August 2013

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TRIED TO NAP THIS AFTERNOON. MY DOCTOR SAID IT’S OK TO TAKE A SLEEP MED IF I NEED TO CATCH UP. AND CATCHING UP IS DREADFULLY NEEDED. INSOMNIA HAS GONE THROUGH THE ROOF! I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW EVERY DAY, I’M FINDING MORE AND MORE PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO ARE COMING OUT FOR THE FIGHT AND SHARING THEIR STORIES. IT’S PRETTY AMAZING! MAYBE SOMEDAY WE SHOULD HAVE A BIG GET TOGETHER, IN THE MIDDLE OF AMERICA OR SOMEWHERE ELSE. OR MAYBE IN SELECT PLACES ALL OVER THE WORLD. SOMETHING LIKE A WORLD MENTAL HEALTH WEEK, WOODSTOCKISH THING, OR SOMETHING OF THAT SORT. WE COULD ALL WEAR NAME TAGS, TEE SHIRTS, BUTTONS WITH WHATEVER WE WANT ON THEM. MAYBE SOME SLOGANS. LOTS OF COURAGEOUS PEOPLE ARE ALREADY WEARING TEESHIRTS WITH COURAGEOUS THINGS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS ON THEM. WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT TO HALF ABOUT HALF A MILLION ALL TOGETHER? WELL, IT’S JUST AN IMAGINING.AND I LOVE IT. I FEEL BAD ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO PICK UP A SIGN OR MARCH FOR THE RIGHTS OF THE MENTALLY ILL. AGORAPHOBIA WON’T HAVE IT. MAYBE SOMEDAY, BUT I AIN’T GOING TO PULL THAT TRIGGER NOW. I KNOW MY LIMITATIONS. AND WHAT I’M DOING RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, HOWEVER SMALL AND INSIGNIFICANT IT MAY SEEM, IT IS SOMETHING. MY FLAG MAY NOT BE TOO BIG, BUT I CAN STILL WAVE IT. THAT’S WHY I DECIDED TO TWEET AND BLOG. THOSE OF US WHO CAN, WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING, RIGHT? IT’S TOO BIG A DEAL TO GOOD TO JUST SIT ON THE SIDELINES AND LET OTHERS DO ALL THE WORK. I KNOW WHAT’S IT’S LIKE TO SUFFER. I DO IT EVERY DAY AND SO DO MILLIONS OF OTHERS. SO FAR, I’M STILL HERE. AND I’M TIRED FEELING LIKE MY WHOLE LIFE SUCKS BECAUSE IT’S JUST NOT TRUE. WHEN ONE OF MY KIDS CALLS OUT OF THE BLUE. WHEN I LOOK INTO THE INCREDIBLE EYES OF MY 11 YEAR OLD GRANDCHILD, WHEN MY TEN YEARS YOUNGER THAN MYSELF HUSBAND IS IN A ROMANTIC MOOD AND I DON’T EVEN HAVE ANY MAKEUP ON. WHEN I THINK OF ALL THE INCREDIBLE THINGS I’VE DONE IN MY LIFE. ALL THE PLACES I’VE SEEN IN THIS WORLD, THE INCREDIBLE PEOPLE I’VE MET. IT BLOWS MY MIND. WHEN I TURN MY ATTENTION AWAY FROM THE NEGATIVE AND LOOK AT THE POSITIVES, I’VE GOT IT PRETTY GOOD. I WAS BORN THIS WAY AND SO FAR, IT HASN’T KILLED ME. THAT’S HOW I KNOW I’M DOING ALRIGHT FOR NOW. I’VE DEVELOPED THE CAPACITY TO LOOK UP AND OVER THE LITTLE WORLD OF ME AND HAVE SOME EMPATHY AND EVEN SOME COMPASSION FOR SOMEONE ELSE. I CAN CRAWL OUT OF MY COCOON AND SEE WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON IN THIS INCREDIBLE BALL WE’RE ON THAT SPINS AROUND WITH ALL THE OTHER PLANETS OF THE UNIVERSE. AT TIMES, I’M AWESTRUCK. AND EVEN THOUGH I DON’T DEFINE MYSELF BY MY DISEASE, I LIVE WITH IT.
RIGHT NOW, I WISH I COULD PUT UP SOME PICTURES OF MY FAMLY, LIKE I DO ON MY PERSONAL FACEBOOK PAGE, BUT I CAN’T. I CAN’T CROSS THE LINE OF ANONYMITY.MAYBE SOMEDAY, IF WE ALL KEEP CHARGING AHEAD, THINGS WILL CHANGE FOR THE BETTER. THAT’S ONE THING I KNOW FOR SURE. AND I CAN’T INVITE MY FRIENDS FROM MY PUBLIC FACEBOOK PAGE TO LIKE My BIPOLAR FACEBOOK PAGE.WHAT I NEED TO DO IS LEARN. LEARN HOW TO USE THIS TECHNOLOGY THAT I’M SO AFRAID OF, THAT I DIDN’T HAVE IN SCHOOL, AND BE ABLE TO MOVE OUT FROM UNDERNEATH THE ROCK, WHERE I’VE BEEN HIDING. I DON’T LIKE HIDING MY FACE. IT LOOKS AND FEELS CONTRIVED, BUT THERE ARE MANY OTHERS OUT THERE WITH THEIR SHADES ON, OR CROPPING OR ONLY SHOWING HALF THEIR FACE. IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FACE. IT’S ABOUT THE MESSAGE. FOR ME, IT’S GOT TO BE ABOUT THE MESSAGE. BECAUSE THERE ARE A LOT OF OTHER THINGS I’D RATHER BE DOING NOW. LIKE FINISHING THE THIRD REVISION OF MY BOOK (WHICH ISN’T ABOUT BIPOLAR),PRACTICING THE FLUTE, DOING SCALES ON THE PIANO, PRACTICING MY TAI CHI (MY TEACHER CALLED TODAY AND WE START UP AGAIN NEXT MONTH! YESSSS!) YOU KNOW, JUST ‘CAUSE I’M 63 DOESN’T MEAN I WANT TO SPEND MY DAYS SITTING IN MY ROCKING CHAIR. OH, I FORGOT, I DON’T EVEN HAVE A ROCKING CHAIR!! BUT I DO LIKE TO KNIT AND I CAN’T MAKE HATS AND SCARVES OR SWEATERS IF I’M BANGING AWAY ON THE KEYBOARDS. BUT, RIGHT NOW, I CAN’T THINK OF ANYTHING I’D RATHER DO. IF YOU’RE OUT THERE, I CARE. I REALLY DO. IT REALLY IS A HASSLE TO TAKE A PICTURE OF YOURSELF AND HAVE TO BE SURE YOU DON’T SHOW TOO MUCH OF YOURSELF OR WHERE YOU LIVE. BUT WHERE I LIVE IS SO BEAUTIFUL. AND I’VE LIVED HERE LONG ENOUGH TO PHOTOGRAPH PLACES THE TOURISTS DON’T SEE. MY SECRET PLACES. MY SPECIAL PLACES. I’LL SHOW THEM TO YOU. I REALLY WANT TO SHOW THEM TO YOU…
IF MY FAMILY WAS SO HUNG UP ABOUT ME GOING PUBLIC WITH MY ILLNESS. ALL I WANT IS TO PUT DOWN SOME HONESTY ON A PAGE – AND I DON’T WANT TO HURT MY KIDS OR GRANDCHILD, SO I’VE GOT TO RESPECT THEIR PRIVACY. AND THIS ILLNESS HAS GOT ITS GRASP ON NOT ONLY ME, BUT A COUSIN AND HER SON, AS WELL. (ON OUR FATHER’S SIDE). IF IT WASN’T FOR MY COUSIN TALKING TO ME ABOUT THE AWFUL TIME THEY HAD WITH BIPOLAR, THE BOTCHED SUICIDE ATTEMPTS, THE INSITUTIONS, THE HORROR OF LOSING YOUR MIND, I MAY NOT HAVE PUT TWO AND TWO TOGETHER AND REALIZED THAT I WAS SUFFERING FROM THE SAME THING. AND I KNOW IT MUST HURT LIKE HELL TO HAVE A CHILD WHO IS GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING.
ONE OF MY CHILDREN NEEDS NEEDS HELP, BUT WON’T ASK FOR IT. NO ONE WILL EVEN GO NEAR THAT SUBJECT. THEY DANCE AROUND IT. IT’S BEEN GOING ON FOR YEARS. I THINK THIS FAMILY MEMBER IS ABOUT TO HIT BOTTOM SOON. IT KILLS ME, BUT ALL I CAN DO IS TAKE CARE OF ME SO THAT WHEN THEY REACH OUT, I’LL BE THERE.

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I wish my mind could be like a blank page today. Instead, it’s firing away, at a speed that makes me feel it’s time to bring out the “watcher”. The watcher keeps tabs on me. The watcher stands to the side and observes the thoughts that come onto the screen of my brain. The watcher makes sure that I don’t dwell on thoughts that can start the spiraling. I have been entertaining thoughts that bring feelings of guilt and shame.

The wreckage of my past reared it’s head last night. One of my grown children told me that she is unhappy with her life. Unhappy with her job, unhappy with having so much to do for her daughter during the week. How she’s overwhelmed and has no time to do anything just for herself. She’s been going for so many years, working, providing for my granddaughter, never once asking me for a loan. I feel helpless. There is really nothing I can do for her, except offer her my love and support. In many ways, her life mirrors mine. She’s a beautiful young woman, with a big heart, who loves her child, but is aching to do something enjoyable – go somewhere – away from work & responsibility, to immerse herself in herself. To find herself. About a year ago, she said, “Mom, I don’t know who I am.”

I blame myself for my adult children’s unhappiness. My husband, who is not my children’s father, tells me I did nothing wrong. In fact, he tells me that I’m a great mother. Even the girls tell me I’m a good mother.  But I will never forgive myself for what my undiagnosed mental illness did to all of us.

In 1985, I walked into a hospital in Silicon Valley, and asked to be admitted to the Psych ward for observation.  I wasn’t suicidal, but I knew that something was very wrong.  I left my kids at home with my roommate, went out with friends, and didn’t come home. No good mother does something like that. No sane mother, anyway.

They couldn’t take me because my insurance didn’t cover psychiatric issues.

It would be 15 years before I got my diagnosis. Fifteen years of going to hell and back, hell and back, hell and back. And my kids went with me. And without me. Their lives became a merry-go-round. Living with me, then with their father, then with their grandparents, back to me, and on and on.

It cuts deep when my daughter tells me she’s unhappy. And that’s why I’m fighting this monster called stigma.

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I’ve got five minutes before I need to get ready for my support group meeting. I’ve slept in my clothes. Used to do that when I drank. I don’t drink anymore and I still do it. My granddaughter is in middle school. Scares the hell out of me. One of our special friends, a beautiful soul, Brazilian songwriter/guitarist/singer has cancer. He’s 80 pounds and six months to live. Why do all the good people go? I’ve said goodbye to too many friends who’ve battled cancer. Cancer. I don’t want to die of cancer. Want to go like my mother. Stroke, coma, a few days on machines so family & friends can pay last respects, then pull the plug. I must be depressed. But not as depressed because something good happened yesterday. Having trouble getting out of bed. I’m not going to do this much longer because I have to get out of bed. Remembering when I had only $80.00 to my name, got on a Greyhound to L.A. so I could tie up loose ends and leave a toxic and life threatening relationship. Stood on the corner of Hollywood & Vine. The bus station was closed. A young woman who was picking up her sister took me home and gave me her bedroom to have all to myself. She fed me breakfast the next day. I miss my granddaughter. The thought of her in middle school scares me. Her life is too complicated. She told me a few months ago, “Nana, I’m so exhausted.” She doesn’t want me to pack up the toys I have here. Getting ready to move. Where? Somewhere not too far. Can’t be away from my granddaughter. When I run out of reasons to stay on track, she’s my reason. I hate meds, but I’ve got to take my morning dose, get out of bed and get out the door. It’s so difficult sometimes. Most of the time.

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Tomorrow is my birthday. I’m going to one of my favorite places with my husband. Big Sur.  I was  there two weeks ago, spending the afternoon by the Big Sur River, while my husband played for a crowd of people, enjoying a beautiful day.

The wild, rugged beauty of Big Sur is a potent mood enhancer, anytime of year. The sweetness of the air, the smell of the sea. Condors, eagles, and hawks- flying and coasting with the wind. The scent of giant pines, eucalyptus and bay trees, breaking open my senses to the magic and splendor of the Los Padres National Forest. Sorry to get so flowery, but I’m a former child of the sixties!  Nature is at her most awesome in this divine, other-worldly gem of a place. As my husband joined the quartet and began the first set, I found a spot on the grass by the river and put my blanket down in the shade.

People relaxed  on the banks of the river, away from the frenzy of life – to take some time to stop and rejuvenate -on blankets or beach chairs- some alone, some in pairs, some with their children.  A few took to wooden chairs placed  in the river to cool off  and watch the young and young at heart balancing on the rocks and the sun pouring rays of light, like curtains, through the trees. The smell of barbecue rose up through the air, and people lined up to carry away big plates of chicken, salads, and their famous ribs with a cold drink.

Acoustic instruments merged with the rarified atmosphere.. This was a long -awaited  break from the sometimes chaotic pace of life that we all get caught up in; to come back to what was my playground many years ago, when my daughters were small and I had time on my hands. And few worries. I need to be in this place, more now than ever. It is my sanctuary. I slough off all the unnecessary stuff clinging to my mind here.

I came to Big Sur for a day of relaxation but, instead, felt the weight of a depression that’s been plaguing me for months. Even a day in Big Sur, the place I’ve been coming to for over forty years, and all its magnificance couldn’t dispel the darkness. That’s what it is for me – a thick, depleting, debilitating darkness. And there is nothing I can take- nowhere I can go- nothing I can do – to make it go away. I just have to wait it out. Like a storm. And do whatever I can to weather it. Do something good for myself. Keep busy. And smile. A lot. Looking in the mirror and smiling – I do a lot of that. I also say “I love you”, even when I don’t mean it.  I think it’s silly, but I do it! Words are powerful and a lot of times, it works – puts my brain into another gear, and dispels the weight – that awful, heavy weight.

As a culture, we’ve been programmed to fake it. And for me, the way I fake it is to do something positive. It can be anything. As long as it has a track record for bringing about some good – for me. I believe that I have to be what I like to call “healthfully selfish”. File my nails, start a new book, go for a walk, call someone I love besides my family, take out the paints and make a mess with colors, daydream, whatever!  Write a poem on the back of an envelope, listen to Jeff Buckley (oh, how I love him!) If one doesn’t help, I go on to the next.  What’s the alternative? Giving up, that’s what. I’ve got to be proactive with this thing.  It’s about life, and doing all I can to steer my life (and my brain) in the best direction possible.   I’ve got  tools and I use them, to the best of my ability. Even if they don’t bring immediate results – it can be a cumulative  thing. My tools are the armor I put on, to fight the darkness. And, eventually, it goes away. I just don’t know when. But I keep fighting, like I am now, sharing this with you. God, I wish the world was a better place, and we didn’t all have to spend so much time fighting. But, I guess that’s why I’m still around. If I didn’t fight, I wouldn’t be able to write. Or live. Or help myself or anyone else.  And I’d really like to help someone else. Because this is an MF’er of an illness.

Isn’t it amazing that here, in a blog, we share things that we’d probably only share with a trusted friend or family member? Or maybe we have no one else to share with.  It’s quite amazing. I’ve never met any of you, my fellow bloggers and visitors, in person, but we are touching each others’ lives and informing the world, each of us, in such a profound way!  You really have touched my life. And you have and will continue to make a difference.  I’m getting to know each of you in a way I never would have believed to be possible. (Do I sound like Dorothy, on her way back to Kansas & Auntie Em?)

I spent a month getting this site up, painted old furniture to brighten up my living space, shopped for a few things to make my surroundings more peaceful and serene. Made an extra pan of a most excellent lasagna (I’m half Italian on my Dad’s side so pasta is no stranger in my home!) and gave it to my kids. But as I was bawling my eyes out this morning, my husband had to remind me of all the good things I’ve accomplished because the darkness tries to wipe away my memory of doing anything good. The darkness is such a little monster.

Over the years. since diagnosis, I’ve strongly suggested to my husband that he inform himself about my bipolar 1 disorder, my GAD, and my agoraphobia.  After a lot of hits and misses, he understands my mood swings and can detect when I’m getting on the manic side. He knows what to do, and what not to do. And he knows when I just need his arms around me. He has a basic understanding of what my battle is about. What goes on in my head, what goes on in my body.  He should, because he’s lived with me through the ups and downs of my mental illness for seventeen years.  Sometimes, he still looks at me, as though he’s got no clue, and asks, “What’s wrong with you?” Then I tell him. Or remind him, “Hey, remember? I’ve got bipolar disorder.  I have a mental illness.” Or, ” I’m going into panic attack mode.” Or, “Remember? I have agoraphobia!” From sharing with my support group friends, I know this isn’t uncommon. If I take care of myself, and the seas have been fairly calm for a while, sometimes my  friends and family just forget I have mental health issues. For a while. That, to me, is good news!  It means I’m doing well, and no one is trying to call me out.  I’m doing well. What a concept!!  I relish doing well. Saying “I’m well, thank you!.” It’s great!!! Really… But close friends and family – they know me, they love me ,and they watch out for me. They care.

And over the years, my husband has learned to just let me cry. Don’t try to fix me. If I need help, I’ll ask for it. If I’m going overboard and you’re here, help me.  After thirteen years, you learn.  He is my best friend, a source of comfort, and compassion, and most of the time, I allow myself to receive it. Most of the time.  I was on a long, frightening, and lonely road, before we met. I wasn’t diagnosed until two years after we married, at 50. If you have been diagnosed in middle age, perhaps you can relate.

The second life-changing event in my life also happened  in the month of August (see my blog ” Twenty One Years Ago” to read about the first event.) It happened on my  22nd birthday. I miscarried my second child in 1972. No amount of time can take away the pain of losing a child. The whole day was spent in labor, then delivery of my dead baby. I was almost 6 months along, before making a trip back to New England for a couple of weeks. I missed my  grandmother, who helped raise me and wanted her to see her first granddaughter. I was sick with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which includes severe nausea. It was impossible for me to eat anything until much later in the day. I’d lost weight, and no one could tell I was pregnant unless I told them.  The sentences in this paragraph should be rewritten, but I can’t go back to edit it. It’s too hard. It’s too upsetting, even today.

It’s as though someone took a knife and cut that day into my heart. I was three thousand miles from my home in California, and my then- husband. I went to hell and back – so traumatized, I didn’t even want to know if my child was a boy or girl. What mother in her right mind wouldn’t want to know? But I wasn’t in my right mind. I was in the throws of my illness. You understand. And if you don’t, that’s O.K.  That was my first descent into the heavy, severely debilitating darkness of depression. A few years ago, I named my child Kim. I met a very nice man a while ago, whose name was Kim, and I thought that, had my child lived , I’d have  named my child, Kim.

So, every year, when my birthday comes around, I remember the day I was born and the day my baby, Kim went to heaven.

I went on to have another child. Another beautiful girl! We’re having lunch tomorrow. She’s the happy ending to this story!

Peace of Mind &

Love,

Nana

 

 

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I’m pulverized!  Bummed out because I won’t be doing my Art Therapy sessions for a while. My therapist, who is also an Art teacher, is gone, with the budget cuts, from the community therapy center, where I saw her, on a weekly basis, for cognitive therapy. For almost three years, this woman has been a very important part of my life and the treatment of my mental illness.

Not only is my therapist a person whose smile hits you with the warmth of a ray of sunlight, she’s been instrumental in bringing me back to creating art, as a natural way of expressing myself –  and finding out what’s going on with me. What’s on my bipolar, anxiety-riddled,  and agoraphobic mind today? Where is my heart? And who AM I today?  What part of me needs to come out and play?  Art therapy is so many things to me. And it does so many things FOR me!  And it’s just pure unadulterated fun!

I’m pulverized over this. Why?  Because Diane (not her real name) is so good at what she does. She’s not only the kind of therapist you can’t wait to see every week, but she incorporated art therapy, in so many of our sessions. Making art, whether a sketch, a painting, collage, whatever the medium,  is the tool I’ve learned to use; to embrace, what I like to call, the gifts of bipolar disorder, and all the stuff that goes with it.

I did art therapy alone, with my husband, and with a group of about seven adults. In the group sessions, we were also encouraged to bring something we’d written – Poetry, journal entries, whatever we felt like sharing. It was like being a kid again. A bit of show and tell. We got to know each other in a very elemental way.

I thought I’d share the mask I made in my group session. ( There it is –  on top of all these words! ) I know, it’s silly, but I had a ball making it, in my group. It’s me, as I envisioned myself at that moment in time- golden, exotic, with mystique.  My dream sister! Just one of the many aspects of my many faceted bipolar self.

My therapist pulled out all the stops and took from the cupboards every color of paint, beads, feathers, and fabric and dumped it all in the middle of the table. She told us to just go to town and have a good time together. It took three sessions to finish our masks. We spent a lot of time sharing, and laughing and commiserating. Two of our members brought their poetry and read it aloud, which gave our experience another element of creativity.  They weren’t just good poems. They were great! I was told that one of those two group members found a publisher for her work. She got the courage she needed to put her gift with words out into the world, from sharing, in a safe and nonjudgmental environment, with us. We listened and cheered her on, making masks!

If there ever is a way of getting in touch with yourself, and especially, your psyche, your hopes, fears, and dreams – then this is a great way to go. I’m just speaking from my own experience, but I would recommend art therapy for anyone. And as an adjunct to any kind of therapy, for any illness, and for every age.

Each art therapy session allowed me to go inward. To explore the terrain of  myself. Much of what I can see in the process of making art is a part of me that is searching for a way out. To be expressed. To come forth.

Through whatever medium I was working with, I was able express and acknowledge aspects of myself that otherwise may not be seen – by me, or anyone else. In the process of making art, the conscious and the unconscious can merge together . I bring them out and into form – so I can see what’s going on inside me. Positive, negative, happy, sad, joy, anger and pain – in other words, the goings on in the trio of the mind, heart, and soul.

Making art, in a therapeutic setting, for me, is like taking a psychic walk though my mind, as well as a spiritual walk through my  heart and soul. It’s a very powerful, yet safe and enjoyable way for me to find out what’s going on. What is..and what has been. The past, present, and the now. Clues to the mystery of myself.

My therapist is looking to go into private practice within the next six months, so, until then, I’ll be using my own paints, (oil, acrylic & water color), canvas, collage materials, charcoal, pastels, assorted color pens, brushes, glue, and do my own thing at home. You see, after many years, I’ve incorporated the making of art back into my life. If I have a few minutes, instead of turning on the TV, I’ll grab a sketch pad and do some movement on the page. It doesn’t matter what I do. Because Art is in the doing. Of anything. As Danny Kaye once said, “Life is a great big canvas;throw all of the paint you can at it.” For me, those are words to really live by!

I started buying art supplies for my granddaughter when she was seven. They are kept in the bottom half of an armoire in my living room. Like most children, she loves to create and we all think she’s got what it takes to become a pro. She’s eleven now, and starts middle school this September.  Her life is busy, but she still finds the time to make beautiful cards for all her family members’ birthdays and holidays. Our spare bedroom was converted into a room of her own, and we decorated the walls with some of the paintings she did when she came to Nana’s. The whole room is alive with color and expression! When I miss my granddaughter, I just go into her room, and it fills my heart with a part of her that stays with me.

Now, whenever I get the urge (and I get the urge quite often!) to express, to explore, to calm myself down, to take a while to journey and see where that journey takes me, I just go for it. And I’m always glad I did.

That’s what Art Therapy has done for me. It’s opened me up to my own unique voice that needed to be taken out of the cage I’d put it in, for too long a time. Somewhere, there was a disconnect. I don’t know when it happened, but creativity is a natural human activity. I was starving myself. Now I feed myself with making art, for myself and for others.

We infuse everything we do with Art. The Art of Living, The Art of Love. We are born to learn these arts. It’s up to us to find what makes us feel good. What brings out our essence, our soul, our passion, our sorrow and our joy – all the pieces that go into making our lives. It’s an essential ingredient to the fullness of  expression.

We can be creative from the time we wake up, until we fall asleep, and even in dreamtime. Especially then. You don’t have to make pictures or sculpt to be an artist. Make whatever you do, a Work of Art. YOUR LIFE IS A WORK OF ART!. YOU ARE A WORK OF ART!!

Art is for everyone. It’s is IN everyone. It’s a component of our spirit, The Spirit Of Life.  A gift given to everyone, everywhere.  It can help heal us. It can help to keep us alive.

We are creating, every day.

Peace of Mind &

Love,

Nana

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My husband and I live in one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest. Sounds like bragging, but I’m really just telling the truth. I’ll be posting pictures of this bit of coastal heaven, as soon as I learn how to work this website dashboard. I have no idea how to do much of anything here except write a draft, edit it to the best of my very limited ability, click Publish, then away it goes, into the ether.

For those of you kind enough to come by, I haven’t a clue yet how to do anything but type, check it over and put it out. And pushing buttons without knowing what will happen after they’re pushed scares the hell out of me. Instagram, Pinterest, OMG! but Twitter, I’m cool with. I apologize for the fact that I don’t have these apps going. I opened accounts with them months ago, linked them to my personal Facebook page (not the one that goes with this blog) and it’s just too complicated for my beat up brain to make sense of. And there is the age factor….

You see, here,in cyberspace ,I have two identities. One is the me who shows her whole face and now there’s the newly birthed Bipolar Nana me, who really is me, but me having to respect and protect the anonymity of my family, especially my granddaughter, because of the stench of stigma, which I hope to help smash to smithereens in the years to come. (Is an apostrophe needed somewhere? Maybe I’m hallucinating again.)

I’m nervous as hell, but there is some kind of a rush in knowing that I’m stretching myself and moving through territory that has been a mystery to me for many years. Something huge, something to be feared.  But I can still be small.  And no one really cares anyway.

I made a resolution, at 12:01, New Years Day 2013 to push through fear, even if it means I fall on my bottom (give me time to get comfortable with ass. I am a grandmother and we’ve just met!) . Since I don’t travel as much anymore (who wants to travel when you live where I do! Oops, I bragged again!)  I thought it was time to join the ranks and raise my voice in whatever way possible to help the cause. And this is a cause worth fighting for!

“I’m a dinosaur,” I told my website coordinator. He was very understanding. When on my Facebook page or Tweeting on Twitter,  I get a feeling of  hopping around the world and connecting to others. Making connections. But this is different. Blogging, at this point, reminds me of flying to London the first time, alone in 1997. I just got on the plane. I didn’t fly the plane..I was just a passenger and there was a crew of attendants and co-pilots to do all the work, so knock it off, my bipolar brain told me. I have abandonment issues, and a re-occuring dream that I’ve taken off on a big jet, we get up into the clouds and the cockpit door opens. I’m right up front and there’s no pilot. And then it ends. Not a very unique dream, but it scared me to pieces and kept coming back, year after year. My first trip to London was three years before my diagnosis. While trying to locate my seat, a Virgin flight attendent asked me to follow her. I’d been bumped up to a private first class room upstairs, which felt like a living room ,and they kept giving me champagne and fois gras (did I spell it right? I took two years of French in high school.)  I was feeling no pain when we landed at Heathrow.

I was on steroids for four years during puberty for asthma, so please don’t expect great grammar skills or punctuation chops.  Having read this much, you already know I’m disabled in that area. Half of the time I was off on some cloud, staring out the window. Sometimes, I’m amazed that I can still string a few sentences together.  It took me ten years to finish the first draft of my novel. It will probably take another five years of revisions before it’s ready for submission. But I am on the second revision in six months. Now, that’s progress. Who knows?  If I went off my meds, I could whip my apartment into shape, run a marathon, learn how to use my sewing machine by myself in  a five hour class at the only fabric store within fourty miles to refresh myself on how to thread the Kenmore my mother-in-law bought me ten years ago. I’ve got to go to that one because they show you how to make a pair of drawstring lounge pants and my husband’s dying for a pair.

I won’t go off my meds because after three times, with some heavy dues to pay for having done so, I have learned it’s better to crawl along like a snail to do some things, rather than cast my fate to the wind. And I finally found the right combo of meds that don’t make me bloat up and want to wear black all the time.

Did I mention that my husband is a jazz musician and he’s ten years younger? Very nice looking too. He’s a great guy and if it wasn’t for him and my website coordinator Andy, I wouldn’t be typing this now. Thanks, guys. Oh, and I’ve been married to this younger man for over 15 years.

I have been surprising myself the last few years. I’ve done a lot a stupid things, both before and after my diagnosis.  I’ll probably share some of my misadventures and the lessons I’ve learned in future posts, but I’d like to keep as positive as possible.  You never know what you can do or finish. And mood swings can happen at any moment. If you are bipolar, you understand. If you’re not, well, try to understand.

That’s the fun part of a bipolar life.  When I can keep stepping forward, stopping occasionally for a rest or to give my brain instructions to shut up and let reality take the reins, things start happening, moving. When I say I’m a writer, that has nothing to do with having a command of  English language or even being a good one. All it means is that I communicate (or try to communicate) with words. I write (or type) words.  I have no delusions about my writing skills. But I do have a few interesting stories to tell.  And that’s the part I’m sure about. In fact, quite sure. And I’m sure you do, too. And  I’m of the opinion that you don’t have to portray yourself as some kind of nut case about to jump off the Chrysler Building to be noticed around here. And I’m not a Carrie Fisher wannabe, although I love her dearly. Nor do I want to build an empire out of my mental illness. I just want to live as productive a life as possible, love and take care of myself, my family and good friends, and relish the time I spend with my beautiful granddaughter. She’s 11, so there’s not much time left before she flies away to live her own life. Hopefully, she’ll fly home for the holidays. And yes, she’s the reason I stay around and do my best to be as together as I can.  She knows about Nana’s brain and the word Bipolar. She loves me anyway!!!

If you’re Bipolar, like me, you’ve probably lived a not so mellow life. You’ve probably done a lot of things you’re not proud of; hurt some people besides yourself along the way, perhaps a few you love, squandered money, been promiscuous at times, been put on a 5150, self medicated with alcohol, pot, or other things that give people like us temporary relief, but leave us lying hopelessly on the floor, or hugging the toilet. Although I’ve never cut myself, I did open the car door and threaten to throw myself out on the 101 in L.A. on New Years Eve in 1999.  Perhaps you’ve been arrested a few times, or even gone to jail or prison for a while because you’ve got one too many DUIs on your record. You know, you’re really not alone, nor is that kind of behavior or circumstance unusual in bipolarland.  But you are special and don’t ever forget it! Your like a snowflake. There is no one like you, get it?  So Get Over the “No One Understands Me” bit. This is commonplace in bipolarland. There is nothing you’ve done that we, collectively, haven’t done as well. If you stick around, eventually you’ll have heard it all. So, get out of the gutter of your mind and into the gifts of mental illness. Gifts? Yes, there are gifts!! Your job is to find them and the first way to find them is to get  up and get  treatment. This is only my opinion, but I’m old enough to every once in a while give you advice. (which is never to take the place of professional medical advice!)

So the good news is, even if you feel you are, Your Not A Freak. And if you want to be a freak, why? Do you want attention? Don’t you know that having your act together is The New Freak. If you want to stand out in a crowd, Get It Together, my dear! You’re going to get better, if you hang on, don’t give up, ever, reach out, get into treatment, find a support group, do some Art Therapy (doodling in your room will do), get into Music. I don’t just mean listen to the radio, iTunes, or MTV, which I hear is now going back to actually playing music. Put on head phones if someone in your home hates what you like. Oh, and push the envelope with Music. What I mean is try listening to some other genre once in a while. You might like it and it will broaden your audio world and your heart will thank you. And if  you really want to do something to get a good rush from, learn to play an instrument and don’t forget to shake your moneymaker. Moving to music is one of the best ways to brighten your mood. And it costs a lot less than a gym membership. There are other things to do, but right now, just take a breath and welcome to our world.

For me, being diagnosed with Bipolar 1 felt like a relief, but trying all the cocktails of meds seemed like a curse for a long time. But in the past few years, I see it as real gift. It’s the reason I’ve got stories. And, as Joan Didion, a celebrated author, who was just honored at the White House (along with another dear friend of ours whose name shall not be dropped) and given a medal for her contribution to the arts once said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” I’ll bet many of the fabulous bloggers out there, who are working their asses  (there, I’ve said  ass!) off to help others and smash stigma have saved many lives already. It may take time, but you can learn to have fun. Try to help others. It can be fun, really! Help + Others = Fun! But, please, help yourself first!

I hope you’ll be patient with me while I get used to this blogging. It’s not something I’m taking to like a fish to water. I am a college dropout, so please be kind.

There I go…off on a tangent and I’m only on my second ,no 15 th paragraph? Have I lost you already, dear reader? If so, check back in a while. I may have improved a bit.  I assure you, there is a side to me that doesn’t give a damn what others think. And I’m really into having fun and/or  spewing my guts when I need to. And sharing the pain. And relishing the hilarious. That’s what bipolar is all about. You can have your cake and have a few pieces too.

For me, I feel like I’m half naked right now. I want to run into the woods and find my clothes, and run home. You understand.

Seriously, all I  have to do is walk out the door and I’m two blocks from one of the most exquisite beaches in the world. People come from all corners of the earth to vacation here or, if they’re lucky  enough, to live a few hours away, take a day trip or stay a night or two. But our apartment is like an asylum. Sad, but true. I’ll get to that on the next post..soon..

Peace of Mind &

Love,

Nana

P.S. My husband’s going to help me post this picture I took of our little bundle of joy!  This is our baby, Samantha. She’s a cha-weiner!

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My Goal

Through blogging, I want to share my story, life experiences & give hope to others struggling with mental health issues & the stigma that goes with it.

Although diagnosed late in life, and with many challenges through the years, I'm finally living life fully and gratefully, with my grandchild, family & friends! I hope to make some new friends here.

 

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Resources

Feeling suicidal? Please dial 911 or contact the following:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline toll free:
1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Veteran's Suicide Prevention Hotline:
1-800-273-8255

International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP)
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Psych Central
Mayo Clinic
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Disclaimer

Information presented on this blog is not a substitution for professional medical care and a treatment program. If you or a loved one has bipolar disorder or any other mental illness or mental health issue, please immediately seek the services and advise of a medical doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment.