GONE THE INFECTIOUS SCAB OF MEMORY

Hello again. For those following, you know that I spent two years in an unhealthy fake BDSM relationship. I was 15, he was 32. I was young, naive, hungry for love and acceptance. He was a pro at what he was doing. And next week is the anniversary of him callously removing my collar and throwing me out, stating I was too old. Two weeks shy of my 18th birthday. I was 17 years old, and had spent the previous two years as his abused sex slave. “You’re too old. I have nothing left to teach you,” indelibly written in my brain. I have spent the last twenty-eight years spending this month in great emotional pain, feeling rejected and not good enough, and all the other fun psyche damaging negative self talk. That ends today.

Today I pull off the infectious scab of his memory and forge a new narrative. Freeing me from his slavery was the best thing he could have done for me. Gone the beatings, the gang rapes, the honeyed lies. No more living in fear. Free to heal, to discover who I am without being coloured by him. It’s been a long, long climb to get here. But here I am. FINALLY! Slowly, painfully, learning and accepting it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t deserve what happened. I didn’t ask for what happened. And then he set me free. FREE!!! Too bad it took me so long to figure this out. That he was a paedophile, an abusive paedophile. As if there’s any other kind. And now I’m free. Free to re-write my narrative. Not my fault. And he set me free. He didn’t reject me. He set me free.

Here’s to a fresh new look on painful old wounds.

HOPE

Hope: n. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen
v. Want something to happen or be the case

Hope is a very pregnant word. Pregnant with promise, with desire, with expectation. A feeling of better things to come. A small word with big meaning. When things are black and stormy in my life, I hope they get better. Sometimes I feel this hope is misplaced, especially when I’m deep in the pit; when it’s hard to reach out a hand and ask for help. It’s getting easier these days. When my therapist says to hang on, the depth of these feelings in transient, I have faith in her word, and trust and hope she’s right. And she always is. I always come through. And lately I can say I come through unscathed. Weary, oh gods, am I weary. But it’s been months now since I’ve self harmed. Even the most recent scars have faded to pale lines, no darker than the rest of them. She tells me that self injury had a place in my toolbox of survival long ago, BUT THINGS ARE DIFFERENT NOW. And she is correct in that. I’m different in my body and being. I see the urges for what they are: lying monsters.

The monsters wail
Begging to be fed
Promising light after the blood
To slumber in the post pain haze

I know the truth
Of their existence
Never sated, always begging for more
The cravings deep

Alone in the night
With the monsters in my head
In my heart
In my soul
Filling the cracks with blood
In the place of tears

SOMATIC MEMORY

The past couple of days have been really really tough. Stuck between hyper and hypo arousal constantly shifting back and forth. Moments where I’m overwhelmed by fear and can’t breathe, and then moments where the slightest sound makes me jump. Even though my mind finds no connection between the here and now and this feeling of doom, I have a full blown fear reody response. My therapist did get back to me today, (YAY!) and she said it sounds like I’m having somatic flashbacks. I should have recognized this right away. What is a somatic flashback? It’s your body remembering, not your brain. “Memory is reminding you about the state of your being all those years in childhood and adolescence when you were in danger” is how my therapist worded it in her email to me today. I lived in fear growing up. Beatings from my father were a daily, consistent thing with him. The only thing that was. And I had a real rough session this week. Last week brought up a lot of history, how no one noticed the sad little me acting out and begging for attention. And this week brought more of that to the fore. And just like I did in adolescence, I’m living a double life of sorts here at home again. My parents don’t know about my cousin molesting me. They don’t know about the abusive relationship I was in at 15. They don’t know about my sexual assault three years ago. They don’t know I’m living with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder. They think my therapy is for my anxiety. I have to keep so much hidden, while living in the house where I grew up abused. They say you can’t heal in the environment that broke you, but I am. Granted, things are different now. I’m a grown woman with a voice. My body and being are different. It’s now 2019 and I am no longer in danger from anyone.

So I orient to the here and now. I’m in my room, the room I grew up in, focusing on what’s different. My bookcases, the books in those cases. My bed. The decorations on the wall. The flooring. The sheets on my bed. All things that are from the present. Nothing in my room remains from the past except my bear, Bettina, who has been with me since I was six months old. She has been the one constant in my life. I have been struggling with the desire to self harm this weekend. That, too, was a constant in my life for many years. It had its purpose then. But things are different now. I need to remember this with the very core of my being. All my emotional parts need to recognize that we are no longer trapped in trauma time. I have so many new coping tools and a great support network. Parts of me may be trapped in the past, but I have the strength, courage and determination to show them a better future.

SAFETY CONTRACTS AND SELF HARM

I’ve been with my therapist for about three years now. One of the first things she did was put me on saftey contract. I am proud to say, in that three years, I have only intentionally violated it once. I say intentionally, because the things she considers to be self harming behaviour are myriad. Not using my seatbelt in the car, driving too fast on the highway, not eating right, even not maintaining good sleep hygiene. All of which I’m guilty of at some point. I’m finally at a point where my med compliance is no longer an issue, just a struggle. When I’m feeling good, I don’t think I need them. When I’m not feeling good, I feel what’s the point. So it’s a constant struggle. But the main focus of my contract is the obvious, direct ways I harm myself: drinking and cutting. And after yesterdays session, the struggle is real. I even reached out to her about it last night. She didn’t respond, but as I was in no real danger, I wasn’t really expecting her to.

Self harm. Two little words. The act of hurting oneself. Doesn’t really sound too bad, does it? I even managed to inflict a bit on myself while in her office yesterday, squeezing my hand too hard and leaving deep imprints of my fingernails, took a bit of skin off. She commented on how easy it is to fall back into old ways of coping. It left marks which still are there, though faint, today. It’s so deeply imbedded in my pysche as the only way out of emotional distress, be it feeling too much or too little. And right now I’m feeling too much. Way too much. I can’t even define all that I’m feeling. I tried to in her office yesterday, and last night when I was dying for a sharp to drag across my skin. Lost. Alone. Sad. Melancholic. Overwhelmed. Not present. Broken. Hurt. And a multitude more floating through my brain and body. And that’s what’s so damn hard about this. The feelings are so strong, they’re painful. My body hurts from carrying them. The release of a little blood seems a fair price to pay for the relief. But one of the last things she said to me yesterday was, “Remember your contract. A promise.” A promise to her as well as myself to stay safe. And there are days I curse that contract. That promise. If it was only with myself, it wouldn’t be so bad. I could live with that. But the shame I would feel going into her office next week, and having to say, “I fucked up,” keeps me strong. That and the fact that there are no readily available sharps that I can access. I have a disposable razor in the bathroom, one I keep for emergencies like this. However, the fact of the matter is, I would have to dig it out, dismantle it, and then carry through with the very act I have sworn not to. Many opportunities to pause and think things through. Which she would not hesitate to point out. Something I really value in her is her refusal to accept bullshit answers and provide clarity when things are muddy to me. So rather than face that, I stayed in bed, my safe zone. Except when it isn’t. I try hard to keep my bed a safe place. Injuring myself in the bath, where it’s easy to clean up, or on the floor of my bedroom. My bed is sancrosanct. Not to say I haven’t used an x-acto knife that I forgot to put away while sitting there, focusing only on the imminent relief. That pressure valve which causes immediate and tactile release. But word is my bond. So I suffer. Like Tennyson wrote in Ulysses, “All times I have… suffer’d greatly, both with those/That loved me, and alone… One equal temper of heroic hearts,/Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

MED COMPLIANCE

It’s kind of cool, at the end of the week, to look at your weekly pill box and realize that you haven’t missed a day, and it’s been a few weeks since you missed a dose. For someone like me who struggles with med complaince, this is huge. And I’m still struggling. I’ve been feeling pretty stable the last little while, so the first thing I think of is, “I can go off my meds!” Of course, my therapist,the wonderful grounding presence that she is, immediately responds with, “Maybe it’s your meds making you feel this good.” So, of course, I bring it up to my GP, who handles my meds. “I want to see you stable for a longer period of time. And back to work. Maybe once you’ve been at work for a year we can look at tapering back a bit.” Talk about feeling deflated. Stupid brain. Can’t make it’s own feel good chemicals. And I know, I know all about the comparisons to heart medicine or diabetes. The brain is just like any other organ that can, and does, malfunction. And there is nothing wrong if your brains happiness needs a boost from the wonders of modern medicine. But I have to wonder, if treated today with our vast assortment of chemical bliss, would Van Gogh have painted Starry Starry Night? Would Byron and Poe have been so eloquent and prolific if their fits of melancholy were treated with modern medicine? Would Shelley have written oh so beautifully? Byron was well aware of the connection between madness and creativity. He wrote, “We of the craft are all crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched.” Sure, there are many examples of people being medicated and having successful careers. A quick google search provided me with the names of ten poets currently living with mental illnesses. I wonder how/if they’re all medicated. My medication makes me dull, and creativity is hard. When I’m unmedicated, the words fly to the page easily, too easily I’ve been told. Those words are hard to follow, syntax becomes strange. Even given the free nature of verse, mine becomes difficult to embrace. Kay Redfield Jamison writes quite freely about her battles with bipolar disorder. She knows the dangers of not being med compliant. Yet she wrote a whole book, “Excuberance”, about the very thing lacking in my life with my meds. I tried lithium, but the amount I needed in my system to keep it at therapeutic levels was too high, and the side effects too great. So I’m on the mood stabilizer aripiprazole, to help boost the anti-depressant that I’m on. And I can’t tell which one makes feeling deeply and passionately difficult. So for the sake of my mental health, my creativity suffers. Some days I have to ask myself is it worth it. Then I look at my two boys and realize a subdued mom is better than no mom.

TO SLEEP, PERCHANCE TO DREAM

After suffering harrowing nightmares nightly for many years, the p-doc I saw briefly prescribed a wonderful drug called prazosin.  It’s a heart medication, an alpha-blocker, but it’s been proven to stop nightmares in some patients.  Fortunately for me, I am one of those patients.  It doesn’t stop the flashbacks; nothing will stop those.  But for the first time in years, I’m sleeping without the nightly terrors that come with closing my eyes.

Now comes the fun part.  Teaching my brain and body that it’s safe to go to sleep at night.  For years I’ve been a night owl.  My therapist isn’t so sure that it’s my natural state; she believes it’s a learned response to fear.  So how to unlearn it?  I’ve started working on my sleep hygiene.  Trying to go to bed at the same time every night.  Being more active during the day.  Meditating.  But my body still feels that same anxiety when my head hits that pillow.  Shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, that sense of impending doom.  I’ve practicing Babette Rothchild’s Keys to Trauma Recovery for months now.  It has definitely lessened the impact of the flashbacks.  But I can’t convince my body that it’s safe to sleep.

I recently had to move back home due to circumstances not within my control.  My anxiety and other mental illnesses have made it impossible for me to work and difficult to care for my children adequately.  So I’m back in the room where I spent most of my childhood, being beaten and hiding.  It’s hard to heal in the environment that made you sick, but I’m doing it.  My room is now inviolate.  My dad doesn’t enter it, he doesn’t open the door when it’s shut.  He leaves me alone when the kids are visiting their father.  There’s no more violence, or even threats of violence.  He is a gentler man now than he ever was.  And yet, and yet.  The specter of years past hangs over me like a miasma.  When he raises his voice, I become six  years old again, afraid.  I’m 45 now, and I still cringe from his touch.  He can’t sense it anymore, but I still feel it.  The awkward hugs, few and far between.  The sexual assault three years ago broke me in so many ways; exacerbated the damage done from years of abuse.  Since then, I can barely stand to be hugged by anyone other than my kids and partner.  And even that isn’t easy some days.  But you bear it, because the one thing kids need is lots of affection.  Abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, leaves scars that never really go away.

But back to sleeping, to dreaming.  Now that the nightmares no longer fill my time spent in Morpheus’ arms, I dream.  I dream of my therapist.  Of dragons.  Of transmuting myself into something other than what I am.  As if my me isn’t enough.  It never has been, why should that change now?  I’m working on the negative self talk, but my subconscious certainly has lots to say about it.  I’ve never had much luck with lucid dreaming.  When I’m asleep, I’m asleep, and no amount of wishing my way out of a dream has ever worked.  Now I no longer wake up in a cold sweat, heart racing, unsure of where I am.  I wake up perturbed, questioning what the hell is going on with my psyche.  My therapist tells me that when we dream of others, they represent aspects of ourselves.  So when I dream of dragons and squirrels, I’m living my hyper/hypo aroused parts of myself.  Squirrels are saucy little things, very vocal when unhappy, but quick to run away from confrontation.  Unless you are a red squirrel.  Then you will fight for that acorn and not back down.  But even they run from larger predators.  And dragons, well, they are the apex predator.  Everything runs from a dragon.  Even humans.  The only way to take a dragon down is from a distance.  And, unfortunately, a thrown acorn is not going to do too much to a dragon.

So am I a dragon or am I a squirrel?

SISTERHOOD

A year ago I attended a twelve week group for survivors of sexual assault. I was hesitant to go, as my experience with groups wasn’t very positive. With a lot of encouragement from my therapist and best friend, I decided to give it a shot. I am very glad I did. A year later, and I have a group of women I now consider to be my sisters. Bonded in a way I never imagined possible. A group of women I can share both my highs and my lows with, and everything in between. An amazing group of women who are supportive, loving, and quick to both laugh and cry with you.

It goes beyond our shared traumas. We are able to share the common, everyday things, the small tragedies and the big joys. And the seemingly small thing of being understood. Unless you’ve been a situation where your whole world is shattered, you never appreciate the comfort in sharing that trauma with people who have suffered in ways similar to you. We’ve all experienced different things, and suffered differently, but we all have been broken. The Japanese have an ancient art of mending broken pottery with gold, silver, or platinum. Kintsugi. They are the gold in my healing cracks.

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

It’s time to say goodbye. To say goodbye to the old me. The stuck me. The unmotivated me. The me that sits on the couch all day, thinking about all the things I’d like to do, if only I could get up of the couch. The habits formed while in a severe depression slough slowly, not wanting to be given up. They certainly don’t go without a lot of will power. Something I have been short of my whole life. I have started seeing a Feldenkrais practitioner, who has done wonders for my extremely bad posture resulting in bad knees and a bad back. I’ve also started Qi Gong, which is also helping with my posture and joint issues. My therapist states that Qi Gong is all about fluidity, something my body is definitely lacking. It’s a Chinese standing meditation, so it’s good for my mind as well as my body. I’m not up to practicing it every day, but I’m up to three times a week. My goal is to make it to every day. I’ve started doing it twice a day on the days I do it. I tend to go back to bed after the kids have left for school, but my therapist wanted me to try to practice at that time instead. My circadian rhythm is completely out of sync. I tend to stay up into the early hours and sleep during the days. I’ve always been a night owl. No one there yelling at you, or hitting you, telling you what a screw up you are. Reading in peace. The world is a calm place. Something my young self needed desperately.

It’s time to embrace the daylight. And with it, life again. Spring is just around the corner, an excellent time for new beginnings. I never understood why we celebrate the new year in January, when everything is just cold and dreary. The spring equinox makes much more sense to me. The earth is waking up from it’s cold slumber, and everything is fresh and new. I always feel more energized in the spring, and this spring more so, as I have been in the depths of soul destroying depression. Thoughts of suicide have been a daily companion for so long that I now only notice them in their absence. The only down side is that with their disappearance, the sirens call of self harm gets louder. It has been months since I caved to their voices, and I don’t intend on doing so again. I quit smoking just after Christmas, now to give up vaping, the lesser of two evils. I am slowly decreasing the amount of nicotine in the juice I vape, so it will only be a matter of time before I completely nicotine free. Another step to the new me. Saying goodbye to old habits.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BORDERLINE?

I’ve been thinking about diagnoses and what they mean to the one receiving them. Usually they come with a sense of relief: I’m not crazy. These symptoms do mean something. But what happens when the diagnosis means you are crazy? What does that mean? I’ve been fighting the BPD diagnosis for years. Never had a therapist agree with it, though I’ve received the diagnosis from more than one psychiatrist. Recently there has been a movement in the trauma treatment community to change it to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My current therapist, who is a gift sent from wherever such things come from, explained it to me in a way that made me feel a lot better. It’s not that I’m not fixable, which is the prevailing feeling among most old school practitioners; it’s just that my brain needs a different way of fixing it. I’ll never be neuro-typical. But I can learn to adapt and rearrange the way I process information.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD; also known as complex trauma disorder) is a psychological disorder that can develop in response to prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma in a context in which the individual has little or no chance of escape. (wikipedia) The resulting symptoms closely mirror that of BPD. The key difference between BPD and C-PTSD is that symptoms of BPD stem from an inconsistent self-concept and C-PTSD symptoms are provoked by external triggers. The inconsistent self-concept happens as a direct result of the early childhood trauma or ongoing trauma with no escape. Combine the two, you end up with a very fractured sense of self. Typical therapies for BPD used are DBT (Dialectic Behaviour Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), neither of which address the underlying trauma.

I grew up always afraid of my father. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t. That’s how early the abuse started. He was never physically violent to my mother, but he was very much emotionally and verbally abusive. In typical abuser fashion, he never started until after they were married and she was “trapped” with a baby. My therapist explained to me that babies can pick up what’s going on around them, so if my mother was anxious, sad, or afraid, I would’ve understood something was wrong. When asked why she stayed, she recently told me she couldn’t admit to her mother that her mother was right. So her pride ruined my life. Well, my life up to this point. I’m taking charge of it now, and learning to say no to the shit I don’t have to put up with.

Add to the mix a cousin who taught me things no six year old should ever be aware of, a very abusive relationship at a young age with a much older man, and a more recent sexual assault, is it any wonder that my sense of self is fractured? I’m now learning that I matter, that what I want and feel are valid. Novel concepts to be learning at 45. I wish I had the confidence of my young sons. They know they’re important, they understand body autonomy, and while they may not yet know what it is, they live their lives with a purpose.

I long for the day when I can live beyond the day to day, minute to minute, second to second it takes to survive sometimes. But everyday I’m getting stronger. A solid therapist with strong boundaries is key. I’m very fortunate to have found one. She holds the space while I try to feel whatever emotions are coming up. She holds it without judgement and without forcing it. Which is what someone who has suffered much trauma needs. I am doing EMDR, (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) along with a combination of other modalities. I take a mood stabilizer to boost the effect of my anti-depressant, and I take an alpha blocker, which helps prevent the nightmares. Being taught coping mechanisms (Babette Rothschilde is an amazing source for this), I can even manage my panic attacks and flashbacks. I’m in a stable relationship, I’m a pretty decent parent, and a damn good friend. None of which should be possible if I was truly only suffering from BPD.

So what does the diagnosis mean to the one receiving it? In my case, nothing at all. It bothered me at first, and if I had received it years ago, before I started working with my current therapist, it might have destroyed me; taking away any hope of ever getting better. No, it’s a label that might help my disability claim, but that’s all it is. It doesn’t define who I am as a person. It changes nothing. My trauma work is the most important thing I can do for myself, and in doing it, I will free myself from the bindings of a difficult diagnosis with a less than helpful prognosis.

BIPOLAR OR NOT

Last year my doctor sent me to see a psychiatrist for an assessment and med adjustment. He’s generally a decent general practitioner, but we’ve been struggling for years to get me stable. I have a history of needed to take three months or so off of whatever job I’m doing because of stress. My previous therapist thought I might have a type of bipolar. No one was sure, so off for an assessment I go. PTSD, depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder,
and cyclothymia. Which I didn’t understand. I get depressed enough that I’m suicidal, and I’ve made an attempt in the past. That being said, a mood stabilizer in conjunction with my anti-depressant has made all the difference. That, and I’m now working with a trauma specialist. Doing EMDR. This year, I went for another assessment. A different psychiatrist this time, who read the notes of the previous one. Saw me three times, instead of just forty minutes. No bipolar diagnosis this time. PTSD, persistent depressive disorder, borderline personality disorder, and general anxiety. Says my symptoms of BPD overlap a lot with the BP, and that the meds often work in tandem together when the antidepressant isn’t enough even without the presence of bipolar. We talked about the BPD diagnosis, and the main reason for the diagnosis is history: self injury, suicide attempts, and, most telling, the feelings of self-loathing and feeling empty and numb. She said with the amount of trauma I’ve experienced, it was inevitable that I would wind up with BPD. So now I’m struggling with yet another identity, one that I have avoided for years. I remember my ex yelling at me, at one point, “I’m not the only borderline here”, yet I was the only one actively seeking help. My therapist told me not to worry about the diagnosis. It basically means I have C-PTSD, (Complex Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder) and I’m doing the hard work to get better. So that’s something at least. It explains these long, empty nights where I feel so numb and the siren call of self-injury is so strong, even though I’m not feeling depressed. Just numb.

HOLDING MY OWN

How good it feels to be away from the edge of The Pit. Despite being mostly housebound due to inclement weather, I have been feeling pretty good. Maybe because I haven’t had to be social. Who knows. I’m enjoying it while it lasts. Can’t help but wonder, though, if this is a shift toward hypomania. the pdoc I saw didn’t see a bipolar diagnosis. Borderline Personality Disorder, Complex PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and, finally, Persistent Depressive Disorder. She said there is a lot of overlap with BP and BPD, so sometimes it’s hard to get a clear diagnosis.

A new year always brings with it some reflection. I’m not the type to make new years resolutions,; my goals change as I grow and change. And I wanted to take the time to give thanks to the woman who led me through the darkness to the light. I wrote a poem for her, and gave it to her just before we broke for the holidays. She never said anything about it, so I should probably not be embarrassed by it. I thought I’d share it with you.

A ship with a broken compass

Tossed on the waves

Hither and yon

Sinking slowly

Trying to find my way

By a North Star

Lost in a sky

Of darkness and despair

The clouds thick

Ever present

Blotting out the light

Along came a guide

Showed me how to mend

That broken compass

To fight my way

Back to the light

Behind the clouds

The siren song

Is still loud at times

But I have a gift

A toolkit

Cobbled together

Patiently guided

With grace and skill

To heal the wounded

Children within

BLOOD AND PAIN

When the heart weeps

Yet no tears come

When words won’t come

And all that is left

Is an unnameable

Something

That begs releasee

Escape

A way out

From the too too much

That cannot be

Identified

How does one

Find relief

From what one does not

Recognize

Except to let it out

In blood

And pain

WHO AM I

Numb

An emotional lockdown

Fearful

That once the walls crumble

There will be no relief

Sorrow

Runs deep

Permeates my very essence

If I allow myself to feel

The full depths

Would I ever recover

Fear of getting “better”

Of never getting “better”

I’m not sure I could bear

That this is the way

It will always be

Yearning

For a family that doesn’t exist

For what worth have i

If I’m rejected by those

Who share my blood

That nameless ache

Undefinable

Intangible

Pervasive

Both physically

And in my pysche

A part of me

Steadfast

True

Who am I?

LIGHT AS THE BREEZE

it’s been so long since I’ve felt the pull of hypomania. And right now as I sink ever deeper into the pit, I find I’m missing the ethereal highs. Right now all I feel is despondency and despair. And I can’t even cry about it. The freedom to cry has been locked down so tight for so long that the tears won’t flow freely. Oh, my eyes, they water, and I get a lump in my throat, but just silent tears running down my cheeks. Not satisfying at all.

I wrote this while coming down from a hypomanic high. Back when I was undiagnosed and, or rather, misdiagnosed, with unipolar depression. One day I may lose myself in the upward pull, but today is not that day.

LIGHT AS THE BREEZE

Free at last

Running soaring

Leaping flying

Unburdened by despair

Hope no longer

Just another

Four letter word

Light as the breeze

A leaf on the wind

Blowing where it takes me

Whirling

Spiralling

Up and down

Disintigrating

Into

Nothing

HYPOMANIA!!!!!!!! 

As many of us bipolar bears, I have been on a cocktail of numerous psychotropic drugs.  While keeping me from being actively suicidal, they have definitely left me feeling numb.  No severe lows, but no highs either. This feeling flat has robbed much enjoyment out of my day to day existence.  So after being on it for two years, and my blood levels getting lower and lower with the same fairly high dose, we started titrating it. Once down to 600 mgs spread out over two doses, my doctor let me quit it completely. And within days my mood skyrocketed. Hypomania for the win.  After being disinterested in everything for so long this has been a welcome change. 

Of course, theres’ always a downside isn’t there.  Impulsive behavior. Reckless reckless thoughts.  Knowing the outcome is always the same doesn’t make not giving into them any easier. Thankful for a solid support network and an understanding, yet firm, therapist. Who is letting me email her through the holidays if necessary, as I’m in a “vulnerable place” right now. 

So happy holidays to all and may you stay safe. 

Squirrel

INTO THE LIGHT

My therapist has been assigning me art homework over the past few months as a different way to approach my healing from assorted traumas. This week I have to create a supportive greeting card to send to myself. The homework requires a letter or poem identifying the losses from said trauma and offering strength and support. I, obviously, opted to a write a poem. Let me know what you think. If it is supportive.

Cruel hands

Cruel heart

Laid waste your innocence

Your tender soul

The days are dark

The nights darker still

The light shall rise again

To dry your tears

Come take my hand

I’ll hold you through

The black storm raging

And come together

Into the light

CONTRACTS

So I just realized it’s been almost three months since my therapist renewed my “Contract For Survival”.  Basically it’s a comittment to use my tools before self-harming, and to check myself into the hospital if the suicidal ideation becomes more than just ideation.

What got me thinking about it is tonight I really feel like self harming.  I’m not depressed, I’m not triggered, I just feel the need to feel SOMETHING.  Since my last med adjustment, life has felt flat. As miserable as being in The Abyss was, at least it was something.  I miss the highs, and am starting to wonder if the lows aren’t worth the price to pay.

My life feels like boring pastels, just a shade up from gray.  No vibrancy, no fire.  I miss the fire.  And it’s not as though I get manic, I just suffer from low grade hypomania.  Bad decisions regarding money, sex, whatever.  But isn’t that what life is about?  Making decisions that leave you feeling alive?  NOT stuck in some dull, flat, emotionless pit.  Recently I just had three of my poems published in an ebook.  That were requested. And I was excited for precisely 23 minutes.  And then back to ho hum. And that lack of reaction made me realize I’m missing out on so much emotion because I’m dulled.  Even my poetry is lacking.  It’s so frustrating.  First, the cognitive dulling, now the lack of emotion. I feel like a golem, going through the emotions, pretending to be human.

So this week I’m asking my doctor if we can take my lithium down to 600mg from 900, withough increasing the 15mg of Abilify I’m on. Wish me luck, I think I’m going to need it.

And no, I haven’t self harmed, at least not yet.

HOPE

When you’re in the middle of a depressive bout Hope is on short supply.   Hope to get through it as intact as possible.  Hope that you’ll actually get through it.  That the siren’s call won’t get you and you’ll wake each day until The Black Fog passes. 

When you’re feeling stable,  Hope that it lasts keeps you going.  Hope that you won’t crash.  Hope that you won’t fly.  (Though to be honest the early stages of flight can be fun).  For me when I’m feeling good Hope is a cloud of colour and I’m surrounded by a Black Fog trying to encroach on my current state. 

The colours exist
Surrounded by a cloud of Darkness
The colours ebb and flow
Like the tide

The Black Fog
Fighting to encroach
To kill the Joy
That brings the brilliant hues
To vibrant life

Their endangered existence
Threatened by
Eternal Ebony clouds

Bi-Polar, C-PTSD, and Me

Are we our diagnoses, are they us, or is there some sort of medium where we can be us, certainly shaped by our illness(es) but not defined by them.  My diagnoses came late in life, after being treated, inaccurately (and thus with a resounding lack of success for almost 20 years), for major depressive disorder.  I recently found an old book of poetry I had written back in high school, and one of the poems from when I was 16 could have been written by me, today, in a hypomanic phase.  I prefer phase to state, it seems less foreboding and permanent.

I used to pride myself on the fact that my past may have shaped me, but it didn’t define me.  Someday I might share with you the rough history that is mine, but not today.  Suffice it to say that my therapist used the term “very horrific” to describe my legacy.  Unfortunately, I have had to accept that fact that it did do more than shape me, it did, indeed, define me and the numerous ways I see myself.

But that’s ok.  Language evolves.  Definitions change.  And the me that is today, defined by my experiences, does not have to be the me of tomorrow.  I can learn to make better choices, do things differently.  And when the siren’s songs come, I can make choices toward the future, as opposed to reacting from the past.

Mindfulness, being aware of what you’re doing and WHY you’re reacting a certain way, helps to create new habits, new understandings, and new approaches.  Am I there?  Not even close.  Do I believe?  Yeah, today I do. It’s damn hard, but somehow, some way, I will find the strength to overcome.  I have to.

The alternative is untenable.

Is Madness the Price I Pay 

It’s a conversation that comes up periodically: would you give up your creativity for a “normal” brain. Ignoring the  whole what is normal debate, the question still seems valid. Is my poetry, my language, my voice, my gift from my faulty brain chemistry?

If we ever find the right med combination, what am I going to do if I lose the spark that’s my creative center?

With the depression holding strong, and the suicidal ideation a constant companion I find myself ruminating about it. Better than ruminating about death, I suppose.

But I don’t know the answer. I know when I’m hypomanic my writing flows but is disjointed. When depressed it glows but is dark. Both represent me. Am I either one or some broken remnants of a once whole self?

The sun shines
Dispersing The Black Fog
Tendrils wrap around my mind
Lurking
Waiting
For The Clouds
To return

To weave a blanket
Of sadness and despair
Around my heart and soul

The sun burns fierce
Setting fire to the blanket
As the Tendrils retreat
Deep within my mind
Waiting for the next cloudy day

My Brain Lies to Me

Those who struggle with any kind of mood or personality disorder are well aware of the ways our brains tell us lies. 

When we’re depressed they convince us no one loves us, we’re worthless and everything we do sucks. When we’re healthier,  we can recognize these thoughts a fallacies. 

When we’re manic, the world is our oyster and we can do anything,  including solving all the world’s problems,  if only the world could keep up with our super fast brain. Again,  no more true than the depressed lies, and equally as harmful. 

MY BRAIN LIES TO ME

Compassion for self
Cornerstone for recovery
So I am told
But how to be compassionate

When my brain hates me
Hell bent on a path of self-destruction
Lying about self-soothing
A twisted view of self-care

Yes cutting feels good
At the time
The sharp pain
The flowing blood

Followed by shame
Deep upsettedness at weakness
Scars a permanent reminder
Of the brains lies

Yes hardcore casual sex
Provides relief
A moment of connection
And release – a different pain

Followed by disgust
Another meaningless tryst
Violating my core self
For the temporary gratification
Of the brains lies

Yes bashing my heas
Feels amazing, calming
The endorphin rush, the slight dizziness
Even the slight headache at first

Followwd by a vicious headache
The tender lumps
Ignoring all of it
“You’re fine and deserve it”
The brain lies

The satisfaction of hitting
Something hard and solid
Releasing the anger
The frustration
A powerful release

Followed by swollen hands I cannot hide
The potential broken bones lived with
The pain a constant reminder
That I lost once again

To my lying brain

Breathe In

The past week I’ve been living in flashback hell. And not really coping well.  Three therapy appointments in one week and I’m finally breathing.

I find it interesting how breathing is the key to everything regarding recovery. Breathing and mindfulness.  And with the techniques and tools I’ve been taught,  I’m learning how to manage and stay present.  Drifting has been a huge problem for me this week   I’m hoping to be able to bring it back on more this week.

Breathe in
Against the tightness
Breath in
Against the rising tide

The Black fog’s
Tendrils reaching deep
Breathe in
Against the panic

Shallow
Breathing so shallow
Like a scared squirrel
Heart racing against hands
That cradle
But feel like traps

Lightheaded
Fear keeps the breath rapid
Respiration without depth
Unsafe the only thought
Breathe in
Against the urge to run

Abject terror
At nothing
Breathe in
Against the need to self destruct

The stars beckon
Come fly between
Soar up into space
Become one with the cosmos

Breathe in
Against the desire
To escape and never come back

Breathe in
Against the waters siren call
Breathe in
Against the invitation to sink
Embraced by the blanket of
Seaweed and foam

Breathe in
Against the ne’er-ending pain
Breathe in
Against the desire to give up
Breathe in
Against the exhaustion

Breathe in
The knowledge of your battles
Breathe in
Acceptance of how far you’ve come
Breathe in
And  continue the fight

Breathe in
You’ve made it through so much
Breathe in
The aftermath can’t kill you
Breathe in
Don’t let the aftermath kill you

CoMorbidity

Good Evening. 

I haven’t been posting as I’ve been dealing with some personal struggles.  And as anyone with multiple diagnoses can attest,  sorting out which symptom comes from what ailment is always fun.  Add the potential side effects from the meds we take to manage said issues,  and confusion becomes the order of the day. 

I have recently learned that a lot of  the side effects I was attributing to the meds are actually due to the C-PTSD.  Which changes a lot.  And makes more sense. 

I recently started seeing a therapist that specializes in trauma and stress. Because it interests me, and I read a lot about it, she’s been patiently explaining the biology behind what’s going on. 

And when you take bipolar and C-PTSD and put the symptoms side by side there’s a lot of overlap. So how does one figure out what the hell is going on? 

For me it’s learning how to be mindful. Multiple check ins  during the day. Learning my body’s nuances as I learn to recognize what I’m feeling and why. It’s an ongoing lesson with an ever changing learning curve. But with mindfulness,  diligence,  and a support system who can help you recognize what’s going on,  it is possible to not only cope but thrive. The key is to stick with it. If you do you’ll learn to recognize and,  eventually, manage your symptoms and achieve balance and live well. 

Lost

My tongue will tell the anger of my heart;
Or else my heart concealing it, will break:
And rather than it shall., I will be free
Even to the utmost, as I please, in words
–William Shakespeare

Sometimes the despair sets in and no matter how much you know it’s just your brain lying to you,  that suicidal ideation just gets stronger until it starts seeming like a viable option; an acceptable way to end the pain that seems insurmountable.  We all have our ways of coping.  I often just white knuckle through it.  More often I write. I write words that I never imagined that i would share.

Yet here I am.  Putting my heart out there.  Sharing the darkest parts of me in the hopes that maybe, just maybe,  someone will read them and realize they’re not alone and they, too, can over come the brains lies.

Joy is gone
The very colour is gone
All is now sullen shades of gray
Even the sweetest of wines
Taste as of liquid ashes

The breathe of life
Hurts as though knives
Are rendering the tenderest
Of flesh

My heart
Vainly pumping
Acid through my veins

Pain Hurt Despair

Where is the joy
The laughter
Life a burden
Without the sun

The emotional pain
Impossible to
Differentiate
From the
Physical

I draw a knife
Across my veins
I bleed red
A surprise

I expected it would be
Black

As my Thoughts
My Moods
My Eternal Soul

Black as a
Starless night
With no moon

I watch it pulse
Once
Twice
Thrice
And collapse

Release at last
My final
Conscious
Thought

Self Awareness

Good evening.  Or morning.  Whatever part of the day it is for you. Hope your weekend was well. I spent mine thinking about self awareness.. A bit difference than mindfulness.   Having come late to the BP party with 20+ years of being misdiagnosed, I find myself microanalyzing my moods.

Every mood swing is torn apart.  Is this the beginning of a depressive episode? If I’m feeling good, am I on a hypomanic upswing?

I find it difficult to stay present and in the moment.  I’m learning, though.  When the squirrels in my brain won’t stop over thinking every nuance to my emotional state,  I do a 3 minute meditation.  Helps me realize that mindfulness of my mood is important but not to the extent that it takes over my thinking and my life.

Awareness is important. But so is just staying present and living in it.

Chaos and Creativity

Hi there and welcome.  The hardest part of the beginning of any endeavour is knowing where to start. And sometimes when to stop.  But that’s a tale for another day.  So let’s start with a little bit about myself. My name is Squirrel. Have suffered my entire life with uncontrollable mood swing with no understanding of why. Until my wonderfully amazing therapist mentioned bipolar. And a light went off. Eventually. I fought the idea for a few months but after researching it I couldn’t deny the truth anymore.  And thus a very late understanding was achieved. 

I learned that some of my favourite artists suffered from bipolar.  I was now keeping company with some of the greats like Shelley, Byron, Woolf, Van Gogh, Plath, and Poe to name a few. This got the old squirrels in the brain turning.  What is the connection between art and madness? A huge one,  as it turns out.

One I’d like to explore through my own writing and experiences, and yours as well. Feel free to comment, share your thoughts and writings, or reach out and contact me if you feel the need of desire.

One request: keep it supportive and respectful. We all experience our journeys differently. Let’s celebrate those differences.

COME

Come with me
Take my hand
And let us fly
Far above the storm clouds of my mind
Come
Take my hand
Trust me
You will not come to any harm
I cannot say you will not hurt
My mind is dark the journey darker
Trust me to share it with you
As I trusted you
So many times

Come
Take my hand
As we rise above
the madness in my mind
Below the pit
The loathsome hole that enters
Into the darkest of all places
The Abyss where hope is lost
Where I cower in the corner
Afraid to move
Afraid to feel
Where breathing is work
And just existing a herculean effort
Of exhaustion

Come
Take my hand
As we are buffeted
By chaotic uncontrolled thoughts
Whirling like a Sufi dervish
Spinning going nowhere
Piled one on top of the other
The bedlam of ideas tangled together
to sort out coherently

Come
Take my hand
As we ride above the maelstrom
No more ordered than before
But less dark

Invincible
Bulletproof
Reeling brain notwithstanding
There’s is nothing I can’t do

Come
Take my hand
As we fly above the lake
My calm place
The water dark
Like flowing ink
Old coffee foam where it meets the shore
Take a deep breath of air
Redolent with pungent aroma
Of decaying seaweed
The wind rushing in our ears
Clouds above thick and dark
Obscuring all the light

Come
Take my hand
As we breathe the peace and serenity
Here in this place
The only place my brain slows
Just enough to realize
How truly damaged it is

Come
Take my hand
I’ll bring you back
Away from the madness
The craziness

The Chaos

I set you down
Let go of your hand
Safe on the solid grounding Earth
And fly off onto the maelstrom