Finding Truth

Some days, it is hard
Opening my eyes to see
I am good enough

There are times it’s hard
Stopping critical voices
Words I tell myself

Often difficult
Gathering my scattered thoughts
I am herding cats

Easily confused
Feeling all the emotions
My soul overwhelmed

Distinguishing truth
Letting go of the old lies
Settling in what’s real

Giving myself grace
All of me acceptable
I am good enough

To the me I used to be

As many of you may know, yesterday was October 31st. Some cultures celebrate it as a sacred day, others don’t celebrate it at all. In my corner of the world it is celebrated as a fun, commercialized way of being in brief community with neighbors you don’t know, with children in costume knocking on doors and acceptably begging for candy, while caregivers observe from a short distance…aka Halloween. (It’s also a way for those same caregivers to get their own sugar rush when they tax the candy haul.)

Anyway, that only has passing connection to why I’m writing today.

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. For some of us who blog, this is Nano Poblano – “the World’s Least-Official November Blog Challenge”

I won’t be writing a post a day, as I have attempted in other challenges. Instead, I’m committing to 10 posts this month. I’ll also be linking to 10 other posts this month.

Welcome to my first post of the month. Now, back to what I was writing about.

Last night I shared the requisite costume pic of my youngest, who will be 11 in a little over a month.

She looks older, huh? Sooo not ready for that.

When I woke up this morning, there were many “👍” and a few “♥️.” The last “like” was from a guy who had attended the same high school as I did. Just about the only interactions we have are reading and occasionally clicking our reaction to each other’s posts. But, he posts nice pictures of nature and other things I find mildly interesting. We reconnected at our 30 year class reunion a couple of years ago.

He may or may not remember, but, we had previously connected on FB back in 2010 or 2011, when I first joined the ‘book. It ended after a contentious interaction when the world didn’t end according to the 2012 Mayan Calendar predictions.

Depression had its hold on me and I posted some joke about being disappointed that the predictions had been wrong. He took exception to that and expressed his disagreement and disapproval.

That triggered anxiety and activated my defensiveness. I felt attacked. I was shaky and feeling threatened for no apparent reason. That was about the time another h.s. acquaintance and I got in conflict over something else, entirely.

I reactively “purged” my FB account, hoping to deactivate my hypervigilant hypersensitivity of the moment. I remember that I still felt threatened in some vague, amorphous way.

Some of that stemmed from my desire and need to be understood and accepted. However, I equated being understood with being agreed with and being accepted meant being justified and approved of. Anything else felt like I was under attack and unsafe.

I still don’t really understand the root reasons I experience anxiety around feeling rejected and not acceptable. I guess that hearkens back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with a sense of belonging being a basic need.

All I know, is that my gut clenched, my breathing got shallow, and my heart hammered when I saw the guy at our class reunion. Our online disagreement had such an impact on me. I wanted to avoid him and hide, because I was certain he would remember our interaction and be judging me by it.

Chances are he doesn’t remember that interaction. Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t be connected today. If he does remember, it likely doesn’t matter to him one way or the other. Regardless, the fact is that a molehill had been amplified to seem like a mountain, and, I think it’s possible that interaction will stay with me for a long time.

Part of me looks back on that time and sees the degree and type of reactivity and judges past me harshly. However, there’s a bigger part of me that understands and accepts who I was back then.

So, here’s my message to the me I used to be:

I love you. You’re not ridiculous and never were. You were living with the results of trauma. You were living without knowledge or understanding of the mental illnesses in your brain. I’m proud of you. You knew your reactions were signs you needed help and you paid attention to those signs. You had the courage to ask for help. You put in the work to change, heal and grow. You had the strength of character to own the consequences of your actions and behaviors from then and before. I’m grateful to you. You made me, me. You’re amazing. Thank you.

Being depressed and helping others

I’m learning to be honest with myself and others about the current state of depression I’m experiencing. I’m learning something else, too.

I used to believe that I can’t truly be of service to others who are struggling, if I’m struggling, too. Like somehow my brokenness and woundedness means I have no right and no basis for reaching out to help others who are experiencing struggles of their own.

It’s a “relapse” in my mental health recovery process, except it really isn’t. There’s an idea that being in relapse makes one’s knowledge and understanding of what recovery is somehow invalid and insignificant. However, when it comes to mental health, all it ever is is symptom management and a kind of remission. At least that’s true for me.

The brain, which is atypical, continues to be the brain it is. I was reminded of this a few months ago, when I was being very productive, feeling very good about myself, sleeping less than my already minimal sleep, and full of “grand ideas” about how I was going to go about changing my life and circumstances.

I’m as well medicated as I can be and still be cognitively and physically functional. However, I was concerned that I was experiencing a degree of hypomania. It was actually serving me in constructive ways, but, I couldn’t shake the worry that this would end like all the other times – of which there have been too many for me to remember over the past 40 years. I was fearful of the potentially impending period of depression that would follow. Especially considering that I was also entering my “traumaversary season.”

I expressed that concern to a trusted friend and mentor. He reminded me that, regardless of how well medicated I am or how many behavior modification methods and tools I have learned and acquired over the past five years, my bipolar brain, is still a bipolar brain. I needed to recognize that I may be experiencing hypomanic symptoms, but they weren’t anywhere near as severe as in the past and that the depression that might follow wouldn’t necessarily be as bad as in the past either. Plus, I do have tools and I have learned healthy coping strategies, as well as increased self-awareness.

There’s also an idea that experiencing symptoms means I lack the capacity to help others. As if being symptomatic is a weakness that, by definition, consumes all my functionality and diminishes my ability and capacity to do more than survive the symptoms.

To a degree, and in some circumstances, both of these things can be true, however, they aren’t absolute.

I am struggling with significant symptoms of depression. The depression is exacerbated by current circumstances and situations beyond my ability to control, but are inherently part of me and what I’m having to come to terms with. These things are emotionally and mentally exhausting and draining.

Yet, I’m still functioning. I’m not doing all the things that are supposedly normative for neurotypical folks: keeping a clean home, staying on top of nutrition, and generally sociable. However, I’m taking tax prep classes and attending them instead of giving up because the depression and overwhelm have gotten in the way of doing homework. I am still attending my Peer Support Specialist Training and being fully engaged with the class and processes, even when they trigger stuff. I’m still taking care of personal hygiene (mostly). I even followed through with a job interview and was offered a job.

I’m also in or near tears a lot of the time. I’m experiencing the negative voices/thoughts of self-criticism, self-doubt, and self-hate. I barely have the energy to do the things to care for my child and my dog, but I’m still doing them.

In the midst of all of this, through honest conversations, allowing the tears to fall and be seen by others, and sharing the struggles, others are letting me know that I’m helping them. They don’t feel so alone. Seeing me fight and recognizing the little “wins” offers hope and insight for themselves.

So, I’ve decided that if the depression, hypomania, and anxiety are going to fuck with me and my life, I’m going to put them to good use.

I want a divorce . . . from Apple!

I have been an iPhone user for probably close to ten years. I was content with them through 7. The 8 series started to be annoying. I’ve kind of hated the X. Consequently, after the last upgrade, I decided that on my next upgrade, I would get something other than an iPhone.

So, that’s what I did when I had to replace the roadkill iPhone. You can read about that here. I decided to go with the Google 3a XL. So far, I’m very happy with it. What I’m not happy about is that Apple has it’s paddy little paws insinuated into everything…specifically the text messaging from friends with iPhones who had previously contacted me.

There are three main people I was concerned about: the ex, my Employment Specialist, and one other person who I’m in regular contact with. The latter two are almost exclusively text contacts. I was very stressed out about not being able to connect with them. I have left a voicemail for both of them.

Anyway, I called the Sprint store where I’d done the switch the night my iPhone was run over. I explained the situation and they said to try a service update for my new phone. The code they gave me didn’t work. So, I did it manually. No joy. I called them back. They said to go through Apple customer service. Which I did.

I had to access it online, of course. I had to scroll through FAQs to determine that my issues wasn’t already addressed. It was addressed. It had a link to an online form. Which I filled out. Then I waited for them to call me back.

The guy who called me back was aghast at my explanation of what had happened to the phone. He asked me how I had felt watching the cars run over my phone. I told him that I was upset about it, but I was mostly mad at myself because I know what I should have done differently and knew I should have done it differently before I chose the path that led to this event.

He said he wouldn’t have been able to stay calm and would have been very angry about it. At which point, I thought, but didn’t say, “The DBT/REST classes are working. Side note: after all the things that have happened over the last week, I was really looking forward to seeing my therapist yesterday afternoon. However, at almost the last minute, I was told she had to cancel because she was out of the office. I almost cried.

He went ahead and explained what I needed to do to deregister my phone number and I got a “Successful” message.

Contacted the ex via FB Messenger and had him try to text me. Nope. So, when he brought her home to me last night, I thought that I could make some changes to my contact information, to see if that could help, since his Apple ID is being used on her iPad. Nope.

Well, I got the info changed, but, I couldn’t get her iPad to even send me a text. So, I turned off iMessaging, thinking that was the problem. I had no idea it was going to sign her out of his profile. I had to contact him to get the password.

Of course the password didn’t work. So, I tried everything I could to reset it. Nope. Now, an account reset is needed. Apple, why you gotta make everything so hard?!?!

Good news! Apparently it just needed some time for the deregistration to take effect. I just got texts from two out of three people I was concerned about.

Next issue, find a way to get my data transferred from the iPhone and iCloud to my new phone.

*Sigh*

In other news, I’m attending a 50+ Job Fair on the 7th. I need interview clothes. Fortunately, my Worksource Employment Specialist was able to refer me to Dress for Success. That happened on Monday, shortly before the phone fiasco.

I was concerned that they may have tried to call me while I was out of contact with the world. So, I called them yesterday and set up an appointment for later this morning.

I also have my NAMI volunteer training and my diabetes group this afternoon. Doing it all by public transit would be cutting it all pretty tight.

Therefore, I swallowed my pride and am using the ex’s car. The cost? Run his errands: groceries & gas while he sleeps before tonight’s work shift.

I’ve been awake since 2 something this morning and am praying that I get through it all intact.

Wish me luck

Challenge (almost) complete, but not over

I started a 29th blog post yesterday. However, I was running late on getting it done. Then, I got a call from a family member facing a minor crisis. wp-15644976270724186864348788725799.jpgWhile helping to resolve the crisis, I dropped my phone on a four lane, very busy, street and watched several vehicles run over it.

It’s still powered on and functioning internally, as near as I can tell, but the screen is totally shattered. The only reason why it’s even still on the device is a testament to the kind of screen protector it had on it.

I wasn’t ready to upgrade the phone. However, I’d already planned on leaving Apple behind. After an hour and a half at the Sprint store, I wound up with a Pixel 3a XL. So far it’s pretty intuitive to use and it’s soooo lightweight compared to the iPhone X I had. I’m pleased about that.

I’m super bummed at this point, though, because I’m not sure if my phone was automatically backing up to the cloud. Nor do I have a clue as to how to download all the pics and things from the cloud. There’s an iCloud sync app I’ve downloaded, but, for some reason, I’m not allowed to use it until Friday, August 2nd. Oh well, I can be patient.

In other news:

I’m super happy to report that when I got home Sunday night, after a busy weekend, I checked the mail and found an acceptance letter from the Peer Support Specialist Training I applied to a couple of weeks ago.

I was pretty sure I was going to get in, but, it was such an exciting relief to actually read the words!

Now comes the hard part…figuring out what to do next. The initial training ends on December 6. That certification, in and of itself qualifies me for an entry level position. Do I try to find a short-term job that will only be 3-7 months long, which is unlikely. Or, do I find a job, knowing that as soon as I graduate, I’ll be looking to move on into a Peer Support Specialist role? That doesn’t feel good to me. Kind of unethical. It doesn’t sit well with me.

I just had an idea! I can register with a temp agency and do some office or customer service work to tide me over while I get my training done.

Glad that’s figured out. Moving on.

This is my last post of the July 2019 Ultimate Blog Challenge. I managed to post 29/30. So, all in all, with everything else I’ve had going on, that’s a pretty good record. In the past, I would have counted that missing one as causing this whole endeavor to have been a failure. But, that isn’t true, is it? I did good.

On Sunday night, we discussed the difference between a destination mindset vs a journey mindset.

The way I would have previously seen less than 30/30 as a failure, is a destination mindset. Meaning, achieving the goal of 30 posts in 30 days was the mission and the only thing that mattered. It’s a very limiting mindset, isn’t it? It’s rigid and perfectionistic. It’s self-defeating. At least, for me, these things are true.

What’s the alternative? What is the journey mindset? It’s a way of thinking and being that makes the things experienced and people encountered on the way the point and purpose of being on the path to reach a destination.

To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This mindset enables the one on the journey to stay present in each moment, learning and growing, as well as achieving the end result of arriving at a destination point. It is a mindset that inherently causes one to realize that there’s always more to explore and experience. It also instills the ability to see the value in savoring the moment instead of just getting through it in order to get to the next moment.

For me, this month’s UBC has been a journey. I’ve experienced a lot of growth inside of myself. It’s grounded me, causing me to stay present and connected to the moment I’m in, because I had to pay attention to what was happening in order to write about it. It stretched me to explore things I never would have chosen to do on my own, in my egocentric life. I got the opportunity to make some new friends and learn to look at some different viewpoints.

I’m not sure what kind of writing schedule or routine I’m going to set for myself now. I know I need to figure it out. It will happen. I’ll be staying in touch and updating probably once a week, if not more often.

Thanks for journeying with me.

Healing Expressions: Restorative Art

Yesterday, I was blessed with the privilege of attending a Therapeutic Collage Workshop, offered by Therapeutic Arts Facilitator, Lani Kent, of Healing Expressions, located in Vancouver, WA. Going into the workshop, I wasn’t sure how doing collage can be therapeutic, but, when Lani shared her story and her process, I saw how it can be another way to express and explore experiences, thoughts, and emotions. It can give the unspoken and unspeakable a voice and be a powerful part of one’s healing process.

Lani’s art both speaks from and to the soul. You can view her gallery here. You can also find her on Facebook.

img_7297When we arrived to the workshop, we were greeted by Lani and chose our seats. Each setting had a folder and a small gift packet with a Blessing Card attached to it. Each table had small displays of Lani’s collage art.

She had a very long table almost overflowing with magazines and had lined the perimeter of the room with more of her collage work.

After she had shared her story and experience with Restorative Art and how it had helped her on her personal journey of healing and recovery, she invited us to wander the room and select any of her pieces that drew our attention, in either and inviting way, or even one that repelled.

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At that point she gave us instruction and time to reflect. Then, she explained how to go about the process of collecting the elements we would use in making our own collages.

I confess that I just started tearing into magazines and collected way more than I could use. I collected so many possibilities, that I probably only had time to cut out elements from 1/3 of the material I had collected. I suspect that I have enough leftover magazine pages to make several more than the two I did make.

We were encouraged to write the date and what we were experiencing during this time period, whether it was about what we were doing with the collages in that moment or in the greater context of our lives. Lani counseled that we may not know or fully understand the meaning of our collages, at first. That we may come back to them multiple times throughout our journey and learn more about ourselves, from ourselves, in this way.

As I said, I did two. I’m only going to show one, here. The other one requires some processing and unpacking with my therapist. Both of them do, actually. However, I think the symbolism of the one I’m posting here is probably a very universal theme. Though, when I researched the symbolism I learned some deeper meaning and insight into what this could be saying.

Please let me know how this speaks to you, if it does

Incongruity

It seems that my ability to write and post on the weekends is consistently challenging. Today, instead of my Peer to Peer class, I was gifted with the opportunity to attend an art therapy collage class, followed by lunch with the friend who had gifted me with the opportunity.

I’ll be sharing more about that in the next day or two.

In the meantime, I’m going to leave you with one of my poems from a couple of years ago. I hope you enjoy.


Incongruity

The incongruity in between
how I see vs how I am seen
is too great to fathom,
an impenetrable chasm

My lens has been distorted,
the images contorted,
stretched beyond my limit,
formed by my inner critic.

Meeting and getting to know you,
questioning all I thought I knew,
an unknown truth being revealed,
my heart growing, being healed.

New beliefs being conceived.
A wider world being perceived.
Connected across distance,
a gift of your existence.

©️ 2017