Kiss5Tigers

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


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Sioux Falls

I am staying in a Holiday Inn Express, which is a pretty good hotel. I usually stay at a Hilton, but this one is about a mile from my work location so that’s pretty cool. I could almost walk to work, if the weather were just a bit warmer.

I find it’s not the temperature that gets me, it’s the wind. It’s hovered around 35 degrees F (for you C people, that’s just above freezing) and I would be good in just my hoodie and scarf if the wind would stop. Plus, it’s like summer in Texas, you just don’t spend that much time outside. You go from a heated hotel to a heated car to a heated office.

I have made some friends. There is D who was very chatty and I missed her Friday because she was sick. There is K who is the wild one. She’s the one who can probably get me into trouble. And there is A, who I know from another deployment. Assuming we are here at Christmas, we have plans to spend the holiday together.

Having friends means having a social life, so I have used the company card A LOT. I can’t begin to imagine how much I owe for food and drinks. I have also consumed more alcohol in the last 3 days than in the year before that. I need to slow down. Once I get paid, I can stop using the company card and go back to using my own money.

Yesterday we puttered around downtown Sioux Falls. It was very cute. We stopped in at Woodgrain Brewing Co for a quick drink and to make our game plan. I had a milk stout that was very good. A had a much paler beer than I like and K had wine. All local. I like to try local food when I get to an area.

We headed up Phillips St and the first thing we noticed was all the sculpture on the sidewalk. Apparently they were having a sculpture walk. There was everything from byper-realistic to surreal to assemblage. I would have liked to be able to look more at the pieces but the temperature made that difficult.

Now Phillips St is the part of town that is all little shops and restaurants. We went into several shops. One was called Urban Archeology and it had some cool antique and vintage stuff. The thing I wanted — that I will buy if I am stationed back in Sioux Falls — was a vintage 1800’s crazy quilt that was $50. It was amazing. But as much as I love it, I have pee-pee kitty who marks all my laundry. I would probably resell it.

We went into a store called Spice and Tea Exchange which smelled incredible. It reminds me of Penzey’s back home only somehow more quaint. I found several things I would get for friends. There were the tiniest measuring spoons, local salt rubs and seasoning, and merlot salt which was an amazing magenta color. A checked out the teas and said there was a great selection, but I don’t know, it looked small compared to the spice section.

We went into a little florist shop that I forget the name. It was a tiny crowded shop that had everything from hand embroidered tea towels to fudge. Oh yeah, and flowers. I had a sample of the penuche, it was amazing.

I made us stop at Zandbroz. It was a most intriguing store to me. It had jewelry, bath goods, books and stationery. I found a ton of stuff I’d like to own. It’s also the only place I went that had postcards. There were pretty costly at $1.50 each, but if I get stationed back here, I will for sure buy a bunch. Some of them would make great collage backgrounds.

We ended the night at Turks & Caicos Cabana Grille. The food was amazing. I had the huli huli chicken which was 3 big pieces of chicken thigh and spam fried rice. Very Hawaiian to me. I had enough to bring home, though I have no idea when I’ll get to eat it. A had the steak tacos; K had salmon. But I was quite pleased with my choice.

Reminder: the photos go on my Facebook page, and you can look me up. Allison Leonard. I’m the one with the colorful A, though that may change.

Today is laundry and a short trip to check out the local area. A’s granddaughter is a rock hound so we are on a quest for some local specimens. When we get back, time to pack and Monday is a travel day.

Now it’s time for breakfast so I’m off.


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Feeling Productive

I called Michael’s today because I had no idea what my hours are. This week I am working Thursday and Saturday. The 2 days I was hoping not to work are Thursday and Saturday. Oh well. Thursday I asked M to facilitate the group. I need to remember to tell him what page we are on so he can prepare. I’m a pantser, I fly by the seat of my pants. Saturday I had plans with my daughter, so we moved them to Sunday.

I finished the fingerless gloves and matching hat. I’ll post a picture later. I’m working on another bucket hat. I love the yarn colors so much, I am wondering about doing a blanket. But the yarn is a little stiff, craft yarn more than garment yarn, so maybe not. Or maybe a car blanket.

I watched a documentary on microdosing with psychedelics. I’m thinking, if I could find a drug trial for LSD, I’d apply in a hot minute. I could use getting some gunk kicked loose in my brain.

I viewed the video of Marney Makridakis‘ class “The Muse vs. Monster Mash”. Enjoyed it. I admit, I did not do the art activities in the real world, but I did imagine them and think about them. The Monster of course is the thing that holds you back and the Muse is the impetus to be creative. My Monster told me he wants me to be traditional. My Muse said to follow my dreams. She says the purpose of life is not to be safe, but to be fully myself.

I went to group today. We talked about creativity. I have so much to learn about being creative. The biggest thing for me is, don’t quit on projects. Keep going to the end.

It’s already November 5 and I haven’t started my NaNoWriMo yet, so I think I’ll just let it go for this year. November is a hard month for me to do this, August would be better. I might just try it in August, actually, the only real difference would be that there is no community doing it with me. I can live with that.

I took out 5 bags of trash today. I got the bathroom, kitchen and F’s trash. Then L asked me if I was taking the trash out of the other bathroom. I hadn’t planned to but that sounded more like instructions than an actual question so I got that one. And F asked me to get the confetti bits out of the shredder bin. So 5 bags. Hopefully back to 3 next Monday.

Tomorrow I am hoping to go to morning group then come home and make art. There is a possibility of being in an art show and I need some art to show. I don’t think I’ve ever been in an exhibition before.

Oh, it’s my birthday on Wednesday. If you’re just dying to give me a present, I have a wish list on Amazon and one on Yozocraft. Not that I expect you want to buy me stuff. I’ll settle for a donation to Heifer International.

Looks like a good week, all things told.


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Is Mental Illness Real?

I was browsing a Facebook group where I’m a member and one of the other members stated that there is no such thing as mental illness.

Huh.

In a forum of people who have psychological distress, you have stated that mental illness isn’t real.

Not sure where I stand on that.

Well, no, I’m pretty sure where I stand on that: It’s a bit dismissive. It’s more than a bit dismissive. It’s downright belittling.

But also, I get it. I mean, we talk about mental illness as opposed to “being normal” only normal isn’t real. It’s a statistical construct based on the average way people act. It isn’t even based on feelings most of the time because we don’t know what people feel, we can observe how they act.

I suppose that’s why Abraham Low, who might be the first CBT practitioner back in the 40’s and 50’s, talked so much about seeking to be average. I feel like, it’s not about what you really experience, it’s about your ability to pass for typical.

The person’s perspective on the forum, if I understand correctly, is that extreme mental states are part of being human. They are normal and natural, and shouldn’t be pathologized.

Also, there is remarkably little data about brains with mental illness. Or the functionality of brains without mental illness, for that matter. We have some really good ideas about how the brain works, but when it comes to mental illness, it’s a black box. We don’t really know what goes wrong when people lose touch. We think it has to do with chemicals and neurons, and theories have led to some effective medications.

But medication is not 100%. Things like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are reported to be as effective in shifting mood as many drugs. Does that mean drugs aren’t effective?

Not all drugs work for the same condition in different people. I mean, you can pretty sure that if you and I both have an infection, the same antibiotic will help. But with my bipolar? I take one cocktail of medications and my friend with the same diagnosis takes a different one. Does that mean we have different disorders?

And there is no biological test for mental illness. We can test for high blood pressure or diabetes. We can see a physical injury like a cut or a broken bone. We can detect appendicitis or cancer. But mental illness is invisible in this sense, there is no way to detect it in the body. It only appears in behavior and reported feelings.

So here I am, dealing with bipolar. And I know the big thing is not that there is something wrong with me, but that my moods and feelings stray outside the realm of average and interfere with my ability to manage life.

Does that make me sick? Or maladapted? Or sensitive to mood?

I take drugs that help me with my mood. Mood under control means life is manageable, which is good. Manageable means I pay bills on time, take a shower, sleep daily, have a job. Manageable means I pass for normal, even though my moods are often outside the bell curve. Manageable means you don’t point and stare at me. I can pass.

Who do I take the drugs for? Me or you? Because some days, most days, I feel pretty average and that was true before my diagnosis. Am I making my life more manageable for my own benefit, or because you (whoever you is) are uncomfortable with my difference?

I have been called eccentric for most of my adult life. Eccentric is okay, not as creepy as being weird, not as out of control as crazy. I’m a little odd. You think I’m normal until you find out I’m not. I make you slightly uncomfortable from time to time, but you can pass it off.

For example, I seem to observe people closely, maybe a little too closely. It makes my friend feel scrutinized. I am not aware of doing it. I watch motion. If you happen to be moving, I’m watching you. It’s a habit. I’m not consciously doing it. In fact, my attention may be turned inward and I’m not paying enough attention to actually see you at all. But I’m tracking what you’re doing. I try to be conscious of this because it makes folks uncomfortable and gets me labelled weird. It’s rude. Is it a sign of illness? Or a poorly managed evolutionary adaptation? After all, in the wild, there are advantages to being visually attentive.

But I digress.

Suppose I am not ill. Suppose I am just at one end of the bell curve of emotional sensitivity. Why do I medicate? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to change my behavior? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being 6’5″ tall or 4’9″. They are just opposite ends of the bell curve. Maybe I am just more sensitive and somewhere there is someone who is less sensitive. Maybe I don’t need medication but understanding.

Yet medication works, so isn’t that an indication that I’m sick? Medicine changes things for me in a way that is an improvement. Doesn’t that mean I’m unwell in some way?

Is mental illness real? I certainly have real troubles and real mood extremes and real cognitive distortions. What I don’t have is a physical diagnostic that shows where bipolar exists in my brain. I can’t have my bipolar removed or point to the area where my bipolar is. I can’t even say for sure what happens when I have an episode. Why am I sometimes depressed and other times manic? It seems like there must be 2 different things going on here, to get two such different mental states.

Personal experience says mental illness is real. Just like chronic fatigue syndrome is real. That’s something that was believed to be made up until enough people reported it. Pain is real. Psychological pain is real.

For me, I just keep on doing what works. Medication helps. Support groups help. Making art helps. Seeking wellness helps. Working helps. Learning about my disorder helps. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I need medication to cope or if I can learn resiliency skills. What matters is that I figure out what I need to thrive.


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Busy Weekend

I am busy this weekend, and it’s good.

It’s easy for me to get stuck when I don’t have a support group, and just spend days at a stretch in my jammies.

Now there’s nothing wrong with restful days. I need them. I need days when I stay home and do, well, nothing important.

But this is a 3-day weekend. I just can’t spend all 3 days at home doing nothing. So I am lucky to have made plans for all 3 days.

Tomorrow I am going out with some friends. We plan to hit Dallas Grilled Cheese Company for lunch and head on over to the Perot Museum. Then for dinner I am meeting some other friends for tacos at Taqueria Taxco.

Sunday I have a ceramics class at Dallas MakerSpace followed by a visit with a friend.

Monday I am going to get my hair cut then out to dinner with the roommates at Red Lobster.

Yes it will be a few dollars, but that’s what money is for. It’s a tool for doing the things we need to and want to. I will get some bills paid and I’ve ordered some art supplies to keep me busy. It’s all good. Busy is good for me.

I just need to buy a newspaper so I have something to protect the table top while I paint or do other art activities. I don’t want to get gunk all over the carpet. I suppose I should work outside, and I just might if the weather is suitable. I have a kit with alcohol inks that I’d love to play with somewhere that I can’t damage the furniture. The front porch is probably a good option.

Tonight is shower night, then set the alarm so I get on the road at an appropriate time tomorrow. I’m looking forward to this weekend.


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Short Time

There is just a short time until I leave. I’m ready to get ready, but until the unemployment money hits, I’m at an impasse. I need the money for things like flip flops and deodorant. I just need a few things before the trip.

I spoke to my travelling buddy yesterday. She is also excited. She’s looking forward to the food, she says, because cruises always have great food. I’m just looking forward to real, fresh seafood. Which there should be plenty of on an Alaska cruise.

I also need to mail 3 purchases on my Etsy site, and pick up some postcard stamps. My friend wants to read, but I want to send postcards. I’ll do some reading too. I bought The Four Agreements to read during my down times. If I have a chance, I’ll get a couple magazines too.

I need a new backpack, my current one is coming apart at the seams. I really like it, but I’m afraid it won’t last. I don’t know what to bring out of it. My little Alaska notebook for sure, but what about my journal? It’s big and heavy, so maybe not, maybe just a little notebook, like a composition book. But what else? Do I bring a tape runner, a glue stick, watercolors, water color pencils? Probably none of those things, just keep my keepsakes and get to relive the trip putting it together afterwards.

I need to get my sweater out of the car to wash it. I need to think about what shoes to pack. I need a pair of dress shoes for dinners, but I don’t have any. Something else I suppose I could buy if I have time. Or I could buy a pair in Vancouver or Alaska. That would be an interesting souvenir.

I am hoping I can fit everything in my suitcase and still use it as a carry on. So much to bring. So much to do. And I sit here watching Lucifer since it’s only 1000 degrees today and I am overheated. Waiting for the sun to go down and the house to cool off a little.

Dinner in a minute. Then get the sweater then do another load of laundry.

Busy busy.


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Travel Excitement

It’s less than a week until I leave for Alaska, and I’m starting to get excited. I have so much to do before I leave.

Tomorrow, Sunday, I am having poke bowls with my daughter in honor of her birthday. It’s Hawaiian comfort food, sort of like deconstructed sushi. I know she’ll like it. I also have to request my next unemployment payment.

Monday is passport day. I need to go through my room and find the remaining passport photo, or I need to find an extra $20 and get them done again. In the afternoon is group if I can make it. I’ll already be in Dallas. I have to get up early early early Monday morning. So early I might not sleep Sunday night. I’m supposed to go as a walk-in so I want to be there when they open. Oh, and I need to print my airline schedule so I can prove I need the passport. Probably better print the cruise schedule too.

Tuesday needs to be laundry and shopping day. Shopping of course assumes I will be paid by then by unemployment. I want a book and I need some things like underwear and bug spray. And a new back pack.

Wednesday. Wednesday! I need to pack, I might need to go shopping if I didn’t do it Tuesday, and of all things, the unemployment office wants me to come in and do orientation! At 9:00 in the morning! So far that is 3 days in a row of getting up early, and I am not made for that.

But Thursday is the big day. Thursday I get on the plane and head to Vancouver to get on that cruise ship. I can’t wait. I mean, obviously I can wait because I have to, but boy is it hard! I’m so excited!

Better get started on the things I can do because there are a lot of things to do between then and now. Wish me luck!


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Mothers Day

Mothers Day was yesterday.

Is it Mothers Day, as in the day we celebrate mothers, or Mother’s Day, as in the day we celebrate Mom? I don’t know. I don’t suppose it matters.

This is a holiday that I am truly ambivalent about.

In 1984, my mother died of cancer. Part of the issue was that she wouldn’t go to the doctor so the disease was pretty advanced by the time anyone picked up on it. Part of the problem was, well, it was 35 years ago, cancer treatment just wasn’t as advanced as it is today. She was given the option of treatment that would extend life but make her sick, or no treatment with a life expectancy of about 8 months. She chose to forego medical treatment.

Now let’s be clear. She turned down radiation and chemo. She said, “If medical science is done with me, then I am done with them.” But she did pursue holistic alternatives. Only, again, it was 1984. No internet. No community of people to help with advice. And “holistic” was a concept without a name.

I remember her insisting on organic produce, and soaking it in the sink to remove toxins. One time, after she had moved back to my grandparents’ house, she accused of us trying to poison her by not soaking the vegetables. They came from Grandpa’s garden, which was de facto organic because that was the way he learned to farm when he was a kid.

So I am without a mother, and by this age, I am without grandmothers. Nobody for me to spoil on this day. For many years, Mothers Day was simply a reminder of what I don’t have. I chose to ignore the holiday.

Only, I am a mother myself.

I have been terrible with holidays because I missed my family of origin, but that means my daughter has never really experienced a good holiday. I was perhaps too caught in my own grief and did not provide the right environment for her in terms of celebrating special days.

This year, I spent most of Mothers Day afternoon with my daughter. I went to her place. We drank rumchata (horchata with rum in it) and made art. I made an abstract of her friend, she tried out a texture technique that she didn’t like and painted over. Several of her friends visited. I laughed, and said it’s because I’m the cool mom, but really I know it’s because my kid is cool. People want to be around her.

So I am learning to make days special in non-traditional ways. What’s important is to spend time together, not to go to brunch or get flowers. I feel good about making art with a friend, and my daughter is becoming a friend. I miss my mom, but I will see her again soon enough. And I want her to see how far I’ve come, when we finally get to catch up.