need to avoid them. This prevents your body from forming new sensitivities to food that it’s currently okay with. I had planned on doing a better job of explaining this at some point, but I think that’s good enough, and so you understand my pain (and the pain of anyone with my types of food issues), please remember I can eat about 70 different foods/ingredients (including spices, etc.) and that well over half of them belong in food families. IT’S A PAIN. IT’S A REAL DAMN PAIN. BUT GUESS WHAT? IF YOU MAKE A MENU IT’S ABOUT 90% LESS OF A PAIN. It took me well over an hour, maybe even two, to come up with 14 days worth of rotated food, and honestly – it was pretty brutal. The reward is great, though: now I wake up in the morning knowing exactly what I’m going to be eating, and IT. IS. GLORIOUS. It’s so… effortless! I had all these excuses for why I didn’t want to make a menu, all this negativity, how hateful it was, but none of that helped me. None of that helped me be successful. Winging it never worked. There were so many days I was left confused, hungry, and scrambling around for something to eat, not 100% sure I hadn’t had it only two days a go, instead of three. I am literally never going to go without a menu again. Food doesn’t feel like a burden since I’m trying to carry around what I ate in my head, and I’m totally certain I’m eating more variety than I was before.
  2. I have to write down every calorie. I just do. (I hate it, but I hate paying my taxes too, and I still begrudgingly do that.) It was really, really easy to lose weight without trying at the beginning of LEAP when every single food you’re eating is super low on your reactive list, and you have no clue how to make the foods you get to eat turn into naughty calorie bombs (I’m tell y’all, four ingredient peanut butter cookies). Now, I definitely have to think about caloric impact like all the other humans. Fitbit is my calorie jailer of choice, and for me it works amazing since we use the Fitbit Aria Scale and I have a Fitbit Charge HR on my wrist as I write this. (Yes, I even let myself get into a slump with a Fitbit. It taunted me… a lot. 10,000 steps my big fat…) What I love the most about all of my fitness trackers/calorie trackers and scale working together as a team, is that while I have to put in the fitness effort and the effort to write down what I’m consuming, I don’t have to figure out how much on my own. If I’m getting low on calories and it’s not dinner yet, I can choose any of these three scenarios: a) eat a smaller portion to stick to what I’ve got, b) eat as much as I want and realize that I won’t be losing any weight that day, or possibly have a gain, or (my personal favorite), c) go burn some calories and earn the right to eat more. Which brings me to:
  3. Keep my Fitbit HR HAPPY. When I was taking a good hard look into the scale, I realized that I was really good at telling people what I meant to be doing at the gym, and not what I’ve actually been doing there. My original plan was dancing Mondays, lifting Wednesdays, and cardio Fridays. It sounds really neat and tidy, but I’m not a neat and tidy person. (I mean, it took me two months to harass myself into creating a menu…) I still hope to do that, but what if that routine doesn’t work for me? Does that mean I just get to stop moving? NO. My friend Robin and I took over an hour walk on Sunday night; it earned me a lot of calories back and got me out into the open air and some time with a friend. My body didn’t care that I wasn’t sticking to an exact plan. JUST MOVE. Or… don’t. And eat less. I love to eat, so it just makes sense to move. Now I feel rewarded by my food in a healthy way, like my salmon and sweet potato fries are gold medals I earned from shaking my way through dance class. I still have hope that some day my M-W-F gym schedule will just be some natural thing, but in the mean time, keeping a calorie and activity balance is the main thing.
  4. Keep baking/treats to once per week. Hey, homemade granola is fantastic, but perhaps I shouldn’t be making a batch of that and a batch of cookies the same week, hmmm? I have not scheduled any treats into these first two weeks of menu planning purposefully, but I will work them back in and they will have their PLACE, which is not at the forefront, and they will have to fit into my calorie budget, which again, probably means some exercise.

 

Tonight, I found myself thinking about this very famous quote from professional athlete Arthur Ashe: “Success is a journey, not a destination.” Sometimes when you hear things over and over, they lose all meaning to you, but tonight this hit me in a fresh way. I thought… what if success was a destination? That would mean success was STATIONARY. STAGNANT. You’d get to Success-ville and then what… park? Soak up the success of the other people who had made it there with you? How boring. No progress has ever been made by smug satisfaction. Not in physical health, not in pursuing communion with other people, or with God. Not in business. Not in development of new technology. You can’t reach success because it’s always changing.

I think that for a health journey like mine, the path to success kind of looks like… being offered the opportunity to go on a fabulous, amazing, glob trotting vacation for free… but you have to bring your kids. It would really be just… so much easier to stay home. I mean, for real. Snacks, extra clothes, diapers if the kiddos are babies, blankets, toys, you name it. It’s all got to come along, you can’t go without it. Then you have to think about everyone’s sleep schedule, and keep the kids from killing each other, and dad’s going to blow a gasket if anyone says they have to go potty, or “he touched me…” One. More. Time. You could just stay home and avoid all of that hassle… But if you stay home, you’ll miss the African Safari, perhaps watching your daughter touch an elephant’s trunk for the first time. You won’t see beautiful blue seas of Greece or walk the Great Wall. You’ll never be for sure if the croissants in France taste better than the knock-offs at Starbucks.¬† You wouldn’t experience any of that because it was too hard and annoying and inconvenient, and you knew there would be some moments that just absolutely were going to suck – you’d also lose out on the wonder, the amazement, the memories. The accomplishments.

Success is something you take with you. You have to carry it in your pocket, and it’s kind of heavy, maybe even a little inconvenient. Maybe it’s REALLY inconvenient. It kind of bangs against your leg like your iPhone 800c.2a or whatever. You have to keep track of it and remember to charge it. You have to update its software constantly, and make sure you don’t let anyone take it away from you. You and your friend can have the same model but if you switch, you’ll see how differently their “iSuccess” is customized to them and their needs.

Success that can be parked at is just a milestone. I lost 50 pounds, but I can’t park there. It’s a great milestone, it’s huge and should be celebrated in a big way, but I’m not done, and I’ll never be done. I think I’m just starting to understand that. And thank goodness it’s a journey, cause I want to keep moving.