Santa Doesn’t Exist

When I was about six, I believed in Santa for about two hours. The neighborhood kids were telling me about the importance of sending this great mythical jolly man a letter. That was how one got presents and everything one wanted for Christmas. So, I wrote a letter and labeled the envelope with a guess as to where it should be delivered. I hoped my mom knew the rest of the address. I left it on the table for her to find and mail next time we went to the post office.

Then, I found it in the trash. So, maybe Santa wasn’t real. Or maybe, Santa lives in a trash heap. Either way, my letter was garbage.

I find it interesting how this season is so often about what you can give and get. I love to give presents, to the point that I once spent $2,000 on Christmas when I only made $500 a month. Credit cards were paid off, but some of the things I purchased were never used.

However, Christmas and Thanksgiving are about gratitude and a celebration of the ultimate gifts we have: our faith and our freedom. Settlers came here to avoid religious persecution. Some criminals were sent here as a means of completing their sentences. I cannot say that our ancestors were perfect, but I am grateful that they worked hard and began the foundation of this country.

Children love Santa, but why not invite them to love true history and practice gratitude for more than that gift in the catalogue. I remember being upset about the letter being thrown in the garbage, but I guess that was one way that I knew, for sure, there was no Santa and that my gifts came from a more unconditional source: my parents and God.

So, as we enter this season, I encourage you to practice gratitude for the many blessings you have and maybe for the things you don’t have. Our plights in life enable us to do far more for ourselves and others than we even know. While there may be a struggle, in the twinkling of that struggle, there is opportunity.

Faith and Freedom: May they greet you each day and sleep by you at night.

Battleship

About this time of year (25 years or so ago), my family would get the Sears Christmas catalog. My brother and I would spend weeks poring over it, trying to decide what we wanted more. I always wanted holiday Barbie or some fancy Barbie. I never got holiday Barbie, but I always got something better and more in line with my play values.

I also used to peek at the presents in my parents closet. One year, there was Battleship and my sister and I were certain that it had been purchased for my brother, but it was my gift and I wondered why my parents would buy a gift like that for a GIRL. After I played it (and cheated), I realized that it was precisely my type of game. I love strategy games and playing those games with my brother are some of my fondest memories. When we got older, we played Axis and Allies, Risk, any game that required one to think about their actions and the actions of their opponents. I think those games really prepared me for engaging with the world.

It is interesting how I was determined to not like the game because I was a girl and DID NOT play war games. The truth is, I had fist fights with my older brother and the boys in the neighborhood. I was female, but not as feminine as one might think. I was not a tomboy; I fell into the between category. After a few rounds of battleship, I decided that I did play war games.

I think we all have these presumptions about what and who we are supposed to be. As a child, I thought my goal was to get married and be happy. I know that is what some girls’ goals were, but I never could quite get behind those goals. When I went to college, so many of my classmates in the Christian campus organizations wanted to get married. They spent their college careers studying and looking for Mr. Right. I happily declared that I was not in college to get my MRS.

I think playing war games taught me that it was okay to think outside of the box. It was okay to be timid and bold and conniving and generous and just myself. While I get stuck on who I am sometimes, I recognize that I am nobody else and nobody else is me. My parents saw that and that is why they didn’t get me the same Barbie that all of my friends wanted; they bought me toys that were just for me.

I’m really blessed by my parents. They have stuck with me through all of this mental illness and physical health problems. Good parents will. I just wish I had seen how wonderful they are when I was in high school and college. I was trying to be me and I was looking at myself through the world’s eyes instead of the people who saw me as a child who needed Battleship, my authentic self.

I want to be myself and right now, that is overwhelming. My brain is firing a hundred different ways and I have trouble sitting with myself, but my parents don’t see the mental illness; they see their daughter with a penchant for critical thinking and creating loving chaos. If my parents love me this much, imagine how much God loves me. He helped them pick out Battleship.

Shut the Front Door

I am pulling it together; I am feeling less like there are rocks in my brain and more like I have the ability to make decisions–smart decisions. I am slowing down and less aware of sensory elements. I am remembering most of what I am doing, too.

With mental illness, society likes to pass judgement. I am bipolar and I feel stigmatized, even by myself. When I have an episode, I think that I have not tried hard enough and I have the judgement that I failed somehow.

I watch police shows and they always present the mentally ill as unreliable witnesses. They have trouble staying on their meds and they fall prey to a justice system that blames them for their illness. I recognize the shows are fiction, but it is an estimation of how some people view mental illness.

When I was in college, my doctor insisted that I was bipolar. Every appointment, he would ask me if I did anything risky. He asked if I had sex with strangers, went on spending sprees, texted while driving; he insisted that I was engaging in behaviors that were beyond my realm of experience. At the time, I had never done any of those things. I was a sarcastic person and I made it impossible to work with me while he insisted on something I understood as crazy. Unipolar depression was how I was diagnosed and he was cruel to push these activities. If he had asked about energy and getting things accomplished and a sense of purpose… Perhaps, I would have listened, but he made the bipolar diagnosis sound morally corrupt.

By the time I was diagnosed, I had done so many things that damaged my life. I am still recovering. However, I have not given up on this idea that it is my fault. My doctor in college made me feel that I was a waste of time; in fact, he told me that I was a drain on the university healthcare system. I was devastated and even now, with the slightest hint that I am not doing my best, I feel as though I have disappointed everyone and that I am a waste of time; I feel like my doctors hate me and that I have destroyed everything that I worked hard to put together. I know these are fallacies, but they were pushed so many times by people in my life: friends, doctors, roommates, etc. As a result, I think that I will never be good enough.

These thoughts affect my life in substantial ways. I get overwhelmed by the slightest things and worry that no matter what I do, it will never be good enough.

How does one overcome these fears?

I suppose the only thing I can do is face them; I need to face my family, my doctors, my writing, my friends, my thoughts, and my feelings. I must tell myself to shut the front door and stop listening to my fears. Only by not giving in to fear and self-criminations will I find wholeness and the life that I want.

I’m Okay

Hello all. I have not written in a while, close to three weeks. I’m sorry. I’ve been wondering what to write, unable to write, and finally a little hypomanic.

I was walked to the ER by my therapist. The ER sent me home and the next day my psychiatrist direct admitted me to the hospital. I was there for about 52 hours. I am home now and trying to adequately face things. I miss the feelings of productivity and vivacity.

While I was able to appear normal, my mind was racing. I explained it as a video game on level 10. Then, one night, while at the hospital, it became like a blank screen, very little flying across it. Now, it is normal; it’s function has slowed to what feels like a crawl.

I got a lot of reading accomplished and was able to write some on a horror story before my mind became too rapid fire. I am still struggling to stay focused while watching tv, but that will change, I am sure.

My biggest worry is falling down the black hole of depression. So often, mania precedes a depression. My depression preceded mania. I was prescribed a low dose of an antidepressant and ended up hypomanic. When asked what symptoms to watch for, I told my parents, “joy, a sense of purpose, motivation, feeling good.” It is silly, but it seems that my life goes in such a way that I am either depressed at some level, or just a little too happy. Now, I can’t take antidepressants.

I am very frustrated by all of this. My biggest fear is that I will always be depressed now. What is fair about that? Already, my thoughts are that I should be dead. I have no intention of following those thoughts, but they are there. I am disheartened by how quickly my mind rolls to the negative. It always has, but after feeling so happy for several days, it is overwhelming to face the negativity again.

I am okay without being okay. It is one of the most tiresome things in my experience.

Bad Habits

I have made a list of habits, bad habits, that keep me stuck. Perhaps, this is a key to helping me move forward and be a better person, writer, daughter… Anyway, it should help me be better.

First of all: I don’t exercise. I love to exercise, but hate it at the same time. I always feel better afterward, but I approach it with disdain and this hope that the weather will get bad and there is this fear that my shoes won’t look right. Just so you know, I hate exercise shoes. They’re so blocky and NOT feminine. Looking amazing while exercising is nigh unto impossible. I don’t sweat, but I do glisten and that hasn’t won me any awards. Solution: walk the dog. Every woman is gorgeous when she is walking her dog.

Second: I eat when I am anxious. How does this fix the problem, you may ask. The simple answer is: it doesn’t. But, it does distract me from the feeling and give me another feeling to focus on: feeling full. I want to be happy and fulfilled and at 7 o’clock at night, when it is too late to drink that extra cup of coffee, I eat because I am dissatisfied with my life. Does it make things better? NO! Instead, the feeling passes, as it will, because I distracted myself. Solution: find other ways to distract myself.

Third: I don’t push myself to do the things that matter to me. I think fear is the big operating emotion here. I worry that I won’t succeed. So, what’s one way of avoiding failure? Avoid the whole activity. When I was a child and wanted to be president, there was no sense that I would fail. Then, I hit junior high and high school and people there were really awesome compared to me, so my dreams changed. I can’t compete in the current political climate, anyway. However, my dreams of writing never changed, but the fear of failure can transform me from waking up and writing to waking up and going back to bed. If I can’t get one sentence on the page, I might as well just give up on living. STOP IT! Solution: give myself small expectations that I can fill.

Fourth: I worry too much about what other people will think. If the meteorologist said to wear a coat and it’s 90 degrees outside, I would probably wear a coat, just to be safe. Not really. I think so much of my life has been predicated by what the world says is appropriate, instead of about what really matters. I am enough, just as I am. The world says I need to lose weight, have longer hair, wear heels, wear more makeup, own a home, have a fancy car… The list goes on. So much of what is on that list is out of my control. I am doing the best I can and when the world says I need to try harder, I loathe my very existence. Solution: stop paying attention to arbitrary requirements; remind myself that I am enough.

I have many more bad habits (watching too much television is one of them), but I think these are the main ones that keep me stuck time and time again. Some habits are simple inactions that are caused by false beliefs. I would love to believe all kinds of wonderful things about myself, but that will take time. So, first, I change the habits and maybe, as a result, I can start changing my beliefs.

Affirmations

So, I am trying affirmations. Surprisingly, they are getting easier. The first week I did them, my mind kept telling me that they were all lies. My mind argued that I was not intelligent, creative, kind, or loving. Now, I am finding that I can write them with minimal interruption from my critical self.

Also, I am finding that my time journaling (morning pages) is more productive. My brain drain for the day actually allows me to start thinking about my writing and focus on goals. For most of my life, my journaling has been about misery. Using affirmations has pushed that back a little bit. I am not saying that I do not still write a bit about my emotional frustrations, but that it is not owning the writing space completely.

This morning, I wrote five affirmations five times. By the end of my half a page of writing, I felt like I was actually a worthwhile person. (That was one of my affirmations.) It’s amazing how much the world can tear one down and yet, we can begin to build ourselves back up with simple language. Merely writing that I have value helps me to believe it.

I have been told that we play tapes in our heads of all the things we believe about ourselves and that, more often than not, these tapes are pretty negative. So, I propose that we record over those negative messages. Like recording over tapes, sometimes hints of the original recording are still there, but we have to focus on the new recordings. So, why not practice saying positive things to one’s self? Why not try to believe one good thing about yourself? Why not push away those teachers, friends, or anyone who has told you negative things about you? Do they even know your favorite color? How can they judge your value when they don’t even know all of you?

I have been stuck trying to think of myself as one who can accomplish anything. Lately, I have been trounced by depression and an eating disorder; my every day is focused on just getting by. As a result, I struggle to focus on my goals of writing and accomplishing even small goals. However, I think affirmations will help. Already, they are helping me focus on my goals. I have not put much into action, but positive results take time.

So, here begins another week of pushing through and hopefully writing more.

Thanks for reading.

Meal Plan and Creativity

Okay. So, I am following a new meal plan. Loosely following it. I am supposed to eat three meals and two to three snacks. The idea is that I will get my nutrition in and I will be more effective in my creative life. It hasn’t quite worked out that way yet, but still, I persist.

My biggest problem is snacks. I cannot explain why it is, but snacks are the most difficult thing for me to talk myself into eating.

fullsizeoutput_1bcI imagine that snacks are kind of this unnecessary evil and my anorexia brain tells me they will just put on the pounds. My dog, as you can see, feels the same way about snacks. We hit dinner time and we both think, “Eek! I never had snack. What can I do to fix it now?” I can’t fix it, but I can eat an evening snack and try again the next day.

Following this meal plan is difficult, especially when I am struggling with body image and the fact that my body is totally different from what it was when I hit recovery point two years ago. I have a myriad of health problems and medications that affect my weight and adding snacks… Well, it’s difficult.

So, in regards to the creativity: I am trying. I am also failing. I spent this week creating a fresh space in my bedroom and really like the new look, but ultimately, I have to get started on my creative life. I cannot write a book merely by thinking about writing a book. I have to DO IT. JUST DO IT!! I have every intention of writing a book and doing something with my life beyond fighting my illnesses. I just can’t get started.

I am reading a book about jump starting one’s creativity (The Artist’s Way) and trying to follow the plan. If it all works out, I should be on my way to full development in 12 weeks or so. I am not saying that all will be great in 12 weeks, but that I will have started the process. For now, I am just starting the process and trying to eat right.

As I wrap up this week, my mind and body wiped from so much effort into getting my room just the way I want it, I am hoping that I can move forward creatively and that my spirit will get all that it needs this weekend to start the next week with my creative juices flowing. I imagine the next week will be easier physically, but I plan on attacking my writing and really pushing myself to get some work done. That story, poem, essay, book, or article (or blog post) won’t write itself.

Thanks for reading.

Future

Just when you think you found your calling, the world drags you away on a merry chase elsewhere.

I am sure that I am meant to be a writer. I’ve been pondering doing this very thing since I was eleven years old and threw a book across the room, declaring that I could do a better job. (Even back then, I suffered from a lack of humility and the grammar nazi syndrome.) I am sure that I am supposed to be writing though. I only ever feel truly alive when I am putting words together in sentences to share with others.

However, for right now, since the writing is not coming quite so easily as I should like, I am planning to redecorate my room. New paint, curtains, arrangement (probably not), whatever way to get my mind off the fact that I am not putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys, will suffice to keep me from falling into despair.

As a result of this motion, I am re-evaluating my books and personal items. What do I really need with books that are not my favorite and that are not serving any real purpose? So, I am selling them. I aim to take them to a local bookstore and exchange them for used book credit.

You may be asking: What proper bibliophile would just exchange books?

The kind who has limited space and is depressed by not being totally into all of the books she has in her room. The kind who collected all of these books for a writing project that she has since abandoned completely and their presence just reminds her of that project and the frustrations it wrought.

Anyway, I am taking another path (the road less taken) and trying to find purpose in the newer reaches of my creativity. I am plotting new worlds and perhaps, my life goal of taking over the world will be realized in my writing.

I imagine that my life will take some interesting turns over the course of this new path, but it will take some time to make it my own and to feel right about it. I keep imagining that something magical will happen and the path will be made comfortable to me within moments, but that is not how life works. Each new undertaking we approach requires hard work and generous time. One cannot be proficient immediately, it takes time.

So, here is to time passing and a future of hope.

Old Behaviors

Hello and sorry for the delay.

I have been a bit out of sorts, trying to arrange a new schedule–any schedule–and have been trying to figure out goals. Nothing has been easy these past few weeks.

I think my biggest frustration is this in-between space that I am in. I am still struggling with maladaptive behaviors and part of me thinks they work, while a more rational part of me argues that they have not helped me achieve any goals thus far. So, why do I continue to bother with them?

The one goal they helped me achieve was getting thinner and I am stuck still wanting that. I put myself down for my body on a regular basis. I am frequently disgusted by how I look and the lack of control that I have over my body.

In 2016, as I was finishing up recovery, my body started its own counterattack to my feelings of control. My reproductive system went into overdrive and I had surgery and gained and kept gaining and no matter what I did, my body was no longer something that I was proud of.

After years of seeing myself as looking in control and the constant barrage of compliments that I looked good and so well put together, I was no longer in that category. Now, I take the time to look nice and look put together, but my body is outside of my control and the compliments have stopped. I feel as though I no longer have any self-control and it hurts.

So, my new goals include doing things that make me feel as though I have some semblance of control over my life. One thing is writing. Another thing is getting engaged with the world again via structure.

So, I am trying to figure out structure. I know I told you all this last week, but it really is a struggle for me to figure out during what parts of the day I work and think best. Since I am struggling, I find myself wishing I could go back to old behaviors because there is no gray area and there seems to have been a push to do things and (in some small ways) some modicum of progress.

It is a lie.

Yes, I managed to make it through college and grad school on those behaviors, but I also ended up in the hospital a lot and nearly killed myself. Also, let it be known that my best writing was not my best and was formulaic and was structured during periods of mania.

I am unsure as to when I am my best and what I need physically and structurally to get there, but I know that old behaviors and what those in the business call “stinking thinking” will not get me there.

As a result, I am still figuring things out.

 

Be Strong and Courageous

I feel suffocated by all of the heartache in the world. I watch women, broken by a broken system, struggle to put their lives right, only to have them ripped apart again. I watch children broken by a system that was supposed to protect them. I watch the media cover what it considers newsworthy as it ignores other items of a more pressing nature.

As a society, we fall prey to the lies of people more powerful than we are. We are stuck, trying to catch up to what the world denies us. We are encouraged to look out for ourselves, while being suckled by the powers that want to keep us imprisoned to their limited ways of thinking.

How do we fight this? How do we overcome the limitations placed upon us by forces greater than ourselves? How do we begin to identify resources and reasons to keep us going in these dark times?

My first instinct is to say, “We don’t.” I am ready to give up most days. I feel overwhelmed by my ignorance and my inability to fight against the world that says I am less. However, giving up is not an honest option. Deep down, I know I have to keep going. I know that giving up only allows more people to live in ignorance and suppresses the idea that there is value in each of us.

So, I encourage you to seek out information and strive to be more than what the world says you are. There is value in the least of us and it is the least of us that have a stake in what the world is doing. Be strong and courageous, for that is how God made you.

 

The Plan (part 2)

Okay. Sticking to the plan. The plan. The plan. Have I mentioned that I usually live by pantsing? I live by the seat of my pants. I love the idea of a plan, but it seems so esoteric, so unavailable to the masses. Yet, here I am, trying to live according to a plan.

Yesterday, the plan went splendidly. Today, I took a nap when writing failed me this morning. I don’t handle failure well. It’s like telling me that I won’t pass ever and I just want to give up. So, I take a nap (preferably for eternity) and wake up in a somewhat better mood, but still upset that my brain failed me during a critical point of the plan.

Ye Gads!!! What is wrong with my brain?

Ultimately, it is probably my motivation. See, I don’t really want to follow a plan. I want to live all wild and unkempt and just pants things, but life doesn’t work like that. Not many people get their starts by just happening to one day write an entire book in one sitting. For some reason, I think that is unlikely. Violinists do not became virtuoso performers when they’re four. Although, that could happen. Prodigies still need some practice time and effort and a plan to do those things.

My plan is simple right now: develop a regular sleep/wake cycle, limit naps, write, and do other normal human things like eat and clean up around the house. I would say that all of this is simple, except for the writing part. I want to write books and stories and poetry… Except, my brain is not wanting to follow through on that part of the plan. My muse escapes me as I sit to write in the mornings. (Yes, I know today was just the second day, but…)

I agreed to follow the plan for a month. What was I thinking? A month? Of failing at this plan? (Yes, I know today was just the second day, but…)

So, tomorrow is day 3 and I am unsure what measure of success I will have. Writing this has been helpful. I apologize for my rambling and hope you stayed with me, despite the madness.

Plans are a good thing and really help one to accomplish things and ordinarily, I love plans, but right now, I feel overwhelmed by this plan, because I fear that every morning the keyboard will sit untouched whilst I stare at a blank Word document, as I did this morning. I can only hope that the days will get easier and my energy levels will improve and I will feel less like a failure for not achieving the simplest of things.

The Plan

I know I have been MIA for a while. I have been trying to sort things out and be more productive and be more of who I want to be. I have not succeeded. I have barely been holding on. I have slept a lot and wondered if there was any end to this suffocating feeling that I will never be doing what I want to do.

Even now, writing this, has me feeling that I will fail at achieving making a point, or even being interesting.

Let’s start with some positives: I have started doing yoga. Last week, I met with the dietitian and agreed to try a new meal plan. I have started focusing on life goals, instead of on what is missing from my life. Also, I went on a date (it went nowhere, but I went).

I have spent so long focusing on the disorders that it has seemed impossible to separate myself from them and realize that they are not the be-all of my existence. So, now, I am starting to focus on my life goals: writing books and feeling strong in my own body and mind.

Starting today, I am trying to get up early, eat breakfast, follow the plan, and write in the mornings. I agreed to try it for a month. To be honest, I am not so hopeful. I have made plans to do this in the past and have failed miserably, but I had no accountability, other than my own sense of shame and guilt at not following the simplest of plans.

So, here begins the week in which I make a point to follow the plan. Wish me luck!

Get It Together

I have been bumbling along in my life. I’m floating. I feel that I am without purpose.

On Monday, I recommitted to treatment. This may seem silly, but I have been struggling with eating and restricting. I go in these cycles of binge, restrict, binge… I know I need to stop, but I don’t view myself as sick; my vitals say that I am overweight.

I am depressed and hormonal and making decisions based on how I feel. The truth is that I don’t want to feel anything anymore. I’m tired of fighting mental illness. I’m tired of fighting against years of my brain telling me one thing and my body telling me another, while other people try to guide me to the right choice. It’s exhausting.

I look at people who are capable of doing things that I struggle to do and I loathe myself even more. The cycle continues. What do I do?

I want more to my life. I hear people tell me that they also want more for me. The problem is that I am in charge and my methods aren’t working. So, I recommitted to allowing my team to help me come up with a plan.

However, I want to start working on my own plan and start planning out my days. I want to have goals that I actually fulfill. I want to put forth effort in my life, instead of just floating.

Believe it or not, I was highly motivated for most of my life. Career, personal goals, education, daily goals that I met, personal expectations… I was performance driven and I did a lot in my life.

Now, my main goals include survival and eating regularly. I want more. I want to walk my dog every day. I want to be physically active. I want to be mentally acute again.

I was asked to join a writing group and my fear is that I will join, but ultimately be unable to fulfill the expectations of bringing work to be critiqued because I don’t have the concentration to write regularly.

I keep saying that I want more, but I’ve taken no action. It’s time to get it together. It’s time to pursue my yearnings for more than survival.

 

Relationships

It occurs to me that some people just don’t know what to say or do. I know of many people who have lost friends during the course of their struggle with mental illness. One may “dump” his/her friends before they have the chance to dump him/her. But, many times, it seems that people just don’t know what to say or do and this can end relationships.

Mental illness is scary. Doesn’t have to be, but it is one of those things that is just not in the norm of most people’s experiences. It is a serious problem in the world, but it still does not affect everyone. And, for those that have not been touched by it, it is difficult to see friends and family members struggling with things that others may find so normal, or with things others just can’t comprehend.

One thing that is most frustrating in having a mental illness is the question as to if and when I should share that I have a mental illness. I have had the keep it secret, don’t share, tell as soon as possible, it’s not that bad, and wait until you know them spurts of advice and the experiences that go with them.

Then, there are the friends that you’ve known for years and they really don’t know how to handle hospitals or limited phone calls or the myriads of symptoms that come with being mentally unwell.

It isn’t that they don’t care, they just don’t know what to say or do. And there is nothing that they can do that will fix it. They are frozen, because they want to help, but are powerless in the face of this disease.

Friendships and relationships will probably end over the traumas of mental illness. When people are hurtful, it isn’t because they hate you, it’s because they hate the illness. I realize that is a nice way to paint some people when it really seems like they hate you, but the likelihood is that they are scared and have no idea what to say and their anger bubbles forth and slices open the nearest victim.

I am considering dating again. With this, comes the question as to how to explain my life, my lack of a job, my living with my parents, my illness to another person. I know that if they care, it won’t matter, but it is still a terrifying endeavor. All I keep thinking is that I am not a catch.

I am educated, talented, creative, intelligent, and likeable, but I have problems and I fear that, no matter what my positive attributes are, my illness will drain my possibilities for happiness with another person.

Life Worth Living

I have had a busy week and it is just Day 2. Almost to the third day. Anyway, I have developed some plans and am hoping they work out. I am slowly trying to work things out with my life. I constantly feel in flux and am just trying to survive.

First problem of the current week: hot flashes. I had a lupron shot about a month ago… 3 weeks… and I am entering the pseudo-menopausal effects. So, hot flashes and mood swings. If I thought a lobotomy would help, I would probably beg my doctor to sign me up for the next available ice-pick. I am pulling through, but each day brings with it new emotional battles and extreme weariness.

 

One upside to all of my time spent at home has been the happiness of my dog. He seriously grins all the time lately. I ask if he wants to go outside and his face breaks out into a goofy grin and he practically leaps for joy, running to the door and back to make certain I am on my way.

I am reaching for joy in the small things. I enjoy my dog, Rorschach, and my time spent with my family. I miss being active and doing some things, but am trying to make peace with my need for recovery.

My one frustration is all of the television I watch. I miss reading several books, sometimes in one day. I miss writing chapters and stories and essays in an afternoon. I miss my old self, the self before mental illness.

I will admit it, I am angry about my life right now. I am angry about my hormones, my arthritis, but mostly about bipolar. I argued against the diagnosis for years. I was not crazy like the stories my doctors told me of other patients with this disease. I flat-out told one doctor he was wrong. I had severe difficulties adjusting to this disease. I wanted to erase it from my experience.

Then, one month, I was manic. I was manic for most of a month. I went on a spending spree. I bought a new car, dozens of CDs (they were still “in” back then), and cleaned my apartment for about 48 hours straight in between working 9 hour shifts. I was awake for about 72 hours and then my doctor said, “You are manic.” That brought me to my knees. I was ashamed of myself for succumbing to a disease that I had no control over. I crashed.

I want wholeness for my life. I would love to live without medicine. I would love to exist peacefully with my body and mind. Unfortunately, I feel at constant war. I have been therapized until I fear there is no further progress I can make. I have hit a stalemate with my disease. I will survive, but it will be a daily exercise in balance.

As I have said before, I want more. I know there are other people out there, suffering with diseases, that just want normalcy; they want more. I am jealous of people who just attack life without worrying about the compensation their bodies and minds will request. I envy the ability some people have to keep going. I remember a time when I was able to do that, but not really. There was always a cost. Always.

I am glad that I have survived this long. I am unsure what my life holds, but, for right now, it holds a tenuous grasp on living life as best as I can. I want a life worth living, but, to be honest, I feel like it is unattainable. I feel as though so much is unattainable these days. I reach for small joys and hope for bigger ones.

Rejection

The other night, I got a rejection letter for my poetry. It was polite. It said that my poetry didn’t fit with what they were doing. I read: “Your soul doesn’t matter and you don’t even deserve to wield a pen.”

Rejection is difficult. It is one of those things that we have to face, but it hurts when we face it. It doesn’t just feel like our work is being rejected, it feels as though our souls have been deemed undesirable. I just know now that I am going to end up in Purgatory because Saint Peter is going to reject me and Lucifer will be like, “Meh, not my type.”

It’s okay though, because I will be a lounge singer in the local club and have a back-up band of other undesirables and the entertainment will be bad, but I will be all that is available. Captive audience. Not so terrible now, am I?

I used to be of the mindset that one rejection just means that another opening is around the corner. It is hard to be of that mindset right now. I feel like opportunity went out the window, taking happiness and my future with it. I know that is not the case, logically. But, emotionally, I want to rant and rave and argue that my life is over. I turned 34 a little over a week ago and I feel like time is running out.

When I was in college (the good ol’ days), I had plans to be published by 25… Then, it was 28… 30… Now, I just hope for it to happen one day. I recognize that I have many years ahead of me, but there is a crunch. Also, I feel like mental illness stole my brain. I want to scream at mental illness. I want to declare war on it. I want to do battle. I want to vanquish this beast that has stolen so much from me.

However, I have to sit back and think on how much this beast has given me. There are brilliant people with mental illness. They do amazing things. There are myriads of people throughout history who are revered for their arts, but they also had mental illness.

I know this is something that I bring up often, but it is something that gives me hope. Plus, some people were not revered in their lifetimes, but they passed along some of their spirit of hope to others in another era.

I just have to keep trying and recognize my strengths. I write truths. I write the truths of my characters and try to make sense out of the world around me. The world includes a lot of pain and suffering, but there is still beauty. How can we reconcile the two polar opposites? I write about it. I want recognition of both.

This rejection letter destroyed my soul and my yearning for writing for about two days. I cried, but ultimately, I will keep writing. I may not ever be published, but it helps me reconcile the ugliness of this world with the beauty that comes in patches of awareness.

“Be Myself”

I find it funny that all my life I have been given the sage advice to “be myself.” It makes sense. Except… Society says I am not thin enough, too loud, too soft, too sensitive, too much butt, not enough boobs, my hair isn’t the right color, I dyed it wrong, my love of books should be more cultivated, I read too much serious stuff, my clothes don’t fit tight enough, I shouldn’t wear that, my make-up is wrong, my eyeliner isn’t perfect, and my sheets don’t match the color scheme of the bedroom… Wow!

I can’t even be myself with my therapist. I went to my appointments yesterday dressed in yoga clothes (I was going to go to a class after all of my appointments–it didn’t happen) and I felt disgusting. I felt like I wasn’t trying hard enough to be the best patient in the world. I have avoided telling him things because it is too difficult and I am worried about whether or not my current struggle makes me a statistical failure.

I majored in Psychology and English in college. I wanted to be a health journalist. I even got a Masters in Public Health. I know about statistics. It is my fear that I will be just a statistic of mental illness. I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and wanted to be that person with problems that was outside the scope of normal failings and survive mental illness.

I nearly died two years ago from anorexia. I was at the point that I was readying myself and my family for my death. The fact that I survived puts me in an outlier category. I definitely have put in more than 10,000 hours of recovery time and pushing myself to be well.

However, the one thing that I have yet to figure out is how to “be myself.” It sounds so wonderful. The genie in Aladdin just buzzes around Aladdin’s head as a bee, encouraging him to “Beee yourssself.” Even Aladdin dismissed the idea. He was trying to woo a princess and he was a mere “street rat.” We are all street rats. We are all wooing society that judges us on how many horses and peacocks we have in our entourage.

I have a beat up SUV full of used books and a dog that wants to be carried because he is terrified of other people. My entourage is more like a mobile yard sale with a “please help me” sign than a signal of strength and endurance in modern society.

I schlepp through each day, hoping that something will happen that will make me know who I am and what it means to “be myself.” I have learned from school and jobs that I am too much trouble and not enough happiness, a little too much crazy and not enough of a worthwhile person.

No one has been able to tear these thoughts from my mind. I view myself as a worthless, pent-up, and dismal person. I am not the fun one (although I am good at making jokes), or the one to call on a bad day (I might be unable to help because of my own bad days). I had a friend avoid telling me she got married because I was going through a rough time. I never felt like a more worthless and despotic emotional friend than in that moment.

“Be myself.” The world consistently puts us down and tells us that we are not good enough, but tells us in the next breath that true freedom comes from being ourselves. Thanks, world.

If we were to truly sit down and ponder our good qualities, not naysaying them with others’ viewpoints, then maybe… just maybe… we could accept who we are and be ourselves. We are amazing, just as we are. How do we see that though when the world jumps down our throats with ideas as to how to apply eyeliner and eyeshadow so your eyes pop, but you can also avoid running make-up if you cry? Wait. No crying.

I was told to embrace myself. I am still figuring me out. All I know is that I want to write and that I love to be brutally honest. Also, I love really serious and dark books. I am a serious and dark person. I enjoy a laugh, but I really am a sensitive person who cries a LOT. And that’s okay. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be serious. It’s okay to watch depressing movies over and over again, following them with a comedic stand-up routine. It’s okay.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you wear the right clothes, make-up, read the perfect books, can talk about the politics of the day, knew whether or not the Kardashians wore magenta to their cousin’s best friend’s destination wedding, or if your sheets match the decor in your bedroom… What matters is how satisfied you are with your life and if you can sleep in those sheets without waking up at 2 am to make a run to Wal-Mart to redecorate your entire room.

Life is hard enough without trying to placate photoshopped magazines and pinterest pages. Try to be honest with who you are and try to make peace with the way that God made you. He doesn’t make mistakes. Your mistake is thinking that He did.

 

Making Repairs

So, my car was stolen on February 5th; it was recovered, but after I had already spent my tax return money on a beat up Ford Explorer. Her name is Stella. She has quirks and charms, but more quirks. Anyway, I have been fixing her up a little bit at a time. Right now, I am doing more than I would ordinarily because I have had some extra funds.

Anyway, onto my point. I was thinking today about prompting events and emotions and yada yada yada…

When I hear a car start outside and pull out abruptly, I jump to the window to be sure that Stella is still there. Even though I have the only key and she takes a special maneuvering to unlock, my gut reaction any time that I hear sudden car sounds is that my car is being stolen. AGAIN.

I was thinking about consequences of avoiding behaviors and of avoiding making necessary changes and I thought about Stella. She is difficult to steal and not exactly primo material with some door handles missing and being unable to open the rear hatch. Also, her special needs, low gas mileage, and ability to stand out in a crowd makes her a low target. But, my fear is still there. I seriously thought about not making repairs to ensure that she would remain unwanted by the criminal element.

Unfortunately, that would continue to mean that my wipers would come on randomly and back-up lights wouldn’t work and that I would never be able to use all of my vehicle. Currently, I can only use the front seats. Do I want to avoid change to avoid fear of the unknown?

I can easily avoid making repairs and continue to have a car that I can’t use fully and cope with the quirks of a poorly working vehicle, or I can put forth the time and effort to make her something that I feel safe and comfortable driving.

I was thinking about all of this and realized that many times in life, we avoid making changes because we are scared of being hurt again or fear that something dreadful will happen. We grow comfortable in our discomfort and changing means approaching the unknown. We could fall flat on our faces and suffer endlessly… Or, it could be awesome.

We could really blossom and grow from making changes. We could be proud of ourselves and learn to effectively adapt to the frustrations of our lives. In fact, our lives could be made so much better.

It is scary. Growth is scary. Change is scary. How do we know what will happen? How do we know that we won’t end up stuck?

We don’t. However, we also do not know that it will end badly. As I said, it could be awesome.

I am terrified of change. I am really struggling right now from making changes in medicine and the changes in my body and changes in my life structure. I have not adapted. I feel like I am regressing and all I can think is that I am not ready for these changes. However, I am not NOT ready for these changes.

I have hit a point that I need to identify what I want and go after it. I fear repercussions and that I will fall as I move forward. I am unsure of what each day holds, but I need to figure it out. I can’t stay stagnant forever and still expect to live my life. I constantly say that I want more, but why am I not reaching for it?

I fear failure more than anything. I worry that going after something and not achieving it will mark my existence. So, how can I keep going in the midst of the chaos in my mind? Should I give up my goals for writing and living a life of wholeness for a life of simplicity and stagnation? What value and purpose does that give me?

I know that there is more to life than skating by. I know that I want more. Now, I just need to make a plan to achieve it. Goals are one thing, but action is even greater.

Delicates

“Normal is just a setting on the washer.” That was the sign in a supervisor’s office. I always found it enlightening and it reminded me that there is no real normal. We are, all of us, a mixture of delicates and dry clean only. Sometimes, expecting ourselves to be normal shrinks our self-confidence and ruins our thinking process. We cannot force ourselves to be normal. It never turns out in our favor.

I am aware that it is difficult to not desire to be normal. Who doesn’t want happiness and security all of the time? I know I do. However, it is not always possible. Emotions come and go. Having normalcy is having emotions and being abnormal. There is no normal.

I know I am being redundant, but there is a purpose to it. So often, we get stuck in this mindset that normal is the epitome of existence and that is our sole goal in life. Unfortunately, that is unlikely—next to impossible, really.

So, I am going to propose something: Be yourself.

I know. What advice. It’s only all we heard for most of our lives. However, we are consistently unhappy with ourselves. We loathe our existence and are constantly striving for something more, something better. Just a thought: Maybe, you are good enough. Maybe, you are rocking awesome. Maybe, you are more than expected and not in a bad way. Maybe, you are perfect. Exactly.

I have been wondering these past few days about normal and what exactly it means for me. I used to believe in individual normals. I used to have a normal that was good for me. I don’t know what happened.

I think life happened and my normal changed or peaced out. As a result, I fumble about, trying to find some semblance of order and happiness in my life. I envy those people who seem to have it together, the ones we call normal, and then I realize that I don’t know the whole story. Some people fake it really well. They could be falling apart on the inside. They could be thinking I am normal. They could be wishing they were more like me. If they only knew.

Everyone has his/her own definition of normal and it doesn’t fit everyone else. I used to be vivacious and witty and outgoing and willing to do anything. I would never have defined myself as fearful or anxious. Now, I am totally different. I miss my old normal, but even I recognize that as abnormal for many other people.

I am just trying to hold on right now. I keep hoping things will get better, but am terrified of being stuck in this survival mode for the rest of my life. People talk about living a life worth living and it seems so out of touch with my reality. I am a delicate and I want to get out, but first I need to follow the special care instructions.

OCD

Yesterday, I made a dent in my goal to start doing yoga (starting this coming Saturday). I went and got exercise clothes. When I was checking out, the cashier asked me if I wanted to keep my hangers. I told her no. I have TONS upon TONS of hangers. I have more hangers than clothes and they take up most of my closet. Anyway, I digress. I just was pondering this morning on hangers and started thinking about past hangers versus present hangers.

I used to have a color coordinated closet and dresser. I had specific hangers for specific things and it was arranged according to a specific color pattern. That is how organized I used to be. Now, I have dressy clothes on one side and loungewear on the other. I can’t even see through all of my closet, so having very much organization is impossible. My dresser was arranged according to type of clothing and color. I am surprised that this is no longer the case. I used to be a stickler for organization; I even ironed my towels and sheets in college. WHAT?!?!

So, what happened?

I am not as energetic or as driven to be as organized as I used to be. I still organize, but never to those great lengths. I think that’s okay. While I do miss the structure of my room having specific locations and systems for everything, I recognize that not being anal about placement of everything is a step in the right direction. My OCD is getting better.

I had OCD for most of my life and still have inklings of it, but nothing compared to where I used to be. I used to be petrified to touch things and if I hit an unexpected bump in a parking lot while I was alone, I often circled around to be sure that I didn’t hit someone run over his/her body. The frequency of intrusive thoughts and worries about committing crimes or running over people or terrors about germs seeping through my pores–it was overwhelming. I wasn’t just OCD in a matter of organizing, but in so many ways.

I find it interesting when people say they are OCD, but really are just talking about being organized. I wish people really knew what it was like to be terrified to touch a piece of paper that has fallen on the ground. I wish they knew what a win it is to sit in a cloth chair and put your hands on it without freaking about germs. OCD is a LOT more than just being incredibly organized; it is terrifying and overwhelming.

I will say that I have come a long way and that not as many things scare me now as they once did. I can even hold a baby. I can’t change a diaper, but who really wants to? Let the momma do that (Sorry, Sis).

As I sit here and listen to the rain pound outside, I am grateful for all that I have and for how far I have come. I fear the future: better or worse. However, I am eager to greet it.

I Want More

As I have said before, I am a little aimless right now. I did make some goals, but it all seems so out of reach. I have hit the “it’s pointless” wall again. I can neither move forward, nor give myself the space to rest. I feel as though I should just give up. I have entered the inferno. “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

So much of my life has been focused on encouraging others that I have forgotten how to encourage myself. I say quotes that keep me going and I write about how I have plans and what a fighter I am, but I feel powerless. I feel that every day is a struggle. I feel as though I should lie when people ask me personal questions. I feel inept. I am frustrated. I am tired.

I got a new journal and tossed my old one because I was tired of the way that I was feeling and I thought a new journal would help change that. I wanted to make a rule that said I could only write positive things in the new one. Hopefully, a change of the cover would change how I felt. I dyed my hair. Maybe a change of the color would make me feel pretty again. I struggle with forcing myself to eat. Maybe if I lost weight, I wouldn’t be so unhappy.

I keep trying to change surface things in hopes that it will change how I feel. It isn’t working.

Why don’t I embrace how I feel? Why don’t I just admit that, right now, I am emotional and raw and overwhelmed? See. Was that really so hard?

I think part of my emotional problem is that I fear that this is all that I am. I am broken. I can’t put all of the pieces back together. I will be like a surrealist painting at the end of the process; I will be enmeshed with unknowns.

Yesterday, I was asked if I was still writing and I answered that I was, but that I had abandoned certain projects due to external forces. I have not written (other than this blog) since leaving the hospital. I have been unable to focus long enough for a traditional piece of work. I have projects that I want to do, but motivation is low. I miss the muse.

I am trying to keep going. I am more than my diagnoses, my illnesses. I constantly say that, but I think I get stuck in the mindset that this is what will be. It doesn’t have to be though. I want more. I wrote a poem a few weeks back that included a line about wanting to wear rose-colored glasses, if only for a moment. I could use some color to the drab monochrome of my existence, but it won’t necessarily change it.

I want to make more than surface changes. I want sustainable change. I want to feel better and live a more fulfilling life. I want to experience life to the full. I want more.

Goals

I had my appointments today, including one that involved getting my lupron shot. To be honest, today was difficult. I have two more doctors’ appointments this week and an appointment to get my car evaluated for repairs. This week is already hurting and it has only just begun.

So, I need to make some goals for my life. I am not completely unstable, but just enough that making goals and sticking with them is difficult. Life is difficult, but not impossible. I am trying to think of goals for treatment and am kind of stuck.

Most of my treatment revolves around the eating disorder and learning skills to deal with food and other stressors. To be honest, talking about food is frustrating. I am overweight and want to take action to better my health, but the concern is that I will go too far. As a result, I have just given up on managing my intake, trying to eat balanced, or using moderation. It just seems so pointless when there is no respect for my frustrations.

Today, however, I was asked what I wanted. I was flummoxed. I spent an hour telling my therapist that I wanted balance, sustainability, and to feel better. Unfortunately, I was lost as to how to make that happen. I could eat more frequently, but that frustrates me as I am terrified of eating more than I already am. I can eat more fruits and vegetables, but that might cut out excess refined sugar and activate the anorexia. I feel stuck. I feel ashamed about what I eat, but the solutions all seem tied to the eating disorder. I need moderation, but don’t know how to attain it.

I left the clinic in tears, unsure what to do. As I sat and pondered my predicament, I realized that there is more to me than the eating disorder and being tied up in treatment just for the anorexia is belittling my other life affirming activities. Why can’t treatment be about building more? Why do I have to limit it to anorexia? I know that is not the true goal, but it really feels like I run from one crisis to another. I am tired of it.

So, my goals need to be more focused on things that I enjoy and on making me feel better overall. So, in regards to treating my anorexia, I want balance by eating foods in moderation. I want to eat more sustainable foods. I am tired of going for quick energy fixes. I want a plan that includes variety in fruits and vegetables and protein sources. I really want to feel better. I want to start doing yoga and working my body gently to help alleviate some pain and to make me stronger. I am tired of being in pain and feeling weak and powerless.

In addition to those goals, I want to start a regular writing practice. I love writing (as if you didn’t know) and feel that being a writer is a huge part of my identity. I wanted to have a book published by the time I was 30. Now, I will be 34 next week and only have a few chapters written. My illnesses stole my brain. I have to fight to get it back. But, I am a fighter and will regain my place in this world. I will eke out a new existence for myself and persevere.

I told my dietitian that I got out of bed because being in bed was boring. She said that she expected a better reason. There is a better reason: I deserve to live. I deserve to live a life that is reimagined for my needs. I want to encounter peace and productivity. So, I will keep going.

Body Acceptance

Today, I went clothing shopping. It was needed. I had clothing, but I needed to get some more. Truly.

When I came home and was putting things away, I could not help but notice that there are clothes upon clothes in my closet that do NOT fit me. My mind keeps telling me that they will fit again soon. As soon as I lose so many pounds. As soon as I stop eating so much sugar. As soon as I start exercising more. And the list goes on. And on. And on.

I was scary skinny not so many years ago and I still struggle with my body image. As a result, I hold on to clothes that make me feel good and, on the slightest chance that I might have lost some weight, I try them on again and feel pretty crummy when they don’t fit. Most of my closet has these clothes as does my dresser.

So, today, as I put my new clothes away, it occurred to me that maybe I need to do another purge of the closet. Insert big sigh here. This means I will have to say goodbye to some really cute clothes, but it will also allow me to make room for me.

I have to recognize that my size doesn’t define me. My clothing doesn’t define me.  My numbers don’t define me. I define me. My choices. My way of speaking. My mannerisms. Sure, what I wear helps me feel good about myself, but I am the same person whether I am wearing a peasant top or a business suit.

I used to wear business casual to work. Maybe sometimes more business than casual. I felt pretty and that I was able to be taken seriously. As a woman who perpetually looks about 5-10 years younger than I am, being taken seriously is important to me. So, I frequently dressed as professionally as possible. Most of my closet is full of dress clothes and suit jackets. And under my bed… There are a lot of heels.

Now, having accepted (somewhat) that my body has its own course, my clothes (and shoes) need to change. So, I intend to clean out my closet and sell or donate my old clothes to alleviate this need of mine to check my body’s growth based on sizes.

Let’s face it: our bodies change. I am not less of a person because I can’t fit in my clothes. That doesn’t make me a failure or one who has lost all control. It makes me human. Humans change. Our bodies change.

I know this may seem so obvious to some people, but to someone who has struggled with body image for 20 years, this is difficult. Beyond difficult. So, I have to challenge my thoughts on my body. My eating disorder brain wants me to join a gym. My realistic self says, “Some mornings it hurts to walk to the coffee maker. Do you think the treadmill will magically not hurt?” Been there. Done that.

So, the magic thing that needs to happen is acceptance. Right now, my body is like this. It may change. It may not. However, wishing to be smaller and that these other clothes still fit is making me miserable and keeping them (just in case) is taking up space that could be used for things that will make me feel better.

So, acceptance, it is.

Now, I clean my closet and my dresser.

Stressed

I have been binge watching television over the past few days, waiting on news from doctors and insurance companies. I have been somewhat caught up with the many worries on my mind. I struggle with allowing myself to relax, as if worrying to the point of severe anxiety will make my stressors go away.

Newsflash for Darlene: IT WON’T!!!!

I finally got things worked out, but the anxiety and stress-induced tense muscles are still there. So, what next? I know I should give it to God, but I am not so good at that. I’m kind of a control freak.

So, I am still trying to figure things out that will enable me to be healthy and happy. I am focused on developing a life that will help me continue to help others. I am not sure what my future entails, but I hope that it includes hope and a sense of passion for life.

Right now, I am struggling. I am okay, but struggling. I’m exhausted, but keeping going. I know my posts have been missing this week; I have been unable to write and think clearly. I have had good days, but many days have been spent just trying to exist with some modicum of peace in my mind.

I have tried writing poetry and tried to be future-focused, as I wrote about last week, but it is difficult. Sometimes, life is hard and we have to keep trying to make our peace with the frustrations we face. Life is hard, let us not abandon hope and suffer even more.

All is Possible

So, after my latest stint in madness, I am pondering reasons to live and what I want in my life.

Books, travel, relationships… So, I am making lists. I am putting together a list of books that I have always wanted to read and places that I want to see. I am sure there are many more things to do that I have not yet considered to make a list of, but these shall do for now.

Currently, I have 35 books/series of books listed and a page of places to visit. Surprisingly, these lists are keeping me motivated for today. I hope they keep the motivation going in the future.

I have been thinking quite a bit about the Buddhist principle of 10,000 things. I appreciate the idea, as I understand it, that all things are interconnected and many provide reasons to be thankful.

I was pondering all the things and people who are connected to me and I started realizing that I affect things. My thoughts and behaviors have repercussions: there is a ripple effect. So, my connectedness to anyone and anything would be affected by my actions or lack of action. So, do I really want to disrupt the pattern of my life for my comfort?

Virginia Rometty spoke some wise words when she said that “Growth and Comfort do not Coexist.” It is easy to give into our deepest and darkest thoughts, or our frivolous attitudes, but, ultimately, we have to face the consequences of our actions and how we must move forward into growth. It is not an easy task. It would be far easier to continue to live blindly unaware of how we impact others and the world around us. It takes strength to face the world. It takes strength to grow. But, we must be gentle with ourselves as we undergo this process.

As I have faced these past few days, I have had to be gentle with myself and recognize that recovery is not always linear. This most recent trip into the hospital does not reflect stagnation or defeat; it reflects a spirit of perseverance. It is far easier to evade our fears than to face them. So, kudos to me and to whomever has fought the fight against suicidal urges and survived.

I have a struggle ahead of me as I discern how to move forward and find reasons to keep living, so I am making these lists as a way of promoting life and continuance. I have many things that I have always wanted to do and giving into depression will not allow me to accomplish any of them. As it is, it will be a struggle to accomplish them. Let me not despair and abandon hope.

I want more to my life than my illnesses. I want fulfillment as much as anyone does. God has given me a tiny ember of hope; I must tend to it until it is burning bright and I can warm my spirit to greet each new day with gratitude and peace.

Rock On!

I have been thinking: Maybe it is time to stop caring so much about what people think.

Ha! I have spent my whole life focused on what other people think and when I do something that is good for me, I still wonder what people will think and if others think it is good for me. How would they know? They’re not me. But, the thoughts remain that I must do what the world wants me to do. Others’ opinions are more important than my own.

I have to own myself. I have to own my decisions. I have to own my words, my language, my thoughts, my focus on life… The list goes on. And on… So, why do I care what others think?

I feel as though I need to read a book on how not to care. As if somebody else’s proposals to not care are what I need. Another way that I am letting someone else rule my life.

I propose that I do what is needed without worrying about others perceptions. EEK! This is going to be difficult. Let’s start small.

I checked the oil in my car at the gas station. Win! This may not seem like a big deal and rather ordinary; however, my SUV has no device under the hood to hold it up. So, I used a board that is about 3 foot long to hold up my hood while I checked my oil. I rocked my rigged hood while checking my oil. To be honest, I was terrified it was going to slam shut and break my hands while I did it, but I did it and I am sure some people looked my way, but it needed done and I looked awesome while doing it in heeled boots and jeans and perfect lipstick. Ha! Win!

I read once that it is important to do one thing each day that scares you. Leaving my house today was terrifying. I haven’t driven in over 10 days and was worried about my energy level and the tremor I have developed from my medicine. So, I drove to Panera (where I am now) and am meeting a friend. Go me!

Back to the idea of stopping others from defining my happiness and self-satisfaction:

When I was in college, I once wandered around campus pretending to be a raptor. A little eccentric… Okay, a LOT eccentric, but I was totally me and it was amazing. I remember laughing so hard at the expression on people’s faces. A look of shock and surprise, but even they had to laugh at my antics. I miss being carefree. I miss so much about my old self.

However, I don’t miss the ups and downs of my responsibilities and crash dieting to meet the ideals that my mind-set. I know though that some of those were also a result of the standards set by magazines and coworkers. I remember thinking that was the way things had to be and the only way I would be happy, but I remained miserable.

If others’ thoughts on what I should do continue to make me miserable, what am I doing trying to continue meeting those expectations. It’s insanity. I keep doing it in hopes that others will like me and when I fall, they are not the ones having to pick me up. That’s me.

So, here is my coffee cheers to a fulfilling future not based on others’ thoughts. Rock on with your bad self, Darlene.

Being a Voice in the Dark

Good morning my friends. I apologize for the lack of content; I was in the hospital, getting medicine straightened out. Luckily, I got out yesterday and am doing well. Although, sleep is not yet back to normal; I was up at 3 a.m.

So, I am home for about a day now and am starting to feel the old feelings of shame and disappointment with myself and worrying about whether or not people will still accept me. I worry that I have disappointed them and that they will not like me and that they will drop me like a hot rock.

Hmmm… Where does this come from?

When I was in grad school, I had a doctor refuse to treat me after multiple hospitalizations. He said that I was a “drain” on the university health services. I was in tears and unable to find another doctor in time to avoid running out of medicine. He referred me to intensive outpatient, which declared me as not needing that many resources and they denied me entrance to their program. So, without a doctor and without meds, I ended up back in the hospital. I soon moved home with my parents and finished my degree two years later from a distance education program at the University.

Needless to say, I was scarred. To this day, I am terrified of losing a treatment team due to a hospitalization. I also lost friends when hospitalized. Some people do not know how to cope with mental illness and my forays into madness were difficult enough for myself and my family to deal with. Friends fell by the wayside and stopped calling, stopped responding to texts. It sucked.

Now, I have a good support system and good friends and, yet, I am still terrified. I feel as though every time I go into the hospital, my whole world will fall apart. I experience a deep sense of shame and regret and wonder whether people really care about me as a person, or only like my pithy sense of humor and ability to cuss in three languages. I struggle believing that people really care.

I am blessed to have people who care so much about me, but the bottom can fall out at anytime and I live in fear of losing everything due to my mental illness. I actually sat in my room and cried today because I felt so guilty about saving my own life. I just wondered whether trying to avoid suicide was worth the shame and humiliation of enduring another hospitalization and how people might perceive my strength.

It was worth it. Life is hard, but I am not ready to die.

I came home after 8 days and my family welcomed me with open arms and my dog wouldn’t leave my side. My parents even cleaned my room before I came home; talk about dedication to the cause.

While I was there, I met some nice people and learned that I cannot always control my illness, but that I can do many things (most of which I was already doing) to help myself cope better with it. Really what I needed was a safe place, rest, and a medication adjustment. I am truly doing the best that I can and staying alive and finding reasons to live is sometimes the most difficult thing a person can do.

I am a work-in-progress and God, for some reason, still has a purpose for me. Maybe to be a good Auntie to my nieces and nephews. Maybe to make people laugh. Maybe to remind others that the mentally ill are human too.

My main goal in life is to be a voice in the dark for others. I just need to listen to my own voice and let others in on my dark times, so they can help me.

 

“Just Do It”

I have been wishing more and more that I was able to write as fluidly as I did a decade ago. I look at books coming out and am in awe of authors that “just do it” (as Nike says). I think about taking that approach and I know that it is not sustainable for me.

I read a book by Kay Redfield Jamison that talked about the artistic temperament and bipolar disorder and was struck by how many people in history have been afflicted with this disease and still managed to write. It gives me hope, but also provides a cautionary tale, as so many of them succumbed to their disease.

I have always distinctly identified with Sylvia Plath. I have even had some of my work compared to hers. However, her tale serves me with the understanding that keeping going when I am unwell is not going to end well for me. It also makes me understand that writing without concern for long-term sustainability is not good for me either. I have learned this, not only from my readings, but also from my personal life (my therapist likes to remind me of it, as well).

As I sit here, my mind is overwhelmed by simple stimuli and I am exhausted. I know it is just after midnight, but I just woke up from a bad dream and going back to bed is not an option right now. So, I am writing and drinking coffee.

I often compare my current self to my college self and get really disappointed by my lack of productivity in my present experience and the fact that I have not achieved some of the goals that I made for myself at that time. I wanted to have a book published by the time I was 30, then it was 32… Now, I just hope to (one day) write a book and have it published.

I am 33 and feel like life is slipping away from me. Combining it with all of my physical symptoms and my mental health issues, I am uncertain that I will ever achieve my goals. I just hope to keep going long enough to achieve some form of publication. To be honest, I feel as though my goals are impossible and I am afraid I will never be able to “just do it.”

This is something that I have had to grapple with repeatedly over the past 6 years. I have brilliant moments (usually in the beginning stages of mania) and then crash and cannot write for months at a time. I have the first few chapters of a book written and then get blocked. I am facing this now. I have made up my time with writing poetry, but even then, I wonder if I will be able to do it for long and some days, I cannot write at all.

It is amazing how turning the mind toward accepting these facts has allowed me to start thinking of other options. The poetry is something that I never took seriously, even though I took poetry classes. I am hoping to keep going in poetry. I am hoping to find a method of writing fiction again that does not drain me and leave me an emotionally drained wreck. I just haven’t figured it out, yet. In the meantime, I will continue to write poetry and blog here.

I will “just do it.”

 

Coping With Pain

I don’t write often of physical pain, even though it is something that I struggle with on a daily basis. It comes and goes, but never goes away completely. The past few days have been dreadful and there is no way to treat it effectively.

I have endometriosis with cystic ovaries. I have been in intense pain from the endometriosis and cysts for months now. I finally asked to be treated with lupron on Tuesday. It will take a while to get the insurance to cover it, but I have run out of options. It terrifies me to be at this point in treatment. I could have another surgery (I’ve already had two), but I am tired of being in the hospital. So, I chose this option, in hopes of avoiding another surgery.

I also have rheumatoid arthritis and with all of the stress I have been under, I have had greater levels of pain. I have rested and tried to manage as best I can, but it is difficult. I have taken to using therapeutic oils to treat it, in addition to my meds. I just keep hoping for the next day to be better.

In the meantime, I have toyed with poetry and brainstormed about my writing. I have a novel that I am working on; although, I have not worked on it since 2016. I have mostly been working with poetry as I can handle those short-term mental energy requirements. My writing has been put on the back burner for far too long. I have begun to make dents in my goals, but it is not easy with my limitations.

In group, I am supposed to be focusing on difficult things to accept and I am still working on accepting my lack of ability to write as I did when I was in college. I was so prolific then, but what I did was not sustainable. It is a miracle I survived college. Truly.

Now, between pain and emotional limitations, writing seems impossible sometimes. I don’t even blog predictably. (SORRY!) So, I am struggling to find realistic adaptations to my yearnings to write while allowing myself to rest and cope with what the universe has given me.

Process

Monday is my therapy day, in case you didn’t know already. Today, I cried a LOT in group and in individual, but I stuck it out and didn’t leave (even though I really wanted to). I have been drifting and feeling without purpose. I know I have said this multiple times, but it has really been bothering me.

So, today in individual session, we talked about the lack of structure in my life and how it perpetuates my feelings of inadequacy and depression. Granted, being bipolar and having a neurochemistry dysfunction doesn’t help.

So, I am sitting here trying to figure out what to do with my life that adds structure and value. Writing is one thing, but my mind does not always allow for that. The muse does not always meet me at my desk, or anywhere for that matter. Sometimes, she is on vacation, just like my ability to make healthy decisions. So, what does a lady do?

I am not sure what some people may do, but I use a spreadsheet. At least until I get my priorities in line. So, I made a basic schedule and then a list of things to do in addition to my schedule, as I have time. The key to this is being realistic. REALITY SUCKS!!!

Another thing to remember is that this process is key to building a life worth living. It is a lot of work, at first. But, in the end, it will prove useful and help me to stay focused on reasons for living, instead of reasons not to die.

Truth bomb: I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts lately. I am perfectly safe, just in the gray area of thinking about it. I have limited reasons to keep going, but I will because I do not want to destroy my family or abandon my dog.

fullsizeoutput_1a2So, as you can see, this finding structure and looking for some pattern in my life is key to my having a meaningful life and believing in my worth to the world. So, tomorrow starts some goals and trying to fill my day with meaningful activities.

Wish me luck.

 

Process

 

Process makes normal such a chore

But then you wake up and there it is:

Your mind

The process doesn’t seem so hard when it’s there

 

It isn’t always this way.

 

Sometimes, it is silence working its way

through your mind, snuffing every sense until

nothing is left

Then—yes then—death is welcomed

 

Sometimes, it is a roaring

Every synapse humming,

intensely aware of all that you are

and could be

 

Sometimes, it is an hour

a day

a week

a month

a year

of not knowing normal

Flitting between the rush and silence

 

Intervention involves objectivity

and the process again,

a chore of eating and sleeping

and pills and persons outside

Inside is madness and a lack of insight

and this unspeakable terror that normal

is gone.

 

Forever.

Better Than A Hallelujah

As I wrote yesterday, reality acceptance is difficult. What is more difficult is believing that one has a future in a difficult reality. When I quit my job and started pursuing a life of wellness, I felt that I had lost my purpose. I was always working, or going to school, or doing something to keep myself busy. Suddenly, I was without daily structure and a goal for each day.

Prior to quitting work, I was a therapist who assisted patients in overcoming opiate addiction. Prior to that, I was in school to become a secondary English teacher. Prior to that, I was a health and wellness coach. Researcher. Resident Assistant. College student. High school student. My life has been filled with purpose. Then, in December, when I quit my job and decided to focus on building my life of wellness, I lost sight of my value.

God has promised me that He has a reason for my living. It is difficult to see when one’s life is occupied by doctors’ appointments and a steady supply of medication and a sense that one has lost her self to her disease. However, God promises that He has a plan for me–a plan for wholeness and a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). He has not abandoned me, no matter what it feels like right now.

So, I must make straight my paths and try to follow His way. Unfortunately, I do not always know His way, but I can keep trying. One thing that I need to do: Get in His Word. God has a book filled with promises for His children and He will continue to love us and believe in our capacity to come to Him. So, let me come.

With God, one can accept the difficult things in life, if one has faith and is willing to trust Him. This is difficult for me. I have been deeply hurt in my life and, at the time, I felt that God had abandoned me. He did not, but it still hurts that He did not stop man from hurting me. I have also been hurt by churches and judged for my illnesses. I had one church blame my illness on demonic oppression and try to exorcise the demon and had me stop taking my meds because they were of the devil. Not all religious experiences and churches are the best for some individuals.

As God says in His word, “Guard your heart.” Men will try to steal your joy and will try to lead you astray and will try to make you feel less than you are. Britt Nicole sings songs about the value we have despite what others say. She advises that we do not allow others to steal our glow. God has given us that glow of life and declared us princes and princesses of Heaven. What greater gift is there? He has given us New Life.

My life seemed to end with quitting my job and having to recognize that I needed to just focus on living my life without major stressors, so I might actually have some semblance of quality of life, promoting quantity. God says that is okay. God wants me to be well. With Him, I have a chance of being well.

I recognize this is more religious than most of my posts, but I just needed to think about God and His plans for me and how He still loves me in the midst of my brokenness. As the song goes, “Better than a hallelujah.”

Reality Acceptance

I have not blogged this week because I have really been at a loss as to what to even write. My mind has been a bit everywhere and I have wondered what I really have to offer, if anything. To be honest, so much of my life feels pointless these days.

I was given the task of identifying things within my reality that I don’t want to accept. Geez. Talk about deep thoughts. I prefer to ignore those parts of my reality. Really. Who really wants to face that which they don’t want to accept?

So, here goes my list of reality sucking experiences:

I can no longer write like I used to. I have had to adapt my writing style to fit a more sustainable life.

I have to take medicine every day.

I have to live with chronic pain.

This past week, my medicine was increased.

I have a disability.

My levels of concentration are greatly diminished from whence they were a few years ago.

Now, my life still has some positives. I am grateful for my family and for all that I am capable of doing. I have been able to adapt to some of these difficulties. I am learning to adapt to other frustrating situations.

What I am going to focus on today is medicine.

I need medicine to survive. I have tried going without medicine, specific medicines, using supplements, adapting my lifestyle… I have tried and failed time and time again to go without medications. I suffer from Bipolar Type I and it is a difficult beast to master. I’ve had some people tell me to just try harder or think happy thoughts or don’t get carried away… All of which is good advice. If only my disease would agree to follow it.

If only…

I know I have used that phrase often in my life, especially since the onset of my disease. If only I hadn’t refused to listen to the doctors. If only I had not been so stubborn. If only they would have realized that it was more than BPD. If only someone had helped me. If only someone had listened and tried to teach me how to cope.

If only…

Maybe I wouldn’t be in this position today. Maybe I would be able to work and function and do all of the things that my peers are doing. Maybe I would have my second masters and be teaching. Maybe I wouldn’t be terrified to be around people. Maybe I could handle meetings. Maybe I would have written the next great American novel already.

Maybe…

I am not sure where my life would be right now were it not for my illnesses, but I do know that without medication, I would not be alive. Without hospitals and doctors, I would not be alive.

So, two days ago, when my doctor upped my medicine, I had to make a choice: accept and get better or be frustrated and miserable and possibly decide to stop taking it. I have come to the realization that medicine does not change who I am as a person, it makes me more myself and allows me to live as myself.

I hate the medicine, but need it and so will continue to take it, so that I can be as much of myself as possible and as functional as possible. Just because I have an illness, does not mean that I have to abandon myself.

 

Cycle of Life

So, I was trying to get through this week without becoming too engrossed by negative feelings. I was trying to get through moments by trying to improve the moments. I used prayer and trying to create meaning through the hardships. I managed to do some difficult things and keep going in spite of my hurts.

I feel as though I often urge myself and others to keep going. I am struggling with this concept. It is an everyday struggle. I ask what the point is. I ask why I should bother. I want to know what is waiting out there for me. I ask why nobody cares. I ask why I am alone in my struggles.

I want companionship and someone to listen to me every day. I want to be held and reassured that better days are coming. I want to be told that I am safe and loved. I want to believe in a future for myself.

I think of the cycle of life: joy, mourning, joy, mourning… The cycle of life to death to new life. I believe it is Ecclesiastes that speaks of the fleeting nature of time and experiences.

Time marches on, as the song goes. There are so many references to the passing of time and experiences. We cannot hold onto one specific moment; it shifts and if we allow it, our understanding and pain and joy will shift too. We are not without the ability to experience more than one thing in the moment. Proverbs explains that “even in laughter, the heart may ache and joy may end in grief” (14:13). The human experience is varied and rich and full of joy and sorrow.

So, this week as I ruminated on negative things, I had to remind myself of good things. This is not always the easiest of things to do. It does involve gratitude and a reflection outside of the self.

I was blessed with a new nephew last week and was able to hold him this week and spend time with my siblings. There are four of us and we rarely all get together, but today, all of us sat around the small table in the foyer and talked while passing around the baby and annoying the next generation of my family.

This week, I also really pushed myself in my personal goals. I submitted to two journals and am hoping to be published. It may not happen, but it will definitely never happen if I don’t take a chance and submit. It will not happen if I give up my writing.

Over the past few months, I have been giving up. I have felt that everything is pointless and that there was really no point to trying to live life to the fullest anymore. I just didn’t see the point. I have been depressed and manic and full of self-loathing. However, it was made clear to me that I have been comparing myself to the wrong me. I was comparing myself to who I wanted to be by now, not who I wanted to be as a whole person.

I wanted to have my first novel already published. I wanted to be established, have my own home, be in a healthy relationship, have a steady job… The list went on and on about all of the successes I expected to have achieved by this point in my life.

I’ve hit none of those goals.

Instead, I am filing for disability and trying to get published and just trying to survive. I live with my parents and have a car that is more sass than function and I am disappointed. I have been hospitalized probably over 30 times for depression, borderline personality disorder, mania, and anorexia…

All I can say is: I am trying. I don’t want this to be the end. I want more. I am aiming for more. I don’t want to just give up. I want to continue to do difficult things. Some days, I can concentrate and do work. Most days, I can barely edit or write a sentence. I do the best I can, but I want to do better.

This is where it comes in that I aim to keep going. It is difficult and some days, I just want to say, “NO MORE!” However, that will not help me. So, I must pray and encourage myself to keep going. I also must remember the people in my life that love me and want to see me succeed.

Keep going my dear friends. The end is not yet here and life begins anew even in our brokenness.

Balance

Sitting at my desk, I ponder why I have been ruminating so much lately. Why are victims blamed for their own victimization? Why do tow companies get to charge victims of auto theft so much money? Why do some people just get away with so many things?

The bigger question is: WHY am I letting it get to me?

Some of these issues have affected me, but years ago or months ago. I can’t control the past. I can’t control karma. I think if I ever get another dog, I may name it “Karma,” just so I can say I have Karma on my side.

So, I am dealing with all of these ruminating thoughts and I keep getting more and more upset. It isn’t worth it. There is nothing that I can do to change these situations and stewing over the past only makes me feel dreadful.

What do I do?

I guess I can push the thoughts away, but that kind of makes me think of trying not to think about pink elephants when all you can think about is pink elephants.

I suppose the best thing to do is to try to make meaning out of it. Perhaps, reminding myself that I am pretty awesome to survive that stuff and that I am kind of a B.A. It doesn’t feel genuine, but I suppose that is one way of thinking.

I have tried to make meaning out of many senseless things. It frustrates me to be faced with this idea that there is something greater that can come from violence or terrible experiences. I suppose this is where God comes in?

I used to be really angry at God for allowing things to happen to me, but I suppose, like me, others have to be given freedom of choice. Their acts of violence and crime were a result of their choices. My rights were violated, but now I have the choice to make good or bad decisions based on my freedoms. God gave me those choices. God didn’t want those bad things to happen to me, but He also had to give those men the power to choose.

It has taken me years to reach this mindset. I really hated the idea that God just allows bad things to happen, but He cannot keep us from sinning; that choice is ours. It was not God’s fault. God did not abandon me. He just couldn’t protect me from man, or maybe He did in some way and I am unaware. I know He has protected me in other ways.

God loves me and wants to see me blossom. He loves me more than I can understand. My family loves me more than I can understand. To be honest, I don’t get it. I love them, but I see them as understandably loveable people while I am fallible and frustrating and emotional and completely unstable in so many ways.

Lately, this dichotomy of my feelings of adequacy and inadequacy have torn me down. I feel lost inside this pain of self-loathing. I am afraid that I am too much and never enough all at the same time. I have to find balance. That is my goal: finding balance.

I cannot control the past. I cannot control what other people do to me. I can only control myself and do my best to ensure my safety and well-being. I need balance and I will try for that.

My Vacationing Is OVER

Today was a win. I didn’t run out of group in tears. Yes, I am 33 and this is still a struggle for me. I shared my self-soothe kit and the past week’s struggles and I also really opened up in individual therapy (something that is very difficult for me). I may have a tendency to bury things and pretend that I am stoic, despite struggling.

I have been faced with a dichotomy of emotions and thoughts these past few weeks. I have felt both awesome and worthless at varying times. There is no happy medium. I can barely see myself as deserving of anything. I look at myself and see the end of the road. I see a pointless future full of endless cycles of depression and survival. I, in my weaker moments, wonder why I should bother.

Why should I bother?

Because my family needs me, my sister’s children look up to me, my dog is skittish and depends on me to make his world safe, my brothers may need me for more than spelling and grammar one day… Unsure what my purpose is, I will keep going. Giving up is not an option.

Today, I had a major win in therapy. I admitted that I have started to give in to these thoughts that I have no future and there is no point to my existence. Afterward, I took a few moments and started to go to bed super early, but then decided that I do have value and have something to offer the world.

I encourage others. I need to learn to encourage myself. So, today, I also submitted a story to a literary journal. I am not a horrible writer. Actually, I am a fairly decent writer. I have submitted to other places and been given positive feedback, but have never won prizes or been accepted for publication. That does not mean that I am not a good writer. It just means that I have not hit the right journal or audience. I will get there one day.

Having a positive sense of self is not indicative of inflated self, but can be healthy. I need to remember that. Sometimes, a lady needs to listen to some Meghan Trainor and remember her worth. Let’s add some Britt Nicole in there, too.

I invite you to think about your worth and think not only about your feelings about yourself, but how others think of you and how God might think of you.

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BE THE FLOWER ON TOP OF THE WATER! YOUR WORTH IS NOT MEASURABLE, BUT BY THE BEAUTY YOU SHOW THE WORLD!!

God probably cries on my behalf with the amount of self-loathing I experience. I cry, too. So, for an experiment, I am going to try some affirmations and try to build myself up. Crazy idea, I know. It seems silly. It is easier to give into the bad feelings and to not try to fight them. It is easier to stay in bed. It is easier to take medicine to hide our emotions than it is to face them head-on. I am guilty of all of this. My go-to for dealing with difficult experiences is to take a vacation and move there. I really like my bed and sleeping.

Problem: I hate being unproductive.

So, my writing this post tonight is fighting my vacation urges. I ran out of PTO. So, time to put forth the effort and face my life. I can handle it. I’ve survived for 33 years, nearly 34, and I will keep surviving.

 

Soothing Away Fear

I struggle with a great deal of fear. My biggest fear being that I will lose my mind to my diseases. I already have on several occasions, but I have always bounced back. I fear that one day, I will not bounce back.

It doesn’t make sense. Not really. I am writing poetry and journaling and yesterday came up with a new story idea, but when I tried to write yesterday, I froze. I wrote a sentence and then deleted it because it wasn’t good enough. I fear that I am not good enough.

It has taken me a while to make people understand that I don’t just write to write, but to fulfill my dreams and to get published. It has been a struggle for people to understand that writing is a huge part of my identity.

Struggling with writing or reading is devastating for me. For most of my life, words have been my best friends and now they flutter by and I am stuck, trying to find purchase and purpose in the dark empty spaces of my mind. This terrifies me.

So, how do I get beyond this? Practice self-care and self-soothing. <insert heavy sigh here> I always feel like a pansy when I self-soothe or practice diligent self-care. I think that I am not trying hard enough and that I just need to buck-up. That thought process never makes me feel better and I just end up crying, which then requires even more effort to stop.

So, here begins my journey at being gentle with myself to promote healing and a capability to cope with all things that come my way, or at least a way to not be so overwhelmed all of the time.

Recently, I was asked to put together a self-soothe kit. As you can guess, I was reticent and frustrated and thought it was stupid. Then, I realized that there are some things that I use to encourage myself and keep going when I feel like giving up. So, here are a few things that I have put in my self-soothe kit.

One thing that I have taken to doing is trying to wear lipstick every day. A dark wine-colored lipstick that really stands out on my pale face. I don’t know how, but it helps me feel capable. So, in the kit goes my spare lipstick, as dark and red as possible.

Another thing I love is lotion. I have a love of the smell of lavender and honey. Bath and Body Works make a marshmallow souffle tub of lavender sugar lotion and I use just a dab when I need to make my hands feel soft and smell sweet.

Chocolate covered espresso beans. First of all, coffee is a must–it is my comfort food–and chocolate is necessary. Combining the two and you have an energizing blend of comfort and needed sugar.

Music… I think music is healing and I have a playlist for a variety of needs. I have a fighter playlist and an uppers playlist and a bad day playlist. I use certain ones to bring me up and to promote the idea that I have value and my own sense of power. I use the bad day playlist sparingly, as it is depressing, validates my negative emotions, and can also trigger a downward spiral of mood. So, a little bit of that and then a switch to something more upbeat.

I also have a small book of quotes and just started putting photos in it. I added that to my kit to encourage me and remind me that I have the ability to keep going and do different things. The quotes vary from encouragement to stay strong, keep going, stay creative, and keep writing. The photos were all taken by me and printed at home. I am trying to think of more things to put in my book. I will get there as the mood hits me.

I think that is all that I have in my kit for now. I am trying to come up with various ways to keep myself soothed and remember that getting through a moment is more important than giving in to the moment.

I have to keep going. People depend on me. Besides, I will never write a book if I succumb to misery and despair. Let me be grateful for today and fight on for tomorrow.

What Is My Worth?

“The number doesn’t define you.” I have heard this statement from multiple people and it is difficult to believe. For over two decades, I have focused on defining myself by the size of my clothes, the number on the scale, the measurements of my body… The list goes on as to how numbers help me define my worth.

Today, as I was journaling, I decided to try to understand my worth outside of numeric measurements. I am failing. When I make goals, I try to form measurable goals. This goes back to numbers. How do I measure my value without numbers?

I am not a number. I am a person who has value beyond measure. I am creative and witty (if I could find a sense of humor that wasn’t debasing to myself). I also have an interest in making a difference, even if just for one person.

I remember being in college and wanting to take on the world. I remember being 11 and wanting to be a missionary and to help others. I remember feeling like I had value.

When depression first struck, I was about 12. It was then that my sense of self-worth began to plummet. Then, life happened and it plummeted even further. I remember weighing myself for the first time when I was 13. I remember being surprised by the number and afraid, but it did not affect me until years later, years after my eating disorder took hold and life became about how much exercise I could do and what size I wore. The need for the number to be smaller came after the eating disorder wrecked me. I admitted to doctors that I thought I had a problem and they said I weighed too much to have an eating disorder. So, I wasn’t sick (in my mind) and my behaviors were totally normal.

Wrong!

Now, at a heavier weight than I was in college, I struggle with being in treatment for anorexia and I have to remind myself that weight is only one criteria. My obsession with food and weight and body image and everything else are a part of anorexia. How do I get beyond this idea that I am too fat?

I start to look for value outside the number. I have to remember there is more than numbers. I have to understand more than numbers. Just like diagnoses have multiple facets, I have more facets than just my weight.

God loves every single inch of me. My family loves all of me. My friends love all of me. They all see me as more than a number. Most of them don’t even know my numbers. As I write this, I can understand why my treatment team doesn’t want me to know my numbers. There is more to me than a number on the scale.

So, how do I access this idea every day? How do I express a sense of appreciation for myself?

Already, I have started practicing gratitude. Already, I have tried to come up with ways of looking at myself that are not relative to appearance. This is really difficult. I have spent most of my life focused on appearance and now–now, I am focusing on other attributes.

I encourage you to seek out ways to look at yourself that are not defined by numbers or diagnoses. I am more and so are you.

Gratitude

I realized the other day that I want to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. I struggle with being thankful and appreciative of my life; I think that is a hallmark of depression and anxiety and pain. Anyway, I have been trying to express gratitude and to recognize all of the things that I do have.

I am thankful for friends, family, my new nephew (whom I haven’t met yet), my creativity, my arms and hands for writing and holding  books and helping me get through my activities for each day, my feet and legs for walking and taking me places and holding me up, my stomach for helping to nourish my body, my mouth for speaking my mind, my brain for interpreting and understanding and explaining things, my ears for hearing, my eyes for seeing, my lungs and nose and mouth for breathing and helping me live…

I am thankful for a lot, but it is difficult to recognize all of those things in a moment and to remember to be thankful when I feel so frustrated with my life and my body. I am sitting here and listening to Britt Nicole to provide me with some uplifting music to continue my day and hopefully lift my spirits and to remind me that God loves me.

I will admit that God’s love seems to be a bit of a mystery to me. I am not the greatest person in the world. I am full of flaws and, often, am ungrateful for so many things that He has blessed me with. I can’t even successfully complete a Bible study. To be honest, I think it is a result of being very hurt by churches and feeling abandoned by Him. However, the idea of His love keeps coming back to me and it shocks me. Of course, my parents’ love for me shocks me.

I don’t have much to offer the world. I used to think I was destined for great things, but am now struggling to get through each day without destroying my sense of self. I keep trying, but I am not always successful. I want to be my best person and the best person for the world and to be a light in the world (I used to be), but it is difficult.

This is Monday and the second day of a new week. I have goals for this week to be productive and to try my hardest to stay the course with recovery. I botched last week and yesterday. So, today begins a new day with new hope and new goals. I even put on lipstick to make myself feel better and to feel like I am doing more than sitting in my pajamas all day long.

My one major goal (starting now) is trying not to trigger myself this week. So, no more weighing and no watching television shows or movies that will make me want to engage in problem behaviors. A lot of television can hurt people in delicate moods. Please, if you are in a delicate situation, ask for help, call a friend, call the suicide hotline, watch something funny, and push yourself to keep going.

This post started with gratitude and I must say that I am grateful to be writing this post. I am grateful to be alive. If it wasn’t for interruptions and interventions, I wouldn’t be here today.

Keep going. I’m trying to.

Choosing Poetry

Hello. I have tried two other blogs before this and never felt quite right about them, or have had issues and taken them down in an emotional fit. Sorry to those followers.

I have struggled with mental illness for over 2 decades. I have struggled with anorexia since I was 13.

However, since I was 11, I have wanted to be a writer and have always found literature and words to be more important than anything else in my life. Last year, I was on Amazon (of course) and was considering buying diet pills when I realized I needed a bag more than diet pills. It couldn’t be just any bag; it had to be big enough to carry my books, multiple books. It was at this time that I developed the idea of poetry not pounds and decided to choose poetry over my eating disorder.

Two years ago, I got really sick because of the anorexia and went through 8 months of intensive therapy. I dropped out of school and focused completely on eating. It was the most difficult 8 months of my life. Now, I am overweight and freaking out on a daily basis about my body and I am back in treatment for anorexia. It is frustrating.

I am not doing the greatest job though. I am not supposed to know my weight and I have weighed myself three times already this month. The last time really hurt as the number was unexpected. I am also still struggling with restricting and bingeing. I feel crazy saying it, but that is my daily struggle. And sometimes, I binge because I don’t know what else to do with myself.

Today, I was stuck thinking about society and the whole health communications campaign to have fewer calories in than out and to think before you drink. It makes me crazy. I drink diet soda because of these campaigns. I am terrified to drink calories unless it is coffee and even then, I feel incredibly guilty because of the creamer. I used to drink skinny lattes and calculate how many calories were really in it if I used an extra shot of espresso. I used to be a calorie counting genius.

Now, I am skilled at nothing. I can barely follow the meal plan, which just started including extra snacks. And my biggest fear is realized on a daily basis: once I start eating, I really struggle to stop, which then resets the restriction, the bingeing, the restriction… To be honest, I feel like giving up.

I won’t, because I am not a quitter. I have to live by the idea that discomfort precedes growth. I also have to recognize that God will be with me through this process; I just have to trust Him, which is difficult after all of these years. I have to trust though that He has plans for me, greater than I can imagine.