Winning the Liebster Award

Friends, I have been nominated for the Liebster Award, which is given from one blog to another. I would like to thank Rose over at RosieSmrtiePants for the honor. I am tickled pink.

It seems the only rule is that the recipient’s blog must have fewer than 200 followers, a number I certainly fall beneath. Some of the award’s origins can be read about here.

I either accept or reject the award. Who am I to turn down something so prestigious? I accept, and I do it with a smile.

There are a few things acceptance requires. First, I must disclose eleven things about myself. Please, be aware I keep this blog very anonymous for various reasons, so I won’t be revealing any skeletons from my closet today. In any event, here is my list:

  1. It rains buckets where I live.
  2. I live near the sea.
  3. I feel connected to the literal ground I call home.
  4. I classify my house as a cottage.
  5. Fragrant flowers grow near my cottage.
  6. My neighbor grows the most succulent fruit and vegetables next door, and he shares thankfully.
  7. I am spiritual but not at all religious.
  8. I read tarot cards for myself and others.
  9. I can’t watch television.
  10. My beau is awful about returning calls.
  11. I sometimes wish I had the fortitude to be a vegetarian.

I doubt that list lets any cats out of any bags. However, there is more. I have to answer eleven questions Rose posed.

  1. If you could wake up tomorrow and instantaneously change one thing, what would it be? That my friend would be alive.
  2. Coffee or tea? Tea of all varieties. I am a connoisseur of enjoying tea from selection of the leaves to selection of the pot to adding honey or sugar.
  3. Worst bad habit? I am learning that there is nothing bad about me.
  4. Your best quality? My intelligence.
  5. How many hours do you get and how many hours of sleep do you need each night? I get and need nine hours of sleep.
  6. Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”
  7. Book you’re reading right now? Blue Coyote by Christopher Moore – very funny and recommendable.
  8. What do you think about the Kindle or Nook? I have a Kindle and like it very much.
  9. Resolutions at New Year’s? No, I don’t think I need the burden.
  10. What is in your garden? Grass and fragrant shrubs.
  11. Do you think your current treatment regimen is working? Yes, at long last.

Answering those was not as simple as I’d first thought. Thank you, Rose. You gave me plenty to pause and think about.

As part of receiving the award, I get to nominate eleven other bloggers. This will be tricky given that I follow few that fit the requirement of having fewer than 200 followers, but I’ll see what I can come up with.

Nectar Madness

Bi[polar] Curious

Walk the Self-Talk

Jet Black Living

Making Space

I realize that is only five and not eleven, but we’ll have to accept these as what I can come up with. It was interesting that two bloggers I follow have already received the Liebster Award.

To those I’ve nominated, should you accept the award, please, tell us eleven things about you and answer the following questions:

  1. What makes you stop in your tracks?
  2. When was the last time something took your breath away?
  3. Do you wear shoes in the house?
  4. Where are your feet right now?
  5. Where do you wish your feet were right now?
  6. Why do you wish to be there?
  7. Plane, train, or automobile?
  8. When was the last time you yelled “whee!”?
  9. Riding a roller coaster or a day at the seashore?
  10. Do you have time to smell the roses?
  11. What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

After answering, ask eleven more questions of eleven eligible bloggers.

Once more, thank you, Rose, for the award. It’s an honor and a pleasure to participate.

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The Good News

Followers of this blog will know that I have spent some time in mourning recently for a former lover who took his own life. I can report that I’m well on the way to healing. The initial shock was tremendous, but as with all things, time heals. There will be a memorial gathering for him in a week, and I will attend. I doubt I’ll share anything, but I will be there supporting my other friends.

On the job front, I can happily and loudly report that I passed my written and oral exams, and I am now a Certified Peer Specialist Intern in mental health. I can also shout out that I will start my internship at a local mental health clinic in early June.

I am going to a family reunion at the end of May, and I’m taking the opportunity by stretching my stay to have a nice long visit with my parents and family. When I get back from that trip, I’ll walk straight into my internship.

Things are really moving along quickly.

Things are not moving quickly in my romantic life. My beau lives two hours away, and I haven’t seen him since January. I was traveling too much for job training, and his job schedule keeps him very busy. We’ve spoken on the phone a number of times, and we’re still interested in each other. However, being apart does not make this easy. There’s no cuddling, and that makes me sad. At the same time, it makes for wonderful dreams of reuniting.

Through the statistics of this blog, I can view how people find me. One of the highest ranking terms is bipolar dating. To those searching for love and acceptance as a person with bipolar disorder or with a person who has it, I can safely assure you that it is possible to find a partner.

There is no magic pill to swallow that will make your perfect match appear, but then that’s true for everyone and not simply those with mental illness. While having a disability can add a layer of difficulty to the mixture, it’s not necessarily the defining factor. No person is solely defined by any one particular point, and we with mental illness are not either.

I truly believe in the tried and true formula of finding a mate the old-fashioned way. There are people in clubs who have similar interests and are also looking for companionship. Volunteering is a great way to meet others. The secret – and it’s no secret – is finding a way to get outside one’s head and open up to the possibilities  that abound all around us.

Opening up is easier said than done for some of us. I had my own long, dark period. It lasted for years, and every aspect of life was a chore or nearly impossible. I have been in that deep despair when simple acts of self-care like brushing my teeth were close to impossible. I clawed my way out with the help of loving caregivers, medication, and therapy. I did not do it alone.

All the time, I wondered where the right man for me was. It’s just a thought, but now I believe my focus should have been on being the right man for someone else.

When I take the focus off me, I win.

It is paradoxical, but it starts with loving me and spreading that. I give love more freely when I love me. I give more of me when I take care of my simple daily needs.

I no longer believe in countering negative self-talk with positive affirmations that I find unconvincing. I have no evidence from my past that looking at my reflection in the mirror and reciting clichés ever made me feel better. What worked? A lot of time and effort put into finding the right combination of medicine, meditation, exercise, and therapy from many loving caregivers.

This thought that I start from a place where I love me first is new. I was taught long ago that I had to ignore my inner voice and my feelings and only concentrate on the needs of others. I have no evidence that action ever helped me.

Today, I have abundant evidence that loving me allows me to then reach out and give. I struggled with guilt and shame for decades. Today, I live openly and honestly.

Today, I live in truth.

My Hundredth Post

The music is something I like and celebrates the milestone of 100 entries to this blog.

I have been sick. Again. During my week off training. Again. The last week-long break I had, I was sick with a terrible head cold. Either the same thing returned, or I had something different. I’m feeling much better today, and I’m getting excited about going to my final week of training. I’ll be there from Monday to Friday next week.

The third week of training was trying, to say the least. The subject matter was great, but the delivery left something to be desired. Unfortunately, the style of the training changed. Where it had been trainee centered, it became a lecture. For the first two days, in fact, we sat and listened. It was not pleasant. By day three, we were given the chance to do some serious role playing, and that was enormously helpful.

Week four promises to return to the trainee centered nature of a collaborative environment. We’ll be studying more about WRAP and specifically about facilitating groups of individuals designing their own plans. When we finish this week, we will be trained to work with individuals with mental illness on their recovery journeys and with groups in WRAP and Seeking Safety. It’s already proved itself useful in my life, and I am excited about the prospect of reaching out to others and encouraging them to make strides in recovery.

As I look over these few words here, I’m astonished at the change from so much of the previous writing. I have hope today. I mentioned that word in my regular therapy session yesterday, and my psychologist perked up. She mentioned that she thought it was the first time I’d ever used it in her hearing. I couldn’t remember using it there either.

I’m still an alcoholic. I still have bipolar disorder. I still take medicine to control the mental illness. None of that has changed.

But I have changed. I’m brighter inside.

My caseworker noticed it this week, too. He said that I looked better despite the cold. The change shows outside.

I am enormously grateful for where I have been and more for where I am today and most for where I am headed. I survived a fatal disease, alcoholism. I’ve battled the giant of mental illness, and yet I’m going to a place I believe will give me fulfillment I’ve never had.

Once when meditating in my happy place, I asked what I was supposed to learn in this life, and the answer came instantly. “Learn how to help.” Finally, I’m doing just that. I’m learning. It’s helped me. Sooner than I can guess, I’ll be helping others.

Healing Trauma

It’s taken me some days to write again, because I came back from my second week of training with a horrible head and chest cold. Thankfully, it’s passing. After one whole day in bed reading, I’m feeling much better.

I learned some frightening things last week. Of the mental health consumers I will be working with, 91% will have experienced serious trauma. The definition for trauma we were given was “extreme stress brought on by shocking or unexpected events that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, resulting in feelings of helplessness and extreme fear and horror. The survivor perceives the event as bodily violation  threat of death or serious injury to self or a loved one. The event may be witnessed or experienced directly.”

All kinds of things can be traumatic. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale tries to delineate the spectrum of major life stressors. Death of a spouse is highest on the list for adults. Death of a parent is highest for non-adults. It goes on to many other events, and it even includes Christmas as a major stress point.

The most devastating effect trauma has on a person is the shattering of trust and safety leaving a person feeling powerless. Thus, we spent a good deal of time learning about techniques for aiding recovery. Each participant had to face their own trauma, and indeed one person chose to drop out. It was a very sad experience for all of us.

Each of us was given a book that will be enormously useful. Seeking Safety by Lisa Najavits is a seminal text on conducting groups aimed at providing tools for recovery. There are pages of information, but the bulk of it is a workbook for conducting groups. When I am finished with training and during my internship and afterward, I will be facilitating Seeking Safety groups as well as WRAP groups.

The best possible outcome for me has been a personal transformation. I’ve already written about how my negative self-talk has ceased as a direct result of creating my personal WRAP. I have gained a sense of hope for the future I’ve not felt for many years.

I want to help, and now I believe I can do it.

For the first time ever in my 49 years, fear is not ruling my decisions.

I am born anew.

I am born anew.

Week 2 of Job Training

The second week of job training starts tomorrow, and I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to it so much that I only got five hours sleep last night. That’s not a good thing for me. I normally sleep nine whole hours. I’m concerned that it’s a sign of a swing toward mania.

I got some very good financial news recently, and I’m watching myself for signs of overspending. Spending sprees are a symptom of bipolar widely recognized by psychiatry. There’s nothing better than a whole day spent losing money I don’t have for this gay man. So far, the only luxury has been a dinner with one of my daughters at a cheap restaurant. I don’t think that’s overdoing it yet.

I’m taking my medication as prescribed. I am taking care of myself by brushing my teeth, etc. I am doing the daily maintenance called for in my WRAP.

Who am I kidding? I’m not faithfully following my WRAP. I’m neither meditating nor exercising. I am doing the other things on my Plan:

  • maintaining my sobriety
  • drinking plenty of water
  • eating healthy meals
  • chatting with my best friend
  • checking in with myself
  • talking to supporters
  • educating myself about my recovery and my illness
  • writing
  • being open about my sexuality

I am following those points on my Plan but not two important ones.

Meditating keeps me focused. Even a short five-minute session in the morning affects my mood for the whole day. I sit on a stool in my bedroom and breathe, and then I follow a well-worn path to my happy place, which you can read about here.

I want to exercise. I love walking. I love power walking to be precise. But I can’t right now. I’ve developed painful plantar faciitis, and simple walking around the house is difficult. The good news is that the job training requires me to travel and stay in a hotel with an exercise room. Perhaps there will be some machine there I can use. If I like it, I’ll check out the YMCA’s gym when I get home next week. Maybe I’ll join.

You know what? I’m really fine. I will meditate today and hobble around a local park for some fresh air. I’ve made — what are for me — earth-shattering changes in the last three weeks, and I am happy.

I am happy!

You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life? - Rumi

You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life? – Rumi

Feeling Surreal

Can time be experienced as more than simple aging and decay?

Can time be experienced as more than simple aging and decay?

I wrote recently how my negative self-talk had stopped. I’m happy to report there’s been no resurgence. I won’t call this permanent, but there’s a sea change in my head. I glow.

My psychiatric nurse practitioner took one look at me yesterday and noticed. I’m beaming.

I have been studying for my job training classes. They hoisted an enormous 3-ring binder on us bursting at the seams with information, and we will be tested on it at the end of the training. There will be a written and an oral test. I’m concentrating on the present. I’m studying and retaining as much as possible. The test isn’t today.

Where did this patience come from? When did this ability to live here now appear?

I can honestly say I awoke after the training and realized I had a head clear of the negative bombardment I’d known all my life. I’m questioning when these qualities I’ve seen in others came to me.

I’ll be going for another week of training in a matter of days, and I am truly excited. One of the next lessons will be about battling negative self-talk. Ha! It appears that all I needed was to write a WRAP, and – poof! – they were gone.