Kiss5Tigers

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


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Crowdfunding

I make no secret of the fact that I am diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I don’t just tell random strangers on the bus, but I’m not embarrassed about having it.

I would like to help other people with this difficulty to navigate their recovery process. I don’t have the resources for a degree at this time but fortunately there is a certification program that takes only a week for becoming a certified peer counselor. I could do that.

What is a peer counselor? It’s an advocate that helps other diagnosed individuals figure out their recovery. It’s a mentor – coach kind of situation. It is not a therapist, and it is not a doctor. It’s sort of like an AA sponsor.

The training will be in Dallas in April and I would like to take it. However it is $650 and I am between deployments so cash flow is an issue. They don’t have any scholarships available so that’s not an option. I have to come up with this money.

I figured, it would be worth checking out crowdfunding. I have some part of the funds, just not the whole thing. I don’t like to ask family or borrow from friends. But crowdfunding, now, that seems possible. Surely I know several people who can give some money towards this endeavor.

I have posted in a group on Facebook that I trust looking for reviews of different sites I could use. Indiegogo has already come up, and there’s Kickstarter and GoFundMe. I just have to figure out which one of the several choices is the best fit for me.

So, hive mind and dear readers, if you have any experiences or knowledge about this to share, feel free.

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The Right to Fail

I’m thinking about this in terms of parenting, but I think it’s bigger than that.

My daughter is 21. When I was 21, I had been on my own for 2 years, having been orphaned when I was 19. I knew a lot more than when I was 19 but I still knew almost nothing. My daughter, well, she’s had a hard life and she knows a lot, but she seems to make bad decisions. It’s okay, she’s young and has time to recover from an stupidity she may commit.

I have to keep reminding myself of that. She is an adult. She has the right to make her own decisions, good or bad. She also has the right to bear the consequences. I keep wanting to save her, to make her life easy, to rescue her. She, of course, does not want this from me. So I have to remind myself, she is an autonomous being, she has the opportunity to succeed, and also the right to fail.

We don’t think of failure as a right, but if you want to make your own decisions, failure is simply going to happen from time to time. Some decisions are bad from the get go, others are reasonable at the time but turn sour, some are positively brilliant. If I rescue her from negative consequences, she never learns. She is never fully autonomous, she is simply a human avatar for my ego. And at the end of the day, I want her to be a functional adult. After all, she will outlive me, she has to be able to get along without me.

I got to thinking of this with regards to mental health. So often we who have a diagnosis are treated like children. We have decisions made for us, supposedly in our best interest, but without our input. We lose agency by admitting to our difference. We are seen as so impaired that we cannot decide whether to take medications that have such dangerous and unpleasant side effects.

Now I take meds and I am happy with them, but there was a time when the dose was too high and it flattened me. I had long pauses in conversations before I responded, and I was so slow that I didn’t even know it. Freaked out my friends. I felt fine, but they were worried. Then I had a family member die and I couldn’t cry about it. I told the doctor and he tweaked my dosage. I have the right to cry when things are sad. I have the right to be miserable, actually, though I don’t choose it.

I, however, have never been suicidal or psychotic. Both of those are potential states I could experience with bipolar. So I have been up and I have been down, but I haven’t been truly out of my head. I have mild symptoms. I’m lucky.

But even if I had intense symptoms, I don’t know that someone should be able to take agency away from me. If I am dangerous to other people, sure, but we do that with anyone who becomes dangerous, like the guy who robs a convenience store with a gun, or a mugger with a knife. If I am simply not in consensual reality, well, does that require forced medication? I mean, we as a society assume it’s a sign of health to acknowledge the same reality as everyone else, but maybe it’s not a necessity.

Because for us with a diagnosis, success is seen as partaking in society as it is, as the constituents agree it is and opting out is failure. The person has failed to adapt, to present as typical. There is no suggestion that there is a failure of society to accommodate the other experience. Or that adaptation to an unwell society is not a sign of mental health. And make no mistake, there are aspects of our culture that are not healthy. Which is true of any culture.

So the standard of success is how much I can pass for neurotypical. If I can’t pass, I must be medicated, even though many of the medicines used are no more effective than placebo. I must be medicated until I comply, then I am a success.

What if I don’t comply? What if I am happy with my ups and downs, my creativity and deep thoughts, my highs and lows? Then I would fail to pass. And I have that right. I have the right to fail. I have the right to make my own choices about my health. I have agency over what happens to my body. Or I should.

Except that I am mentally ill, so I must pass as “sane” or “normal”.

We call them “average people”. I am not insane. I am not abnormal. I am not typical. But I might be average. I might have higher highs and lower lows, but you have ups and downs and nobody feels the need to medicate you out of a range of emotions. Average people have the right to fail. I want the right to fail.

I fail miserably at 40 hour a week jobs. I simply don’t have the stamina to keep it up beyond a certain length of time. I want the opportunity to make other choices. I want the right to choose other paths even if it means I fail. I don’t want to be medicated into compliance. I don’t want a job that I need to take happy pills and valium to go into an office every day. It doesn’t sound like a life, even though it would look successful. I want the right to fail.

So here is my daughter, with all the drive of a young person, all the fire, all the dreams. And the best I can do is let her go, and hope she fails gloriously.

Don’t conform, daughter, unless it’s a game you enjoy playing. Do your best. Make different choices. I hope you succeed, but you have the right to fail.


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Why Do I Blog?

Why do I blog?

Why does anyone blog, if you think about it?

Surely I don’t think the minutiae of my life are that fascinating, and I don’t have deep or universal thoughts very often.

For me it has to do with connection.  I don’t tweet because 140 characters doesn’t seem like enough to me.  Facebook is good but I don’t feel like I can fully expound an idea there.  It needs to be short enough to keep people’s interest so nothing too long.  Maybe a paragraph.  Maybe 2 if the subject needs it.

But sometimes I want to say more.  I want to connect with people in a longer thought, not a sound bite.  Or I want to say something that doesn’t seem suited to the public forum of Facebook.  I suppose a blog is actually more public, since it lasts longer than a standard post on FB, which lasts longer than some other sites do.

At the end of the day, I am reaching out across the existential abyss to see if anyone else resonates to my ideas.  I hope someone reaches back.

I know people read my blog.  I get notifications from WordPress when people decide to follow me.  I don’t know if they come back though.  I have over 100 followers but I don’t have 100 hits on my posts, usually 2 or 3.  And they aren’t the same 2 or 3 because they come from different countries.  Though I do have a LOT of Americans that read me.  I am surprised by how many people in India read my blog.  But very few comments.  I guess I am not controversial enough to prompt response.

I do read blogs from other people from time to time.  One friend writes about his trauma and loss.  Another writes about her insecurities in a way that makes you want to hug her.  People comment on their stuff, but not so much on mine.  I think it’s because it’s not as emotional.  I don’t touch people in that visceral way.

Which is probably medication related.  I used to think big.  I used to write about things like love, homelessness, the human condition, why we should take care of each other, God.  Now my brain is full of the present moment, which for me is usually quite tolerable.  So life is tolerable or even good.  I don’t feel deeply any more.  And when I do, I can’t articulate it.  I have issues with Trump and I can’t really explain it to people.  I mean, he brings out the worst in Americans, but I can’t tell you specifically why I believe that.  I can agree with the people who articulate it, but that doesn’t seem like enough.  I can’t  have a discussion because I can’t say what I think.  I don’t seem to actually think anything, I just have a knowing deep inside.  Is that what it’s like for most people?   If so, I miss being neurodivergent, I felt quicker and more full of life.  I felt like I understood things.

Nothing against being in the moment.  People work very hard at being here, now, to reference Ram Dass.  I get that anxiety is obsession with the future and depression is obsession with the past.  Live in the present.  I get it.  But it’s all I can do.  I can’t see the big picture any more.  I can’t put things into perspective.  My mood is good though and life is manageable, so isn’t that what I want?

All of which is a very far way from why I blog, but there it is.  I blog to connect because I feel disconnected even from myself.  I blog to communicate with myself.

Though I still hope for comments from people.


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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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What I Did Today

Today has been a rather eventful day. Especially considering it was supposed to be a relatively slow day.

The plan was to start the day about 8:30 or 9:00, take a shower, go to Recovery International, and have lunch with a friend. I did actually wake up at 8:45 but it all went to hell after that.

It started with a text message from my daughter: “Dude the last 12 hours have been ridiculous and a waste of $100.”

I knew she was serious because she doesn’t usually call me dude. It took a few messages, and you need some back story to know what was going on.

Daughter is on a road trip with some friends. They went to Rainbow Gathering in Georgia, then spent a few days in Naples, FL and were headed to New Orleans. At 5 in the morning they hit Pensacola and decided to stop. They were going to sleep in the car under a bridge but they found out that someone else had tried the same thing about 10 hours earlier and got shot dead. Now we are talking about 3 girls in a car who don’t know anybody. That means some random person — and in my head it’s a homeless guy bumming a cigarette — told them this story that made them uncomfortable. They decided to rent a hotel room instead. This is the $100. Check out time was 11:00 so they didn’t even get showers.

Then before hitting the road again, they went to a dog park. One of the girls had brought her 2 dogs which seems like a lot but personally I’m glad they had the protection. One of the dogs got off the leash, and someone pulled a gun on the girls. I asked my daughter about this, because I thought the whole point of a dog park was to let the dogs off their leash. She replied, “THAT’S WHAT YOU WOULD THINK, HUH?” And followed it up with, “Fuck Pensacola!”

The problem of course was that they had no money and no food. Uh huh. I’m surprised I didn’t get this call sooner. I’m on unemployment right now and I hadn’t gotten paid for the last two weeks yet, so I said there was nothing I could do. My roommate F gave me $60 to send her. We spent an hour trying to figure it out, and finally I paypal’d it to her. She is in New Orleans now, no further incidents.

The girls lucked out in New Orleans, too. They got an Air BnB a couple blocks off the French Quarter for 3 days for under $150. I might be jealous!

All of this took the hour I had for getting to my meeting. I still had to take shower before I could go and get dressed. I made it to RI but I was an hour late.

What is RI? In this case, Recovery International. It’s a sort of rational recovery program for mental health issues. Dr. Low developed the method back in the 50’s, so that was early days for psychiatry in a lot of ways. He referred to his patients as “nervous” rather than ill. He believed that getting worked up was an expression of either fearful or angry temper. He defined fearful as internal and angry as direction outward. His method is basically to have people talk themselves down using sayings and adages that he calls tools. They might be as simple as “peace is our goal” or as complicated as “people do things that annoy us, not to annoy us,” or even as pithy as “Try not to take your own dear self too seriously”. We meet weekly as a group and talk about how to use these tools in our daily lives.

I was so late, I missed the reading for the day and about half the discussion. At least I got to check in with everyone.

Afterwards I caught up with my friend R. He is the president of the local chapter of DBSA ( Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance )and he was delivering flyers around town. He wanted company while he did it, and basically he bribed me with lunch. It was a good day. I met several people in the mental health field, ranging from EAP workers (employee assistance plan) to the folks at Prism Health (AIDS Arms) .  I really feel like, when I get done with the government, I can find a place in mental health, which is where I want to be.  Eventually.

Lunch was at a place called Henk’s which does German food and has a European bakery and chocolate shop in the restaurant. We got the lentil soup, which was amazing. I also got a salad. R got a side of sauerkraut and a beer with his. Turns out the bakery provides the treats to the Black Forest Cafe, a coffee shop that’s in my favorite bookstore, Half Price Books. Later we stopped for coffee. I had an iced cold brew which was very refreshing. R paid both times, which I thought was very kind of him. Basically, it took us all afternoon.

On the way home, I got a message from my roommate. His meds were ready at the pharmacy so would I pick them up? I ended up going to the pharmacy, the grocery store, and a local chicken joint. I stopped at the mailbox because I was hoping either my new headphones or my book had arrived but alas, no such luck. I finally got paid my unemployment, so I ordered some stamps online. I really like the current round of stamps, they are becoming very creative.

It is finally bed time. I have group tomorrow afternoon so I can sleep in a little. The cats are sitting on the bed waiting for me. All I need to do is take out my contacts. It’s been a busy day, but a good one.


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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.