Archives for category: Hormone Hell

I woke three times, all three times feeling well-rested, the first two also entirely able and willing to return to sleep – so I did. 😀 It is Saturday, and I have succeeded in doing the one thing I did plan to do today; I got the rest I needed. 🙂

Good self-care is critical to my wellness. (Yours, too, probably.) I used to suck at it completely, always over-compromising what it takes to be well and feel good by grabbing onto other experiences and choices, for…well… reasons. Reasons that seemed to make sense in the moment, but more often than not were excuses and rationalizations for “doing whatever I want” – or, actually, whatever someone else wanted. The cycle of exhaustion, meltdowns, and poor outcomes was so predictable that for many years I simply called the entire mess “hormones” and put that shit on my calendar without any particularly successful effort to mitigate or improve any of it (because… “hormones”… well… that shit can’t be fixed, though, right? Right??) (Actually, no. It turns out that conflating hormones, mental illness, a lack of emotional intelligence, poor self-care, and plain old-fashioned inconsiderate shitty behavior, assumption making, and personal bullshit leaves quite a lot of room for improvement… so… maybe rethinking your inconsiderate bullshit, at a minimum, is a good place to start? 😉 Just saying.)

I am watching, from a distance, as two relationships in my social network struggle with a partner’s mental illness. Both have been deeply committed loving relationships of decades of mutual affection, support, and shared family life. Both are struggling with the challenge of making love work, while also supporting a mentally ill person’s personal challenge with finding wellness, and juggling all the other elements of family life: work, kids, bills, grocery shopping, and even the assumptions of strangers and the well-meaning “help” and support of friends, sometimes less than ideally helpful, no doubt. (Been there.) It’s fucking hard to be mentally ill. It’s fucking hard to love someone who is mentally ill. The coping skills and rationalizations that allowed these relationships to succeed and perhaps even appear functional before mental illness finally prevented that from being a thing at all are reliably breaking down now that these mentally ill friends are seeking (and getting) treatment that may actually result in wellness. Their partners may not be much help at this point, and in fact, their hurts, anger, resentment, and emotional wellness concerns are reliably welling up and becoming problems that need to be managed. It’s when a mentally ill loved one begins the journey to wellness that everyone else’s rampant crazy bullshit comes to the forefront – along with the rationalizations, excuse-making, justifications, chronically incorrect and untested assumptions, and refusal to respect new boundaries and changes of behavior. It’s ugly and it’s hard. There are literally no “good guys”, and as soon as “the crazy one” begins to practice things that are more sane, the crazy on the other side of the relationship becomes apparent – often accompanied by utter refusal to acknowledge it, be accountable for it, accept it, or change it.

When people who are mentally ill seek treatment, find it, and begin their journey toward wellness, the first set back is often because within their once supportive network of friends and family (“I’m here for you!”) are people who are suddenly not so willing to “be there” if “there” turns out to include being aware of their own bullshit, and their continued commitment to a status quo that it turns out has favored them, and met certain needs that must now be met differently – in, oh, hey, some new healthy way. It’s hard. It’s hardest, frankly, on the mentally ill partner now responsible not only for staying focused on treatment, but now this mentally unwell person struggling with their situation is suddenly also forced to have to provide support to the adult in the room who turns out to be less than ideally adult (and sometimes fully unwilling to even be aware of that).

It’s a see-saw, people. When we love someone with a mental health challenge, over time, we make room for some weird and possibly damaging bullshit that changes who we are, ourselves, a little at a time. When someone we love who is mentally ill seeks help, and begins to make real changes, on purpose, with the intent of becoming well – our own crazy is going to well up and fight back, and our failure to be observant and aware, and also take the very best care of ourselves, for real, is likely to be the first step on the path to seeing that relationship simply end. It will end in screaming tantrums, outrage, defensiveness, accusations, and generally – a lot of needless yelling. The cause I most commonly see as obvious and avoidable is that instead of partnerships fighting mental illness together, partners become adversaries and basically forget all about the actual issue being someone who is sick, and not able to be at their best, who needs help, support, consideration, and compassion.

Reminder: getting a diagnosis does not suddenly make someone who is mentally ill magically able to not struggle with mental illness. They can’t just point to a page in their handy “So you’re depressed?” handbook or their “The basics of living with PTSD” guide and go down a list of steps to “make it all better” for some other person. Fuck you. That’s sort of one of the limitations of being unwell; there is a fairly commonly implied inability to do all the things.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying it’s fucking hard. I’m saying a great many relationships that end over mental illness don’t end because a partner is mentally ill – they end when that person seeks wellness and messes with the stable status quo that has allowed the “well” person certain… sanity privileges, that they must now give up in favor of dealing with their own unaddressed bullshit. No one in a relationship recovers from mental illness alone; everyone must deal with their bullshit. Everyone has bullshit.

When I hit that wall in my own relationship(s) I was fortunate. I chose to move into my own living space, and make a significant lifestyle change for a variety of reasons that overlapped in a useful way. I live alone. Sure, there’s bullshit, and I definitely trip over it frequently – and it’s all mine. My bullshit. My issues. My limitations. It’s also my home, my rules, my way; the failures are mine, and so are the successes. I was able to let go of my attachment to “being heard” by my partner(s), and able to comfortably take time to be heard by the woman in the mirror – because I could recognize, in the silence of solitary space, that this was in fact where the issue rested, for me. I was able to begin to sort out my bullshit from the bullshit in my relationships that wasn’t mine, and let go of trying to fix other people, or a relationship dynamic that was unavoidably damaged by my issues, and work on practicing healthier practices that support my own mental wellness… and having gained a measure of wellness, emotional resilience, and stability, then I could begin to tackle the complex challenges of “making things right” with emotionally hurt partner(s). Please note: I am not recommending my choices to anyone else. I am this person here, and my needs are what they are; I thrive living alone. You are likely someone else altogether, with different needs, and other choices may be preferable for you, personally. I’m just saying – achieving wellness may very well destroy existing relationships, and not through any failure of the mentally ill person, and in no way directly caused by their illness, but totally because they attempted to get well – and wellness did not meet the needs of that relationship. It’s totally a thing.

Prepare for change. Seeking mental health changes things. It’s a thing people know about.

Are you a “bad person” if you can’t stay in a relationship with someone who is mentally ill? I mean, you wouldn’t leave if they broke their leg, right? It’s a complicated question. Just as complicated as “Am I a bad person if I can’t stay in my relationship because my partner won’t respect new boundaries and changes in behavior as I improve my mental health?”

Helpful friends don’t feel any more comfortable than anyone else in the context of watching lovers struggle with mental health concerns. Everyone has their “good advice” to offer. People take sides without ever seeing the entirety of the dynamic. Also hard.

Every bit of all the hard stuff is 100% hardest on the person who is mentally ill, who is trying their damnedest to find emotional wellness – they are the one who is sick, people. I’m just saying. Seriously? Find some fucking perspective. Be there for a friend. Listen more than you talk, and refrain from making assumptions. Be encouraging. Be considerate. Be compassionate. If a relationship is struggling with mental illness, everyone is hurting, everyone is injured, everyone is struggling – and no one is the good guy; we’ve all got our own bullshit to deal with.

Two different relationships, two different sets of circumstances. I find myself fairly certain one relationship has already failed, and wondering if the other might manage to survive this; it’s in how they treat each other. In both cases, I see the mentally ill person doing what they must do to become well.

I notice that I have finished my second coffee, and my playlist just ended. It is a lush rainy Saturday, and I’ve got some important self-care to take care of; it’s been a long week, and I find that my own emotional wellness is very much tied to skilled self-care. 🙂 It’s time to get started on the practices that keep me well. Doing so, and staying committed to them, has changed my world, and also my relationships. I swallow one last bite of oatmeal, grateful my relationship with my Traveling Partner has endured my changes. Love matters most.

[Oh hey, I’m talking about emotion and domestic violence in this one. No surprises. Please take care of you. <3]

Think about this carefully; anger doesn’t solve very many relationship problems. It’s not that anger is “powerless” – it isn’t. It’s a dangerous force for change, particularly in the context of lost self-control, lost perspective, and a righteous sense of entitlement, possession, or justification. Tragedies happen by way of uncontrolled rage. Clearly, anger can be quite powerful. “Violence never solved anything” is both true and false – and very much dependent on what we mean by “solved”. If we end an argument with violence, we’ve ended the argument certainly, but whether that counts as a solution depends on whether everyone walks away undamaged.

There was a time I didn’t understand emotional violence as violence – primarily because I lived in a messy tangle of both physical and emotional violence, served up with a hearty helping of military life, as well as gas-lighting. Emotional violence was the least of my worries. I didn’t understand my experience. I lacked the emotional intelligence to understand that I had options – and choices. It’s hard to look back comfortably on the choices I did make. Like a barefooted journey across hot asphalt and broken glass, every step did more damage. I lived with continuous fear and anxiety. I rarely slept. The emotional violence in my relationship was the least of my worries; I just wanted to survive the physical violence. I eventually got out of there, safely away, and sadly still unaware of the worst of the damage that had been done, because that wasn’t physical at all.

Physical injuries heal in a physical way. Bones mend. Scars fade. My arthritis follows me everywhere, but as a consequence of earning my freedom from fear it is a reminder that I live…still…it fucking hurts. I never forget how I got here. Tomorrow is 22 years since a nightmare ended. I ended it. I walked on.

…I took the chaos and damage with me…

The worst of the damage was emotional. I didn’t understand that for a long time. I understood “symptoms” – complex PTSD has many – diagnosis in hand, I recognized that I seemed to have no ability to manage my emotional volatility, as a symptom – as something that happened to me. I didn’t understand how accountable I actually was for my actions, though. I didn’t really “get” that like it or not, when my feelings become choices that become actions that affect other people, I am responsible for my actions. There’s no argument there, so just don’t. “Hormones”, “PTSD”, “a terrible headache” “a tough day” – none of these things actually make it okay to be emotionally violent with someone (most especially and particularly someone I say I love). I didn’t understand that I could – no, seriously, I totally mean this – I could choose to behave differently. My experience is my own. My emotions are entirely mine to feel. My choices are mine to make. I am responsible for my actions. Not one moment of personal misery really excuses treating someone else badly.  I was slow to learn this lesson. I carried the violence forward into my future with me, woven into the damage I’d survived, and expressed it as uncontrollable impotent rage, meltdowns, tantrums and frequent loss of rationality. I’m done making excuses for emotional violence – few people die in a literal way from emotional violence, but the life they are left with is changed. It’s really not okay to behave that way. (Nope, PMS, PMDD, they don’t excuse it either. Get help. Make amends. Say you’re sorry, for fucks sake. Do better over time.)

I’m glad to be moving. Escalating domestic violence next door is uncomfortable to live around. It fucks with my head when I hear the yelling through the walls, the slams and bangs, vague and undefined. There are no good guys. Only human beings unwilling to choose differently and calling it “love” (it isn’t).

Look around. There’s a lot of that going on. We can choose differently. All of us can do better. I can. You can. That person pulling out a gun on the highway to shoot a teenager can choose differently, too; they chose their actions. Think about what that means. Feel your feelings. Behave well. Treat others well. Recognize the subjective nature of your emotional life, and don’t inflict weaponized emotions on other human beings. Fuck your hormones. Fuck your PTSD. Fuck your anger. Care. Care enough to choose better behavior. Care enough to be the person you most want to be. Care enough to seek help if you need help. Care enough to take care of you – well. Care enough to take a step back from a difficult situation. Care enough to understand that each of us is having our own experience – and it’s ours, not to be taken from us. None of us belongs to another.

I say that, then sadly spend minutes contemplating the very real continued existence of slavery and violence around the world. I don’t really know what to say. I am saddened by the constant awareness that there is so much violence loosed on the world. That we wear the face of our own destruction, as a species.

We can all do so much better to treat people well than we actually do. What will you do today to become the person you most want to be? We become what we practice. What are you practicing?

I’d just barely hit “publish” on yesterday’s blog post when a severe OPD storm blew in. Other People’s Drama splashed all over my doorstep, and a tsunami of emotion blasted my morning, my afternoon, and my day generally.

In moments of gloom, there are often still flowers.

I am not the sort of person to turn someone fleeing domestic violence away from a moment of safety, though, and my OPD-free zone is certainly a safe space. I invited my friend in, and started working to help her calm herself; difficult decisions in life are most easily made from moments of calm, I find. I make a point of checking in with myself regularly, too, because this shit hits all of my buttons, and I am myself on the edge of panic being around domestic violence, at all.

When conditions are right, flowers bloom.

My friend and I took a walk through the park, “enjoying” the flowers. To be more precise, I was enjoying the flowers, my friend was moping along beside me, less than fully engaged in the moment. I didn’t really intend to give up on 100% of the beauty and fun of my weekend, just because someone else has drama to choose to invest in. 🙂 It was a lovely walk, and I’m sure the fresh air and sunshine did her some good too. She talked. I listened. Sometimes I talked. I hope she made a point of listening, but it’s not something I can confirm with any confidence. We walked in silence some, too. I did my best to respect her emotional experience and be present, welcoming, and comforting.

I’m not always sure what one flower or another actually is, and this does not stop me from enjoying them.

She figured out what to do with herself in the short-term, and where to go. Her things were already packed up and ready for all of that. I gave her a ride. I gave her hugs. I gave her my time. I came home. The evening from that point was very quiet. Her now-ex is a friend, too. I know he must be hurting, and I’m here, even for him, if he wants to talk. He hasn’t reached out. I don’t expect that he will. The situation saddens me. Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Not my drama.

Sometimes, a closer look.

I slept restlessly, waking often toward the end of the night. My restlessness got me out of bed more than once, to walk through and around the apartment before returning to bed, no particular purpose in mind. It was a weird night. I sip my coffee contemplating the weekend behind me, and the day ahead. Yesterday’s investment in drama was time-consuming; I didn’t get my laundry done, and I didn’t paint my nails. I didn’t read that book I started. I didn’t get much housework done. All of that will inconvenience or annoy me this week, at some point, more than likely…but… what I did do counts too, and comes up less often; I spent time with a friend who needed me.

It’s a journey.

Still, I’m looking around the place this morning and recognizing opportunities to take better care of the woman in the mirror. Today seems like a good day to begin again. 🙂

 

How much of our perceived experience is mangled in translation as we struggle to make sense of who we are, ourselves, in the context of all of the everything else? Probably most of it, I suppose, but it’s what we’ve got to work with. lol

Spring, almost summer, plenty of flowers to see, to smell, to touch, to pause for.

Late in the day, yesterday, I received an anguished text message from a younger female friend. It was an emotional soup of self-denigrating words and phrases, and simultaneously angry and despairing, and somewhat nonsensical in the context of my recollections of my friend, and known details of real life. I dislike being the one to call it out, but couldn’t help noticing that the timing was almost precise; four weeks after her last major “life is shit” meltdown. Hormones. She’s in her 20s, so that’s an experience that hits hard in her life, and at a point when she may not yet have figured all of that out, herself. Fuck I hate drama – but I do love my friends. I search for calming words, something to put the emotional blast on pause, or at least assure her she is not adrift alone. The work day was nearly over, but I felt very far away.

It was still a very good day for flowers.

No kidding, when I got home I actually invited drama to come over to a cup of cocoa. LOL Yep, brought it right into my safe haven, my drama free zone… held the door open, even. 😀 We chilled together – things were already some better. That’s the way of it, like any other sort of storm, bad weather passes.

Some flowers are small….

The three of us (me, my friend, her lover) chilled in the quiet comfort of my place, talking. Sometimes there is no perceptible difference in our ages when we hang out…we’re just people, there are more important things to be aware of. Last night, I felt that peculiar sympathy and tenderness of the elder “wise woman” in the company of youth; so much of what was troubling my friend is no longer commonplace for me, but recognized, familiar, and mostly relatively (subjectively) well-understood. I shared what I learned over many years of screaming and crying on a cycle, the things I found that worked, the things that did not, and continued to reassure her that she can be okay and learn to manage this bullshit that curses us all. lol I was going for offering more hope than I ever felt myself; I didn’t have me as a mentor, or friend.

…some flowers are more complicated…

I looked back on the woman in the mirror, and recalled all the things I wished I’d understood sooner, all the many times I learned something more. I tried to share those things with calm conviction and reassurance. I served cocoa.

…some flowers decorate vegetables…

I talked to him about little things that really do make a difference, openly, comfortably, together, because this ought not be secret knowledge! The biggest thing I have to share with him? Ease the fuck up on being right while the hormone thing is going on. It’s hard, but seriously, just stand the fuck down, back off, and revisit whatever on some other day, when everyone is “feeling better”. lol How many fights wouldn’t be fights at all if lovers would let bullshit go when one or the other is hurting, and tend to wounded hearts as lovers can? The hormone thing is just not a personal attack, the experience can feel really shitty and lonely, and more than anything it’s nice just to feel loved, and feel that our lover “is there”, and understands we feel shitty.

…others are on trees…

Then I called bullshit on her bullshit, too. It’s a hard thing, but as bad as the hormone thing can be, legitimately and truly bad behavior remains bad behavior. Unacceptable behavior is no more acceptable when driven by hormones. Being a nasty mean bitch still isn’t okay just because being female has some really shitty irritating unpleasant painful aggravating experiences that push us past our personal breaking point. We still have an obligation to do our best to choose our actions and words with great care, and with mindful awareness that the person we’re interacting with is every bit as human as we are, ourselves, and also someone we love. Including the woman in the mirror.

…some are potted…

How is it I think I can say these “terrible:” things that may appear to lack compassion? Well… I just haven’t ever seen a woman treat her boss the way she treats her lover when hormones flare up – have you? I mean, seriously, full-on raging tantrum, screaming at them irrationally, or being overtly willfully nasty to them using hormones as an excuse? Acting out? Breaking shit? Weeping apathetic pessimism that halts all productive effort? I’m betting you haven’t. lol So. Some choice and freewill are clearly still available. Just saying. Feel your feelings. Take care of you. Do what is right, nonetheless, and treat your lover with an assumption of positive intent, and an awareness that they are having their own experience and would help if they could.

…their colors vary…

Not one bit of any of that is “easy”. It takes a lot of practice. Results vary. Adulting can be hard. lol 🙂 Begin again. Practice more. Say I’m sorry” when you’ve hurt someone – right? The basics.

how we tend the garden of our hearts determines what will blossom.

It was still a beautiful evening shared with friends. Drama left way before they did. No idea how they ended the evening… I woke wondering, and hoping they are okay. Young is hard… I’m sort of glad I’m not that, anymore, at least… this morning, on a lovely quiet morning, over coffee, watching the sky lighten to a cloudy spring morning. Being where I am in life is enough. 🙂

Love matters most.

I woke with a smile an hour ahead of my alarm. It’s a calm quiet morning. It’s more than enough, in all the best ways. I sip my coffee, smiling still, very much aware of my good fortune in this lovely moment.

I saw my therapist yesterday. It’s been a long while, and the visit had its own flow, its own unique vibe, familiar, intimate, comfortably supportive, safe enough to reach into the darkest pit of anxiety, fear, or damage, and come through the experience still whole and with my sense of self intact. I arrived home to enjoy the evening with my traveling partner. It was a lovely fun evening, and we shared some of that with friends.

Only one thing marred an exquisitely lovely evening of fun among friends; drama. OPD (Other People’s Drama). Close friends, in a quiet moment, began an obviously stressful conversation about personal finances. I did my best to give them some privacy and overlooked it as things started to escalate emotionally. My place is a “drama free zone” by choice and by design; once things began to escalate, I attempted to communicate a boundary, first by gently working to change the conversation. I was not effective. They continued to have their moment. Although we had planned to have dinner together, one partner stormed off all door-slamming-ly to deal with things elsewhere, leaving the other rather morosely working to deal with it from the vantage point of my dining room table, staring into a personal device, exchanging messages at length. Who hasn’t been there?

It's hard to unsay the words.

It’s hard to unsay the words.

In spite of my sympathy, and my compassion, my own self-care is a higher priority than OPD, and the house rules include such things as “don’t slam the door, or the cupboards, or – yeah, actually don’t slam shit”, and “don’t yell”. These are non-negotiable. Says who? Um… me. My house, my rules, my way. The eventual return of the partner who stormed off was accompanied by an air of “who me? nothing happened with me, why?”, and followed by an abrupt departure by the pair, headed for other things – and no apology for the drama. My final attempt to communicate a reminder to the door-slamming friend that my home is a drama free zone was met with a weirdly childish defensiveness, as though it were more important to assign blame than to be accountable for ones actions and show some consideration for my space, and my boundaries. It was uncomfortable. That discomfort lingers. I’m not yet certain how I’ll deal with the whole mess once I have a chance to process it.

I set that aside and return to the morning, here, now, this lovely quiet morning. Last night was unexpected and delightful – what does tonight hold? There’s nothing on my calendar for the weekend, and a quiet weekend at home sounds really good. I laugh about that, reminded that last night’s great joy was built on a foundation of music, laughter, and boisterous good times. It was not quiet here last night. I think about my traveling partner, and smile. I am well-loved indeed. Finding that comfortable balance between planned and spontaneous, boisterous and chill, rules and anarchy, boundaries and the things that lay beyond them is all part of the journey, I suppose.

Love matters most.

Love matters most.

What a lovely morning to begin again.