This Bipolar Life: Dreams, Apologies and Forgiveness

Ever wonder what eight-year-old you would feel about the life you are leading now? I do. Maybe it’s because of all my therapy but more than once I’ve been told I need get in touch with my inner child. For a long time I didn’t get it. Now I do.

“Getting in touch with your inner child” sounds really big and kind of “woo woo” right? Well, it’s like peeling back an onion. Very slowly. Layer by layer the tears come faster and faster until you reach the center and find enveloped in all these years of mere existence the tiny little spirit of life. Your life. My life. The Inner Child. Only then can the conversation truly begin. Here are the three key areas I ran into:

Dreams: Did you reach for them? Did you achieve them? Why? What’s the hold up? These are the questions we must answer to our IC. There’s no other way. We must account for our choices and offer grace and forgiveness as we go. I mean, if you really wanted to run away and join the circus, what stopped you? Is it still able to do that? Can you find another way? Is it even still a dream? I mean, if you stripped away all barriers, would you still do it? Yes? Then make a way.

Apologies: Another important one. Once I apologized to my inner-8yo for not being strong enough to protect her (or love her enough to bear the lack of love from elsewhere) I felt lighter and more relaxed. As if I had finally acknowledged all the pain and disappointment I went through. I have worked hard ever since to make sure the choices I make include that young child. That little girl. The one who had ginormous dreams and silly energy.

Forgiveness: This one is huge. Look back. Did you do your best with what you knew at the time? Yes? Then set your heart free of the burden of not being “good enough” or making the “right” choices, etc. Know that you made the *best* choices with the tools you had at the time. Self-forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can offer ourselves. It’s up to us to believe we are worth it.

I am the dreamer. It was and is up to me to make sure I honor my inner 8yo with my choices. To feel joy, embrace life, dance in the rain, explore, discover…so much more! That little one is in there waiting for a chance to come out and play and it’s my turn to lend a hand.

So yes, “Hello there, I’m here, and I love you. Please forgive me.”

Perfect way to start the dialog.

This Bipolar Life: The Coin Toss

Making decisions is not my strength, yet. I’m working on it but the whole finality of the choices gets me. Like, what if I’m wrong? What if it goes sideways? What if? What if? What if? Increasingly I am also making sure to wonder if I’m right too and that’s helping!

Fortunately I have tools to use. I use techniques like remembering to go through pros/cons and asking those around me to help play out the scenario over coffee/zoom. Their feedback is invaluable as I don’t quite trust my gut just yet (another thing I’m working on) because although my mind is on point my brain chemicals can get whacky occasionally and cloud my ability to clearly see options.

Seriously though, I’m a grown-ass woman who often get’s stuck and can’t figure out what to watch on tv, which craft to pick up, which project to start, business to launch, relationships to end/start, meals to make, jobs to choose, careers, empty nest decoration…just all of it. Talk about ridiculous, right? Well I have a tool that works really well, here goes:

My solution – AND IT WORKS 100% FOR ME – has been to rely on a coin-toss. After becoming fully aware of my choices, benefits and consequences I figure out my top two options and throw a coin up. While it’s in the air I instinctively know which one I want. Heads or tails, each representing a commitment to seeing something through, and I know. Instantly. Before it hits the ground, which choice I want.

ALWAYS. Then, no matter how the coin lands, I’ve finally made my decision and I can move on.

Just one tool that works for me. Maybe you’ll find it helpful too!

“Hey mom…”

“Hey mom can you…?” or “Hey mom I forgot my…” or how about, “Hey mom, can you make me…?”

Sound familiar? To moms around the world I’m sure they do. The amusing, or frustrating, aspect of this behavior makes us laugh with hilarity. I had to put a pillow over my face to hide the giggling when they were younger.  Alternatively, I would walk away in annoyance, which happened more often than I’d like as they got older and my meds failed so often it became an awful experience for us all.

So what happened to the little boy who wanted to know, “Why” and, “How do”? He grew up. He became a man. Wounded by my upheavals. Still innocent in some areas though, life hadn’t worn him down yet but he had grown nonetheless, right before my eyes. While I wasn’t even watching. I couldn’t. I literally couldn’t. It wasn’t a won’t. It was a can’t. I work on forgiving myself every day.

It wasn’t all one way or the other though, I took them to the library, the Science Center, the Zoo, dancing penguins, numerous parks, playing in the snow, visiting with family, play dates, hours and hours of indoor play (for those times when I really couldn’t go outdoors). We even hung a swing inside just because of the times I just had to have the kids  play indoors. But hey, at least I found a solution! We bought one of those small slide toys which seemed to address their activity concern. On a related note we had tons of fun when bipolar me took them to the ocean, Mt Rushmore, and tons of road trips to random places.

From the other perspective though, there were so many concerts I couldn’t make it to. The number of mornings I couldn’t get out of bed to say, “Have a great day!” were so numerous I just lost count and still feel like crap about it. I was not always a nice mom. My bipolar often reared its head, forcing me to take time away, say things that were not always kind, make promises I couldn’t keep. Forget to make appointments and then forget to keep them, racking up hundreds in “missed appointment fees”. At least once my kid missed the first day of school because I’d mis-read the calendar and forgotten. I don’t get after my kids about being cleaning their rooms because I just often don’t have the energy to fight the battle. In fact there are dozens of battles I just choose not to fight.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, I really do. Every damn one of them! I worked hard to bring them into this world and will love them forever. All of that being said, raising them has been both the most difficult and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Snuggling baby heads suddenly become “Wet me dewit” and that turns into “I’ve got it mom.” quickly switching it up, “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.” once they hit about 18. Of course, 18 is precisely when I worry the most. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only mom on this one.

Now that the kids are nearly grown it’s a bit different. I evaluate whether they really mean what they’ve said/done. Are they old enough to understand their choice? Mine are. Are they ready for the consequences? Mine aren’t. At least not for many of them.

Me? I’ll be right over here. Ready to catch them. Flaws and all.

News or Sanity? Neither? Both? My Take

Today’s news is filled with so many vile things popping up every day it can be difficult to keep up sometimes, even when you really want to. For people with mental illness times like these make it difficult to keep a positive view and be hopeful about the future. However, it’s not impossible. There are some great ways to find gratitude and joy in an ugly world. Go for a walk, read a book, journal, meditate, and many other ways I’m definitely leaving out.

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Over the past two years I have fought to fight for my political views in the hopes of furthering my view of progression. Just like most people I know. Until I realized it was just too hard for me anymore. I could only hope it was possible to be both informed and sane.

Continue reading “News or Sanity? Neither? Both? My Take”

This Bipolar Life: Fake it ’til You Make It Baby!

Now, there is only so much my brain can do to think my mind into believing things are better than they feel (because, you know I get my own special brand of funky symptoms) but there are three things in my “Fake it ’til you make it” toolkit I thought I’d share for folks who are down in the dumps and maybe need some ideas for getting through it:

Number one, for me at least, is figuring out what I can control and start making changes, however small, toward getting out of the darkness. Controlling what I can, and in my case that starts with my environment. If the window shades are closed, I will get up and open them, even if it’s raining. Something to remind me that there is a world beyond my little four walls. If the house is silent I will put on music. If there is a pet around I’ll try to find it and snuggle. I’ll pick up a few books and keep reading until I find one that offers a positive message (note to self: do not read Nietzsche when trying to be positive). I will force myself to smile.

BTW, Did you know that smiling itself can help you feel happier? It’s true. So yes, if need be I will force a grin. I might look a little odd but hey, I’m 40, mom of four kiddos (imagine keeping your sanity through that) and bipolar, I’ve reached the point where I don’t care how odd I look if it works.

Anyway, number two for me is to make a pros and cons list. However, at the point where I need this list I’m already well aware of the cons and writing them down doesn’t usually help. Most of the time. Anyway, I’ll list out at least three good things that have happened lately. Even if it’s that I managed to make the coffee. Or that I remembered to mail that birthday card that is two weeks two late (a serious problem for me). Sometimes that’s all I’ve got to offer, and that’s okay. Every now and then I’ll write down the cons but only to put them in perspective. Like, is it really all that bad that I forgot to start the roast and now we’re eating breakfast for dinner again? Or that I’ve managed to leave the laundry sitting in the washer for three days out of complete and utter apathy and now I have to run it not once but twice, just to get that smell out? And if it’s really lucky it’ll make it to the dryer and then we’ll celebrate when it actually gets folded and put away – this is a true cause for excitement in my house! Anyway, my point is that perspective is key and although it’s sometimes really hard to find (like hiding in a hidden corner enveloped in fog kind of hard) it’s really worth the effort.

Finally, number three for me is forgiveness. It’s the hardest one. It’s the step where I struggle with self-worth and the reality of my actions (or inaction) and have to hold myself accountable. This is when I have to practice being gentle with myself. Work on being understanding. I try to talk to myself the way I would a good friend going through a similar situation. Reminding myself that even with bipolar disorder I am worthy of forgiveness and I have just as much value as anyone else, exactly I am.

Even if I do sometimes forget the occasional birthday card 😉