If Only I knew…

I turn the music up. I turn it down. Turn it off. Turn it on. Change the station. Maybe I should focus on a task, so I set out to clean the house. I don’t know where to start. I roam around armed w cleanser and a towel. Eventually I just sit on the couch and stare out the window. I don’t know if I am actually looking at anything. My gaze is steady, but nothing registers. Perhaps I should take a shower. Perhaps I should take a nap. I SHOULD exercise. But, I do none of these things. I have no energy. No desire.
I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know what I need. My husband makes a suggestion but I cannot hear him. I see his lips move, his eyes impassioned. His words fall short. Don’t reach me. I miss his message. I’ve gone inward. I can only seem to hear the echo of the voice in my head, which is stunningly mean and decisive. But, also makes perfect sense.
I put on my trusted headphones to drown out the barrage in my mind. Meditation? Classical? Nature? I can’t make the simplest of decisions right now. I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know what I need. Am i in a void? An abyss? Time is standing still. The lovely purple sage bush out my window is awash in the fog. The minutes creep by. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Its only 3 o’clock? How in the hell can it be 3 o’clock!
If only I knew how I felt. What I need. Maybe you could help me through this invisible pain.

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White Knuckling

I am trapped inside my my mind. I shout. I rebel. I long for expression. Yet I sit silent. My words, my connection, with you is severed. I don’t think this is my fault. You see I need you to hear me. My voice, well, has “left the building.” My bipolar depression has wrapped itself around me. I am muffled at best.
The world spins. Days rise and set. I sit. Staring at the wall. Resting. Movement is slow and overwhelming. Getting out of bed is an accomplishment. Brushing my teeth over the top. Accolades do not resonate. Guilt hangs on my chest. Why can’t I do more. Go to work. Cook a simple meal. Even think about making coffee? I’m so exhausted yet I haven’t actually moved in days.
I left messages with my boss. With my therapist. With my psychiatrist. Not necessarily in that order. Explaining. Maybe it mostly sounding like excuses. The honesty I exuded was painful then. Admitting my cognition, stamina, memory was compromised took all I had. But, really looking back, it was probably obvious to others. I was barely hanging on. My face often flush, looking hung over. Raw. Fragile. The hangover was from emotion, floods of tears, uncertainty. White knuckling a mood disorder.
The darkness has moved in. Rented space without a lease. I didn’t know it was coming and I don’t know when it would leave. Scary synopsis for a person w bipolar disorder. The reality of daylight savings time this weekend has me quivering. Bold black night greeting me at 5pm. It affects me. Deeply.
My action plan, if I can muster the energy? Walks in the midday sunlight. Big cleansing breaths with sun on my face. Quiet time in the holiday craze. If that’s not possible, I steal just 5 minutes here and there. I have a you tube video w a song called “Breathe” I listen to in headphones. Just me and the music. Its a reminder and a reprieve at the same time.
Fall is a time of beauty. A cleansing as the rains come. For me personally, its a time to really take notice of my internal clock. My tolerance or intolerance of noise, light, crowds. As the leaves change so does my mood. Historically speaking, I’m vulnerable this time of year. Armed with this information I can do my best to manage all that comes.

Thick Skinned & Battle Ready

I want to unzip this thin skinned costume, take my skeletal self and step into a thick skinned, battle ready version of me. Historically the onset of fall brings on deep depression, psychosis and hospitalization. I can’t forget in 2014 I had the most intense manic episode followed by a suicide attempt. I spent Thanksgiving in the psych ward. I woke today with a heavy body. Tears hanging on my eyelashes before I was even awake. I don’t think I slept a wink. I agonized over everything and nothing. All. Night. Long.
In May, one of my two cats (they are sisters) died suddenly. She was my pal. My darling furry friend who often laid on top of me while I cried in bed. I could just look at her and she came a running to spring in my lap. She had a love of boxes. She would sit on top of them, crawl into them, somehow jam her pudgy body into every crook of cardboard. We always seemed to have a new box for Sage. She even liked old ones. Whenever I took out the recycling, and brought back in the “clean” empty box she would make a beeline. So, when she slinked into the dirty box half full of recyclables I knew something was wrong. I knew this was it. I couldn’t get her into the vet fast enough.
I tell this story because I am seeing signs in my other, remaining kitty. She has always been a little more aloof. You have to coax her to come to you. We named her Beyoncé because she seemed to dance around you. Things are very much on her terms. But, she has become my pal. I’m hard pressed to get her to sit on my lap, much less lay with me. She is who she is. So, I’m hyper aware of bizarre behavior now. I watch the way she walks, sits, responds, eats, drinks. I’m nervous.
Last night as I tried to sleep and heard her fussing, I had visions of Sage without breath alone in her box. Sadness filled my being. I got up and tried to comfort Beyoncé, she relaxed and settled a little. Back in my bed, I laid in darkness and listened to make sure my last furry friend was breathing. Morning came and we couldn’t find her in our 1200 sq foot house. She wasn’t coming to the sound of my voice. Finally I shook her bag of food and out from behind the washing machine she appeared. Bizarre behavior noted.
I feel paralyzed. Should I take her to the vet and hear the words I am afraid to hear? Spend money I don’t really have. Should I just anticipate, given her sister’s passing, Beyoncé may soon leave us. She is resting on my lap as I write this. I’m gently petting her, reminding her I love her. I just hope she knows she’s loved!
On the cusp of November, rain is falling hard on this Sunday morning. Its dark and dreary. As is my mood. I don’t feel battle ready. I feel fragile. Vulnerable. When I have the energy I’m going to seek my thick skinned replica.

So Painfully Aware

There are many things i am painfully aware of, but have finally allowed to rest in the background. Until of course…a trigger. Its no secret I am an introvert. Masterful isolationist. Harbor secrets. Harbor despair. Have great difficulty opening up sooner rather than later. Sure, there are times I can’t fulfill my commitments. There are times that I don’t answer my phone. Long moments that crash into even longer moments where I lose my voice. Silent I sit and stare into nothingness, all the while the voice in my head is tearing me to shreds. No need to plead the fifth here. I am guilty of all the above.
i try so hard to forge friendships. I am thoughtful and kind. I’m attentive as much as I can be. I send texts just to say..thinking about you. If you had a bad day yesterday, most likely i will check to see how you are today. I try to make you laugh on any given day. I can be quite funny sometimes. I listen. I empathize. I encourage you to lean on me. So, what’s wrong with me that I have no friends? Seriously. Honestly. I have co-workers that I really like, and seem to like me inside the hours of 9-5. But, past that, I am alone. Before the point is made that my husband cares for me and is of invaluable support, i’ll just agree wholeheartedly. Without him, i wouldn’t still be here to write this.
So, today I am once again painfully aware. My husband leaves for his annual east coast trip to New York in just about 2 weeks. I gently stated to him his family causes me too much stress and I would prefer to stay home. I would be dishonest in this context not to admit that staying home alone for a week is also quite stressful for me. The obvious solution is to gather up my support network. Make plans to stay busy. Not completely isolate the entire week and either turn to booze, sleep the time away, or the worst case..swallow all my pills to just end all matters. You have to have friends to form a support network. If i understood what fatal flaw keeps me from bridging this gap, I would fix it. Are some people just meant for more of a lonely life?
My younger self had a consistent, yet small, circle of people I could call upon. I had a short stint in AA in my mid 30’s and had a sponsor and a few key characters that helped me stay sober. However, once I slipped into the land of bipolar and several subsequent hospitalizations, those people lost interest. Granted, my ability to be consistent in anyone’s life was diminished. Whatever the reason, I am no longer in touch with them. I was alone when I drank. Now I’m alone in sobriety with a cruel mental illness.
These are not new revelations. Its the truth of the situation. I care about people. I want connections. Even better if they could be meaningful. Here I sit writing anonymously to the cyber universe. Sharing what i have been unable to share thus far. Like I said, generally I can push it aside, its just that today I am painfully aware.

Medication Chronicles

I want so badly not to need medication. I play with fire and just slowly stop taking them. I’m not convinced they are truly making a difference. I arbitrarily take my lithium here and there and there are other times I have been in compliance for 6 months straight. No difference. Mood swings all over the place. Intense anxiety. Deep depression. Suicidal ideation. Mania. Doesn’t matter. My closest attempt occurred when I was taking 3 medications religiously.
I worry about my thyroid, my liver. I’ve had almost all my hair fall out and a dangerous rash. One med made me so restless and agitated I had to stop taking it. My doctor is convinced lithium is working because I’m still here. Is that the marker for success? I can be suffering non stop, but as long as I don’t jump its all good. That’s no quality of life. I wholeheartedly disagree. But, I’m running out of options. I’ve tried all the med combos, even including an antidepressant w my mood stabilizer.
I don’t know. I seem to be “okay” not taking meds right now. I do still take trazadone because I absolutely cannot sleep on my own. I worry I’m dependent on it, but without sleep I become more vulnerable to symptoms. This dance isn’t very comfortable. I tend to want to be the lead. The voice in my head tells me I may need meds but they don’t truly help me. They poison me. Maybe my body and mind are treatment resistant.
I open the small cabinet that houses my medication shelf each night. I stare in. Blue bottle tops blur together. I’m not necessarily overwhelmed as I am sad.

I Made it Through the damn Day

I don’t feel safe. In my body. In my mind. In the world. I’m operating out of fear lately and it sucks. I refused, rather chose, not to attend a huge free music festival in San Francisco because I was convinced it was the perfect bombing or shooting scenario. A hundred thousand unsuspecting people standing around in the iconic Golden Gate Park swaying to bluegrass was a recipe for disaster. I was afraid at a concert over the weekend because people were becoming animated and in turn the band was becoming even more animated. Music lovers were storming my section to enjoy the band and I was planning my escape route. Wondering if hiding under the table was kosher? Just yesterday I was in an upscale bar watching the MLB playoffs with my husband. We are not bandwagon fans and sometimes can’t get along with those that are. Fired up drunk sports fans in close quarters were starting to cause me concern. So much so I couldn’t revel in the win of “our” team. I was consumed with how I should, shouldn’t, could, couldn’t handle this situation. Again opting for an escape route.
My husband tells me I can’t live my life in fear. I can’t not go to events due to fear. Then THEY are winning. Conceptually I get this. But, if anxiety could speak its truth, explain itself eloquently I’m almost positive my husband would take back his stance. He might begin to understand the paralyzing effects it has on my thought process. I can never find the right words to explain the intensity. The restless racing thoughts that leave me speechless. Overwhelmed. More than scared. Don’t get me wrong. He is compassionate. He just doesn’t fully get it. He needs to rationalize my anxiety for his own feelings of safety. If I’m not in chaos, generally there is no chaos.
In the midst of a mild panic attack on my hour drive to my first work meeting I tried all kinds of coping tricks. Deep breaths to the count of four. Focusing on my senses..finding 5 things I see or hear or taste. Through my windshield you would think I could see a plethora of things. And I did. But, could not grab that tree or cloud or car from the landscape. It was all a blur. Not enough focus. Inability to find the present. My thoughts turned to a new suicide plan. Rather intrusively. Rather aggressively. Detail by detail. My final final escape route laid out before me promising relief.
I kept my foot on the pedal. Debating the plan. Pros and cons. My fighting Irish mind unconsciously or subconsciously..whatever..landed me at my appointment. I turned off the car. Took three of the longest breaths I could muster. Fixed my hair. Wiped my eyes. Somehow remembered to say a silent prayer. Fear infused adrenaline subsided for a few hours. Plans on hold.
I waded through the mud and the mire. I made it through the day. I sincerely hope you did too in any fashion that carried you through!

This is Real Life

I am not a fan of the question “how are you?” I just don’t know how to answer it. My therapist asked me this as i sat on the couch clutching the pillow. On my walk to her office i was all over the place. Praising myself for actually getting out and walking. Angry I am not working out at all. Trying to notice my surroundings. Fighting back tears. Giving in to tears. Perseverating over what i want to talk about…work, parents, fears, lack of relationships, crushing loneliness. Wanting to just turn around and go home. Smiling at passersby. All the while being cradled by music that carries me down the bike path. It was a somewhat grueling 30 min jaunt.
As i struggled to find words, the right words mind you, to express the chaos i wade through on a day to day basis she sat patiently. Just 2 weeks ago i had a breakthrough session where i felt i was there for the betterment of myself, not just to combat bipolar disorder. I was “ordered” to start therapy after a suicide attempt in Nov 2014 by my husband. I finally got around to finding someone in January 2015. I figured 6 months of obligatory therapy was all I needed. Well in those initial months, as we were getting to know each other, it was more like crisis management every 2 weeks. It still is to a certain extent. But as I was saying, last time I saw my therapist i was in a space where i was ready to focus on the me who isn’t bipolar. So much focuses on that damn diagnosis. I think I focus on it much more than i realize. I mean how could i not?
I saw her on Thursday, but just the Monday before I was planning my death. I was in such a dark hole. I simply could not communicate to my husband. I sat in lone silence while my mind plotted against me. And sure enough she and I were thrust back into crisis management. Angry, frustrated, hopeless tears fell onto that pillow as I held it in my lap. I was explaining i was giving up everything. Wasn’t going to pursue life any longer. What was the point? She listened. And listened. My voice rose and fell. Rose and ultimately i fell silent…lost. She honored every one of my feelings and then played devil’s advocate.
In my perseveration, I also guess how my therapist will respond to my woes. In a previous post i discussed the idea of always being behind the camera, watching others living life. I knew she would say something along the lines of, well we can’t always be in front of the camera. Life happens. She of course didn’t use those exact words, as i can’t truly read minds. Intellectually. Conceptually i TOTALLY agree with this notion. However, emotionally and all tied up in symptoms and mood swings I can’t untangle myself in the moment to see it this way. But, it was a gentle reminder that everyone has bad days, awful days and even more awful days. Everyone at some point probably feels the pangs of loneliness. Maybe not to the degree I do, or maybe they do. Who knows.
So, here’s the best part. I unloaded all that junk i was carrying for a week in 50 minutes. I was able to receive that gentle reminder. I was also able to hear that perhaps I shouldn’t give up on pursuing life. Its okay to have my art journal sit untouched for weeks at a time. Its there when i am ready. The even better part is that I got out into the world and literally kicked up my heels and danced. As i stood before one of my favorite musicians and listened to her sing out her own pain, i moved and swayed to the rhythm. In that moment, i wasn’t carrying the burden of bipolar. I didn’t even care i was the only one standing up and dancing. I was too busy pursuing real life.

Where is the Welcome Mat?

I hear them laughing
Whispering
connecting
Sharing
It could be stories
Secrets
Dreams
Fears
Where once I felt
I belonged
Could take part
Mattered
Now
So far removed
Alone
Broken
Unworthy
They carry on
Without me

I have been feeling this overwhelmingly painful sense of loneliness. Like the veil of darkness has wrapped itself around me so tight I cannot see the love or the light in my life. I don’t believe its actually there, but others tell me it is. Yesterday was a perfect metaphor for how I’m feeling. I was at a work event, more like a fair, when vendors have booths showcasing the accomplishments of their agency. As i walked around and saw comrarderie among people, laughing, touching, w genuine like for one another, it struck me I no longer have that. I’m the girl who gets asked to take the group photo. I’m on the outside capturing memories for others. I’m not in the memories, in the circle of laughter, in the circle at all. I am the lone aloof individual on the outside. So unsure of myself. I just feel unwelcome in this world right now. Its only getting darker.

Sorry is all I can think to say

My eyes drip w sadness
My body weak from the weight
Turbulent thoughts
Then no thoughts
Just numb
Shutting down
There is no explanation
I do not know the cause
Tears invade my space
I sit unable to express
The sudden pain
I can fight no more
I am tired
I try and try
Fulfill my role as wife, friend, worker
I hold my head high
For as long as I can
Smile for the camera
Dance for you
Now I weep
Broken
On the floor
And i want to say sorry
Sorry
I am not more
Sorry
I am not better
Sorry
I am this way
But the Words fall silent
The guilt remains tethered on the inside
I feel your disappointment
It scars me

Getting off this Ride

It never ceases to amaze me just how quickly my mood can drop. From Monday to today, i have fallen into a deep dark canyon.  On Monday, I was probably thinking I could jump over the canyon and through the woods.  But, somehow my feet have slipped and here I am at the bottom. Alone. Crying. It takes too much energy to look up. I just lie down in defeat.
Suicidal thoughts swirl in action. Ideas make their way into my mind. Plans are so easily formed. I’ve been here before. As my husband kisses me a voice reminds me that’s the last one. He is better off without me. As we cross over the bridge I look below to see if its high enough. I choke back silent tears and mentally begin to write a note. I combine medication bottles for an easy getaway.
I’ve said very few words to my husband in the last 48 hours. He asked me to smile. Half smile was all I could do. I’m supposed to be at a baseball game right now, last home game for the season. But I sit alone on my couch crying. Formulating. Realizing just how alone I am. I no longer have friends. I don’t know how to make them or keep them. I don’t know how to call anyone in moments like this. My world is caving in and I sent my support off to enjoy beer and baseball. I’m tired of holding him back.
My demons are never gone. Always waiting to pounce. Bipolar in the fall months is so hard for me. Symptoms greet me as the darkness of night closes in earlier and earlier.
If you ask me…pills no pills. Its all the same. I don’t actually ever find stability for more than 3-4 wks tops. I’m exhausted. My work demands are increasing and my ability to handle it decreasing. But, on the outside that’s not really seen. My appearance remains in tact. Key buzz words still show I know what I’m doing. Yet, at the end of the day I cry on my drive home. Releasing all that’s built up. My mind races when it hits the sheets either reminding me where I went wrong or demanding I remember something I cannot. Obsessively my mind churns and churns. Sleep escapes me. The alarm sounds and I’m supposed to do it all over again. Perfectionism ushers me through my office doors with anxiety in tow.
I step off and on the merry go round too often for my liking. Thrown around as I lose my balance. My place. Grab on hard to the handle for a short time and demand I push through..only to lose my balance and place over and over. I’m over this game.