November 23, 2009

why so hard?

So, I had this paper that I was supposed to write. It was a simple paper, four to six pages synthesizing my biggest ideas throughout college and talking about my favorite classes. I was supposed to simply write about the ideas that snowballed in my mind. The ideas that connected with thoughts in other classes and the way they changed the way I understood the world. Normally, this assignment would thrill me. I love thinking about thinking. I love when my ideas connect and snowball ultimately making my world shatter through the realization that everything I thought I knew was actually wrong, or at least completely different than I ever thought. But this time, given that I have a lot of other stressors on my plate, things like a looming college graduation, a non-existent post-grad job, and the fact that the paper came at the anniversary of a very painful past experience, (a near death by overdose), it was nearly impossible to finish. It has actually taken me about a month over the due date to complete. And last night, finally, I turned it in.

So, why was it so hard, I ask myself. Aside from the obvious previously mentioned items, I realized that it forced me to look at a part of my life in a different angle. I found it strange that I can write a memoir about my experiences with bipolar, and travel the country sharing my story, but I couldn't seem to write a simple paper about my college career. The thing that I realized though, is that I have not had your average college career. Throughout my time in college I have been diagnosed with bipolar, been hospitalized two times, came extremely close to losing my life several times, and been through innumerable amount of ups and downs, round abouts, and zigzags through the world of mental illness, self-medication, and that continuous search for stability. It was through all of this that I had one goal: to just finish school. So it was through all of this that my biggest ideas formed. Through all of these things I was attempting to write papers, read, grasp big ideas. In the end my experience with bipolar and my experience as an undergrad became completely intertwined.

In realizing all of this I finally just realized that there was still healing to do. I still had to come to terms with a lot of trauma and pain that I thought I had already coped with. It is through these tasks, seemingly menial papers, that we originally assume to be easy that each of us must realize that there is always another level. There is always a deeper level to which we can explore ourselves and our lives. Always more to the story that we originally thought. Though the paper was extremely difficult and painful I came to realize that I needed to go to that painful level to truly come to terms with my college experiences. I needed sludge through the painful moments in my life one more time so that next time it might be a little easier. Sometimes we find ourselves asking, why is this so hard?! It's because we need to confront it, to push ourselves to the next level, and to realize that everything isn't as it seems.

November 09, 2009

little things

On Friday I was forced to think about my future as I met with my college advisor regarding my upcoming graduation. Still being in a somewhat sensitive state I became extremely, overwhelmingly anxious. It was at that point that I remembered the importance of family (whoever that may be: friends, community, etc.) and support when it comes to stress, and especially when it comes to complications pertaining to one's mental illness. So, I went to my sister's house because I know that she (almost) always makes me feel better with her "get mad not sad" attitude that is so opposite of mine. (To learn more about my this, read my mom's blog entry, "Where's Sister"). I think the thing that made me feel the best however, was also the fact that we made cookies with my twenty-one month old nephew. It was in the moment when I looked at his flour and oatmeal covered head that I began to feel better. As he "helped" stir the flour, sugar, salt, and oatmeal by putting it all over his high-chair, body, face, and the floor I couldn't help but smile. His flour covered body was a reminder of the little things in life that are important. Just watching his mischievous little face and observing him as he tested us with his toddler-ness was a reminder that sometimes it helps to focus on the little moments, (and in his case, the little things). When I'm at my worst, I often find that the only way to get by is by focusing on the small moments in each day, each hour, each minute. In doing this I can get out of my head and remember that the earth is still spinning, and that joyful, (and even hilarious), things are still happening.

October 17, 2009

My Bipolar Checklist

This is something I wrote a long time ago after my first panic attack in months. Thought it might be something useful to share...

Okay Linea. Here we are. Here we are again. You on the bathroom floor. Your boyfriend tired and worried. Your mind numb. Now, given that this hasn’t happened in months and months we must figure out where this came from. It’s time to use the skills that you have gained in this "vast journey" of yours.
     First. Your “Am I Depressed” checklist:
     Within the last week have you been staring a lot? Been unable to read/clean/get important things done? Have you been drinking alone? Do you spend hours sitting at the computer doing nothing? Have you been unable to cry? Do you have a need to harm yourself?
     Second, “Am I manic?”
Within the last few days have you been pacing, shaking, or cleaning excessively? Do you have a lot of repetitious thoughts, words, or phrases? Have you started the mantra of “I need, I need, I need…”? Has there been excessive spending, partying, anything?
Third, in general, have you:
     Had an upset stomach?
     Been throwing up?
     Been cutting?
     Been eating excessively?
     Been drinking excessively?
No. No. No. No. No. 
Everything checks out fine. 
This is not a bipolar episode. I often find myself checking these lists daily. If it is none of the above then I know that I am simply having the same normal feelings of pain that every other person on earth experiences. If it is none of the above then I simply need to see where the pain is coming from and then just breathe it out. Just sit with it knowing that I have been through worse. I can get through this.

October 14, 2009

Everything is Everything

I just read an article by John Frow called "A pebble, a camera, a man" on "Thing Theory" where he talks about the concept that "things, too, embody human will". He speaks about the fact that the speed bump is not merely a thing in the road, but something that gives an "instruction, on behalf of the police or some traffic control authority, to slow down on this stretch of the road". He explains that to call the speed bump "non-human" is to "ignore all the ways in which human will is translated into things and in which things in turn work as delegates which relay back to us these configurations of human will". In reading this it reminded me of my favorite phrase: "everything is everything".

When I begin talking about my belief that "everything is everything", (that everything either already is or eventually becomes connected in some way, that life always seems to find a way to circle back around, that everything has an intense interdependence upon everything else, and that every piece of this world is equally important and present within every other piece,) I am always told that I must be getting manic. I always have to laugh because though I may be going a little too far thinking that the number eleven is extremely telling in my life (because I seem to see an increase and reoccurrence before a major event), or in thinking that "rabbits are my power animal", I am certainly not the only one who sees the patterns in the world. I have even been told that people who are bipolar, or "mentally ill", see patterns more often. This may be true, and though this may make me see things a little more connected then they might actually be sometimes, I can't help but know in my soul that it's true: Everything is Everything...

"But we consist of everything the world consists of, each of us, and just as our body contains the genealogical table of evolution as far back as the fish and even much further, so we bear everything in our soul that once was alive in the soul of men. Every god and devil that ever existed, be it among the Greeks, Chinese, or Zulus, are within us, exist as latent possibilities, as wishes, as alternatives." -Hesse-

September 20, 2009

Advice from Dr. Manhattan...

Given that I have been continuously trying to calm down through my techniques of self-care (yoga, lake-sitting, etc.), I am frustrated that I still find myself freaking out about my future. I find that I build up so much worry and anxiety that everything seems to spin around me making it impossible to even grasp onto a calming impulse.

Last night I had a conversation about the human ability to forget what is important and distance ourselves from the very things that keep us alive. I find that I am constantly thinking about what to do with my future, or how to be more accomplished, or how to do things better and more efficiently, but I forget what I really am, or what life is really about. I am constantly trying to be "good-enough" when I don't even know what that means or what that entails.

And then I remembered reading the Alan Moore's Watchmen and I thought about Dr. Manhattan. Dr. Manhattan is this brilliant scientist who became stuck in an "Intrinsic Field subtractor" where he was disintegrated, allowing him to return as a super-human being. Manhattan eventually becomes so disconnected from earth and human beings that he decides to live on Mars where he can find more meaning in the movements and developments of the lifeless planet. Eventually however, after speaking to his ex-girlfriend about the amazing fact that she exists in the first place, he changes his mind and decides human life is a miracle after all.

He tells her that he has discovered a "Thermodynamic miracle", in the fact that, "in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds against countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that precise daughter...until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged, to distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold..."

And I realize what I should always remember: the mere fact that we are alive in the first place is worth everything. That makes us good enough. The fact that we are alive is so amazing that we don't need to do anything or be anything to make us any more important than we already are.

So thanks Dr. Manhattan. I need to keep remembering that.

September 02, 2009

winged things

The Swans of Coole. Well, actually they are the Swans of Galway, (but they're close enough to Yeats' swans...)

A friendly heron just hanging out on people's boats. The head in the background belongs to a sea lion in the Galway bay.

August 31, 2009

Time to Breathe

Being that I am getting closer and closer to the end of this six year bachelors degree I am suddenly having that future focused, world ending, life-crisis that every college grad eventually feels. Well, that most every grad feels. I tell myself, if I would have been working harder towards a specific goal, i.e. grad school, I wouldn't be feeling like this. Or I say, if I would have chosen a degree that fed right into a job I wouldn't be feeling like this. But then I say, how? How could I have done these things when life is so unpredictable? When and how could I have chosen a degree and grad program that would have included several hospitalizations, a diagnoses, and what seems like millions of medication changes? How could I have planned for this? And though I may talk some sense into myself at this point, the cycle continues going round and round: panic, intellectualizing, sense, relief, panic...

So, in a time when I am feeling more overwhelmed then usual, (though I am almost always usually feeling overwhelmed,) I find myself having to be extra good to myself, both mind and body. When I present around the country people always ask what I do to help myself stay stable in times like this, so in order to truly explain I will just give you a run down of my day today...

I woke up and made myself breakfast. Having recently bought some new cookbooks that focus on the importance of healthy food to our mind and body's overall health, I took extra time preparing a breakfast that was nutritious with all the vitamins and minerals my body needs. Being a vegetarian, and a person easily susceptible to all sorts of colds, viruses, etc., I find it especially important to get a healthy diet.

After breakfast, (and a bit of light reading,) I stretched and did some strength training exercises. I find that even if I do a very minimal amount of exercise, my body and mind feel so much better throughout the day. I feel best if I do between twenty minutes to an hour and a half of good cardio, stretches, and other exercises. I prefer running, yoga, pilates, and a little weight lifting. If I am feeling depressed running is better, but if I am feeling manic yoga and stretching is best.

After I exercised I did a small meditation. I try to do a little meditating each day because I feel it helps me refocus and organize my brain. I feel that by allowing my thoughts to calm and settle I can find relief from stress, worry, anxiety, agitation, and lots of other emotions that I can't manage if I continue to multi-task at break-neck speed. Though it is sometimes difficult to meditate, I find that it is very important to my wellbeing and I find that the more I do it, the more I begin to feel it in the rest of my life.

The last thing that I do is to allow myself breaks throughout my work. Because I always have a million things going on I try to allow myself small breaks and small rewards to make the work easier and more manageable. When I have a chance to do work outside (or in a different atmosphere then I would usually work in, such as a coffee shop,) I try to take the opportunity. Though I may feel like I work slower, I find that it is important for me to have a change of environment. Today, for instance, I worked by the lake. I also like to give myself small breaks from really difficult work by allowing myself to do things I normally wouldn't do, like watch a little television or buy dinner out.

Well, these are some of the things that I have been working on that I thought could be both beneficial for me to remember and useful for others to see. I will continue to work on these and hope that others might integrate them into there own lifestyles. And as that terrible cliche goes, I need to "stop and..." well, you know...

June 18, 2009

Facing Us and the Wellness Tracker thingy

I just found an amazing site called Facing Us. It is pretty amazing for anyone experiencing bipolar disorder because it allows you to track your moods with the DBSA Wellness Tracker, you can create your own wellness plan, journal, gather wellness tips from others, and find new ways to use creativity as a key to wellness. I like the site because it is super easy to use, it basically takes the form of a little house in which each room provides new ways to organize and track your wellness. It is both cute and artsy, so that works for me, and it provides easy check mark boxes for all those things I should keep track of but never do, such as moods, and wellness goals. It is definitely something cool everyone should check out.

June 05, 2009


I haven't written in a while because I have been swiftly falling towards finals week. And now, its here. So, I can't write but I will leave you with this tree.

May 10, 2009

we should all just walk right in.

Lately I have been thinking about trauma a lot. I have been thinking about how people deal with the terrifying, heart-shattering, un-breathable moments in life. I think it all began with several interesting conversations with the boyfriend about people and tragedy. I have also been reading books that deal with similar topics (Atwood's Alias Grace, Faulkner The Sound and the Fury).

So I thought about what happened to me in the past, specifically to do with suicide, and I thought about my distance from it today. I am not sure whether I am just so used to talking about it at conferences, or so used to writing and rewriting papers and a book about it, but somehow I feel quite distanced from those traumatic places in my past. A stranger perhaps rather than the person that truly experienced them. So I talked to my counselor about it and realized that though it seems easier to continue on as a stranger with minor "unconnected" sadnesses, I need to reconnect and fully deal with my fears and pain. I have become so distanced that at times I almost feel like a liar going out and speaking about my emotional understanding of suicide. Do I understand it? Can anyone ever say that? Or am I too numb to truly remember or know what I feel.

But anyways, here is the point, and this is one I had to be told in order to believe: I have experienced it. It did happen. And though many people with horrible trauma find themselves feeling like liars or fakes, or feel as if they simply made it up,  it is something to confront. (I believe.) It is something to acknowledge and rediscover in order to truly let it go. It sucks going through memories of those horrible moments in your life, but I truly feel that it is so much better to confront things before they boil up some other way. I don't have anywhere close to as bad of trauma as many people, but I personally need to remind myself that I was there, and I did feel it. I need to remind myself that I am not lying to people by telling them I understand suicide and the pain of feeling like you don't have any more strength to survive. I just need to remind myself that ignorance is not bliss, not for me, because if I keep trying to forget I will only feel worse. Perpetually.

(And for all those of you who will wonder if I'm "okay," (dad, Jennifer,) or if I am okay doing all the work I am doing with presentations and what not, I only have to say that I am more than okay. I feel like this is important and even more meaningful when it comes to sharing my story with people. We all need to be okay with the confrontation of our selves, our demons, our fears. It is a continual process, and one that I hope my heros are constantly doing too. You go Reverend Tutu!)

April 22, 2009

The Decoy

So I'm going to Hawaii next Thursday to speak at a conference and I have found myself being VERY weird about my body insecurities. I am often insecure and worried about the usual girl things: flattering clothing, the right coat, make-up, not wearing anything the common sense fashion committee hasn't okayed, etc. But, I am not usually as bad as I have been these past two weeks.

For those who don't know me I must admit I have had some eating problems in the past, therefore it is important for me to check in with myself if I am being weird again. This however seemed a weird kind of different. I started by being obsessed with my weight, while not doing anything to change it. I thought about it a lot, a lot a lot, but I wasn't exercising or eating different other than saying no more candy until after Hawaii, (which is always silly, because I am completely addicted,) but then I randomly decided to fast, for my health. I wanted to fast because I have heard about the health benefits of detoxing your body naturally by simply drinking water all day. I have wanted to do this for years now, so I finally decided to do it.

So I did, and it was awful, but then I felt so good afterwards, and it was still unrelated to Hawaii, but a few days later I couldn't stop thinking about fasting. All I wanted to do was stop eating. I just wanted to fast and fast. I also started thinking about old purging patterns, and though I didn't act on them I got scared enough to really think about what was happening.

And then I realized, it was different than past times because there was this fakeness about it. I wasn't really feeling worried about my body, I was just convincing myself that I was. I mean, I could be in a little better shape, but on the whole I am doing fine. I realized that it was just a good distraction from these other horrible feelings of depression that I was suppressing. I was using it as a decoy of sorts because my subconscious-self knows that the best way to distract my conscious-self is by giving me a reason to torture myself. So, once I realized that and realized I had to deal with something deeper I began to torture myself in a new way by trying to figure it out. And then, BAM, I figured it out: Thanks to my superbly ESP powered mom I discovered that it was almost exactly three years since my diagnoses with bipolar, three years since the first time I tried to kill myself, and two years since I tried to cope with pain through purging.

The body is amazing to me. My bodies ability to feel dates before I remember them, year after year, season after season, will never cease to amaze me. From now on I am making a timeline of my body's favorite torture dates. I am going to make sure I am one step ahead to stop those horrible decoys from taking over.

And thank God that's over because I do love to eat.

Baby Love

March 27, 2009

back in my day...

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to visit the town I grew up in: Manson, Washington. A tiny apple farming town on a beautiful lake, surrounded by snowy mountains. I have found my mind going back to Manson quite a lot lately. I remember how simple everything was and how easy it was to be happy. I am not sure if it was the town itself or my wonderfully enjoyable childhood, but I am beginning to realize it may not have been as simple and easy as I thought.

When I first moved to Chicago I thought this is where I belong. The big city. I thought I was cut out for a world of "culture," art, music, constant movement, noise, and people. I thought that I would never be happy in a small town again. I actually forgot Manson existed. Until this last year. I'm not sure if it is the fact that I am once again living in Washington or if I am maturing to the point where I am seeing my youth through a new lens, but I can't stop thinking about it.

Going "home" was an interesting experience for several reasons: the first being that I hadn't been there for about five years, the second being the fact that I hadn't been there with my sister in thirteen years, and the third being that I had the opportunity to bring my one year old nephew with me. It was a strange mix of youthful memories and startling realizations of maturity. I am not a child anymore, and it became blatantly clear the moment I started driving my sisters sleeping child past my old house. I felt very emotional, happy, sad, overwhelmed at the fact that I was not the kid asleep in the backseat waiting for my parents to get me home. I thought about how much I have been through since that moment. I thought about how much things have changed and whether my parents thought the same thing when they were driving me around their home towns.

I think one of the things that struck me was thinking about the complexities that I never noticed. I drove around a place that was so full of memories, yet with the feeling that I had never seen any of it before. I saw the poverty, the small shacks that generations of families lived in, and realized for the first time what it meant to live there. When I was a kid I didn't understand what it was like for the families of the kids I went to school with. I didn't understand the extent of the poverty or the wealth of the tourists that juxtaposed it. I am amazed at the things I never noticed. I was amazed at the beauty that I took for granted. I was upset by the new wealth and "summer homes" that surrounded my old house and playgrounds.

I suppose the point to this is that I'm still young, but I think for the first time I really understand what it feels like to be getting older. It was that moment where I could hear my eighty year old voice saying, "back in my day..."

March 14, 2009

like mother like daughter and other things...

It has certainly been a while since I posted anything. I am nearing the end of finals, and prior to this have been busy writing, editing, and rewriting everything from poems to long non-fiction essays to articles for some teaching magazine. I have one class left for the quarter so I'm beginning to feel a little less pressure. Tonight I have been glueing, folding, and sewing chapbooks which has been fun. I find it nice to make something visually artistic to go along with the words I write.

Tomorrow I head off to a conference on Washington's Hood Canal. It is at quite an amazing hotel on the water. Sometimes I feel spoiled traveling to all these hotels to speak, I hope that it is making some sort of difference worthy of all this luxury. I am looking forward to speaking at this one because I was lucky enough to accompany my mom last year as a guest, and I know a lot of the people putting it on, so it will be amazing to present to them! The picture was taken out of my hotel room last year.

It is really weird when I think about what I am actually doing. I mean, ever since I can remember I have gone to conferences with my mom. I remember coloring in the back of the room, playing "my little ponies" in the lobby, swimming with my dad in the pool. I always tagged along, meeting all kinds of amazing and important people. And now I present to them. It's really funny how sometimes life seems to put you in the last place you expected but the one you feel the most comfortable in. I can't even remember how many people have said, "the last time I say you you were this high..." Its an interesting position to be in, on one level I of course feel natural and comfortable because I have seen my mom do it so many times, and because I know so many of the people, or kind of people, listening. On the other hand I can't help but feeling like a child. Like the child that is still tagging along, just three feet taller.

It's really funny how life puts us in these positions. I never thought I would want to speak at conferences. I never thought I would want to do anything other than play music. Even when I was first diagnosed I never wanted to talk about bipolar, let alone become somewhat of a spokesperson for it. But now I am. And I am going all over the country talking about my illness and the need to help other people learn how to take care of themselves and maybe eventually speak to others as I am.

I don't know where I'm going with any of this, I think I'm just rambling because I'm still in finals mode and a little out of my head. Just thought I would drop a line to say hello. And tell you I'm not dead. I will write more from now on, hopefully when my brain is a little clearer. Goodnight.

a walk in the rain