Flowers Blooming

During my recovery process back in 2016, I took up photography when I was able to start walking and had the energy to do so. I would go to the park with my dog, Rorschach, and just take picture after picture of nature. I edited them and discovered that I really had a penchant for capturing beautiful things. I was intrigued by the process of change for flowers and was amazed by their growth and how they seemed to grow and blossom with me.

I have returned to steady treatment after trying to work for nearly a year and a half. I still take photos of flowers and am always amazed by their tenacity and their strength to keep going in the midst of freezing temperatures and dreadful hot spells; still, they bloom.

As I move forward in dealing with my daily struggles, I have to realize there is no perfection. I still have delusions, struggles with food, suicidal ideation, and, sometimes, I just cry because I am not the person I imagined myself to be. Despite the frustrations, I am determined to still bloom; it may just take me longer and require more work. For now, I feel buried in ice, my ground muddied and frozen, my stems frozen and starting to turn brown to gray, and my petals are trapped within the bud, fearful to leave the safety of what I know: dysfunction.

Please keep fighting. It is difficult and wearisome. So often, I want to quit; however, I think of the people in this world who need me and the many things that I still have yet to do–I have to remind myself that I deserve to live.

As Virginia Rometty stated: “Growth and comfort do not coexist.”

Keep going. Even when your world is frozen and you feel trapped inside. Keep hoping.

Iron Maiden

I’ve been reading Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and discovering some interesting things about society’s perpetuation of women as objects. What I have understood, so far, is that women are only as worthwhile as their ability to adhere to societal standards. This is: THIN and BEAUTIFUL and MADE-UP and COMPLACENT… We are only as powerful as we look.

Unfortunately, this is not how the world is supposed to work. And, in some ways, I don’t think it works that way everywhere, but this concept attaches itself to young impressionable minds and it festers and grows like a cancer, destroying their self-esteem and hope and faith in themselves.

I wanted to be thin to be invisible, not to be as society wanted me. I had wanted to hide in my locker in junior high. I had wanted to fade into the background… Yet, I wanted someone to ask me how I was.

Eating disorders are their own creature a
nd vary with reasons between each person. I still think, to this day, that if I weigh 150 pounds or more, I am more susceptible to being victimized. Too big and too slow to fight back. A lower weight was reinforced after I was victimized by another man in college (a fellow student who played soccer on the intramural team). I never reported it. I was smart enough to keep zipping my pants every time he let go of my hands. Then, I weighed even less and was purging multiple times a day. I shut down a bathroom with my purging. YES! That happens. Food, excessive amounts, clogs toilets and makes them overflow.

I thought if I was just thinner, I would not have been as attractive. I thought that I would be stronger. I did yoga every morning, walked while reading, organized my days into 15-minute intervals, and tried to only eat “good” and “safe” foods. I still threw them up afterward.

I am currently in recovery, but still struggling. My weight is the highest it has ever been—thanks to medicines and depression and other health conditions—and it scares me. I cannot help but wonder if I will be considered easy bait.

 

Many other women engage in these behaviors to fit societal ideals. They think they will be accepted if they are thin. This is true. I experienced it. I was considered more worthwhile when I was thin; I was considered disciplined and level-headed. I was successful. I pretended to be jovial and fun-loving and was complacent to society’s expectations of me; underneath, I loathed myself because I knew I would never quite be good enough. I was trapped in the Iron Maiden, steadily suffocating on my diseases and societal norms.

So, how does one challenge this?

Flower in A Wishing Well
Be A Flower in a Wishing Well

First, I need to learn to love myself and make goals for myself that are not dictated by photoshopped magazines. I need to find reasons to love myself. I need to remind myself that I am worthwhile and not defined by my disease or my need for treatment. I need to learn balance: balance between my needs and what the world needs of me.

 

This Is NOT for You, or Me!

Society’s rules are not for you, or me.

A little bit different post today…

As I am on vacation, I am discussing with my friend how women are currently portrayed in the gaming world. Sometimes, it is well… other times, they are ignored and considered minor characters in adventure games.

I like a classic shooting game, puzzle game, games that challenge me. Most of these games are dominated by male characters. As my friend told me in regards to starting to play one game: “This game is not for me.”

How ridiculous is that?

My favorite game of all time is Tomb Raider. Why? Because what girl doesn’t like to be a bad-ass, who carries a desert eagle and shotgun and shoots all the bad guys. Oh. And by the way, I also want to be able to challenge wild animals who view me as their next meal. She rocks and, as a result, I do too. Unfortunately, these games are not as prevalent as male-dominated games.

I may be a huge anti-machismo feminist. I tend to shoot other players in the crotch in shooting games. Oopsie! My brothers always comment that they don’t like to play with me for that reason. This is probably a result of my animosity toward men in general. It does not help that the games are male dominated and have unlikely female characters.

Is it no wonder that women have little faith in their ability to do some things and that men belittle women? I recognize that all men do not do this and that there are strong women out there who fight for themselves. Media does not always support this.

As I have gone through my life, I have learned so many thingsabout the roles of women. When I was 12, I wanted to be a minister. While this was appreciated, I was informed that I would be a great missionary and could serve in a group. My friend from childhood was a missionary and had to comply with the rules that said she was less than men, according to those social expectations. At the time, I thought that made sense, but as I have grown older and remember some of these things, I am frustrated by society’s insistence that women are less than men. This is not true of every media source, or society, but prevalent enough for women to accept that their role is not as equal as men’s.

As I have gone through my life, I have pushed myself to expand my boundaries. When I was younger, I thought that if I wasn’t pretty and thin, I had to be intelligent, except people don’t like intelligent, so I had to be average to be liked, except teachers wanted me to reach my full potential, but my classmates felt I was a “brown-noser.” So, what is a girl to do? Smile. Agree. Be demure. Be vapid. Be nothing.

So, that is what I was. Deep down, I loathed it. I wanted to be accepted so badly, but I was never quite perfect enough. This is how self-esteem gets destroyed in young women. This is why young women think they are blessed and special when a man pays attention to them.

My latest relationship ended badly about 5 months ago. We started off honest enough, but he made it clear that he felt intimidated by my reading and writing. So, I stopped talking about some of my interests. He, on the other hand, intimidated me with his religiosity and made me feel less. Another point of contention was the fact that I was in treatment. I did not realize how integrated these views were to him until we broke up and he wrote me a two page letter to explain how I did not deserve him. It was also apparent when he bashed my treatment and explained that one shouldn’t eat more than three meals a day.

What has the world taught me about being a woman?

That no matter what… I will never be good enough.

THIS IS BUNK!

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I am good enough. I am my own person. I have the right to be intelligent and not perfect. I am worthwhile, whether or not I have a mental illness, have brains, am average, have an imperfect body, or am just not what the world expects of me.

 

Society’s expectations of perfection and how to exist are not for you, or for me.

Let us remember this.

 

Contentment and Frustration

One day at a time. I need contentment in the midst of frustration.

Today, I leave for vacation. I have packed and done laundry and been trying to figure out books to take and read while in the car. I am working on a memoir based on books and am starting to feel better about my writing. I have written more in the past few days than I have in months. I have requested feedback and am starting to feel more confident.

As I have managed these past few weeks in random fits of normal, manic, mixed, and depressed, I feel as though I might make it. I hate that I am not working and that I am unable to work. I get excited on days that I feel good and frustrated on days that I am depressed.

Yesterday, I organized my computer files and discovered a wide variety of writings from my first few years of experiences with psychiatric medications and treatment. The overarching theme was a numbness of spirit and dullness of mind.

“My brain has been gone since my crash, since my time staring into the dark abyss of suicide and all my times spent in the hospital. My words are fewer. I choke on what words make it to the blank page. Characters are flat and without purpose. I miss the plots, the twists, the edginess of my writing. I want it back. Somewhere along the way, I lost my voice,” I wrote in one document.

However, there are days when it is there. I have good days, of course. However, when my mind slows from depression or medications to combat the mania, I am frustrated and stare at the blank page.

I wrote in another document:

“There is a void now, where once danced words and characters and descriptions. I used to fumble my way through the dark where I would write deep into the night, words pouring forth from me, ideas forcing themselves onto the page. Now, I am stuck with silence. My dearest friends have failed me and I know not why.

I want to blame it on the pills, these tablets that make it possible for me to function. Somehow, they have damaged my capacity for clear thought and creativity. I long to rediscover my voice. To find that it wasn’t lost with the start of graduate school and the great depression, to discern hope in the seemingly endless days where my mind is as blank as the sheet of paper upon which my eyes rest.”

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While I was in the hospital, I was given educational materials on bipolar; I learned that my condition is lifelong and incurable. It is only manageable. The doctors said my medications were complicated. I wish I could get off them, but must settle for management of symptoms without overly complicating my life. I have thought about how I always pursued working and being productive, but am now stuck with recognizing that I cannot function while working full-time. I have been hospitalized over 20 times, if not over 30; this tells me that it will take too much from my employment to try to manage my illness. Forcing myself to challenge my limits on a daily basis without effective self-care will just cause me to relapse again and again.

In regards to my anorexia (my twenty year struggle), I find myself doing well one month and being triggered to relapse at a change in my body size, or seeing a smaller person on television, in the store, or in the act of eating too much. I thought I had recovered and then I relapsed. That is the case of my life: recovery -> stress -> relapse.

For now, I must focus on one day at a time and pursue a contentment with my life.

Home from the Hospital

Having bipolar disorder was unexpected and not in the plan. Having an eating disorder nearly kill me was not in the plan. Having trauma was most definitely not in the plan. It is so surprising how much these can change you.

So, I went manic and mixed and… Well, I made my way to the hospital to be safe.

Med changes and discovering things I didn’t want to know. Let me elucidate you: my antipsychotic caused weight gain and the lactation. The lactation is an unknown side effect, but stopped shortly after I quit taking it. I took myself off two meds and they took me off another (caused weight gain and freaked me out). I am now just on an antianxiety, an (different) antipsychotic, and a mood stabilizer. I also take some medicine to help with the PTSD. It is still a lot of meds, but I am taking fewer overall and feel better about myself.

I am going on vacation on Saturday; I will be away from home for about a week. This is my first vacation in years (since 2006) and I am hoping it goes well. I have been advised that it could be a bad decision to go, especially given the latest issues. However, I am truly tired of my diseases ruling my life. So, I am going.

If I were to be honest, the hospital was not a terrible decision. No, it was just frustrating to be there. I was bored most of the time; my ability to read and write was compromised by the mania. As my stay came to an end, I was able to think more clearly and felt more like myself. That is the oddest thing: I feel like myself. It worries me, in some ways, to have this much energy and to feel so much like my old self, but it also makes me smile. I have talked quite a bit over the past few days to my family, more than I have in months. This is all a good thing.

While I know this will not last, I embrace this feeling for now. I hate to not live my life to the fullest. I know already that my life is not what I want. I did not imagine this for myself. When I was a child, I wanted to be a marine biologist, an author, a minister, a missionary, and the list went on…

Having bipolar disorder was unexpected and not in the plan. Having an eating disorder nearly kill me was not in the plan. Having trauma was most definitely not in the plan. It is so surprising how much these can change you. While I feel like me for now, I recognize that it can change. In the meantime, I shall embrace this feeling of my normal and enjoy coffee and my life.

Bipolar Mania Relapse

Bipolar I strikes again and the joy comes crashing down.

 

So, my negativity stole my soul. Then, I got sick and decided to stop two of my meds just because I really wanted grapefruit and was tired of feeling blah. I also felt that I could handle it.

Six days later: my hand is throbbing from 10 hours of crochet in one day, my room is reorganized to the max, my closet is reorganized, I’ve developed a new recipe for a fruit and nut based dessert, and have had very little sleep. Let’s also add my penchant for just seeing what will happen and trying to make money by completing surveys.

I conceded that I was manic and while my brain and whole self argued that this is the best I have felt in about 6 years and the most intelligent I have felt since undergraduate college; however, I do not have the skills to bring it under control. So, I called the docs for meds and help in bringing myself down.

It sucked. It still sucks.

One of my biggest frustrations about meds is that they slow me down. While this keeps me from spending money, having sex with random strangers, engaging in business ventures, and deciding to completely change my life… It also limits my creativity and ability to function at such high levels. I read some books about it and many suffer, but use the highs to get things done and still have the capacity to maintain their lives. Okay. I know Fitzgerald drank himself to death, Plath and Sexton committed suicide, Van Gogh cut off his ear… And many more were institutionalized for long periods. I don’t want any of that, but I miss the capacity of keeping going.

When I was in college, I could write a story in a day, a report in an afternoon, I had my life scheduled in 15-minute increments and got so much accomplished. I worked two jobs, went to school, volunteered, and was involved with multiple groups on campus. I was awesome. Then depression struck and I was powerless and the meds that tampered my depression, also tampered my energy and that was the end.

I know things will get better, but people really don’t know what it is like. I was on top. Now, I am struggling to just keep going. Discovering and admitting that I am manic always sends me crashing and it is a feeling of compacted despair.

 

VICTIM TO VICTIM TO VICTIM…

I am struggling. I have felt powerless for months. A great deal has happened and the world is blaming me.

I hate the word victim. I hate the sequential victim-> survivor-> thriver. I have oft said that I want to be a thriver, but am repeatedly shut down. As soon as I have my feet under me, someone comes along and makes me feel like garbage.

I recently looked up my abuser and saw that his life has gone on merrily. He kept his job and family and had nothing negative happen to him. I doubt he even felt guilty. I looked him up because I had thought he had been forced into retirement. Such was not the case.

I have felt pretty powerless lately. My car being stolen and the tow yard taking advantage of me. The lack of police response and laws preventing successive victimization. It reminded me of being thirteen… and my entire high school existence. It reminded me of being seventeen and disclosing and being terrified and no one validating my wishes. It reminded me of having to lie to maintain. It reminded me of how my principal stopped joking with me in the hallway and how he hugged every other student at the graduation ceremony and only shook my hand. It reminded me of being on the back of the bus and boys talking about having sex with me if I would pay them, taking bets on if I was a virgin and commenting that they’d have to cover my face with a paper bag because I was too ugly.

I barely survived high school and college and graduate school. I have worked jobs, only to have breakdowns and now am filing for disability because I can’t handle the stress of a 40+ hour week. Again, with the powerlessness.

I thought this would be a good time to binge watch some police procedural dramas on Netflix. I began to watch Law & Order: SVU and was struck time and time again by how limited our system is to help victims. Always, it was the victim’s fault. Always, the victim had no rights. Always, the victim had years of recovery time ahead. Always… The assailant sometimes just got to go his merry way. It happens so often because society blames the victim.

I am preaching, but this has really impacted my life lately. When my car was stolen, I was blamed. I heated it up in my driveway. A thief saw it and took it. Did you know that it is against the law to heat up your car? WHY? Because someone might steal it. It’s like saying because she didn’t wear pantyhose to the party, she was asking to be raped.

In light of all of this thinking and remembering, I am struggling. I have medical issues that doctors are blaming on my psych meds. So, I stopped taking two of them: the antidepressant and the antipsychotic. I’m sure it won’t help and could make me feel pretty depressed, but I needed some semblance of power back in my life and stopping some pills seemed the only way.

So, begins my week.