Saturday, October 30, 2010

Who AM I?

When I was young, and something went wrong, I was usually sent to my room to think about what I did to cause such a thing to happen.  A perfect example of this would be when I lost a friend or someone was mean to me and I would come home crying.  I would be told I need to think about what I did to make them not like me.  It was detrimental to my confidence, and still lingers with me.  

But I have seen several places - whether it's read or heard or seen - that much of what you do not like in other people, many of the strong reactions you have toward other people's actions are because you, yourself, in fact possess those qualities and that is why they are so grating.  Is this really true?  And if so, to what extent?  

I struggle with this a great deal.  I am a highly reactive person.  My nerves are grated easily, and I'm a plethora of buttons to be pushed.  So I'm constantly trying to take a step back and say to myself "Is this happening because I possess the same quality and do the same thing?"  Where does it end?  What is the guideline for such a skill - to notice that what you don't like in someone else is in fact something you do yourself?  It makes me crazy sometimes.  

Am I rude?  Am I abusive?  Do I not listen?  Am I not present in conversation?  Do I expect too much?  Do I want too much?  Am I unrealistic?  AM I UNREALISTIC??  At what point do we stop dreaming and start doing?  (Side tangent.)  

But back to the matter at hand.  People grate my nerves.  And it does not take much.  So I think, what have I done to make them react to me in such a way?  And then I think, do I possess that annoying characteristic?  And then… I'm just lost.  I'm lost for who I really am.  I am constantly questioning myself.  I would like to think that I am a caring, considerate, present person.  But am I really?  Am I just plain selfish like I've been told my whole life?  

I recently had a conversation with my sister about possibly needing a good, swift kick in the ass to get myself back to better.  And my sister said she doesn't know how to give me a good kick in the ass because she doesn't know how to kick herself in the ass.  Does that mean I do need a kick in the ass?  (Side tangent #2.)  

Who am I?  And am I the only person who is secretly paranoid about what she's doing and how she's interacting with other people to the point of embodying everything she hates?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weekend Support and Inspiration

So I did it.  I decided to jump right in and follow my heart.  I created a Facebook support page called Stop Living the Stigma, following my recent blog post and some great feedback I have received on it.  

Did I do the right thing?  Who knows, but I have nothing to lose.  I thought that despite the many Facebook support pages out there, this one may have its own touch.  We will see what kind of following (if any) I receive!  I'm excited, and have had fun with it so far.  

But I must remember, that I'm not always going to feel as good and inspired as today.  So what do I do on those days?  Well, hopefully I will look back on my past posts and find comfort and inspiration from them.  If not, I absolutely must be kind to myself and give myself time to heal.  Because that's what the page is all about.  And I'm hoping, that I will be comfortable enough on the page to be honest with my friends, and tell them if I'm just not feeling myself that day.  Perhaps they can help keep the page going.  After all, that's what I was looking for!  

So I did it!  I followed my heart and took a leap into the unknown.  I can't wait to see what happens.  

In other news, I had an amazing weekend with my fiance, Tony.  We didn't do anything except for grocery shopping and lazing around.  It was wonderful.  I did find myself a little emotional and snippy Saturday, and finally I started talking and it all came out.  A lot has been on my mind.  

I told you in my last post that he admitted to being jealous of me being home.  Well, I finally admitted to him that this compounded the guilt I already felt of being home and not working myself.  He felt bad.  And I felt bad that he felt bad.  He never meant for it to be taken upon myself as another stressor.  Poor guy.  But the great part about it, is it led me to talk more about everything else that's been on my mind, and how stressed out I have been feeling.  He actually thanked me for being so open with him.  It's times like these that I realize just how lucky I am, and just how much pressure I put on myself.  I constantly hold it all in, and stress and stress and stress, much to the detriment of my mental health.  It comes out as snippy and bitchy in the end.  It's a terrible habit.  

But he does love me.  He does want to marry me.  And he's not even thinking of the possibility that this could be a forever situation.  He's just enjoying the here and now… with me!  I have already learned so much from him.  And I look forward to learning so much more.  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stop Living the Stigma - My Story

It's time I face facts.  I am mean to myself.  Really mean.  I have been my whole life.  I hate to say it because I do love my mother dearly, but I know a lot of it comes from my upbringing.  She was pretty unstable, and very nasty.  I grew up feeling like the scum on the bottom of the scum on the bottom of the Earth - sometimes worse.  

I never felt like I did anything right.  Or just when I thought I did something right, some how it was just wrong enough that it warranted a tongue lashing.  I never understood.  Even to this day, at 31 years of age, I get tongue lashings over things I do or have done.  It's unbearably frustrating.  

So that's what I learned.  And that's what I have accepted in my life - until now.  Because let's be honest, deep down, despite those nagging voices and negative thoughts, I know in my soul that I am doing well.  I know I'm not always wrong.  I can't always be wrong, right?  No.  "No, Carrie, you need to give yourself more credit." 

Even now as I write this, I feel uneasy.  I do not like giving myself credit for good things, or progress, or success.  I don't feel worthy.  But I'm working really hard to recognize when I do accomplish something.  Right now, I'm accomplishing this post, this wide-open-heart post; I'm bearing my soul.  

Enter Bipolar Disorder.  I was angry at first.  Then I thought I accepted it and had it all figured out.  Then it took me for a ride.  Doctors, endless medication combinations, lost jobs, and a hospitalization.  Just for fun, let's throw a relationship in there to see if it can get any more exciting… er, challenging!  (Insert sarcasm.)

I still was bringing in money to the household through unemployment, but I was not prepared for the guilt I would feel of not working.  Then Disability comes in and I'm ecstatic!  But more guilt sets in.  Because I'm not a poster child for someone who stays home all day.  I don't do the dishes all the time.  I'm slow to do laundry.  I do not clean.  My lifeline is my computer and my friends on Facebook.  TV helps sometimes, music also, but I do not leave the house except to go to the corner store for soda.  Going to the doctor or counselor is a huge feat for me.  It means leaving the house (with real clothes on, not pjs), catching the bus, then catching the train, then walking a few blocks, then waiting in an uncomfortable waiting room, then pouring my heart out to a practical stranger, then leaving feeling wilted and bruised only to have to catch a train and and then a bus home.  Then I have to face the rest of the guilty day at home.  

I beat myself up something fierce!  Oh man.  I may have inadvertently been brought up to think the worst of myself, but I was also brought up to be a competent, independent, responsible adult.  Leaning on others was not acceptable.  Asking for help was unheard of.  So to have to accept that I am "unable" to work?  Wow, that's a doozy.  I still struggle with it after a year of not working.  I know the reality of it.  I know that the stress becomes too much for me, I fall into a depression or mixed episode and am unreliable and very edgy.  But why?  Why can't I work?  And if I'm not working, shouldn't I be taking care of the house?  

My fiance (bless him) finally confessed to me recently that he is jealous that I get to spend my days at home - that he would give anything to have 5 minutes of the peace he sees on my face sometimes.  It broke my heart.  I feel guilty every minute of every day for being home and not being a functioning member of society.  I feel guilty every minute of every day for sitting on my fat ass not cleaning the house, not trying HARDER to get out and make something of myself.  Only, I know when I do try harder, I get overwhelmed and fall into an episode again.  But I still feel guilty.  Something should be different here.  Something is not right.  

I have no idea how to balance it all.  I just don't.  I'm trying, and every time I think I'm getting somewhere, another rock hits me in the side of the head and I have to figure out that bump in the road.  "That's life?"  I don't entirely believe that.  I do believe that life can be better than this.  I refuse to accept that this is my "fate."  I will continue to work on it.  I will continue to try to learn what's going to be best for me and all others involved.  

But this is why this "movement" is so dear to my heart.  I have endless compassion for other people.  I can see strength and beauty in them where they cannot.  So why can I not extend the same love and compassion to myself?  Is it society's demands?  Is it a lack of understanding on the part of those who are dear to my heart?  Maybe.  But I think it also needs to exist within.  If we cannot give love to ourselves, who is going to give us love?  If we do not find ourselves deserving of the best?  How can we ask others to give it to us?  How do we know they are giving us what we need, if we ourselves do not know what we need?  

I suppose that's my point in the whole matter.  I am learning to love myself for who I am.  I am learning to love myself despite my illness.  I am not bipolar disorder.  I am not a weakling.  I am strong, and I am capable.  I know this at the depths of my being.  I can feel it.  It is time.  It is time to eliminate all the negativity that has plagued me my whole life.  What better time than the present to start?  What better time than when I'm feeling at my weakest, my most vulnerable?  There is only one person in this world who can truly make a difference in my life - and that's me.  From where I stand, I have nothing to lose.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Stop Living the Stigma

There's a problem in the Mental Illness World that I feel needs to be addressed.  We are fighting so hard to fight the stigma associated with mental illness.  There are groups and organizations all over the world that are working to fight misconceptions of mental illness and what it means for those living with it.  But I keep finding a recurring ailment among my friends living with mental illness that hurts me to the core: we are living the stigma we are fighting so hard to eliminate! 

So what does that mean?  Well, it means we are hard on ourselves, painfully brutal with ourselves for not living up to society's expectations - me included.  Not working, not being "able" to work, not bringing in a substantial income, not cleaning the house, doing laundry, doing dishes, socializing, getting out of the house, or just a simple lack of energy because of our mental illness that causes us immense pain!  It hurts me so much to hear my friends suffering with this.  I, too, struggle with these thoughts and self-criticisms on a daily basis.  

I think we need to band together.  I think we need to help one another to stop living the stigma we are fighting so hard to eliminate in other people.  How are we going to be an example of what NOT to do when we do it to ourselves every minute of the day?  

I know, this will not be an easy task by any means.  We stigmatize ourselves greater than most of our biggest critics.  But it is so unhealthy for us.  The negativity that we allow to permeate our beings is hurtful, it's harmful, and it needs to stop.  

I have no idea how to do it other than to try to re-train our brains.  We need to embrace what we're telling other people to accept about us and accept it within ourselves.  We need to be kind to ourselves, love ourselves, and support ourselves, because we are our own best advocates.  

I was recently accused of wanting unrealistic support based on what someone close to me was taught at a NAMI meeting.  It was perhaps one of the most hurtful things this person could have ever accused me of, because I work so hard on learning what I need, what I don't need, and finding a balance between the two.  And it changes.  It changes with my mood changes.  And I am ONE individual.  Every person dealing with mental illness is different.  But ultimately, I believe we each know what our needs are, and we need to fight for them.  

So let's start a movement to stop living the stigma.  Are you with me?  

To be continued...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Newness of Heart

It's October!  Wow, when did that happen?  I'm so glad.  The weather is finally right up my alley - cool, breezy, and even sunny today after a few days of miserable, cold, rain!  I'm very excited. 

Welcome to my new blog!  There are a lot of posts I brought over from my old blog so that I would not lose them.  The last few are pretty powerful and full of pain, so beware if you decide to read them!  

So, where do I start?  I feel full of light and inspiration today and it's so refreshing.  I've been through a lot the last few weeks.  At times, I feel like I've been to hell and back.  That tends to happen after the deep throws of an episode.  This last episode was a doozy on its own, with some external factors exacerbating my symptoms.  Very frustrating.  

I want this to be a new start.  Actually, each emergence from a bad episode is a new start.  Each time I am stronger, freer, and more inspired.  That's the beautiful part of being bipolar or having mental illness in general: the strength and tenacity you learn, and the beauty that comes after each bad episode or depression.  Life is so much lighter, brighter, and more beautiful when I'm able to breathe freely again.  It's like drawing new breath each time.  

I truly loathe the agony of a depressive or mixed episode.  It's so difficult.  But coming out of it feels like I'm a phoenix, rising from the ashes.  I brush off the remaining ash, and rise above to greet the new day.  

This is how I wish I could live my whole life.  I'm working on it.  When I'm feeling this inspired, I work hard to take in as much as I can, because I know if or when I fall again, I will have a very difficult time seeing the light.  It is scary to say the least.  But I cannot deny the immense LIFE I feel afterward.  It's almost like I needed to go through that to re-gain perspective.  I don't know.  I could be making no sense.  It's been a while since I've shared my thoughts, and has been a while since I've felt like this.  

I worry that as easily as I'm saying these things, my mood can change for the worse.  It has happened before.  But I hope that my mental state is stronger than that today.  I have been battling a cold, but despite that have been feeling better mood-wise.  Today marks day #2.  Yes, I count days.  The best part is when the days turn into weeks.  

I really hope this is the start of something new.