Dear Diary – 18 May 2017

May 18, 2017

Dear Diary,

I started a new kind of blog post theme today.  I have one called “To Whom It Concerns” that I think people like; I mean, it makes me laugh.  But I’ve been having trouble writing and I really want to start writing again because if you don’t use it you lose it, and I love this gift of mine.  I thought if I started by writing just for myself it might be easier.  I call this one “Dear Diary” because I talk to myself more than anyone else.  I’m often the only one listening anyway, so it kind of makes sense.  Writing to “Dear Diary” helps decrease the feeling of performance anxiety when I’m trying to think of what to say here.  This way it’s just between us, but I can still say I’m a writer.

My favorite psychiatrist once told me when I’d seen her just after a dissociative episode that no one is coming to save me.  I have to save myself.  At the time I was really mad at her.  I did not feel strong enough to complete this seemingly Sisyphean task.  I still do not, but I’ve gained enough wisdom to know she was right and I’m stubborn enough to keep trying.

As part of my recovery and boring self care I’ve been trying to make myself do more, move more, be more independent.  It’s hard and it’s scary.  I’m not used to active living because I’ve just shut down and isolated myself for so long.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do.  I’m really good at the thinking part but not so good with the doing part; I’m not used to being a self-starter.  I came up with a huge list of things I’d like to have as part of my recovery, things that will enrich my life and help me grow and progress.  These aren’t physical items per se, they are habits and experiences and relationships, all the things that make up the act of living.  It’s just that next step part that I haven’t seemed to master.  Persistence, consistence, motivation; these are things in short supply when you live with mental illness.  It’s discouraging when something as simple as getting gas in your car causes a meltdown.  It makes you not want to try.  The intense feelings of failure, disappointment, and splitting are hard to overcome.

Recently my friend got herself new strings for her guitar as a birthday gift.  I’ve wanted to play guitar for years but never felt like I could afford a guitar or lessons.  Luckily, I find myself in possession of Mom’s guitar, and since the internet is a thing I am now able to find guitar lessons online for free!  I spent some time tuning it the other day and in the interest of not being a liar when I tell people that I’m teaching myself to play the guitar, I have made an appointment with myself every day after watching my morning show for Guitar Lessons.  I won’t know if I’m a success for awhile, but I’m giving it a try and hoping for the best.

Well, that’s all for now Dear Diary.  Thanks for being a good vehicle to get the writing juices flowing again.

Sincerely,

Sallygirl

 

 

 

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Self Care is Healthcare

It’s always some kind of awareness month or day, and May is marked for Mental Health.  I’ve given myself the title of Peer Advocate in the Mental Health community because I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in my life; and though I’m far from perfect, I consider myself a positive role model for myself, and I share my journey so others who struggle with their mental health will know they’re not alone.

A key tool for success in the life of anyone is good self care.  It’s essential no matter what your mental health status.  For generally mentally healthy people, this mostly looks fluffy and fun because they bounce back pretty quickly from life’s stresses.  When your mental health is sketchy at best and catastrophic at worst, self care becomes a bit more boring and a lot more like the difference between life and death – depending on how severe your current mental state.  I mostly talk about the fluffy kind of self care, but today I’d like to talk about the more boring and mundane aspects of self care that are just as essential as the “fun” ones.

Boring Self Care includes:

  • TAKE YOUR MEDS. Be diligent.  Use calendars.  Set alarms. Make sure you arrange for refills in advance so you can avoid the compounding stress of the last minute refill on a scrip that needs Dr. re-authorization and they’re out of town for a week so now you’ve got to hope they can reach the covering doc.
  • Good hygiene.  Anhedonia is what it’s called when you have depression and you can’t feel pleasure from normal daily activities, like taking care of your body.  This is something I have struggled with, and why I find particular pleasure in indulging in luxurious shower products.  I feel like I have spent so much money on something so basic, you bet I’m gonna use it!
  • Make and keep appointments.  This can be visits with your therapist, visits to the dentist, the eye doctor, whatever your body is in need of care for.  When you live with depression and anxiety, it can feel really scary to force yourself out of the house, all the way to the doctor’s office, the long wait in the waiting room, and the stress of a visit; even though these are all things to help you.  But making and keeping appointments is HUGE and should be celebrated with fluffy self care!
  • Distress tolerance. Distress tolerance is the mental version of an inoculation to stress.  My completely non-professional definition of distress tolerance is: By participating in an activity that causes you stress in small amounts and in a controlled environment, you learn to sit with the feeling and your ability to tolerate the stress can be greatly reduced, and even eliminated over time.
  • You are what you eat.  God, what a privileged thing to say, right?  But it’s true.  No judgement and no guilt though!  You do the best you can, and that’s all anyone can do.  NOBODY IS PERFECT!

These are just a few examples of the boring self care that I practice.  I’m going to make an effort to post about it more on my social media accounts, because self care is important in ALL its forms, not just the fun ones!  What are some of the ways you practice boring self care?

What’s In Your Testimony?

My friends over at Feminist Mormon Housewives have a new post up that asks, “What’s your testimony?”  They’re posting a new question each month and inviting their readers to respond.  At the end of the year they hope to have a good picture of what’s going on in the feminist/progressive/liberal/queer Mormon community that we all make up.  I’ve decided to participate in the activity because I am in an exciting place spiritually and I think it will help me define some things that are up in the air for me right now.

I thought it would be fun to post the questions and my responses here, but I keep thinking about a conversation Honey and I had yesterday.

As I have begun my quest for truth and knowledge about God, I’ve wondered if it was necessary for me to write a letter or call my (LDS) family members to tell them I don’t believe what they do any more.  I’ve wrestled with this for over two years – how, what, or if I should tell them what’s going on with me.  Then I had a couple of thoughts that make me thankful I had the wisdom to sit on this question for a time.

My younger self was more self-centered and assumed that people wanted to know these things about me and would overshare on the regular.  Sallygirl today knows that sure, my family and close friends do want to know these things going on in my life!  But they don’t want to find out in a pre-prepared statement that just shows up in their inbox one day.  Just yesterday it came to me that it’s actually pretty arrogant of me to randomly announce or give a statement to my family and close friends about my deeply personal religious/spiritual beliefs, without being asked.  It’s like when a celebrity publicly announces their divorce/bankruptcy/addiction/sexuality.  They make these hugely awkward public announcements; and then everybody feels weird like when you walk in on your parents “taking a nap”.

The other thought that came to me was, actually, I do still believe in a lot of the same things my LDS and christian family and friends do!  I have a different perspective than I did before, and yes; there are some huge things that the LDS Church teaches that I no longer believe or interpret differently for myself as an individual.  I’ve done a lot of searching and praying and I know that my truth is only for me.  I’m not going to be concerned if my truth doesn’t fit you, because I know you.  You and I, we are the same.  We’re all here on this big rock, doing the best we can given our individual circumstances, and all we want is to be happy.

I’m here to tell you, I am happy.

When I look at the big picture, I feel nothing but peace, joy, and hope for the future.  I live with mental illness and sometimes it makes it hard for me to maintain those feelings, but everything about my life is so good how can I feel otherwise?  I don’t often talk about the positive parts that come from having mental illness, but there are some.  They are few, but they’re there!  Even though my intense feelings are usually the crappy ones, the good ones are also just as strong.

I love learning from others.  If you have concerns for me, let’s talk.  If you have questions about my beliefs, ask me!  But don’t go through my husband or children.  I have my own voice, and it doesn’t sound like them.

The Genetic Lottery

So, I like everybody else in the universe I have some diseases/disorders/conditions, whatever you want to call it, that I have… “inherited” from my family.  And when I have days like yesterday (the absolute worst ever); all I can do is sit back, give a big fat double fisted middle finger to the sky and in my head shout “F*CK YOU GENETIC LOTTERY, AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON!!!”

Because that’s what it is, right?  Your mom and dad have that special hug and then there’s a genetic pool from which the things that make you are drawn.  Hair color, eye color, skin color, hitch hiker thumb, curly tongue, height, gender, temperament, all the things that can be passed down from generation to generation.  Including things like cancer, diabetes, vision, mental illness, heart disease, hair loss/thickness/balding, and addiction.  Some things skip a generation, some things skip many generations, and some things hit every generation.

There are a lot of things I’m happy I ended up with.  I love my blue eyes and the compliments I get about them.  I love my thick hair!  Well, most of the time.  I love that I’m left handed like my grandma was (although I’m not sure if that one’s actually a genetic thing), that I can sing beautifully like my mother and grandfather, and like the rest of my family I’m highly intelligent.  These are the real wins in the genetic lottery; but when the darkness of depression takes over… those are the things I’m not so grateful for, and I like to joke that “the genetic lottery strikes again!” or “I won the genetic lotto again!”

Being self aware is generally a gift.  When you just want to die – when you want to drive into the median full speed or take all the pills in the house; knowing somewhere, deep inside you that eventually this will pass, that it could be five minutes or five days but it will stop – is the only thing that keeps you alive.

That, my special friends, and joking about the genetic lottery. 😉

Brave Like A Roach

I just finished reading Sarah Silverman’s interview in the latest Glamour magazine and had myself an epiphany.

 

I am brave.

 

…I still have downward spirals, days when I have to drag myself… But there’s one thing I know that I used to not know: It will pass. And it does. Usually after 24 hours or so…  a friend will reach out: “Are you OK? I saw that tweet.” And I’ll sort of snap to it, brush myself off, and get back to life. I’ve learned that keeping busy is a good thing for me. Like my mom always said, you just have to be brave enough to exist through it.

Infinity isn’t a big enough number to quantify the shame I feel living with mental illness.  Most of the time I’m good.  I’m medicated, I’m generally happy with my life, I’m accepting of my limitations and trying to find purpose.  But I’m not cured.  I’ll never be cured.  Sometimes I am holding it all together with spit.  Sometimes I’m falling apart.  Sometimes I am awesome, and sometimes I don’t see a way out.  Sometimes I’m a boulder, steadfast and immovable in my strength, and sometimes I am as week as a balsa wood air glider; ready to snap at the slightest amount of pressure.  But even when I am at my weakest… When it is dark and everything hurts, when I can’t stop crying, when I can’t stop the lies in my head, I am still brave because I am still here.  Just like a cockroach after a nuclear shitstorm.  I’M STILL HERE.

And though it seems like forever; like the hurricane it is, it will pass, and I can breathe a deep sigh of relief to be myself again – for however short (or long) it is.