Archives for posts with tag: mental-health

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.

No rain today. It’s not a holiday. Today is simply a weekend day wedged between one holiday and another. I am not working, and it isn’t raining; I walk a few miles. It’s a good day to walk (from my own perspective most of them are). After considering many trails within easy reach on such a day, I decide in favor of the closest paved trails through forest and meadow (only recently passable on foot) and head out with my camera and my thoughts, and commit to walking farther on foot, versus traveling farther to walk fewer miles in the same time.

Some of it is about what is in the distance, on the horizon, possible or probable; there will be verbs involved.

Some of it is about what is in the distance, on the horizon, possible or probable; there will be verbs involved.

It’s the end of one year, the beginning of another, and consistent with my tendency towards organized hierarchical thinking (as a human primate – it’s a thing we favor) the ‘new year’, as arbitrary as it really is, seems a fine time to wrap things up that no longer have value, or have reached a natural end, to reach out to initiate new things, shore up works in progress that need a boost or re-commitment of will, or to take a deep breath and re-calibrate this whole experience in some way through reflection, consideration, or discussion. In short, it’s a time of year I often spend on self-reflection.

(I re-read that last paragraph and I am reminded of my traveling partner’s observation that there is room for brevity in life, in poetry, in text messaging – and surely in my own use of language as well? Fair enough, Dear One, you are quite correct. I’ll reflect on that, too; it’s a lovely moment to reach out for healthy changes, and to refresh my thinking on all manner of things – even language.)

Today I just walked. Footsteps over miles. Miles of mud. Miles of pavement. Miles under clouds. Miles alongside small local waterways. Miles of trees, squirrels, crows, ducks, geese, and the sound of nearby traffic and all of the busy-ness mankind has created to occupy time. Miles of musing about things I have seen, things I have heard, and things that I wonder. I wander. Miles. Miles of tiny mushrooms in a variety of shapes and sizes and habits of growth. Miles of opportunities to pause. Miles measured in moments, one after the other, each so very precious – each now only a memory. I reflect on the miles, and I reflect on the moments. I reflect on what is behind me, and how far I’ve yet to go.

Sometimes it is a matter of details, perspective, and a willingness to be aware, without judgment or interpretation.

Some of it is a matter of details, perspective, and a willingness to be aware, without judgment or interpretation.

Today is a good day for reflection.

Where’s mine? That’s an important question…and this is me ranting about the underlying frustration with finding real ‘work:life balance’. You can skip this one if you prefer the lovely pictures and focus on day-to-day mindfulness and search for balance and stillness. This… is not that. 😉

Perspective matters.

Perspective matters.

If I am over-extended, over-committed, over-worked, and rushed to a point that I more easily overlook needed medication, appropriate breaks for self-care, measured healthy calories to sustain good health and cognition, I can’t sustain emotional balance, physical wellness, and maintain all those logistical quality of life details that matter so much… rent…bills…vacuuming…showering… Just saying – how about we all take a nice deep breath and take a step back from being dicks to each other all the fucking time? That other person over there, that didn’t meet your expectations this time, or that time, or some other time – still human. Still having their own experience. Still entirely worthy of common courtesy, consideration, and patience. How about showing some? If we make a collaborative effort on that, culturally, the whole fucking world improves just a little bit. (This is a reminder for me, myself, as much as anything. I could do better on this.)

Raise the minimum wage? You bet – paying people appropriately is simply the right thing to do, and it is pretty ugly that we can say ‘he works full time’ and ‘he doesn’t make enough money for rent and groceries’ about the same person. Any person. And guess what? We’re all people. The same thing is true of time – we’re all human. People. Beings of emotion and reason, creative, romantic, philosophical beings who live and laugh and love – and need time for those things. No one needs time to be employed by some other person on some other agenda; we do need an exchangeable form of our life force to pay for the goods and services required to support our desired quality of life. That so many are not being paid what our human life force is worth as human beings is tragic. That anyone at all would argue that the life force of some human beings is worth more than others is… yeah. To be approached with caution at best. Go ahead, tell me how the average CEO is truly worth more money hour-for-hour than the guys who built your roads, your house, who pick your produce, who sweat over ensuring you have power after a storm, who work in factories manufacturing the goods you want so badly. I’m ranting. Sorry. This matters to me.  You matter to me. People matter to me. Even in my most solitary least social moments, I still value human life, and struggle to understand why it so often seems that many people just don’t, not even their own.

It makes me ache to see people tear each other down to somehow excuse modern-day indentured servitude: pay so minimal there is limited potential to survive, and no real hope of actually thriving or ‘bettering oneself’. I’m spitting into the wind. Job crisis? No problem; reduce the standard work week, refuse to allow salaried employees to work more hours than that, and insist businesses go ahead and hire the staff it actually takes to do the jobs they want done. Pay people to retire earlier in life if they choose to (so they can afford to). Ensure wages are adequate to live on, and stay so. Job crisis over. Yes, I am saying that businesses take the hit on the bottom line – less profit, more labor cost. Human labor is worth far more than we make it out to be. I’m not afraid to say that; businesses are building their success on the backs of those employees, capitalizing on the limited mortal lifetime of individual actual real human beings who might very much enjoy living their actual fucking lives doing something they truly enjoy and thrive on. So… not fast food, probably. Not a call center, probably. The reason jobs are work is because businesses do actually have to pay people to do them. We don’t all wake up and just go to call centers, food service jobs, or gas stations just because we totally love the fun of it; we do it as part of an agreed to exchange of our precious life force for cash money to use as we may. We have so much more to offer ourselves and the world than 40 hours of grinding unrelenting tedium for employers who are (in some cases) actually destroying the world (or just up to no good).

If you do work you love, I applaud you. If you have found a way to love the work you do, regardless what sort of work that is, or whether it benefits you beyond a paycheck, I applaud you, too. I haven’t figured that one out yet. I earn an adequate living doing something I am very skilled at, and most of the time it’s enough that it be so. Tonight… I am tired. I hurt. I’m struggling to understand why I choose to spend so much of my limited mortal lifespan on something that has no potential to nurture my spirit, or build memories of wonderful experiences, or deliver real value to my life… beyond that infernal bottom line. There are bills to pay. This is such a limited and precious mortal life… what is appropriate compensation for the irreplaceable minutes with loved ones, or hours spent walking in the forest, or… yeah, the entirety of a lifetime we can’t replace once spent?

My perspective on work:life balance is very different at 52 than it was at 25. Maybe that’s as it should be? There’s more to understand here, and some hard questions to answer for myself about what matters most. Maybe for you, too? Perhaps the answers are as individual as we each are as people? Does the man or woman of 70 who is angry about ‘forced retirement’ have any less right to their experience and will than does the man or woman of 45 who would prefer to retire from the world of day-to-day hourly wage employment to write the novel they have within them? Does it matter what drives that preference? I don’t have answers – but I’m pretty sure cookie cutter solutions aren’t the solution, and falling back on what my grandfather found right and proper will likely not work for me. We are not ‘one size fits all’ in life.

Autumn becomes winter; there's only so much time, and all of it is 'now'.

Autumn becomes winter; there’s only so much time, and all of it is ‘now’.

I am more questions than answers. Tonight I am also tired, in pain, and feeling rather terse with myself ‘for even bringing it up’, as if ignoring a wound has any potential to heal it. So, I take time to take care of me, meditation is a good practice in this head space, a healthy meal, a good night’s rest. There is time to consider, to wonder, to contemplate – there is time later to ask questions, to make choices, to figure out what works and do that thing. Tonight it is enough to slow down, and take care of me.

I woke smiling this morning, although in pain, and feeling light-hearted, balanced, and calm. This would seem almost commonplace, except that last night, at the end of a wonderful evening with my traveling partner, some particular turn of phrase, repeated several times in conversation in relatively quick succession, triggered my PTSD symptoms. My emotions quickly spiraled out of control, and somewhen in the midst of it, I directed my dear love to go, to leave, to walk on…and found myself alone and crying; he respected my boundaries, which sucked then, but this morning it is something I cherish. I can count on him so utterly.

p.s. I love you.

p.s. I love you.

He phoned me after he left, upset and concerned. He pointed out my symptoms (because I am not always aware that I am interacting with some other experience). We talked.  Afterward, I took time to meditate. I calmed and soothed myself – relying on emotional resilience and self-sufficiency that I am building over time through all manner of practices (like meditation). I reflected later on what went down, and how and why. Moments like last night are outstanding for monitoring growth and progress – but they still suck completely and entirely. I emailed him an unreserved heartfelt apology, making no excuses for my behavior (let’s be real here, it’s been much much worse in the past, and that’s not relevant to treating someone I love badly now!), which was uncomfortable for both of us, and unpleasantly emotional. I was already over it such that I could also express gratitude and appreciation for what he was attempting to discuss and help me with, and I had taken time to follow up on our shared concern and the practical relevant details… like a grown up. 🙂

I made a note for myself to follow up later on developing more effective ways to gently communicate that some particular detail, phrase, approach, or behavior has the potential to trigger me – not in the hope of having it avoided, but because in real life these things come up, and one by one I must move past them, for my own emotional well-being, and as a loving investment in my relationships, and wouldn’t it be nice once in a while to just say ‘Oh hey, could you rephrase that one this time? I’m still working on that and I’ve got some challenges with that verbiage’. It takes time, but I no longer view improving on these things as unachievable; I may have some measure of PTSD for the rest of my life, but there is nothing about that which suggests I can’t continue to improve, to grow, and to become the woman I want most to be.

We've all got some baggage.

We’ve all got some baggage.

When my traveling partner had gone, and I was sifting through my chaos and damage, it was quickly very clear that the entire problematic exchange wasn’t at all about or with him (or us) in any way at all; I could feel my violent first husband standing in the room with me. It was an eye-opening moment to be so able to clearly sense the anachronistic miasma of ancient fear and pain. It was also part of what allowed me to move past the moment – and my symptoms – so quickly last night, once I was alone. I could really feel that it didn’t source in my real experience of the moment in any way at all. I had been triggered – and I don’t mean mainstream press too-pc-for-adulthood-don’t-say-things-I-find-discomfiting- “triggered”*.  I mean no bullshit, I was having a post-traumatic stress flashback. Generally, in the past I have had no way of clearly discerning that such is the case until well afterward. This is growth. I don’t know what to do with it, but it is very promising, anyway. I haven’t had a flash back in a long while (months, and well before I moved into my own place, back in March).

Every moment of growth is as a rainbow in a stormy sky; a promise of better things.

Every moment of growth is as a rainbow in a stormy sky; a promise of better things.

Last night – and a couple of times early in the day – I was having a strange very severe headache in a weird location, that throbbed with a deep dull nauseating ache that pulsed every 10-15 seconds or so. I’ve no idea if it was related, causal, or worth consider a serious concern… except that any headache that is unusual is also of great concern for someone with a TBI and a family history of stroke. This morning I made a point of emailing my physician to make note of the headache, and ask if I should make an appointment. I haven’t felt it yet today, so perhaps it was just a headache.

Today I'm not making this complicated.

Today I’m not making this complicated.

I am okay right now. Love is okay right now. Human beings persist in being human, and life offers opportunities to learn, to fail, to grow, and to connect our hearts through what is difficult more often than through what is easy. It’s worth becoming skilled at managing my worst moments more skillfully; I can count on most of the best moments to take care of themselves.

It helps to have the right tool for the job.

It helps to have the right tool for the job…

Today is a good day to practice good practices. Today is a good day to take care of me – and to take care of love. Today is a good day for listening deeply, and connecting honestly. Today is a good day for authenticity and vulnerability. Today is a good day to say thank you, when love shoulders the heavy load my post-traumatic stress carries every day. Today is a good day to walk on, and enjoy blue skies. I am okay right now. 🙂

...and perhaps a change of perspective.

…and perhaps a change of perspective.

It's a journey. Each step I take is my own.

It’s a journey. Each step I take is my own.

*Just an afterthought…Can I just say that I find it damned inconvenient that people have undermined the value and meaning of the word ‘triggered‘ by diluting it for their everyday over-sensitivity or bad-tempered moments? For someone with post-traumatic stress the experience of having symptoms triggered is not a mildly uncomfortable moment, or inconvenience – it’s a pretty big deal, associated with brain chemistry, volatility, mood, physical experiences, and isn’t something that can be easily turned away from or ‘managed’. By mis-using the word to cover feeling uncomfortable to read the ‘fuck’ in a news article, or because a moment of provocation caused a bit of temper, people who really need to express an experience are robbed the language to do so. Knock it off – go find your own words. Seriously. There’s a big difference between being a bad-tempered over-sensitive little bitch, and being having one’s post-traumatic stress triggered – trust me, I’ve had both experiences, and I’m pretty clear on the difference. 🙂

I would write more than I will, if I could. It’s been a peculiar day, and more stressful that it had any right to be. Any deep dive of the details I might attempt would only go too far, and say nothing meaningful or of lasting value; I am tired, and I have been through too much today.

Let’s be fair about the day? It wasn’t tragic, just trying. It started well and finished with a cascade of challenges interspersed with a couple of things that were quite nice, and turned out well. The things that went awry weren’t crises of any magnitude – it was all small stuff, unworthy of stress. I simply found myself pulled down, anyway.

The morning was lovely. It’s enough to say that, and linger on the lovely morning, without thinking about the strangely disturbed night’s ‘sleep’ that wasn’t really sleep which preceded it. The morning wiped all that from my consciousness for many hours, and the challenges of the day were simple reminders that I must be vigilant and assertive about taking care of me.

Reset! Let's try again tomorrow.

Reset! Let’s try again tomorrow.

I’m tired now. I’m home and safe. The water in the community is back on – a shower at the end of this hot day will be just the thing. It’s chill time, and there is nothing to fear or to doubt. Tomorrow will unfold on its own merit, as days generally do.