February 25, 2009

Phil's Electronics

What do we choose to broadcast? What do we choose to take in? How do we negotiate our media as both individuals and a country. I often find myself having a hard time moving from the tvs in front of me, feeling like a child blinded and enthralled by so many moving pictures. Sometimes I just can't sleep.
(art by Chris Applehands)

February 21, 2009

Creation and the Lamictal High


-Barbara Einzig-

The moon rises, a vengeance on anguish,
on my own arrogant privacy.
The hands of sleepwalkers,
of their own accord, rise, follow.

The ponderability of daily fatigue-
on wings consciousness runs wild,
transparent creations are flying,
they've heard the reflection of the moon.

It flickers cold, stingy,
not promising anything,
draws out of me distant art,
demands my agreement.

Can the torture and charm of its omens
be fought down, overcome,
can I make out of moonlight
a heavy, tangible object?

Having taken my pills, (a very high dosage of Lamictal, trileptal, and a normal dose of bcp,) and settled myself down to bed, I did the things I normally try to do to calm myself down after another day of breathing, I meditated and read a poem. This day was especially difficult because I was attempting to recover from a horrible cold, and I was also extremely worn down after having been at school for like 12 hours. So, as I was meditating my mind wasn't really slowing down, but instead fluttering more and more. When I finally stopped after about twenty minutes I realized that I should have taken my medicine until after the meditation process because I was really loopy and felt as though I had just had a night of heavy drinking. It was in this mix of exhaustion, frustration, and lack of mind coordination that I began having an amazing drive towards creativity and some form of inspiration. This however was not working out because I could hardly pull myself out of bed let alone make sense, so I went on with the night process and opened my current poetry book to a random page where I found none other then Ms. Einzig's Sleepwalkers.

Now, I don't know if I was just really loopy and read it one way and can never read it differently again, but all I can think about is creativity and inspiration, and how they always seem to come when I can't handle them, or can't do much of anything with them. I read it thinking "can I make out of moonlight a heavy, tangible object?" I was thinking why, why does creativity come when you don't want it? When all you want to do is go to sleep after a really freaking long day, or when all you are allowed to do is the never ending pile of work before you? I feel like it goes by the same rules as finding a lover: people whine and complain and go out to bars trying to pick someone up, but everybody knows that as soon as you stop looking you'll find them. Bam. Here's the perfect man you've been looking for. I suppose I could go even further and say that when I really didn't want a boyfriend I happened to realize that the man of my dreams was not only interested in me, but also moving half way across the country from me. But we all know how that ended up, Happily Ever After. (Thanks Josh.) So now maybe me and my creativity/inspiration will settle our differences and produce beautiful little creations. And maybe next time I will leave my computer next to my pillow to write that great poem, or play, or ideal piece of literature that I have been harboring deep down in some cavernous hole in my psyche only to be exposed through meditation and lots and lots of lamictal. I'll let you know what happens.

February 14, 2009

in honor of mr valentine, or i suppose, my joshua

This is something I wrote two years ago:

A couple cuddling on the couch, warm coffees in hand, are being intellectual, talking about things that aren’t really intellectually challenging but have a moderately impressive use of vocabulary. Another couple is doing that thing in the beginning of a relentless relationship when everything about your partner is overwhelmingly interesting. I sit here on a dirty couch wondering why all the lampshades are crooked. I sit and wonder about the use of vintage furniture and interchangeable art in the creation of the persona that is Gourmand. It’s February 14th and somehow my relationship status has become more important than my impending piano concert. I am thinking less of Barber and more of boys. Less of Mozart more of men. It is time to live in music again and forget the urges of comfort. It is time to grow back into myself and understand reliability.

Today I sit alone in my living room listening to Beethoven's 7th Symphony, eating chocolate lava cake and drinking a glass of 1% milk. I sit here and wait for my amazing boyfriend to come home from work and think about the changes in my life since I found him, or even since we have been living here in Seattle. I think about the small things, the move to 1% milk as a compromise, and the larger things, like my ability to be happy alone. I sit here now waiting for him to get off work and for the first time in a while, or I suppose ever, that I feel okay being alone on Valentines Day. I find it interesting that even last year, when he had to work and I also spent the day alone, I felt alone and sad.

Why do we make it so important to find someone? To not be alone? I suppose that the reason I am okay being alone this year is the fact that I know he will come home to me just like every other night. But I think I have just been thinking and coming to terms with my understanding and thoughts on loneliness. In the past, when I was having constant struggles with my emotions, moods, and stability, I felt like I deserved to be alone. I thought that I would just drive someone crazy, or make them run screaming thinking that I am crazy. I used to search and search for comfort thinking that if I just had a boyfriend, if I just had someone to hold me and hold my hand when I fall apart, life would be better. But I also knew that I had that with my last amazing boyfriend Charlie, but for some reason my mind drove him away too, (or I did, he wasn't the one to leave.) I always had this conflict in my head over feeling needy and wanting to be taken care of and yet being scared and traumatized by my own patterns.

But now here I am sitting in our beautiful apartment, living a great life. And the best part is that I realized that I can handle life without him. I know that if I didn't have him I would be okay today, on a day where we are all supposed to be in love, or as most think, get laid. I would be perfectly fine and strong and happy. But it is through all of this that makes me know that he makes it even better. In my realizing that I don't need him I always realize how much I want him. And how amazing it is to have a relationship in which we are each our own completely independent selves who choose to be together.

February 13, 2009

to sleep is to dream

(Image by Chris Applehands)
I have been thinking a lot about rest lately, (if you haven't already figured that out by my last rant about doing too many things.) But I have been thinking about it even more because I haven't been getting very much of it in the last few months. I'm not quite sure what has gotten into me, maybe it is my medication, (lamictal and trileptal,) or maybe it is a small case of PTSD and my fear of something going horribly wrong, again, but I have been having horrible dreams, and horrible anxiety when it comes to falling asleep in the first place.

My dreams are almost amusingly obvious when it comes to symbolism, they have to do with me protecting an innocent child, (probably myself,) or me being attacked or gunned down, or murdered. It is amazing that my body, (though it was me in the past that was close to murdering myself,) remembers and almost prepares itself for some reoccurring trauma. When I think about how I am doing today I don't think about any fears regarding any sudden feelings of wanting to harm myself, but when my sleeping mind thinks about how I am doing it always seems to think otherwise.

Again, I think it is just my continuous process of recovering from the horrible things that I did, and wanted to do, to myself in the past. As for now, however I am keeping a look out for any new symbols or feelings in my frantic dreaming. I am also aware of the increasing pace of my thoughts and the increasing number of dreams, so being aware of past patterns I am also keeping an eye out for any increasing signs of manic behavior.

There is one form of comfort in all of this however, I know what to look for. And I'm not afraid! It's really quite amazing to be comfortable enough in myself and my ability to know my symptoms that I am not in the least bit afraid of mania. In the past I would have made myself manic just by stressing over becoming manic.

February 12, 2009

sometimes i feel...

like i'm tank girl, jet girl, and sub girl all in the same bathtub; all of my personalities encompassed in one expanse of bubbles and water.

February 10, 2009

an attempt to reconnect

I have been feeling extremely overwhelmed lately. I find it funny that I always wonder where the stress or anxiety comes from, when all I have to do is consult anyone I know. I have the ability to tell myself that I am not doing enough or that I am not working hard enough when I am in fact doing a million things. I think it is my natural process and patterns that leads me to detach my mind from my bodies physical and mental activities. I think I have just been doing so many things for so long that whenever I am doing one less activity than normal I see my life as slow or see myself as lazy when I'm still maintaining the same pace and attempting to uphold the same standards.

In light of all this I am always and still attempting to let myself slow down. I am currently only taking ten credits, working on one and soon two articles for peer reviewed educational journals, rewriting and organizing things to send to an agent in New York, adding new sections to the already 400 page unpublished book, writing poetry, writing a piece about the human spirit and people's ability to recover from tragic life events, attempting to exercise, attempting to have a social life, attempting to spend time with family, and attempting to spend more than an hour a day with my boyfriend (even though we live in the same house.) When I actually write this all down I realize how much I am doing, but I also realize all the things I am not doing that I want to do. The things that are important for my soul, and the things I keep telling people I do to calm down. These are things that I keep trying to do, but never manage to make a daily part of my life. These are my goals for the month:
run at least four times a week, floss daily, meditate at least every other day, play the piano at least twice a week, cook good healthy meals at least three nights a week.

We'll see how I do, but at least for now it's in writing.

February 07, 2009

like father like daughter

I always used to think that the reason I like to play dress-up is because of my mom and sister and our constant lip-syncs, barbie cities, fashion shows, dress-up tea parties, and mask-making parties, but that was until I got to have a visit with one of my dad's old friends. One of my dad's closest college friends, Z, is that cool aunt that everyone is suppose to have, the one who tells you embarrassing stories about your parents and shows you incriminating photographs. The last time I got to visit Z we spent a good amount of time going through old books of photos where I promptly took photos of photos to preserve the memories of my dad as a young trouble maker. I love stories about my parents when they were young, or even the parents of my friends when they were young. I love them because most of the time they are stories of them causing havoc, being mischievous, and getting in trouble. They are the stories that you can use to your advantage as you get older whether you are causing havoc of your own, or simply when you want to tell you friends. Today I realize that it is my dress up and make believe problem is just hereditary, coming from both sides of course. So thank you Z, for when you read this, because now I have more blackmail photos then I will ever need. And thank you also for simply being the cool aunt that watches Sex and the City all night with me. (p.s. check out that mustache!) 

February 02, 2009

staying steady

Whenever I speak to a large group of people about being bipolar, they always want to know about my coping strategies. They want to know what I do when my life is going a little too fast, or when I am moving to slow to get help. They want to know, how I get through each day, month, year and remain safe, stable, and happy. I feel that though my strategies are based on my individual personality, most of them are rather universal. So, here is a list of the things that help me get through life relatively smoothly, for now anyways...

A Support Network:
I can't move forward without some form of support network. (Actually, I could if I had to, but they sure make life a hell of a lot easier.) My family has fought long and hard to help me get the treatment, doctors, medication, and education I need both to help me cope with my first onset of bipolar, and my life today. They were always there to stand with me, even when I may not have wanted them there. On that note, my doctors, counselors, and psychiatrists have all been amazing sources of stability. They are my solid ground when my life begins to sway, shake, or completely break to pieces. My boyfriend has also been an amazingly huge influence on my life. He has been through my rougher times and was the one to help me move from a extremely harmful lifestyle to one where I feel comfortable not drinking, doing drugs, or constantly partying. I also have amazing friends that sat with me in the worst of days. Wonderful ex-boyfriends, old roommates/best-friends and adopted sisters always make life much easier to swallow.

For me this was one of the hardest choices. If you ask most 18-21 year olds what they do on the weekends, especially those in a college or dorm setting, they will tell you that they drink. They go to parties. They go to bars. And I was just your average 18-21 year old, minus the fact that I was bipolar. I was a little more then effected by the late nights, the excessive drinking, the drugs. I was stuck in a cycle where all of my friends drank, and all of my coping mechanisms involved putting my mind in a different state. In the first years of my diagnosis I didn't want to think about how awful I felt. I wanted to be "normal." I wanted a quick distraction. I wanted to be everything I envisioned a "bipolar" person being: a mess. It took a lot of work, a lot of self talks, and good friends, and eventually some pretty scary moods swings to get me to move into the healthy lifestyle I live now. It would also have never happened without fate leading me to good friends who lived healthy lifestyles. Good friends who had been through pain, substance abuse, and eventually the decision to get straight. Good friends who inspired me to change my ways. It is also amazing that one of these good friends has become an amazing boyfriend and best friend.
Today my lifestyle has included sleeping well, eating well, meditating, flossing, running, yoga, reading, music, and lots and lots of writing. I try to allow myself time to do the things that I know make me happy. These also happen to be the things that make my previous life of parties and anger seem like such a waste of time and energy.

Skills Training
Now, this is something I think about a lot,  but it has also been a big conflict within me. When I began skills training with a counselor  in high school she used to tell me things like, "look at yourself in the mirror and say, I am beautiful..." and I used to leave and swear that I would never go back to an appointment with her again. But I did, and every time she used to say some other hooky skill I should use to make myself feel better. The next counselor I went to used to tell me to look in "my boxes." And I would again leave feeling angry and skeptical and decide I never wanted to see her again. It took me years to get to the point where I found a counselor I trusted enough to tell them that I hated those homework assignment kinds of exercises. I told her that I didn't want to be counseled by Oprah. I didn't want to be told to be kind to myself, unless it was hidden in something else she was saying. It was through my true honesty about my treatment that I began to actually use some of the advice I received from my counselors. Today I have developed a group of core skills that help me get through the rough patches in life. It was only through the skill of my counselors and the trust I eventually developed that I began to find life skills that worked for me, (that weren't cheesy or what I thought of as stupid.)

This was a hard one for me. I am not always a fan of medication. It has not always had the best effect on me and at two different moments it literally almost killed me. Now, I am a girl that likes my body to be healthy and natural, I don't want a bunch of chemicals deciding what mood I am in, but after two hospitalizations I have come to terms with the fact that medication isn't always bad. Today I am on Lamictal and Trileptal. It has taken me about 13 medications to get to two that work for me, and I have now been on these for about two years. I am on medication now because I know that I am not ready to be off of it. Even though I have changed my lifestyle and have become much healthier I am still not an expert on my body or my illness (if you can call it that.) I am still not aware of the natural ways to get out of a paralyzing depression or an extreme case of mania. And until I know that I am ready and able to use my new skills to get me to a safe place I will stay on medication. It is a slow process and I have only been diagnosed for four years. One thing I do know, however, is that I will not be on medication forever. I will get to the point where I am aware and educated enough in my body and mind that I will feel comfortable being off medication. Someday I may want to travel to a third world country to save children, or someday I may want to have children of my own. If these things happen, I want to be free of medication. I do want to find a natural way to deal with my minds many states, but for now, I will continue my self-education from the safe place of medication.

These are just a few of the things I think about everyday when it comes to my health in my body and mind. I hope this is insightful, if not helpful, and please realize that each persons coping skills are different based on their own needs and understandings of the world.

(The picture in blue was taken by Ms. Morgan Minear at the MOMA while we were watching a video installation)