Know Thyself, pt. 1

Disclaimer: I’ve just come down from a 4-5 day hypomanic/manic episode. My head hurts and feels like it’s encased in cotton. My body feels weak and fragile. My thoughts are sluggish and scattered. So, hopefully what comes next is cohesive enough to make sense.

When I last saw my therapist, I had this desperate, grand idea that I want to get a job as a Mental Health Peer Specialist. I’m surviving on zero cash income, $357/mo  in SNAP benefits (aka food stamps), in a Section-8 apartment. My ex pays for my phone & my bus pass. He also directly purchases our daughter’s needs and has been my resource for getting laundry done. Occasionally, he would give me money or pay for personal hygiene products and haircuts. However, after a series of unfortunate events, he’s fallen way behind on his own bills, that even that small monetary support went away.

Our daughter spends more than 30% of her time with him. This disqualifies me for TANF (aka welfare). Even if I were to “play the system” and claim that she spends less time with him, the state would automatically open a child support case against him. His housing expenses and the other support he provides directly, aren’t factored in the calculations for minimum, mandatory child support amounts. He would be required to pay $600/mo +/-, thereby destabilizing him; taking away the calm, secure, stable environment our daughter needs. Nope. Not an option.

I’ve been accessing a food & household supply pantry, since January of this year. The pantry is donated space in the building my faith community gathers in. That resource is ending.  What’s left in the pantry is all there is, until it’s all gone and nothing is being added. The person who’s been running it has moved on and, so far, no one else has stepped in to keep this resource available to the community, despite my best efforts to recruit people who would work with me to create a sustainable program for our faith community to operate.

But, I digress.

Utilities are paid via the utility reimbursement check I get from Section-8 and/or income from my 22 year old daughter, whose family of four (with two babies under 2). She’s been working two part-time jobs while her boyfriend stays home with the babies. I guess that is working for them, for now. However, one of those jobs crashed and burned last month and the other one, which was only made bearable because the other one fed her soul, is sucking what’s little she’s got left of herself. She’s been doing all of this while experiencing untreated Post-Partum Depression. She told me today she’s put in her two-week notice. She’s also been paying for the $10/mo basic internet we qualify for because I have a school age child and we “income qualify.”

Basically, all of the supplemental subsistence resources are drying up. I felt the walls of despair and anxiety closing in around me. Despite the physical and mental health issues and all the other things going on with my youngest child’s High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, ongoing codependency issues with the ex, and the conflicted codependency issues I have with my oldest daughter’s family, I felt as if the only solution is for me to, somehow, get a job. Mental Health Peer Specialist seems like something I can do, while still working through my own crazy. So, I told my therapist I wanted to meet with a Case Manager to figure out possible employment options.

Regardless of the fact I had requested this service, when I got the call to schedule an appointment, just the sound of the male voice on the other end of the phone triggered issues I wasn’t fully aware of and an automatic resistance to put my future under an unknown man’s influence/authority, rose up. I went to the appointment anyway.

Work with what is, right?

At the time we set the appointment, I was under the delusion that I wasn’t having hypomanic/manic episodes anymore. After all, I had been in a 4 month long, deep depression. By the time we actually met, I was midway through my second manic episode since November 1st. The first one had me thinking, hoping, believing that I was just “getting better” from the depression. However, for the person who has known me longest and been most negatively affected by my seemingly lifelong, mostly unidentified and untreated, bipolar cycles, my son, a very different perspective on my sudden hyper-productivity rose up.

He texted me and asked if I was “on an upswing of bipolar or genuinely in a better place?”

I appreciate the concern. Given my history and everything that’s been going on, it’s a legitimate concern. To be honest, I really don’t believe that’s what’s going on. However, it could be and I’m not fully aware of it.

Then, I went on to list the most recent “crises” which had prompted my productivity.

I’m very grateful that he reached out and asked me that. There are two different kinds of gratitude:

1) That our relationship has been reconciled to the point that he would reach out to me that way, instead of judging and withdrawing once he saw what was happening with me, shows me just how much grace, love, and strength God has given both of us. Just three years ago he had all but disowned me. He’d legally adopted himself to another, healthier, more stable family of faith he’d been provided for and supported by since he was 16. He just turned 29. It was also encouraging to know that all the painful and hard work I’ve put into my healing & recovery process, as well as my portion of the reconciliation process has “paid off.”

2) If he hadn’t reached out like that, I probably wouldn’t have seen what was happening this week as a second manic episode and sought more help.

Well, this has gotten to be too long of a post. To be continued . . .

Stream of consciousness brain dump

It’s a little after 11 pm. I’ve been awake since my ex texted me at 7:45 this morning because he was running late getting our daughter to school from his side of town. More about that sitch later, maybe. Or not. We’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.

Anyway, despite the grammar nazi, perfectionistic, wordsmith I tend to be, this post is just going to be me emptying my brain, so that, maybe, hopefully, oh LORD PLEASE, I’ll actually get some restful sleep tonight. So, editing will not be a priority – at all. With that in mind, I’m just going to start typing. Then you, dear readers, may get a small glimpse of what it’s like to live with my brain. Here goes everything!

I’m totally exhausted, but, it’s not as much of the bad kind of exhausted as it usually tends to be. No, this exhaustion is from actually being productive and accomplishing a whole bunch of things in the past 36 hours. Hmmm. Probably a clue that the bipolar is cycling a wee bit.

I just spent about four days in bed, hibernating alone in my bedroom, caved in with the depression. I binge ate bad for me foods. No, I mean BAD for me! I’m supposed to be working on changing my healthstyle, starting with nutrition because I tripped back over the A1C line into Type II Diabetes, again inside of a year and a half. Also, the thyroid hormones are out of whack. Plus, triggers. PTSD issues abound. Constantly dealing with conflicted relationships with my son, my oldest daughter, and the father of my youngest daughter, not to mention trying to be a functional, semi-decent mom to my youngest, during the time of year when the most significant life events from my past, which contributed to the PTSD in the first place, is a bitch. Factor in that the time change means night falls by 5 pm, it’s getting colder and wetter, as well as darker and it’s only going to grow from here until Winter Solstce, I guess I should just be thankful I’m still functional enough to string more than two words together. Actually, there were moments today.

Yesterday, everything just rose up into my conscious awarenes, all at once, and my eyes just started leaking, of their own accord, intermittently throughout the day, despite my opposing will.

Between my son’s 29th birthday last week, the tensions of sharing a tiny, 2 bedroom apartment with my 22 year old daughter, her 22 year old boyfriend, and their two babies (20 mos and 8 mos), and ongoing codependent conflict between me and my ex, it’s actually a God-given miracle that they haven’t come to take me away . . . yet.

I just found that video. I’m not typically a fan of what I would consider to be thrash metal music, but, I just couldn’t stop smiling throughout watching this video. While my situation isn’t about my insanity being triggered by my lover leaving me, (actually, the opposite) I could definitely relate to these ladies. As a matter of fact, I think I’m still smiling because this is one of the layers of me, underneath the weighty masks I wear on the daily.

Here’s the version I was originally looking for:

Anyhooo . . . where was I? Oh, yeah. Depression sucks! Big, green ones.

Then Paris, ISIS, us vs. them, Christian Libs vs Christian Reps, Christians vs Muslims, Anti-Religionists vs True Believers, Homeless Vets vs Syrian Refugees, and, let’s not forget the four stooges: Donald, Ben, Bernie, & Hilary. Xenophobia, Sexism, Racism, Classism . . . ism after ism.

A friend of mine is a Child & Family Therapist, who does a lot of work with families from domestic violence and traumatic abuse situations. Recently, she’s had to take a step back and do some serious self-care because her work was affecting her own mental health. It’s considered secondary trauma or “Vicarious Traumatization,” from working with trauma survivors and hearing them recount, relive really, the trauma and abuse they’ve experienced. Read more about it here.

I mention this because, in some ways, I think, with the internet; 157 different news media outlets repeatedly reporting on violence, trauma, and terrorism, 24/7; 15,000 Op Ed blog posts responding to these reports; politicization of these traumatic events; and the ensuing propagandizing to appeal to the most basic and motivating of human emotions: fear. This fear is directed to trip the faulty wiring attached to the largest thinking error we post-modern, pre-apocolyptic, first world denizens inherently embody: entitlement. Our social media lives set us up for vicarious trauma. We’re even less equipped to cope than trained mental health professionals.

Speaking of social media . . . a new FB acquaintance of mine posted something today that cut right to the heart of this.

The world is not getting worse, it’s just getting more media. ~ Jacob Wright

Where was I going with all of this? Sorry, I got distracted by the compulsive need to edit. *sigh*

That’s right, the exposition beneath my relatively rapid cycling of depression and hypomania with a large, unhealthy dose of PTSD triggered anxiety.

My primary trauma is being triggered by ongoing trauma and iced over by vicarious trauma.

I was compulsively binging on FB notifications and posts. Seeing the conflicting sides and opinions of current events posted by people I’m in relationship with who are in conflict with me and one another. Despite the fact that I kind of, really, owe my current level of growth, healing, and functionality to WordPress and Facebook, I was drowning, suffocating, and frantically fighting against going under because I couldn’t take my eyes off the notifications and news feeds.

I reactivated a former FB profile with the psuedonym I used when establishing this blog, three years ago.

I reached out to a limited number of people from my primary profile, who I feel the safest witheplained what I was doing and why, before just sending them a friend request from some random chick. Everyone responded favorably.

ok. the brain dump worked, nodding off at the keyboard.

12:38 am, goodnight. . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Back to square one

I started this blog, then abandoned it, three years ago.

Why?

Because, codependency . . . among other things.

What’s changed?

 ♦  I left my “qualifier” almost two years ago. We’re no longer in a “romantic/committed” relationship and we don’t share a household. However, we’re still completely codependent and enmeshed. So, I guess this falls under “the more things change, the more they stay the same” category.

♦  I was finally diagnosed with PTSD and Bipolar II Disorder, within a couple of months of “ending” the relationship. Both conditions began manifesting while I was a teenager. 30, or so, years of undiagnosed, untreated emotional and psychological chaos have taken their toll.

♦  With the correct diagnoses have come therapy, meds, and entry into a trauma recovery group. So, I’ve made progress . . . sort of. I’m at the, “It gets worse before it gets better,” stage. You know that house cleaning stage where everything is out of sorts, out-of-order, and completely overwhelming? Yeah, that.

♦  I’ve cultivated a support network, mostly online, which includes people who actually know me “in real life.”

♦  My youngest child was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (HF ASD) about a year and a half ago. She’s turning seven in a little over two weeks.

♦  My middle child birthed my first two grandchildren, about a year apart . . . and all four members of their family live with me and my youngest.

♦  I’ve spent the last 18  months in a reconciliation dance with my oldest child, who legally disowned me just over three years ago. We’re in a much better place than we’ve been in a long time. However, it’s still a challenging relationship, given that we both experience PTSD and can trigger each other simply by being in the same physical space and breathing the same air.

What hasn’t changed?

Just about every anxious or depressed thought and feeling I’ve ever had throughout the past 30 years.

I just skimmed through the few posts I wrote back in 2012 and honestly can’t see where I’ve made progress. Perhaps where I’m at on the depression and PTSD cycles have put blinders on, obstructing my view of myself. However, I think they’ve just amplified the reality.

What now?

Time to start over, again. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve started over. I can’t say that’s all bad. At least it shows I’ve never completely given up. I’m not really a fan of country music, but, this one feels relevant to this stage of my journey.