I know, right now, that seems impossible, but it does.
You do the work, and you cry and you cuss, and sometimes you even give up, but you always get back up and keep at it.
You try a med and it doesn’t work so you try another and things…get worse? what the fuck? up and down and around and around until finally, FINALLY you hit that magic combo. And it’s not a silver bullet, you still have bad days, but one good day at a time you start to see the light and it doesn’t feel like an oncoming dragon anymore.
You find your people, the ones that are YOURS, and you are THEIRS, and you’re still A Lot but somehow you’re never too much, not for them.
And then one day you’re 35 and you can’t quite figure out how that happened because you were never supposed to see 21.
And then you go to make a wish on a star and you realize…that the life you have is all you could have asked for.
And then it’s your turn to tell someone coming up the path that yeah, it really does get better.
Having both a uterus and a mood disorder can be very…exciting…at times. Where by “exciting” I mean “moderately hellish.” Add in ragweed season, which means sudafed, which means mood instability of its own and…yeah. The past week or two have been Highly Unfun.
I did have cause to be super grateful to a past therapist. For those who don’t know, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is geared primarily towards patients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). However, a past therapist of mine decided to buck that “tradition” and send me through the class, because she thought someone whose bipolar gave them Big Feelings that were Hard To Handle might benefit from a lot of it. She was right. There was a bunch of stuff that didn’t apply, but the stuff I needed, I Really Really Needed.
The other morning I got super upset about…well, it doesn’t matter. The point is, I was overreacting, and I knew I was overreacting, but there wasn’t much I could do about it, so I just retreated. Which was absolutely the appropriate thing to do from a social perspective, but…it didn’t really help me. What did help was remembering my DBT. Probably the single most revolutionary concept I took from that class was “sitting with your emotions.” I was able to name the feeling I was feeling, break it down to it’s parts, and then just…sit with it. I was able to acknowledge that it was just a feeling, and yeah it sucked, but it couldn’t hurt me and that it would pass. I was able to identify the cycle of overwhelmed-lash out-turn it in- selfharm…and then not.
Sometimes when we’re in therapy, especially before meds have helped put us back in the driver’s seat, it can all feel pretty stupid and hopeless. Just….hang in there. Tuck those tools away in your mental toolbox. Maybe you don’t really know what to do with them right now, but when the time comes? You’ll be glad to have them.
Listen, my loves, I am about to tell you a thing, and you may not like to hear it.
Someday, someone may set a boundary that you don’t particularly care for. In fact, it may even make you downright uncomfortable, or even unhappy.
That doesn’t make them wrong for setting it.
Not only are they not wrong for setting it, you have no right to tell them you don’t like it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s big or small or even utterly nonsensical – it is their right and their duty to ensure their safety, both physical and mental/emotional. EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that this was unclear. What I meant was you have no right to say “You can’t do that, I don’t like it.” Of course you have the right to dislike something, and to express that. But you can’t expect them to automatically change or bow to your feelings on the matter. Their needs are their needs.
What you do have the right to do is think critically about why this boundary is upsetting you so. Maybe it’s challenging you on some less-than-stellar behavior of your own. Growth can be tough! Maybe it’s just inconvenient. Maybe…maybe maybe maybe. There are a thousand reasons something like this can unsettle us. Maybe, however, this boundary interferes with your mental or physical safety. Then it’s time for you to set a boundary of your own.
Unfortunately, that may result in a change in a relationship. This can be exceptionally tough. It’s very important to navigate this change mindfully – it’s neither fair nor kind to throw out things like “well if you’re going to be THAT way about it…” etc. etc. Keep in mind that the other person is genuinely doing what’s best for them. Even if you don’t like it, it’s important to respect that.
That’s not to say that some boundaries can’t be negotiated. Communication is so important in any relationship, whether platonic, romantic, or professional. Ultimately, though, it’s up to each person to set their boundaries, and to decide whether they can live with the boundaries others set for them.
Over the past week or so I keep seeing a face looking back at me out of my computer screen. Only out the corner of my eye, it’s never there when I look directly at it. My rational mind says it has to be my/a reflection of some sort, but it’s never in the right place to be my own face. But of course that has to be it, because nothing could be looking back at me. Only, it’s 2019 and who knows what nonsense They might be up to. Only that is a rabbit hole I do NOT want to go down, thanks. Only what if? Only, only, only…ugh. I wish I could email my psychiatrist. Come on folks, it’s 2019, can we MAYBE join the 21st century? I don’t really want to go to all the hassle of an appointment for something that’s probably nothing.
I feel like something that doesn’t get talked about when discussing healing from trauma is shame, and I bet I don’t mean that the way you think I do.
When you go through trauma, it can often leave triggers buried in the scars – a sound, a smell, a sensation, whatever. And in your head, whatever it is becomes an Objectively Bad Thing.
But then you go to therapy, or group, or read a book, or…whatever. You dismantle the trigger. But it’s still an Objectively Bad Thing, right?
Except then it’s not. One day you realize, you kind of like whatever it was now that you’ve peeled it away from the trauma.
And boom. Sucker punch. Wait, am I a Bad Person now for liking this Bad Thing? Spoiler, you’re not. It turns out the Bad Thing is actually a Morally Neutral Normal Thing that an Actually Bad Person (used/wore/said/liked). But enjoying the same thing they did doesn’t make you “like them” any more than the fact that you both breathe(d) does.
This…is one of those awful times where simple is not easy. But you’re going to be ok. This is just another step in healing, and you’re doing fantastic. Hang in there, ok?
Might be changing doctors here soon, and wow is that a bit fraught. I’ve been with my current doctor for about 2.5 years; I started seeing him at the end of 2016, when I got out of the hospital the last time. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but we have Been Through Some Shit in that time.
He’s the first doctor who ever said to me “it’s ok, you don’t have to be symptom-free, sometimes ‘not bothering me anymore’ is as good as it gets.” That was really freeing. It’s ok if I’m hearing birds that aren’t real, as long as I’m not hearing voices.
He’s also really great about not putting up with my nonsense. Working 60 hours a week? No. Not acceptable. He challenged me to accept my own limits, and helped me set boundaries that were healthier.
I have a recommendation for a new doctor, but it’s still scary, you know? What if I get another one that won’t believe me? Who tries to tell me that I know too much about my illness to actually be as ill as I say I am? Who thinks I’m on too many meds and wants to dial them back a bit?
It’s just so stupidly frustrating.
Speaking of relatable memes. I’m sorry, I utterly lack the spoons to caption this. I really do deeply apologize.
Sorry I’ve been so quiet. There’s been a lot going on, but it’s all kind of hard to put into words.
One thing that’s really been on my mind a lot is how deeply ingrained self-harm becomes. It’s easy to not cut; now, anyway. Kicking the habit was hard and it sucked, but now I’m more than 15 years clean and I just don’t crave it like I used to. (Ok, that’s a lie. I think about it all the time. But then I think about having to explain new scars and I just. Can’t. It would hurt them too much.) It’s the smaller, less obvious, less voluntary behaviors that are more of a problem now – scratching, and picking, when I’m anxious and upset. Sometimes I don’t even notice until I’ve drawn blood; I get so locked in my head that it just happens. And it’s like – how do I deal with THAT? Why am I so messed up that the only way I know to soothe myself is to cause myself pain?
Sometimes I can catch it, distract myself, keep my hands busy. Sometimes I notice, but I’ve already left my head – dissociating- and there’s not enough left of me in residence to care. Those are the worst times, I think.
And it’s just. It’s so stupid. And I don’t know what to do about it. And I feel like a failure, and a fraud, because here I am working with these kids like I have my shit together and I just. Don’t.
It’s not all gloom and doom though. I’m surrounded by people who love me way more than I love myself, even if I’m still baffled by this. It’s pretty amazing, you know?
For those who don’t know, identity-first language is the idea that something (in this case, autism) is simply an identifying feature that is sometimes relevant. For example, I don’t say “My partner S has tall, so sometimes she bumps her head on things,” I say “my partner S is tall, so sometimes she bumps her head on things.”
This isn’t to say that my autistic friend K is ONLY autistic, any more than my tall partner S is ONLY tall. But to K, her autism is a defining characteristic, not an illness or a disability.
There seems to be a fairly strong push in the autistic community towards identity-first language, but it’s not universal, and it doesn’t always translate to everyone or everything.
For example, I prefer person-first language; that is, please refer to me as a person with bipolar, not a bipolar person. I do not like to have my illness seen as a defining trait. Some of this is a difference in outlook – to K, her autism is a stable trait, to be incorporated and worked around. To me, my bipolar is an illness and an adversary, to be controlled and eradicated to the extent possible. They’re both permanent, and we both see ourselves as neuro-divergent, but otherwise our approaches are very different.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with either person-first or identity-first language, but it can be very upsetting if you use the non-preferred version, so it’s never wrong to ask!