Kiss5Tigers

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


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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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Downswing?

It’s been a while since I posted, but then I’m not writing much at all.

I haven’t journaled.

I haven’t written letters.

I haven’t worked on my book.

Now the question is . . . Is this just a normal swing of mood that will shift in the future? Or is this because we have cut back on my mood stabilizer?

I don’t feel any different mood-wise, but I am behaving a little different, so I have to ask what’s going on?

That’s one of the things about being medicated for my bipolar: the drugs keep my mood fairly stable but my behavior still fluctuates. I have a kind of cycle still, I just don’t feel it.

The height of summer, which it is right now, is not a high point in life for me. I don’t like summer, mostly because I don’t like heat. I don’t have a beach body so I don’t feel comfortable running around in shorts and a tank top. Summer is not fun for me.

It took me getting diagnosed to realize that I do have a seasonal mood cycle. I just thought I was one of those kids that loved school. Now I think my cycle says fall is better.

It is also August 19. The 19th in and of itself isn’t a bad day, but Mom died August 21 so there is another reason for me to feel a bit down. I don’t feel actually sad about it any more — I mean, I was 19 when she died and that was 35 years ago, I’ve been without her longer than I had her — but I do feel a bit, I don’t know, nostalgic? melancholy? wistful? The word in French is triste but it is only translated as “sad” which seems so prosaic. It’s a more delicate feeling than simply sad.

So since my feelings are pretty steady, I have to look at my behavior to know what’s going on. I am sleeping a bit too much. I might be eating too much. I am dragging getting going in the morning (that’s a lot of “ing”). I am not writing letters or making hats. I did do some shopping, some books and some stationery. I ordered the stationery supplies online, it should take a couple weeks to get here. I observe that my behaviors look like depression for me.

I also have a job interview tomorrow. I am not sure I want the job. It sounds like a home health aide job with peer specialist requirements. They want someone who can drive clients around, which I don’t feel good committing to with no air conditioning in my car. I don’t really want another home health aide type job. Plus it pays $7 an hour less than the government job does, that’s a loss of $14,000 a year. Not a hit I’m willing to take on a permanent basis. On the other hand, it’s in the field I’m interested in pursuing and they require the peer specialist certification, which I want to get. It would be one route to getting it. I don’t like feeling like I’m using people, but they’re just using me to make money, so I also think I shouldn’t feel that bad about it.

I think it is really the cycle and the season. Not so much the meds, at least I’m not willing to say that yet. So the working theory is to hold on for now and see what happens. Expect this to pass in about a month. Maybe less. But expect it to pass is the important part.

Everything shifts with time, in my world.


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DBSA Vision Board Presentation

Monday afternoon is DBSA at MHA. I got to do my vision board presentation again. I’m getting pretty good at it, and people are enjoying it. I’m actually amazed that people think I’m as good at it as they believe. I mean, I’m used to having to work so hard to be successful at something, so to have this pretty much come naturally is a real gift. I mean it, it feels like a present to me.

Most people shared their vision boards, a few people didn’t. I always ask if they’d like to share, and remind them that “no” is an acceptable answer to that question. One lady decided her piece was too personal to share, another was new to the group and felt shy. I am not about forcing people to do something that makes them uncomfortable. I want people to feel safe and respected.

There was a new lady today, and I talked to her for quite a while after the meeting. She had a lot of family issues that affected her deeply and she just needed to get it all out and not be judged. I am very good at not judging. I am a good listener. So I sat with her until almost 6, just because she needed to talk.

One of the guys asked for my number today and said he’d like to hang out sometime. I don’t know if I think this is a potential dating situation or not. I don’t think I’m his type and he is better looking than me, but maybe he can see past my plainness to my heart. It could happen. And yet I don’t want to think too much about this. We can be friends, see what happens. Maybe nothing.

He joined us for coffee at Cafe Brazil last week, and paid for my snack. And he hung around after class today and helped me bring stuff downstairs. So maybe he is being friendly but maybe it’s a little more. I can’t tell, but right now I don’t mind the uncertainty.

It’s nice to feel a little bit of interest. I have felt pretty much asexual for several years now. I’ve thought maybe it was menopause or maybe it’s my meds. Many antidepressants kill sex drive. So it’s fun to feel a little like, maybe there’s some interest there. No expectations, just noticing that I can still feel this way.

The rest of the week will be pretty busy. I have Recovery International tomorrow morning. Wednesday I’m covering Taking Care of You for the usual facilitator who is out of town. Thursday I’m doing the vision board presentation for the last time. Friday is ATTA. I missed them last week, I just plain did too much and was worn out.

I often wonder about that. When I work, I work 10 hour days, 7 days a week, and it doesn’t bother me. Then I get furloughed and I have weeks or even months to myself. But I have had regular 40 hour a week jobs, and they just drain me. Why is that? I feel like it must be related to the bipolar pattern.

And, I have been asked a couple of times now how people can help me out, since I am having money issues at the moment. If you want to make a donation, my PayPal is under rippledwords@yahoo.com. Otherwise I have an Etsy store where you could consider buying something. I am really feeling the crunch, any little bit would help.


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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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12 Every Day

I saw a statistic the other day that 12 men commit suicide every day.

I know one of the 12.

That is, I knew him. Past tense. Past tense in a couple of ways.

He was my ex-husband and the father of my daughter. I was his first wife of 3. We weren’t close, but since his choices affect our daughter, I kept tabs on him, at least a little.

Jim memorial

I spoke to him about a week before it happened. Our daughter was worried about him so I checked in. He said he didn’t want to talk, then he talked for a few minutes. Not much, but clearly he was struggling with his life. He wasn’t doing well at work; wife 4#2 was hitting him up for over $2000 a month in child support, alimony and other incidentals; he had just totaled his car in a drunk driving situation that was likely to result in having his license suspended; he’d been checked into mental health facilities at least twice and released with Xanax even though he’d had a recent suicide attempt; he wasn’t going to make bankruptcy payments for the second month in a row; and wife #3 had just told him she was filing for divorce and moved out. It’s a lot. It’s a lot for anyone to deal with when they are doing well and frankly, he wasn’t strong. He didn’t seem to possess much fortitude. Then he said again that he didn’t want to talk about it and hung up.

My daughter called me the next Sunday to let me know he’d been found dead in a hotel room.

It wasn’t exactly a surprise. He was bipolar. He’d tried to kill himself in the past. He was overwhelmed. Although he’d obviously had relationship problems before, usually there had been financial security and success at work to balance out the difficulties. The totaled car was a Porsche. He wouldn’t sign custody of our daughter over to me unless I signed a document that I wouldn’t seek child support, but somehow he had $800 a month for a car. But that had been important to him, having an impressive car, and now he didn’t have that either. He must have felt like he was failing and he’d lost everything, but I’ll never know.

Our daughter told me later that she would climb into bed with him because he was crying and so lonely. No child, even an adult child, should have to watch a parent go through that. But she was glad to be there for him, and I know he appreciated it even though he probably never told her so. He would have been too limited by his own emotional state to think of it.

I talked to wife #3 a few times. Once she told me how he was generous and happy and how she loved that about him. I was happy for him that he’d found someone who saw the good in him even though he had struggles. Then I figured out that she didn’t really understand his situation. Another time she told me that they were in therapy because he had become a husk of the man that he was and all she wanted was her husband back.

Only, it’s all him. When you marry someone who’s bipolar, you get the depressed part as well as the manic part. Happy and generous husband is the same person as crying and doesn’t-get-out-of-bed husband. It isn’t simply a tough time, it is the cycle he continues to experience. It’s hard. It wore me out until I couldn’t do it any more, and he divorced me because he thought I was dragging him down. I needed a more stable situation, but I eventually lacked the ability to create that for myself or think about how to leave. I was what he made me, then he didn’t want it. Funny, ironic funny.

The day he took his life, he’d gone to weekly therapy with wife #3. About noon time they parted ways. She didn’t think anything was wrong, or at least, no more wrong than it had been lately. He didn’t go home. She tried to call him several times with no answer. I also tried to call him, but it didn’t surprise me that he didn’t pick up. I mean, who wants to talk to their ex when they feel crappy? She eventually called the police and had them make a welfare check. They’d been out to the house so many times in the last month that they knew where the key to the back door was. The house was empty. Nobody knew where he was.

The next morning, he still hadn’t shown up. Wife #3 called his mother, who had also called the police. Then she suggested to the police that he might have gone to a casino about an hour away. The bank account had been emptied and she thought he might be going to blow some money and try to feel better. The police widened their search and eventually found him.

Apparently when he left therapy, he headed in the direction of the casino but he didn’t get that far. He checked into a hotel room about 1:30 in the afternoon. He left his phone in the car. I know because I went with my daughter to pick up the car and we found the phone. That wasn’t like him. He was usually attached to his technology. There was an empty Xanax bottle in the hotel room. It had originally been filled for 90 tablets within the past week. A half-drunk bottle of everclear was also there. He’d finally found the combination that did the job.

I don’t know what he was thinking. I’m mad at him for doing this to our daughter and to his son with wife #2. And yet, I have an unexpected tenderness for him about this. He was difficult. He made my life difficult. I often wished he would just fall off the face of the earth, but mostly I just avoided contact with him because he didn’t seem to understand how his choices hurt our daughter.

Maybe he was tired of it all. Maybe it seemed like the only way out with so much going wrong. Maybe he thought he was doing everyone a favor. We’ll never really know, he took that answer with him when he went.

I wish the depression hadn’t won this time. I hope he finally found peace, wherever he is.