Kiss5Tigers

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


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Sometimes It Just Takes a Minute

Having decided that I can’t keep waiting on the FEMA job, I am now starting to look for other things. I just had to come to acceptance that I can’t really live on this job, even though it gives me many perks like travel and adventure. It simply isn’t enough hours.

So here are some things I have done today to move myself forward:

Reviewed my resume. The one I wrote in January 2019 is still good to use.

Applied to a handful of jobs. The unemployment office says I should be looking at jobs in the $15 / hour range, which is significantly less than the government pays me. I figure, if I have to take the pay cut, I’m going to look into the mental health field which is where I want to be if I’m not a reservist. So I have applied to the local mental health facilities.

I applied for some scholarships. I am really only 3 classes from my degree and I have run out of funding. I owe the school about $2000 and until that gets paid, I can’t register for classes. Additionally, because my most recent grades were so bad, I don’t qualify for any further student loans. So I need to pay back that money and pay out of pocket to take the online classes one at a time. Scholarships would help with that.

I went to the Texas Workforce Commission page and contacted my local office. I know they have a program for us over 55 people. I know they have classes on office skills, and I could use some help with Excel and PowerPoint. I know they have information about training and education.

I am waiting for a FEMA training in February that might help. I also applied to change my department. They said a decision would take 2 months, and that was back in October / November, so I expect to hear from them sometime in January.

So I’m trying lots of things, to see what I can come up with. In the meantime, I am busy with DBSA and catching up with friends. I have brunch with my local hire ladies tomorrow. I might go to another friend’s for New Year’s Eve, if I can find the keys that I’ve lost. Saturday is a gathering for Melaluca people, so I’m planning to check that out. I think Thursday is a DBSA meeting but I can’t get confirmation on that. Part of the weekend I’ll spend helping a friend unpack after a move. Monday starts the usual round of self help groups. My artist friends want to get together.

I’m busy, I just need to find a job that gives me the resources to participate in life. One that doesn’t suck the life out of me to do that. And I think, that might be possible.


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So Much Has Happened

I am writing this from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

I had been working that job at Michael’s. I like Michael’s. I liked my coworkers. But I’ve got to be honest: retail is a physical job. I had been told 15 to 20 hours a week and I was working more like 30 and my back was killing me. There is a spot on my right shoulder that just burns. I expected sore feet, but sore back was surprising.

I spent Thanksgiving with the family. I put my foot in it, of co urse. My cousin K came on his own. He said the kids would be joining him shortly, which they did. When he was leaving, I told him to say hi to D, his wife, for me. “Oh, I guess you haven’t heard,” he said, “We’re not together any more.” Boy did I feel like an idiot. My cousin J also did not show up with his partner, so now I wonder if they’re still together any more.

Still it was a good day. I got to see my daughter, and we had a real good heart to heart about why we have so much stress over the holidays. I feel like we both understand each other better, even if we don’t agree.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, at 10:45 at night, my work phone went off. Usually it’s just a notification that some news service has a new story so I don’t look, but this time I did. It was an email, telling me I had an online message from the government. I pulled it up. It was a deployment request. Well halleloo! I had just said that I was good with the Michael’s job but I would prefer something else, and there it was! From my mouth to God’s ear, as they say.

So of course I accepted the deployment, even though South Dakota in the window is no cakewalk. I don’t even own a real winter coat since I’ve been in Dallas for 25 years now. Right now I’m good in layers but soon I’ll have to invest in something more solid.

I had to call Michael’s and tell them I quit. I felt bad. They were good to me. The store manager said she was just glad I called and told her. I hate that. It means they have a high turnover of people who just don’t show up, which is bad business manners. But it also felt like I let them down. I didn’t like that feeling. I wouldn’t have taken the job if I knew I was going to be deployed. I figured I wouldn’t be deployed until at least spring, and that a seasonal job would be done by then.

And yet, true to form, the government called me late at night on a Sunday and told me to report to work in another state on Tuesday. That meant I had Monday to pack and Tuesday to travel. I thought about working Monday, but I just couldn’t figure out how to make that work. I had to quit with no notice to have time to pack. At least I had already done laundry, at a friend’s house, where I was house sitting. And at least she was coming home the next day so her house wouldn’t be empty more than 30 hours.

Monday night I got a call from daughter. She asked how I was getting to the airport. I said, my roommates were taking me. Daughter said she was already on the way to the airport, so why didn’t she take me and then she could borrow my car? No exaggeration, my car Phyllis is more than 20 years old. I drive a 1998 Chevy Lumina. She has just about 150K miles on her, so she’s low mileage for the years. But she is starting to be a little grumpy. She has a coolant leak and she needs a tune up, and there are probably some other things too. I don’t feel good loaning her to anybody. Plus, if she broke down, daughter doesn’t have the money to get her towed. I would repay daughter, but she’d need the money up front to get the initial tow done. Car would end up left on the side of the road and impounded, which I can’t afford.

Or what if she got into an accident? The car’s only worth $400 or so. All it would take is a good rear end collision, and even though it would be the other guy’s fault, Phyllis would be totaled. I can’t afford to replace her.

So with all that, I had to tell my daughter no and the call ended badly. She’s over it now, but I felt horrid for a couple of days, thinking the last thing she said before getting off the phone was “that’s fucked up”. I try to end the call by saying I love her so if anything happens, that’s the last thing I said to her; but she was having none of it that day. I am not hypocrite. I can say no and still love you. But it didn’t feel like that to her.

I have so much more to tell, but I am getting sleepy and I have some errands to run tomorrow so I think I’ll go to bed. Good night.


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Yeah, I’m Manic

Or at least I’m hypomanic, since I am not psychotic.

I feel like I could stay up all night again, I have things to do! I’m not over excited, I’m just darn busy.

Except of course Fred will make me put the light off so I can’t really write letters or work on my ecourse.

I bought a collection of wellness stuff. Of course it’s designed for active people which I am not. But since I am trying to eat more responsibly, I figured the protein bars would make a good breakfast. I am getting deucedly tired of eggs.

I ate a rice krispies bar with breakfast this morning and it was SO good. I’m thinking of having another one in a little while.

See? I just ADHD’ed my way into another topic. Squirrel! Wellness stuff right to I want a snack. Another sign of mania for me.

Anyway, here is the stuff:

shipment of good stuff

So 3 boxes of snack bars, 2 supplements, 2 energy boosters, a box of water flavors, and the chocolate shake mix with the mixing bottle. I figure it will make for a different breakfast if nothing else, and see what happens. Maybe a protein shake and an energy bar will see me through the day and I can finally get that fasting started.

I did see my psychiatrist the other day, and he agreed with me that maybe I should increase the mood stabilizer back up a notch. He thinks I have sleep apnea, however, and that’s the reason I have a hard time waking up, that I’m not sleeping well. I don’t mind doing the sleep study, but I’m not gonna sleep with the mask on. I am not comfortable sleeping on my back and I feel claustrophobic just thinking of wearing the elephant nose.

But it’s the shopping that has me a little worried. I’ve bought the wellness stuff in the picture, and some books, and some socks, and a box of cards. Oh, and stamps. And that’s just in the last 24 hours. That doesn’t include all the art supplies or the yarn that I have sitting in a cart or the zines that came the other day. Or the trip to the metaphysical shop. Or the bizarre bazaar. I love shopping, but I have to get it under control. This is too much. It’s stuff I don’t need. It’s not about the money, although I could easily spend way too much money; it’s about not needing things and buying them anyway.

And I want to say, except books. Because to me books are a special kind of magic. But even books with no place to go are clutter. Even very cool books. It breaks my heart, but it’s true.

Just naming the mania makes it better. I feel like, I am not in the grips of it, I am observing it and I can choose to feed it or not. And mostly I choose not.

I’ve had a little paranoia lately, thinking people are mad at me or talking about me when they aren’t. It seems reasonable in my head that folks are having emotions about me. How self centered! People are too busy with their own lives to worry that much about me. I mean, I’m wonderful and amazing, but so is everybody else. I’m not any more interesting than your own life. In fact, in a perfect world, your life is the most fascinating one for you. (I know what I want to say, I just can’t seem to say it gracefully.)

Hopefully in the next few days this will pass. The increase in meds should help. The fact that bipolar is cyclical should help. Convincing myself to sleep should help.

I have a lot of reading to do. I’m going to try reading a little and see if that settles me down into sleep. Better sleep hygiene will help with everything.


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Virtual Friends

An online friend of mine passed away today.

It was sudden but not completely unexpected, since she had a chronic health condition that was getting worse.

Still, she was young and apparently not a strong as it seemed.

Thing is, we were friends of a sort. Not close friends, not phone call friends, but we knew each other online.

And now there is this feeling of loss.

There is no real closure for this. I won’t be going to the funeral. It’s nowhere near where I live. No wake. And she will continue to exist in the virtual world.

Her posts still exist. Her jokes. Her stories. Her encouragement.

It’s a sort of ghost existence. The electronic residue of a whole and complete person.

So for a few days I will feel strangely off-kilter. Then I will only be reminded on days when Facebook brings her up again.

I have other friends like that: Scott, Faye, Taln. I get birthday notices. I get periodic messages from friends left on the memorial page. Whispers of a life not lived. Echoes from an alternate reality, where these friends are still alive.

I can’t quite call these people dead. In some ways, they were never fully alive for me, just a voice in the void. A creation of the ether and my imagination.

But I know, or at least I believe, there were human beings on the other side of the screen. Real people who laughed and loved and fought and fucked. And we connected, in the mind and in the heart if not in the flesh.

So my friend is gone now, on to whatever happens after this life. I hope she is happy and healthy. I hope she is still funny and kind and supportive and enthusiastic. I hope she is reunited with the people she loved and lost.

I hope I can embody some of the good things that she left behind in her posts and feed.

Gone but not forgotten. The internet never forgets.


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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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Planning for Spending

I will get paid probably tomorrow (Tuesday). If not, then the day after.

And I like to shop, and to get mail, so ordering online is huge for me.

I think, I don’t need much, though you should see my wish list on Amazon. Apparently I need all the books in the Library of Congress. Or at least most of them.

So, I have the following ideas:

I am going to order zines, from Microcosm Publishing and from Atomic Books. Some of them, even though I find them listed under zines, are more like books.

I want to work my way through a book on mixed media, and I am using it as an excuse to start acquiring real artist’s supplies. That is, for example, Golden acrylic paints with their heavier body and rich pigment, as compared to the $1.59 a bottle craft paint from Walmart. Nothing against that, just I am wanting to move up in the world.

I found this really cool package of Golden acrylics, a sort of sampler pack with a little of everything in it. I ordered that, so hopefully it will get me started. I can always pick up more as I need it from Michael’s or Asel. Or I can order it again.

I am also looking at yarn. Oh my gawd, I love yarn. I love the colors and texture and the way I can take a line and make a 3 dimensional object out of it. So I have 2 carts open for yarn right now, about $150 all together. It’s too much, but I haven’t bought yarn in months so maybe I’m due for a splurge?

Maybe?

Maybe not.

Plus there is a book by Jaron Lanier at Half Price Books that I want. I have looked over about 4 of his books and I want them all, but I don’t read that fast any more. Well, part of it’s the meds, but part of it is simply that print seems so small these days and my roommate doesn’t like bright light so I feel like I can seldom see well enough to read.

But, I need a trip to Half Price Books, and Barnes & Noble is having their half price sale.

Plus I need stamps, which I like to order online because there is a wider selection.

The thing is, I could easily spend $400 on just stuff. I need to keep it under control. I think maybe not going to Barnes & Noble, and just getting the one book from Half Price. Nothing from Amazon. Maybe one yarn order, the other can wait. I mean, I can only use it so fast. And one zine order. Plus the art supplies. I can cut back. I don’t need everything, and things will still be there later.

Shopping is an issue for me with mania, I don’t want to spend wildly and send myself into a manic episode.

Unless I can figure out a way to get more money.


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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.