Acceptance

There are five stages of grief. The last one? Acceptance.

This has been a theme in my life as of late. Starting with a conversation I had with my therapist, bleeding into my yoga practice, and seeping back into my therapy sessions. There have been quite a few things I’ve had to accept–and some that I just am not quite ready to.

One of the things that’s weighing on me right now? My illness.

I have bipolar. I am bipolar. It is not all that I have and it is not all that I am. I have to remind myself of this constantly.

There are days where my diagnosis consumes me. There are days where all I want is to let it finally win. To let it take me and devour me. These are the days when I just want to give up and give in. But I don’t.

I don’t like to acknowledge or accept the fact that I’m probably going to be on mood stabilizers for the rest of my life. Colors get duller when I’m on my meds. My happiness is muted, my sadness subdued. I feel like I lose a little bit of my “creative mojo” (to adapt a phrase recently used by a coworker).

I can function like any other person though. I can sit on crowded trains a little easier (that will never be fun or easy to do for me). I don’t get as irritated by the catty gossiping women that sit around me and I don’t get as annoyed by presumably Swedish tourists congregating all in one place. I can get my coffee at any time of the morning rather than timing it almost to an exact minute, like coffee acquisition is a science, and be absolutely fine.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve had considerable trouble writing lately. In all honesty, I’ve had trouble doing much of anything lately. I’m still probably considered to be “highly functioning” as all of a sudden, I’m able to get myself to work on time–the bare minimum for neurotypical folks. (Glad that something that is so average, so mundane, is so absolutely mindbogglingly difficult for me. Debilitating anxiety can do that, I suppose.)

Admittedly, I’m off my medication right now. It’s hard to admit that after three years, I’ve finally completely gotten off them. And I don’t want to admit or accept that I need them. I want to rebel against the muted tones and subdued creativity of my medicated, yet stable life yet without them, I teeter and totter toward a treacherous area… One that I never wish to see again.

I’ve written about my bipolar in various forms, in various states of medication. Right now, it’s really difficult. Bipolar makes everything difficult. There are days where I wish that everyone in the entire world could understand what it’s like to have bipolar–to experience the mood swings, at least at their euphoric high level. There are days where I wouldn’t wish this experience on even my worst enemies, for it is just so painful and so goddamn annoying that I wish those enemies a slightly softer fate.

I’ve had difficulties accepting this diagnosis for a little over three years now. I don’t think I will ever fully accept it. It’s difficult, it’s challenging, it’s painful as all hell. But, someday, it will be okay. I will be okay.

The Year Ahead

I’ve seen a lot of people sharing their words of the year for 2017 lately. I’ve seen “focus” and “courage” most recently; both of which are great choices. Neither are what I would pick for myself though. I don’t want to steal those words from the people who chose them, nor do I think they quite fit for me. And that’s okay.

It took a long time for me to decide on my goals for the year, and I think, after writing and considering them, I’ve finally come up with something in terms of a theme. But that’s for later.

For now, here are my goals.

Run farther, faster, smarter.

2016 saw me get back into running…again. (For a while, my enthusiasm for it has ebbed and flowed. I think it’s here to stay this time.)

What I love about running and what continues to bring me back to it is that it really helps clear my mind, it helps my ever-fluctuating weight, and there’s nothing like some quality delayed-onset muscle soreness after a good workout. Not the kind that hurts forever, but the kind that reminds me that I did something good.

I want to run a live 10K this year, the equivalent of a 6.2 mile race, and some 5Ks while I’m at it. I’ve always loved a good 5K run.

I want to run the Navy 5 Miler again, and while I didn’t get into the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, there’s always next year for that.

2016 saw some great PRs for me on the running front–from my fastest (and of course my first) five miler to my fastest single mile ever. Even when I was running nearly every day in high school, I’d never had a mile under 15 minutes. (I’ve always been heavy and slower than molasses in January.)

In fact, just on Sunday, I nearly broke 13 minutes after having to take three weeks off because I caught what felt like the plague. My fastest mile is still at about 13:36, but this year, I hope to maybe break 11 minutes. There are plenty of weeks ahead to do it.

The smarter piece is important too. Take my rest days seriously. Take my nutrition seriously. Count my miles and run my routes intelligently. (Don’t go out too late, wear reflective clothing if I do, stay where it’s well lit. Wear warm clothing when it’s cold. Use my live-tracking. The simple safety things.)

There are plenty of races around me and to run–and even though my New Year’s Day run was not fun (headphone issues and my base had been completely wrecked by my three-week hiatus), there is plenty of time left in the year for good runs, smart runs, far runs.

Write better, longer, more.

Admittedly, I’ve fallen into quite a writing slump. I hadn’t been writing on this blog as much as I liked to and I have plenty of ideas just waiting around to be written. Kind of like puppies waiting to be taken into good homes. (It’s an odd comparison, but it works in my brain.) And even in terms of my work products, it’s hard for me to say that I’ve been completely happy with what I’ve been publishing.

My hope for the next year is to continue to improve my writing. I want to expand my vocabulary (which I started working on in 2016 with the creation and use of my word wall–something I’ll probably write about sometime soon!) and vary my sentence structure. While maintaining my distinctive voice. That’s something that’s more important in the things I write for work, but it’s something I truly value.

When I write, I tend to lean toward short pieces, between three to four hundred words. Which are fine and good. But, there’s much more that could be said about so much. And yet, I find myself just writing to get to the end, not writing to really describe. This year, I want to write more. For work and for fun. On this blog, in my novel(s), in my newsletter. Everywhere. (One of my not-included-in-this-blog goals is to open my first novel up to some beta readers. That may come next quarter. Stay tuned.)

I’ve always loved writing. I will always love writing. And the more I do it, the better I feel.

Be stronger in faith, love, and hope.

I joined my church in April 2016. I fell in love with that church and my faith had been something I questioned for a long time through my younger years. But as an adult I’ve found it so very useful, especially when I’m feeling at my worst.

I am admittedly new to a lot of church things. I’m new to a lot of (read as: pretty much all of) the aspects of organized religion, but there are some things I love. I love the concept of “walking in love”–where we are all encouraged to give what we can to others, to show people the love that Christ has shown us. And I want to do so much more of that this year. My church makes it pretty easy to do all of that and my church as a whole is a great example of it. I could wax poetic about it forever.

I want to go to church more. I don’t go as often as I would like, but when I do go, it’s almost like something magical happens and I automatically feel so much different, so much better after I leave. It’s always a semblance of relief–a burden being removed. I love that feeling and I want to experience it much, much more often.

Be thankful for all good things: the big, the small, the in-between.

My planner for 2017, which I’m completely in love with, has a weird spot at the bottom of each left-hand page, the page designated for scheduling and the to-do list. (Both of these will be incredibly useful features.)

For a long time, I didn’t know what to do with it. It’s just about an inch tall–not nearly enough room for my large, bubbly handwriting to fit in an inspirational quotation. And too big to just keep blank.

And the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be good to have a “gratitude space.” A place to write the things I’m thankful for that day. Some days there will be a lot, some days not so much. Sometimes big things, like being thankful for having a job or maybe getting the promotion I’ve been looking into for a couple months now. Sometimes it might only be the little things, like what I wrote down the other day: “clean slates, open roads, and running shoes.”

But the point is to be thankful for all of it. I’ve really been living on borrowed time for over four years now and it’s time to really appreciate it.

I think I’ve finally come up with a theme for the year. 

It’s been hard, just thinking about it. But, I think I’ve got something.

All of these things, all of these goals I have for myself, have to do something with existence. Whether it’s existence in a written space, existence on the road and sporting running shoes, existence in faith, and existence in gratitude. I know, at some point, they all may waiver. There could be an injury, writer’s block, loss of faith, or a rough patch of time. (God forbid all of these.)

One definition of a word that’s come to mind is: “the quality or fact of continuing to exist.” That word? Tenacity. One of the definitions of tenacious (the adjective form): “not readily relinquishing a position, principle, or course of action; determined.”

And I think that just about sums up where I want to be in 2017. Not giving up. Determined. Existent. Tenacious.

Why Can’t I?

“Forthcoming: a memoir.”

“I’m writing a book.”

“I’m starting a newsletter.”

“Here’s this new blog post I’ve just written?”

And then there’s me. Meek and mild. Hiding in my corner of the internet, questioning myself, yet again.

It ebbs and flows, this insecurity. This feeling like I can’t do anything. This feeling that anything I do won’t be good enough.

The thing is, the numbers say it. Numbers say they won’t be good enough. You go and you look at stats, you look at page views, you look at this-that-and-the-other and you see, that nobody’s there.

Maybe I’ve just lost sight of it. Of the “why.” Of the reason why I put my pencil to the wide-ruled pages of my notebooks for so long. Of the reason why my J and F keys stick from overuse and exhaustion. Of the love I have for words on a page–a paper page or a web page, it’s never mattered. It was about the words.

But, I sit here, and I try. I try to put the words together. I try to get the confidence to share the news of a new project I’m looking to start next year. I try to get the confidence to put something out there, something that I can be proud of again. But, here I sit. Behind a keyboard, typing, deleting, typing, deleting. It moves like a Metro train in rush hour: starting and stopping incessantly.

Why can’t I just be like most other people who actually can get past their insecurity? Why must I be stuck in it forever? Why must it be the one thing that stops me always?

I’ll have the idea, I’ll start the project. I’ll make progress and I’ll have something I’m mildly proud of. Yet, when it comes time to share it? I turn back into the meek, mild, timid version of myself and I hold it tight. I doubt it and myself. I doubt everything and I shroud it all in shame and so the next time I look at something that could be a diamond in the rough, something that could be a real gem, all I see is muddled garbage. I sully it. I turn it into something awful. This blog, my work, it’s all feeling awful now. Everything feels awful, nothing feels good enough.

Why can’t I just be proud of myself? Why can’t I just be happy? Why can’t I?

 

By Heart

I’ve got a memory like a sponge sometimes. Not for some of the important things–like birthdays, appointments, or anniversaries. But for song titles and artists, for lyrics and movie quotations, and for miscellaneous facts that could only ever be useful during a round of Final Jeopardy or at random bar trivia.

One of the songs that I know all the words to that sticks out in my mind like a sore thumb (pardon the cliche) would have to be American Pie by Don McLean.

I grew up with this song. I remember sitting in my dad’s old Ford Ranger (that he’s had longer than I’ve been alive–and almost as long as he has been with my mother) as a child singing this along with the radio before it crapped out and didn’t get replaced for several years. I remember singing it on the way to beginner band practice in elementary school, after getting bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches with a side of either Yoo-Hoo (the best chocolate drink in the whole world) or Cranberry Apple Raspberry juice. (Dad and I would leave the leftovers of that juice in the bottle in a tree in the wintertime and make slushies that were better than anything else in the world.)

I never really understood the lyrics until I was much older–but it made me appreciate them all the more.

“And there, we were all in one place, a generation lost in space with no time left to start again.”

I felt that way after high school ended, after college ended, after my service term ended. Lost in space, no room to start over. And I found myself always turning back and singing those words, heading to the comfort of simpler times, happy memories, and all the love from my family I still remember every time I hear that song.

I always remember the story my mother tells when we talk about the song; how I composed my own lyrics to the chorus: “Bye bye, Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was TOO SMALL.” (Emphasis on the “too small” for reasons I don’t entirely know…or why I chose those words. I’m not even entirely sure I knew what a levee was at that point. I most certainly didn’t know what whiskey and rye were.)

But the beauty of this song is in that it has always stayed with me, it has always been a part of me, and will continue to be as long as I know all the words by heart.

This post was prompted by Daily Post from WordPress. Thank you!

A Day in the Life (October 2014)

I’ve been meaning to join in on this fun linkup from Manda over at Musical Poem for a long, long time. Now that I’ve finally remembered to do it, I’m quite excited. Here’s a bit of the fun from yesterday–October 30.

8:15am: Slowly but surely waking up. I have already checked my email approximately three times. This blanket does not want to budge and let me out from underneath it–even though I know I MUST be at work at a suitable hour. (Also known as some time before 10am…)

20141030_083334

8:50am: I have finally unearthed myself from the blanket pile, gotten dressed, and headed out the door. This is probably my favorite view on my entire commute to work. There’s just something about this street that captivates me each and every day. (Except in the rain. I hate the rain.)

20141030_085641

9:05am: I make it to the Metro station–magically just in time for the train. I’ve gotten quite good at that as of late.

20141030_090613

9:35am: After several train delays (I don’t know what’s with these trains lately–more delays on Green and Yellow than normal.) I make it to L’Enfant Plaza–the final stop before the walk to work. Escalators are a great place to showcase my really cool burlap Toms and the cute purple(!!!) skirt from H&M I wore yesterday. (Not pictured: the green and black striped Burton sweatshirt I threw on over top of everything because it was super cold when I left the house.)

20141030_092234

2:00pm: I am at my desk, drowning in a sea of multicolored sticky notes…which is never a bad thing–I can gauge the day’s productivity by how many sticky notes are in my planner/on my computer desktop/on my computer’s keyboard/on me. I will probably have to open the pack of sticky notes in my bag soon–I’m almost out of these.

20141030_153230

5:35pm: Finally leaving work. I had some things come up in the afternoon which caused me to leave later than I had wanted to. (Typical of this job and of me–I don’t ever really stop working.) The sky yesterday was just really pretty.

20141030_174118

6:10: Off the train. Finally. This is one of the few times the Howard side escalators were working, and so a picture was definitely necessary.

20141030_175956

6:23pm: Spotted this really cute sign outside of a new restaurant on Florida Avenue. I’m a sucker for Pikachu.

20141030_180419

6:28pm: I had to take this picture because it makes me smile when I walk against DO NOT ENTER signs. I’m a pedestrian and therefore I do what I want (within reason and within the parameters of not getting injured by moving vehicles).

20141030_180517

6:38pm: Made it to the house. I will miss these pinwheels when I move out next month.

20141030_180953

8:45pm: Settled in, back in my comfy bed, with my laptop, the Knicks game, and social media. Life is good.

20141030_195122

Clearly, I’m a pretty boring person–not too much going on outside of work. They say that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and it’s probably right, but I actually don’t mind it…

Another Post about Bipolar Disorder and Media

I spend a lot of my time engulfed in media. I get paid to social media (and it’s awesome and I wouldn’t trade this job for anything.) It could be argued that I never leave it–considering I fall asleep with the radio tuned into my favorite station from back home.

One of the things that startles me the most is reading about or watching portrayals of mental illness; specifically bipolar disorder. I struggle with the illness myself each and every day. I’m medicated, I go to the psychiatrist every three weeks and I’m currently shopping for a therapist that I can become comfortable with and not feel like I have to hide things from. (I’ve had therapists like that–I’ve seen quite a few in the last three years.)

I watch a lot of crime shows–Law and Order, specifically–that tend to blame crimes (violent or unviolent–doesn’t matter) on mental illness, including but not limited to bipolar disorder. While away in Michigan for work (a post about the crazy things that happened there is forthcoming) I watched a particularly grating episode from 1997 (fun fact, I was in Kindergarten when this episode premiered) that included a young boy that set fire to his home and killed his sister because he was jealous–complete with a wealthy, also-afflicted-with-the-disease, political backer grandfather.

Some people are predisposed to these things, sometimes it’s the environment. It is not the disease. Bipolar Disorder does not cause anyone to commit arson or other violent crimes. Not being treated, being isolated, being stigmatized–that is what causes these outbursts of violence. 

Being “out” about mental illness is not easy–telling people you have a mental illness is not easy. I struggle with it every day. I have to get to know you, to see if I can trust you, before I go telling you. And I always get looks of “wait, really?” “No way, that’s not you…” because I’m treated. I treat my illness and I have very slowly come to embrace it. It is not all of who I am, though it is a big part. That was an issue in this episode that was addressed properly–many successful people are not open about disease. That’s what killed Robin Williams, who was also bipolar. There is shame in being bipolar, shame in needing help.

The reason I’m actually writing this is because I just read that Ms. Amanda Bynes, formerly of Nickelodeon fame, has had her involuntary psychiatric hold extended to two weeks. I understand the pain of only wanting to leave a place like that and not being able to and I hope that she gets the help and care she needs and deserves. Nobody deserves to be ridiculed for being ill. A psychiatric hold is unpleasant. It’s scary. But, sometimes it’s truly what you need in order to turn things around.

I hope that for people who struggle with bipolar and other mental illnesses that these portrayals of violent, mentally ill criminals in the media or mocking celebrities in the midst of public breakdowns can stop or be balanced out by promoting self-help services, hotlines, or de-stigmatizing getting medical help or going to therapy.

If you need help, dial the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 or the Trevor Lifeline (866-488-7386).

I’m Trying…

Right now there’s a lot of stuff going on. My work-life balance has yet to establish itself (I’m clearly working more than I should be) and there’s some hiccups with a lot of things at work which are making me work more and harder than I need to when I’m at home.

Right now, I’m trying to find that balance–to find that equilibrium between working and living. I’ve never really had that; it’s always either one extreme or the other (generally in the more-towards-working direction) but never really struck that true balance. 

This blog has rather unfortunately been thrown to the wayside (yet again) as I have been working, but I hope that finding a way to update it either every day or every other day (even if it means scheduling posts in advance on nights when I don’t fall asleep at or before 8pm) would be a good way for me to be able to strike that balance.

Not checking my work phone every four seconds on the weekend (even when there’s an earthquake in Napa County, CA–stay safe everyone out there!) would probably help too…

For now, just know, that I haven’t forgotten and don’t plan to forget. This blog has helped me hone my skills and professionalize my personal brand just a little bit more. It’ll be nice to use my “digital storytelling” skills outside of “all-hazards” situations. And plain language. Because plain language is great.