Start Again

“There are millions and millions of people with mental problems.  They work regular jobs, irregular jobs, they work at home, they don’t work, they’re married or single, they have kids or don’t, they do laundry and fall in love and have opinions and grieve their losses and, if they’re lucky, take their meds.  That’s what I’m learning.  I am a person with mental illness. So it takes some extra effort.  So sometimes it’s debilitating.  But now that I’m learning to manage it, it’s becoming not my entire life but simply a part of how I live, something people around me live with as well, something I can accept.  I have to, that’s the only way this works.”             —  “Madness: A Bipolar Life” by Marya Hornbacher

This extended quote gets right to the heart of where I am right now.  As someone with Bipolar Disorder, which appears to have been put in my rear view mirror for the time being, I am trying to figure out where I go from here.  What I need to do is figure out how to stop being afraid of things I perceive as being outside my comfort zone.  I’m not sure how to do that, if any of you have some suggestions I would really appreciate it.  Some of the questions I ask are:

Can I get a job?
Can I handle a career?
How about a significant other, or a family?
What happens when I fall apart?
Where does it all go when the only thing I can focus on is me?

defeat is just an
opportunity to
start again

I don’t know where I heard that but it seems like a good motto.  I think I’ll take it as my own.  Now I need to do some serious work on me.  I hope nothing gets in the way.

California

“…and it’s California, where everything is powerfully strange. Everyone wants it to be home.  Everyone left where he or she was from with dreams of transformation.  Everyone runs away to California once, or at least all the lonely, hungry people do.”  “Madness: A Bipolar Life” by Marya Hornbacher

California, I can’t say it is where all my problems started, but it is where I started to experience the most prominent and life changing events of my existence.  My move to California was preceded by my two best friends moving out there.  One, with his growing family, to San Diego followed by the other and her new(ish) husband to the L.A. area.  Before those two moves, California never occurred to me.  But I visited him in San Diego and drove out to L.A. with her and I guess it was just a matter of time before I was on my way West.

Now, it’s not as though I wasn’t leaving anything behind.  I had lived Virginia Beach for seven years, my parent’s were in Southeastern North Carolina and my sister and her family were in the Washington D.C. area.  On the other hand, Northern California from Sacramento, to Petaluma, Elk Grove and well all over Northern California was packed with relatives.  Let’s see, two grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, a third cousin twice removed or, I don’t know, just a load of relatives that I never spent a whole lot of time with.  There was that opportunity as well.

So, my friend talked to some people he knew, and then I talked to those people and after a bit of time I was on my way to San Diego.

Virginia Beach is a Navy town.  Everything is geared towards the Navy.  There is a Naval Air Station there.  Jets fly directly over the beach, and houses and the mall.  Right next door is Norfolk, a Naval Base, the across the river is Newport News and Hampton, where Navy ships are built.  To me it was a big place with a small town feel.

San Diego, on the other hand, is a Navy City.  There is so much more going on there than Navy or Marine Corps.  San Diego is where “Top Gun” was set.  The Naval Air Station is now a Marine Corps Air Station.  I think the biggest shock for me was how big it was.  There were so many freeways, 8, 5, 805, 15, 163.  So many things to do.  Sea World, The San Diego Zoo, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, I could go on and on.  That was just San Diego.  The other friend I mentioned had moved to the L.A. area.  You can just imagine how overwhelming could get.

I was a bit overwhelmed and to add to that I had a brand new job I had to excel at. (I don’t think I knew any other way to work)  Not to mention, I was looking for a way to transform my life.  I was hoping I would find something in California that would be different, better, something else.  I was looking to escape some of the horrors Virginia Beach held for me.  My friend J, overcome by breast cancer, my own bout with cancer, starting to deal with depression.  It was time for me to leave.

After moving and finding a place to live (I stayed with my friend and his family for a few months) things started to settle down.  Work was good and not too hard, I started exploring the city some.  I was getting to know the people I worked with.  We were going out to bars and restaurants, pretty much having a good time, I didn’t drink so I was commonly the designated driver.  At the time, I had a blue Ford Expedition and everyone loved to pile in.

A few years later, my friend and his family have moved away, my relationship with my friend in L.A. has soured.  I was spending too much time at work and with the people from work.  The next couple of years are a blur to me.  When I concentrate hard on what went on in those two years all I get is working way too many hours at the office and at home.  I see going out a lot, in spite of all the work, and I see my mentor and now friend being diagnosed with cancer.  The cancer diagnosis is very clear in my mind, the rest is just a flurry of activity which ends with me in the hospital having just come through a psychotic episode.

Some days I have clear memories of sunny skies, a light breeze and a feeling of well-being.
Others are roller-coasters of faces and noise that are completely terrifying.  Those days I feel like California, at least San Diego, chewed me up and spit me out.

I loved living in
San Diego but it did
not like me at all

600th Post – Thank You

This is my 600th post since I started this blog at the end September.  The words I put here are me, my family, my friends, my lifeblood, my deepest buried truths and pains.  I share them with strangers, who can act any way they see fit.  I am thankful to all of you who have read and liked, and followed, and commented.  I know you don’t have to treat me the way that you do.  That feels like a lot but it has been some of the best therapy, I have ever had.  You all have been part of it and again, I am thankful for every single one of you.  I hope you stick around for the next 600.  🙂

Right

The only thing I can figure is that I must be doing it right.  Whatever “it” is, I see no way I can be doing it wrong.   No one has ever been in the same situations I have been in, there is nothing to compare it to.  So why do I constantly find myself wanting someone to tell me that everything is going to be alright?  If I’m doing it right there shouldn’t be any reason for reassurance.  I should just know that everything is going to be alright.

I have had things to write but, with a few exceptions, I haven’t been able to concentrate well enough to sit down and get it out in cohesive thoughts.  For starters, the past week was pretty good, we went to my sister’s house for the Christmas holiday (Northern Virginia).  We were there from Monday evening through Saturday afternoon.  They are in the process of moving out of their house so things were somewhat in disarray.  They’re trying to get packed and at the same time celebrate the holiday.  It takes a lot of energy to keep up those kinds of things.  That’s energy I just don’t have.  No matter how much coffee I drink or “5 Hour Energy’s” I consume.  Luckily, everyone involved was able to see that I wasn’t really able to participate.  I felt like a bump on a log the whole time, but I managed to keep it from affecting my mood too much.  It WAS great to be able to spend time with everyone.

I finished the third week of two separate courses of antibiotics (1 for a week, 1 for 2 weeks) last week and I guess the sinus infection is gone.  My nose is still all clogged up but the sinus headaches and other congestion is gone.  I think a combination of the medication and the infection is what sapped my energy.  I also think the antibiotic has been messing around with my psych meds.  I can’t pinpoint it, but I have been having some break through depression, like a sadness drive-by.  It doesn’t last very long but it has been pretty profound at times.  I’ll watch it closely and see if it continues.  I have an additional comment about medications.  Over the past month and a half, I have gained some weight.  I’m not sure how much but I can say that my clothes have been fitting differently. Plus, my blood sugar measurements have been all over the place and that is highly abnormal.  I have checkups with both my docs in January so we’ll get to the bottom of this.  Oh yeah, one other thing, the Lithium tremors have become more bothersome over the last week or so.  At times, it has been very tricky using the mouse or typing/selecting icons on my phone.  Also something I am keeping a close watch on.

Given the second and third paragraphs, I don’t think I’m doing everything right.  If I was, I wouldn’t be complaining as much as I am.  I guess I still have work to do.  I’m afraid it is going to be a constant thing in my life.  Just here, working on getting it right.

43

Tomorrow is my birthday.  It seems like it was just here, although, this time last year wasn’t all that great.  For starters, I was getting over side effects of a false start with Lamictal and I was sliding into depression.  Plus, it wasn’t as if my forty-second birthday was all that major of an event.  Forty-three still isn’t that big of an event either, but I feel better and I am in a much better place mentally than I was this time last year.  Speaking of this year, as is the custom at the end of the year, many people reflect on the past events and say what they are thankful for.  Plus, on my birthday, I look back at the year that I have had and talk about that time.  There really is no point in doing it twice.

I am thankful for:

My parents, without whom, I would probably be languishing in an institution somewhere.  They have provided support to me that would be impossible to duplicate.  They are the biggest reason I am doing as well as I am.  Thank you Mom and Dad for making me and still having the ability to love me through all of this.  I know there have been times when I haven’t been the easiest person to live with.  Thank you for putting up with me and showing a mountain of patience.

My family, for giving me unconditional support, accepting my frailties and making me feel loved.

My friends, for everything they have said and done, there’s a reason why we’re all friends.

My therapist, for listening, suggesting and pushing me beyond myself and my comfort zone.

My psychiatrist/chef, for finding the right combination of medications to keep my symptoms at bay.  Better living through chemistry 🙂

The NAMI Peer support group, such a fantastic collection of people.

Everyone who reads my blog and gives me support through likes and comments, who in turn provide me the all important evidence that I am not alone in my struggles.

WordPress, for hosting my blog, for giving me a place to put my demons, likes, loves, fears and so much more.

——————————————————–

“Some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic, but I had a good life all the way”  — JB

Here’s to 43 more!!!!!!

Erasing or Blessing

Question:  To my fellow bloggers out there, how to you keep track of your blogs so that you avoid repeating yourself… at least word for word?

I ask because I came across a couple of writing prompts that had me going back in my mind trying to figure out if I had written about them.

“What do you wish you could erase from the past?”
“In life, what has been your biggest blessing in disguise?”

Both questions have the same answer.  Psychotic Break and preceding Manic/Mixed Episodes.  I believe I have already been over why I wish I could erase it from the past, several times.

That time in my life has also been my biggest blessing.  I know it sounds impossible that someone could go through all that and actually be thankful for it.  That’s the way I look at it the majority of the time.  The thing that has been the biggest blessing is the people that I have encountered on my journey.   Nurses, doctors, lab techs, counselors, therapists, members of support groups, bloggers, readers, with few exceptions, have all been incredibly helpful, very supportive and some of the friendliest people I have ever met.  Those people alone have been some of the biggest blessings.  I’ve also found blessings in the writing/blogging I have started to do again.  It was the greatest feeling in the world to publish a blog entry and have someone out there respond.  The support I get from the blogging community is a giant blessing.  There’s one last blessing I have to mention and that’s my family.  Having gone through the things I have and relying on them for the greatest support people can give each-other.  I have found honesty like I’ve never had before and those truths have made me more in touch with myself than I have ever been.  So, it is possible for something to have good and bad consequences all at the same time.  I guess I have known it for a while.  Putting it out there makes it real.  That feels pretty good.

Balance in Life

The question has been posed:  How do I attain and then maintain balance in my life?  Or maybe how does a person attain and maintain balance in their life?  It was asked of me so I will try to answer from my point of view.

Define what’s important
For me, my health is number one, both physical and mental health.  My mental health is pretty OK but I definitely need to work on it all the time. Remembering to take my medications, keeping appointments with my therapist and psych-doc are keys to keeping my mental health in check.  I also know that writing is a key component to managing my mental health.  So writing this blog is important.  As far as my physical health goes, I need to work on a few areas.  I’m diabetic so I have to keep a constant watch on my blood glucose readings (I check mine every morning before breakfast).  I’m also overweight, some of that comes from medications I take some of that can be attributed to a somewhat sedentary lifestyle.  Needless to say, I would be better if I started to exercise.  Regular visits to my primary care doc are also important.  At this point I would say that my physical health is probably playing a backseat to my mental health.

Others things that are important are my relationships with my family and friends and keeping up my blog.  My family and friends are my support group.  They are very important when it comes to keeping up with my mental health.  I rely on them to provide me with all the tools necessary to combat anything that might be trying to disrupt my mental health.  It can be a conversation, phone call, text message, hug, whatever.  Keeping these relationships is very important.

Although there a thing that need work or need constant work I feel as though the things that are in balance.

Set Boundaries
Learn to say no, and learn to keep saying it.  I would be nowhere today, or in a hospital somewhere, if I hadn’t learned how to say no to things people asked me to do.  For me this again has to do with doing, or not doing, what is best for my mental health.  This involves learning what my triggers are as well as what my comfort zones are.  My triggers include high stress situations and deeply depressing situations.  Either one of those could push me across the manic or depressive thresholds.  I’m not that fragile but it’s hard to know from one setting to the next.  The key is in really knowing yourself.

Don’t spread yourself too thin
Too much of something can indeed be a bad thing.  Learn what your boundaries are and learn how to pull yourself back before you’ve gone too far.  I know that when I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing I can quickly get into trouble.  For instance, I mentioned earlier that keeping up with my blog was important to me.  It has been a balance issue for me as well.  Sometimes I get so involved with writing my blog, replying to other blogs and reading other blogs that I lose track of time and I stay up too late.  When I do that I don’t get enough sleep and not getting enough sleep is a trigger for psychosis.  Again, it is important to know yourself really well.

Looking at these three items, I am happy to say that I am somewhat balanced in my life.  I didn’t think I would be as close as I am.

How do you find and keep balance in your own life?