Archives for posts with tag: bitches be trippin’

Greatest troubleshooting step of all time; have you tried shutting it off, and turning it back on? Pretty good generic advice, even where relationships and people go. Sometimes it only tells you more about what isn’t working, but sometimes it’s a handy quick fix by itself.

Moments of great stress and turmoil? Anger? Chaos? Shut that shit down. Come back later. Get some rest. Set it aside, really just walk away from it. (Maybe permanently, yes that’s a thing people can do – even you.) Chronic lasting sorrow? Hard if the sorrow is over a real, deeply painful, recent or lasting circumstance, I know, but still possible. (Sometimes much harder if the sorrow “isn’t real” at all, that’s sort of a known thing about mental illness.) Walk in the sun. Find someone to laugh with, something to laugh about. Read a book about something altogether different. Hell, take a walk with that sorrow in mind, and really let your thoughts run free for a while. Or take a nap.

I’m not saying “turning it off” is easy. It’s not. It’s hard. Still doable. Still a choice to make. Still verbs involved – that you can choose to do. This is real and achievable. Are you mired in some bleak or horrible bullshit, right now? Shut it down. Walk away. Change your perspective. Go elsewhere. Hang with other friends. Choices. …And if you, instead, continue to endure, and suffer, and flail, and struggle, and fight, and stew, and seethe, and rail against life? That’s a choice, too.

You get to decide. You get to take action. This is your journey. You gotta walk your own hard mile – but you are also your own cartographer. The map may not be the world – but it is yours to make.

I sip my coffee before the trip down to see my Traveling Partner and friends for the day. Possibly just a day trip. I carefully consider what I’m bringing, mindful that there is limited space, and it’s a very short visit. I consider limited resources and individual needs. My mind lights briefly on a distant madwoman, a former friend, an X, and shake my head with sorrow and disappointment. I may have lost thousands of dollars of original art in the storm of her chaos and delusional rage, but she has no power over me unless I give that to her; I choose not to, and turn my thoughts back to the day ahead of me. My day. My experience. My life. My choices.

It’s still an every day, circumstance-by-circumstance, moment-to-moment choice for me to “walk on”, to “let this one go”, or to shut down drama by declining to participate in madness. There are still verbs involved. My results still vary – but the quality of my life improves greatly when I do. “You have no power over me” reverberates in my thoughts. I smile. Finish my coffee. There is great power in new beginnings. That power is mine. 🙂

I begin again.

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.

I was already feeling sort of testy about weird man/woman shit when drama erupted in a relationship totally not my own, still somehow spilling over into my experience, by way of my Traveling Partner supporting a friend going through a bad bit as a failed partnership ends. I’d have been, perhaps, less enraged by how that friend is being treated by an ex… but emotions are what they are, including personal loyalty, and I found myself wondering what I could do to actually help – and offering up “anything” that could be to my Traveling Partner.

I’m still angry this morning. Maybe it was the Facebook post about the news article on “stealthing”, maybe that’s what got my ire up? That’s some unsavory wrong-headed bullshit, all by itself, and enough to make any woman angry – even the suggestion of it, and reading the article, was enough to anger me. Ancient rage. The sort that does not stifle easily. For some reason, in April of this year it seems a popular topic for news articles. That bothers me too.

A pleasantly distracting picture of the first spring goslings. 🙂

The scene on the bus ride home last night, though, irritates my consciousness in this whole other “see your therapist soon!” sort of way, like picking at a scab, or scratching a bug bite… I feel very much that I should not “pick at this”, unfortunately that’s often the rallying cry of “this is some root cause to a bit of your madness, but let’s not deal with all that now” that pushes things into dark corners of chaos for the later “amusement” of my personal demons. It wasn’t an uncommon scene, either… a young woman and a young man riding the bus together…

He was tickling her. She said “stop”, laughing. The way she said stop, and it came up repeatedly as the bus ride continued, caused more heads than mine to turn. Her laughter, to me, sounded uncomfortable. She said “no”. She said “stop”. She said “quit it”. She said these things firmly. She continued to laugh while she said them, mostly. He kept on. I was very uncomfortable, but in a confined space, like a bus, was an involuntary witness. When my stop approached, I stood at the door, which was immediately next to them, they were facing me. I turned to face her and made eye contact. “This bus ride was very uncomfortable for me.” I said. Heads turned. Conversations stopped. She held my gaze. People were listening.  “You keep telling him no”, I said to her, “but you are laughing. He keeps doing this thing that appears to be violating your boundaries, you keep telling him no – and you keep laughing. If you are enjoying this, why are you telling him no? If you are not enjoying this, why are you complicating your effort to set boundaries by laughing?” I waited. She looked uncomfortable and said nothing. He finally spoke up for her “she’s having a good time.” He said it firmly with conviction, he looked resentful of the intrusion. I turned to him as the bus pulled forward from the last signal light. I looked into his eyes for a long minute before saying slowly, with forced calm,  “I wasn’t talking to you, and it isn’t up to you to decide if she’s having a good time. It is up to you to decide if you will respect her boundaries and require clear communication of consent.” I turned my back on him deliberately, and turned back to her. The bus doors opened, and I felt my eyes fill with tears I didn’t intend to share, and only enough time to say “Your choice of behavior is teaching him that it is acceptable to violate your boundaries.” I can hope she heard me, but I’ll probably never know. I walked home sad and angry. Sad because this bullshit goes on all the time. Angry with the woman in the mirror because it’s my fault, too. Angry because it took men who understood consent to bring it to my awareness. Angry because I even had to be persuaded and cajoled into taking care of myself, into learning to set clear boundaries firmly, into learning that my agency actually matters, and that my consent is sacred and must remain inviolate – and is my own. I had to learn not to laugh uncomfortably any time I said “no”. I still struggle with these things, and that is one source of my anger.

I got home angry. The addition of needless break-up drama in other lives that matter (don’t they all?, isn’t that why it’s so hard to turn away?) didn’t help ease my simmering fury. It was an evening that touched on a lot of my chaos and damage. It all felt very personal. The pendulum swung from anger at a human experience of one sort, to a very different sort – that ugliness whereupon people behave as though they have some entitlement to what is not their own, in the midst of breaking up. Stealing things, tit for tat bullshit, and “getting even”. Ugly. I am so fucking sick to death of people behaving in these ways. We are not each other’s property. We are not chattel. We are not entitled to some particular outcome in life, which when deprived of it we are then entitled to steal, to break shit, or to commit assault or murder. Your relationship ended? Get the fuck over that shit, and walk on. Leave it all behind. Don’t chase after each other, poisoning the future. Treat each other well in celebration of love that once was. Vengeance? That’s bullshit. Walk away. Your life and your heart matter most, all the rest are just the material trappings of existence. It’s hard to stand idly by while a friend is robbed, and my anger at the pettiness and drama of his ex acting out surged again and again as the evening wore on… but not because of him (or even her, although her behavior has certainly cost her my respect, and any potential for friendship in the future; I’m just not okay with that behavior). I stayed angry because the events of the evening touched me – me personally, my own heart, and I am having my own experience.

More goslings, and a moment of perspective.

I’m fortunate to have a strong, reciprocal, boundary-respecting, loving relationship with my Traveling Partner. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it is my first relationship in which my boundaries are respect and my explicit consent is required, just generally and day-to-day. When we got together, I was almost 50. It’s more than a little uncomfortable to be aware of that, and of the years of internal struggling and suffering that preceded it. I stayed angry through much of the evening, because I am still so very angry with myself, with my circumstances, and with all those preceding relationships in which my agency was not valued, my boundaries were not respected, and my consent was violated regularly. I am angry now, because I spent so much time then laughing uncomfortably, and waiting for unpleasant moments to just… end. I am angry because I have been punished for taking care of myself, for setting boundaries, for walking away, and for speaking up for myself. I am angry because it took so long to choose to change – and to understand that indeed, I had to change before my circumstances could. Even then, there were verbs involved.

Evenings are short during the week. My temper simmered over dinner. I continued to fret and stew over drama in the shower, and as the evening began to reach its end. I didn’t really want to go to bed angry… I wished my Traveling Partner well, and logged off of devices, and sat down on my meditation cushion in front of the open patio door. I let the cool marsh breeze wrap me the scent of meadow flowers. I let everything else fall away, and just took time to breathe, and to be, and to listen to the rain fall. Over some unmeasured time, I found my way back to the present moment, content and calm. It wasn’t that my anger no longer existed, it simply found a welcome home within my own heart, and some understanding. Calm anger. Weird. I went to bed and found sleep while listening to rain tapping at the window.

Sure. I still feel angry about the things I am angry about. There are plenty of things worth feeling angry about. This morning I sip my coffee also feeling content that I am able to put things in context and gain understanding from them, over time. I can grow. I can choose change. I can be more removed from drama than I once was. I can offer support to people close to me, without being destroyed in their dumpster fire. I can heal. I can walk on.

I can begin again. So can you. 🙂

I am sipping my coffee and staring at the text window; this morning words don’t come so easily. My thoughts are focused on painting (and love), even right at this moment, and I am finding it challenging to write. My writing is a helpful practice that tends to keep me centered, and certainly anchors me and provides me with perspective. I’m reluctant to move on without putting words in an order, and clicking ‘Publish’. Interesting side note: I have not yet written the title (usually it is the title that is the first thing, providing me with a notion, or a theme, or a bit of humor).

I found myself exploring thoughts that seemed relevant and suitable for sharing…but as I attempted to devise some titular foothold to begin the thing with, it all sort of unraveled and evaporated, losing any coherence. I’m not frustrated. I’m not even puzzled or disappointed. I am, however, back to staring at an empty text box…so I begin with that. I have the subtle suspicion that this is ‘cheating’… then remember that the rules are my own, and decide that it is not.

What matters most?

What matters most?

(Sometime later…)

My writing was interrupted by the unexpected arrival of my traveling partner. We enjoyed some hang out time over coffee, talking, and listening to music. I don’t really have the vocabulary or poetry to convey how precious the time we spend together is; we share a profound connection that has depth and strength well beyond what I understand how to communicate – or fully appreciate. This morning was chill and comfortable and close, and met a lot of needs for me (and some for him, based on his frank appreciation and gratitude). After we’d finished with our coffees, he headed home to continue his weekend projects, and I sat down to return to my writing and find myself in a very different emotional place, feeling well-loved, warmly regarded, emotionally nurtured, intellectually valued, and eager to continue my creative weekend.  Totally worth taking a break from writing. 🙂

Today is a good day to listen deeply. Today is a good day for loving kindness and emotional intimacy. Today is a good day to appreciate and value love. Today is a good day to treat each other gently, and deliver on the promises we make to love.

Tonight started in a most promising way. I had a task in mind; hooking up the stereo. Simple stuff, but it hits a nerve with my post traumatic stress and I felt considerable anxiety about the undertaking, and a dreadful lack of confidence about it. Here’s the thing, though; I know how to do hook up my stereo, and the fear and stress are an illusion left over from a lifetime ago. So, I got home, and got started. Didn’t get it quite finished – it turned out the wee allen wrench for tightening the set screw on the back of the speakers had gone missing. It’s a small thing – I’ll replace it and finish connecting the speakers and be done with it…

…I’m not wired for frustration. Rationally, I knew it wasn’t a big deal – I’ve been contentedly listening to music on my laptop for days. The disappointment and frustration collided at the end of a busy workday. I wasn’t up to the challenge and wept for some time, helpless, immobilized, overwhelmed. It seems inexplicable now, on the other side of it. I had a shower, meditated, did some yoga, had a bite to eat… I’m fine. Frustrated, but even that has dissipated.  You know what hasn’t changed? The ferocious itching of bites that I suspect now of being spider rather than mosquito. I’ve got several large painful welts that itch so fiercely moment to moment that it’s hard to focus on anything else. The one of my foot was most agonizing walking to and from work. Right now the one on my calf feels worst. My mood may be affected by these bites – I am sensitive enough to bee stings to carry a bee sting kit all spring and summer, anywhere I go.

...I still try to get pictures of bees...

…I still try to get pictures of bees…

Practicing good practices doesn’t prevent bug bites (well, there are probably some excellent insect control practices…) – and I don’t know how or how much these bites may be affecting me. (When my traveling partner got a nasty spider bite sometime last year it definitely changed his outlook on the world, and he was much more irritable, generally.) I’m suffering enough with these bites – and they are numerous – that I withdrew an offer to hang out with my traveling partner sometime over the weekend. It doesn’t make sense to allow even one previous minute to be tainted with predictable irritability or suffering when we can save it for another day, and enjoy each other. It was a difficult choice to make – but hanging out Wednesday went sideways pretty easily, and I wouldn’t be surprised to confirm these bites had something to do with my emotional dis-regulation. Another time.

detail of "Emotion and Reason"

We are creatures of both emotion and reason, of both light and darkness.

Tonight, between the frustration with the stereo, and the itching of the bites, and challenges getting my routines down (I think I missed on my hormones…not sure, though, I can’t recall taking them, but I also don’t recall not taking them…) (Did I mention the fucking itching? lol ) I finally just broke.  So sure, I cried some frustrated tears. I do that. I suck at frustration, even now, although I am hopeful that experiences like this will help me improve the way I handle frustration the next time. No humans were harmed in the making of this experience – even me. Really. Frustrating, sure, but even that passed, leaving behind only me. Pretty content, and entirely okay. Yes, it was a choice, and no that doesn’t make it less valued, or less genuine. It isn’t forced, it’s just that there are verbs involved. 🙂

At 2 with Inga

At 2, a very different perspective.

I’m tired. Sleepy, fatigued, and not feeling my best, without actually feeling ill. It’s a lovely evening to meditate – the process of moving has broken so many routines. It’s time to rebuild good habits, practice good practices with consistency and discipline – it’s time to take the very best care of this fragile vessel.