Saturday, August 16, 2014

Checking on my Comfort Zone

Recently, a friend introduced me to a site called Superbetter. It's all about making yourself better - more resilient, more optimistic, more motivated. It's filled with games but not like flash games or xbox games. These are quests and you face challenges, gain allies, learn skills, and fight off bad guys. It intrigued me and, since my friend signed up for it, I figured I would sign up, too. I don't play everyday. Honestly, I haven't been to the website in weeks.

While working through my quest I got stuck. It's my own fault, too. I was faced with a challenge and didn't do it. I haven't done it yet. I started to but it was uncomfortable so I set it aside with the intention of returning to it the next day. I did return to it but I didn't do anything about it beyond rereading the description of what I was supposed to do. What did I get stuck on, you ask? It's silly, really. All I needed to do was write a journal entry answering this question:

What is your current relationship with your comfort zone?
Fortressed within it?
Always busting through it?

See what I mean? It's simple. Yet, it's so complex. Formulating a reply has been troublesome and it's been weighing on me.
Source: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

My comfort zone is always changing. It varies with my mood - how manic or depressed I am or if I'm neither. My level of anxiety plays a big role in defining what I enjoy doing or what I'm willing to try. Likewise it determines what completely freaks me out, it draws that proverbial line in the sand which I cannot cross. What feels impossible for me one week is second nature the next and vice versa.

Source: Clinical Junior.com
My healthy self, if I know my healthy self - which is dubious, is bound to be somewhere in the middle between manic and depressed. That's only logical. She must be more cautious than the manic version of me and must also be more relaxed than the anxious version of me. Surely she is, or at least believes herself to be, more capable than the depressed version of me.

So, today? At this moment? I feel good about myself. I believe I'm good at my job and I enjoy it. I feel good about my relationships with family and friends. Calling my best friend is not a stretch today even though the same activity yesterday was distressing and I couldn't bring myself to do it. I feel like I have something worth sharing on my blog and I'm able to adequately answer the Superbetter question.


Will I feel the same tomorrow? Who knows.

If you're curious, here's a little about Superbetter from TED Talks.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fearless

My heart beat in slow motion - one Mississippi, two Mississippi – and I swear I saw the molecules of air in front of my little sister's face fly away in chaotic, swirling tornadoes when she screamed my name.

The car in front of us drove it's front left wheel up the guardrail, grinding along the metal boundary between interstate overpass and old county road below and, with the other three wheels still on the surface of the highway, the body of the car gauged a long, terrible arc into the asphalt before stopping.

I pulled onto the shoulder of I-10 only yards from the steep concrete retainer wall which stretched beneath the overpass and my younger sister, a nurse, burst from my little Jetta and scrambled through traffic to the unfolding tragedy where she knelt close to the person who lay motionless on the ground.

The echo off the concrete of the underpass doubled the roar of the cars and the rumble of semi engines yet I still heard my sister yell adamantly at the person beside her, “Stay with me damn you! Look at me! Don't you dare close your eyes!”

I called 911 while she did the miraculous thing that I could not and in those terrible moments she evolved in my mind from little sister to woman and hero.


This weeks prompts are the word "fearless" and this image.
For more information about Five Sentence Fiction check out Lillie McFerrin Writes.





Sunday, July 20, 2014

Illusions in the Rain

Visual prompt for this weeks FSF Challenge.
The rain poured thick and loud, obscuring the buildings that lined the street and roaring over our voices no matter how loud we tried to talk or how hard we tried to listen.

Seizing the hand of my long-time friend, who rather like Big Bird's Mr. Snuffleupagus existed only in my imagination, I pulled him eagerly down the middle of the narrow street slowly filling with water.

I laughed, sang, and twirled in his arms to music that existed only in my mind as we approached the arched tunnel through a stone pedestrian bridge which stretched across the road we sloshed along.

When we stepped into cover of the small underpass I pointed to the curtain of water hanging over it's opposite end and announced, “Leaving through that side, in a magical moment, will take me to another point in my life," and then I snarled, "it might even be a time when my mind is not lost and you don't exist.”

I saw bewilderment on his face and a touch of fear in his eyes as I loosed my fingers from around his hand and shoved him back into the downpour we just left and then I rushed through the enchanted veil of rain which promised to free me from my madness.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Don't Judge Me (POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING)

NOTICE: This post may be a trigger for you.

I think I manage the anxiety I experience rather well. Most days I can keep my darker emotions from ganging up on me and I've done a great job of successfully beating them off. There is a certain threshold, though. Somber turns to despair and I feel defeated, crushed beneath the weight of my own sick brain. Grumpy morphs into a full blown rage and the catalyst will be something ridiculous. Discomfort becomes humiliation and shame as my brain brings to the forefront of my conscious mind everything it believes I've ever done wrong. What happens beyond the threshold is not anything I'm proud of.

I scratch and cut myself. It makes sense to me in the moment. I've done it enough throughout my life that I no longer carry sharp things with me when I feel the stable ground beneath me tremble, a sign that a terrible fissure threatens to open under my feet. Leaving the pocket knife at home interferes with my attempts to cut myself. Most of the time, the appeal of cutting fades away before I can gain possession of an object capable of drawing blood. Sometimes cutting is so terribly seductive that, unable to access anything sharper, I resort to using my fingernails. They don't cut per se; they scratch well, though. They become claws that scrape at the skin of my thighs in moments of desperation.

I don't know if it's seeing the stripes or feeling the sting that helps me keep my demons at bay. I guess it's both. I make more cuts and scratches when my distress is more intense. The more my efforts fail to ease my anguish, the more ferocious my actions become. The physical pain is probably the larger part of it although the blushing lines swelling on my skin do create an odd feeling of satisfaction - gratification blended with disgrace.

Don't judge me for this behavior. I know it's messed up. I don't need to be reminded. I don't even want to talk about it most of the time because the people I confide in almost always focus on the action and make me feel even more ashamed which isn't helpful. The problem isn't the cutting or the scratching. They are symptoms, physical manifestations of the dark hurt and anxiety that have escalated beyond my ability to fend off in a manner deemed healthy by the normal people of the world. Let's deal with the emotions I can't handle and the scratching will go away.

Don't judge me for this behavior. Other peoples' actions are mesed up, too. Making an 11:00pm run to the stop-and-rob for a cheap six-pack of beer because you can't slow down your mind enough to go to sleep is damaging to the body, too. It's just not exposed. Is harming your liver somehow more nobel than injuring your skin? I'm not even referring to alcoholism, just the occassional "had a rough day" gin and tonic. What about smoking when stressed? Over-eating? Going on spending sprees? All of these have consequences.

Don't judge me for this behavior. We all have our coping methods and mine usually heal within a few days.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Little Gratitude Please

What are you grateful for?

The usual answers include:
  • My family
  • My friends
  • My health
Other common answers are:
  • A good home
  • Healthy food
  • My pets
The answers are all legitimate and I'm sure most people are being truthful in giving them. They aren't unique, though. They are so common as to be cliche and, like any old adage, the words fall out of our mouths without a moment of consideration. The thoughtlessness of it all only registers when the words land with a heavy thunk across the top of one's left foot. Saying "I'm grateful for my family" has become an antiphone that doesn't require the least bit of contemplation. "I'm grateful for my friends" is an automatic reply, a reflex similar to the startle response we have when someone sneaks up behind us. It just happens.

"For my dog" or "for my health" are comfortable replies when playing the I'm Thankful For game round-robin style with people we might call friends but we're not particularly close to. They are safe, true statements and, most importantly, they don't even hint at the intimate matters living closer to our hearts. I get it. Don't get me wrong. I use those standard answers, too. I think I've even gotten pretty good at the Sincere Smile which dresses up the shallowness of my randomly chosen, standard answer with the guise of heartfelt earnestness.

All of this begs the question, what are you grateful for? Peak into all the little crevices in your brain to find something particular to you and your life. When you're being candid with your real self, who and what rise to the top of your Grateful List.

Me?

I'm grateful that a certain someone picked me up after work one day, like always, and took me directly to my doctor. We did not pass go or collect $200. This person told me s/he was scared for me, told me I was sick and I needed to get help. This person got me the help I was incapable of getting for myself and promised to stand strong for me until I was able to stand for myself again. That event took one hour out of one day and changed the course of my life.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Silence

A few years ago I attended a women's retreat. I shared a little of that experience with you not too long ago. One of the "rules" (really more of a recommendation) was to spend a certain amount of time each day in silence. Attaining that goal meant more than not talking. That was the easy part. It required being alone and away from a million little things. Phone, TV, music, the obvious stuff. Once I eliminated those things I realized that my surroundings were far from silent. The ceiling fan and fridge whirred and, without other noises to conceal it, they seemed loud. I left my room expecting to find a quieter space outside, perhaps on one of the gentle trails or on a bench beneath the sprawling branches of an old tree. I had to share the trail with other people and, although they were quiet in the normal sense of the word, they still made noise that filled my ears. Even when I was alone on the trail, the gravel beneath my feet crunched with every single step I took. Silence, true silence, was eluding me. Eventually, I returned to my room and decided it was quiet enough. I was able to exist with my thoughts, my journal, and my pen.

Several years before that, I went on a spiritual journey of sorts. This was long before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and I was desperately grasping for something, anything, that would give me some peace. Upon arriving at the spiritual retreat center the first evening, I was instructed to be silent until a specified time the following morning. No talking and no turning anything on to listen to. Being alone with myself like that was unnerving. I didn't much like myself at the time and I definitely did not respect myself. I was trapped in an illness I did not know I had and the silence outside my body made the noise inside by body seem that much louder. My thoughts jumped from one traumatic experience to another while my inner critic picked apart every little decision I had made, proving to me how bad my choices were and how terrible a person I was. My skin crawled with tension and my stomach hurt. I did the only thing I could think to do. I wrote. I had no watch or clock so I have no idea how long I scribbled in my journal. I continued until all the jumbled mess in my head was transferred to paper and until I had described all my emotions and body sensations as well as I could. Finally satisfied, I carefully closed my journal. I felt lighter. I still needed to deal with the awful things I had written but, for the night at least, they lived in the journal and not in me.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

1000 Paper Cranes

Legend says if you make 1000 paper cranes then you can make a wish and it will come true.

A much more recent story, one about a little girl growing up in the toxic world created by the Hiroshima bombing, is attached to the paper crane legend. The little girl's name was Sadako Sasaki and she developed Lukemia when she was a child. She started folding origami cranes with the goal of being able to make a wish. Some stories say her wish was to be well again while others say it was for world peace. Some versions say she finished 1000 cranes before she passed away at 12 years old. Other versions say she didn't and that her friends and family finished them for her. You can read one version of Sadako's story at 1000cranes.com.

I suspect the little girl was originally wishing to be well and that the wish morphed into one of world peace as she succumbed to the illness. I'm a grown woman and I would wish to be healthy again. Forget world peace; I want to live. Maybe I'm just selfish. Of course, maybe she really was a child of the light, mature beyond her years, and destined to help usher in a change in this world.

Would I wish to be free of my illness?

Bipolar Disorder comes with a lot of ugly characteristics. If I were to make a chart listing the pros and cons of living a life with Bipolar Disorder, I suspect the cons would far out number the pros. The pros, however, include some amazingly positive things.

  • increased confidence
  • increased creativity
  • more outgoing
  • higher goals
  • increased intelligence
  • better performance
If you live with Bipolar Disorder, though, then you know those things are not permanent. It's a terrible truth and it often feels like a curse. I can taste success and then the mania wisks me away in an updraft, a tell-tale sign of an impending storm. How high I go reveals the strength of the storm and the level of destruction it will do.

What if the legend is true? Just pretend for a moment and believe with 100% certainty that making 1000 origami cranes would allow for the granting of one wish.

Here is paper crane #1.