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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Mental Health First Aid

Disclaimer: I am going to talk about when I learned. If you’re interested you should take the class, don’t assume I have said everything you need to know. Link is here: Mental Health First Aid

The central acronym is ALGEE. It stands for:

Assess the person for risk of suicide or harm

Listen non-judgmentally

Give encouragement and information

Encourage seeking professional help

Encourage self-help

Now this is a crisis intervention technique for lay people. It is like CPR, just designed to help a person ride out a crisis until professional help is available.

The very first assessment is whether the situation is safe for you to engage with the person in crisis. Someone who is violent, for example, it may be best to simply call 911, explain the situation, and stay until help arrives. Usually this will be law enforcement, hopefully it will include a crisis team or officers who are trained for mental health situations.

After you decide to engage, assess them for risk of suicide or harm. It’s okay to simply ask if they’ve thought of harming or killing themself. If they say yes, you can then ask about whether they have a plan, what the plan is, and if they have the tools to carry it out. If the person is clearly in the midst of an attempt — they have a gun, they say they’ve already taken the pills, they are bleeding — you will call 911 right away. Then focus on keeping them alive and safe until professionals arrive.

In my personal world, most people having mental distress are not suicidal. Depressed, anxious, even psychotic, but not suicidal. Engaging with them is as basic as asking, “How are you feeling today? Is everything alright?” And then listen without judging. Many people just want to be heard and taken seriously. Something about telling your story is cathartic for people.

When it is your turn to speak, provide encouragement and information. Do not give advice. Do not make promises that you can’t keep. Also don’t be too glib. “It will be alright” is not a valid comment for a situation where it clearly isn’t and possibly won’t be alright. It feels patronizing to the person hearing it. And a person in distress might not be able to hear that the feeling will pass.

Encourage professional help and self help. Ask what has helped in the past. Have they seen a therapist before? It might be good to see one now. Provide grounding techniques, going through the exercise with the person. Help them reframe the situation. Suggest peer support groups or other services. Veterans can be referred to the VA, but they might also need AA or other counselling.

Taking this course does not make me a professional. I simply have some tools in my arsenal for situations that could be frightening or unmanageable to other people. No different than CPR. It doesn’t make you a doctor. But now you can help people survive until long term help can be available.


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Steak and Chai Tea

Wednesday (yesterday, today is Thursday) was a busy day for me.

I started the day with a COMI meeting. Basically it’s a forum where local mental health services meet up and share their information. I found out, for example, that Dallas has closed 3 mental health hospitals in the last 2 years, and no one has replaced the beds. So there are that many people who need to be hospitalized who can’t access services. That is a crying shame. There are so many of us who need respite and there is no facility for that.

I made a contact to a group called BattleBuddies, which works with veterans, and that led to a project called Stop One. What is important about this is that they offer Mental Health First Aid for free to the community. In my work in disaster relief with the government, I often see people who are distressed and a little training on how to help them would be a good thing.

Then I met up with my daughter for coffee. I like to see her regularly but she does live with her boyfriend. They only have one day off in common so I try not to take up that time. Coffee is a good thing. Daughter made coffee for me and we hung out for a while. She gave me some gears for my art, so that was very cool. And some buttons. We spent about an hour together then I took her to work.

My next stop was lunch with my insurance ladies. We all started at the company at the same time and were in the same training class. Usually there are 4 of us, but T was just back from a family trip so she didn’t make it. We went to Outback and I had steak which was wonderful. I don’t often get meat that’s rare to medium. Meat at our house tends to be fully cooked, which is not my preference, but I don’t have to cook so I’m not complaining. I also had cheesecake, something I don’t do very often. It was very good. We sat in the restaurant for almost 3 hours just catching up on life.

After leaving the ladies, I texted my friend K. I knew she was still at work but since I was in the area I thought I could stop by. I went to Barnes and Noble to kill some time. I took a few books off the walls and a couple of magazines, and I went to the cafe for a coffee. Well they were having a sale on chai, hot or cold, any size, for $2. You don’t have to tell me twice; I got a grande hot chai. So good. I didn’t buy a book, though, I don’t need anything more to read. I need more light in the house so I can read more.

I did go see K. She needed some help turning the mattress on her bed. I know it sounds like an odd activity, but us ladies need to help each other out when there’s nobody else around. There are many of us over a certain age who are single. Wonderful people, just not meeting the right other person. Or like me, divorced and wounded. Or, yanno, just not interested in having a relationship. Not everyone wants to be coupled up. We must band together and be there for each other.

I got home about 11:00, which was quite late for me. I slept well. It was a good day.


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I’m Ba-ack

Hello again!

I’ve been gone for quite a while with work.  I got back home about a week ago.  I’ve already seen many friends and my daughter; been to a brunch, a birthday party and a vineyard; and I’m all set up with unemployment.  Tomorrow of course is the new year so everything is closed, but Wednesday I will start contacting temporary agencies.  I like working for FEMA and I want to be able to continue with them but I do need to work during the down times as well.  Temp jobs are perfect because I can call out if I want to, like for trips and such.

What I have not done, is laundry.  And of course I am generating more of it as I continue wearing clothes.  I need to get on top of that.

Tonight is New Year’s Eve.  I am spending it at home with my roommates, and we have plans to eat ice cream at midnight.  It will be the last ice cream for a while, though, since we have decided to go keto.  No sugar so no ice cream.  Actually I think I am more paleo but they want keto so here we go.  We’ll see what happens.  Dinner tonight was a hunk of ground beef.  L called it a hamburger but it was just a chunk of meat, nothing like egg or bread crumbs mixed into it.  I don’t know if I can eat like that all the time.  I have some cooked shrimp in the fridge though that I’m looking forward to.

My daily living activities have definitely slowed down since I’ve been home.  I took a shower tonight because my hair was dirty and my skin was itchy, whereas on deployment I took a shower every other day.  I’m not a daily shower person, it dries out my skin.  But I recognize the signs of depression settling in and I need to make a plan to fight it.

I’m glad to see my cats again.  I’m going to try to add a picture of my Charli.  She was laying next to me, sleeping so hard she was snoring.  I would have said cats don’t snore but I would have been wrong.

2018-08-23 21.20.27


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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.