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.