The “Big D” strikes again!

For those of you that don’t know, I have given my bipolar disorder a persona…Big D.  He’s a maniacal character that tends to throw me out of sorts.  Most days, I can keep him away.  However, there are some where he reigns supreme. This last month is a good example.

For the past month, I’ve been living on 3-5 hours of sleep per night.  Occasionally, I get one or two good night’s rest, around 6 hours.  I’m usually exhausted by the time I think I’m ready to go to bed.  Big D has other plans.  My entire day starts to replay in my head:  What could I have done differently?  Did I really do that?!  Can I do better?  Then the “answer” scenarios start.  Oh this takes up a good chunk of my falling asleep time…if I actually able to fall asleep at all.  I know I’m not alone in this.  Although at 2 in the morning, when all of my family is fast asleep, it sure does feel like I’m alone in this.  Occasionally, I can still make an early appointment or  excursion with a friend.  It seems like just when I think I’ll get up early without an alarm (because I consistently have been waking up at 5 a.m.), that’s the day Big D is distracted enough to let me sleep longer.  I just feel awful by the time I wake up…awful and well rested.  I know I’ve let people down AND then it starts all over again.

This whole past month, I have not had two days in a row where Big D isn’t messing up my sleep.  I always think I can get a second day, but nope.  Big D is just playing his usual games.  For the most part, I can function alright, just alright.  I do have days that it seems like I’ll never fully “wake up”.  I’ll go about my day surrounded by a dense fog.

U2 has a song, “It’s The Little Things“.  The lyrics hit home for me.  These especially:

Sometimes the air is so anxious
All my thoughts are so reckless
And all of my innocence has died
Sometimes I wake at four in the morning
When all the darkness is swarming
And it covers me in fear
This is partly what it’s like when I try to fall asleep.  My anxiety ramps up.  My thoughts swirl around and around in my head, with seemingly no end in sight.  The last three lines are extremely poignant to me.  I’m often awake in the early morning hours and the darkness in my head and the literal darkness all around, do scare me at times.  I wonder how long I can go on with so little sleep and not go into mania.
My family and friends, I think, are what keeps me from going into the darkness of mania and depression.  Also, there is a strength and stubbornness within me that won’t let it happen.  Yes, I’m not always as strong as I would like to be.  I just hope this past month of not sleeping doesn’t continue too far into this month.

Mental Illness And Parenting

I am a mother of two.  I also have bipolar disorder (hence the name of the blog). In general, parenting can be a challenge at times. I think parenting when you have a mental illness presents its own set of rewards and difficulties.  As a parent, you need to balance your needs with the needs of your family.  You need to be supportive of your children and still be the recipient of support from your family.  As a parent with a mental illness, finding these delicate balances can be difficult, but not impossible.  It also makes finding that balance even more important.

When you’re a parent living with a chronic disease, like mental illness, diabetes, or cancer, you’re ability to function at an optimum level can, at times, be compromised.  This does NOT mean you are a bad parent. It does NOT mean that you are unable to have a healthy family.  The ebbs and flows that can occur with mental illness…like irregular sleep, trouble concentrating, decreased energy, lack of concentration, etc., don’t make you a bad parent.  Some “experts” feel that because of mental illness, we, as parents, are “less available”.  I would disagree.  I have always been “available” to my family even in the midst of depression.  I may not have been 100% at my best, but my love for my family has always carried me through.

We create these crisis plans for ourselves, but I think we also need to create a plan for family.  This is something that all members of your family can be involved with.  What do you do when mom/dad are not at her/his best due to mental illness?  What can we all do to help?  These are just a couple of questions I think need to be asked and solved together, as a family.  It is empowering to your children as well as yourself.  You’re allowing your children and yourself to have some power/control over your mental illness and how it affects the family.

I’m not claiming to be an expert at any of this.  I’m just one person with an opinion. Just remember:  You and your family are a team in this.  Mental illness has an effect on the entire family whether it’s directly or indirectly.  How you cope and work with it can make all the difference.

 

Self-Care

I’ve known all along that self-care is so vitally important to my stability.  I’m constantly reminding others that they need to take care of themselves first.  Do I always listen to my own advice?  Sadly, no.  I’m writing this blog today, not only as a reminder to all of you , but to myself as well.

Self care for my is my glass art.  It calms me.  The creativity I can put into glass helps me make sense of my world.  It also allows me to help others (by donating sales to charity) which, in turn, helps me even more.  However, this week I allowed outside influences to throw off my self-care routine.  I haven’t been in my studio in about 4 days.  As a result, my mood is low.  I’m lashing out others.  I’m just not myself.

For me, there is just something about the sound of breaking glass (in a controlled manner) that centers me.  Now, sometimes the glass has a mind of its own and won’t break the way I had intended.  This does frustrate me.  However, if only happens a couple of times, I can handle it.  If it does it too often, well, then I know it’s time to stop.  At that point, I take out my pencil and paper and create patterns for later use.

I know how much my glass helps and yet, I neglect some times.  Does this happen to any of you?  The self-care that you know works for you, you sometimes neglect because of what’s going on around you.  You know you’ll feel better if you do it, but you don’t.  For me, it brings my mood down even further.  It becomes a vicious cycle.

What do you do for self-care?  What do you do to make sure that it doesn’t fall by wayside?  I know that when I’m done with post, I’ll head out to my studio.  I’ll give it a good clean up and then just create whatever is in my head without worrying if it will sell.  I’ll just create for me.  I’m really interested in hearing from you.  It may give other readers ideas as well.

Thanks for reading!

Love, Friendship, and Bipolar

I’ve watched people come and go in and out of my life.  They’ve become shadows… casualties of what they don’t or won’t understand.  Only I’m left holding the shattered glass of my life in their wake.  They failed to understand me.  Maybe I failed them.  All I know, it isn’t easy living with Bipolar Disorder and it can be just as bad for those on the outside trying to catch a glimpse.  A glimpse of something they can wrap their brain around that will have it make sense.

I have a very small circle of close friends.  It used to be much larger, but they left.  So for those brave souls (true friends) that stand by me, I’m cautious about revealing too much…about needing them too much.  It’s a very fine line to walk.  For people to trust one another, each person has to feel safe enough to share their true feelings.  In today’s stigma ridden world, that can be difficult.

I’m getting there.  Little by little, I’m letting people in, but that makes me vulnerable to pain.  I’ll keep trying as long as the people I love have patience with me.  It feels like I’m asking the world of them… to be patient.

The Masks We Wear

When people first meet me, they don’t see the darkness that lurks deep inside my brain.  They don’t see the constant battle I am fighting with myself.  They don’t see how much I hurt.  They’ll never really see the pain I feel inside.  Why?  Because I have a “mask” for every occasion.  We all have them and wear them.

When people meet me, they see the persona of me.  They see the confident/talented glass artist.  They see the activist.  They see the teacher.  They see the wife, mother, and family caretaker.  They see what I want them to see…to some extent.  There are a select few that I have allowed into my inner sanctum and they are allowed to see just below the cracks, but only just below.  Nobody is allowed to get too close.  I fear if anyone truly knew the darkness that surrounded me, they run away.  I wouldn’t blame them.

So, when I wake up, I put on the day’s mask.  Oh, it gets exhausting.  The cracks in my facade to begin to show from time to time, but no one really notices.  I suppose that’s okay.  I mean…how much do we really know about the people in our lives.  We really only know what they choose to reveal to us.  Whether they have a mental illness or not.  Through a mental illness into the mix and it gets a little more complicated.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about my life or the people in it.  I have a very close-knit group of friends and a family that loves me.  They all do the best they can with me with the information I reveal to them.  I do try to let people in more and more, but that’s a scary proposition for me.  It’s a vulnerable position to be in.  I suppose to truly care for and understand someone you have to let them in all the way, not just part way.  I’ve always said that I was a work in progress.  I guess I still am.

CALL TO ACTION

This is a modified letter I’m sending to all of Oregon’s congressional leaders and State leaders.  I would urge you to do something similar if any of you are glass artists or have a glass producer in your home state.  It’s too late for WA, but not for the others.  I won’t give up.  I’m doing everything I can and so are others to save an industry.  I hope you’ll join me.

I am the owner of Mind and Soul Art.  I am not an official business.  I create art for the sole purpose of raising funds for nonprofits. You see, I live with Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety Disorder.  Glass art is a way for me to manage my ongoing symptoms of my illnesses.  Sometimes it is the only way as modern medicine has not always worked for me.  Suicide rates continue to rise across the nation and I refuse to become another one of those statistics.  I am down to three medicines left that might work for me.  The only thing that has consistently worked is my glass art.

This is why I travel over 4 hours from Port Angeles, WA to Portland, OR for the classes that Bullseye provides.  I soak up their knowledge like a sponge.  While in Portland, I stay in a local hotel for several nights.  I eat in local restaurants.  I purchase from local shops.  I spend money in your state as do other people who come from out of State for Bullseye’s educational art classes.  Bullseye is not an island unto itself.  It is a vital part of Oregon.  It is also a vital part of my life.  Without their glass, their classes, their very kind and understanding employees, I wouldn’t be able to create.  If I can’t create, I wouldn’t have an outlet for the constant battles of a Bipolar mind.

Spectrum Glass will be closing its doors after 40 years because they simply can’t bear the unknown costs of what’s to come with the new EPA regulations.  Kokomo Glass is in trouble, as well, but they have the support of their local government.  Bullseye wants to do the right thing. and has done so voluntarily. Yet, unlike the government of Indiana, the government of Oregon seems to be making it very difficult for Bullseye to comply with the DEQ, by ordering Cease & Desist orders not once but twice.  This is not an accusatory statement against Oregon; this is a factual statement.

All I ask is for your help.  Please help Bullseye have a fair chance to do their part to comply with the standards that have been set forth.  Allow them to have a fair amount of time to fix the problem areas that need to be fixed.  I urge you to step in and do something to correct this situation because it is not only good for Bullseye as a local, small business, but it’s good for the Oregon economy as well.

It is not only Bullseye that stands to lose their business, but the thousands of others that rely on their products for their own small businesses. I believe, not long ago, the auto industry and the banking industry needed the government’s help and it was given to them.  Please consider helping Bullseye by giving them a fair and equal chance.

Thank you for your time. I know I can count on your support.

 

What will your mark on the world be?

 

To be one, to be united is a wonderful thing. But, to respect the right to be different and the rights of your fellow-man is even better.  We are here for a fleeting moment.  What will you do with your time?  For what do you want to be remembered?  What mark will you leave on the world?

I have always wanted to take on the world and help others when I could.  This has not always met with kindness.  Yet, I don’t give up.  Some have questioned my motives, thinking I do this to as a means to gain attention…not so; others think I do this for personal gain, not so.  I choose to help others because I want to.  Also, because when I was at my lowest point, someone was there for me to lend a hand.  Someone cared enough (without knowing who I was) to show me kindness, to tell me I was worth something and that I was somebody.  I know how that kindness feels and how that kindness can change a person.  I want others to feel that as well.   I see it as a gift I am allowed to give another human being.  It brings me great joy. I don’t see it as penance, for I have done nothing wrong.  I have a mental illness and I have those low times where I need help.

I don’t how much time I have left on this earth.  What I do know is that I want to make every moment count.  So I focus my time on my family and friends.  I also try to help as many people as I can.  The way I do that is through my art (stained and fused glass art).  As many of you know, it is my art that helps me control my Bipolar and Anxiety symptoms (yes, I do still take medications).  As many of you also know, sometimes medication isn’t enough.  My glass art has saved me so many times.

Now, the main supplier of my glass, Bullseye Glass (and the glass industry at large) is under attack (for lack of a better word).  I go to Bullseye for classes to learn new techniques and I absolutely love the employees there.  They are kind, knowledgeable and they put up with my craziness!  I remember the first time I went there for a class.  Oh my goodness!  I’m sure they had never met someone quite like me.  I just asked a ton of questions.  I think I was there for three hours and this was the day before the class!  I was picking out glass, asking questions about how to make projects,  questions about the sale in July, my goodness the questions from me seemed never to stop.  They were very kind to me.  Every time I call in, they seem to remember me.  I don’t know if they really do, but they play it off  well.  I’ll take it!  🙂  Anyway, I think you get my point.  They really care.  So, I won’t go into detail about what the State of Oregon is doing to them because I don’t have all of the facts and I don’t want to spread more rumors.  The one real fact is this:  Their business is threatened.  This effects not only Bullseye and it’s employees, but thousands of glass artists world-wide.

So, back to my original question: What mark do I want to leave on the world?  I’ve already established that I like helping others.  I know it goes beyond “like”.  I feel compelled to help others.  It’s become a part of who I am. Since this all happened with Bullseye, I’ve gone into full advocate mode sending out congressional contacts to concerned glass artists, working on a form letter (which must be cleared with Bullseye), fundraising mode to help them…  The mark I would like to leave on the world is this:  Whether I am remembered or not is immaterial.  What is important is the work I do.  If I have made the lives of people better, happier, easier, then I’ve made my mark.  The world doesn’t need to remember me, I will just feel better knowing that I’ve made some kind of difference.

I will leave will you with your own question and yes, I would really like to hear from you.

What mark would you like to leave on the world?