Thursday, October 28, 2010

We were sitting on the front porch, drinking our coffee the morning of this week's random storm. The sky hung low and gray above the houses on our street. The wind came in gusts that shook the aluminum window frames. We turned the  TV up loud so that we could track the weather man's warnings through the opened front door. Sirens wailed in the air; all around us sheets of water and leaves flew. As I listened to brittle, fall leaves scratch their way down the street I found myself oddly comforted by the whole scene. The outside world matched my inside reality. I felt calm.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Feeling Kooky:

Photo: Josephine Baker

Ignore the formatting issues of this post, Blogspot  is having some maintenance problems. 
When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would, above all, remain positive. I wanted to record and share my experiences with mental illness without leaving myself or you, the reader, feeling hopeless. I have been recording my thoughts and feelings since I was nineteen and I know all the dark places of my mind intimately. I know, all too well, "the shit-smelling pit." I am trying to feed myself on positive thoughts, these days.

As a writer and an artist I feel that producing encouragement and inspiration is just as important as presenting truth.

That being said, last week's post was written through a thick fog of depression. I ended up unhappy with it, both, as a coherent piece of writing, and for the piece's overall lack of  transparency. I was in an enormous amount of pain! I was suffering in the grips of crippling depression and an intense feeling of loneliness.

But,  I had a deadline and I wanted to make it. So I put on my smiley face and implied that I was "building a palace out of my depression"--I was lying in bed and barely able to move.

There is a fine line between sharing one's feelings productively and emotional dumping. In trying to avoid
-dumping- my negative thoughts all over the place I was avoiding the actual pain. After thinking about it for a week and putting another therapy session under my belt, I can see that it is the voice of  my "detached protector" that tries to paint everything all rosy. It is this dissociation from my feelings that I am trying to beat.

 In general, I have to work really hard to organize my thoughts at all. With many mental health issues and the side effects from the medications that treat them, my cognitive skills suffer on a daily basis.  For example, I can learn over and over how to use commas correctly (I keep an English manual by my side), but I can forget just as quickly.

I had found a writing tool that was helping me find my blogger footing, a web site called, . Writing three pages a day helped me to clear some of the muck in my head in order to find the good stuff- I know it's in there. The more you write the easier it becomes, just like anything. 

During this last round of depression, I abandoned the practice which I had kept for a month. The clarity of my thoughts suffered for it. This  happens in my life all the time: starting and stopping, starting and stopping. I have a million unfinished projects that bring me endless amounts of sadness and self-loathing.

 I want to struggle beside you, dear reader, as we journey to wellness and wholeness, not above you on some pink cloud. It is not my intention to sugar coat the darker details of what I am going through; that would be unfair to both of us.

As I move from acceptance to awareness regarding my borderline personality disorder, I find myself freaking out on all levels. This is called "emotional thawing." In therapy world; symptoms always gets worse before they get better. In other words: just before any kind of breakthrough you feel like you are going to die.

 I guess what I am really saying in all of this babble is, "Please bare with me as I get back on my feet and continue to search for my authentic voice."  I'm fairly certain that this was all I needed to say in the first place.

Enjoy the rest of your week and the upcoming weekend!
Be Well,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Arrange whatever pieces come your way." ~Virginia Wolfe

The routine I've been keeping since beginning treatment with Risperdal, was tested last week. Life ground to a halt until all that remained was sleep, angst filled sleep. I expected emotional fall out from the fight with mother; which there was. Anger and feelings of abandonment that had to be dealt  with. It is a source of sadness as we still haven't spoken, but I am doing okay. I was not expecting to end up back in bed over it; I'm a big girl after all. 

 This was something more than heart ache. I could tell it was coming on a couple weeks ago. Every three to six weeks I cycle through life with mixed states (a combination of mania and major depression) or life with major depression. In the grip of depression, I can't feel anything- anger nor joy, just an achy paralysis. 

I mentioned the new round of depression to my therapist and she took this information to my psychiatrist. She asked me to wait a few days to see if I got better or worse-maybe the depression wasn't cyclic. I called her back last Friday. Cried,  "Uncle." Dr. F suggested that I take a supplemental anti-depressant on top of the Cymbalta that I already take for depression. I started on the Welbutrin, yesterday.

I write out these rather boring details to illustrate how difficult managing mental illness can be, and to ruminate on my progress. I have had four changes in my medicine just since starting this blog in late August (I used to keep notes in my Tumblr account). On one hand, I am bummed about taking two more pills a day- eight all together. On the other hand, I am managing my bipolar symptoms.

All the work I am doing is paying off. Instead of floundering for weeks in a drawn out depression, I stayed connected with my body and listened carefully. I spoke up when my thoughts grew dark. As a side note, this is the reason I feel it is so important to use a therapist in conjunction with a psychiatrist. Together, the three of you will see patterns or spot weaknesses  in your overall treatment and can quickly make adjustments.

Approaching my illness in a way that emphasizes symptom management, not the unrealistic notion of  symptom eradication is having a very calming effect on me. It is freeing up space in my head that was absorbed in fighting reality and creating suffering for myself. I am the reed bending with the wind. I have wondered for so long how to make a life out of my pile of mess. Slowly, I am getting better and how I view my life is changing. I am seeing possibilities instead of obstacles. 

Thank-you for reading this and being part of my support network. I am still finding my footing in the blogging world and sometimes it is a hard project to believe in. 

Be Well,

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hope for the Borderline

Photo: Louise Brooks

I have been spending my mornings researching my "Borderline Personality Disorder." I have spent my afternoons napping, my head reeling from the information I am trying to focus on. I use the term research loosely as it seems my brain is a sieve for facts to strain through like water. The Mayo Clinic's website lists the symptoms of BPD as:

  • Impulsive and risky behavior...
  • Strong emotions that wax and wane frequently
  • Inappropriate anger, sometimes escalating into physical confrontations
  • Difficulty controlling emotions or impulses
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Fear of being alone
The words above are rather benign compared to my own experience translated into countless horror stories of public meltdowns and private torment. BPD is one of the last in a trio of major mental illnesses for me to accept and begin to overcome. This one, above the others, has been the most elusive for treatment and the most crippling. Over the years, it has progressively become more out of control; by that I mean that it takes less to set off one of the symptomatic episodes. I have become more impulsive in spite of my efforts to control myself in the face of confrontation or stress. I have narrowly missed being arrested more times than I can recall due to an emotional outburst- usually rage over some real or imagined injustice. Living with the disorder has been a source of great humiliation and pain.

A month ago I began seeing a therapist that specializes in the treatment of  patients with BPD. For years such a therapist has been unheard of because of the special nature of the disorder and the way it causes the sufferer to interact with people. Typically, we just don't get along. I feel blessed. It took me six years and a lot of wrong turns to find her. This is partly due to the illness itself, which fights for survival and partly due to poor State mental health resources.

We have embarked on a year long course of treatment that involves looking at and gently dismantling,  the various dysfunctional coping skills, referred to in this therapy as Schemas or "modes," that I find myself operating from. Like a record needle stuck in a groove, I keep playing over and over tunes with names like: Abandoned Child, Punishing Parent, Detached Protector, Angry Child and the occasional, Healthy Adult.

These modes are the way I see the world, the way I interact with it. Stress, too much and a certain kind of it, will trigger an episode. If things are running according to plan, smoothly with no glitches then I am the sweetest, most capable and helpful woman you will meet. This means no schedule changes, or changes of any kind, really. If you are kind to me and considerate, I return the favor. Cross me, in the least, and its, "OFF with your HEAD!"

I am amazed at how ingrained the Schemas are. Even now, it all seems like a load of crap that I just need to get over; but this is what I have told myself for years and it has gotten me nowhere. I am blown away by how exhausted I am after an hour of therapy or reading about it, or writing about it. But, here I am. I'm still, here. I have hope that all that fight in me will prove to be my best asset after all.

For more on Schema Therapy:

Be Well,