Tag Archives: food


I have to change a lot of things about my life, and I don’t know how to do it.

Maybe I should back up.  Last year I went to the hospital for chest pains, which were diagnosed as acid reflux (which is crap: I know what that feels like and that wasn’t acid reflux).  About the only thing useful I left the hospital with was my cholesterol level and a clean cardiac stress test.  After I went home I was determined to be healthier so I could lower my slightly elevated cholesterol level and lose the extra pounds I was carrying.  And for a while I did pretty well.  I stopped eating as many carbs, lost a few pounds, and was exercising almost every day, even if it was just a walk.

Then the same thing that always happens to me when I’m trying to keep habits going happened: something disrupted the flow of my activities and I never re-established them.  In this particular case, it was the loss of one of our vehicles, so I could no longer go to karate class or yoga class at night.  Did I do the right thing and just keep walking, lifting dumbbells, and going to the gym when the car was available?  No, of course not.  My progress was disrupted and I couldn’t get it going again.  Then the holidays happened, beginning with Halloween.  Gain five pounds.  Thanksgiving.  Gain five more pounds.  Christmas.  Five more pounds.

By that point, my eating habits were also disrupted and I had developed a nasty sugar addition.  Unfortunately, I also suffer from bipolar disorder (and some other things), which means I’m anywhere from severely depressed to mildly melancholy just about all of the time.  This makes it really hard to get the motivation to do things like exercise and eat healthy.  Plus, I’m miserable when I feel like that so I want to make myself feel better, and one of the ways I do that is with food.

And so it has gone for nearly a year now.  Before Halloween last year I weighed 203 pounds: today I weigh 239. My cholesterol is 207, slightly elevated.  I also have borderline high blood sugar.  I’m also in the grips of a profound apathy generated by my diseases and the drugs I take to deal with them.  Really, I’m not sure what other obstacles I could possibly have to getting healthy, other than physical disabilities.  It’s hard to think positively and come up with a plan for change when I’m halfway to miserable most of the time.

Unfortunately, all of the things that will make me feel better are the very things that my disease and drugs make it extremely difficult to do.  Above anything else I could do for my health, I should exercise, preferably an hour a day, hard exercise (according to my shrink).  If I want the effect of a good mood after a workout, I have to work my ASS off.  My brain just doesn’t come by  those happy chemicals easily like they do for everyone else.  So it’s not just enough to get any old exercise: it has to be HARD, and I have to do it for a while.  Which makes it even more difficult for me to want to get up and go do it.  It’s difficult just to go on a walk.

The other thing I can do for my health that would have the greatest impact is changing my diet.  Eating less and eating differently would make me lose weight and shave points off my cholesterol level, plus help regulate my blood sugar.  It also helps regulate my mental health to be on a healthy diet free of unhealthy fats and sugars.  If it was just me, this would be relatively easy.  Unfortunately, it’s not just me: I have to take my family into consideration.  I have a child who hates beans and only likes a very few vegetables, which means my primary non-animal source of protein isn’t available to me (I won’t cook two different meals, one for me and one for them, that’s insanity).  I could just go ahead and cook what I’m going to cook and tell her she just has to deal with it, but then I have the mental stress of a food battle at every single meal.  She’s 11: she doesn’t care that this is healthy and will make her live longer.  Kids think they’ll live forever already: what the hell is a new diet going to do for them?  She’ll just see it as a form of punishment, and every meal will be tinged with sadness and anger.  Why the hell would I want that?

So on the one hand, I have to fight with myself, and on the other hand, I have to fight with my family.  No matter where I turn, there’s a battle.  I feel like I’m going to war with no army and everyone against me.  I feel doomed to failure before I’ve even begun.

So here I am, stuck.  Even if I didn’t have to fight with my family about food, I have no idea how to cook without basing every meal on meat. It’s just how I grew up: meat, starch, vegetable.  I’ve had meals that were nothing but vegetables.  They were tasty (sometimes) but I was hungry again an hour later.  I honestly don’t know how people live like that. I also don’t know how people live eating the same meals every week, or sometimes every day.  I have to have a LOT of recipes in my repertoire or else I get sick of eating things and wind up going out.  There’s a plethora of food websites of every imaginable cuisine available on the internet, but you never really know if something’s going to be good until you try it.  Which means I also have to have a known backup dinner available when we try new things, or else we just go out.  It’s all a fuckload of work that makes me hate food and cooking, things I used to enjoy.

I know there must be a way out of this situation, but I feel blocked at every turn.  And I’m very low on spoons.  It makes all of the changes I need to make overwhelming: diet, exercise, sleep, vitamins, water, yoga, etc.  The things I need to do to get better are the very things that being ill makes it hard to do.  It’s a nasty negative feedback loop.  But if I take things slow and small, and start with what’s easiest, maybe I can start to dig myself out of this rut.  I didn’t lose all of my habits at once: I won’t be able to re-establish them all at once either.  Now I just have to pick what to start with. What will give me spoons, and not take them away?

How Do I Pray? Let Me Count the Ways

It seems to me that there are probably as many ways to pray as there are people on the Earth.  We also seem to group together according to how similarly we pray, I’ve noticed.

When first I asked the question of myself, “How do I pray?”, the answer was, “I don’t.”  Immediately followed by, “Bullshit.”  I don’t think it’s possible for someone who proclaims to feel spiritual energy as readily as I claim to, not to pray.  There must be some way that I pray, however subconsciously.  I need to expand my definition of what “pray” means.

At its most basic, “praying” is whatever method I choose at that particular moment to try to speak to God.  I have used many methods of prayer over the years.  There’s the regular verbal kind that most people think of, of course, though I don’t see that as the most fulfilling, personally.  There’s the musical kind of prayer, with which I am the most familiar.  I can play saxophone, flute, and a variety of hand drums, and any of them has felt more like praying than any words than I have ever used.  There’s the artistic form of prayer, with which I was intimately familiar for several years until I tried to mix prayer with business and turn my art into a way of living.  That turned out badly on both fronts and I have only recently begun to use art as prayer again (due in no small part to Spiritual Nomad).

Gardening is a form of prayer to me, as well as a form of meditation (so is fishkeeping).  In fact, music and art are also forms of meditation to me.  Maybe that’s why I have found both meditation and prayer so difficult whenever I have tried to pursue each one individually.  I think something needs to serve both roles in order to be a truly fulfilling exercise.  In any case, yes to gardening and fishkeeping as forms of prayer and meditation.  They’re also the things that put me into closest touch with my primary aspect of God, which is Nature itself.

I also pray like a scientist, which is something of a paradoxical notion in our society.  Science and God seem to be mutually exclusive in America, and perhaps the Western World in general.  I see no difference between the two, though, and am constantly frustrated by the world’s attempts to keep the two separate.  We could do even more amazing things if we stopped trying to keep the two things apart.  To me, a tornado is not just a series of mathematical equations that describe atmospheric shear, turbulence, potential energy, and wind speed.  It’s one of the most powerful forces on the face of the planet and almost certainly ranks up there with the other great meteorological forces of the solar system.  Yes, it may just be an artifact of rising and sinking airmasses combined with the Coriolis effect, but that does not diminish its power or beauty nor the feeling in my heart when I see one (though to date I’ve never seen one in person: I’m not sure I need to to appreciate its grandeur).  If I had to call a single place on Earth my temple, it would be The Sky.

Two other forms of prayer and meditation: cooking and baking.  Each is slightly different.  Cooking is more intuitive and is open to the “dash of this, bit of that” method of kitchen things.  Baking is less forgiving and is more like chemistry to me (probably because it is).  Both demand healthy helpings of love for optimum taste.  If you can’t taste the love, I didn’t do it right (read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel for an excellent fictional treatise on the magic of food).  There’s a great deal of peace and calm that come from slowing down enough to really enjoy the processes of cooking and baking.  If they’re hurried and are done only for the purpose of physical nourishment, there’s not so much energy in that.  We don’t usually enjoy those meals very much.

A form of prayer and meditation that I am remiss in not mentioning yet is karate.  It’s difficult to describe the seemingly conflicting energies of force and calm, but there’s a push/pull kind of thing going on that is like waves lapping on a shore.  There’s a rhythm at work that will break me if I work against it, but propels me if I don’t.  Karate’s very much like yoga in that way, which is yet another form of meditation and prayer that I very much enjoy.  It even involves a bit of prostration, which feels a lot like bowing in karate and is calming to me.  It is enjoying these two very physical forms of prayer that makes me want to explore yet another physical way of praying and meditating: dancing.

Dancing scares me in much the same way that singing does, though even moreso.  If I am frozen into silence by the sound of my own voice, I am petrified to stone by the thought of moving my body in a rhythmic way.  I’m not sure what about dancing is different from karate and yoga, though I’m guessing the former is much more freeform and less rigid than yoga and karate forms.  And I do have trouble operating without guidelines, which is what dancing seems to demand.  Rules and dancing seem diametrically opposed, even though I don’t dance (yet).

So those are more hidden forms of prayer for me.  Dancing is also there, but I haven’t used it yet.  Unlike the form I am currently using: writing.  If writing is prayer, I pray at least every other day, if not more.  The more I write, the more I want to write, and the more I like what I write.  I use it so often that it now defies description, unlike other more obscure forms of prayer that aren’t hidden to me, but are less well-used: exercising and running.  When I do those things, I can feel the rusty bits fall off the cogs and can see down the path to where they can take me, but I do them so infrequently that they never gain any momentum.  That’s going to be one of my goals this year: practicing my more physical forms of prayer as often as I can.  Of all of them, I feel they’re the best for me in all aspects.

Other ways that I have prayed before are by using mudras in yoga and meditation.  Mudras are essentially meditative or prayerful hand gestures.  There are tomes filled with the different ways the Hindu deities as well as Buddha will hold their hands, each signifying something different.  I’ve also read Tarot cards, though that is another method that doesn’t get used very often and probably should.  It’s not such a hard thing to draw a card a day to meditate upon.  Along those lines, astrology can be a form of prayer for me if it’s done as a daily reading.  It’s a way of opening myself to whatever the energies of the day might bring.  Over time, it’s just a generally good method of keeping myself “open”.  Which is a good thing for someone who gets really rigid sometimes.  I also very much enjoy walking meditating/praying.  I can do this with or without a labyrinth.  It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other and nothing more.

Perhaps my most powerful method of prayer in the past, has been to do nothing.  Others would call it meditation, but either the descriptions I have read of meditation fall as short as my own do, or I’m getting to a place that neither meditation nor prayer can reach by themselves.  I have to be in the right space to do this, and when I am in that right space, it happens automatically.  I have experienced this in fleeting moments, all in Nature, but every one of them perfect wells of peace, calm, and oneness.  I have wished I could bottle those moments and take them with me, they are so perfect.  And they are why I yearn to travel to the distant and isolated corners of the world, because that is where those moments happen.  In a Texas field devoid of sound save for the blowing wind.  In a car bespying distant, purple-hued mountains for the first time.  On a plane to a new place and seeing a lightning bolt jag from the sky to a spot on the shore left blazing by the light.  Driving through ancient, wet, green forests, or the endless expanse of the desert.  They just happen, like striking the edge of a singing bowl and reverberating for days past their experience.

Perhaps I have not been as bad at praying as I thought I was.  🙂

The Observed and the Observer

Part of me feels I should apologize for my last blog post.  However, it’s my blog and no one’s being forced to read it, and I’m trying to figure out something really complicated, so I’m not going to worry about it too much.

Incidentally, I feel much better at the moment than I did over the weekend.  Almost spookily so.  Enough to joltingly remind me of the nature of what’s wrong with my brainmeats.  Enough to feel silly when I finally got a doctor’s appointment to review some of my more unpleasant behaviors and thought patterns.  Something tells me that’s the hallmark of being bipolar: the neverending sensation that whatever it was that you recently experienced must not have been real, or might not have been as severe or debilitating or frightening as it really was.  I imagine it’s this same sensation that makes a lot of bipolars go off their meds.  I have firsthand experience how terrible this is for the people around them: my mother went off her various meds many, many times while I was growing up.  If I have any wishes for myself, not to mention my family, it’s that I entirely skip my mother’s madness of stopping her meds and finding another doctor who would tell her something completely different because they weren’t hip to her bullshit yet.

Meanwhile, everything around her, the family included, would crumble to bits and the only sane person in the house (me) would be heavily leaned upon to maintain the family structure.  I wonder how much of having to put up with that has to do with what’s up with me today.  I hope it’s a lot, because it means my daughter has a much lower chance of having a brain that short circuits on her in her late teens or early twenties.  I along with my husband have somehow managed to (largely) provide an environment that has produced a pretty goddamned normal almost 8-year-old.  I look at her and think how I’m really looking at the person *I* should have been at that age.  Even at her tender age, she has a really good bead on who she is and where she’s going.

I wish I could say the same for myself, at the age of 39.  I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to figure out who I am.  I’m certainly not where I thought I would be at this age, but I was also the victim of our culture’s mandate that one have their entire life planned out by the age of 18, much to the detriment of my self-esteem as that plan failed to unfold.  Now I have an entirely new set of identity crises to deal with.  Namely, how do I know which of my moods are really “mine” and which ones are products of being bipolar?  When should I stop having a good time laughing and start being concerned that I’m being too funny?  When should I stop moping and start worrying that I’m in a serious depression?  Just what exactly should I define as “normal” or “happy” or “sad”?  Or should I define moods by what they are not? I know it’s unhealthy to have suicidal, hostile, or violent thoughts: does that mean that any bad or sad mood that doesn’t include those qualities should be deemed “normal” or “healthy”?

It’s such a strange thing to have to self-analyze in this way.  Fortunately, I’m really good at analyzing things in general.  To a degree sometimes that I wish I could stop, because I understand the world in a way that most others do not, and that all by itself makes me a little nutty sometimes.  I feel pompous and conceited when I feel this way.  I mean, who wants to talk with someone who claims to really understand things like how far it is to the Moon and back?  That’s not an abstraction to me the way it is for a lot of people who gaze up into the night sky at the white orb that keeps our planet in perfect 23.5 degree balance.  That’s 350,000 kilometers, roughly.  And I grok every single one of them.  In fact, I’ve made a concerted effort to grok things like that.  Partly because feeling small and tiny is one of the things that feels comforting to me here on Earth.  That makes some people feel frightened, but not me.  Feeling puny in relation to the rest of the Universe gives me hope and comfort that the beauty of the Universe will continue on, no matter how many Neocons get elected to office or how few rich people really control the world or how many dogs and cats are unnecessarily euthanized.  In that way, the Universe, everything in it, and the way it all operates is my God.

Whoops, little segue there.  It’s things like that paragraph that make me curious: which part is me, and which part is the bipolar?  Are the separable?  If they are, which parts should I keep?  Of course, these are largely questions of philosophy, not psychology, or at the very least, live in the DMZ between the two.  I do know this: there are no hard lines in the Universe.  Absolutely none.  There is no place and no philosophy where a person can point and KNOW that This is where This ends and This is where This begins.  There is overlap everywhere.  I think our little blue marble 93 million miles from the Sun would function a lot better if people could figure that out.

And this is where my brain is today: on a good day, wondering how long it will last and when my mood will take a downturn to something merely melancholy or hatefully hostile.  I’m still doing a lot of reading about bipolar, and from what I’ve read, it can take months to recover from a full-blown up, down, or mixed episode.  I’ve had several of all three in the last couple of months.  I wonder what the fuck THAT means.  Again, is that the illness?  Or is that just ME?

I essentially have to treat my life as an experiment with rigid conditions in which there are very few uncontrolled variables.  If screwy sleep patterns set me off, then I have to establish rigid sleeping schedules and actually stick to them, regardless of how tired I am (allowing for naps when possible: the schedule is what’s important).  If low blood sugar sets me off, then I have to establish rigid eating habits and keep things around that I’ll actually want to eat.  If reading the news on Facebook sets me off, then I have to cut out what I shouldn’t read.  If a lack of exercise leads to weight gain and depression, then I have to make sure that I exercise every day, and give myself several options in case I don’t feel like doing one of them that day.  I am the scientist AND the rat in this maze!  Only by keeping that degree of control over certain things can I know how my moods interact with my life, and vice versa.

I also have to do something else that has heretofore been extremely difficult and the lack of which has led to a bit of surprise on the part of people who’ve known me for many years upon finding out the kind of trouble I’ve had since my late teens.  I have to talk to people and open up to them.  I have to ask them to let me know if I’m “off”.  Maybe that is the best way of all to answer the existential questions that I have.  Who am I?  The people who’ve been around me for the last 15-20 years ought to be able to tell me, or at the very least give their impressions.  And I know most of them love and care for me enough that I’m pretty sure they’d tell me if I wasn’t being “myself”.

I imagine there will be no small amount of adjustment and transition as I slowly figure out things like when I’m just being happy and in a good humor and when I’m being too funny or too happy or too depressed (and make no mistake, I AM a somewhat morbid and morose person with a very dark sense of humor, and I can only hope it’s obvious when I’ve switched from being amusing to being disturbing).  I hope the psychiatric nurse I’m seeing next week can help me answer some of these questions, or some of the books that I’ve been reading.  And I must leave the possibility open that there are no answers to those questions, because perhaps only I can answer “who am I?”

Avoidance and Acceptance

I took care of a very, very old problem last week.  One that I had been avoiding for about 15 years.  I finally went to a psychiatrist after spending what must have been nearly two months trying to keep a lid on rising, chronic anxiety and agitation that I am fully convinced is related to having quit smoking (nicotine is a seriously deviant neurochemical).  Really, it’s been years that I’ve kept a lid on those things, but this time they were lasting longer than they had before and I was starting to frighten myself a bit, so I went to get some help.

I had avoided doing so for so long for a lot of reasons.  I had a fear and distrust of the psychiatric community in general after spending the first seventeen years of my life watching my mother go in and out of hospitals and take virtually every type of medication available, to no avail.  That probably wasn’t psychiatry’s fault, it was probably Mom’s.  Drugs don’t make psychiatric disorders disappear, they just make them easier to manage and if someone wants to be truly better, they still have to do a lot of personal work.  Personal work that Mom was never willing to do.  She was just too selfish, or too deep in her own denial, or something.

I also had a fear of the medication dance that so many who suffer from psychiatric disorders seem to have to do, as well as the myriad side effects that those medications often saddle their takers with.  Weight gain is often a primary side effect of many psychiatric drugs for some reason, and as someone who has always struggled with their weight, I was reluctant to even entertain taking something that would make me even heavier potentially.  Also, for many years I feared the sexual side effects that often come with psychiatric medications, but over the years, my illness itself along with leftover trauma from childhood sexual abuse has conspired to essentially make me mostly dead from the waist down anyway, so I didn’t really have anything to lose in that department.

Perhaps most importantly, I had to get over my own pride and individuality.  Everyone tells themselves they want to be different from their parents.  It’s how progress is made over the generations.  In a healthy family, people are different in action but not in fundamentals, because they had loving families that bonded together.  Unhealthy families don’t bond like that because there’s nothing desirable to mimic.  Over the years, in my efforts to be different from people who were unhealthy, I set myself up for a game of denial when it came to my own mental health.  Sure, there are some aspects of it that are the result of the environment that I grew up in and can be corrected with therapy.  The rest, though, that’s all genetics.  I can escape that no more than I can escape my family’s cardiovascular health history.

Hopefully it’s easy to see how something no less medical in nature than, say, diabetes can easily become horribly stigmatized if you’ve made a lifelong effort not to be that way.  I told myself that it was something I could deal with on my own.  That combined with my distrust of Western medicine in general led to fifteen years of essentially self-treatment using herbs, meditation, yoga, exercise, and karate.  Which actually are fairly effective, but they require hypermanagement of one’s lifestyle that is nearly untenable in modern society if you’re doing anything more than going to school or holding down a stress-free job (is there any such thing?).

Fortunately, I was going to school for a while, and when I wasn’t, I didn’t have to work, so it was easy for me to live a life that avoided triggering unpleasant episodes or allowed me to hermit when they did.  Then I had a baby and whatever control I had over my life disappeared.  I hadn’t realized how carefully managed my life was until my daughter was born and I could no longer do things the way I had been.  I quickly slipped into a deep postpartum depression, one that was practically prepared for me by a nearly 48-hour labor and delivery that ended in a C-section and failed anesthesia.

About a year and a half after Zoe was born, I had a serious mental crash when we had too many stressors all at once in the form of unrelated medical issues and a car wreck that very easily could have killed both my husband as well as Zoe.  At that point I was put on Zoloft, Buspar, and Ambien.  I was in a depressed state so it was assumed antidepressants would help me.  They didn’t and I wound up on two more drugs, Seroquel and Valium, to try and address untreated symptoms.  I did that for about a year and a half and then stopped.  I’m glad I have pictures of that period of time or else I wouldn’t really remember it.

Finally, I stopped breastfeeding Zoe when she was about 3 and miraculously my mental health as well as my metabolism improved greatly.  I felt better and started losing that baby weight, finally!  I hear that breastfeeding is supposed to make mothers feel happy and help them lose weight, but in retrospect, for my own health, I should have stopped nursing Zoe when she was no more than a year old.  It obviously did bad things for my neurochemistry, for whatever reason.

So did bad life stressors.  That year I let my brother and his wife stay here while they had their baby and found a place to live.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but it turned out very badly.  What was supposed to be three months turned into eight.  It was miserably hot that summer, everyone was out of work, and there were four adults and two children living in a house of less than a thousand square feet.  In a strange quirk of fate, my brother and his family moved out and my husband got a job all within five days of each other.  Suddenly, for the first time since my daughter had been born, it was just the two of us.  My husband had worked from home for her entire life to date, and now he had to take a job out of the house.  Not long after everyone left the house, I had myself a little breakdown.

I tried to get help, but by then the health insurance industry had made it nearly impossible to get treated for anything mental unless you were actively suicidal, and then they would only pay for whatever the bare minimum was to get you back at home.  So unless I wanted to kill myself, my insurance wouldn’t cover a psychiatrist or even a GP visit if it was mentally related.  It was going to be cheaper to make the four hour drive to Mexico and buy drugs there than it was going to be to actually get the help that I needed.  I decided it was easier to just hunker down and wait until the mental storm had passed.  It was a crime that I had to do that.  I and my entire family suffered needlessly because of it.

It was then that I decided that I was probably bipolar and not just depressive.  I had checked out some books from the library about women, anger, mental illness, and other topics, including a couple of books by Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind.  She’s a psychologist and she details her own experiences with bipolar illness.  Her descriptions of her own mental states resonated strongly with me.  Still, I was too traumatized by trying to get help and by the possibility of it taking a long time to figure out what was wrong and how to treat it, so I continued to just wait.

I got better, that time anyway, and tried to manage my moods as best as I could.  Yoga helped in that regard immensely, and yoga will remain a part of what I do to make myself feel better, even if I do require medication for the rest of my life.  Karate also helped a great deal.  It requires a focus that is soothing, calming, and quieting to my mind.  I tried meditation, but I found it to be even more agitating than just my normal mindset.  I would figure out why later.

Last year I had to go mucking with my hormones, and I immediately began to feel worse than I had in several years.  I had always had trouble with bad PMS, and it was returning, despite my doctor’s insistence that the pills I was on were essentially identical to what I had been doing.  A couple of months after that, I quit smoking, which meant that I could try other kinds of pills (birth control pills are dangerous for smokers over thirty-five) to try and alleviate the PMS and other symptoms I was experiencing.

That was three weeks ago.  Over the next two weeks, while I felt better in some ways, I felt much, much worse in others.  I hadn’t felt this unstable since I found myself with an empty house save for a 3-year-old a few years before.  A week and a half ago, I tried to get a doctor’s appointment because I was feeling dangerously agitated, but the office I had gotten my new pills from wouldn’t let me speak to the doctor: they just made an appointment for the following Monday, four days later.  O_o  I was too agitated to sit in an ER: that would have made me worse.  So I called upon the people who never fail to come to my aid: my friends.  They brought me what I needed to get through the weekend, which included a summer camp fair for work which I doubt I could have tolerated, given the size and noise level of the room I was in.

I avoided as much stimulus as possible over the weekend, and stopped taking the offending pills.  On Monday, after taking my aging cat to the vet, I went back to the doctor and began a day that involved a lot of kleenex, two doctor’s offices, and at least four different healthcare workers of varying flavors.  Not to mention a busted car fender due to an elderly neighbor who shouldn’t be driving anymore.  I will spare you the day’s details, but suffice it to say that the fine people at Austin’s emergency psychiatric office must have agreed that I needed assistance because I made it through all of their hurdles in less than four hours.  In case you didn’t know, that’s nearly unheard of.

To make an already long story a little shorter, I have been indeed diagnosed as bipolar, type I.  The nice Indian doctor prescribed me some lithium to stabilize my moods and some trazodone so I can sleep.  He told me to read up about bipolar disorder, which I didn’t really have to after so long of trying to convince myself I didn’t have it.

“I’m not listening, I’m not listening!” – Gollum, The Two Towers

Near as I can tell, I’m one of those unlucky people who gets to enjoy mixed episodes: up and down at the same time.  It’s about as crazy as it sounds and feels worse.  I also suspect I’m a rapid cycler, or even ultra-rapid: more than one cycle a year, perhaps more than one in a day.  I try to avoid contact with humans on those days.  Not much has really changed.  I just have names and labels for what’s wrong sometimes, and I don’t have to beat myself up over feeling or behaving a certain way.  I can just identify it, remedy it, and move on, or stay in my room if that’s necessary.  I’m sure I have more than a few friends whom upon hearing my diagnosis have gone, “Aaahh, so that’s what’s wrong with her sometimes.”

It does mean that I now have the label of “chronic illness”.  I must take my medication: there is no alternative, just as a diabetic has to take their insulin or they can die.  Diabetes is actually my favorite non-mental chronic illness to compare to, because diabetics can exhibit some seriously aberrant and even violent behavior if their insulin and blood sugar levels get too wonky.  No one thinks diabetics are “crazy”: they just have to maintain their blood sugar properly.  I feel the same way about most mental illness that can be treated with medication.  Mother Nature forgot to wire our brains quite right so humankind has to fill in.  The only thing to be ashamed about is when I fail to do what I need to do to stay healthy, which is a lot.

It is now super-important for me to keep regular, healthy routines.  Now is the time that I should make a super effort to get that meditation practice going, especially now that I’m taking something that will shut off the hamsterwheel in my head that has always made meditation so frustrating for me.  Everyone gets the hamsterwheel when they meditate, but mine never, ever goes away.  Consequently, I just don’t meditate, or I haven’t been anyway.  Now it will be easier and that will help more than anything else in alleviating what is still an ongoing anxiety and inability to truly relax.  It’s getting better, I can tell, even after only a week on a relatively low dose of lithium.  I hope it continues to improve, because I would give anything to just be able to sit and relax and not feel like I have to get up and do something.  Yay, mania.  *sigh*  I also have to make sure I eat and not let my blood sugar get too low, which will also disaffect my mood.  Same with sleep.  Everything has to be kept in equilibrium, an ironic task for someone medically diagnosed as being out of equilibrium.

I’m trying to take an attitude of permissiveness rather than dictatorship.  After all, I’ve essentially been given permission to do as much yoga, karate, and meditation and communing with nature as I can possibly get.  Doctor’s orders!  😀  This is also a huge red flag for me to really work on incorporating Buddhism into as much of my life as possible.  Only a whole lot of acceptance, love, compassion, understanding, and metta is going to get me through the rest of my life.  I do admit, and had to admit to the doctors, that while I am not actively suicidal, I am sometimes filled with the sense that I shouldn’t be here, that I’m a mistake, that I shouldn’t have been born, and I don’t know if that’s the result of my disease or the result of the terrible environment that I had to grow up in.  Whatever the case, I’m going to have to make friends with those thoughts and figure out how to banish them, or make them ineffective, because they get worse the older I get.  Seems like a lot of love is the way to go on that one, and the only place I feel that love from is my family, and my friends, and the Buddha.

I was so grateful for my friends and family the day I was at the doctor all day.  Thanks to modern technology, I had my Android phone with me so I was able to stay in touch via Facebook and Twitter and email all day long, which was incredibly helpful to me.  All day long, I had little messages of love and support from everyone and it meant so much to me.  I have something that my mother never had, which is unconditional acceptance and support from a fairly large circle of friends and a husband who really loves and cares about me.  I would be just as lost and crazy as she was without these people in my life.  That’s far more powerful than any bottle of medication.

A Difficult Morning

I was asleep surprisingly early last night.  Usually I’m up until at least midnight or after, but I was asleep by 11:15.  I drifted off happy with the knowledge I’d get nearly seven hours of sleep.

Mother Nature had other things in mind around 4:30, of course, as did my daughter, who came padding into the bedroom not long after I laid back down.  She’s been having some bad dreams lately, so she comes to get in bed with us.  Unfortunately she’s still extremely wiggly, as are many child sleepers.  So that means one or both of us don’t rest very well after she gets in bed.  Today that was me.  It wasn’t entirely her fault.  I’ve always had a bad case of hamster wheel brain, and it likes to get going as soon as I wake up some days, despite my best efforts.

Dude, you’re awake!  Sweet!  So what was I saying when you so rudely started watching Doctor Who last night?  How many times can you watch that show?  Anyway, there’s a bunch of stuff bothering me I want to talk to you about, and there’s so much to do, and FUCK it’s almost Christmas! And…..

Dude.  We should go back to sleep now.  There’s lots more snoozing time.  We can deal with this shit in a few hours.

But, I’m busy thinking about everything I didn’t think about yesterday and everything I’m supposed to think about today and how can you sleep when there’s so much to be worried about anyway?!

I can’t deal with that crap until I get enough sleep.  Shutup and go to sleep.  Pretty please.  With a fucking cherry on top.

But…but….and don’t you really want a cigarette now?  It’s morning!  You’re supposed to get up and make coffee and smoke now!

*sigh*  We don’t DO that anymore.  We’ve had this discussion.  We’ll keep having it until you get it.  We.do.not.smoke.any.more.

On and on ad nauseum, until I finally got up in frustration, as well as hunger, since my stomach had also woken up and was chiming in by that point.

Dude, you’re up!  Awesome.  Let’s eat!

I’m going to kill both of you.  Wait, that’s me.  Gah!  *tries not to break things*

Welcome to my brain.  This is how I start many days.  Especially since I stopped smoking.  My resilience against irritation is extremely low at the moment, which itself annoys me.  So I’m always annoyed right now.  I bet it’s lots of fun for my family.  Not.  Today, though, I did try to just be accepting of the circumstance, be here now dude, don’t be attached.  My inner Buddhist tries hard to console me in the morning when I am undoubtedly at my worst.  Get up, make tea, begin reading email, Facebook, and so on as I wait for everyone else to wake up.  I probably should have gone to sit on a pillow and stare at a candle instead of a flatscreen monitor, and I’ll try to remember the lesson from the rest of the morning and do that next time I’m up early.  I didn’t, though.

I thought I was in a fine mood until I actually started interacting with my family, when I became incredibly irritated and angry about very small, silly things almost without warning.  Just, BAM!  Then everyone felt bad and I felt stupid and just wanted to smoke even more.  I hate having to apologize to people before 7am, it’s just a bad setup for the rest of the day (though it’s better than just not apologizing at all).  Of course, then I had to figure out why and how the morning took a wrong turn, because I hate starting the day that way and would like to avoid it whenever possible (understanding that everyone has a shitty morning every now and then).

I never classified the addiction of smoking the same way I classified other addictions, like alcoholism.  That is, I never viewed smoking as the kind of “covering up other things” addiction the way drinking or other drug abuse often indicates.  I was quite incorrect.  I’ve discovered a myriad of ways that I was using cigarettes to cope with, avoid, or outright ignore a variety of annoying aspects of my life.  Including not thinking about things that bother me, and not coming up with better ways of dealing with those things.  It also means discovering precisely what annoys me, because every time something annoys me, I want a cigarette.  Sometimes I don’t know I’m annoyed until I discover I’m having a craving.

Fuck, I really want to smoke.  Why?  Because I’m really annoyed.  What’s annoying me?  That doesn’t usually annoy me.

Yes it does. You just usually go smoke instead of dealing with it.

*opens mouth to retort and then shuts it*

This has been an extremely humbling experience, needless to say.  I’m having to STFU an awful lot as I discover new things about myself that somehow got wrapped up in my smoking habit.  I suppose it’s much the same way when any ingrained habit is discarded, whether it’s shopping, smoking, or playing too many video games.  They’re all avoidance techniques to cope with life’s stressors.  Which makes me sound like a fucking rehab manual, I know, but I see that now.  It is what it is.

In this morning’s case, I was having a bad time coping with a chronic lack of sleep, blood sugar that probably hadn’t yet recovered despite eating breakfast, some underlying stress regarding the holidays, money, and family, and only being on day ten of not smoking after having been so on and off for the last 25 years or so.  I should really treat everyone, particularly myself, with a lot more kindness and patience.  That’s a lot to deal with and I forget that because of how I grew up.  I’m used to chronically having too much to deal with all at once and am conditioned to do so without realizing it until I’m cracking at the edges.  Like this morning.

This post probably makes a lot of sense to some people, and absolutely none to others.  However, I’m really tired after only five hours of sleep instead of closer to seven.  I just know I’m really determined to figure out all of my feelings that relate to smoking so that I don’t go back to doing it, so I pretty much just follow my brain around and document what it’s doing.  This was the path it took this morning.  I think it needs more rest, so I think I’ll do that for it.  Then it’s time to plan for Christmas cookies.  🙂