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 . . .

Tools of Recovery: Online Resources

Yesterday I talked about the importance of attending meetings and how they work in general. True confession: I have only attended face-to-face meetings very sporadically and infrequently this year. Honestly, consistently attending meetings has seldom lasted more than 1 – 3 months.

I have a lot of reasons, rationalizations, and excuses: finances, transportation, childcare, and the logistics of meeting times/locations are the concrete issues that my denial, avoidance, and compulsions exploit and I have allowed to keep me sick, tired, and miserable.

Thankfully, there are all kinds of resources online for supporting recovery. The following organizations have websites full of information and resources for finding recovery support:
Al-Anon Family Groups
Alcoholics Anonymous
Clutterers Anonymous
Co-Dependents Anonymous
Emotions Anonymous
Gamblers Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous
Overeaters Anonymous
Recoveries Anonymous: Compulsive Spending
Sexaholics Anonymous
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous

Their sites offer a variety of resources, including where, when, and what meetings are available. Meetings aren’t just local, face-to-face gatherings. There are also online, email, and telephone meetings, which are included in each site’s meeting search engine.

The meetings that I have been most successful with are hosted by an online organization centered around OA, The Recovery Group.

There are online meetings hosted here every three hours around the clock every day on the Threes, Pacific Time: 12, 3, 6 A.M. & P.M. While this organization is focused on compulsive eating behaviors and disorders such as overeating, undereating, bingeing, anorexia, bulimia, and sugar addiction, the meetings really focus on the process and tools of recovery. This group also recognizes that there are usually co-occurring compulsions, disorders, and/or addictions and there are email loops and list serve groups that address those issues.

Another online resource I am finding invaluable is 12Step.org. The Tools section has downloadable worksheets and links to other downloadable resources to help focus and guide the hard work of the recovery process.

My intention is to utilize some of these tools as part of this blog as I chronicle my process and the progress I make in overcoming my hurts, hang ups, habits, addictions, and compulsive behaviors.

To summarize: When you are ready to stop hurting and start healing, regardless of the many obstacles and challenges that may be present in your life, there are a multitude of affordable (free), accessible, and approachable resources available to help you on your way. Your Higher Power knows what you need and has made provision for you to have it, you just need to step into it. Many people have been where you are and are volunteering their service to maintain these sites and want you to experience the same freedom and healing they have.