blogging

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.

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.

In recovery: sharing my story

I may or may not have mentioned that one of the myriad of things I’m doing, for myself and for my employment readiness, is NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer class. On Saturday mornings for several weeks, I get together with a group of other people also experiencing mental health issues and we learn with and from each other about what our mental health conditions are and do and how to live with them. Yesterday was the day to share our stories.

I’ve shared bits and pieces, summaries and rants, and some full out essays on my history in various other posts in the past. I’m not doing any of that, this time. I’m going to transcribe what I shared in the group. Then, I’ll let you know what makes it different.


WHAT HAPPENED?

Sentinel Event – what was the spark that you believe led to your mental decline? (Ex: job loss, housing loss, win the lottery, broken relationship, life gain, etc.)

I’ve known for decades that I experienced depression. I’d begun to suspect PTSD and Bipolar 2 for a couple of years. On 12/06/13 there was an explosive breakdown of my family.

Behavior/Symptoms? Progressive onset?

Hyper-reactivity; rapid and disorganized speech; getting “stuck” or “lost” in the stories of my trauma experiences.

Difficulty accepting or asking for help:

Decades of denial of manic/hypomanic episodes and “manipulating” psych service providers to only see and treat the depression. Ignoring symptoms of anxiety. Initial refusal of meds for Bipolar, Anxiety, and Depression.

WHAT HELPS?

Wellness strategies (Ex: Self-care, medications, sleep, self-talk, spiritual)

Medications, DBT, Therapy, Engaging with my faith community, Writing/Blogging. Need to increase physical activity and nutrition.

Results/Reflection

Improved and restored relationships with my adult children. Increased self-awareness. Hope for the future.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Successes: Continuing to work towards employment – doing the PSS/PWSS Training and volunteering; continue therapy and do possible med adjustments.

Hopes: Financial independence and self-sufficiency

Dreams for the future: Write/publish a book.


The assignment was to write this outline to tell our story in a way that would be five minutes or less in order to allow others time to tell their stories. That’s not something I could have done five years ago. Probably not even a year ago.

Remember how I identified getting stuck or lost in my trauma stories as a symptom or behavior? It’s a manifestation of PTSD. I didn’t know that five and a half years ago when my life imploded. Turns out that PTSD flashbacks don’t necessarily manifest themselves in vivid reliving or re-experiencing the moments of trauma. PTSD manifests differently according to the variations of the trauma and the individual. My trauma was successive and chronic. I dissociated as my coping mechanism – didn’t even realize I was doing it. So, I could share my story, but, I couldn’t just summarize it, keep it brief, or access the mental shut off valve to my mouth even as I wanted to stop.

This is probably the thing that’s driving my fearfulness around doing job interviews. Not being able to briefly describe what happened, without going into excruciating detail from the beginning of time, and turning into a sobbing mess.

My adult daughter thinks I’m too honest for my own good. Wait. What? How can you be too honest? Well, by telling more than was asked and spiraling into details they don’t need to know. So, some of the most common interview questions are psychological landmines for me.

I know that if I “finesse” my answers to avoid mentioning the mental illness, that I will be lying by omission. Lying, misleading, and manipulating people to get what I want is something I absolutely cannot bring myself to do, 99% of the time. (The truth is we all lie a little, even if it’s just to ourselves. So, no one is 100% truthful, 100% of the time.) There’s a trauma story there. That story rises to the surface and can be seen in my facial expressions and body language if I attempt to verbally manipulate someone. That’s kind of disastrous in an interview. So, I’m going to have to tell my truth when I’m in the interview room.

The fact of the matter is that the mental illnesses of Bipolar 2, PTSD, and Depression live in my brain and sometimes come out to play, without invitation and at inopportune times. Most of the time, they’re well behaved because of the meds and the retraining of my thinking processes through therapy. But, once in awhile, they like to party like Beetlejuice and wreak a little havoc.

So, I have to learn how to be brief, concise, and honest and keep the story reined in. I didn’t think that was something I could do. But, after sharing my story, like that, in a room of my peers, I am slightly more confident I can do it in an interview.

Redirection

Will I make it?

I’m doubting myself these days. Not completely, but, probably enough to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, if I’m not careful.

What am I talking about? Two things:

  1. making a significant life change and
  2. doing the July 2019 Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I’ll start with the easiest, first, the UBC. Several years ago, I completed a couple of different 30-31 Day blogging challenges. It was fun, informative, and I “met” a couple of fellow bloggers with whom I still maintain contact.

My life was significantly different then and I was, too. The biggest difference was that I didn’t realize I had a bipolar brain and that the daily blogging I was doing was actually being done during manic or hypomanic episodes. High energy, effortless creativity, extreme motivation, massive productivity, and uncommon self-confidence were all driving affects to my writing, at the time.

I was a stay at home mom, in the midst of depression, chaos, and an increasingly deteriorating relationship I’d been in for the better part of 15 years. I was parenting a bouncy, stubborn, hyper energetic, and increasingly difficult to manage toddler. Writing was my escape and my DIY therapy.

Since that time, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 Disorder and PTSD…and medicated to stabilize my moods. I’ve spent five and a half years in therapy, learning how to navigate life with mental illness and to mitigate the effects of a lifetime of trauma.

My relationship completely broke down and now we co-parent, shuffling our child between two households. We also discovered that unstoppable child experiences and interacts with the world while navigating the the Autism Spectrum.

I haven’t been able to write consistently or complete a Blog Challenge in over five years.

The thing that hasn’t changed is my employment status. I’m still not employed. Which brings me to the next significant change I’m in the process of making…or attempting to make: financial independence. I’ve remained dependent on my daughter’s father to pay the bills and provide the basic needs of my household and myself. It’s past time to cut that tie that “binds and gag” (to quote Erma Bombeck). Yes, I’m that old.

It’s officially been seven years since I was last employed. My mental health, or lack there of, played a key role in me leaving the workforce, as did my child’s special needs. I recently turned 50. I’m significantly overweight. I have some physical health issues. All of these facts affect employability. Even though none of them are overt reasons for employers to reject me, every one of those things tap into unconscious prejudice because of societal stigma.

I am taking classes and working on some basic, employer friendly skills certifications. I’m working with an Employment Specialist. I’m continuing therapy. I’m doing what I know I need to do to be job ready. But, I’m terrified.

I know I have the intelligence and skills to obtain a job and do it well…for a time. However, every job I’ve ever left, regardless of reason given, ended due to my mental and emotional health issues. I don’t know if I can do it. I’m scared to try. I’m moving forward anyway.

I joined the Ultimate Blog Challenge this time, to test and challenge myself…and, just maybe, gain a little confidence in myself.

This month, I plan on sharing my journey to getting a job. Hopefully it will be more entertaining and less harrowing than it feels.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Days 10-13: 4 Day Catch-up

Day 10: If you had 3 wishes…
Day 11: If I were 16 again, this is one decision I’d change.
Day 12: I’m going to do this amazing thing today. It will…
Day 13: What is something you’ve said that you wish you said differently?

Four days’ worth of prompts. What happened? The prompts for days 10, 11, and 12 were a little late and I was otherwise occupied. Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I wrote a letter to my mom, who committed suicide when I was 12. It was a day of grieving. I let the tears flow and didn’t try to stifle them. It was a difficult thing, but, I did it. Today has been a day of recovering from a week caught in the limbo land of my ex – too long of a story there. Someday I’ll tell it . . . maybe. I also collaborated on creating a Numbers spreadsheet for a game app I play. That was fun and felt somewhat productive. I also dealt with some medical service issues for my youngest. Another long story that I will be telling sometime soon, I think. I dozed a bit off and on, washed accumulated dishes, and that’s about it. So, here I am looking at these prompts and feeling a bit overwhelmed and stymied.

However, I am reminding myself that I don’t have to write profoundly or perfectly. Nor does it have to be a pretty little package of poetry or prose. The writing itself is what’s important, right now, as I work toward developing my writing muscle and mental habit. So, here I go.

Day 10: If I had 3 wishes…

  1. I had a couple of people who would come in and help me deal with ALL the clutter, mostly paper, that I’ve accumulated over the years. I moved into the place I’m at now almost nine years ago. I still have unpacked boxes and crates filling my bedroom and hall closets and completely filling up the space under my bed. I want to have all the stuff sorted into the donate, discard, and keep categories. Then, I want all the “keep” stuff totally organized . . . I just don’t want to be the one doing it, or at least not doing it by myself. Just the thought is overwhelming and my brain starts shutting down at the thought of it all.
  2. I had a personal trainer/nutritionist to work with me until I could get my kitchen and schedule overhauled to enable me to take better care of my health by developing habits, establishing routines, and learning how to meal plan, prep, and shop for myself, while also dealing with the Binge Eating Disorder/Depression that make self-care in these ways so challenging.
  3. I had a life/writing coach and editor to help me figure out the steps and process of gathering, organizing, and editing my writing in a way so I can write some books. I have been told I need to publish my writing and that I should write a biography. I want to do these two things, I just really don’t know where to start.

Day 11: If I were 16 again, this is one decision I’d change.

I’ve really been thinking about this one a lot. 16 was a pivotal year for me. Pretty much every decision I made led me to be the person I am today and led to the children and grandchildren I have. If I could make changes and still be guaranteed to have the same family I have today, just with fewer difficulties and more functionality, then I would stay in school and not run away from home with a man who was 14 years older than me, a con artist, and the father of my first child. I’ll have to write about this at more length in the future. Suffice it to say, any change I would make would wipe out the life I have today and the people in it. That’s not worth making things look the way I wanted them to back then.

Day 12: I’m going to do this amazing thing today. It will…

I did the amazing thing yesterday. I wrote the letter to my mom. I grieved for her and for myself. I hunted for and found a poem I had written to her at a time when I was struggling with my own mental health as a young, single, depressed mom. It eased some of the emotional weight and pressure I’ve been harboring for a very long time. I felt better for it.

Day 13: What is something you’ve said that you wish you said differently?

I wish I could say things to my youngest daughter in ways that don’t trigger her fears and anxiety. She experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum. She’s very literal. She’s scared of the dark and when she’s exposed to things in our culture that most people can differentiate between reality and fantasy, she can’t. She fully believes that Chucky, Pennywise, and Momo are real and will come to get her in the dark. She also has behavior issues from emotional dysregulation. During those times when she acts out in extreme ways, she attributes them to an aspect she calls Moonlight. She speaks of it as if Moonlight is in control of these destructive behaviors and actions. I struggle with understanding whether Moonlight is an actual manifestation of something additional going on with her mental health or if she’s a construct she uses to scapegoat and avoid taking responsibility for her actions. Both of these things often frustrate and exasperate me and I speak dismissively, with impatience, doubt, or frustration. None of those things are helpful in any context with neurotypical people. With her and her autism, they are really detrimental and get in the way of us being able to have constructive and positive interactions.

How was that for a four day catch-up wrap-up?

30 Day Writing Challenge – Days 4 & 5: Invention Calling

Day 4 – If you could invent anything, what would it be?
Day 5 – What do you feel drawn to or called to do?

Being called to write with a passion
Inspired to inspire others’ inspiration
My fingers can’t keep up with my thoughts
They feel clumsy and slow
Often stemming the flow and
Derailing the train

Being drawn to gather the words
Collect and curate them
Is a daunting task
How do I recall, select, and order
All the words written thus far

The invention I need is a brain adaptor
A tool to connect the mind
To facilitate the transmission of thought
Into finished form
A wireless way to rewire the gray matter

The invention calling to me
Would enable me to focus
Prioritize and organize
Categorize and plan
Edit and collate
With just a thought

A Bluetooth Writer’s Brain Sequencer