This and That

It’s been a month since I wrote anything significant. I’ve been tinkering a bit with my next major blog post, and my sci-fi story for the second anthology, but not much. I have been so wrapped up in the holidays and my daughter and family and work that I’ve barely had time to do anything at all. But it has been good. I have been living in the moment and taking things as they come, and my therapist and psych both think I am doing well.

I had my med check the other day, and my psych asked me to think about starting to reduce my antidepressant a bit. Having Bipolar I makes using an antidepressant at such a high dosage kind of risky, since I could swing into mania at pretty much any time. But I also take a mood stabilizer, which has been doing its job. She is hesitant to reduce it as well, since that could put me into a tailspin back into my depression. We decided to leave it where it is, and I go back in four months. If everything is still going great, maybe we will reduce my antidepressant some then.

In my downtime, instead of writing I have been practicing guitar. It is going really well. I play with Mr. W once or twice a week, and practice on my own to Youtube videos the rest of the time. I’ve started building up calluses on my fingertips, and it feels great. There is a series of adult guitar lessons starting at a studio by where I work, but unfortunately it is at the same time as my Saturday shift. Ah well. I would like to take some official lessons to make sure I’m not developing bad habits, but I have been having a great time learning from Mr. W in the meantime.

I also got to see all of the first season of Westworld, which is great and makes me want to talk about it with other people who have seen it. I have NOT gotten to see Rogue One yet, but I am hoping to get to see it with Mr. W next week. Over the winter break, my daughter and I saw both Moana and Sing, which were both great movies. We so rarely get to go to the movie theater, it is always a treat.

Anyway, I am tired of seeing my heroes die and mostly can’t wait for 2016 to be over. I will be processing the deaths of many people and institutions for awhile yet. I can only hope that 2017 will be a year of catalyst, and that people will¬† be inspired to create art and take action. I am still heartbroken over the election results, but am starting to feel stronger again and ready to move forward into the next year.

Cycles and Song: #NaBloPoMo Day 2

Cycles. It all starts with cycles. At some point, everything you once loved is gone, and in some form, if you’re lucky, it someday returns. My relationship with music is like this. Growing up I sang, did musical theatre, and played cello and trombone. I feel like I was able to read music shortly after I could read words. In fact, my love of music is probably second only to my love of the written word.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately listening to the blues and jazz, delving back into music that I have always loved, but didn’t really listen to for years.

In my last major relationship, my music always took a backseat to my significant other’s.¬† After awhile, I sort of forgot that I even had my own musical taste. Now in my freedom, it has been a blessing to submerge myself once again into these tracks, old songs that used to mean so much to me. It is comforting, and liberating. I feel like my mind is so loud sometimes, the only choice is to drown it out with music. Other times, I need total silence to think and reflect.

I’m hoping for a record player for Christmas this year, and if not I will just have to get one myself. I decided I’d like to start a blues/motown/gospel, maybe some jazz, collection. My mom already told me she needs to get me some records, ones that she loves, and I would like that.

I started thinking about this today because someone came over to help me restring my guitar. It just needed new strings and a little cleaning to be good to go. I haven’t even touched my guitar all through my depression these last few years. Three years it has sat in the corner collecting dust, and out of nowhere I feel like trying to play again.

I first tried to learn guitar when I was 14, struggling through tabs of Melissa Etheridge songs. I never had my own, though, so I never really picked it up. I spent a summer in Los Gatos with my former stepdad, and his neighbor had a guitar that I used. After that, one of my mom’s friends gave me his old blonde Fender jazz bass, and I tried that for awhile.I wasn’t terrible at bass, but I wanted to be able to play and sing. I’ve seen people do that with bass guitar, but that wasn’t what I wanted.

I was always more comfortable with bass clef than treble clef, but with guitar you can just use tabs. Or copy people on YouTube. Take lessons. Or, or, or. But the chords you play on a guitar seem to confound my hands still. I feel clumsy, slow, frustrated. It is glorious.

As I emerge from the blackness that has drenched my mood the last few years, I am starting to take joy in things again. I want to see my friends. I shower a lot more often. I’ve even started dating, which has been sort of a nightmare since my divorce. Now I am starting to get more of a handle on what I want, and it is getting more fun.

These cycles come and go. I will get better for a little while, then a little worse. Or a lot worse. But I have been stable for a few years now, and recently moved into a new living situation where my ex-husband and I are not on top of each other every day, which is a lot less scandalous than it sounds. Maybe it’s just a matter of being able to relax and be myself, but a shiny hope has crept in to replace what was once all black and grey.

It’s a strange thing, when old things become new again. Relationships, hobbies, jobs. As we age and mature our perspectives shift, and it becomes easier to see where we went amiss before. We grow stronger and better able to handle life.

It is my hope that by practicing, learning to express myself through music again that I will find some peace. I know my hands are talented. They work hard all day doing massage, then come home to work hard writing all night. They just need some nurturing patience, and to practice. To remember, with dexterity and precision, how to dance.

Bad Mental Health Days: #NaBloPoMo Day 1

It’s my first time participating in #NaBloPoMo. To get started, I decided to go with today’s writing prompt and see what happens.

Today’s prompt: When you’re having a bad day with your mental health, what do you do to help yourself?

I live with Bipolar Disorder Type I, so unfortunately poor mental health days come and go with some regularity. These can look like crying, not being able to cry, feeling numb, being irritable, hating humanity, being overly sexual, being completely detached. It is fun, let me tell you. I’ve dealt with this my whole life, but it has gotten steadily worse since I had my daughter in 2010. Luckily, I am now doing very well, though a combination of medication, therapy, yoga, and just doing my best to be happy. These are a few of the things that I learned.

  • Be gentle with yourself – Over the years though self-reflection, yoga, spiritual retreats, therapy, psychiatric medications, the best thing I’ve learned is to go easy on myself. It’s okay to have days where you are less than productive, and it doesn’t make you a bad person. Depression looms it’s ugly shadow over so many people that I love, and it makes it hard to see and think clearly. Depression distorts the truth and lies to us, making each day a nightmare. It’s okay to be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to love yourself. Be your own best friend and things do sometimes get better, at least for awhile.
  • Reach out to a friend – I know when I’m feeling bad and blue, reaching out to friends doesn’t ever seem appealing. I don’t want to appear needy, or to annoy them, or to express emotions that are less than positive. Those things freak me out. But our friends know us, they know how to cheer us up, and if nothing else, they can listen. Getting out the things that bother you and lightening the load really helps.
  • Get a massage – This one is easy for me to remember because I am a massage therapist. Touch is so important. When I go too long without loving touch, I start to shrink in on myself. Getting a massage fulfills several self-care requirements, and is so pleasant. It can be hard to turn off my brain sometimes while I am receiving, when my thoughts are racing, but even so, by the time it is over I always feel so much better.
  • Take a bath – Relaxing, good for your body, is more appealing than a shower when depressed. I usually add epsom salt and lavender, if I can. Soaking and letting my body relax helps my mind to relax.
  • DID I TAKE MY MEDICATION? – I never forget to take my medication. Except, every once in awhile, I do. Those days are generally less than stellar. I take Wellbutrin and Abilify, and without them I sink into the depths of hell. I will never willingly skip my medications.
  • Call your therapist – Really. I need to remind myself of this one because to date, I have yet to call my therapist when I am not having a good day. But she wants me to, so next time, maybe I will.
  • Watch cat videos – self-explanatory.
  • Get a pet – I don’t currently have one, but given the opportunity I would get a cat again. I love that my roommate has a cat that I can spoil in the meantime. Animals really do understand when we aren’t feeling great and they can be a great source of support.
  • Write – Journal. Blog. Write poetry. I have been working on a series of blog posts about the things that happened during a terrible manic episode that I had in 2013, and going back through all the muck is tough. It feels great, though, to get it out.

I don’t really enjoy doing ‘advice’ type posts, but if my little list helps anyone, it would totally make my day. I hope you feel better soon.