Happy Healthy Holidays

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Lots of wishes float around this time of year. Lists are jam packed with material goods, gadgets and toys people covet. Well wishes also abound as folks entreat each other to celebrate all of the holidays that fall in December. In that spirit, I want to wish all of us in this community a Healthy Holiday season.

Remembering Christmases when my children were younger brings up some painful memories. Mania gripped my mind years before (and after) I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The stress of trying to provide a happy holiday seemed to exacerbate my tendency to overspend. This left a mound of unwrapped (and mostly unnecessary) gifts at 2am on Christmas Eve more years than I care to count.

Another year, I stayed up late hand-stitching personalized Christmas stockings for my in-laws. The socks didn’t turn out great and my morning was marred by lack of sleep.

I understand firsthand the desire to buy your way into your loved one’s hearts. Especially this year, when things have been so dismal. For those of us who suffer from a lack of impulse control, I wish you restraint, moderation and creativity in meeting the needs of those around you. And your own.

The flipside of mania, depression, can also come to call around this time. Personally, the shortened days and lack of sunlight can have a real detrimental effect on my moods. Couple that with expectations of constant cheerfulness that are impossible to achieve and it’s not just Elvis having a Blue Christmas.

But the biggest obstacle to enjoying the holidays this year will be our unconventional celebration. Like a lot of families, we’ve made the decision not to gather in person. The consequences are too grave should the virus invade our group or be contracted by vulnerable family members back home. I haven’t been able to listen to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” or Mariah Carey’s “Miss You Most”. I fear I’ll cry my eyes out and won’t be able to put them back in my head.

So instead, I’m going to be grateful. I believe it was Shawn Achor, the best-selling author of “The Happiness Advantage” and positive psychology expert, who offered a stunning antidote to depression. He said (paraphrasing), that you can’t be simultaneously grateful and depressed. I’ve found this to be true and extremely helpful in dealing with my depression.

I will try my best not to have a bipolar Christmas. I’m hoping thirty years of living with the diagnosis and achieving a certain level of insight will allow me a healthy holiday season. And that’s exactly what I’m wishing for you.

Be well,

Colleen

Imperfect

I expressed some stances in my earlier post on this blog. I called the post “Perfect” because it had to do with the impression that we need a perfect life to grow as human beings. Or that having everything we ever wanted necessarily means happiness. Or that having things others think we should have is a measure of the person.

There are different forms of perfect. In my hometown, it is married life, a house arranged in provincial taste and children, jobs that give financial security and little pleasure in the work itself. Some aim higher as there are many contents to fill in the form of perfect. Of course, it is not always that gloomy, and some people enjoy genuinely happy lives in the province, even some who made space for acceptance of their alternative lifestyles. So do I envy people who made it perfect for themselves? Do I think it is all a shallow compromise? I get a lot of trolling once I make my point on that. My answer is; these questions make no sense at all! My point is somewhere else; it is to encourage myself and others to thrive despite the imperfect circumstances.

To make it more clear, I used the magnifier—lives of brilliant people who thrived despite unfavourable circumstances. In the post on Van Gogh and Slava Raskaj I tried to explain what I mean. I tried to describe the epic battle of someone who is trying to create despite illness and despite having a kind of life where you don’t have much to lose.

I wanted to do the recap to make my point; people can grow and create, risk and challenge themselves despite things (seemingly) not going great for them. Who has the right to talk down on them from a perfect or seemingly perfect position?

Keats got tuberculosis in his twenties, and it was a terminal illness at the time. He died when he was 25, his life was hardly perfect, but his poetry is almost there. I am not saying everyone can leave Opus Mangum, but then again, you never know who it will be, right? Maybe someone who has it all sorted out, of course, someone who drew better cards than Keats.

Still, a glance at things through a magnifier- lives of the greats who also struggled shows that personal growth, the achievement and happy moments is not only for those who get or seemingly get what they always wanted. So no, I am not trying to say feel envious, think as if missing out on things, I want to say thrive because the best of us, the most talented of us, the most decent of us can have it imperfect.

I don’t know the cure for the people who can’t see that even everyday people like me mean the world to someone and can enrich lives. The art of living well is rather democratic. There are many ways to practice it, and I don’t see why some would be privileged. That is all.

Photo by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

Spend a WHOLE day on the Couch with ME

What happens when you beat to the tune of a different drum?

What happens when all that you think and all that you do was changed in one moment in time?

What happens when its not just that moment, but all the moments that led up to this moment that you only just now put together?

What happens when all you want is sense of normalcy?

What happens when all you want is a sense of belonging?

What happens when your head spits out info faster than you can ever put into words?

What happens when today is the day that someone is listening to you?

What happens when today is the day that is the start of something new?

What happens when today is not just a moment, but a moment that defines all the rest?

What if today is the day you decide you are normally you?

What if today you get just piece of that into words?

I’ll tell you, but you have to first spend the day spending time with me…….

My First Time.

I have never been hospitalized before. I think that I am pretty good at hiding things, but I couldn’t hide this from myself. I knew there was something wrong. I wasn’t sleeping more than a couple hours, I was becoming emotionally abusive, and I was falling back into overspending. Mania. This isn’t the first time I have been manic this year, but I hope it is the last. I moved into a new apartment earlier this week and I already can’t make rent. I am exhausting. I am tired from being me.

I took myself down to the hospital which I think we can agree is a feat on its own. Not having insurance was both a blessing a curse. The plus side is that I could choose whatever hospital I wanted and the downside is that I am uninsured. I can’t help but laugh that this insanely expensive vacation I just took and I didn’t even get to go to the pool. I am constantly, actively working to better myself. I take my medication, go to all my doctors appointments, religiously see my therapist, use the breathing exercises. I am not immune to it. It wasn’t at all what I had expected. Clean, hospital like in some ways, slightly degrading, and cold. BUT I am blessed to have gone to a place that provided me a private room and bathroom. Granted, everything was bolted to the floor and the bathroom had no door. Overall it was a really nice place filled with people actively trying to get better.

I was sad and anxious that I was taking all these days unpaid, but I had to. I had to go and get help. It was an out of body experience watching me set fire to all the relationships that took years to rebuild. One conversation has sent it all tumbling down. Here I am, trying to intervene and slow the damage. I was discharged yesterday afternoon and it seems that my grandparents are going to be the hardest to recover. I suppose it is divine timing because we just moved away after living next door to them. I am fortunate to still have my mom in my corner because it would be hell living together for the next year if I am going to be the source of her pain and anger.

I am doing better today. Better than yesterday, better than a week ago. I just have to keep pushing forward. My anxiety is manageable right now and I hope that it stays that way. I hope that this made inpatient stays a little less scary for those who haven’t experienced it.

Keep fighting the good fight!

People Will Move On

People will move on.

Even when you treat them like gold.

Even when you truly care about them and they truly care about you.

And there’s nothing you can do to stop them.

Nor should you.

Thank you for being with me. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mine.

Sending you Angel Love and Blessings.

Love, Francesca

When Your Heart Is Breaking

I drove to school this morning listening to  a Rachmaninoff piano concerto while taking in a breathtaking orange-red sunrise over the Eastern Cape veld.

As always, the 35 minute drive allowed my thoughts to wander.

I was thinking about gifts. Blessings. Questions with no answers. Faith. What we believe to be true about God. The “WHY’S” we so often ask.

A friend is going through something similar to what I went through in my mid 30’s, wanting to settle down with the “right” guy, wanting to start a family, maybe feeling a bit desperate because the “right guy” is nowhere to be found! And sadly, the potential “right” guys are running a mile because no man wants to be at the center of the frustration of a  30-ish female with her biological clock ticking louder than the Big Ben every hour on the hour.

big ben

noooo

 

…and the WHY’S just keep coming…

( What follows is not another “Okay, here she goes on a religious mission”…I’m not about to hit you over the head with a virtual Bible. Stay with me to the end please)

eye roll Blank Template - Imgflip

Why Is God ( or the universe )allowing this loneliness? Why is God not answering my prayers? Why did God allow me to move to this place when He knew the unhappiness I would experience here? Why is God silent?

Why, indeed???

Why does God allow loneliness, death, loss, heartbreak, violence, war, the impact of the Corona virus for that matter?

We don’t know.

I often asked my mom “What will I do when you die?” Because the two of us were attached at the hip . She was my shopping, eating out , wine drinking partner and the two of us got up to all kinds of irresponsibility. She would say “Lets see what the waiter does if I order a bottle of wine with breakfast? ” And we would giggle at the waiter’s flushed face all through the entire meal.

Or … “I feel lucky. Lets go gambling!” ( on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of a hectic teaching week)

“Some day is today. I’m going to buy that Michel Herbelin watch right now !”

And off she went, buying the super expensive watch she’d been eyeing for months.

She was living on borrowed time. And I think she sensed it. During the last year of her life, she lived life to the fullest, doing whatever she felt like, not worrying about the opinions of others. She had fun, she was happy.

When I asked her what I would do without her she always said : ” You will receive grace.”

And I did.

Of course, I was heartbroken. But my life continued. I was comforted.

To me, the answer to our “WHY?” lies in the fact that God did not promise us an easy life on earth. Just because we are “Christian” or we try to be good-ish people we are not given a guarantee that pain will not be part of our lives. We are here to learn. Our lessons are painful.

Now read the words below. For me, they are true.  We hear that WE WILL NOT BE ALONE IN THE STORM. The storm will come, make no mistake. BUT WE WILL RECEIVE COMFORT.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” – Isaiah 43 : 2

skildery

We need to trust our path. Because if there is one thing I know for sure from my own life  it is this :

God’s ways are not our ways. 

God takes our wrong turns and turns them into rights.

God gives us pain so that we can understand the pain of others.

We are , in the end, meant to serve.

Albert Einstein - Coincidence is God's way of remaining...

Quotes about Way god works (29 quotes)

 

( ps. I understand that many reading this post will say “I don’t believe in a God”. I also know from experience that during my worst depressed times I was so completely irritated with so-called “Christians” throwing bible verse at me, saying my faith just wasn’t strong enough. If this is you, I get it. But I have come to know that there IS a path for each of us. Sometimes the reasons for our suffering come many, many years later when we can look back and say : “Ahh. God, now I get why.”)

Stay strong.

 

Confusion.

In my eyes, meditation is just a time to clear the mind, reflect, and manifest positive things. I do not feel comfortable in summoning spirits. I simply want another way to grow as a person while still maintaining my Christian faith. I have some form of stemming where I consistently rub my hands. It is starting to wear on my skin and it was suggested I look into a worry stone. During that time, I saw and read about healing Crystals. They say that you program them with affirmations to hold during meditation, or to place your intentions into. Again, I feel strongly about my religious beliefs at this time, but what can some positive thinking or speaking do? I have just been struggling with this. I really am interested in trying something holistic. I was inspired when my psych doc suggested lavender capsules to help ease my anxiety. It is like day and night. Amazing. I have never been into vitamins and what not. WOW. I guess I am hoping to find more ways to cope with my anxieties. I am doing therapy, taking medications, and writing. I am worried that it goes against the Bible.

This has always been a determent of mine from the Bible. I felt as though I was going to have to alter my whole life to conform. It hasn’t been like that at all. I honestly haven’t changed anything much physically. Emotionally on the other hand…I just don’t want to sacrifice an opportunity to learn about an alternative belief system. That is how I came to the Bible….I had to open my mind to learning.

I would love thoughts on this. Can both “spiritual beliefs” co-exist?

I am an open book. I don’t feel as though we can’t debate the existence of high powers. In my eyes, in a discussion and debate, I am able to provide education on my beliefs. It is a time to discuss, learn, and grow. If you do not feel as though you can do this, kindly bow out of the discussion, as will I. So much love and positive thoughts and intentions to every single one of you.

Clarity.

This is a two part post: The next part is scheduled to be posted tomorrow.

I want to start off by saying that I voluntarily see my psych doc weekly because I need a lot of accountability regarding my medication. It is a personal choice and in no way does it reflect my dedication to my mental health. I also have a therapist that I see biweekly. I am in no way manic and this is not a manic episode and it is not religious mania. I have been on a spiritual exploration for a few years now.

I always said that I was an atheist, and then I realized what an atheist is and I am not that. Then I said I was agnostic. I told people that I am too selfish to sit and learn about a particular faith to claim one. People really respected that and I meant it, but I wasn’t agnostic. I believed in a God, I just didn’t know which one. I prayed to a God. My God. It didn’t matter. I knew that I had no true control in my life. I wasn’t an accident. The world is bigger than me.

Then I started finding myself longing to be like a lot of people who emulate Jesus. I wanted something to be passionate about and to continue learning about. I wanted a higher power that I could name and a way to get to know Him. I turned to the Bible. Turns out it is literally thousands of pages. Where would I start? Would I understand it? Will it capture my attention or overwhelm me and I quit?

I tried a few bible studies and I completed maybe 3 of them. I tried and quit several. I really wanted a starting point, a place to get a foundation for the rest of my learning. I joined a small group so I could dive into the Bible and its meaning with an intimate group. It was amazing, and then I felt called out about being the only single person in the room. I didn’t go back. Then I started googling “what the Bible had to say about….” and reading from there.

I was having a really tough time with my sister. We were going back and forth about everything it seemed. Who is cleaning more, who is chipping in more, you name it. It was causing a huge rift. we smoothed it over but I still feel this tension in the air. Like she is waiting for the shoe to drop. It is familiar because that is how I felt when I had to move back in with them. It is strange to be on the other side and needing to forgive. This is the first time it occurred to me to turn to the Bible first. So I googled, “the Bible and forgiveness” and “biblical stories about forgiveness”. It returned wonderful scripture. I then wrote some of it down. Once I reviewed what I had found, I picked out some of my favorites. I noticed a lot of them were from the book of Matthew. I found myself emerged in this story that finally told me the ins and outs of how Jesus came to be. It has all kinda tumbled from there. I think I pick up my bible at least every other day now. I still am not completely independent. I still reach for the internet for a starting point, but I still read from there. I just feel better. I feel like I am in love with learning and also seeking comfort and guidance. It really calms me. I started to wonder if maybe that calm can be obtained through meditation and manifestation. I believe in manifestation. Maybe it is the positivity that it exudes or the feeling of influence it provides. Either way it feels like I accomplished something.

So I started looking into meditation and homeopathic ways of treatments or guidance.

(continued in next post)

Thirty.

30. Thirty. The big 3-0. I want to mark this time. (peep that pic of me celebrating graduation in late May)

If you would have asked 20 year old me what the next 10 years held…she would have thought that it sounded scary and wonderful, but it could never be her. She blamed everyone for her problems. She was endlessly in love with Joseph Anthony but She was months away from the hardest break up she had faced. She was wonderfully oblivious that her life was about to change courses in a big way. She didn’t really have a lot of close friends outside of Joe. Hannah was dating David and you all didn’t really get along with David. She had a less than ideal relationship with her family and believed that it was beyond repair. There were a lot of questions about where my life would lead me. She was also very secure with herself. She of course thought she could improve in her exercise and diet, but she had confidence and it was obvious. She had no idea that these fleeting, endorphin filled time was mostly a product of her bipolar.

 

This didn’t seem like a big deal until I thought of how fast it went by. How quickly 30 years of my life happened. What have I accomplished?

 

I am well established in my career. I have been in the health care field for 10 years.

I got my master’s degree.

I moved to Texas and back.

I have a pet kitty that makes my days better (You count your kids right?)

I received my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder and started treating it.

I repaired many relationships that I had broken.

I have moved countless times, and it has allowed me experience more than one small bubble in Arizona.

I bought the newest car I have ever owned this year.

I made the big decision to start fertility treatments and become a single mother by choice.

I have realized that it isn’t a relationship I fear, it is that I wouldn’t be accepted or understood. I am asexual.

I have made peace with the fact that I will most likely have my mom living with me for the rest of her life. I am truly okay with it.

 

30-year-old me is on a camping trip in the future. This is 29 years and 359 day old me. Present me is sitting in my room. She is in Mesa and live in a crappy one-bedroom mobile home with mom. That is right, you now care for your mom. Mostly financially because she can’t work but is still independent.  She sleeps in a recliner because you haven’t been able to afford the lift bed she needs. We just got approved for the apartment we are moving to. You prefer to rent an apartment over owning a home and having all the responsibilities or renting a home and having to landscape. This apartment is a dream. You have always looked at the high-end apartments as something you dream of living in. You dreamt of living in a beautiful apartment that looks like a model home. You love the idea of living in a really nice place and decorating it so that you are proud of it.

You love living with your mom. You rarely argue, and she holds you accountable on your self -improvement.

You packed up your shit, quit your job, and drove to Texas where you lived with your dad and Nicole for a year. Much needed. Super impulsive.

Things are rocky with your sister right now. She is following your footsteps and headed down an emotionally destructive path. That is a scary thought seeing as how you went without a diagnosis for your bipolar until you were 25. You have had a couple of relationships that fizzled out. It has been 7 years since your last one. It only feels like an embarrassment to say that when you imagine other people’s reactions. You are oddly okay with this. You have spent the last 7 years working on yourself, nurturing your mental health and mending relationships. You reconnected with Joseph. He turned into a real bar fly when you two hung out together. I do mean hook up if you are wondering. Turns out he had an ex-girlfriend living in the same house. You still love him, and you still think he is selfish and inconsiderate. He has gotten weirder and less mature if that is possible. He loves to wear leggings and outlandish attention drawing outfits and attend raves. He did meet a girl last year. They are expecting a boy next month. You don’t know that Joe has grown up, you think he just found someone to act like a kid with. She has a son in high school….don’t know if that was a teen pregnancy or she is that much older than us.

Hannah is still your true friend. She has changed A TON. She stands up for herself, has really matured career wise and is making more than you! She still feels like she doesn’t know what she is doing with her life. She is living it. She needs to look around. She is still letting pretty boys walk all over her. You constantly build her up and she is so critical of herself and her appearance. She got a boob job that she hates…and botox! As long as it is safe and makes her happy, I will never judge her.

You made the decision that you would start fertility treatments and become a single mother by choice. It is a long and expensive process, but you want it badly. Your mom and grandmother both had issues and could not have any kids after 30. Your aunt Cherril has cervical cancer. She isn’t doing well either. She has decided to not have any kind of treatments and doesn’t even want to take pain medication.

You write. You write in notebooks, on the back of paper plates, you have a blog, you bounce around on your ideas and just end up writing them all in a jumbled mess.

You lost your confidence and have gained at least 100 lbs. But your confidence was gone long before the weight came. After Sean, you were down. You were approaching the BPD diagnosis, but this sent you on a journey that you can credit your life to.

You started gaining weight and staying home. You went to the doctor for weight loss and then disclosed how you were really feeling, and she referred you to a specialist. Between the sadness and the weight gain, you felt ashamed. You stopped going out and packed on more weight. You are hyper aware of those around you. Careful never to agitate or inconvenience anyone. You have actually become pretty boring. You rarely show emotion and are too concerned about other’s opinions to be the silly person you were.

 

You hope that your next 10 years bring more joy, revelations about yourself, dreams come to fruition. You hope to overcome your biggest obstacle. Yourself.

In the next 10 years, you will have a baby. You will do two rounds of IUI before you get pregnant. You will become more confident in your work. You will increase dramatically in your salary as you are beginning to really establish yourself. You will become more involved in politics and religion…after all the wise Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “Women belong in all the places where decisions are being made.”. You will continue learning and educating yourself through reading and may even entertain the idea of a doctorate. You will most likely lose your grandparents. That is going to be the kick in the stomach of the decade. I hope you are somewhat graceful in your grief. I doubt this though. You will most likely have some issues in managing medications and potentially start being reckless at this time. I hope you come back here and remind yourself of how far you have come and how many people go through this.

My first 30 years have been challenging to say the least. I was dealt a tough hand and it didn’t help that I was manic for most of it. I have made strides in my mental health that have definitely rippled into the rest of my life. I am happy. Genuinely happy. I have you fine people to thank for some of that.

 

Unicorns.

In all my time of seeing mental health professionals, I cannot recall any of them simply saying, ” I can help you”. I have had many treatment plans, some successful and some not, but never someone who just came out and said that.

Dawn did. She is my new therapist. And she is a unicorn.

She listened and then explained what she thought was the root of things, a plan to approach it, and why. WHY! I LOVE WHY. Too often people just expect us to sit and follow instructions. We know our bodies and we know our lives. You can’t see us for an hour every so often and tell me that you know what is best for me. Granted, I am a huge proponent for modern medicine and listening to your provider, but sometimes they get it wrong.

I think Dawn is on to something. She has to be, because she is a freakin unicorn. I feel relief honestly. I was worried I was going to go into this and be the one running the show.  I already run the show too often, that’s why I need Dawn. I see a therapist because my mental health doc requires it….I might actually WANT to see her now.

The Zoloft they added to my cocktail has really helped.

I finished my masters degree program last night.

I just wanted to pop on and share my fantastic week with you beautiful people (and it’s only Tuesday!) I will have a lot more free time now that school is over. Hope to write more VERY soon 🙂