12 Step

Eating Myself Sick (pt. 2)

Yesterday, I started writing about my most recent downward spiral into a binge eating episode. Now, for the rest of the story.

Two days ago was “Family Fun Friday” at my daughter’s school. Her dad decided he wanted to go and would pick us up, to go as a family, at 7:30 am. Every night my daughter doesn’t go to sleep before 10 pm, no matter how hard I try. Every morning, it’s a fight to get her awake, dressed, and out the door by 8:30 in time to catch her bus. It was very stressful knowing I not only had to have her up and ready an hour earlier, but, that I would also be in his presence, with his moodiness and anger over his current circumstances and belief that I’m to blame for the situation he’s in because I left the relationship nearly two years ago.

There was no time for a healthy or filling breakfast. So, I wound up eating two half pieces of pastry and half a muffin, along with a large cup of coffee with several creamers, while we were at the school. After we left and were on our way to where I volunteer weekly, less than two miles from his place, the arguing and criticism started. Then, he expected me to use his truck to go do my volunteering at the church. That way, I would go back with him when he picked our daughter up from school. No, thank you.

I wound up at his place, but, I didn’t take his truck. So, the angry texts started coming. Emotional manipulation and empty threats of a non-violent, but psychologically traumatizing nature started coming. Intellectually, I knew that the threats were empty, that his beliefs weren’t my truths, and that I’m not responsible for making him feel better. However, it didn’t stop the PTSD sensations of severe anxiety and overwhelm from taking over. I was jittery. My emotions were in turmoil. I couldn’t stop thinking of the “what if’s” and trying to formulate plans against them.

Anxiety at that level completely shuts down my ability and desire to eat anything. This effect results in a binge later. When I left the building and took the hour long transit trip home, I was okay. As I got off the bus and started approaching my home, I could feel the tension and anxiety rising. So, I decided that I was going to go do something else with safe people for the night, and left almost as soon as I got home. Then, something happened that triggered my sense of obligation, and my fatigue was so extreme, I just went back home.

I made a healthy-ish choice for eating, which sort of satisfied the nutritional hunger. Time to relax and self-soothe. Catch up on recorded shows and try to knit a scarf for my son’s birthday, three days away.

However, as the evening went on, both a physical and mental/emotional hunger grew. Unfortunately, I happend to have a little bit of cash. I checked the balance of my SNAP benefits. I could go get something to eat at the grocery store and make a healthier choice between Popeye’s and Safeway. I got dressed and went out the door. As I got closer to the bus stop to go to the grocery store, the aching in my thighs from all the walking I’d done this week and the overwhelming fatigue washed through me. Then I saw the bus go by.

I checked to see when the next one would come. Nine minutes. Not much time at all, but too long to sit and wait in the chilly night at the bus stop. Okay. Keep moving and walk to the next bus stop. Check the time. Five more minutes. Look up. A yellow, orange, and red beacon in the night – Popeye’s. It’s just a minute’s walk, then I can sit down. When I leave, I’ll still be close enough to walk home.

$6.99 special: Two tenders and four shrimp, a side, and a drink. Sounds good. Coke, please. Yes, honey for the biscuit! Do you have butter? Oh, it’s REAL? Even better. Cajun fries for the side. Thank you for the coupons.

Sit by myself, put my headphones on, and start watching a recorded show on my phone. A text from the ex. An update on our daughter and her complaining of a headache and upset tummy. More criticism for not updating him during the week or having her call him.

Mmmm. That honey and butter on that biscuit sure is good. The rest though, meh, but I eat it anyway.

In comes a group of women. Loud laughter and conversation. Friends having a night in on a food run. On the outside, looking in. Thoughts and emotions swirling on the inside. Calm and still on the outside. I look down and see the coupons I’ll never use.

“Do you guys eat here a lot?”

“Mmmhmm,” head nods.

“Do you want my coupons? I’ll never use them. Oh, sorry, they’re sticky from the honey.”

Home again. Anxious again. Minor relationonal skirmish. Isolation. Knit and watch t.v.

Knock, knock, knock. “Come in.”

“Here. I ordered late night pizza,” two slices of pizza and a hunk of cheese filled bread in a small, long Domino’s box.

Gone.

5:00 a.m. nausea.

When self-soothing turns into self-abuse, it’s time to admit there’s a problem…again.

“Hi. My name is Lillian. I’m a food addict.”

Now, to figure out how to unravel and disconnect the eating from the PTSD and my relationships before I kill myself with food.

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Eating myself sick (pt. 1)

I guess it’s time to get back to recovery basics, when it comes to my eating.

Yesterday was hard. It was the perfect storm of hormonal cycles, PTSD triggers, and physical exhaustion. Truthfully, the eating spiral started while I was working on my food plan and trying to figure out how to make it work.

The rationalizations and justifications of, “I’m starting tomorrow, so I’ll enjoy this bacon, egg, potato burrito with country gravy and a Coke for breakfast, now,” and, “After all, you’re not supposed to go shopping on an empty stomach, right?” were the first steps on the slippery slope of my binge eating disorder.

Eating has been my consistent “go to” for self-soothing/self-medicating ever since I was a pre-adolescent. It started after I told my mom about my step-dad having molested me for the previous two years and we wound up going and living with my grandmother.

Dolly Madison Donut Gems in the morning for breakfast before school. Extra chocolate milk at school for lunch. Burger King on the way home from school with my mom. Snack or dinner while visiting grandma at the cafeteria she worked evenings at, during her lunch break. KFC when grandma got home after 9 p.m. from her job. Neither mom or grandma knew how much or how often I was eating. It was offered and I accepted. It replaced the “love and affection” I’d lost when my step-dad stopped paying attention to me  – which was the whole, warped reason I told my mom in the first place.

Getting fed was the way I felt like I was cared about and mattered…at home. At school, it was definitely self-soothing to drink that second chocolate milk. We’d moved several times during that year and I wound up in an inner city school in Houston. There was a large Latino population, a slightly smaller Black population, and a small White population. I didn’t fit into any of them. I talked White, was obviously a “half-breed” Latina, and obviously not Black. it was 1980, in Texas. Mixing races was very much frowned upon. Add into it that I was the “new kid” in sixth grade. I was either ignored or shunned, depending on which group of students I tried to interact with. So, I ate alone. That second chocolate milk and seconds on food, if it was available, filled in the interminable time between the end of one class and the beginning of the next, otherwise known as lunch and recess.

If I focused on how good the food tasted and how it filled me up, then I didn’t have to pay attention to the taunting or the isolation.

After school, mom would meet me in front and we would walk home, just talking about our days. These are vague memories, at best. However, I know that I enjoyed that time with her. Whenever, she could, she’d take me to the Burger King that was between the school and the apartment we shared with my grandma. Sitting there and eating my Whopper Jr. with fries and soda, extended my time with her. Time that was easy and uncomplicated. Time when I felt like she saw me and that I was loved.

Snack/dinner at Picadilly Cafeteria, where grandma worked, was usually an obligation kind of thing. Mom didn’t want grandma to know she’d fed me at BK. So, on those days, I’d have a snack – usally fried okra. I love the taste and texture of fried okra done right. Other days, when we hadn’t stopped at BK, I’d get a full meal. Mom and grandma, sitting with me while I ate, having quiet and easy conversation. Those were our family time meals.

Grandma LOVED Kentucky Fried Chicken, Original Recipe! My memory tells me she came home with a bucket nearly every night. My adult reasoning says it couldn’t have been nearly that often. Anyway, I was usually still awake, despite it being close to 10 p.m. If I was awake, the smell of the chicken was so good and grandma was so sure I hadn’t had enough to eat. So, I would eat…again.

So, food was how I knew I was loved. Food was how I received comfort and suffered through rejection and isolation. Eating was a deception and obligation for emotional safety. It was never about nourishment or health. It was always about emotion and relationships.

I suppose not much has changed on that front. On Thursday night, despite having eaten two very healthy and sustaining meals, one of which I stopped eating when I was satiated, that good ‘ole Southern comfort food got brought into my Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model group and I filled my plate. I overfilled it! Homemade mac ‘n cheese, homemade potato salad, greens & ham, and fried fish were irristable.

This was the fourth time I’d been in this room with these women, many of whom are African American, all of whom have experienced significant DV trauma. Some are recovering from substance addictions. None of whom did I feel a connection to. I was always uncomfortable in this room, with these women. All I could see was why I didn’t fit with them and the reasons why they wouldn’t feel like I should be there with them. I guess I was mentally back in that sixth-grade school yard in Houston.

But, that food! It was common ground. I was sitting at a table with a Latina and a White girl, surrounded by Black women. All of these women are so strong and so inspiring and I’d been so intimidated and unsure that I could be accepted by them. I ate, everything, after stating I’d gotten way too much and that I probably couldn’t finish it all.

Well, I finished it after a particular topic came up while we were eating and I got triggered into sharing a very painful memory of loss from five and a half years ago. Then, I ate a piece of homemade apple pie for desert.

Sorry this is so long. If you’re still reading, thanks for hanging in there. To be continued tomorrow.

Life update and seeking a sense of safety

It’s hard to believe it’s only 15 days into 2014. I feel as if it’s already been three months, so much has happened in such a short period of time. I feel a need to decompress. This means it’s time to just write about the stuff that’s been going on for me in my life.

On New Year’s Day, I was alone again the way I had been on Christmas Day. I also wound up being under attack from the toxic texting that tends to happen when Keith is on his roller coaster of emotions from the way things have gone and his feelings about the choices and decisions I have made regarding our relationship and us living together. It’s hard for him to see and understand that although I still love him and that I do recognize and understand he has made efforts to grow and change, the reality is for me and for our daughter at least, the way things were between the two of us, was dysfunctional and having negative impacts on our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

I do not place fault or blame solely on him, his anger, or the critical atmosphere which he grew up internalizing. It’s only half the story. The other half of the story is my depression and my seeming inability to develop, maintin, and grow in self-esteem and doing the things I need to do for my self-care when I am in relationship with him in the midst of the tension, conflict, anger, and criticism. I have a complete lack of self-will and self-determination to do anything other than to enable him in his anger and emotional dysfunction and that depth of codependency is mine and much like the impact of an alcoholic who cannot function and drink at the same time, to the point that he sacrifices all else in life, in my codependent state and relationship with Keith, I have sacrificed everything on the altar of his dysfunction. I am powerless over it when we are living together, which is something that others in our lives cannot understand, accept, condone, or approve of because it means they are not treated well by either Keith or myself and has caused them harm, whether we intended harm or not.

Hand in hand with the codependency is my habitual self-harm behavior using food. Both the codependency and the food have been ways for me to distract, detract, numb out, and avoid dealing with the unresolved emotional and psychological traumas I’ve experienced in my life. Things which I have accepted in my life and thought accepting was enough to deal with them. However, true acceptance doesn’t happen if there are false beliefs attached to the acceptance. So, the acceptance of the childhood abuse, neglect, and abandonment which led to three years of domestic violence abuse by my son’s father in my late adolescence, all was predicated on the false belief that I was responsible in one way or another for any and all of those things or that I somehow deserved or that I wasn’t worthy of having experienced anything other than what I had.

Monday of this week my son showed up unexpectedly and unannounced. After having spent the previous week sick with the flu and having just come from being in the home with Keith during his weekend time with Luna because I was too sick to go anywhere else and it was his time to be in this space with Luna, there had been some predictable negative interactions and I was feeling raw and emotionally vulnerable. So, I really wasn’t prepared to interact with my son, especially since the last communication from him toward me was to announce on Facebook in response to a comment I’d made on his sister’s status update that I had given up my right to have an opinion or some such thing then unfriend me a little over a month ago, after the precipitating incident that caused LaLa and her SpiritLove to move out and me to leave three days later. I just really didn’t know how emotionally and psychologically safe we would be with each other once I opened the door and allowed him to come inside. But, I love him and I’m committed to being able to have a relationship with him, so I took the risk and opened the door anyway. I’m glad I did.

He shared with me something that another family member of ours, my younger cousin who is about 2-3 years older than he is, had told him. She’d let him know that when she was growing up and going through the things she was experiencing, I had been her safe person and given her a safe place to come to in her childhood when she didn’t have any other place to go to and feel a sense of safety. It was the first time he’d ever encountered anyone having that kind of perspective on me and the kind of person I have been. It was certainly not the way he has experienced me in his life and not like anything he remembers from his childhood. Apparently, it made him consider me in a different light and he was able to come to the realization that I attempted to give him and his sister safety and be a safe person for them as much as I ever had attempted it for our cousin. It was such a relief to hear him tell me that.

It also triggered more grief and realization inside of myself because I now understand that I never had a safe person or a safe place while growing up and I have carried that lack of safety with me the entirety of my adult life. Even when I am in safe places with safe people, I do not experience a sense of safety. I think that sense of safety is that sense of homecoming I’ve only ever experienced with one other human being and I think that lack of sense of safety is one of my biggest barriers in my relationship with God, myself, and others.

Daily Pages: Getting into a groove

I am happy to report that things have gotten a bit smoother over the past few days. Thank God . . . truly, counting my blessings and appreciating Jehovah-Jireh, the God of Provision.

Since Keith left his OTR driving job and came home for good in mid-August, the thing that I’d feared the most had started happening: that I wouldn’t be able to sustain and maintain the things I’d begun doing as part of becoming wholer and healthier inside of my mind, spirit, and body because I would sink back into the toxic depths of our codependent relationship.  Yeah, it happened.

I succumbed to the moodiness, depression, and simmering, seething anger which has become an inherent part of Keith’s nature and personality. I gradually stopped writing, I stopped doing things for me. I hovered and helicoptered around the home futilely trying to be the buffer and insulator between him, LaLa & her SpiritLove, and Luna. Of course, it wasn’t effective or helpful and everyone became increasingly agitated, irritable, and combative, while I just started eating more, numbing out on television, withdrawing into my own, isolated little world, becoming more and more depressed. Which all led to more flare ups in the cyclothymia and fibromyalgia symptoms.

It all came to a head this past weekend and after several days of me winding up in uncontrollable tears and spinning throughts of murder or suicide (don’t worry, I’d never act on any of those thoughts, I’ve had decades of learning to cope constructively with them), and I wound up engaging with Keith in a really awful, angry, painful, verbal conflict in front of little Luna. I said things I’m not proud of and kept pushing, knowing he would never be capable of choosing  constructive response to anything I was saying. Thankfuly, I did manage to disengage after a few minutes, but the damage was done.

It served as a catalyst and a reminder that, when I stop focusing on my recovery and doing what I need to do, when I stop seeking God first and relying on His provision of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness to get me through the painful, difficult things, then I contribute to the problems I want to blame everyone else for.

Regardless of anyone else’s ability, capacity, or decision to make a more constructive choice in any given moment, if I fail to choose the higher road, then I am equally responsible for any negative outcome. I cannot expect those who are not yet where I am in my healing and recovery journey to make different or better choices. I can certainly desire, wish, and long for them to do so, but I’m not entitled to expect to them to be or do different that who they are in that moment. Their thoughts, perceptions, choices, words, actions, and attitudes are not up to me and are out of my control. If I want them to respond to me differently, then, I better darn well give them something different to respond to.

Which is what I’ve been working on the past couple of days. I stopped watching as much television. I’m only watching shows with Keith, after he gets home. I’m getting out of the apartment and doing something constructive and connecting with another person, not involved with anyone or anything that’s going on here. I’m actually making a friend, I think.

Monday, I attended a Career Exploration workshop at the local employment office. One of the ladies I met there, offered a ride home and we stopped at a little Mexican restaruant on the way and talked about life and spiritual matters. She picked me up on Tuesday and we spent a couple of hours just talking and getting to know one another. She gave me a ride to the grocery store and to go pick Luna up from her Head Start program. Wednesday, she picked me up and we went to the employment office where she did an online application while I reeducated myself on ratios, percentages, area, circumference, conversions, and word problems in preparation for taking the NCRC – National Career Readiness Certification – testing in the next couple of weeks. I can do math, but boy is my brain tired. After that, we were both feeling hypoglycemic, so we shared a snack combo from Popeye’s and I got a sweet tea, don’t judge, I got the regular size. We talked some more and then we picked Luna up again. We’re supposed to get together again next week. I think I talked her into taking the NCRC with me.

I’ve prepared dinner every night so far. This is an accomplishment, it’s not something I have done regularly, but it’s starting to happen without as much resistance and internal ickiness associated with it as there used to be. I’ve swept the kitchen twice this week and straightened/cleaned it up two days in a row.

On Tuesday night, I managed to remember to set Luna’s clothes out for Wednesday morning. Wednesday night, I not only got her things set out for the next day, but I also got Keith’s lunch components all ready to go and his breakfast shake prepped and ready for the morning. So, he’ll be getting Luna dressed and all I’ll need to do is get myself dressed and put his things in the lunch box. Maybe we’ll make it out the door and out to the bus stop with more than a couple of minutes to spare.

I think I’m getting into a groove. I see that it’s possible that I can function more like what I think normal should be and accomplish more than one or two things in a day. Having someone who is reaching out to me, engaging me on intellectual, personal, and spiritual levels, is infusing me with something I wasn’t able to manufacture on my own.

I like it. I love it. I want some more of it! *grins*

 

Reader Interactive: Would you help me write my book, please?

Dear readers,
As any of you who have been following along may know, I’ve been participating in 28 Days to a New Me accountability groups on Facebook since May, after joining Dream Stoker Nation a month or so earlier. You may also be aware that one of my dreams is to write professionally and help support my family through my writing.

The time has come. Based on some recent conversations – about fears, dreams, and such: I have committed to taking action to make that dream into a reality.

For the AUGUST 2013 28 Days, I will develop a book. It will be based on my writing from this blog and do two things: 1) Tell the story of my journey and progress from the basket case I felt I was, Dec 2011, to the person I am now. 2) some of the significant things I learned, actions I took, and choices I’ve made that helped me grow and change.

I will do this by going back through and reading my blog from the beginning, at least three posts each day, and pulling out the significant event, presenting problem, outcome, and lesson learned.

By the end of August I should have the framework/outline in place for putting the book together.

What this means is that I might not be posting here as much. I am requesting two things from you, the readers of Human in Recovery.

First, for those of you on your own journeys of healing, recovery and growth, learning how to manage and cope with whatever conditions, compulsions, diagnoses, hurts, habits, etc., if you write – blog, journal, or notes on napkins – please consider sharing part of your journey, here, on Human in Recovery. This goes for anyone – artists, photographers, poets, musicians, crafters, scrapbookers, jewelry makers, walkers, runners, swimmers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. I believe that sharing our experiences helps us realize our strengths and gives hope to others, as well as to ourselves. As I have been growing along this journey, I have realized the healing power of being in community. Many of you have participated in helping me feel like an accepted part of your online community . While I move forward into new things, I envision this space becoming more of a community hub and not solely about me, my thoughts and my journey. So, I am asking you to join me in this progression and add your voice to mine. If that scares you to think about, that’s okay. I’m scared too. But, action in the face of fear is called courage. So, step into and grow your courage. Let’s do this, together. Leave a comment or go to the Connect to Kina page and we’ll create something amazing together.

The second thing I’m asking your help with is to let me know if there were particular posts that were relevant and helpful to you. I want to find out what it was that you connected with and how it may have influenced your journey. For those who have joined us a little more recently, I’m interested in the same information from you. Having this feedback will help the book to be. The intention of the book isn’t just to tell my story and hopefully earn a little money to help support my family, it is also to share my experience, hope, and strength with others who struggle as I have, who haven’t yet connected and been able to apply the lessons and information about healing, growing, and changing their lives to be more than they believe it can be.

Certainly, I haven’t become an expert example and I still have much to learn and grow in, but I never thought I would reach this place of self-acceptance, reconciliation between myself, my past, and key people along the way. That is what I want to help guide others who are stuck in similar ways to know and see that they CAN move out if that place, no matter how long they’ve been stuck.

I thank you all for following along on my journey. I am grateful for those of you who have offered encouragement, insight, and perspective along the way, you’ve helped me become who I am now. You are amazing souls!

Blessings,
Kina

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Pre-forgiveness: Continuing the conversation

A few days ago, I posted a SUPER long post about forgiveness in response to a writing prompt from my friend, Marc Schelske. Later he requested I respond to the post he had written, “OK, I admit it. I hate forgiveness too,” as a result of responses he had received regarding his original post, Does the church hate forgiveness? (Like Jonah).

He talked about things, which I think we all struggle with, Christian or non. Things like holding onto woundedness and the need to have the offending party “pay the price” or “feel the pain” for the original offense.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve spent a lot of my life caught up in that kind of thinking.

As a teenager, having “lost” my mom when I was twelve years old and being in my uncle’s custody, a lot of things that shouldn’t have happened did and a lot of things that should have happened didn’t. I was made to be responsible for and exposed to things that a young teenager should be insulated and sheltered from, in an ideal world.

I wanted out. I wanted away from my “white trash” beginnings and the dysfunction of weird, convoluted relationships, alcohol and substance use and abuse. I wanted to have a life where I didn’t have to move every year or two and try to integrate into a new school with new kids. I wanted to be involved on the flag team, the gymnastics team, and the dance team. I wanted him to show up and care, to fill out the forms, attend the events, and offer me support and encouragement for the things that meant something to me.

He wasn’t able to do those things, for a lot of reasons I couldn’t see or understand.

I watched him pursue and engage in toxic and co-dependent relationships with bent, broken, and damaged people while neglecting his responsibilities to me and to my baby cousin. I watched my grandmother take responsibility for us when she wasn’t well enough to do so. For a brief period of time, which felt like forever to my 15/16 year old self, I handled parenting and life responsibilities, which were his, because he was absent. Yet, when he showed up, I was subject to his authority.

It was bewildering, infuriating, and absolutely unfair. I desperately wanted to graduate from high school, get my college degree, and leave everyone and everything I was going through far, far behind me.

Instead, I wound up running away from home at 16 and became a mom at 17. Then I had a second child when I was 24.

I repeated all of the same patterns and made similar choices that passed on the damage I had experienced to my children. All the while I held onto the stories of what I had gone through with all the resentment, bitterness, judgment and unforgiveness which had become imedded in my heart, mind, and soul.

I watched myself say and do things that wounded and harmed people I loved with all my heart and I fought as hard as I could, trying to change the direction of our lives. Church, counseling, education, and 12 Step Recovery processes (secular and faith-based). None of it ever seemed to change what I was doing or what I was experiencing.

When my son was about fifteen years old, he chose to move out of my home because of how overwhelmingly dysfunctional and painful it had become. I saw myself and my uncle and the things that had transpired between us. It was then I realized, the harm he’d done had happened because he, himself had been wounded and damaged, and that he did not know any better than I did how to make the changes that needed to be made.

In the last eleven years, I have learned to do two things, partly as a result of the 12 Steps:

Make-life-easier-assume

1. AIM – Assume Innocent Motive: Whenever someone, anyone, says or does something that affects me in a painful and destructive manner, I think over all the times I have done the same, without ill intent but just because I was too screwed up to do different. I know that, most of the time, whatever it is that has been done was not intended to cause me harm. Yes it still hurts, but it helps me to let go of the false belief that their choices and behavior are about me.

SEEK-FIRST-TO-UNDERSTAND

2. Understanding. By seeking to understand who the other person is, where they are coming from, and the things that are informing and driving their behavior, I am able to let go of expectations for them to be other than who they are.

Finally, it has taken me the better part of the last 17 months to work through a lot of deeply rooted guilt, shame, bitterness, and resentment. It has been a long and arduous journey to truly believe and receive in the forgiveness of God through Jesus. Until I could internalize that, I was filled with self-hatred and unforgiveness of myself.

What Jesus did on the cross, the plan that God set in motion from the foundation of the world was a supreme act of Pre-Forgiveness. Once I understood that, I began to choose, in advance, that whatever pain and suffering I experienced at the hand of others, especially those I love, I was going to forgive and let go of. I love them. I want them in my life. I want them to know that, no matter what, I am not going to forsake or abandon them as I have done before. I am going to be with them in all ways, the way Jesus promised to be with me, with us, always.

Managing hypomania: The best way to learn is to teach

Ever since I learned about this thing called Cyclothymia a couple of months ago, you can read about it here, things have been kind of better, somewhat confusing, and all over the map. Perhaps I should say, I have been all those things.

The day I wrote about Neverending Story was the onset of another hypomanic episode for me. I didn’t quite realize it at the time I was doing my writing. I actually didn’t start recognizing it for what it was until it was time to lie down and go to sleep and my brain was just spinning, spinning, and spinning with all the things I want to write about and craving conversation, debate, and interaction with others who all seemed dormant in my preferred interactive forum of Facebook.

Tuesday at 11:09pm: Why is it I get so amped after writing? Feels like synapses are not going to settle down and let me sleep.

I gave up, got up and went out into the living room and logged onto the computer so I could use a full size keyboard and sit upright without disturbing the other sleeping bodies occupying the bed, Luna and her daddy.

I found another late night insomniac who I met through my daughter almost two years ago when she couch surfed at our apartment. We’ve chatted a few other times during 3rd shift when sleep eluded us both. We wound up discussing the difficulties with feeling out of control when she posted this statement:

I know I’m doing really good for myself right now… But why do I feel soooooooooooooo bi polar…I just wanna put my head through a wall!

The public conversation included me offering information about cyclothymia and then went private as she asked questions and shared about her experiences with relationships and how to cope with these kinds of overwhelming and out of control thoughts and moods.

The-best-way-to-learn-is

“The best way to learn is to teach.” ~ Frank Oppenheimer

I found myself responding to her questions and plaintive expressions of pain with the following:

Sometimes you have to focus on what you know, instead of what you feel, think, or believe. I KNOW I am loved and worthy of love, although much of the time I don’t feel, think, or believe it. Taking action on that knowledge helps me stop reacting in negative and harmful ways when other people whom I love don’t treat me the way I want and need them too. It helps me to respond differently than I otherwise would and has gone a LONG way in healing my relationships with my adult kids and Keith. Especially once I take into account how long and difficult the journey has been for me to choose loving action in the face of overwhelming feelings of rejection, depression, and judgmentalism, theirs and my own. 

“Yessss…I definitely understand your words and they are actually helping me in ways…I never understand my feelings and when other people tell me I’m negative all the time.. Or I’m depressed all the time or they don’t know what to do… Its like Ummm… Neither do I so why don’t you relax cuz neither of us understands it….! I just have been trying to stick around true souls and positive people… But I miss some people a lot and I’d give anything to keep them in my life and make them see.. Its not them… It is me… But Theres only so much I can do at times and others need to accept that. I’d accept my friends if they were homeless, lost, and had nothing to give… I’d give them the shirt off my back… But yeah…”

I could see the she in me when I read those words. It brought so many thoughts and memories about the lost and broken relationships in my life, as well as the lost and broken dreams.

Thankfully, because I’ve been doing the research on cyclothymia and working through my own healing and recovery process, I can look at recent history and recognize that new and healthier relationships are forming while bent and damaged ones are being healed and restored. So, when she asked, “What are some coping skills you have learned work well… Maybe its worth a shot for me ta try…,” I had a constructive response:

The 12 Steps of recovery have helped. One fb page, Codependent Life, has a lot of good stuff that helps me to reevaluate how I deal with people.

I started writing on my blog in December 2011 and was attending some recovery groups online and in person. I wrote about what was going on inside of me, in my life, and writing out some of the steps and meditations I had been reading through and studying.

As time went on, little by little, I started connecting with other bloggers who were experiencing various mental health, physical health, and relationship issues. I would read and comment and really think about what I was doing that was contributing to the problems I was experiencing and just praying, wishing, hoping for ways to move out of that negative head and heart space.

Acknowledging and taking ownership of my powerlessness in these things really helped me to start refocusing on what WAS in my control. I had to reevaluate my beliefs about God and His love for me and others. I realized that the only way I was going to heal and get unstuck was continually turning everything that I couldn’t control over to my Higher Power and trust that I would come out on the other side.

Step 1: I can’t. I was powerless over my own emotions, attitudes, and even actions. I still am to a large degree. My life was unmanageable and I was overwhelmed by everyone and everything in it.
Step 2: God can. Whether it is the “Christian” God or Love or the Universe, I had to recognize that a power greater than myself could and is restoring me to sanity.
Step 3: I think I’ll let him. I had to let go of my fierce desire and need to control the outcome and get people to understand, love, and treat me the way I wanted to be understood, loved, and treated. I had to trust that the Law of Attraction was strongly at work in my life and all the negative energy I was generating and focusing on was coming back to me in all areas of my life. I needed to find ways to turn that negativity over and find ways to reframe my negative thoughts.

The next day, I realized that by engaging with her about these things and sharing my own experiences, I had actually been reinforcing and teaching myself about managing my own hypomania.

To be continued . . .

Click here to find out more about Blog for Mental health 2013

Click here to find out more about Blog for Mental health 2013

Guest Post: Insipid Fear

angry CoyoteNOTE: Gary Walter is one of the people I met after joining Dream Stoker Nation. I have only been following his journey for a brief period of time. Despite our short acquaintance, I have been encouraged by his pursuit of his dreams and by his writing. I believe you will be too. Enjoy.

This post originally appeared on Gary’s blog, here.

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Hardly noticeable at first, it starts small. You wonder what it is, so you strain to listen. Is it just your imagination, or is it real? Suddenly, you’re wide awake, listening to every creak and grown in the house. You wonder if you should be scared, or merely curious? You wonder if what you feel is normal, or if you should be very afraid.

Like a child lying in the dark, you are paralyzed by fear. What is it? What woke you up? No, there’s no intruder, and there is no critter, the voices you hear are in your heart. Imagination? Maybe. Real? Yes. Are you anxious? Absolutely. And afraid. Yet, here in the grasp of your warm bed, there is nothing you can do about these fears. The fears are real – the circumstances that created them, well, maybe you just misinterpreted them. Yes, maybe there is no reason to be afraid – but then again, you are.

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At the age of 14 we visited my great-aunt and uncle in San Bernardino, California. During the Winter months they rented a mobile home in a park that catered to retired folks. I thought it would be fun to sleep on the deck in the warm California Winter. Shortly after midnight I woke up to the sound of coyotes. They yipped, they barked, and they growled. The ferocious beasts were on the move – and they weren’t far away – maybe within a block or two of where I lay in my sleeping bag.

I was terrified – certain that they were coming after me.

I was terrified – certain that they were coming after me. Their predatory noises got louder and I grew more and more terrified. I was scared to even breathe. The door into the house was just three feet away, but I was afraid the terrible coyotes would get me. I lay very still for the next half hour – listening as the coyotes attacked a neighbor’s pet dog (we learned the next day) and unable to move.

Since that night, I’ve learned that coyotes are relatively harmless and I’ve often encountered them in the wild. I’ve even stood next to wild wolves in the Alaskan Wilderness. But too many times, I experienced similar fears in the middle of the night. Often, like with the coyotes, those fears turn out to have no basis in fact or reason. Some situation, circumstance, or event in my life triggers the fear – and it’s usually too big and too ethereal for me to solve at 3:00 am. I am relegated to tossing, turning, and panicking.

It’s an unholy fear – one not based on anything tangible or credible. I cite the Serenity Prayer, I read encouraging scripture, and I cry out for relief. It’s a generational curse, passed on by family and ancestors who went before me. It is irrational, unreasonable, and not worth the effort – but it is real, it is stupefying and paralyzing.

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Last week I was reading in Exodus about the Israelite people leaving Egypt. It’s amazing how new things can pop out of a familiar story. But three things struck me in this story:

  • God took them the wrong way. If they had taken the most direct route to the Promised Land, they would have immediately ran into the Philistines and He knew they weren’t prepared to do battle yet.
  • He deliberately had them “wander” in the desert. It’s been said, “All who wander are not lost.” This was certainly true of the Jewish people right after leaving Egypt. God had them wander to confuse the Egyptians.
  • The people were terrified. Despite all this direct intervention from God Himself, they feared death to the core.
  • God’s plan was executed with precision. The Jews were rescued, the Egyptians were defeated, and it turned out there was never a reason to fear. It was a plan instituted 400+ years earlier, and on this day, it all came together – miraculously.

(OK, four – but who’s counting?)

I experienced something very similar in the last couple of weeks. A plan that was coming together perfectly, for a role I am perfectly suited for, but as the conclusion neared, I, like the Jews, became paralyzed by fear. It was as if I was 14 years old and surrounded by killer coyotes again.

But unlike the past, I did not resort to dysfunctional behaviors or thoughts to hide from the fear. I didn’t deny the fear, I accepted it. I didn’t mask the fear with food, TV, or other insane addictions. I just sought the Lord, surrendered it to Him, and learned to be still in His presence.

I finally came to the point where I accepted death as an option. Would it be painful? Yes. Would I like it? Probably not. But I trusted God to do what was best.

Amazingly, miraculously, in the end, at just the right moment, God came through and I accepted the role that I’ve prepared for my whole life. Amen.

  • PS: Here’s my most recent experience with coyotes.

Chill: Six Word Friday

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Luna caught a chill this week
Then her sniffles spread to me
New revelations made me feel weak
Jade demolished a couch with pee
Rent’s going up, reason to leave
LaLa needs mom, desire to stay
Too much stuff release the cleave
Ran out of ink application delay
This and more hurt my brain
Escaped 100 years to Downton Abbey
Avoided, delayed then succumbed to migraine
Need to chill, cease the crabby
Deep breath, relax, back to bed
I know I can’t, powerless admitted
Let go, let God easily said
Trust that God can, stay committed

Visit Adrienne at My Memory Art to join in on Six Word Friday

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Calling All Authors

Author Interview Questions and Submission Process.

In December 2012 I had the privilege to do Author Interviews with three newly published friends and blogging acquaintances of mine. I found that it was something I really enjoyed and was an opportunity for me to introduce new blogs, new books, and new writers to my readers here.  So, I have decided to make it a regular feature. How regular a feature will depend on how many authors decide to let me interview them.

If you, or anyone you know, is a published author (self or otherwise), with a personal tale of growth, healing, and recovery that you are willing to share, please click the link above or share the link. I would love to hear from you or them and work together to put together a quality interview to be featured here on Human In Recovery.

Blessings,

Kina