Kiss5Tigers

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


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Working the WRAP

WRAP is Wellness Recovery Action Plan, and I’ve talked about it in some detail in other posts so I won’t bore you.

I am struggling with spending.

I am spending money I don’t really have to spare.

I can’t seem to halt the behavior.

So it’s time to get out my WRAP notebook.

What can I do when this takes over?

Oh, turn over the bank card to someone else! That really scares me so it’s probably the one I’d better do. Tank up the car, get a couple dollars in cash so I can get a coke or a coffee, and take the bank card out of my purse.

Scary.

Really scary.

What else can I do?

Use up the art supplies I already have. Make art. Making art makes me happy, and most of my spending is on art supplies which want to be used. Make art seems like a good plan.

I have 2 online courses I’m taking, I could listen to one of them.

I need a shower before I see my family tomorrow.

I am owning my faults and blogging about them *right now* as I am typing this. I’m not sure if that’s helpful except that it’s always helpful to be honest and start from truth.

I can sleep. I just finished dinner and I have full-belly sleepiness. Nap is possible.

I think . . . I think I will listen to one of my courses, and maybe do some journaling or write some letters. I have a letter to Fishspit to finish. Then the shower before bed.

And I will not get on Amazon or Etsy, even though I want to.

Because the medicine keeps the feelings under control and this is just behavior. I can change behavior. I can do this.

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The Power of Realistic Thinking

One of the issues I often face as a bipolar person is the question of whether I am living in reality or in my own world.

Nothing wrong with having a world of your own. Any innovator or inventor has a strong internal world that they want to bring to light. Nicola Tesla, Buckminster Fuller, Steven Jobs – to name a few – all had a particular vision of the world that wasn’t real until they created it. But they also were rooted in scientific thinking.

Sometimes my internal world, well, it can get very different from reality. It’s easy to see it when I am depressed or manic, but harder to discern when I am hypomanic or dysthymic. That is, if I am suicidal it relatively easy to detect that my thinking is dysregulated. I tend to use absolutes like “I’m going to feel this way forever, it will never change.” Or if I believe that the weatherman on TV is sending me coded messages about my daughter’s welfare. I might be fully convinced of the truth of these things, but they aren’t true. They aren’t real. They are lies my bipolar tells me.

There is a tendency to see the opposite of depressed thinking as positive thinking, but that can also be a lie for me. “You can spend this money, there is plenty of money available,” is positive thinking but it will get me into trouble at the end of the month when bills are due. I want to believe in abundance but I am not a temporarily embarrassed millionaire, as John Steinbeck says most Americans think of themselves. I am a middle aged working class white woman. I have some privileges but unlimited money is not one of them and it does me no good to act as if it is.

If the power of positive thinking isn’t the answer, what is?

A friend of mine calls it non-negative thinking. I call it realistic thinking. It’s the power of having your internal world align with consensual reality. If I fact check myself with 2 other people, there is probably a high degree of agreement. It’ll never be 100% but it can be pretty darn close.

What is consensual reality? It is the world that we all agree exists. This is the planet Earth. Water is wet. Two solid objects can’t occupy the same place at the same time. Humans don’t fly by flapping their arms. We give our consent that these things are true and real. You know that if someone is moving his arms up and down intensely and taking little leaps into the air, he has probably left the realm of consensual reality. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, think of a small child playing at being a bird. But if an adult is doing it who really believes he’s just having a day when aerodynamics are working against him, he’s probably a little out of touch.

If I am depressed and telling myself that the misery will never end, most people can see I’m out of touch with reality and they’ll either understand or try to fix me. But if I am dysthymic, I might say, “I won’t go to hell when I die, I’m already there” which other people would find cynical, but not necessarily out of consensus. What I need is a way to break out of the negative cycle of thinking.

One piece of this is universal acceptance. There are 3 main kinds of acceptance: universal self acceptance, universal other acceptance, and universal life acceptance. The goal of any of them is to accept things as they are. For example, universal self acceptance would mean comparing yourself to an ideal self, to your own self in the past, or to other people. You accept yourself as you are. I accept my depressed self as she is, which can be hard.

Another piece is the fact checking I mentioned. I can go to a friend or a trusted advisor and verify that I am in fact not in hell even though I might feel like it. I can see that there are no little devils with pitchforks and I don’t smell brimstone. Or if you are less literal, my friend could remind me that I am not experiencing eternal misery. Oh sure I’m miserable right now, but at other times I have been happy.

That’s a truth for me about being bipolar, that feelings and situations come and go. I am never fully balanced, I am always in the act of balancing. My friend can remind me that I have been through this before, I will make it through this time, and it will probably circle around again. Nowadays I look for those cycles, so that I know what to expect. Maybe two days of not sleeping is followed by sleeping for a week. Maybe feeling like I can do anything leads to using so much energy that I can’t get out of bed. Maybe euphoria precedes anger. If I know the anger is coming, I can make plans. Avoid people for a few days, stay out of stressful situations, warn people that I’m a little touchy at the moment.

A third tool that works for me is journaling. I try (and don’t really succeed) to write every day. Some days I remember to journal, other days I write letters or blog. Letters obviously get mailed off, but journaling and blogging leave me a record of my mood or my thinking. I get to observe the patterns. And I get to read my own wisdom. Like most people, I know a lot about coping that I forget when I’m in the moment. I am so busy feeling stressed that I forget sitting down for a minute to play with the cat will soothe me until I read it in my journal. And that’s the beauty of the WRAP program, that I can go to the section about being stressed and see that I have chosen tools like “pet the cat”, “take a hot shower” or “remember to eat something” which I might not be able to bring to mind at the moment.

Speaking of WRAP, I am raising some money to offer the teaching to low income people. Here is the link to my fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/donate/936838623356099/10157826357211004/ If you can’t donate, could you at least share the link?

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my current even keel. I am neither manic nor depressive at the moment and it’s a great relief to feel average. Functioning within designated parameters, so to speak. Except that I’m awake at 2 am and not tired. I’d better go look at my WRAP and see what I can do to put myself to sleep.


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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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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.