U is for Unmotivated

u embroiderSo I’ve been putting off doing most things lately, including writing blog posts. Why? Because I just couldn’t get myself to do anything. To the point of spending two days in bed. Yep, you read that right. Two. Days. In. Bed.

I’m not even sure why I’ve been so unmotivated or depressed or whatever you want to call it. I don’t actually feel bad. Most of the time. Most of the time I feel like an inarticulate word ending in “h”: eh, ich, blah. It’s only when I try to get myself to do things that the bad thoughts and feelings come up (they involve my own uselessness, death, and anything else negative you can imagine).

I read somewhere that if you just start something, anything, your motivation will show up and you’ll feel better. So I chose to start this blog post. Let’s see, dear readers, what happens.

 

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I came across this picture the other day and couldn’t help but stop and wonder. Who was Ms. Eliza M. Stillman? And why isn’t there a death date? Is she a vampire? An immortal of some kind? Based on the engraving of what I’m assuming are shamrocks, either she or her husband were Irish. Or admirers of Ireland. Or they really just liked shamrocks. Or those are supposed to be something else and the artist messed up.

Of course, there’s probably a simple explanation for everything I’m wondering. When she died her family probably couldn’t afford to have her death date engraved (we had a similar problem). But it’s more fun, don’t you think, to image that Ms. Eliza is off somewhere, baking cookies, and enjoying her 178th year of existence.

 

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Speaking of immortal, this picture jumped out at me too. Doesn’t she look creepy? I can’t help but wonder how those black streaks got there. Intentional or…?

 

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This is just pretty.

 

fat cat

As y’all know, I’m fat. Circus-fat-lady fat. And I love cats. Yep, I’m the cliché.

 

Image from mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/macro-photos-show-amazing-details-of-everyday-objects

Image from mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/macro-photos-show-amazing-details-of-everyday-objects

This falls under the title of “Isn’t science cool?” This is a single grain of sugar. Cool, right?

 

quote struggle

This picture might look familiar as I’ve used it in a previous post. But hey, I still like it and this is my blog. Love the tail.

 

Okay. So I wrote. I posted. I looked at pretty pictures. Do I feel any “better”? Not really. I just feel hungry.

 

Maybe I’ll go back to bed.

 

black white cat


 

Take care.

Bonnie

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X is for X Factor

x xmas fancyWhen I was a kid, my best friend and I used to play this game nearly every day. We pretended we were princesses and we had to “compete” to win our princes in a pageant-like competition. So we would dress up, put on makeup, dance, sing, and sometimes put on a play. And of course, we each won a prince. The prince himself didn’t really matter. The whole thing was just an excuse to pretend that we had “it.” That elusive something that would make someone take one look at us, gasp, and say “Her! That’s the one I’ve been looking for!”

Image from commons.wikimedia.org

Image from commons.wikimedia.org

Now that I’m an adult I know that that kind of “something” is rare. Marilyn Monroe had it. Cary Grant had it. Katy Perry has it. Johnny Depp has it. I don’t have it. At least when it comes to that kind of celebrity charisma.

But what I’m still looking for, at the age of forty-something, is the X factor. I’m looking for that certain elusive something that allows someone, despite all the problems or issues in their life, to do better, to be better. I’m looking for whatever it is that makes someone push through what seem to be unsurmountable odds and make the world a place I want to be in.

About five years ago, I discovered the author Therese J. Borchard. At the time I was combing

Image from thereseborchardblog.com

Image from thereseborchardblog.com

the internet for answers to a spiritual quest and Ms. Borchard had a blog on the website Beliefnet which dealt with spirituality and mental illness. I fell in love with her writing, but more I fell in love with her story. You see, Ms. Borchard has Bipolar (you can find more on that here) and yet has what most of us would consider a normal life. She’s married, has kids, works, writes, has a master’s degree, has published books, and (what may be the hardest thing) fights her mental illness every day. She has the X factor.

According to one of her blog posts (found here), every day she swims, keeps a gratitude journal, lists her accomplishments, makes herself laugh, meditates, takes all kinds of supplements, watches her diet, sits under a sun lamp, and prays. Every. Day. I can’t even do those things every week. Again, the X factor.

So why does she have the ability to fight so hard? Or maybe how does she have the ability to fight? Is it the support that she has from family and friends? Or is it something in her makeup, her DNA? Is there a gene for the X factor?

And she’s not the only one. There are thousands of people out there who, often on a daily basis, fight battles that would put me under. Cancer, domestic violence, political and religious violence, schizophrenia, PTSD, fibromyalgia, cardiac disease, Crohn’s disease, AIDS, Cystic Fibrosis, MS, Lupus, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), the list goes on and on. And they fight. They have the X factor.

As you know, I have a chronic illness too: Major Depressive Disorder (more on that here). And I fight it…bed gray sometimes. Not on a daily basis. I don’t try to fight it with exercise or changes to my diet. There are whole weeks that I spend in bed, not making an effort. Not attempting to have a normal life. Not fighting. Sometimes I’m just too tired, too exhausted by living with the stupid illness to even make an attempt.

But there are other times, times when I could fight it. Times when my energy is up, and I can smile, and I can see the beauty of this world. Those are the times when I could establish the habits and behaviors that fight the disease. Those are the times that those with the X factor push themselves to do what they can, to be what they can. And often they succeed. Ms. Borchard does, and she has a family, friends, and, on top of all she does on a daily basis, has started a community for those with chronic treatment-resistant mood disorders, Project Beyond Blue. How does she do it?

And how can I not? I don’t have a spouse or kids to take care of. I have nothing to distract me, not work, not family, not even a cat, to distract me from fighting my illness. But I don’t. I don’t. I don’t have the X factor.

But maybe, maybe, I can find it.

Find the X factor and fight for my life.


Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to give more? Or are you adding more charitable donations to your plate as part of Lent? If so, please consider donating to Ms. Borchard’s Project Beyond Blue. Details on how to do so can be found here.

On behalf of all those who benefit from her work, Thank You.

ProjectBeyondBlueNingmastheadalternative3

Image found at community.projectbeyondblue.com

 


Take care.

Bonnie

A is for Apology

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI didn’t mean to stay away so long. I know I’ve said that before, and I meant it then as I mean it now. If there’s anyone who still is interested in this blog, I apologize for my absence.

Here’s what happened:

When I posted my last entry, I didn’t realize how much of an impact that particular issue was having on my emotional health. I thought it was a small issue, just a little resentment and anxiety to deal with. However, as soon as I posted that entry I started to pull my world back until it was the size and shape of my bed. Not good. Apparently I’ve got a lot of work to do on that particular incident. I’ll blog about it eventually, but please be advised that it will be painful and I’ll procrastinate about it for quite some time.

Image from keepbusy.net/pic.php?id=3347

Image from keepbusy.net/pic.php?id=3347

So what snapped me out of it? Believe it or not, the mental health system. Sometimes it works! I had an appointment with my case worker (at my community health center, case workers are mental health professionals who help patients deal with the day to day stuff. If you need help budgeting, they help. If you need referrals to assistance programs for rent or utilities, they know where to send you. If you’ve got an anxiety issue around crowed places, they’ll go to the grocery store with you. So on and so forth). At the time of my appointment (last week), I couldn’t get out of the house, so we did a phone session and she made me promise to do several things that, hopefully will work when they didn’t in the past.

Here’s what I’m doing:

Regular counseling. Of course I’ve been doing this all along, but this time I promised that I wouldn’t miss any more appointments, even if I couldn’t get out of bed.hugging cats

Group counseling. I had been going to a group for people with eating issues. I’m going to start going to one for people with depression and anxiety as well. I haven’t started this so we’ll see
how it goes.

 Psycho-education. My mental health center just started doing this thing where they have a class/group that educates patients on particular therapy types and gives them the skills to use them at home. For example: They educate you on the basis for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), its history and particular philosophy. Then they teach you how to use it on your own. I start this today.

 On-line support forums/groups. I’ve joined a support group on Facebook that is specifically for those with depression and anxiety. I’ve joined these things before then dropped out because all I did was read what everyone else was saying and never participated. My case manager had me promise to participate at least twice a week. For some reason, this is helping. I’m not sure why. Possibly because I’ve forced myself to be open (I’ve asked for advice about how to deal with specific symptoms and once just vented) or maybe because this group is particularly supportive. I don’t know, but it lifts my spirits.

 Self-help books. I read self-help books off and on all the time, but I never do any of the exercises in

Image from minus.com/msoenEm7B

Image from minus.com/msoenEm7B

the books. Maybe because I’m just lazy. Probably because I’m scared of change. My case manager recommended that I have my regular counselor approve a book before I read it and do the assignments just so I’m not doing some wacky-doodle type stuff, so we’ll see how this goes. I’m least optimistic about this because it’ll require motivation and mental work. I get a bit of “brain fog” (where it feels like I’m thinking through a fog) and I’ll have to push myself to do it. I’ll start doing this once or twice a week, starting later this week.

 Medication. We’re upping (with approval from my drug pusher—I mean my psychiatrist) my meds a little. It’ll take a few weeks (6-8 is the average) to see if this does anything for me.

Self-care. One of the things that I’ve realized lately is that I’m perpetuating a pattern of neglect from my childhood onto myself. To be less “intellectual” about it, I neglect myself. I’ve let my sleep pattern get nuts (some days I sleep all day, others I don’t sleep at all, etc), been lax with my personal hygiene (you don’t need the details on that), and, of course, eaten badly. I’ve agreed to focus on one aspect of self-care a day.

What I’m hoping that will happen is that all this stuff will not only help me feel better, but will make it easier for me to keep promises to my family, myself, and to you. I’m thinking I’ll probably share a lot of the above changes and struggles with you. Or at least that’s the plan.

Wish me luck.

quote struggle

 

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

 

E is for Excuses

e reflectionI know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’m not sure why. I’ve got lots of excuses for not doing things. Here’s a few of my favorites (in no particular order):

I’m too tired. I use this one a lot. My meds make me sleepy and being circus-lady-fat makes any kind of activity exhausting. So this excuse is true, if nothing else.

It’s too cold/hot/snowing/raining/sun-shiny/cloudy. The weather is always something good to blame things on. Especially if it impacts transportation.

It costs money. This one is especially impactful right now. Being unemployed and having my unemployment cut off (I was getting the federal extension until Congress stopped funding it) makes every dime important. Not that I’m all that good at keeping an eye on my dimes. I often spend money I don’t have or shouldn’t spend for no particular reason. If this excuse really was a reason, I wouldn’t spend recklessly. Right?

It’s too hard. This is probably the real reason I do/don’t do things. I’m pretty lazy and dislike challenging myself if I don’t think I can succeed. If it’s something I think I can do, I’ll do it. Assuming it doesn’t take too much effort.

Writing this blog is sometimes hard and sometimes easy. It’s easy when I’m being confessional. The anonymity of it all makes the confession pour out. Especially when I’m feeling depressed or down on myself. But then I look at my stats and see that those are the posts that get the most views. That makes writing this blog hard. Because I feel like I should write more of those types of posts. More self-hatred, more depression, more anxiety, more negativity. The exact opposite of what I’m trying to do with my life.abyss

Perhaps that’s the real reason I haven’t posted in awhile. I don’t want my blog to just be a big negative blob. Sure if I feel the need to vomit up some ickiness, I suppose that’s okay. I just don’t want it to be the primary focus of this blog, or my life.

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be a place where I could be completely truthful, with no filtering of who or what I am. I wanted a place where I could be both open and closed. Open with who I am but closed with who I am. So someone could see me, but not know it was me. Contradictory, yes. But it’s what I want.

Now, looking at my stats, I feel a bit of pressure to only expose the icky side of me. The depressed, mentally ill, part of me.

But what about the rest of me. The spiritual, the cat-loving, flower-loving, craft-project, parts of me. The parts where the sun shines and giggles are heard? Doesn’t that part of me deserve exposure too?

I think it does. So from now on I am pledging to do my best not to think about what is expected of me before writing posts or publishing them. If a post about kitties and flowers doesn’t get read, it doesn’t get read.

Because this blog is supposed to be for me. As much as I often put myself last, I think I deserve a place where my desires come first. I’m gonna start with this blog. This blog is mine. And I will write what I want.

I hope you’ll continue to read.

pink rose textured white background

Blessings to you all.

Be well.

S is for Squalor

abcalphabet_block_blue_sI never meant for it to happen. All I wanted to do was be happy. Instead I ended up living in squalor.

It was 1997 and I made the choice to move to the town where my abuser lived. At the time it seemed to be the right thing to do. Several family members lived in the same town and they all wanted me to move there so they could see me more. The price was right for the apartment and I wanted to see my family more so I didn’t really have a good reason to not move there. After all, only a few people knew about the abuse, and those who did thought I was “over” it. I wasn’t, but I didn’t want to admit it.

Shortly after I moved in, I adopted two kittens. As you may be aware, I’m a HUGE cat lover, so it seemed like a dream come true. Unfortunately, my disease (depression and anxiety) thought otherwise. The entire time I lived in that town I was living in a low level of anxiety that lead me to neglect myself and my surroundings. I rarely cleaned the cats’ litter box, so the cats took to using other parts of the apartment. However I would periodically get it together enough to clean things up so the apartment was presentable.

Then my mother died. Things got worse. Not only was I living in anxiety, but I was overwhelmed with guilt, shame and grief over my mother’s death. I had been unable to go to her deathbed (my parents lived in another state) because of my finances and my brother had to deal with it all alone. I was ashamed that I had not been able to help my brother and father during such a stressful time. The times where I was able to clean became rarer and rarer. Eventually my landlord investigated during a time when I hadn’t cleaned in a while and he asked me to leave.

I found a new apartment in another city, but I couldn’t bring my cats. So I gave them up to the local shelter and cried for days.

Three days after moving into my new apartment, I sat down in my easy chair, looked around at my half packed boxes, sighed and gave up. It was February of 2000. Those boxes never got unpacked. And for the next eight years anything I brought into the apartment stayed. Nothing left. By nothing, I mean nothing. Garbage of every type, papers, food, books, newspapers, mail, everything and anything remained.

At one point my toilet broke. But the mess was so bad that I didn’t dare ask my landlord to fix it. So I lived as much as possible without a working toilet. For six years. I wasn’t always successful, especially as I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS; more info on that here). You can imagine the stench. But I didn’t smell it. I was so used to it that it was normal for me.

During those eight years I never let anyone into the apartment (my landlord never inspected. I guess as long as I paid my rent and no one complained he was happy). I went about my days as if I was perfectly normal. But the fact was that I wasn’t normal. I lived in squalor. I couldn’t use the heat in the apartment because I was afraid I’d start a fire (I had baseboard heat). In the summer I felt like I was on fire because there was so much stuff in front of the windows I couldn’t open them (and I didn’t have air conditioning). Frankly, I’m surprised I never got frost bite or heat stroke; temperatures in the area I live in can run from -30° to +110° Fahrenheit. Somehow I survived.

What finally broke me and got me out of there was when my grandmother could no longer live alone. Up until that time I was her primary caregiver. It wasn’t difficult, I just called her daily, visited several times a week, took her shopping and so forth. But then she fell and broke her wrist. The family got together and let her know that it was time for her to move out. Being an extremely independent woman, this was hard on her, but she did it. She moved in with my brother (fortunately he made enough money to allow my sister-in-law to quit her job and stay home to take care of her) and my world changed.

No longer was I required to keep a constant eye on someone else. I still visited her at my brother’s house, but otherwise I had much more time on my hands. Without the need to take my grandmother to the store or doctor’s all the time, I began to look at what I had neglected in my life. Myself. And my life was not pretty. I was living in filth.

Living in filth

Living in filth

So what did I do? I did what I always do; I got even more depressed and suicidal. At the time I was seeing a counselor, but it wasn’t helping much. Mostly because I couldn’t see her as often as I would like (due to insurance reasons). So, with my counselor’s permission, I got a referral from my insurance company to another counselor. It was then that I was persuaded to “out” myself to my family and get help with the apartment.

How did we take care of it? At first, my brother, sister-in-law and I tried to clean up the apartment by ourselves. But it was too much, so my brother hired some day-laborers who literally took shovels to my apartment. After a day I had a construction-site size dumpster full of garbage removed from my two room apartment. I lost a lot in that dumpster: my high school yearbooks, childhood toys, family pictures, heirlooms, beloved books, my self-esteem.

Afterwards I moved to another apartment where I gradually got into the habit of cleaning and getting rid of stuff.

So what was it really about? My counselor at the time said that I was “manifesting an interior belief into an exterior reality.” This basically means that I believed I was garbage so I lived in garbage. But what I think is that when I moved into that apartment in 2000 I was so exhausted with the constant anxiety of living close to my abuser, my mother’s death, giving up my cats and just being unhappy that I metaphorically crumbled. I crumbled into myself and did the minimum I had to do to get by. I expended whatever energy I had to make sure I had the façade of “normalcy” up that I had no energy to do anything else.

Other counselors I’ve seen classified me as a Hoarder (go here for a definition of hoarding). I never agreed with this classification (and frankly hated it) as I wasn’t emotionally attached to the garbage in my apartment. The hardest part of getting rid of it was how overwhelming it was (as you can see from the above picture, there was quite a bit of it) and that there were people in my apartment seeing how “crazy” I was. The stuff itself was incidental. I prefer another classification: Squalor, or Diogenes, syndrome.

Squalor syndrome is not an officially recognized classification among the mental health community. I came across this phrase when I was trying to put a name to what I was doing. I found this article and finally had a name that fit. I also found a website (Squalor Survivors) that helped me feel less like I was a freak.

I outed myself as a person living in squalor in 2008. The only persons who knew about it or saw it (via a picture or live) were my brother, sister-in-law and mental health professionals. It took me until 2010 to get myself into a system of cleaning/throwing things away. At this point I consider myself “cured” of this syndrome. Of course I’m not a perfect housekeeper. Right now I’ve got two stacks of things that need to be put away and you can write a novel in the dust in my room. But I don’t live in squalor.

So why am I talking about it now? Because I told this story to someone for the first time since 2010, complete with showing them the above picture. And it threw me into vortex of avoidance. I started sleeping 12-20 hours a day, bingeing up a storm and wallowing in self-pity. Over and over I told myself that “no one cares” and that I was “stupid, stupid, stupid.” It’s taken me a week to get out of the vortex and realize that what I did was the right thing, that people do care, that I am not stupid.

I told my story to someone because they were struggling with their own version of squalor. It wasn’t as bad as mine, they were just messy, but they were overwhelmed with the mess. To the point of having an anxiety attack over it. I told them my story as a sort of “it could be worse” and a “if I got through this you can get through your mess” kind of thing. And it did help them. They realized that they could clean up their mess and get organized.

Was my week of avoidance worth it? Since my friend was helped by my opening myself up, I think it was. The trick now is to figure out how to open myself up to others without falling into a vortex.

Any suggestions?

A is for Avoidance (and B is for Bed)

ImageI had a list of things I was supposed to do last weekend. Basically, it’s a list of things I’m supposed to do every day. Things from the simple (shower) to the mundane (laundry) to the complicated (figure out what values you want to live by and start implementing them into your live) and the terrifying (write down an account of all of the abuse you’ve suffered). Did I get any of it done? Not really. The only thing I did get done was start this blog. I suppose I’ll get kudos for that from my shrink. But I avoided doing everything else. Avoiding stuff is the one thing I can honestly say I’m really good at.

The fact is I’m a coward. I run—well I don’t run. That would require physical activity and my circus-lady fat makes that difficult. I hide. Usually in my bed. You’d figure, since I spend all that time in my bed, that my bed would be the most fabulous thing I own. It’s not. I sleep on discount store sheets with a clearance comforter, both of which have developed holes. My mattress is a cheap twin that I barely fit on and it sits on the floor. I don’t have a bed frame. But it’s what I can afford.

And it’s mine. I paid for every bit of it. Every hole is from a nightmare I thrashed about and kicked through. Every dip in the mattress is from my fat curling into as tight a fetal position I could get into. My bed is a testimony to my survival as a human being the past few years. In that bed I recovered from surgery, broken bones, suicidal impulses, irrational angers, overwhelming fears, migraine headaches, deaths of dreams and births of ambitions.

I love my bed. It’s me.

Since my bed is me, it should follow that I love me. But I don’t. Maybe because my bed is the part of myself that I can’t embrace. The fragile, bleeding, vulnerable part of myself that I don’t allow to come out anywhere else but in my bed. I hate that part of me. I avoid dealing with it. And in that avoidance that part of me gets bigger and bigger until I end up in a different kind of bed.

One in someone else’s guest room because I’m homeless and have avoided myself into helplessness.

Or one in a hospital because I’ve avoided myself into hopelessness.

I may love my bed, and I may be good at avoidance, but it’s about time I learn to love and be good at something else. It’s mundane, it’s painful, but it’s necessary. And one day, it’ll be me.