Health & Healing

From Darkness to Light

‘Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.’ 1 Corinthians 15:58

I don’t know about you, but, I suspect that, like me and many others I know, you might be tired. I mean mentally, emotionally, and physically fatigued. With everything going on in the world around us, that alone is enough to bring on the fatigue.

Just when things were on the verge of or starting to open up from the restrictions of the pandemic, there’s a spike cases and hospitalizations. Now things are tightening down again, as Oregon enters it’s 14th week of sheltering in and wearing masks. As a result of these pandemic related things, the national and local economies have been increasingly depressed with businesses closing (small business the most) and people losing their jobs, and the national unemployment at the highest it’s been since 1940. The protests for Black Lives Matter are entering their fourth week, having just passed Juneteenth, the celebration of the Emancipation of the slaves. Not to mention the victories and losses for our LGBTQ friends, family, and neighbors. Plus, the Presidential election cycle and the polarized politicization of both the pandemic and the BLM movement.

It’s overwhelming and absolutely exhausting. Then you add in whatever is happening for you and your loved ones, as well as how these national events are affecting you on an individual level.

So, there’s a lot of confusion. There’s a ton of conflicting information and even more conflicting opinions. The focus of the news and the media is sensationalized and focused on the painful and negative. There’s very little constructive dialogue and there seems to be a constant, false dichotomy of “us vs. them” everywhere you turn.What do we do with all of this? How do we get some relief, some clarity? How do we get some rest, other than avoiding the media and becoming turtles withdrawing into our shells? How do we decide where to place our focus?

The passage that the verse above comes from is Paul speaking about Jesus and all that he did for us to have life and to look forward to. He’s offering us a foundational reason to keep moving forward and to keep doing good in this world, even when what is good seems to have gone on vacation. Even though the issues and things around us may seem too big and too much for each of us as individuals to make a difference in, anything we do to bring the light of Jesus and God’s love into the lives of the people around us is not in vain.

‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. ‘ Galatians 6:10

But, before we can do any of that, before we have anything to give, we have to allow ourselves a chance to rest, recharge, and fill up on that light and love ourselves.

‘“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”’ Matthew 11:28-30

Now is the time for rest, recharge, and renewal, so that we can reenter the world’s arena and face the things around us with hope and love to share.

‘Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.’ Philippians 4:8-9

It is imperative that we look for the good in the midst of the bad. It’s there. Look for the stories of those who are giving of themselves, the stories of the peacemakers, the stories of those who are offering comfort, and even those who are offering happy and joyful things in the midst of the sorrow and the tragedy. Many may argue that now is not the time for levity and laughter. I would argue that now, more than ever, is the time for us to take a break and seek these things out.

‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. ‘ Proverbs 17:22

If we don’t take a break from the darkness around us and seek the light, our soul dies bit by bit and our spirits become broken. That’s no way for anyone to live. That’s not the legacy that Jesus left us. He left us God’s Spirit to live in us, so that our spirits can live and thrive, and that so we can share that life with those around us.Take a break. Get some rest. Find a reason to smile and laugh. Then, take that out with you and reenter the fray so you can help others to have a break, take a rest, and have cause to laugh and smile.

What to do with the grief of others

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. ~ Romans 12:15 HCSB

How can we show up in the midst of pain and grief for our marginalized siblings in the world around us, when we have no idea what to do or say to them and what we CAN do feels futile in the face of the vitriol and intentional ignorance? How do we not wind up making our sense of ineffectiveness and futility more important than their experiences of violence and suffering?

The answer is to BE with them in their grief. Acknowledge and validate their anger. Learn why they fear the things we don’t. Share and celebrate the things and people they celebrate. Be willing to set aside your “stuff” to show them they and their “stuff” matters. In other words, treat them the way you want to be treated.

It may be challenging to look away from our own issues, circumstances, and experiences in order to look and see those of others, much less step into their world and be with them. But, it’s very much worth the effort to do so. We also have guidance on how to do this.

‘He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. ‘ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 HCSB

How do we receive comfort from God? Sometimes it’s an internal sense of peace or a lifting of the spirit, maybe a lessening of the pressure on our chest or the lessening of the restriction of our throat. Maybe it’s through a song, a poem, a meaningful writing, or piece of scripture. Perhaps a video or show. However, there are times when it is another person and their words, actions, or just them being present with us which contributes to the feeling of being comforted. Those are the things we can do and share, if they are something the person grieving is in a place to receive.

‘The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord ’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him. ‘ Isaiah 61:1-3 HCSB

Jesus came to do these things, show us how to do these things, and teach us to do these things so we can share and demonstrate the love he shared and demonstrated to us. This is how we can learn and know how to show up in the midst of the pain and grief, anger and fear, our marginalized and brutalized brothers and sisters experience.

Legacy

‘Round and ‘round she goes
Freewheeling and spinning
Bouncing from thought to thought
From one thing to another

Up is down, down is up
Good is bad, bad is good
Riding the exhilarating waves
Crawling through the dark valleys

Always looking to be “fixed”
Always wanting a “fixer”
Needing control
Living in chaos
Dying in love

Her life is mine, as well
My children can attest
I fought like mad
Lashing out, relentlessly

Life on the edge
The art of the con
The good apprentice
Crumpled and abandoned

Obsessive plans
Frenzied achievement
Burned out
Crashed hard

Time and again
Rinse and repeat
Cycles within cycles
Antagonist and victim

The mind forgets
The body remembers
In the midst of anger
In the midst of turmoil
Conflicted life

Lost momentum
Lost joy
Lost hope
Lost self
Unmoored

Immovable mountains
Crashing and clashing
Awakened in conflict
Change begun

Spiritual awakening
Fortuitous convergence
Extraordinary and mundane
Unforeseen support
Asked, offered, given

Long and winding
Road of an epic journey
My strength is my weakness
Renewed and redeemed
Bridging the past and the present

From mother to daughter
Connecting the generations
A new future written
Shaped by what was
Walking into what will be

UBC 4/20 Day 19: “When is ‘I love me’ enough?”

I don’t know that it is possible for the average person to have never heard of Demi Lovato. However, just in case you’re an extraordinary person who never saw Disney’s “Camp Rock” movies or missed her performance of “Anyone” at the 2020 Grammys, she is a pop star, song-writer, and an addict who keeps working toward recovery, despite relapses.

Despite the fact that she’s nearly half my age (I’m 50 and she’s 27) her music is hitting me to my core. Her song, “I Love Me,” is very powerful, in how it so accurately describes my relationship with myself…especially the first few lines. She’s describing the struggle between body-image, identity, and mental/emotional health. The video does a very good job of illustrating the inner struggle that I, and probably many others, experience on a regular basis.

I’m in that kind of struggle right now. There’s the “enlightened me, who has been through six years of therapy and a lifetime of various forms of counseling, in addition to concurrent spiritual growth. This “me” says that my worth and value have nothing to do with my physical appearance, my weight, or my body size. This “me” tells me that I have much to be proud of: the hard work I’ve invested in myself, my mental health recovery, and the repair of relationships I wrecked prior to my diagnoses and treatment. She reminds me that I have gifts and qualities that matter in the world: intelligence, my writing ability, my EQ, my compassion, and my empathy for others.

Then, there’s the insecure, uncomfortable in her own skin, self-hating, self-saboteur and her minions: depression, anxiety, self-doubt, and exhaustion. When they get going, it’s like listening to a discordant dirge. They characterize me as lazy, weak, powerless, and unsubstantial.

The first is the intellectual me and the second is the mental me. You’d think both would get through to the emotional me. However, that’s not true for me. My intellect dissociated from emotions in order to survive and move through the various traumas I have experienced. The mental me is the one that was changed by the traumas and has genetic differences which activated into depression and bipolar disorder. Mental me seems to be in charge of the emotional me, who often totally ignores intellectual me.

Why am I breaking this all down?

Because I have spent the past three weeks on a “self-improvement” spending spree, which began slowly with a nail polish or two here and there. It was put on the fast track with the stimulus payment, a couple of smaller payments received, and getting hired for the new job. I bought clothes, shoes, makeup, more nail polish & accessories, and special personal hygiene supplies. I also paid a couple of bills, helped buy groceries, purchased a few small gifts for family members, and take out food. Finally, I purchased auto insurance for the car some friends are giving me. Basically, I’ve spent close to $1,400 in less than a month.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot of money to some people. Many people I know pay that for rent. However, I’m pretty sure that all together, the money I’ve received in the past six years is less than that. But, I digress

Initially, the nail polish was something to do to pass the time, teaching myself a new skill, and celebrating the fact that I have miraculously stopped chewing my nails. Then, I needed clothes for my new job. Lastly, I bought makeup. I’ve basically gone 14 or 15 years without wearing makeup. Why the hell do I feel the need to buy it now? Especially during social distancing. I mean who will see it?

I felt good about the nail polish. However, once I got to the clothes, that good feeling went away once I tried them on. The last time I bought clothes, I had gotten down to a 2x, occasionally a 1x, from a 3x. Now, a 4x is tight in some places and a 5x is a bit loose…and the scale announced that I am almost 300 lbs. I think that’s when I decided to get the makeup. It may be a type of armor. I really don’t want to be seen right now. Maybe makeup will distract people from my size if I do it right. Finally came the membership to another weight loss program, online this time.

I want to leave diet culture behind. The last two times I managed to lose 20-30 lbs I ate healthy, followed a loose meal plan, and exercised. The last time, in 2018, I attended Weight Watchers for about six months. I treated it a bit like a 12 Step program – I did 90 meetings in 90 days. It wasn’t a nonsensicle, unrealistic eating plan. The app was amazing. The people were real and honest. The curriculum was really based in psychology and used what I call DBT-lite strategies to adjust thinking and responsive behaviors that drive overeating and weight gain. Yet, I couldn’t sustain the changes. Turns out that it takes more than 60-90 days to create a habit or replace an old one, for me.

michelin manI want to be body positive and accept all of me…love all of me. But, I’m not and I don’t.

I’m bothered by the “curves” in all the wrong spots that make me look like the Michelin Man. I’m bothered by cottage cheese like bumps on my stomach that push against any fabric, large or small, that lays across it. I’m bothered by the carry on size overlap. I’m really bothered by the verticle ceasarian scar that bifurcates my lower stomach and makes it look like I have a butt on the front. It’s also very frustrating to know that the natural side boob is made larger than what’s on the front.

So, long and flowing tunics and leggings to hide my body and makeup to hide my face – body armor and a face mask. I’m camoflaging my inner emotions and thoughts about myself behind the superficialities. I’m ready to go to battle.

“I Love Me” by Demi Lovato
Flipping through all of these magazines
Telling me who I’m supposed to be
Way too good at camouflage
Can’t see what I am
I just see what I’m not
I’m guilty ’bout everything that I eat
(Every single thing)
Feeling myself is a felony
Jedi level sabotage
Voices in my head make up my entourage

‘Cause I’m a black belt when I’m beating up on myself
But I’m an expert at giving love to somebody else
I, me and myself and
I , don’t see eye to
Eye, me and myself and I

Oh, why do I compare myself to everyone?
And I always got my finger on the self destruct
I wonder when I love me is enough (Yeah, yeah, yeah)
I wonder when I love me is enough (Yeah, yeah, yeah)

Why am I always looking for a ride or die?
‘Cause mine’s the only heart I’m gonna have for life
After all the times I went and fucked it up
(All the times I went and fucked it up)
I wonder when I love me is enough (Yeah, yeah, yeah)

I wonder when I love me is enough
I wonder when I love me is enough

Haters that live on the internet
Live in my head, should be paying rent
I’m way to good at listening
All these comments fucking up my energy

‘Cause I’m a black belt when I’m beating up on myself
But I’m an expert at giving love to somebody else
I, me and myself and
I, don’t see eye to
Eye, me and myself and I

Oh, why do I compare myself to everyone?
And I always got my finger on the self destruct
I wonder when I love me is enough (Yeah, yeah, yeah)
I wonder when I love me is enough (Yeah, yeah, yeah)

Why am I always looking for a ride or die?
‘Cause mine’s the only heart I’m gonna have for life
After all the times I went and fucked it up
(All the times I went and fucked it up)
I wonder when I love me is enough (Is enough)

I wonder when I love me is enough
I wonder when I love me is enough

I’m my own worst critic
Talk a whole lot of shit
But I’m a ten out of ten
Even when I forget
I-I-I-I
(I’m a ten out of ten, don’t you ever forget it)

I’m my own worst critic
Talk a whole lot of shit
But I’m a ten out of ten
Even when I forget

UBC 4/20 Day 15: Trauma Muscles

Many people are experiencing various waves of emotions about what’s going on in the world today: panic, fear, anger, sadness, etc.. These are all normal responses to the global threat and common traumatic experience. However, if those feelings get too intense and pervasive, it can become debilitating and make it difficult to function. Then, there’s also dissociation – that feeling of being disconnected from emotions surrounding these events…kind of like compartmentalizing thoughts and action separate from emotional response. In my personal experience, that kind of thing I’ve learned as an automatic coping mechanism, which is an automatic response to trauma, a symptom of my PTSD. For me, dissociating has enabled me to get through periods of life when I was experiencing things which would have triggered overwhelmingly immobilizing emotions.

The thing is, we get really good at what we practice, right? In my life, I’ve bounced from trauma to trauma to trauma and dissociating, disconnecting from my emotions to the point where it became my way of life. I got so good at it, that, not only did I not consciously experience the “negative” emotions, I was also disconnected from the “positive” ones. It’s important to realize that emotions are neither negative or positive. Emotions are instinctive tools which tell us something about ourselves and the world around us. If we don’t learn how to read and understand our emotions in any given situation, then, whatever action we take as a result of the emotions we experience can have negative consequences.

Another word for practice is “exercise.” The more we exercise dissociation, the stronger our ability to ignore, push down, and function in spite of our emotions becomes. Suffice it to say, I have very strong dissociation muscles. They developed into a form of brute strength. But, brute strength only gets you so far. In order for it to be useful and constructive, that brute strength must be shaped, sculpted, and toned. In other words, training is needed.

I had a lifetime of developing the brute strength of dissociation to contain and manage my emotions until they started leaking around the edges and creating some truly negative and destructive consequences. I’ve now spent over six years training to hone and reshape how I handle my emotions. Dissociation is still my automatic “go to” response to intense emotion. However, it’s now mitigated by things I’ve been learning. Specifically, DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) has been very instrumental in teaching me how to harness and use the strength of dissociation in constructive ways. All while I continue to train and learn new methods and ways to mitigate it.

Which brings me to the present time of stress and trauma we are all going through as individuals, families, communities, a nation, and the global collective.

In the past month, I have experienced the feelings and had the thoughts of many, if not most, people in the world around me. I have seen two distinctive responses to those thoughts and feelings: acknowledgment and acceptance of the world as it is now, or fear or denial about how bad things are or will get. The first response gets things done and keeps one moving forward, facing and learning to overcome these new challenges. The second response results in stagnation and, possibly, regression.

I believe my well-developed “trauma muscles” and the training they’ve been getting from therapy, DBT, and spiritual growth is what has enabled me to address the issue and effectively deal with issue of being unemployed. It is also the thing which has helped me to continue my healing and growth process in my mental health.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that trauma is the best training tool for learning how to deal with and manage emotions. It isn’t. Trauma changes us and derails our path to who we had the potential to be. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s not. It impacts our relationships and our ability effectively and constructively function in the world. But, with training and healing work, I believe that the strength we gain from surviving trauma, can become powerful and impact our lives and the lives of others in amazing ways.

UBC 4/20 Day 12: Nailed it

Another restless and sleep deprived night. So tired.

Being this tired eats away at the creative process and dulls the mind. I really have no clue what to write about, because my brain is so foggy. So, I guess you will learn of the new skill I’ve been teaching myself during this period of enforced isolation. Painting my own nails.

Sounds a bit silly and frivolous, I know. But, it’s something that has been giving me a minor creative outlet, engaging my brain in a new activity, and giving me at least a small sense of accomplishment. Why painting my nails and not some other, useful, edifying thing, such as learning a new language or reading, or doing more writing? Well, because, sleep deprivation. I’m too tired to really engage my brain in those ways. I’m too distractible and I can doze off mid-word…whether I’m writing or reading. If I’m reading, that means I’ll reread the same sentence multiple times and I lose the thread of what I’m supposed to be understanding or learning. If I’m writing, it disrupts my thoughts and disconnects the ideas. Sometimes, I’ll even type out some kind of gobbledygook and have to backtrack in order to figure out what I was trying to say.

Neither one of these options are helpful. Both leave me feeling frustrated and angry with myself. Since I have a goal to be gentler with and more satisfied with myself, I’ve decided to do something else with the massive amounts of otherwise unoccupied time and the short attention span.

I’ve had the lifelong, nervous habit of chewing my nails. It’s gotten a lot better over the past several years as I’ve gone through my healing and recovery process. I’ve reached the point where I don’t chew them every day. So, they actually get a chance to grow to a little past my fingertips. It would be great to have nails. However, they grow out super thin and sharp. Then they get brittle and easy to break. When that happens, it’s uncomfortable for them to be unevenly long. That’s when the chewing comes back and the portion of all the nails that have grown out get chewed off again.

This time was different, though. First, the sheltering in order from the government. Second, the environment where I’m sheltered in at. Things are crowded and chaotic in my home. However, I’m not there. I was spending time with friends when the orders came down. My pregnant daughter and her three littles, along with their father were in my apartment. I didn’t want to chance affecting them if I somehow had contracted the virus. Then, there’s the fact that the women I’m staying with both fall into the vulnerable category and if they needed help I would be here for them. It’s a much more stable and calm environment here.

When I realized my nails were at that length again, I really wanted to see if I could preserve them. So, on one of my friend’s essential trips to the store, I accompanied her and grabbed myself some nail polish and supplies.

Trial and error have resulted in some fairly decent results. It takes me a long time to achieve the final results, because I have to use so many layers of polish to actually fortify and strengthen the nails. Then, I have to let each layer dry fully. I’ve gotten impatient a few times and the results were more fail than nail. So, I had to start over. But, I’m getting the hang of it now.

Here are my first three efforts:
Collage 2020-04-12 08_51_43

1) Pink holographic
2) Purple Holographic
3) Dark purple French tip
4) Purple French tip with sparkles

 

 

 

 

Collage 2020-04-12 08_50_08

 

 

 

Red with Gold sparkles

 

 

 

 

Collage 2020-04-12 08_51_04

 

 

 

Sparkly Holographic Blue French tip

 

 

 

I know it’s silly, but, I’m feeling quite proud of myself. I hope I can keep them up when I start working again.

What’s something you feel good about yourself for doing?

UBC 4/20 Day 10: The Colorwheel of Emotion

Color Wheel of EmotionMy therapy homework this week is to start identifying and naming the waves of emotion I experience. Here’s the way it works:

You can either work your way from the inside out, which is what my therapist asked me to do this week, or you can work your way from the outside in, which I think could be quite useful.

When she assigned this to me I asked her when or in what context she wanted me to do this. Basically, her response was to do it whenever I experienced a wave, big or small, of emotion.

I’m beginning with this very moment.

Honestly, I’m feeling anger. What am I angry about? Sleep…rather, the lack thereof. My scalp feels tight and achy. So does the back of my neck. I have been tossing and turning all night. I was too warm, so I turned the ceiling fan on. But, it was too loud and blew too much air. I could have gotten up and turned it down, but, I didn’t for some unknown reason. So, now, the kind of anger I’m feeling is exasperation and irritability. Being exasperated means I’m feeling agitated, frustrated, or both. In this instance, it’s both. I’m agitated that the insomnia has gotten so bad and I’m frustrated because I’m tired and want to go back to sleep, but I know it’s futile. I can tell that irritability is right beneath the surface. Annoyed and aggravated are the extensions of that. Again, I’m experiencing both: annoyed with myself for not getting up and adjusting the fan and aggravated by the knowledge or belief that it wouldn’t have done any good anyway.

Let’s try another one.

Yesterday, I received the email containing the link to the employee portal for the company I’ve been hired by. Through this portal were all of my onboarding processes: completing my I-9 verifying my right to work; the same with the W-4 telling the company how much of my earnings to submit to Federal and to Oregon, before giving me anything I had earned; I submitted my banking information to let them know how I wanted them to pay me; I received instructions on getting the TB testing done; and, finally, accepting and signing the job offer itself.

Ever since the HR guy told me I had a job, I’ve experienced joy whenever I think about it. On the wheel, joy is a base emotion like anger is. This means there’s more to it. After the phone interview, I felt optimistic. I was both eager and hopeful. I was hopeful that I would get the job offer and eager to know if I had the job. Once I got the first email offering me the job, I felt proud, triumphant that I had gotten the offer within a week and a half of submitting my application. Getting the second email containing the link to the employee portal made me enthusiastic and optimistic again. I was excited about embarking on this new leg of my journey, moving toward what I want to be doing with my life, instead of merely surviving. I was eager to do the preliminary onboarding process and move into training. In the midst of it all, I’ve felt proud. Triumphant that my hard work on my own healing and recovery, as well as all the job readiness and training I’ve done over the past nine months has paid off.

Then, I got to the point in the process where I was supposed to schedule the TB test. I contacted the medical facility the company uses for the testing, only to find out that they aren’t doing ANY pre-employment testing…because… COVID-19. Bounced back to anger, with a little fear mixed in. Back to feeling exasperated and agitated. I was feeling scared and nervous, which was really feeling helpless and worried that this whole virus fiasco might prevent me from starting work.

So, I sent an email to the person in charge of the onboarding process. The response made me feel something not on the wheel – relieved. I think that was a joy response to the worry being nullified. I also felt proud again, illustrious, perhaps. She said she was impressed that I had acted so quickly to do the onboarding paperwork and that they were suspending the TB test prerequisite until the medical facility is testing again.

All of those emotions were experienced over a seven-hour period yesterday.

No wonder I was ready for bed by 7:30 last night.

UBC 4/20 Day 9: Good News and Hypomania

I got it!

I got the phone call with the job offer. It’s contingent on me passing the criminal background check. The HR guy still needed to finish the reference check and get the employment verification done. However, there shouldn’t be any issues with any of that. So, for all intents and purposes, I HAVE A JOB!!!

I am scheduled to attend orientation on the 17th of this month. I’ll be working Thursday through Saturday, just over half-time. It’s a union position. However, that’s a brand new situation and they are still negotiating the initial collective bargaining agreement. I’ve never worked with a union before. So, we’ll see how that goes. Once my training is complete, I will be the only staff on duty during my shift. That’s something else I’ve never done…work alone. I’m sure I’ll do okay, but, it’s still a bit unsettling to think about. I just have to trust that I wouldn’t have gotten the offer if I wasn’t qualified for it.

I called my daughter and told her she either had to go into labor before the 17th or between then and the 23rd when I believe my actual job begins. She laughed and said she’d let the baby know. We talked about the contingency plans and who will stay with her kids and who will transport her, both if I’m available and if I’m not. I told her that I wanted to be able to take her and be there when the baby comes. However, it’s about what she needs and not what I want…obviously.

I just hope that I can settle into a good sleep schedule between now and the start of my job. The insomnia has been pretty bad the past couple of weeks, causing me to be inordinately sleepy during the day. I can’t afford to have that happen while I’m working. Now, it seems that a bit of hypomania has been triggered by the news of the job offer. I never actually got sleepy last night. When I did fall asleep, that didn’t last more than an hour or so. I have this kind of buzzing, humming along the nerves, right under my skin, antsy. I can’t seem to settle down. At the same time, due to the accumulated exhaustion in my body from the lack of rest, activity, and good nutrition, I can barely bring myself to move. My body feels sluggish and my head is foggy, but my thoughts are racing and there’s this nervous energy coursing throughout my being. These are all signs of hypomania.

If I can, I’ll channel the nervous energy into increasing my physical activity so that I can get at least a week’s worth of activity to build up a little stamina between now and when I actually start working. I also hope that I can wrangle the racing thoughts into doing something more creative here instead of just giving an account of my daily comings and goings.

I miss how easily I could access the creativity with words that I had when the Bipolar wasn’t being treated. Thankfully, though, the bipolar is “mild” enough that the meds to help mitigate it enough that I can still prioritize the relationships and functionality of my life over how good the rush of the beginning of a manic or hypomanic episode feels. I’m grateful that I am able to exercise that level of control with the meds and DBT skills I’ve learned over the past six years.

Not everyone with a Bipolar diagnosis can do this. It can be a real struggle when the brain fights itself in these ways. I have an online friend who shares his experience and struggles with his bipolar brain. He works as hard as he can and has as much support as he can get and he continues to fight what probably feels like a losing battle a significant amount of the time. He still shows up and fights. So, not just for myself, but for my fellow Mental Health Warriors, if I can work to maintain and continue my recovery, I have to.

UBC 4/20 Day 8: Updates and Checking In

I don’t have anything particularly interesting or exciting or deep to write about today. As a matter of fact, it’s about 3:00 AM and the insomnia is activated. I woke up around 1:30 AM, had some juice, chatted with my friend … rather, I listened to her retell a couple of stories I’ve heard before. Then, I just stayed up and dozed for a little bit, but couldn’t really sleep. So, I decided to write today’s post. See if I can get the words to stop wandering around in my head, whispering and shouting at me. So, here we go.

I hadn’t heard anything about the job since last Thursday. So, I tried calling the number the HR guy I’d interviewed with had called me from. It was a generic Google Voice number with a generic screening message and no indication whose phone I was calling. I hadn’t actually saved his phone number, so, I was left wondering if I had left a message on a spam caller’s voicemail by accident. A little later, I remembered I had his email address. I emailed him and got an almost immediate response

It turned out that the managers of the house he had in mind had both been off work and he hadn’t connected with them yet. Also, he hadn’t actually checked my references yet. When I submitted my initial application, it required that I list three professional references, with at least one being a supervisor. Well, having been out of work for over seven years, I didn’t have any ongoing contact with any of my former supervisors or co-workers. I couldn’t even remember most of their names or could only remember first names. I reached out via text and email to my instructors from the Peer Support Specialist and Peer Wellness Specialist training classes I took fall and winter of the current school year.

Well, I didn’t hear anything from them within 24 hours of starting my application and I was too impatient to wait any longer. I made a false assumption and jumped the gun by listing each of them as a reference without first getting their agreement. One of them replied to the email, stating that she doesn’t usually provide references for her former students, but, because she thinks I would be good for the organization, she would give me a reference. I was applying to the same organization that had provided the training.

Additionally, he had to do employment verification for the one job I held, back from 2007-2008, which held any kind of relevance to the position I’m being considered for. Normally, he would have had me come in and complete a form which would then be faxed to the employer. However, as we all know, these are not normal times. With everyone working remotely from home, there was no one and nowhere he could fax anything to. So, he had to have me complete an application for the specific position, since my first application was a generic one used to have a pool of employees ready to fill various positions which are needed on a regular basis. Completing this new application was the only way he could get my electronic signature to authorize that employer to release employment information to him. I got that done as soon as we got off the phone.

I also found out that the house I’m being considered for is a low-risk house and I would be on shift by myself. I’m not really sure how I feel about that. I’m used to working with other people as part of a team. I told him that I’m good with it. I know I can do that on my own, I just feel awkward and uncertain thinking about it, at this point. Anyway, if things check out and all the connections are made that need to be made, I could start training next week.

Not knowing what that potential schedule will be, meant I couldn’t actually schedule next week’s counseling session. So, if I don’t hear anything concrete by Thursday afternoon, I’m going to text my therapist to set up that appointment. We’re getting some good work started and I don’t want to lose momentum.

I read, paraphrased, what I had written on the blog yesterday. She was surprised at how much I had actually opened up about, especially in such a public forum. I told her that I’m REALLY good at going deep in a very shallow way. She indicated that is a common thing amongst trauma survivors. It tends to be a way of testing relationship waters. Basically, putting the bad stuff out in the beginning, determines if someone is going to stick around or if they’re going to abandon the relationship. It is a way of telling the story without getting into the emotions and feelings.

We talked about feelings being like waves in an ocean. Some can be soft and gentle like the small waves brushing against the feet and others can be huge waves that overwhelm us and knock us off of our feet. An these emotions can be ones that make us feel good as much as they can be ones which make us feel bad. My assignment for this week is to work through the Color Wheel of Emotion and identify the waves of feeling I experience.

Well, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. See you tomorrow.

UBC 4/20 Day 4: Sitting on Pins and Needles

Waiting.

Waiting is one of the most difficult things to do, I believe.

I got a phone call on Thursday from the gentleman I had interviewed with the day before. The gist of the conversation was that I was only waiting to be hired until they found the right placement for me. He said they had a couple of positions. One is full-time, but, it requires working on Sunday. The other one is part-time, 24 hours a week, but, it gives me Sundays off. I haven’t really been employed for seven and a half years, unless you count my recent and very short stint as an H & R Block Tax Preparer – which I don’t. Since I’m incredibly out of shape, physically and in terms of being mentally focused for eight hours a day, part-time is probably best. Starting off slow and working my way up seems to be the prudent course of action.

After that phone call, I was explaining the details to my friend, who I’ve been sheltering in with. She gave me an incredulous look when I told her I was turning a full-time position down because I wanted to keep my Sundays because that’s the primary day I connect with the people in my faith community. She proceeded to tell me that while the bible has a place where it says to keep the Sabbath holy, there’s also a place where it talks about gleaning and healing being done on the Sabbath. In other words, even though attending church on Sunday may be sacred and holy, it’s still permissible to do what needs to be done.

First off, for a lot of reasons, I happen to believe the actual, biblical day of Sabbath rest is Saturday. I won’t go into why I believe that, I just do. For years my faith community met on Saturdays. However, for a variety of reasons, we moved our service to Sunday nights. The structure of those nights is a key reason I don’t want to give up my Sundays. Even though in our current reality we can’t meet in person, we are using technology to ensure we stay connected with one another and worship together. Prior to this time of social distancing, we spent about three hours or so worhshipping, learning, eating, and talking together, as well as praying for each other.

Secondly, I’ve volunteered weekly to support the worship team and helped to set up the building for the service. That’s probably the most consistent thing I’ve done and the only real structure I’ve had in my life since 2012. Now that we’re doing virtual church, I’m participating in ways that support the new way we have to do things. So, I still have structure and routine in my life on this day. It’s a touchstone for me in a world upended on itself.

These two things mean that holding space on Sundays isn’t a mandatory religious routine dictated by the evangelical interpretation of biblical scripture. It is an act of self-care and a very important way of me taking care of my mental health. It gives me structure, routine, and connection to a supportive community of people who know and care about me, whom I care about and want to deepen my relationships with.

I tried to explain this to my friend. I don’t think she gets it. I suspet that she doesn’t completely approve. However, that’s her stuff, not mine and I’m grateful that I’ve reached this point in my recovery process that I don’t feel the need to keep explaining myself in an effort to get her understanding and approval. I know she loves me and cares about me even if I don’t make choices that align with her opinions.

So, I don’t have to feel like I’m walking on eggshells with her while I’m sitting on pins and needles trying to wait patiently to hear about the job.