Answers From the Universe

When I’m feeling frustrated or small or insignificant, I often find myself reaching out into universe for the answers to life’s biggest questions.  I set my sights skyward and almost put a message in a bottle to float amongst the cosmos.  I eagerly await a sign, even something as seemingly insignificant as a shifting of winds, to guide me to where I’m supposed to be.

In my more cynical moments, I’ve referred to this overwhelming dissatisfaction as being a “Cold War Kid”.  The Cold War mentality was only partially inherited in my generation in only the vague sense that we could be something greater and do something greater with our lives.  As bright eyed children, we were all encouraged to “shoot for the moon” with the promise that “even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”.  And with the broken promise, we disinherited greatness.

I’ve had a lot of false starts in my life.  In darker moments, I’ve often regarded this to be attributed to the pop-culture psych phenomenon “Failure to Launch Syndrome”.  My inquisitive mind is always searching for answers, flipping a problem over and about to inspect it from every angle.  It’s too dissatisfying to pawn it off on a generational glitch, especially when I feel as if my personal situation doesn’t quite fit the bill.

I don’t do anything half-assed, in fact quite the opposite.  I’m a classical overachiever, only to encounter the complications of mental health conditions that stymie my own endeavors.

“Why is it not enough to live a good life?  Why must I live a ‘great’ life?”

In the same fashion, I don’t believe in coincidences or luck.  Coincidences and luck are concepts embraced by those who lack the sight when they step out for a moment to take in the grandeur of the rich tapestry of cosmic design.  Common sense and logic are only scientific rules that generate likely predictions, but not necessarily the most accurate outcomes.  We are only human, and therefore we can only rely on our hindsight and foresight to be accurate on only the smallest scale.

At about the same time that Xan and I were completing our initial application for foster parent certification, I completed an application for CNA training with the Generation Pittsburgh program.  The program is designed to offer vocational training opportunities to the youths of Pittsburgh aged 18 – 29.  At the time of my application, I was staring down 30 within 3 months.  Though technically still within the specified age group, I knew there was a good chance that I’d “age out” before I even had a chance.

This past Friday, Xan and I confirmed with our contact at the adoption agency that we were scheduled in for four trainings during the month of December.  I believe that makes us nearly complete, and we can expect to have our homestudy expedited pending our clearances.  I was thrilled by this news!  It was almost as amazing when I first saw our son on a sonogram!

But, the CNA possibility still lingered.  I mentioned to Xan, “The applications close today.  I suppose I’ll find out next week whether I move to the next round.”

I did.  The email arrived this morning.  “Dear Mrs. M., Thank you for your interest, however our program is only offered to the 18 – 29 age group.  Unfortunately, you will soon not meet these qualifications.  Good luck in the future.”  I got my answer.

Rejection, in whatever form, is never well received.  Throughout my entire life, all I wanted to be was “older”.  I just wanted to somehow “grow into myself”, as a tiny puppy grows into her awkwardly large head and paws to be the grand dog she was meant to be.  This analogy doesn’t apply in the physical sense, seeing as how I gained my remaining two inches of my petite height somewhere between the ages of 18 and 21.  My late Pappap used to joke with everyone about his only granddaughter as being, “Five going on thirty-five.”  And I always felt a sense of urgency to somehow get there.

Now I’m here, and I’ve actually aged out of a program.  This is the first time I’ve experienced a discrimination of age because I was actually chronologically too old!  I was a young wife.  I was such a young mother than I often faced a public scorn of being an unwed teenage mother, when that was absolutely false!  Though I often get gasps when people inspect my ID, I realize that I am no longer a young woman.

In that very same breath, I exhaled soothingly.  This is my answer.  What is the grander purpose of my life?  For some people, it’s pretty clear cut.  For me, I’ve had to do over a decade worth of searching before I realized it.  My longest job held was teaching and caring for underprivileged children in a program where their working parents would often drop them off at 6AM and not return again until 6PM.  I dedicated my time to improving the lives of children that no one else had the time or energy to invest in.

Why not be a mother to children who need one?

Of everything I’ve ever wanted in my life, it’s always been clear to me that I wanted to get married and have kids.  I went through so many phases of “what do I want to be when I grow up?”, even as an adult.  Not a doctor, a lawyer, president, or anything of the like.  I wanted to be a wife and a mother, and everything else just came and went.

And with more than a blessing that I received on my pregnancy with my biological son, our family’s intentions to adopt have been extremely well received by both friends and family alike.

So, I leave this with a quote from Silver Linings Playbook:

When life reaches out at a moment like this it’s a sin if you don’t reach back, I’m telling you its a sin if you don’t reach back! It’ll haunt you the rest of your days like a curse. You’re facing a big challenge in your life right now at this very moment, right here.

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Psych Lingo

Well, a month has passed since my last med check where I was ambushed by a filler doctor.  He had me taken aback with his recommendations for heavier medications, such as “real mood stabilizers” and replacing all my benzos with antipsychotics.  Apparently, in his professional opinion, my bipolar disorder was not well managed.

I’ll be honest with you.  Not only did his recommendations scare the bejesus out of me, they insulted me.  Typically, I would really refrain from faulting myself from being a particularly proud person.  With all of the knocks I’ve taken in my life, I can ill afford pride and arrogance.  But, in a way, it felt like he dismissed a year’s worth of legitimate complaints with the flick of a wrist.  It was almost as if he were nullifying all of the effort I’ve put into managing my mental health.

His suggestion?  A condescending tutorial on how to use Google to research my disorder and make informed medication decisions.

Ugh.  *Eye Roll*

That didn’t stop me from obsessively combing the internet, haunting message boards, putting messages in a bottle, and taking a battery of online assessments.  My assessment?  Don’t self-diagnose from the internet.

Ironically, there I was on Friday morning watching Silver Linings Playbook.  It was neither the first nor the tenth showing of that movie on that screen.  I had always admired the screen portrayal of Pat, and felt that it did justice to the disorder.  There was always something that I identified with, but not entirely.

I hopped in the shower, almost hysterical.  Before I’m about to meet with someone, I usually have a script ready in my head.  It’s just a set of questions I’ve already prepped myself to answer and topics that are safe and well researched.  This is especially the case when I’m preparing to meet a professional.  It’s easier than getting bullied into treatments that I’m not entirely familiar with.  At least I have some ammo when I go in.

But, I had no answers this time.  I’ve been to enough med checks in my life to know what to say and what not to say.  It’s a matter of knowing what’s going to get me in hot water and take me down a road I’m not willing to go.  Call that non-compliant, but let’s be real.  How many people are completely 100% treatment compliant?

I was ready to lay all of my cards down on the table.  Xan cautioned, “Don’t go in there guns ablazing.”  Again, eye roll.  I was panicked to the point of wanting to cancel.  It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that with a doctor.  But, Dr. K has this soft cleverness about him.  He’s far more observant than any other psychiatrist I’ve ever had.  And at the same time, he’s far less talkative, so he’s entirely less likely to show his hand.  Most doctors will give a tell as to their personal opinion, rather than a professional opinion if I engage them in a little extra conversation.  Dr. K just doesn’t bite.

Which brings me to what happened.

He was running almost an hour behind, which rankled me far more than I care to admit.  It’s amazing how cozy folks in a psychiatrists office can get when they’ve been in close quarters for more than a few minutes.  It was actually the first time anyone had the guts to politely ask why I was seeing Dr. K.  I always thought that there was some kind of unspoken code that it was almost forbidden to “fraternize” with one another.  I assured her the question was fine, and that I had been seeing him for bipolar disorder.  “Two,” I added, seeing a mildly startled look on her face, “Kind of the ‘lesser of’.  ‘Diet’ bipolar.”

An imaginary tumbleweed blew through the office accompanied by the soundtrack of a multitude of crickets.  A man’s voice sounded a boisterous, “BOO!”

Boo yourself!

I quickly and gently asked about her condition.  If I was taking home anything that day, it was the knowledge that folks in a psychiatrists office are a lot more eager to talk about their own conditions than I imagined.

Dr. K called me in, and I wished her well.

I guess all of the psych talk in the waiting room primed me.  I sat down in one of his plain black leather armchairs that did the rest of his ornate office no justice.  Naturally, he asked me how I was.  I admitted that I was well enough.  Then, somehow, I trickled into it.  I told him that I’m able to manage.  But the “insanity of it all” was just overwhelming.  The burning need to perform certain tasks in a particular way was killing me and causing conflict in my family.

He asked me to elaborate.  And did I!  I told him about the cumbersome nature of housework.  I like everyone to be out of the house, because I can do it the way I need to, without any interference.  And Xan, he tries to help when I’m getting more and more stressed and less and less gets done.

I told him about an incident where Xan did the dishes.  I don’t like when people do my dishes.  They can’t work within my system.  It’s infuriating, because the system is so easy, but I don’t expect anyone to know how, because it’s my system.  They have to be done in a certain order so they can be stacked in a certain order.  If they’re not, then something is going to break.  I described the awful Jenga game and how all of my favorite glasses and mugs have been broken by such carelessness.

Then, they have to be air dried to avoid any contamination.  The last thing I want is to accidentally give my family and friend food poisoning because I was being careless.  If there are multiple loads, then it slows the entire thing down.  But, then they have to be put away in a particular way, because that’s how they fit in the cupboards.  I try not to swear and complain when I go into the cupboards for something later, but it’s hard.  If they aren’t put away correctly, then they don’t fit, then things get lost, and then that delays all other kitchen activity.

I told him that I felt like I knew that the level of obsession with such detail was unhealthy, but there wasn’t any way to fix that.  I’ve always been like that.  He asked if there was anything else like that, and I exclaimed excitedly, “Oh the closet!”  And I went on to talk about how the closet is arranged and how the clothes have to be folded exactly so they fit in the drawers without incident.  And again, I went into how I know it could be done differently, but it’s not right and it doesn’t work.  I’ve spent years developing these systems.  It is supposed to make everything easier, but it actually kind of makes everything more difficult when I don’t have the time or energy to devote to it.

I actually went into more length than I wanted to there.  But, I felt like I had to illustrate the entire madness.  To leave anything out wouldn’t do it justice.  I expressed to him that I didn’t understand why I had to do this.  But, in truth, the act of organizing and sorting usually gives me some peace.  Well, when everything goes as it should.

Apparently, I used the right key words.  He answered my questions about the “level of obsessiveness” with a sentence that contained the keyword: compulsions.

Note:  I usually refrain from using psych lingo or any clinical terminology.  Most doctors aren’t very receptive.

Dr. K explained something that I never really got until then.  Anxiety manifests itself in many different ways, sometimes all at the same time.  And there are many different coping mechanisms that a person develops over a lifetime.  Anxiety can manifest in obsessions, which often lead to compulsions to alleviate that stress.  His response was to treat it with Prozac.  I’m pretty hopeful.

He added that it’s characteristic of obsessive compulsive disorder.  In all of my education and research, I am still a little unclear on it.  This is going to be a new journey for me.

In a way, I feel a little vindicated.  I was right to trust my gut sense that bipolar disorder wasn’t the entire picture.  And I was right in believing that there was more to it, as if we fixed something, but uncovered something else.

Most of all, I’m glad it’s all resolved, and I’m on an appropriate treatment for it.

So I guess all it takes is a little bit of clinical reference to speak the language of a Pdoc.  I’ll keep that in mind in the future.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Comes with Blues

My recent experiences with unresolved, generalized symptoms prompted me to finally go and get a checkup a couple of weeks ago.  I figured that if my mind felt okay, despite the skepticism of psychiatric professionals, then it had to be something in my body.

Generally, I’m one of those folks that is lured into my regular yearlies when they are prompted by something.  For the last four years, it’s been mostly job related.  When a person works with children, the company wants to be damned sure that their staff isn’t riddled with dangerous, communicable diseases.  But, that’s about the end of it.  There isn’t much regard for routine testing that should be done, especially in cases where it might be questionable as to whether the insurance will pay out or not.

This last time, I was mostly lured in by the need for a refill on my inhaler.  But, I figured while I was there with excellent insurance, I should probably get stabbed a half dozen times with a baby needle before they found a leaky vein to slowly drain my blood into a fist full of vials.  Besides, there were some things I wanted to look into.  Things I had been ducking for a few years, because I really didn’t want to know the facts surrounding it.

Something Old

When I was 25, a new primary care doctor reviewed my intake forms.  He asked, “Have you ever had a lipid panel done?”.  Mystified, I replied, “No, why?  Should I?”  Frankly, he looked shocked, and explained that any reliable doctor would have been monitoring that since I was 18.  Apparently, I was at a significant risk for heart disease.

Imagine my shock when my lipid panel came back indicating that I had high cholesterol.  I demanded to know why.  I wasn’t obese and by that time I was very active, chasing multiple toddlers around as part of my job.  My diet wasn’t absolutely atrocious, probably not any worse than anyone else in my age group.  All she could say was, “It’s largely genetic in your case.”

The nurse started rattling off orders to put in a prescription for statins and attempted to get my pharmacy’s information.  I resisted, explaining to her that I was just too young to start that kind of serious medication.  I resolved to make an honest attempt at maintaining diet and exercise to combat high cholesterol.

I simply refused to believe that someone in my age group could be at serious risk for heart disease.

The following year, I managed to shed about another 10 lbs and remained extremely active, having a largely pedestrian commute, and spending most of my working day on my feet.  And again, I ended up with an even higher number than the year before!

But, I still resisted.  I refused to give in.

Something New

My test results came back today.  I hadn’t been tested since I was 26, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  I knew that the numbers probably wouldn’t be in my favor, considering that I am currently at my highest adult weight yet, having gained about 25 lbs in 18 months.  Sadly, it was largely a result of quitting smoking.  I guess there are some instances where you have to pick your poison, so to speak.

My triglycerides spiked almost 100 points, over twice the level that they should be.  My overall number was considerably higher, being that my LDL was higher.  The only thing that brought my overall number down was the impressive number I had on my HDL.

And the dread hit me.  I’ll be 30 in less than three months now.  I had given it five years, and pretty much proved that despite my best efforts, genetics aren’t something that can be easily beaten.

Then, there was the horror.  I had orders being sent to me via mail to go to their local diagnostic center immediately for an abdominal ultrasound.  It seems that my liver enzymes are elevated.  Now, how elevated, I don’t quite know.  I won’t know until the orders hit my mailbox, along with a copy of the complete report.  It was apparent’y bad enough to alarm the doctor into urgent actions.

Something Borrowed

Genetics.

I keep hearing it repeatedly.  Every medical professional has rattled this off to me over and over again.

Many readers may be chuckling at my alarm over turning 30.  Most people, mainly those older than me, remark, “You’re still so young”, and, “You’re just a kid!” – to which I honestly take no offense.  Chronologically, I’ve really only lived a speck of time in my life.  I’m actually relieved when someone points out my youth, because I feel like I’ve lived dozens of lives already.

But, I take my age pretty seriously up against when I’ve witnessed in my own family.

My dad almost died shortly after his 50th birthday from heart disease.  The man had spent his entire youth at the peak of health, being in the army and all.  I never saw him take a drink in my lifetime.  He had quit smoking long ago.  And yet, 14 years and five days ago, he went into emergency surgery where they performed an old school quadruple bipass.  The Widowmaker, they crudely called it at the VA Hospital.

Through the modern miracles of medicine, he’ll be an official senior citizen in the upcoming year.  The doctors told him that he would probably last only another ten years, seeing as how another surgery wouldn’t be an option.  He used to remark about his mortality, saying awful things like, “I won’t live to even meet your child” to me.

Not only did he meet his grandson, but they are best friends today.  Poppop is Beast’s world.  That’s the man that would hold him ’round the clock until his arms were ready to fall off for the first year of Beast’s life.

Comes with Blues

I guess I was mostly prompted into action when my brother was diagnosed as having very high blood pressure earlier in the year.  My mom attempted to dismiss it by pointing out that my brother easily outweighed me by over twice my own weight.  But, when my own weight gain wasn’t easily coming off this time, I knew that I was probably at risk.

So, I started Lipitor today, much to my chagrin.  The most common symptom is myalgia, and it has to be reported immediately.  I’m not sure what happens after that, if they have to discontinue the medication and try again with something else.  Woohoo.  Another medication roulette wheel to spin.

But, this condition now limits my bipolar treatment options significantly.  My physical health has absolutely no room to risk any additional weight gain, increased sugar levels, or any liver toxicity.  That rules out pretty much front line mood stabilizers like Lithium and Depakote, and almost all second generation antipsychotics.

In a way, it’s kind of nice.  I mean, I now have a guarantee that any heavy medications are off the table.  Limiting my treatment options pretty much limits what combination of medications they can throw at me.  In all likelihood, I’m probably the safest on what I’m already taking.

But, there are some dangers that come with limiting my treatment options.  Since I’m so restricted now, I don’t have many avenues of treatment left.  I’m not willing to gamble my physical health for the sake of my mental health.  It might sound counter-intuitive, but exactly how well will I feel in my mind if my body isn’t well?  Damned if I do, and damned if I don’t, right?

I’m now introduced to a low carb, high protein diet.  This is something altogether new to me, being that I was raised on potatoes, pasta, and soda as my staples.

I will mourn the loss of all of those wonderful foods.  Especially pasta, pizza, and french fries.  Admittedly, I went on a carb bender tonight, because the idea of the new diet tormented me.  I don’t mind the foods that are promoted.  I actually enjoy fish, and it’s advised that I eat it twice a week now.  Chicken is easy to cook and fairly versatile.  Most vegetables are agreeable, and I’m definitely a fan of all of the “good” fats they are recommending.  Eggs are absolutely a household staple!

But, that doesn’t mean I won’t sorely miss all of those delicious carbs.  Farewell, my tasty friends.

The Real Possibilities – Reaching Beyond a Diagnosis

I’d like to preface this with one thing.  I don’t usually post to Sunny about things in my life that are just developing or things that I would consider to be “in limbo”.  This is me, Lulu, reaching out into the community in search of some informed opinions and suggestions.  I want to hear from you to learn about your personal experiences and gain from the reader’s pool of knowledge.  Not every answer is clear cut, and most of the best answers can’t be found in a book somewhere.

The New Doc on the Block

I went into my psychiatrist’s office for my regular med check last Friday.  Except, there was nothing about this that was regular.  My psychiatrist Dr. K. wasn’t in, and another doctor I was meeting for the first time was filling in.  I figured it would be more of the same, you know, “How’s it going?”  “Fine, except a couple of things.”  “Okay, well go off into the world, be good, and take your medication.”

I was dead wrong.

He asked me a few typical questions, like “What’s your diagnosis?”  and “What medications have you been on?”  and things of that sort.  He asked me how I’ve been feeling recently, and I answered honestly.  Mostly, I’m alright.  My moods are pretty stable, and I’m in a pretty good place most days.  I’m still pretty irritable and the anxiety I’m experiencing is just unmanageable anymore.  But, those are the constants.

I’m not fighting depression or mania at the moment, or living inside the confusing anguishing hell that is a mixed episode.  I’m alright.  Just alright.  Probably the best I could expect to be doing being someone with this condition.

This part shocked the hell out of me.

The doctor goes into a long explanation of why I’m still experiencing symptoms, being that I’m apparently not on medications that actually treat the disorder.  He tells me that Lamictal is not a mood stabilizer. Since I’m not on a mood stabilizer or and an antipsychotic, and since I have a lot of options, I should be on both.  In his medical opinion, I should not be on Wellbutrin or even really any antidepressant at all.  And Xanax and Halcion are not supposed to be for long term use to manage anxiety.

I fought him on the antipsychotic, explaining that those types of medications and I don’t get along well.  He insisted it was because I’ve never been on an actual mood stabilizer.  He kindly smiles and promised that as soon as my meds were fixed, then my bipolar would be fixed, and I’d be right on track.

He advised me to take a look on the internet at my treatment option throughout the next month, and then discuss with Dr. K. when I came back.

It was like getting slapped by someone in a moving vehicle.

As quickly as I went in, I was back out again.  I was disoriented and confused.  For a minute, I actually considered his words might be the truth to the whole thing.  Then I remembered what being on antipsychotics was like.  That created a whole host of problems that were unlike any I had ever experienced before.  And I don’t care to EVER go there again.

So, Xan and I got in the car, and I laid the whole thing out for him.  He was completely on my side.  He said, “I don’t see why they are trying to fix something that isn’t broken?   Why are they trying to dope you up like this?  What did you tell him?”

I replied, “Nothing out of the ordinary!  I told him that I’m having difficulty keeping a job, but I have no idea what that’s all about.  I’m struggling socially and have been, well, pretty much my entire life.  And that irritability, insomnia, and anxiety have been a constant for me.  I mean, for my ENTIRE life, before all the mood stuff started.”

And we both agreed.  Whatever throws down, that cocktail is not happening.

To Be Bipolar, Or Maybe Not Bipolar?

I’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile now.  My moods have been pretty stable for about a year now.  I mean, that is cause for celebration here.  I’ve had some minor snags here and there, but all in all, I’ve been pretty level.  The episodes I do have are not nearly as deep as they once were, even if the duration might be seemingly longer.  So, why am I still seeing significant dysfunction in certain respects?

Is it possible that I might not even have Bipolar Disorder in the first place?  Could it be something else?  Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar share some diagnostic traits.  Could there have been a mixup?

Or, perhaps, the mood episodes were actually solved, as I suspected, and we’re now uncovering something underneath the mood shifts?  I have long suspected that the anxiety that I’m reporting hasn’t had anything to do with my mood shifts, although I did describe them as having the ability to spark depression or mania, depending on the context.

Xan and I sat down later, and I said, “You know, if Dr. K. is going to cause trouble and shift medications around, I’m going to request that we do a complete reevaluation.  I’m talking about starting from scratch, covering it all from A – Z.”

He answered, “I think that’s a good plan.”

My Homework Assignment

So, I’m doing my homework assignment right now.  I’m doing my research on the internet.

BUT!

I’m going beyond all of the articles, medical websites, and online assessments.  Sure, I’ll have those tucked under my belt, but I’m not a person who half-asses anything.

I’m taking it to the people.

Tell me about your experiences.  I’m open to all suggestions, ideas, theories, and everything and anything all open minds would like to add.

Thanks ahead of time readers.  I’m counting on you!

A Different Kind Of Celebration

This brought tears to my eyes. Congratulations on such success!

Ruby is unquestionably Canvas’ mother, dedicating her life to nurturing this project into the beautiful, wonderful success, as only a mother could do. For that, I’d like to thank her. There are a great many times I’ve felt like an absentee father in this respect, seemingly only having scarce moments to pop in at the grandest occasions. I’m so grateful that Canvas could be headed by one of the most fantastic souls I’ve ever met in my life.

And I’m also so very grateful for everyone who has taken part in the ongoing life of Canvas. Thank you!

The Blame Game

At certain points, I find that I take a more passive role in developing my pieces by simply taking a step back to practice some observation. It’s true that I can relate to many mental health topics out there. I can also identify with a number of experiences that are disclosed by other writers. I frequently encounter different faces of “the beast” that is mood disorder. My world has been flipped, flopped, and turned on its ear by the ceaseless roller coaster. My closet is also riddled with skeletons, and I dread the mere thought of even approaching that Pandora’s box gathering dust in the corner of my mind. Finally, in all truth, my childhood was quite troubled.

I too have been enticed to play the Blame Game. In fact, there was an enormous chunk of my life where that was all I knew. As a child, it was easy not to feel as if I had any control over my life. That being the case, it was logical to collect my woes and place blame on those who surrounded me. My parents were very distracted by their own issues and those of my brother. I grew accustomed to the role of being “good”, which often led to me sliding off the map entirely. I was a ghost in my own home.

Naturally, this resulted in a particularly turbulent adolescence. I asserted the blame onto my family for my emerging disorder, and the entire traumatic experience that occurred as a result of the way it was handled.

Others are also entangled in the Blame Game even more so that I was, because it can’t be a game without a certain number of players. Being that I was an idyllic child, the seemingly overnight transformation into that perpetual nightmare was determined to be my choice. All of the resulting behaviors were seen as awful deeds I intended to commit. The familial problems brewing in the past became volatile, all at my hand. According to them, I was hell-bent on destroying the entire family for some kind of personal gain.

I could blame my awful choices in my early adulthood on my parents. In the past, I did. I was convinced that I was entirely a product of my upbringing, and that I would always remain a damaged person.

We can choose not to play any mind game out there. Quitting the Blame Game does not mean forfeiture in any way. Actually, it means winning altogether. We win command of ourselves.

Addressing the skeptics, I’ll agree that it’s not as simple as walking away from the table. The table is infinite in its existence. There will always be people who will make the attempt to entice us back into the game. But, that’s all it is. Remember the old saying from childhood? It’s just a game.

Here are some steps to cashing out once and for all:

Grieve:

Mourn all that was and all that could have been. It’s not easy to let go of those painful emotions and memories. It might even be more difficult to release the ideals and expectations. But, we can understand that the past is in the past. We can’t change that. What we truly desire is not always feasible. The people who caused the hurt in the first place might just be incapable of providing the kind of closure and / or emotional nourishment we crave.

I mourned the warm, nurturing childhood that wasn’t mine. I allowed myself to feel the sorrow of a lonely child and a misunderstood teen. I truly suffered the continual disapproval in my young adulthood. And I grieved the absence of the parent / child relationship in my adulthood. I released all that was, all that could have been, and all there never was or will be.

And the emptiness inside of me closed in. The black hole that was seemingly infinite in my heart vanished. It felt like I could fully experience the very moment I existed in, through and through. I finally could just be.

Forgive:

Release the resentment, and the blame will lift with it. Try to see the other side of it, even if it’s speculation. It is not rationalizing their behavior, but granting pardon for their transgressions. It’s not about determining whether they are worthy, but making the conscious decision to permit ourselves the freedom of that burden. We are entitled to the right to live our lives.

I forgave each member of my family individually. Not because I determined that they shared no fault, but because I released myself from it. It was too cumbersome to allow the past to be my present. And it was unrealistic to hold onto the hope that the future would become something any different. I am worthy and my life is too precious to ensnare it in the unending Blame Game.

My shackles released, and I was freed. For the first time, I truly felt like I could do anything.

Rebuild:

Those persons with troubled youths are likely to have faulty foundations. Maybe there is something that wasn’t there or something that has rotted away. In any case, we are already painfully aware of the malfunctioning portions of our own structures. It’s time to do some inspection into our infrastructures to rebuild and repair from the bottom up.

Important note: It is not wise or even advised to “scrap it” and start new. I’ve watched a few close friends “reinvent” themselves dozens of times to end up in exactly the same condition, and probably worse for all the wear. In my formative years, I’ve even attempted it myself. In reality, all it does is condemn and identity and destabilize a personality. As a result, a whole new set of problems is piled upon the original, grander issues.

I cannot be summed up by my past and present roles, or by the quantity or quality of experience. I am simply me. And I strive to be the best me, each and every day.

Anyway, for me, it was a tangle of perused and outdated materials. My parents didn’t hesitate to impose their own values and beliefs on me, while denying my own perspectives and opinions. It became commonplace for me to assume I was “wrong”. Then, it was habitual to allow others to do the same.

It took a lot of self-examination to determine what was actually mine. And when I say “self-examination”, I don’t mean introspection. There was no judgment involved. Instead, there was a deep and lengthy determination between the parts that resonated with me and those that caused me harm. My goal was to be me, and only me, through and through. That’s not to say I discarded anything that didn’t originate with me. I integrated them as working parts of a fully-functional, but always perfectly imperfect system.

Refuse:

Refuse to return to the Blame Game. Decline any invitation, and be wary of any temptation. It’s easier than anticipated to return to the same habits. No one can use force in mind games, and that’s all the Blame Game is.

I have a temper, and I find it difficult to back down from a fight. I have to be vigilant with each interaction, especially with new people. But, that doesn’t mean I let it slip from my mind when engaging with those close to me. I don’t shut the people out who are prone to it. I simply refuse. If they want to win, then so be it.

What would they really win if there was no one to play with? Nothing. Not even the satisfaction.

Instead, I get to walk away with that satisfaction and everything functional and intact. And that is truly progress in this grandiose game we call “life”. Because in the end of that one, no one wins. We are all the same.

Make it Yours

Reblogged:  The Daily Post

Unsafe Containers

Which emotion(s) — joy, envy, rage, pity, or something else — do you find to be the hardest to contain?

As a person living with a mental health condition, particularly a mood disorder, I find that pretty much all emotions I experience are difficult to contain. Honestly, I know for certain that I am not alone on this one. We all experience a wide spectrum of emotions on a variety of scales, some of us going to great extremes. Hence, we are considered to have a mental health condition. It seems that experiencing emotions in the extremes for the greater majority of the time is atypical, and from personal experience it can be particularly troublesome. Especially, when we are expected to keep a lid on it, 24/7.

Why do we get the impression that we must contain emotions?

Take note, these sentiments are not intended as an attack. They are meant to highlight misconceptions in society about the means of self-expression and the limitations of what is considered acceptable.

Simply, our society has put such a gigantic emphasis on a pristine image that we find our means of true self-expression to be stymied. Perfection is revered, and as a result, anything less depreciates our self-worth. We can see by the wording in the prompt that the ideal scenario is being statuesque, with a plastered smile and a confident pose. Thankfully, the prompt does hint the ideal is not entirely realistic. Yet, we are encouraged to keep striving for that perfection.

It’s all an illusion.

The happy-go-lucky, sexy people in those magazines all have real problems. Actors and actresses have real personal tragedies. All of these picturesque, perfect people have been digitized, airbrushed, and altered to represent impossible standards. However, the blame doesn’t lie with them. These folks are just like us, trying to make a living doing what they do best. Contrary to popular belief, the blame cannot be placed onto the industries either.

The blame, folks, lies with us – the everyday consumer.

Truly, if it weren’t for our own unquestionable belief in the fallacy that surrounds us in every facet of our lives, then the impossible standard would fall to pieces. We even fall victim to it in our own social media. How many of us have opened our Facebook accounts to click through countless smiling photos and exciting status updates of our friends’ successes, only to walk away feeling awful about ourselves? Plenty, I assure you.

The sad truth is that we perpetuate it. We shy away from posting anything that tarnishes our best public image – unflattering photos, sad news, and for many of us, bleak status updates. We do this until we feel as if there is nothing to post at all, when in fact, there is. There is a wealth of emotions and thoughts that we deny ourselves because society deems them unacceptable.

Better or worse, emotions are real to those experiencing them.

Why deny them? What purpose does that serve?

Denial of emotional expression is counterproductive and harmful. It has the potential to create maladaptive coping mechanisms. In time, they become more complex to disguise the actual workings in order to preserve the function. Plainly, we learn certain harmful knee-jerk reactions, and we can’t figure out why.

For instance, I am known for an explosive temper. People who knew me in my childhood would disagree with that statement and describe me as a sensitive girl prone to tears. However, people who have come to know me in my adulthood would tell very different tales of destructive behavior that would leave warpaths for miles. Why such a discrepancy? Because, I learned that displays of anger are more effective and socially acceptable than displays of sadness. I conditioned myself to be an angry person.

I don’t advocate it. Now, most times I go on a rampage, I am stricken with illness. I fall victim to blistering migraines, shortness of breath, and an assortment of other ailments that lead me to believe that I could eventually give myself a stroke, heart attack, or aneurism. I believe that dying in my 30’s of anger could possibly be the most ridiculous and regrettable death ever.

It’s not as if other strategies of bottling up emotions are any more effective. Depression hurts, literally. Studies have proven it. Anxiety causes a host of physical ailments. So why does extreme emotion manifest in legitimate physical conditions? Because that is the only means that we provide. And even then, most of us get pegged by doctors as being a hypochondriac.

As if I could feign a heart condition, c’mon.

Find a medium. Let it out.

Since the beginning of time, humans found a mode of self-expression. Prior to the written word, there were cave drawings. Music is as old as the universe itself. Since then, we have invented an abundance of ways to productively and effective express our thoughts and emotions. It is up to us to decide what we are suited to do, in spite of our skill level.

Make it yours.