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.

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. 😉

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.

The Inspiration

I have been getting a ton of positive compliments and great feedback and support from my friends and family members. They say they are proud of me. They say that I’m looking great, ask me how I’m feeling and wonder about my food plan. They talk with me about my workout routines and ask for updates.

Recently, I have been getting a new kind of compliment, one that is a little overwhelming for me, as this whole lifestyle is a completely new development for me. I have been hearing some combination of these 3 powerful words:

“You inspire me.”

All at once those words are humbling, encouraging, and they feel like a contract that is being signed. You inspire me, keep inspiring me. All these words are awesome tools for good motivation to keep in my back pocket (which is hopefully harder to reach into because I want a big butt).

I have been pushing myself harder than I ever have before in my life. and it feels SO AWESOME. Lately my workout routine has been mostly made up of 45 minutes on the elliptical on medium-high resistance with a decent incline (some less high impact breaks thrown in there as well). I had started lifting last week and decided it was time to get serious. Today I had a 10 minute elliptical warm up, then I followed that up with:

  • Leg Press, 100 lbs, 30 reps X 2 sets
  • 45 lb Bar Squats (just the bar, not ready for more yet), 15 reps, 10 reps
  • Abdominal Machine, 55 lbs, 20 reps, 10 reps, 10 reps
  • Chest Press, 55 lbs, 10 reps X 2 sets
  • Seated Row, 55 lbs, 10 reps, 7 reps, 5 reps
  • Shoulder Press, 55 lbs, 10 reps, 7 reps, 4 reps
  • Bicep Curl, 40 lbs, 8 reps (ran out of energy!)

I feel so amazed that I can do that kind of physical activity. I was limiting myself for so long based on what I THOUGHT I could do, or could not do, as the case may be. Furthermore, I would get so far along on what I would try, and then never push past that. You know, now that I look back on it, I think part of the reason I quit is because NOT pushing yourself is BORING.

I saw a great inspirational graphic today on Pinterest:

puravit

I have a full on laundry list of all the people in my life who have inspired me to get fit and challenge myself. Every single one of them is instrumental in my life’s walk to get where I am today. But it’s not enough.

YOU have to be enough. There will be times when there aren’t enough compliments. Sometimes people will get sick of hearing about the changes you’ve made, and you will feel the urge to stuff your dirty gym socks in your mouth to stop your verbal fitness diarrhea. Often, you will wake up, put your feet on the scale, and it won’t tell you what you want to hear. Sometimes you’ll be lazy. Sometimes you will want to eat the cupcake. Sometimes… it will all feel too hard.

There are a couple of voices that swim around in our heads. The negative voice will always be there. It’s like a family member that shows up to holiday gatherings and embarrasses and alienates everyone. You can’t get rid of that voice, but you can shout back at it, just like you would your drunk, offensive uncle: “NO. YOU’RE WRONG. YOU DON’T GET TO TELL ME HOW TO FEEL OR WHAT TO DO, AND I AM A FABULOUS UNICORN.

By Michele Melcher
By Michele Melcher

We also have the BUSY voice. “You are much too busy to take 1.5 hours for yourself at the gym 4-6 times per week.” “There is no way you’re going to be able to handle cooking everything you have to eat from scratch.” “Isn’t it so much simpler to just grab something at a drive thru? Do you really believe this is all worth it when you’re soooooo busy?

Dude – I have to work out because I’m busy. I have spent so many years running around with my to-do list with zero energy to complete it. I have been depleted, worn out, and overused. Working out gives me the energy I need and the strength I need to get stuff done! I am a much better and more effective person when I work out, and that includes time management.

Lastly, and most importantly, we have the positive voice. The loving voice. Do you know what I have realized? You can have a relationship with that part of your inner thoughts – you can trust yourself and your positivity. Even if you mess up (you will) and what you thought you could handle was too much, or you weren’t any good at it, your positive voice will continue to say, “Hey, good job trying that out. Let’s do something else.” Don’t let your negative voice get in there and say you’re a failure. Don’t let it crowd out your positive voice by ganging up on it with the busy voice. The positive voice is the STRONGEST and MOST POTENT of the three voices – if you give it life. Refuse to let the other two voices kill your greatest asset.

I am my own inspiration, for now. I will fail, which is why I keep other forms of inspiration around, and why I surround myself with loving, healthy people. However – I challenge you to light a fire in yourself, a fire of hope, and grace, and positivity.

I don’t write much about my faith here much, but I will tell you that as I begin to care for my body the way I wish I always had, that innate sense that I am worth it grows more and more. I promise you – you are worth it too.

Getting back on the elliptical!

exerciseI did something last night that I was sure I’d never do again: I went to the gym. (I also didn’t blog – ha!)

I made this decision on Tuesday, when I purchased my second membership to the beautiful and well-appointed local gym that’s just about 2 miles – and only 4 minutes! –  away from my home. When we first moved to the middle of what used to be nowhere, but is quickly becoming Suburban Somewhere, I had joined this lovely gym. I enjoyed my membership for close to two years, and then I got lazy about my health and quit. Because I had also purchased an unlimited child care pass, this gym was too expensive to not visit several times per week. At that time, it made no sense to keep the membership. Fast forward to today, and as you all well know by now, I am taking care of myself again. This time, I plan on making it a real and realistic lifestyle change, not a “weight loss plan” with a deadline. As my food choices get better and better, my body wants to move. That has been an interesting phenomenon in and of itself.

So the embarrassing part of this story? After signing up to go back to the Nice Gym… I went and cancelled the cheaper, more bare bones gym membership I had purchased at a place that was about 5 miles away, and approximately 15 minutes drive time, in traffic. My motivation for this was the price, which was about 40% of what I paid at Nice Gym (with unlimited childcare membership). But…

Guess how many times I made it to that gym?

I’ll give you a hint: It’s two.

Guess how long I’ve had that membership? A year.

Guess how much having that “cheaper” membership saved me?

IT DIDN’T BECAUSE SPENDING $20/PER MONTH THAT YOU DON’T USE IS $240 YEARS OF WORTHLESSNESS. Actually, That means I paid $120 dollars for each of my gym visits. If that weren’t so exasperating, perhaps it would be hilarious. (Okay, it’s hilarious.)

Some of the benefits that Nice Gym has with their premium membership are:

  • unlimited classes
  • free 30 minute personal training session each month
  • sauna
  • unlimited tanning
  • very nice locker room with showers
  • 4 minutes from my house (let’s keep it real folks – that’s the real winner-winner-chicken-dinner right there)
  • smoothie bar (doesn’t mean much to me right now, but some day I may not be so sensitive to things and I’ll be able to indulge in this again, once in awhile)
  • beautiful children’s room with a huge play space and multiple slides, as well as very competent childcare providers who are kind and caring

I elected to skip out on the $20/month unlimited childcare fee. If you bring your kid to the gym every time you go, this is a great deal, but I will probably not bring Xander every time. Your other options are to pay $4.00 for each individual visit, or $30 for a 10 visit punch card. My monthly membership, with all of those benefits above, is $29.95 plus tax. The Cheap Gym membership was $15 for me and $5 for unlimited care for Xander. It was a great deal… except for the part about me not using it. They have no classes, no locker room/showers, no sauna, one free training session per membership, are too far away, and their kid’s room is not nearly as fun. The staff is really sweet there, and they keep things clean. They recently had a remodel with new equipment and flooring – they’re just bare bones. And if bare bones is all you really want, then $15/month is a really great deal for a gym. But no amount of money is a good deal if you don’t use a service.

All this has me thinking: what does “worth it” really mean?

It starts with this: I am worth it. You are worth it. Then what follows should be:

  • priorities
  • goals
  • dreams
  • achievable realities
  • guidance from experts
  • realistic expectations
  • convenience and usability

I realized I had been shortchanging myself, my health and my need for convenience, for $10.00 a month (or $30.00 a month with the childcare option). I hadn’t taken my driving time into consideration, let alone the time of day I’d be traveling to the gym. Since I get off work at 5:30, it was right at rush hour. I also failed to consider what types of services I’d be giving up by switching to a more low tech gym. I hadn’t considered that I already felt comfortable at Nice Gym and that switching would feel foreign to me.

I think it’s okay to pay for convenience, provided that you will use that convenience. I think it’s okay to want the best for yourself when you’re taking your health into your own hands.

I haven’t blogged about my experiment in giving up on eating out (any eating out: fast food, coffee, frozen yogurt, restaurants – all gone), but $10.00 is a trip to McDonalds, and $30.00 is a trip to Red Robin. Both of those choices were detrimental to my health,  and yet just over six weeks ago, I was perfectly comfortable shelling out the dough for 30 minutes of food pleasure (followed by several hours of food torment later on… I’ll spare you the details).

When your priorities change, so does your mindset, and I think throwing some extra dollars at the gym is the best decision I’ve made all week!

The Beginning, and My Motivation

This post will be a trip into my recent history – I am planning on doing a whole set of posts on the (physical) health journey I am on right now. All of that info is meaningless, however, without my full story. It feels very raw and personal to share this with all of you, but I am ready. Thank you for sharing your time with me by reading this long-winded post, if you choose to do so. If you’re near and dear to me, you’ll know most of this already. If it’s new information to you, please accept my humility in sharing this with you, in order to maybe help someone out there who may need to read this. Love to all.

glovesI am finally at a place I have sought for most of these 30 years. A place of understanding, calm, and balance. I still need more of this. I am still imperfect and broken, but I am mending, rebuilding. I am growing. Most importantly, perhaps, I am shaping the person I want to be for the rest of my days.

November of 2011 began my undoing. I spent a long, long time, being undone. I was living in a new place, with no friends or family within 30 minutes, crippling fear of driving (still haven’t quite fixed that one yet), and a depression like I hadn’t felt in years. I’d felt good for so long, in my immaturity and lack of understanding, I had convinced myself I would never have any more down times. I was “fixed.” After starving myself on an ill-advised diet program for 7 months, I had a (briefly) thin-ish (for me, practically supermodel) weight, healthy (looking) body, a pretty house. My husband and I had good jobs, nice cars. I was, to borrow a term I’ve heard from my sister, an Easter bunny. All lovely chocolate on the outside, but brittle, and hollow on the inside. When I broke, I broke hard.

Broken… In my head, heart, emotions and behavior. On most days I could barely hold it together. I would weep, flung out on my office couch, barely ever getting out of my bathrobe, and hopeless. I finally called a consulting nurse and she said that with my recent, too-rapid weight loss, it was likely that my medication that had worked for so long was now at an imbalance and I should get into the doc immediately.

I did what I always had done, and saw my primary care doctor, who was the biggest sweetheart ever. He kept gently pushing me towards seeing a “real psychiatrist,” and I was resistant. The last one of those I’d seen was not the kindest person and he made me feel like it was my fault that I needed his help. That does not make for a good patient/provider relationship. At all. I let my primary doctor try a new med on me. Disaster. I think we tried once or twice more, and finally, July 23rd of 2012, I went to an intake appointment with one of the most wonderful women I’ve ever had the honor of working with, Dr. L. She has a calming spirit, and a thorough methodology. She suggested a new medication, and we began the process of healing.

Dr. L was my new nudger, this time nudging me towards counseling. You see, as you may already know, MEDS ARE NOT ENOUGH. The world is too big, too vast, too heavy, and too joyous to be contained or held off by a little white tablet. She had to work on me for quite some time before I was willing to go in that direction. I wasn’t ready to be better yet. I was stuck in a world of self-punishment, and I thought I deserved to stay there. I was also bitter, angry, and selfish.

I still floundered. I wasn’t depressed as much, but I became entrenched in Mania Land. I did things and said things and thought things that I never thought possible for me. Prior to “The 2011 Breakdown,” I had been manic before. I realized this after my BPD2 diagnosis. The thing is… my mania was so positive, it was hard to look down on it. I did things like create 9 paintings in one month while I was pregnant, and when we moved to our new home, I had 42 boxes unpacked, pictures hanging on the wall, and shelves decorated… the 3rd day. Things like that. This was different. So many feelings, so much pain.

The worst physical and mental feelings that I’ve ever had, rapid cycling, put me in a constant state of turmoil and imbalance. I never knew when that would hit me, and lived in fear. Mostly, however, there was the mania. Barely sleeping for days, irrational thoughts, damaging and harmful relationships with people who dragged me down further, partying… I didn’t know the person I had become, and I didn’t like her, but I also got really comfortable with my new “do whatever I want” lifestyle. It seemed impossible to get mentally healthy again, so for a while, I didn’t try. I wallowed in my pain, and in the wrong kind of pleasure. I had become a different kind of shell… a hard, candy shell with a bitter filling. I was consumed with my anger, and my anger fueled my ability to keep misusing my life and those around me.

I got sick of it. I got sick of this person I’d become. I decided to become a fighter.

January of 2013, I finally relented and went to counseling. and I met Dr. K. In serendipity that can only be seen as miraculous, I ended up with not ONE but TWO amazing mental health care providers. Dr. K taught me so many things, with the most prominent lessons I’ve learned being:

  • Let go of the word “should.” Doing things because you “should” will always leave you out of healthy motivation. Find another reason to do, or not do things.
  • Let go of guilt. She described guilt as a belief that you can change the past if you feel badly enough about it or punish yourself enough. No matter how much you sit and marinate in your guilt, you can’t change what has happened before. You can only learn lessons from your mistakes and failures, and work towards being different and new.
  • Nothing lasts forever, good or bad, and for a person with bipolar disorder, this is especially true. If I’m feeling really manic, or if I’m feeling very depressed, I can rest assured that pretty soon, a new phase will come in.
  • I couldn’t choose how sick I was, but I could choose the person I wanted to be behind the illness.

That last bit was a huge piece of my puzzle. I had to dig into years of pain and frustration and wrong attitudes, and HULK SMASH! It was hard work. It was difficult, hard, soul-shattering work. Building a human is hard enough… rebuilding a human is something else. To rebuild, you have to tear down, and to tear down you have to look at some pretty gross piles of rubble. Anyone who has ever done a home renovation, a two word term that causes shuddering and haunting memories for all involved in such a thing, you know that kind of work isn’t done over night. There are piles of paper, and STUFF, and misplaced items, and you have to step around things, and generally, everything looks like a HOT DAMN MESS.

It’s the same, or worse, inside of a person. I was a HOT DAMN MESS for quite a while, but slowly, almost without my knowledge, I started to get better, but I messed up a few times. BIG things that were hard to get over and get past. Things that needed a lot of forgiveness and grace, from myself, and from those closest to me. I still held on to some of my bitterness like a security blanket; it had been there for years and giving it up felt dangerous. It felt exposed, to let my heart be open, trusting, and free of negativity and old wounds. But I did it.

I did it.

October 2013 I fully committed myself to being the woman I want to be. I forgave. I chose beauty, and love, and grace. I chose daylight, freedom and truth, and gave up the shackles of darkness, concealment, and shadows. I still mess up, but they’re little mistakes.

It’s November 2014, and I’m honoring that girl. All of her. The broken girl who felt like nothing would ever get better. The broken girl with an inkling of hope, who decided to give life a real, honest try. Who cried too deeply and for too long, and who laughed too loudly and unnaturally. Who exposed all the wrong parts of herself and kept the light locked inside the darkness.

The girl who then laid aside her selfishness and chose to try again. Who built, and broke, and built and broke.

She tried. She succeeded.

When I think about the food, health, and physical journey I’m taking on, I know I couldn’t have done it when I was sick. Sometimes I mourn the wasted years, and the damage I did to my body with food, alcohol, and no sleep. But that girl wouldn’t go away, and she wouldn’t be ignored. She had to be helped and healed. As I mentioned in Frozen and Thawed, I had a lot of helpers. I certainly did not, and probably could not have, walked this road on my own.

But I did walk the road.

I owe it to that girl to take care of myself now. She could have given up and become a statistic, but she fought and she didn’t give up. I look back on that girl now and I can love her. I can love her in her brokenness, and I choose to honor her struggle by taking care of the woman I’ve become.

On Happiness

From BrainyQuote.com
From BrainyQuote.com

For quite some time now, I have carried around a list of goals in my mind like an anchor. Sometimes an anchor centers you; it pulls in your focus and reminds you of what’s really important to you. And sometimes an anchor is just that: a dead weight. A dock. A standstill. Goals are wonderful- without them, we wouldn’t push ourselves on towards anything better. But recently, it’s become really evident to me that your goals should not push you towards some THING that is better; they should push you to be some ONE who is better.

What’s better? Is it having more money? Is it having power, or position, or a ton of people who fawn over you? Or is it this:

Found on Intentionally-Inspired.com
Found on Intentionally-Inspired.com

Happiness to me, these days, is all about what you DO. If what you do aligns with who you want to be, and most of us want to be a source of light and love to this world, you will always be happy. If your happiness is not on how much joy you can scoop up and gather to yourself, but rather how much joy you can scoop up and hand to other people, happiness just isn’t all that hard to find.

I think this is something that’s really important for those of us with mental illness to remember. It’s very hard to “feel” happy sometimes when you’re struggling with depression, or the guilt you may feel after some pretty stupid things you’ve done while manic. (Or whatever your experience happens to be.) Write down a list of the good things you DO. I think DO turns into FEEL pretty quickly. Don’t write yourself a list of the not so good things you do. You become what you focus on.

The best Christians focus on becoming more like Christ, and less like Joel Osteen. *ehem* They do best when they aim FOR something, instead of just running AWAY from what they fear. You can spend your life running from your demons, and focusing on that, or you can spend your life chasing the dreams that God gave you.

Speaking of which, I’m learning the ukulele and it’s the best thing ever!

I had a dream for years about learning an instrument so I could sing and play. But did I do anything about it? No. I just stewed, and wished, and didn’t put in any time, money, or effort towards my goal of being an instrumentalist as well as a vocalist. Until recently. See, I’ve been on this DO kick.

And I really, really, really like it.