A view of "Inca de Oro" (Inca gold) town (C) in the middle of the Atacama desert, near Copiapo city, north of Santiago, Chile

Luxury is unattainable.

I am a child, luxury is a hug from my mother.

I am a young girl, luxury is a Barbie Dreamhouse.

I am a teenager, luxury is acceptance.

I am a college student, luxury is self-respect.

I am a young mother, luxury is a loving partner.

I am a survivor of domestic violence, luxury is freedom from fear.

I am a person with mental illness, luxury is sanity.

I am a woman, luxury is self-love.

via Daily Prompt: Luxury

She flew through the air with the greatest of ease

;Yesterday was not good, last night was worse, today is a new day. I’m grateful for a husband that loves me unconditionally and refuses to give up on me; as well as a psychiatrist that listens.

For the first time in about 20 years, I am detoxing off of all my pscyh meds with medical supervision (do not try this at home, kids). This time I will not be hospitalized, but I have written instructions from my doctor, and people that love and care about me. It has gotten to the point of feeling like I’ve been having a variety of meds constantly thrown at me as merely a stop-gap. Nothing works any longer, diagnoses change on a ridiculously frequent basis, and I’ve had enough. No, I am not ready to check out of life, I am ready to start from scratch…again. I have made promises in writing to people I know will hold me to them, and I have made a promise publicly through because I said I would. I’m covered, I keep my promises.

It’s a scary prospect, being without psych meds, like performing on the trapeze without a net; but the timing is as close to perfect as it can get. Life is good, there are no underlying personal problems to mask my brain problems like there have been in the past. Hopefully in January 2016 (how appropriate) my psych and I will be able to come up with a new treatment plan (I’ll be seeing him before then, to check in, but I don’t want to make any decisions until after the holidays). I’m sure it will involve more trial and error, but until mental health diagnostics becomes an exact science, that’s the way it’s going to have to be.

In addition to my husband and my psychiatrist, I am also grateful for the love and support I receive on a daily basis from friends (both IRL and out in the ether) and family. Please don’t worry…I will land on my feet, I always do, right?

…and because…Bob loves him some Ashley

A comfortable old sweater

old sweaterThe beautiful new sweater sits folded neatly on the shelf. The color is lovely and bright, and the buttons are shiny. It’s taken out into the world, often complimented; but when the wearer comes back home, it’s folded and put away once again.

Thrown over the back of the couch, the old sweater is dingy and ugly.  Buttons are missing, there’s a hole in the elbow, and the cuffs are stretched out. But it is still worn like a safe cocoon. This sweater is warm, comfortable, and familiar.

Depression awaits, not unlike the old sweater, as I become stronger and happier after this most recent very long and very horrible depressive episode. Most days have been good. I can feel sadness without depression, happiness without mania. But once in a while, the habits of coping I developed while depressed creep back into my life – isolating, crying for no apparent reason, losing myself in a book, sleeping, not interacting with my husband. I can remember this happening before. Being depressed is, in some ways, easier than being mentally healthy. There’s no effort involved, no self-examination, no communication with others. Hide in the dark, curl up on the couch, sleep away the normal stressors of life.

This is not acceptable. I remind myself I am a fighter, a survivor, and I have the tools I need to fight depression. On the other hand, I am also compassionate and learning to treat myself with kindness. So for now, I will fold the old sweater and set it on the shelf beneath the new one. I recognize that the old one will still be needed once in a while; but as I become stronger, the bright new sweater will be worn more often.

Denial or accceptance?

My therapy appointment from last month was to write “I’m angry…” and then finish the sentence about everything I’m angry about. I started to write on notebook paper, then ended up with four typed pages. I then kept adding more during the month by hand.

The first page was just what I went through with Satan (my ex). The rest of it contained many of the things I’ve been through in my lifetime, in addition to general shit that just pisses me off. She said the same thing I’ve heard so many times:

“Wow, it’s amazing what you’ve survived.”

And every time I hear this I think, “Really? I just did what I had to do.” I cannot see myself as “amazing, incredible, strong, extraordinary,” or any other related word you can think of. I am an ordinary person, and I have done what most people would have done when faced with my difficulties. Yes, I have been through hell and back for most of my life but that was the way it was. It’s past, it’s gone, it’s over. And I am no better than anyone else for having experienced some pretty horrific things. There are people who have survived cancer, homelessness, poverty, etc. Those people are amazing. I just did what I had to do to get where I am. And there were many times I just wanted to give up, but at different times in my life that was just not an option (like being a single-mom). So I did it, I’m here (some days barely). That was then, this is now.

Mental Notes

We’re told to keep a mood chart and we’re told to keep a journal, but how many of us really do these things on a consistent basis? I’m one of those who don’t keep a mood chart. Since there are days when my moods go up and down several times in one day, the chart just wasn’t helpful…well that and I kept forgetting. So I use my journal to record significant mood changes as well as what most people use journals for. I keep a somewhat plain spiral notebook on my desk with a pen on it and write throughout the day so I don’t have to sit down at night and remember whatever was important to me. It’s an easier way to record my mixed episodes/rapid cycling (I always get those confused) with words instead of little dots on a chart.

I also use my journal to record med changes and how I’m feeling during the initial stages of those changes. And then of course there’s the usual rants and raves throughout the day that get noted in there as well. Sometimes I just scribble, doodle and draw. I print out blog posts that seemed important to me at the time and paste them in there, and I tape in all the four-leaf clovers (really!) Greg’s mom finds for me on his property. I glue, tape and staple anything in there that I can’t write down and that makes me smile, comic strips are a favorite.

And then there’s the actual point to this post. I have a Moleskine, weekly planner/notebook that I carry with me…my brain. Aside from writing every appointment or important event, I use it for everything else normal people might use a working memory for. When I’m not at home and something comes up, I jot it down. When I write something in my journal that I think is significant for my therapist or psych, I note what day it was so I can refer to it when I bring my journal to an appointment. When I have questions for my health team, I write it down so I don’t forget anything, and I write the answers to the questions as well. I also make note of med directions even though my doctor always says “I’ll write it on the script.” It’s so important to be prepared whenever one sees any type of doctor or professional. Especially someone like me who gets intimidated and overwhelmed by these types of people.

I keep a list of meds, procedures and doctor info as well as emergency numbers in the front, and a list of important names, addresses and phone numbers in the back. When I have a new appointment, I write down the address and phone number along with the time of the appointment. This little notebook is an invaluable tool in managing my disordered life. I may not always write in my journal, but if it’s something vital to my health/mental health it goes in my mini-brain.

When dealing with a mental illness, or any type of illness for that matter, it’s vital to use whatever tools we have at our disposal to get the most out of our care. I’m interested in knowing what works for you, feel free to let me know.