Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Can I Do This?

Last Monday, I facilitated a group.

On Monday afternoons, I attend the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance support group, because I have bipolar II, which I’ve mentioned before.  I’ve been going for about 3 years now.  I’ve worked through the book more than once.  I know the answers, haha, as if I could know the right answers to mental health when it’s different for everyone.

The regular facilitator was having a hard day and asked me if I would lead.  None of this is surprising, since he is a peer and the group could be led by any peer.  I said yes, and I was happy to do this favor for him.

It went surprisingly well.  We worked our way through 2 pages in the book.  That may not be much but it included some conversation and it was the end of a section.  Didn’t make sense to start a new section with only 15 minutes left.  The group appreciated the chance to chat during the session.  It was a little more active than the usual facilitator likes, but we have different philosophies.  He is trying to get through the book, whereas I use the book as a jumping-off point.  Nothing wrong with either one, just different.

At the same time, I have been hearing about women who lead seminars to help other women.  I think I could lead one about vision boards and creating goals.  It would be maybe 3 hours, give or take.  Part of it would be about setting goals, where do you want to be in, say, 5 years?  Or indeed, ever?  Part of it would be making the actual vision board.  And part of it would be about sharing our dreams and visions.  I think I could manage about 10 women, and they would have to bring their own scissors since I don’t own that many pairs.  Glue and magazines I’ve got, scissors not so much.

So I am looking for goal setting exercises.  They are surprisingly hard to find.  There are a lot of sites devoted to professional development and goal setting in that regard but really almost nothing about personal goal setting.  The principles must be the same however so I just need to tweak them.  Of course I would need to tweak them in any case to make them my own.  I’m about being inspired by other people, not stealing their work.

I believe I can do this.  It seems very do-able.  It also doesn’t overlap the government job so there should be no conflict of interest.  The first one or two would be free while I get my feet under me, then I would have to start charging.  I wonder if I could even do it monthly.

Words of encouragement and suggestions only, please.  I have enough nay-sayers in my own head as it is.  I could stand some support around this idea.


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What I’ve Been Doing

I was sitting here drinking the coffee that my roommate L has made for me and I realized that you don’t know what I actually do with my time while I’m demobilized.  I’ve done a fair amount of complaining about things and I’ve certainly shared my (mis)adventures, but really life is pretty good and I want to share some of that.

I sleep most days until 9 or 10 in the morning.  I usually wake up with my cats cuddled up to me, which makes me happy.  If you have pets, you understand this.  Or children, I suppose, though as a mother I dislike comparing pets and children.

I get up and check facebook and email and other online things I’m working on.  I take my morning meds and eat some peanut butter toast.  I like the way the hot toast melts the peanut butter.  Usually by then L is up so there is coffee.  Now you may ask why I don’t make my own coffee since I certainly know how.  The truth is, we use a French press and the thing is just a pain to clean.  I am lazy.  That’s my big secret.  If L makes the coffee, she cleans it up.  Yup, that’s it, silly as it is.

Most days I go to a support group.  I use a peer run support group cluster that is available through a local mental health facility.  It’s free.  Mondays is DBSA, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and we are working out of a book about managing life while struggling with a behavioral health concern.  Tuesday is Recovery International which has a very formal method.  It does however teach you to deal with daily life, something I don’t always do very well.  Wednesday is the PTSD group.  I don’t have PTSD but nobody is without trauma.  Thursday is a depression support group.  Friday is ATTA, which stands for Achievement Through the Arts.  It’s for artists with brain differences, so there is a mix of people with issues ranging from schizophrenia to injury.  Most of these groups meet for 2 hours, so that gives me a whole lotta free time.

I have been writing letters.  I have an extensive mailing list that I am trying to send everybody something and see who writes back.  Then I’ll keep up with the respondents.  I like getting mail and to get mail, one must send mail.

I also have been working on the 100 Hats project.  I want to sell them but I suspect most of them will wind up donated.  And that’s fine, for me the joy is in the making.  Speaking of making, I am working on some art pieces as well.  One of them is based on my friend K’s living room.

I stay up with my roommates until around 1 in the morning, then I lay in bed on the phone until 2 then I sleep.  So 10 am is really 8 hours of sleep, which is good for me.

I do see friends and go out to eat and run errands.  It makes for a pretty full life, but I would like to be deployed again.  Not that I wish for bad things to happen, but when a disaster hits, I am ready.


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Don’t Get Cocky

The Universe has a way of evening things out.

Today, I got a call from my support group facilitator.  He is also a peer.  He’d had an active weekend and just didn’t have the spoons to lead this week, so he asked if I would.  Of course I said yes.  I want to be helpful but also I like facilitating.

I went in early and set up.  J and B arrived.  Then 2 more B’s, E and M.  It was a full house.  I started the group at 5 after, just in case anyone arrived late.  I started off by reviewing the rules, which the group mostly stated to me.  I think the facilitator would be pleased to know that.

We did two pages of exercises from the workbook we are using, and the rest of the time we just talked.  Now the usual facilitator is very book oriented.  I am more relationship oriented.  I was glad to see people reach out to each other and provide feedback.

M brought up a good question.  A doctor can, for example, prescribe a particular kind of mattress if someone needs it.  Most of us have doctors who want us to attend these meetings.  There is a cost to the book.  Only $25, but for some of us that’s a lot of money.  If the doctor prescribed the class, would the cost of the book be covered by insurance?  Oh, probably not, because that’s how things work out, but if I went for physical therapy and needed equipment it would be covered.  This is psycho-therapy – at least loosely – and the book is the equipment.  I think we should try it out.

Anyway, I felt pretty good when I left.  I feel pretty good about my facilitating.  People enjoyed the meeting and I think they got something out of it.

I was driving home, minding my own business, when the Universe decided to make sure I didn’t get too cocky.  Suddenly my engine didn’t sound right.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  I looked down at the dashboard and saw that the temperature was redlined.  I pulled over and shut off the engine.

I pay for good insurance, so I called my roadside assistance and they sent someone out to tow me home.  I waited about an hour in 100 degree heat for a 10 minute tow.  So be it.  It was covered.  I checked fluids and oil was low, so I bought some oil that I’ve added.  Now it’s too dark out for me to be able to check the level again so it will have to wait for the morning.

I hope the low oil is the whole problem.  If not, I don’t know how I’ll pay for it.  I mean, I have 6 hours of training to do in the next week or so, so that’s a few dollars.  There is always unemployment.  I just need to drive the car around the block or something and see if the temperature shoots up again.

I’m just glad I had The Artist’s Way with me  while I was waiting.  It’s a good read.  More about that later.


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Meeting People and My Work

I have decided that I’d like to date again, even have a long term relationship.  This is huge for me, this is something I never thought I’d do again.  Truly it has been 10 years since my last relationship.  I figured I was on my own until the end of my life, when I would move back in with my daughter.

The biggest problem is, how do you meet people?  When you’re young, you just meet.  You go out with friends and meet their friends.  You meet people at school or at work.  Then you settle down and family life takes over.  I was single into my 30’s so I lost a LOT of friends to marriage and family.  I don’t begrudge that, I think it’s to be expected.  Family takes energy and time so you just don’t have it for outside activities.  That’s okay.  But it does mean that your single friends move on in different ways and maybe you aren’t that close any more.  So you’re on your own more and more and eventually you’re used to being alone.  How do you get out of that rut?

I asked my friend B.  The first thing is, he had to clarify to me that even though he was dating someone and is not now, that he is not looking for a relationship.  I must be a real dog in that any time I talk to single guy friends about relationships, they feel a need to be clear that they aren’t interested in me.  I don’t assume they are.  And I’m probably not interested in them.  After all, if there was mutual interest, we’d already be more than friends.  I just figured, if you want to meet single guys, ask a single guy where he goes to meet women.  B did tell me two places:  church and online.  I’m not churchy, so online it is.

My friend K has been looking for a partner for some time now.  She has had good luck with online dating sites so I asked her what she thought.  She told me a little about the ones she’s used — which ones were more hook up sites and which ones were more relationship oriented.  So now I’m on a few websites, seeing what I find.  (If you’re reading this and you want to know me, I suggest contacting me in the comments.  And I’m talking about friends, not just dating.)  Now K is beautiful so she gets lots of responses, I am middle aged and plain so I get fewer responses, but I have noticed a few patterns.

Yes I have a job.  No I am not working at the moment.  My job is an on-call disaster relief position so I only work when there is a disaster.  There is not a disaster at the moment so I am not working.  I don’t have a call-back date because disasters don’t come on a schedule.  I will not be going back to work on Monday, this is not a vacation, it is a furlough.

Having said that I am not currently working, I want to clarify that I don’t expect you to support me.  I can support myself.  I am not a gold digger.  I am not looking for a man to take financial care of me.  To balance that, I don’t make enough money to support another person (if I did, it would be my daughter), so don’t expect me to pay for your life.

I don’t want to go dutch.  I don’t have extra money at the moment, so I can’t afford to do a lot of activities.  But even if I was rich, I would want the man to pay for dates.  Unless I asked, in that case I would expect to pay.  The thing here is, I have had a number of serious relationships where all the resources went to the man’s benefit.  Now if you want my interest, you need to be willing so spend a little money on me too.  Not for my necessities, I can pay my own rent and utilities, I am an adult; but gosh pay for dinner or bring flowers or something that makes me feel like you think I’m worth the effort.

Please take the time and pay attention to actually know me.  If I have told you three times that I am furloughed, don’t keep asking how my day at work is going.  If you asked me when the last time was that I flashed someone and I stopped talking, accept that this is not going to be a hook up.  If I don’t ask you about your blow job comment, don’t send me a dick pic.  If I say I read Charles de Lint, don’t recommend John Grisham.  Or at least ask me what kind of books Charles de Lint writes.  Know that my taste runs to steampunk industrial and don’t buy me american traditional.  Even though I love Frank Lloyd Wright.  I am smart and open minded and unfortunately I don’t have a sense of humor.  I am what I am and it’s not going to change much at this point.

So here I am venting.  I don’t think I’m unreasonable, just a little worked up at the moment.  Frustrated.  And trying to make it work out.  Because I don’t want to be alone any more.

 


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The Need to Connect

I love words.  Obviously I do, since I choose to blog.  I love that blogging allows me to explore an idea in more depth than, say, Facebook does.  Not that Facebook puts a limit on how long a post is, but the format doesn’t lend itself to ruminations of any kind.

Now I like Facebook.  It gives me almost instant access to people.  But lately I am missing the old BBS’s.  I miss the connection of paragraphs rather than sentences.  I miss feeling like I really knew people.  It’s the difference between chatting at a cocktail party and having a meal with someone.  Both are good, they’re just different.

I write letters to connect with people.  I do.  I write actual pen-to-paper snail mail letters.  I’d say, if you want one, contact me; but the internet will be around long after I am no longer blogging and I can just imagine some poor person trying to reach me and I’m not around.  I do have a mailing list and I do send out mail on a regular basis.  In fact, I’m planning to send some stuff out this week.

So what is it, this drive to connect with folks?  I don’t build community much in person.  No, I take that back, I am part of several communities.  I have a friend or two who I met just socially.  I have 2 different groups of work friends from different jobs.  I have more than one friend from support groups.  And of course I have roommates.  Oh, and my extended family (the nuclear family have all passed away, but the cousins remain).  So there are several communities of which I am a part.  I am more social than I give myself credit for being.

And yet I feel disconnected.  The only thing I know to do is reach out more.  Go back to The Cat Site and IUOMA and see what’s going on.  Plan lunches with the work ladies.  Call my family and see what’s up.  Write some letters.

Maybe, if you read this, you could leave me a comment so I know we touched each other’s lives for a moment.


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Being unfriended

I got a private message from someone saying that my comments on her posts only make her feel worse so she was going to unfriend me.  She must have already blocked me because I just happened to be online so I read the message almost as soon as it was posted and I wasn’t able to reply to her.

This makes me sad.  I didn’t know I was bothering her with my comments.  I wish she had said something before it got to this point.  I wish I knew better how to connect with her.

I know her from a mental health support group.  I assume she has issues, but then I have issues.  We all have issues there.  That’s why we’re in a mental health support group in the first place.  I would usually go to that group for feedback, but I don’t feel like I can.  I don’t want to piss her off even more, for a start, but I also don’t want to open myself up to trolling if I really am a jerk.

I don’t think I’m a jerk, but it matters what other people think of me.  Not a lot, but some.  I mean, you can hardly be a jerk to yourself but you might not see how you are being a jerk to other people.  We all get nearsighted and can’t see how what we did affects others.

So tell me I am being difficult for you before you get to the point where all you can do is run away.  I thought we were getting to know each other, but apparently that didn’t cut both ways.  I am sad.  I’m sad that she unfriended me and I’m sad that she didn’t speak up sooner and I’m sad that I don’t know what I did.

 


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Mind and Body Are One

I have two chronic conditions and they interact.

I learned in the last year that I am subject to panic attacks. It isn’t regular but when stress gets to me, I have issues. They aren’t hugely severe in a physical sense, but emotionally I become detached and feel like I’m floating or like my head is going to explode. Disconnected. Disembodied. Buzzing in my ears. Can’t make decisions. Even basic things, like getting dressed, become huge trials when you can’t figure out how to put together an outfit. What shirt to wear with what pants should not be overwhelming, esp. since most of pants are black and anything that’s not a t-shirt is fine for work.

Fortunately they make a medicine for this. They probably make several medicines for this, but the one I take is Prozac. Works pretty good. Now I am not a huge fan of medicines as the best answer for everything so I went years of not feeling optimum because I was trying other methods. But sometimes you can’t control your brain, which means you can’t control your thinking.

The body is an organic electromechanical interface between what we think of as self or soul and the physical world. Not going to get metaphysical about the idea of self here, though I could, but it’s not my point today. Sometimes the equipment fails. Maybe it was flawed from the beginning or maybe I did something that caused damage. In either case, functionality was less than peak.

Now that isn’t necessarily bad. Any engineer will tell you that a machine can sufficiently well at less than 100% I mean, if I could feel 90% on an average day, that seems acceptable, It’s not a peak if it is, in fact, a plateau. And a plateau can be a great place to pause, rest and reflect before pushing on again.

Anyway, with regard to brains. Brains need a certain balance of chemicals in order to function properly. If the chemicals are out of balance, your brain doesn’t work well. All the positive thinking and motivation in the world are not going to help a brain that misfires. I tried many kinds of self-improvement which did not solve my problem. Medicine helps. So I take it, and feel disbelief that it works because life should not become manageable due to taking a pill. But it does. (See the title of this post again, mind and body are one, because changing the chemical situation in my body actually changes my mind.)

The other condition is a highly acid stomach. I apparently don’t have an ulcer, but I do take medicine. It stops my stomach from hurting. Since this crept up on me, I didn’t realize I was in so much pain until I started taking the medicine. Now if I miss a dose, I have PAIN. Eating sometimes helps since anything bready soaks up the acid and moves it out of my stomach, so for a long time I was frustrated by trying to diet (since I am a person who should really lose a few pounds) and the fact that restricting food intake made my tummy hurt. Now I have medicine that stops the pain. It’s kind of amazing.

Again, I’m not a huge fan of medication for no reason, but the right drug at the right time is a real blessing.

So how do these interact?

I don’t get big physical effects from the anxiety, just a little shortness of breath sometimes and a sort of butterflies in the tummy feeling. Stress goes right to my stomach, always has, my mom even commented on it when I was a kid, and the way to help was to eat something.

Wait now. Physical symptoms of stress can be resolved the same way high stomach acid was resolved? So, yes, my emotional state affects how my body works. Treating the anxiety helps the stomach problem. That doesn’t seem so hard to understand.

It’s the fact that it works in the other direction that astounds me.

If I miss my stomach meds, I become anxious. This is not because I am somehow concerned that I’m sicker than I am. It’s because my body reacts very similarly to missing this medicine as it does to anxiety. Close enough, in fact, that my subconscious interprets the symptoms as being upset and will add in the other signs of anxiety. I can be aware that I do not feel emotionally bothered at all, but my body is acting like I’m really freaked out about something.

For example, I might have a cup coffee at breakfast and at lunch have a sandwich that had a tomato on it and a pickle on the side. These are all common foods, all of which I enjoy, any of which I might eat on a typical day. Only, all together, it’s too much acid and my stomach is already highly acid, so now I have butterflies and tension. Then my subconscious decides this is a sign of anxiety, and suddenly I feel like I can’t breathe properly and I can’t focus on my job. Not bad enough for me to call it a panic attack, but enough to distract me and affect performance. Then I do become stressed, because I realize I am not doing as well as I could and I know I can do better, and the stress increases the acid.

It’s all connected, body and mind, mind and body. What affects one, affects the other. Finding balance becomes very important. Sometimes it seems impossible. Sometimes I have to be very regulated, even though it means I look like a party pooper, because for me the consequences are greater than simply being tired the next day. Sometimes I get frustrated with restrictions and limitations. Yet the most beautiful Shakespearean sonnets are created within specific guidelines, so knowing your functional boundaries can be a great thing.

Tomorrow is Christmas and then we are heading into a new year. What I wish for you, is finding your balance.