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.

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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!

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.

When We Get Knocked Down

A wealth of time has passed since my last entries. On numerous occasions, I became painfully aware of this fact. I yearned to continue my work, scribbling messages of inspiration for all of my loyal and hopeful readers to take in. Truly, the ambition of my life was to be able to recount my struggles for others who have inhabited those very same deep crevices to relate to. Very deep in my heart, I ached for those engulfed in that darkness and strife.

Honestly, I wanted to save lives. Doctors help to heal ailments of the body and mind. I had been committed to healing the spirit, which is the one thing no class could ever teach.

In the most recent months, I hesitated to write. Just as everyone else who lives with disorder, I am faced with my own challenges. In my darkest hours, I felt like a hypocrite. How could I possibly wax optimistic when I was having such difficulty practicing the very ideas that I had once embodied? The doubt set it when I read, and then reread all of the beautiful and uplifting posts I had written myself.

Was I ultimately a liar?

That very concept when heaped upon the challenges I found myself in the midst of was more than enough to seal my mind. But, that’s the trick of depression – to seal oneself off in the profound silence of isolation. I am upon my five year anniversary of seeking my initial treatment. And I found an even greater sense of shame and failure in my setback.

But that’s just it; it was a setback.

Even with the mental and emotional fortitude I had gained, I still got knocked down. All of the strength and stamina in the world cannot render any of us invincible. We are all susceptible to our own mental health concerns, with or without the coupling of difficult circumstance. We are not superheroes.

We are human.

Plain and simple, we are human, just men and women. Thought we are tempted to draw comparisons between oneself and another, there is truly no sense in it. We are apples, to oranges, to mangos, to pineapples – essentially all fruit, but otherwise dissimilar. We all grow from different trees in our own unique way with the resources that are provided to us.

That’s the point. We are all growing, perpetually and without fail. When we feel stuck and stymied in the singular moments that we inhabit, it can become difficult to grasp that our growth is universal.

For example, for the sake of my family, I had to take a job that was less than ideal. As a matter of fact, I once told my husband, “I’d rather starve and live in a cardboard box than go back to working retail.” (Note: It is not wise to tempt the universe with such statements). However, there I was, once again spending a portion of my life behind a register. But, I was still determined to prioritize it much lower than things in my life that truly mattered. I was set on having it remain as a means of income.

Six months later, I continued to struggle with the adjustment. I stood amongst a mob of people, loathing the very thought of waking up to yet another day of it. I saw myself in the distant future with my disgruntled co-workers mirroring my very fate. Fear and dread invaded the spaces where hope and optimism once inhabited. And the very idea of spinning my wheels indefinitely in the rat race of the workforce sent me reeling.

It was that precise disillusionment that generalized to each and every aspect of my life.

If it was always going to be this way, then why try?

It felt as if I had been running those exact same circles for my entire life, as brief as it has been. And the idea that I would continue to run them, despite my best intentions, led to my surrender. It was that resignation that abandoned all aspiration, hope, and passion I had ever contained.

I willingly gave up my life.

But, as I mentioned before, life goes on. We continue to grow, change, and progress, with or without permission or willingness. When that happens, we basically leave the driver’s seat empty to any entity eager to grab that wheel. In my case, it was depression.

Explaining depression and the resulting actions (or lack thereof) to a party who has been fortunate enough to have never experienced it firsthand is nearly impossible. I’ve often wondered why, but as I was attempting to drive the point home to my husband, I came to a profound realization. It sounds absolutely illogical. In truth, it is. It doesn’t make depression any less real, but it honestly seems nonsensical in a way. There is no why or how when it comes to the onset, thus, there is no why or how for the result. And as he sat there and contradicted many of the points I attempted to make, I came upon the realization I needed to shake this out of me.

This is my life.

Not his. Not my job’s. Not my boss’s. Not my son’s. Not anyone else’s.

And I’m going to take it back.

So when we get knocked down, it’s not enough to get back up again. We have the choice to just stand up and march on, or we can dust ourselves off and dance to the rhythm of our own song.

Sponser Lulu for Charity!

As many of my wonderful readers may already be aware, I am a martial artist. Aside from my family and being a writer that advocates for mental health and wellness, it is one of the most important parts of my life.

Martial arts changed my life. Just a year ago, I was in an awful place with myself and bipolar disorder. That’s when I walked into my first class, where I began my path as a martial artist. It started to heal me in ways that medicine and therapy just couldn’t.

Martial arts gave me a new lease on life.

Now, it’s my turn to give back.

My dojang, in affiliation with other local dojangs, is participating in the annual St. Jude’s Break-a-thon. For every $15 raised, one board is donated to the participant to break.

We break as a symbol of the strength we are hoping to provide these children in need.  I want to give these children their own new lease on life by providing them with funds so they may be able to live on.

Please, support this noble cause by sponsoring me in this event.

No donation is too small.  Every dollar that is donated goes directly to St. Jude and to the children that they treat.

And in advance, thanks for your donation.  It not only means the world to me, but it may open up a whole new world for many children in their hour of need.

Tiff Myler’s Drive Page.

Yes, that is my real name.  This is the first connection that I’ve made between my real life and my life here.  I’m proud of who I am, and I’m ready to make a difference in all areas of my life.

If you’d like to learn more about martial arts and St. Jude, visit their website.

Celebrating Our Gifts

Celebrating Our Gifts

A fellow blogger, Cymbria Wood who writes “Blank Canvas Living”, brought my previous article, “Weaknesses Equal Strengths” into a whole new context for me with an example of her own personal application.  She cited an “extreme” trait, once considered a hindrance, as being a blessing on the flipside.  She was then able to generalize the concept to another “extreme”, which provided her with an additional strength.  It is proof positive that throughout the execution of altering one thought, the practice generalizes and builds upon itself into a whole new skill set.

What she related also had a significant tone of acceptance.  There was an understanding that some of her traits could be considered to be “extremes”.  The value, “Everything in moderation” cited in “Brave New Mind” is applicable to actions, not to personality in general.  We are who we are, with both deficits and abundances.  In “Weaknesses Equal Strengths”, we explored the flipside of both.  In this article, we seek to celebrate that flipside!

Terming something as an “extreme” brings many negative connotations to mind.  “Extremism” is seemingly synonymous with fanatical, immoderate, uncompromising, excessive, or even violent.  It begs the question, “Extreme, so why can’t you dial it back?”  That’s the same as saying, “You’re extremely tall, so why can’t you shrink a little?” or even, “You’re extremely short, so why can’t you grow a little?”  Again, we are who we are, short, tall, big, small, pale, dark, etc, etc.  We have long since stopped discriminating against those who are physically different.  Why should we continue to discriminate “extremes” of a mental nature?

Instead, we could think of the extremes as abundances, even if others have defined some as “deficits”For instance, I am not great at advanced mathematical concepts, such as algebra and statistics.  We can flip the same “math” coin to see the advantages I have with simpler and more tangible math.  My husband can churn out equations at a genius level.  But, I have the advantage over him in computation of simple percentages and geometric measurements.  The difference between us is his grasp of complex, interdependent relationships and my grasp of more concrete concepts.

There exists a common societal ideal that we cannot be well-rounded individuals unless we shift our efforts from refining our abundances toward “improving” on our shortcomings.  It’s a rigid principle that encourages us to classify traits and abilities into strict bins of “successes” and “failures”.  It’s not that black and white.  I’ve written it before, and I’ll reiterate, “As long as I’m trying, I’m succeeding.”  With that value, we can move toward redefining our own self-image so we can celebrate ourselves and our abundances!

A great launching point is in the primary philosophy of education strategies with developmentally delayed children.  Instead of zeroing in on the delay, professionals and parents are encouraged to identify their abundances, usually termed as “gifts”.  Then, those gifts are nurtured until they can be applied to other developmental areas.  Once generalized, we can begin to see a globalized growth across all domains.  Truly, it’s a brilliant strategy that I feel is underutilized.

Just as each child has a gift, we all have our own aptitudes.  Personally, I excel in artistic areas.  Creative pursuits have always come naturally to me.  A little effort really went a long way.  I went on to develop skill sets in music, writing, crafting, and graphic arts.  However, because my “shortcomings” had been defined for me in other areas, I was discouraged from attempting to develop them through my own means.

It was only when I started to notice my own aptitude in martial arts that my own ideas changed.  At one time, I really only viewed it as being dependent on a physical skill, of which I was under the impression that I was sorely lacking.  However, it is so much more.  It requires a certain amount of creativity to translate technical skill into practical application.  For instance, I’m small, so some of the techniques learned in the curriculum wouldn’t be effective in a real situation.  Therefore, I have to get creative on how to modify them for my own body type.

If an abundance of one skill / trait can generalize to develop a skillset considered to be belonging to an opposing activity / trait, what else can it be applied to?

Let’s celebrate our gifts!

I am determined, and I’m proud!

I feel deeply, and I’m proud!

I think abstractly, and I’m proud!

I am detailed, and I’m proud!

I am involved, and I’m proud!

I try hard, and I’m proud!

I care abundantly, and I’m proud!

I am generous, and I’m proud!

I am very aware of my physical existence, and I’m proud!

I freely express ideas, and I’m proud!

What are you proud of today?