Simplicity

I went to bed at 9pm last night and got out of bed at 10am this morning. Deep deep depression has set in. I kissed my husband goodbye as he left for work. Told him I was also going to work. 2 hrs later I texted my boss and let her know I couldn’t handle an office setting today.
I warmed up my coffee and checked email. I turned on the tv. Something I hate to do before 5pm. But, I need to check out. In a big way. I alternated between my email, Facebook, and writing. But honestly I tried to get lost in television. I won’t reveal the show as it’s probably not in the arena of self compassion, but holds my attention.
I sent a text to my old friend that read: so many moments come and go where a hello and goodbye are but a blimp in the day, weeks, months. I remember our first hello. I felt so bold. But now as I ponder a goodbye I feel so fragile. So alone. I don’t even know what I truly want to say. I’m thinking of you, Steve and Jerry.
These are folks who have long time sobriety and battle depression. Jerry took his life while sober unable to battle anymore.
My mind is not sound. My pain is bigger than me no matter how hard I try. I open my laptop to feel important. Answer work matters that demand my attention. Pretend I matter. Pretend I have an impact. I guess I’m trying to believe as much as pretend.
It’s not a good day. I isolate and spare me from you. I have no words. My smile and nod at a tilt. Socks don’t keep me warm. Pills don’t keep me well. Love doesn’t keep me fed. Faith may not keep me alive.
I’m hunkered down. Curtains closed. Darkness. Forever darkness barricades me. Alarms sound in my head. Warning shots fired. I’m not okay. Simple as that.

Dear Devoted Husband

Dear devoted husband,

I had forgotten the fear that is instilled in you once I drink. You micromanage and follow me around the house terrified there are still secrets. I have battled this disease of alcoholism for a very long time. I do it for me, but I also do it for you. I don’t want you to have to endure me as a monster. Ungrateful. Bitter. Hateful. Throwing daggers of rage directly at you when it truly has nothing to do w you. My demons are big. I’m so sorry it impacts you this way. You feel unsafe in your own home because of the wreckage I cause. It feels unfair. Why should you? Why would you continue to support me after all I have put us through?
I appealed to you in my collapse. If only you could understand my chaos. My self loathing. The roller coaster of bipolar. I reveal the suicidal thoughts. The desire to escape. The uncertainty I can carry on like this. You could probably never understand the way I want you to. But you stay by my side always, through it all. As the alcohol collided with my intense anger I said many things I did not mean. I sincerely regret. You laid in bed with me as I cried it out. Stuttered and stammered to get my painful words across. I couldn’t bring myself to announce the plan I have been mulling over for the past week. The incessant suicidal chatter that is intrusive, never stops and is convincing. I instead rest on your shoulder. I let the tears run wild down my cheeks. While there is a sense of freedom in an emotional explosion, picking up the pieces is another story.
I try to contain my defensiveness as you ask me where I’m going in our 1200 square ft house. I stand up and you flinch wondering if I’m going to sneak a drink. I put my hand on the doorknob and you say..are you really going to get coffee or are you going to drink. Please don’t drink. My self loathing increases w each question. What a fool I am giving in to the false promise of alcohol. What a fool I am to continually test the limits. If you said you couldn’t love me anymore I wouldn’t blame you. Sometimes I hope you do, so I can release this guilt. So I can jump and end this nightmare. But no. Over and over you profess your love for me. All of me.
I must contend with the guilt. With the roller coaster. With the fear. Because you do.

Starting over once again

Hi. My name is Rhonda and I’m an alcoholic. I’m also diagnosed with bipolar I w psychotic features. I’ve played medication roulette for years. Had several hospitalizations in the last 3.5 yrs when I had to face my demons and truly get help. I relapsed last night. In a big ugly way. I so desperately wanted an escape from the madness of my mind. I could no longer handle the anxiety and suicidal chatter that was plaguing me. I have a full time job that is testing my ability to stay sane. A few days ago I was in tears at 8am as I sat at my desk and surveyed the scene. By 4pm I felt invincible and of master importance. Being thrown around the roller coaster is exhausting. Holding all the stress, anxiety, overwhelm, uncertainty and fear behind my mask becomes too much. The burden that is me becomes too heavy.
Instead of picking up the phone, going for a walk, or jumping on the treadmill I drove straight to the liquor store. As he put the bottle in the black plastic bag I knew I was digging my grave. Thoughts of washing all my medications down with this forbidden poison flooded me. Ashamed of making such a purchase, knowingly and willingl giving up sobriety, I barely looked at the man behind the counter. I wonder what he thought of me.
The voices in my head were rumbling. My head was pounding. I took my first sip and almost gagged. But, the rest went down a little too smoothly. I am not a dainty drinker. Much like everything there is an underlying frenzy to how I move in the world. Swiftly I filled my body with what I was certain was medicine. It was going to help me calm down, relax, want to be in my shoes. The talk of a true alcoholic. The misguided thought process of a desperate soul seeking peace. Respite. Escape from the doldrums of mental illness.
The reality is I do not handle alcohol well. It’s like a chemical reaction. An explosion of pain, hate, and anger erupts. I point fingers. I yell, scream and stomp around. You would probably never believe what kind of monster I become. The words I spew are evil. I don’t find peace. I don’t find respite. I create a storm swirling around me so powerful things go flying in the air. My poor husband an innocent bystander and receiver of the evil words. It’s not pretty. Soon enough I am on the floor sobbing. Begging for forgiveness. Trying to explain I need an escape.
When will I ever learn? Alcohol is my enemy. It can never be my friend. It can never “help” a situation. I know others who have 20+ years of sobriety and some of the same issues I do. They manage to stay sober. I know it’s possible. People do it everyday. I’ve done it and I’ll do it again.
So here I sit. Starting over once again.

Magical Mystery Tour

Sometimes I have these powerful, sensual feelings of empowerment. Bathed in a self fulfilling prophecy that I am love and light. I am the keeper of joy. Brought here to espouse the wonders of bliss. The journey is ours. I hold your hand and wipe the tear from your eye. Go forth my child in brilliance I shall be watching over you.
Yet, sometimes I flail in the darkness. Unable to find reason and purpose for my existence. My wings clipped and thrown aside. Any angelic auspices I might have once felt are smashed. Bits of my heart, soul and mind float along the painful abyss of bipolar disorder.
The cavernous fall seemingly came quick, but did it? Blinded once again by magnificent mania. Light footsteps carried me over the bridge of desire. Heavy hearted I can no longer rise. The magic of fast paced, bright colored, illustrious circumstance disappeared. I am left picking up the pieces to a timeless puzzle. Different day. Different me. Sense of self forever lost in the maze of uncertainty.
As I settle into the madness, a hopelessness so profound takes hold. Opening my eyes at dawn or at all takes such precious energy. Hours turn into days into weeks. All unbeknownst to me. The constant shadow is a forecast. In darkness I shall always remain. Until the manic fever causes shivers up and down my spine once again.

Sent from my iPhone

Who am I anyway?

On a quest to find my identity outside of work and outside of bipolar disorder. I’ve always been a passionate, and quite possibly over involved, person when it comes to my job. Whether its case manager (previously) or project manager (currently) I obsess over whether I am providing excellent guidance to my “people.”
I can tell you who I used to be with ease: tennis player, runner, fitness junkie, concert goer, lover of the beach, social, engaged, hiker, friend, loyal, sensitive, empathetic, energetic, sober and willing.
Now? I’m not so sure. I am still a concert goer, but it is so hard for me to stay present. I am still a hiker, nature is important to my mental health. Continue to be sensitive and empathetic. I think I was born that way. I do love the beach. The smells, the sounds, the feeling of walking on sand are all soothing to me. It feeds my soul. And I simply do not make my way to the great sea often enough!
As I see it right now, I can no longer cast myself in an athletic light. I would go trail running every weekend up until a year ago. I took a hard fall during a manic episode and ended up at the ER. Walked away with 15 stitches, bruises up and down the right side of my body and a black eye. I think my ego was hurt the most. The funny part is I hike that trail and often wonder how I even ran on that terrain. Don’t be fooled I maybe hike it once per week. I have stopped working out pretty much altogether. For no reason. Other than I lost all motivation. Meanwhile I feel awful in my body and hate what I see in the mirror.
Let’s cut to the chase. Who am I on this day in 2016? A wife who is very lucky to have such a supportive and loving husband. I’m a project manager. Im a writer. a very caring person who takes relationships seriously, yet can’t seem to keep any going beyond my husband and brother. I’m very sensitive. Easily confused by social situations and assume most breakdowns are my fault. Empathetic. Patient. Diligent. Uncertain. Ive never been more uncertain about my distance and place in this world. Constantly, and I mean constantly, battling myself. I’m an introvert!
I’m a wanter: I WANT to workout, try yoga, finish what I start, express myself in the real world, accept myself, find my place. But, what do I do instead? Sit on the couch, recline and try to sleep. I have no gumption. There was a time I had non stop energy for almost 4 years. Bootcamp before work, work, then 2-3 hrs of competitive tennis 3-4 days after work. Now, I can barely get out of bed and it’s all I can do not to go back to bed once I arrive home from work at 4pm.
I’m probably off topic. This is the vicious circle I get into. Reflect on how I used to be, wish I could be that way again. When I can’t or I’m just not, I get angry and disappointed in myself. Then I become a slug on the couch. Sigh. I’m just so tired.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” “Your time will come.” “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
All things folks have kindly said to me. Smile and nod. Smile and nod. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, it’s just. I mean. I’d like to say, walk a mile in my head. Then come back and tell me those cliche’s again.
Yah, so my identity. Some days I have no clue who I am. The up and down roller coaster of emotion, the delusions, paranoia impact my sense of self. Just last week I was convinced I was some sort of CIA operative. At my core, what little I have left, I do know I am full of loving kindness. I’m not always able to show it or express it, but it’s there. My heart is big. When it’s not extra heavy it exudes compassion. Mostly for others, but that’s another topic.
If there was one thing I want you to know about me, the real raw fanatic, is that I am scared to let you into my inner world. I am scared it is too much for you and ultimately you will walk away. So I hide. Smile and nod some more. It can be lonely. But somehow it feels safer.

Willingness is the Key

Life lessons. Sometimes they bonk us in the head seemingly from left field. But more often than not they’ve been staring us in the face and we have just been unable to see them. Until the bonk. Or at least this is my experience.
Sipping on coffee, under my favorite blanket embracing the ease of Saturday morning. In just a few hours we will hop in the car and “begin” our weekend. I find myself in contemplation mode. It’s been a week of erratic thinking and loss of perspective. I was manic and paranoid at the same time. I awoke on Tuesday at 4 am and was convinced I had betrayed my agency. My mind literally took on a mind of its own. For 2 hours I laid in bed while thoughts raced, confusion stirred and I was paralyzed. I work in social services. The rate we fund various agencies for their various services is set by the state. Very rarely do the rates change, much less rise. But there are always caveats. This time the nonsensical direction we were given is that already existing vendors would receive new rates, and soon to be or potential vendors would get the old rate. A collective HUH? was sighed around those of us dealing with this issue.
Somehow my mind was convinced I sent out the rate scale to all the soon to be vendors. While this is public knowledge, we do not hand out this information. We would share it at the time someone were to get vendorized with us. I had become a CIA operative in the social service world gone rogue. I agonized over this for 2 hours. I was so uncertain and confused of my actions I checked my sent email file to see what damage I had done. Which of course, was absolutely none. But it spawned the paranoia.
In all of this chaos I lost sight of my role. I was wanting to control anything and everything. If I “fixed” issues outside of my job description it was redemption. So in other words crossing work boundaries. Dipping into other departments. My new supervisor is all about the mantra of staying in your own lane. I was having trouble understanding what that meant. I kept on veering. Throw me a curve ball and I’m probably going to chase it.
Last night, well after work hours, I was bonked in the head with a realization. If I solved every problem that even remotely affected me, I would be in charge. In control. But really, I am ultimately wasting energy and causing myself stress. These are not my problems. I sent my supervisor an email asking her for guidance throwing the situation way out of proportion. She had a one line response. It didn’t indulge my drama. The answer she gave reiterated what I had said without trying to fix what I didn’t actually break. I was wanting to fix the ENTIRE situation, when clearly that is not my role here.
The internal chaos was quickly seeping to the outside world and breeding more chaos. I was waiting in the wings with bandages, band aids, and whatever else. My effort to regain control.
I am a social worker at heart. I truly do want to help. But I am starting to see that’s all well and good, but not in my job description. It’s cleaner if I stay on my side of the street until someone actually asks me for assistance. I jump the gun and bum rush a situation that doesn’t need my fingerprints.
A hard won life lesson embedded in a one line response. I had to be willing to read between the line(s). Which, when I think about it, prompted the bonk. Willingness. That’s all 😊

Progress in the Works

There are days the alarm sounds and I rise. There are other days when my alarm sounds and my heart starts racing. And still there are other days when my alarm sounds and I cannot move. It’s not the weight of the blankets. It’s the weight of my existence. The buzzing continues and in my mind I beg it to stop. Rolling over hurts. On these days it could go a number of ways.
The delusion that my office couldn’t possibly go a day without me. The projects I’m working on are going to fall apart somehow lifts me out of bed. I text my boss letting her know I’m late. Tears in the shower. Tears as I stare in the mirror blowing my hair dry. I can’t figure out what to make for breakfast or lunch, so just plan to go without. On the drive, I promise myself I’m going to keep it together. Fighting back more tears I will them not to fall. I walk into my office as if all is well and turn on my computer. The flood of emails brings on such overwhelm I find myself running to the restroom. Anxiety now fills my body. I shouldn’t be here. There is no graceful exit at this point.
Another way is to notify my boss I will be out sick for the day and roll over one last time. Sleep well past noon, at least hope to. When I wake again I am full of guilt. I should be at work. I should be a functioning member of society. The tears fall staining my pajamas. Why can’t I keep it together? I was okay yesterday. Just yesterday I completed reports, answered emails, went for a hike, made dinner. I can’t do this any more. Enter suicidal ideation. I think about all the medication bottles. I think about the bridge only 25 minutes away. The voices begin to shout..you don’t belong here. They are better off without you. There is no more sleeping. Escaping the chaos in my mind.
When my feet hit the floor I feel weak, flush, scared, uncertain. I stumble around my house for a while not knowing what to do. Eventually I’m a crying mess somewhere on the floor.
The last option is to acknowledge its going to be a rough day. I can feel it in my bones once that alarm sounds. I make no rash decisions on whether to go into the office or not. I lay still a few minutes longer and breathe. I need coffee. I do not beat myself up for having bipolar disorder and the subsequent mood fluctuations. I sip my cup of coffee and consider how the day can play out. I try to stay ahead of the emotional game. I take it one minute at a time.
That third plan is the ideal. It’s a work in progress, or rather what I’m striving for. Mostly it’s a mix of option 1&2. I usually get myself to work and I usually have to go home early. I struggle with just allowing myself to be…good day or bad day. But, I’m working on it.

Connecting the Dots

It’s funny how it can take someone else to hear your story and connect the dots. Well, I guess that’s what therapists are good for in the end. It was in her office a little overa week ago I sat with tears in my eyes telling her I didn’t think I could handle my full time job anymore. I have been at my agency for 17 years. They have put up with my numerous leave of absences for the past three years thanks to bipolar disorder. I like to think its cuz I’m loyal and they like me, but really it’s probably because of the law.
I was explaining how I feel like a failure and a burden to my boss and coworkers. I had just taken 2 weeks off needing some crisis treatment. The amount of work and stress of the job has been steadily increasing and I’m not adapting so well. Combine that w a new supervisor who doesn’t know what she is doing, and my overwhelm and anxiety is charging through the roof. If I go to her for guidance, she in turn looks to me because I have worked in this department the longest. She feels more like my team leader than a supervisor. She looks to our unit for input and feedback, which I guess is nice but ends up feeling like MORE work.
So, as a good therapist should we switch our focus to what would work for me. What would the ideal job look like. I already knew my answer: 30 hrs per week, full benefits to start immed, good salary, ideally in social service/nonprofit world that I would find meaningful. So, I guess here begins my intention. We talk about pros and cons for a quick second with my homework to be writing about this further.
The next morning at my current job my cell phone rings. It’s my friend who just left my agency to work for a vendor. I had mentioned to her half heartedly about a 30 hour position w her. Well, she took it seriously and pitched it to the Executive Director. She was calling to say they are very interested and willing to offer a 30 HR position. That same day I agree to a Skype chat with the ED. To be fair, I should tell you I work closely w this vendor on projects so we know each other. I’ve had lunch w the ED more than once. But the position they are hiring for is completely new and different to me.
My friend also tells me they agree to benefits immediately. This is huge and really my priority over salary. I need to know mental health services are covered..obviously. So, I have the skype chat. Basically they want to know what they can do to snag me for their team. So, I now have to think about my offer.
I’m going to cut to the chase. I begin to envision myself in this new role. I feel a sense of relief at the idea of leaving my current job wash over me. I talk to others to check in about making such a change. I write pros and cons. I decide I am going to go for it. It took several days to get medical information. I needed to see the Plan coverage. When I got my hands on it, the air went out of my sails. I would have so many out of pockets expenses for psychiatric care it just didn’t make sense. I was willing to pay a hefty amount out of my paycheck to be covered, but I just couldn’t walk away w a $3000 hospital bill for EACH admission..if that were to happen. I have not gone a year yet w/out a hospitalization.
So, in essence I had to turn the job down because of bipolar disorder. If I were healthy, it wouldn’t be an issue. Once again on my therapists couch w tears in my eyes. I was telling this story. Just yesterday I was full of life, putting out fires left and right. Social. Participating in group discussions. Even picking up the phone-which I NEVER do. But today, I can barely walk up stairs. I stared at my computer at work not comprehending much. I’m slow. Heavy. Lifeless. I didn’t understand why as I woke up this way.
She said I was grieving the loss of a job opportunity that was only lost because of a mental illness. I thought I had put it away as the insurance was a deal breaker. Period. But, truth is I’m really disappointed. A bit disillusioned because everything fell into place so naturally. Cosmically. Then fell apart so quickly.
It’s not that I’m not grateful for the amazing benefits my current job provides. It’s been a life saver. It’s that I feel stuck. Because I’m sick. Always at risk of getting sicker, I can’t move about freely. I’m beholden to a benefits package that covers the chaos of bipolar disorder. I feel guilty and ashamed I’m even complaining about this. Others have no job or coverage at all. I’m lucky in so many ways.
I have to find a way to respect my needs as a person with an illness, not feel like a failure.