Hang Ten!

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I used to correlate the beach with sunburns and undertows.  Now, I correlate the beach with a beach umbrella, a lounge chair, and a cool beverage.  One of the things I find most relaxing is to sit on the beach and listen to the crashing waves. 

Several years ago, I walked into yet another therapist’s office with very low expectations.  I never anticipated learning one of the most valuable pieces of information for managing my mental illness – “ride the wave”.  I have to admit that it took me a while to understand the meaning of “ride the wave” therefore it took me a while to recognize its significance.

When my therapist suggested I “ride the wave” he was referring to my mood.  My initial reaction to an episode of depression was to fight it.  In my mind, this was the best way to cope.  My therapist wanted me to recognize that by fighting it I was actually prolonging the episode and increasing the severity of depression.  If I am able to allow myself to work through the depression then the episode will not be as long or as intense.  I need to “ride the wave”.  I need to allow myself to experience both the highs and lows of life. 

Every so often I still need to remind myself to “ride the wave”.  For the past several weeks I have been reminding myself but I have not carried it out.  Doug has since stepped in and now my surfboard is strapped to the top of our SUV ready to head to the beach.  I will be away at the beach rediscovering how to “ride the wave”.  I will return after Labor Day.  I pray that you find your therapeutic relationships helpful and supportive.  I hope you and your family have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend.

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Priceless

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What a day!  I have spent the day trying to answer two questions.  What is the cost of “real” honesty?  What is the value of the blog?  I wrote an entry the other day titled “Hoover Dam”.  Instead of “sugar coating” my thoughts and feelings, I decided to share my reality.  I explained what I was experiencing with true emotion and without censorship.  When I finished the entry I felt a little sense of relief and pride.  I had never been that honest before and it felt good.  Full disclosure:  I haven’t even been that honest with a therapist.  My sense of pride came from believing I was beginning to let go.  I felt like I had done the right thing.

When I started the blog I was very naïve.  The blog had been up several weeks before it dawned on me that extended family and friends could read the blog.  I was so focused on reaching out to people who suffer from mental illness, I didn’t think about the blog being accessed by anyone else.  I was wearing one huge set of goggles!  After my revelation, it became difficult for me to write openly.  My focus shifted from reaching out to those who are hurting, to impressing people.  The content of the entries became irrelevant.  I spent most of my time trying to produce a polished story.  I provided very little depth and when I referenced my journey I only skimmed the surface.  As time passed, I noticed that my entries had become extremely vague and superficial.  I knew this was wrong but, it felt comfortable.

Last week, I began to recognize the importance of being authentic.  I realized that the blog was not intended to be a collection of essays.  I was reminded of the purpose of the blog which is to provide a safe place for people who suffer from mental illness to share their real thoughts and feelings, their real trials and triumphs, and their real experiences and stories.  I knew it was time for me to open up and share my “real” story.  I began to write with honesty and sincerity.  I was frank and candid.  I wrote from the heart and it felt comfortable.     

I never planned for my writing in “Hoover Dam” to be hurtful.  My straight talk was to be constructive.  My “real” honesty was to be helpful not harmful.  After I posted “Hoover Dam” and I realized I had caused my family a tremendous amount of grief, I asked myself how much is “real” honesty worth?  If the price of “real” honesty is too high then what is the value of the blog?  These questions were causing me great concern.  Mental illness came into my life and my family’s life 10 years ago.  We live with the complexity and the frustration every day.  We have gone through the pain together and celebrated in the triumphs together.  “Hoover Dam” made me aware that “real” honesty can cause discomfort.  The discomfort reminded me that my family and I will continue to go through the pain together just as we will continue to celebrate in the triumphs together.  “Hoover Dam” and in essence “real” honesty has made me appreciate my supportive, caring, loving, and understanding family even more.  Priceless.

So, does the blog have value?  I hope so!  It has been of benefit to me and my family but, that is not the purpose of the blog.  I continue to hope and pray that the blog will help people who are suffering.  Even if the blog aids just one person, it has value.  A blog that provides people with mental illness support, comfort, and relief.  Priceless.

Hoover Dam

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It is 7:30 a.m. and I am going to attempt a feat I have not met.  I am going to write without notes, without forethought, and without editing.  OK, yes I must admit there will be some editing but, there will be no overhaul.  I am going to write from the heart.  I am going to write about the conversation I had with Doug last night.  I am going to write while it is still raw!

Yesterday was an interesting day.  It rained all day which is very uncommon.  I usually spend a couple of hours outside working in our yard.  I really enjoy the quiet-time and the sunshine, both are very uplifting!  Our puppy enjoys the sunshine, too.  She does not like rain.  She doesn’t even like the sound of rain.  It causes her an enormous amount of anxiety, which includes shaking and whining.  When she realized the rain was here to stay, she was off to the closet.  Unfortunately, the rain also causes potty issues for the puppy.  Now get this, she will go outside when it is raining.  But when it is not raining, she won’t step on wet grass!  Along with feeling cooped-up, I was also feeling jittery.  I was feeling uncomfortable and I was on edge.

In the past, I have used analogies to try and help my family better understand me.  I have often used the analogy of standing on the edge of a cliff to explain my feelings.  I will give you an example.  I feel like I am standing alone on the edge of a cliff.  I can feel tiny rocks beginning to crumble below my feet.  I am so afraid.  I know that one wrong move will send me tumbling to the pit below.  I am terrified.  I am paralyzed because I do not know what wrong move will cause me to fall to the pit below.  I have been to the pit and I do not want to go back.  The pit is a very dark, lonely and frightening place.  It is a place where you can easily misjudge things and make bad decisions.  I hope the previous statements are helpful.  I have used them several times to explain how I am feeling and to explain where I am in the process.

Last night, I was having difficulty explaining to Doug how I was feeling and my analogy of standing on the edge of a cliff was inappropriate.  I was having difficulty because I had never felt that way before.  I stated earlier that I had been feeling jittery.  I was feeling jittery but, I was also feeling extremely tired.  At first I told Doug that I was feeling like I had all of these things going on inside me and the only thing keeping everything in was my skin.  This morning that sounds like a pretty goofy statement.  Now I realize why Doug said that he didn’t understand.  I then used the idea of a dam, the Hoover Dam.  I thought about the movie Vegas Vacation when the Griswolds go to the Hoover Dam and take the dam tour.  During the tour, Clark Griswold tries to stop a tiny drip coming through the wall of the dam.  When he plugs up the hole to stop the drip other holes pop open, the water starts gushing out from everywhere and chaos ensues.  This was the illustration I was trying to use to help Doug understand how I was feeling.  Through my tears I was telling him that I was afraid of what was going to happen when the pressure became too much and my dam broke.  I am really afraid because I don’t know how to cope with this new feeling.  The last time I didn’t know how to cope; I took a serrated knife from our kitchen, went into the closet in our bedroom and cut myself.  In that moment it felt good.  Today, I still have scars on my legs and I can’t remember the last time I wore shorts or a bathing suit.  I only cut myself that one time and a few days after it happened, I told Doug.  I can’t remember much of the conversation Doug and I had except he asked if he needed to take me to the hospital and I said ‘No’.  He then said if there is a next time we are going to the hospital no questions asked.

I believe the use of the analogy of dam to explain my feelings was helpful.  The analogy helped explain HOW I was feeling like a dam but, did not explain WHY I was feeling like a dam.  Unfortunately, this happens a lot.  How am I supposed to explain why I am feeling like a dam when I don’t know why I am feeling like a dam?  This is one of the reasons why Mental Illness is so frustrating!  If I can’t understand why, then how is Doug supposed to understand why!  I know I was not making any sense last night but, Doug sat across from me and listened, anyway.  I told him I feel like a disappointment.  I told him I can’t finish anything.  I told him I am tired of being different.  I told him I am the one who ruins plans.  I told him I am the one who people are afraid of.  I told him I am tired of living in fear.  I live in fear of the doorbell, the phone ringing, neighbors asking us to dinner, walks with dog (who are we going to meet?), and the list goes on and on.  I told him I am terrified people are going to find out who I really am.  Doug always asks who ‘people’ are.  People are anybody.  I told him I know I am not easy to live with.  At the beginning of our journey, Doug admitted that it is difficult to come home sometimes because he is not sure what he is going to find.  I can completely understand that because I don’t know what he is going to find either.  I told Doug I am exhausted.  I told Doug I don’t want to be me and I wish I could get away from me.  I even told Doug that I think I have been trying to plug up that tiny drip in my dam by doing some on-line shopping.  Even the purchase of a purse or purses is not “heeling” how I am feeling.

After my meltdown, I told Doug I was going to bed.  He grinned, nodded and said OK.  When I was in bed, I began to sob which is what I needed to do.  As I began to quiet down, Doug walked-in.  He did not say anything.  He just laid down next to me and put his arm around me.

Blogger’s Block

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I have been sitting in front of my computer for the past several days starting and stopping entry after entry.  I have so many things I want to share with you but, I can’t write.  I will start to write on a specific topic and immediately, I’m off on a totally unrelated tangent.  I will start writing and gain full momentum, only to find myself going back and editing out almost all I had written.  I am second guessing everything that I am writing.  I am censoring myself even before I start.  I have become increasingly worried about what I write in my blog.  I don’t want to disclose first names of family members and friends because I’m afraid they will get upset being correlated to my mental illness blog.  I have become preoccupied with trying to make every entry a story, so I am finding it difficult to just sit down and write.  Every time I want to post something I make it a project.  Of course, Doug asked me why I couldn’t do a little of both!  Why can’t I just sit down and write about what’s going on at that moment or what happened that day.  It makes perfect sense.  I’m sure it would be a relief to you, too.  Who wants to read a whole big story all the time, not me?  OK, I’ll do it!  I wish it were that easy.

For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that there is more to my blogger’s block than my writing issues, preoccupations, and idiosyncrasies.  I have been excited about the blog since my family and I discussed it last December.  I started to write down titles for entries, topic ideas, and rough drafts almost immediately.  If you remember, I watched the movie “Julie and Julia” to prepare myself, too.  I felt like I had everything under control when the One Mind Mental Illness Ministry website went ‘live’ and the blog was activated.  I had stories ready, they just needed to be entered and posted!  I was prepared.  I had it all handled.  I was in control.  What I have learned in these 2 short months is that I cannot control everything about the blog, and that scares me.  I feel safe when I am in control.  I make the decisions about what to write, how to write, and when to post when I am in control.  I feel safe when I am in control.  I am in control when I am feeling well.  Unfortunately, when I am not feeling well, I am not in control.  When I don’t feel well, I do not have the strength to fight my illness.  My masks fall off and I revisit the pain of mental illness.  The feelings of being overwhelmed by life, by feeling worthless to society and family, by feeling hopeless, lonely and afraid all resurface.  During these periods of times, all I want to do is retreat back into a hole and come out when I feel better.  I call it hermitting.  There were times in the past when I would tell Doug that I was leaving to stay in a motel.  I would tell him that I did not want him to see me like this and that I would be back when I was feeling better.  He would talk with me and try to figure out why I felt like I needed to leave.  Ultimately, Doug put his trust in me and let me go.  Through the years I have stayed in a motel twice, both times Doug knew where I was staying.  Now, if I feel like I need to retreat I stay in a different room in our house for a few days.  When I am not feeling well, I need to be alone for a while.  When I say I need to be alone for a while, it includes the blog.  I apologize for my blogger’s block and not posting for several days.  I was hermitting.  I’m working on getting back into control.  I was thrown down a little harder than I have been in recent months.  I know this is what I am meant to do.  I believe God has guided me here to participate in this blog.  Now, I believe he is challenging me.  He wants me to let go of the control of the blog.  He wants me to write-through the times of feeling well and not feeling well.  He wants me to put trust in him and in the process.  That is all I need to do to eliminate my blogger’s block.  OK, I’ll do it!  I wish it were that easy.