Sunday, January 15, 2012

Boundaries and Control

We all have personal boundaries that we have in place, or would like to be strong enough to put in place.  These are important to our self esteem, mental balance and spiritual wellness.  2012 is my year to reassert my boundaries.  I have spent too much energy, time and resources (financial and otherwise) trying to help others that are not ready to help themselves.  By putting my boundaries in place it seems that I have upset some very dear and close friends.  One friend referred me to a website which stated that "if we worry we tend to fuss. And if we fuss we tend to try to control, even molly-coddle, the person we are so worried about. Doing this can make that person feel they have no independence, or even stop them developing self reliance and confidence."  (This website also stated that "caring about one another makes for healthy families and communities" but I don't think that was what prompted my friend to share this website with me...just a hunch.)

I don't feel that I am trying to control my friends in any way by worrying about them.  Maybe I'm coming across as controlling?  I have simply stated what I am and am not willing to tolerate in our friendship.   For my own safety.  It has moved past general care, concern and worry regarding my friends' safety and into fear for my own safety.  That in itself is not trying to control my friends, that is simply trying to control my life.  Ever choice has consequences.  I have given my friends choices.  They can choose to continue their behavior or stop their behavior.  I can choose to stay or to go.  We are all free in this scenario to choose what we feel is best for ourselves.  I repeat BEST FOR OURSELVES.  My new year is about looking after myself.  And if my friends do not accept my boundaries I cannot be of any help to them.  Sometimes we have to be selfish in that we need to look after ourselves.  Does this make me a bad person?  I hope not...I would do almost anything for those around me and that I love dearly however if I am not at my best and able to help myself, I am not able to help others.  There is a mantra that states "you must fill your cup first or you will have nothing left to give."  Well folks, my cup has run dry; it has been broken into millions of shards of cup.  I must take time to repair my cup, mend the pieces, seal the cracks and then begin the task of filling my cup before I can give again.

I do not judge you for your decisions and choices as I hope you do not judge me for mine.  I love you for who you are and the good that you bring into my life and give to others.  I only wish the best for you in everything you do.  One day I hope that you will see this about yourself and feel the same way about yourself as I feel about you.  Namaste, my friends.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Watching the Line

There is a line that I teeter on the brink of and then come crashing down over.  Think of it as being at the top of a slide.  You can choose to walk down the ladder or slide down the slide.  Once you choose the slide it is difficult to get back to the top without finishing the journey down the slide.  You can scramble, you can claw, you can try your hardest to get your footing and sometimes, lo and behold, it does work and you can climb the slide back to the top.  But more often than not it ends up being a whirlwind ride, scrambling, clawing and panicking to get up but only ending at the bottom flat on your ass in the sand.  And the cycle starts all over again as you climb the ladder to the top of the slide and feel great until your feet slip out from underneath you and you tumble down the slide head first this time.

This line has become more important for me to pay attention to if I want to function in my daily life.  I am learning what my triggers are (so far it's stress and change, can't eliminate those with the snap of my fingers) and I'm hoping with the help of my friends that they will be able to point out some other ones for me.  I have also picked up on the fact that how I feel is relative to my surroundings, be it people, environment, noises, smells.  But mostly people.  This is not healthy.  LOL!


After a recent Life Coaching session, the need to monitor myself has become apparent.  Now that I'm more aware of what is going on inside my head, it's easier to see how things affect me.  The cycle of feelings is the same for everyone:  an event happens to you, this event causes your brain to produce thoughts, the thoughts produce feelings.  For some the cycle is positive, for others it is negative.  For me it is difficult to control, difficult to predict and difficult to stop and change the direction of the thoughts and feelings.  Nothing can change the event.  Only I can change how I perceive the event, what I think about the event and how it reflects on me and ultimately, only I can change how I feel.

One of the best pieces of advice a counselor ever gave me was this:  Others cannot make you feel, but they can influence how you feel.  You tell me I am stupid (that's the event); I think that I am stupid, I can't do anything right, why do I even bother? (Those are the thoughts.) I feel useless, hopeless, like a waste of life, unloved, unlikeable and just plain rotten (and whammo, here come the feelings before I am even finished hearing you call me stupid). But am I really all of those things?  Right no, I'm thinking "probably not".  And if you know me then you are thinking "definitely not"!

Just because I FEEL a certain way doesn't mean that I AM those feelings (as explained to me by a near and dear friend of mine).  I am learning to change my thought process and patterns to avoid running into this situation altogether!  You may think I'm stupid (or ugly, or useless, or imperfect in many other ways) and say that to my face.  That is your issue.  My issue is how I react to your not-so-nice way of expressing yourself and how I choose to take it in.  I can choose to agree and mentally beat myself into submission and decrease my already non-existent self-esteem.  Or I can choose to tell myself (or you!) that it's unfortunate you think that about me.  I need to learn to love myself so that your issue does not become my issue.  On the days when I love myself enough to respect myself and treat myself with compassion and kindness, it's easy to love myself and to let your issues be your issues.  On the days when I am in the black abyss of depression this is not so easy.  Your issue becomes mine and I feel I must help you to help myself.  I must solve your alcoholism; I must solve your infidelity; I must solve your anger; I must solve your unemployment.  Co-dependency anyone?  I've got a small order of it right here.  Hold the fries please, I have enough heart troubles.


So I watch the line.  I pay attention to how I feel and what happened and what I thought in between.  It's easy really, takes no time at all and living a normal life is a snap when you have to pay attention to how everything affects you.  Just kidding.  But one day (soon I hope) it will be easy.  It will be like I've been doing it that way all my life.  I'm sure of it. :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A New Look at a New Year

Bleeding Heart

With the onset of 2012 I've decided to take up blogging.  Maybe someone will stop by and leave a comment, maybe no one will show up.  That's ok either way!  I am here and that's all that matters.  My goal with the creation of my blog is to not only help myself but also to help others.

In the late '90s I was diagnosed with clinical depression and have since been on medication.  It has been a difficult journey since then but I have survived.  I met with several counsellors over the years and, for a brief period of time, I was required to take part in an annual visit to see a psychiatrist.  With careful monitoring of my medication in conjunction with therapy, workshops and my own research I learned to adapt to life with a mental illness.  I was having my good days and my bad days but the close of 2011 brought with it a few turbulent months for me.

Beginning in October my behaviour changed erratically.  Into November and early December a few of my friends commented on this ongoing erratic behaviour.  I decided to look into it.  And within myself.  It turns out that that the problem began earlier than October, probably July or thereabouts.  Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

In July 2011 I didn't know things had changed for me.  Until November 2011 things seemed status quo with me.  I was being a responsible adult, holding down a job, volunteering, looking after my pets and my house and myself.  I was also being social, going out, drinking, having "fun", spending time with people.  What's wrong with all of this you ask?  Nothing, really.  It was the quantity and frequency of these activities that seemed to arise suspicion in those around me.  I was spending less time being a responsible adult and more time being social.  The balance was off.  I had stumbled but thankfully I have friends that care about me and caught me before I fell too far.

While I was in high school I cut myself, I cried way too much, I hurt myself physically instead of hurting others emotionally (to me, speaking my mind was considered to be hurting others).  I balled up my pain and let it fester inside of me until I sliced myself open and it seeped out in the form of bright red blood.  I have scars on the outside that are only minor compared to the scars that I have on the inside.  When I realized these things weren't "normal" I started doing my own research.  Reading voraciously anything I could get my hands on about depression, bipolar, mental illnesses in general.  My initial thought was bipolar but after meeting with counselors and doctors and the psychiatrist that came to town once a month to see patients, I was told it was just situational depression, here take some medication, up your dose in a few weeks and eventually, when you find your niche in life you can come off it and be fine.  Coming from a small town, mental health resources were limited and I took the trusted psychiatrists word for it.  Self-monitoring my medication didn't pan out, so I stopped it altogether and went on my seemingly merry way, still troubled and still hurting inside but not knowing why.

University and college came and went and I still hadn't found my niche, apparently.  I sought help again through the college health centre.  Another round of doctors, counsellors, medication attempts and psychiatrists.  This time I was told I may be on meds for the rest of my life, despite attempts by the doctor to prove to herself and me otherwise, without my knowledge!  She was sneaky (while still being ethical) and she was good.  I appreciated her not jumping to the conclusion that I would be like "this" forever.  But it was an inevitable conclusion.

Since then I have been in and out of the mental health system making use of any and all resources I can find.  Open my file, close my file, open my file, close my file.  Sign up for workshops, sign up for group sessions, sign up for this, attend that, read this, write that.  I have the tools and resources that I need to manage my depression.  But suddenly and for an extended period of time these tools have not been working.  I'm down but I'm not out.  My meds aren't working as well as they used to.  The suicidal thoughts are back and rampant at times. Anger, frustration, procrastination, desperation, sadness, hopelessness and isolation are only a few of the emotions that I feel on a regular basis these days. So again I have turned to my own research.  My research combined with insightful, honest, sometimes heartbreaking conversations with my close friends has led me to wonder if I'm bipolar. I have come full circle in my search for a solution to my problem, in my search for a problem to my solution.

Now I wait.  The referral has been done:  I wait for them to contact me for my next steps.  My family doctor has retired:  I wait for the nurse practitioner clinic to respond to my application.  Until then I read, I write, I go to work, I look after my pets and my house and I do my best to look after myself amidst all of this.  I get lost sometimes in all this waiting and trying to move on at the same time.  But my friends find me.  My friends keep me together when I feel I'm falling apart.

Regardless of the diagnosis, this new year brings about a new shift in me.  I am important.  I matter.  I deserve to be happy.  I am me and I am good at being me.  This must remain in the forefront of my thoughts if I am to survive this part of my journey.  I hope that you will continue to take this journey with me.