Blistered and Broken

There is no stain
No varnish
No mountain blue paint
That can cover these wounds
Polish the pain
A good ol cleanin
Cleansing with bleach
Of my soul
Washing away the fear
The shame
That taints my destiny
Is a welcoming reprieve
These slow drawn out breaths
Of peace
Allow for space
Within the complete unrest
In this splatter scatter mind
The ripples and bubbles of soap
As I wring my hands
Of the past
Caress my fevered face
Splashes of water
Wake me from
This blistered and broken
Place

A Much Needed Walk

I am walking with myself. Alongside myself. Accepting myself. Forgiving myself. A trusted friend believes in the power of a labyrinth.  As each wave of emotion, shame, regret and fear continuously hit me last week, I reached out to said friend.  A walk amongst the cluster of redwoods on a dedicated path where I put one foot in front of the other was needed. A place of release. A place to regain my footing. A place to begin trusting myself again.  A place to move at my own pace in mind, body and breath.

The manic residue was slowly fading away.  I sat with my wonderful friend and recounted every detail.  Let the words fly on the wind. Be absorbed into the soil beneath our feet.  On my solitary walk I envisioned all the negative energy rushing from the top off my head high into the sky. Evaporating in the suns brilliant rays. I chanted I shall be released. I chanted I am full of forgiveness.  Deep cleansing breaths carried me around the maze. I trusted my existence for the first time in several weeks.  I tuned out the chaotic chatter that likes to keep me company focusing on the present moment.  Hearing the crunch of leaves as I stepped left then right.  The cool air under the giant trees was soothing.  Calming.  As the path continued to unfold and I reached the center, I truly felt centered.

I didn’t think about the episode, the people I affected, the guilt…what feels like consequences the rest of the day.  This was no ordinary walk in the woods.  It was a gift.

Stuck at the dysfunction junction

Growing up, I always thought I had an incredibly dysfunctional family. And, by my own definition I did. I had a BFF in middle school and just loved her parents. The way they interacted with their children. The way they hugged them and gushed about how much my friend was loved. Their soft compassionate demeanor towards me. EVERTHING. I wanted to be their daughter.
My folks were distant, emotionally detached. Quick to punish and spank with anything handy…belt, wooden spoon, fly swatter. Sent off to my room to “think about what I did.” Never a follow up question regarding my thoughts. Never reassurance it was still okay, i was okay. Not much love floating in the airwaves. I was a shy awkward young girl who could use some guidance, but none was available. When I mustered up all my bravery and asked for some help, i was quickly shut down. Up went the wall!
My husband has helped me to break down the wall and communicate my feelings. Some days i can do this, some days i simply can’t. Either the words don’t come, i don’t know the words, or I’m afraid of the words I should be saying. Throw my therapist in the mix and we are working on it!
On his side of the family, big mean derogatory words can come barreling at you seemingly out of nowhere. Or you get the silent treatment. The in laws reside in Western NY, which you would think would be a blessing. It is, but it really isn’t. Distance can kill any kind of relationship, even if you work at it. When there is no consistent communication, the ship can go down in a hurry. My mother in law is the only tether to the sinking ship. We hang on, get bounced around and ejected over and over by his brother. But, his frail mother who sits slumped over in her wheelchair waits for my husband’s phone call twice per day.
Just in the last few days, she has been too weak to manipulate the cell phone. Too weak to eat and not terribly responsive. When you are 3000 miles away and the only link is an old flip phone its hard to know what’s happening. We find ourselves having to rely on the brother for information as he is power of attorney and the ungrateful boots on the ground in NY. The word “strained” keeps popping up in my mind to describe the relationship of these two men, but it really doesn’t do it justice.
Last year i stood my ground after i visited and had a subsequent hospitalization. I was out of work for 3 months. I am a highly sensitive being with bipolar I, some situations i just cannot handle. I delicately told my husband the environment was not good for me and my mental health. He agreed and declared I never have to go there again. Not realistic.
So here I am. mother in Law not doing well. Brother in law sparing with his medical information. Husband terrified if he doesn’t jump now he may never have a positive interaction with his mother again. what a freakin dilemma. How do i be of support to him and validate my own struggles with the family. Honor my own mental health. Be a doting wife full of empathy and love. How?

Medication Chronicles

My medication shelf is overwhelming. I’m on the cusp of running out of the small pills that fill BIG plastic bottles. I receive more bottles of my small pills in anticipation of running out. I am too tired to combine, at least right now, and it looks like I have a million pill bottles in my possession. So a million thoughts fill my head all at once. I capture this much:
1. I’m well taken care off
2. There are FAR too many pills for me to manage
3. I can’t possibly need this many. I’m overprescribed
4. I can always keep my stockpile of pills going for my ultimate plan
5. I could take them all and just end this now
6. Just for today I will take what I am prescribed

Struggle. Struggle to accept this is where I am. Struggle to accept its okay. Pills for sleep. Yep I so need that. Pills for mood, without question. For psychosis. For agitation/anxiety. I acquiesce. Pause. Remember the circumstances that follow my rebellion. Never good.
It ain’t pretty when I don’t take em. It’s not always rosy just because I do. I’m still here. That says a lot. The shelf itself is unmanageable. But I don’t have to solve everything right now.
It occurs to me I just have to do the next right thing. You might know this lingo. Sometimes it applies to all circumstances. Actually almost always. If you are open to it.

What the F** am I doing?

I am scouring my house clean. I am blasting music to keep my “morale” up. I am pretending to try to dance. Let go. Release. Stop fighting. Yet, at the very same time I want to lie on the floor and tantrum. Pound my hands. Kick. Scream. Release. But I don’t. My doctors words floating in my mind…I see you as high functioning, going to work just about each day.
Yes. Yes I do present my body at work a majority of the time. My mind. Well, it’s a crap shoot. Today, I lost my cool in the restroom with a supervisor. Not mine. Thank goodness..I guess. I cursed like a sailor, tears in my eyes declaring I am fed up. Who exactly am I fed up with? Me or my supervisor? Great question.
I walk myself backwards through the day. Where is my voice? Not in my supervisors office. Not in my doctors office. In the bathroom, off line. In this blog post. But, not where it needs to be. Not in the proverbial light of day.
What a painful revelation. What a godsend. What in the hell do I do now?

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.