“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym
I was kicking ass wasn’t I? I was stuffing my car full of as much as I could. I was violating my ten-pound lift limit like a boss. I was doing “amazing” things, and I was doing them alone. I went to Ikea and bought a ton of things for my new apartment. I was staring change and transition in the face and I was laughing at them both as though I was immune. Huzzah!
Regardless of how well I had been doing, (or thought I was doing), the fact is this: change and transition are both hard. They are hard for everyone. It’s just a matter of degree.
“Transitions are difficult, even when we choose them, such as taking a better job or getting married. Transitions require that we let go of the past. This is hard for us, because we tend to stick with what’s familiar, even if it hurts.
Once we say goodbye to the past, we find ourselves in a kind of limbo, where we are disconnected from yesterday, yet not attached to tomorrow. “Limbo” is a time for reflection and introspection. It involves feelings of confusion, frustration and anxiety. But if we ride out the discomfort, we reach a stage where new possibilities exist”. ~ MAUD PURCELL, LCSW, CEAP
Saying goodbye to the past?
I am not saying goodbye to anything. All I did was move house. Why is that saying goodbye? I did not think it was saying goodbye. I was just moving possessions and myself to a new location. That somehow triggered this giant slamming of a door that I did not expect. This heartbreaking loss that I did not anticipate.
I am no good at loss.
If you have followed my blog then you know: I am Bipolar. I have suffered from anxiety, and agoraphobia. Suffered is such a weak word. But, here is the thing. There is a time when suffering turns to facing, and facing turns to surviving, surviving turns to thriving. When my agoraphobia was at it’s worst I did not leave my apartment for weeks. The best I could do was to sit on the balcony. It was a miserable existence. I did not like being that way. Nevertheless, what I did not like more was the idea of being in a world that I perceived as being too loud, too crowded, too disorganized.
Something had to give.
Thanks to long, hard work with an excellent therapist, and the support of someone at home who loved me, and really cared, who really wanted me to see the world, I began thriving. Not only did we find the key in my head to unlock the door I had been hiding behind, we found a way for me to seek out a medical team that discovered I was taking a rather dangerous cocktail of medications. Medications that were not only putting my life in peril at a far too regular basis, medications that were impacting my bipolar disorder in a way that I was not willing to accept. Medications that were making this situation worse. Time to find a new psychiatrist.
Finally, I was getting out there. I was driving around, finding things. I was eating alone in restaurants and shopping in stores on a whim. My pain was at the lowest level it had been in as long as I could remember. I was laughing again. I was walking, so much walking.
Now, some final tweaks to the meds. I had gained so much weight on the nerve meds, it was time to balance those out, and it was time to get rid of those killer antidepressants. Therefore, there was “some out with the old and in with the new”. Some up with some and down with others. Many medication changes, but with each change I could feel that it was all for the good.
Then came the move.
Perhaps it was not the very best idea to make a major life change at the same time that you are making major medication changes. I was making changes with both my psych, and my pain team, but sometimes that is how life works. When you make a left turn down a blind alley, you are not going to know for sure if that alley is a dead end or a throughway until you make that turn. Risk is sometimes necessary.
But you do it, don’t you? What choice do you have? There is a car riding up your exhaust pipe, horn blaring, literally screaming at you, “YOU HAVE TO MOVE!”
There are people that dive into a cold pool of water, others wade in to acclimate to the temperature. I do neither. When I go into a cold swimming pool, I wade in halfway and stand there awhile. I splash the cold water onto the rest of myself, and then and dunk myself the rest of the way into the water. Always a little of each, no major undertakings.
In many ways, I feel as though moving was like a shove off a cliff, and right into a pool of ice water. It was the kind of water that makes your heart stop for that briefest of moments. When you resurface, you take that gasping breath that is more about coming back to life than simply filling your lungs again. It took me a few weeks to gasp for that breath.
Because my road to recovery from agoraphobia had (has?) been a long one, but quite successful, I did not even consider that I would have any transition issues with this move. As it turns out, I was wrong. So, I admitted that I was wrong, and I needed some help with this. I turned to the things that help me most. To begin with, I talked to my therapist and psychiatrist. I also followed the advice of EVE HOGAN whose article about three mistakes we make in transition I reference below.
I kept in touch with my closest friends. I immediately opened a chat group on Facebook (the evil Facebook Messenger App) and began talking. Just talking about my move. It started with all of the good things, the “look what I just got” sort of stuff. Then the icky started creeping in. Real life. The fact that there was one friend, the one I needed the most that was totally unavailable to me. However, regardless of that loss, this group was there, and it was exactly what I needed: the comfort of friends.
I learned that there are three major mistakes we can make when we approach change. The first is suffering alone. We often do this out of guilt. When things do not go as we planned, when we feel the suffering that change can cause, we feel a sense of failure. I know that I felt that exactly. I was terribly embarrassed.
All of the growth I had achieved in two years of hard work seemed to be slipping down the drain.
This is a good time to explain the concept of “The Lazy Man’s Load”. The Lazy Man’s Load was the cause, in part of what I was now seeing as my embarrassing
failure. My rapid backslide to the person I was that long two years ago. I am ashamed to admit that I have rediscovered the key, and the lock. I am hiding myself away again.
I was abusing my body when I began the practice of The Lazy Man’s Load. It began on my first trip back to Playa Vista, when I really started my move. And I paid dearly. You see, a lazy man does not want to make many trips to the car, so he (or she, or course) will carry a load that is far too heavy in order to avoid those extra trips. What is the result? Injury, dropping, and breaking things, and in my case: flare.
This form of overdoing it is not #ChronicallyAwesome. As proud as you might be, or as I was when I loaded that car until the doors almost could not close, that was just dumb, and dangerous. You bet I paid for it dearly. It had nothing to do with me being “Super Woman”; it was all so I could take fewer trips for my move. It was lazy. I continued this practice when I made my solo trip to Ikea. I packed my cart so full I could hardly push it on my own; I had to switch carts midway through the trip to a flat cart. Again, I could hardly get everything into the car. Once this was done, I continued expending energy. I went to the furniture store. I bought a couch.
Mind you, this was after the experience of day one, the day I got the keys to the apartment, after dealing with the mentally exhausting two days of qualifying for the place. (It had been nearly two decades since I had even had a utility in my name, trust me, this was not an easy thing to pull off.) I went to the furniture store to buy a whole bedroom set, and mattress too. I needed something delivered that night to sleep on. Once the order was placed I needed to go and purchase sheets, blankets, towels, shower curtain. All of the necessities one might need just to spend the night in a new apartment. Sure, the rest of the place was a hollow cave, but I had to sleep.
I worked hard. I was tough, and to many, I was fiercely independent. I really got things done. Some even defined THIS as Chronically Awesome. In my mind, at the time, I may have thought I was as well. And, when I got the apartment to a point where it was very comfortable, I proclaimed on Facebook:
“I am a queen, sitting here with my crown, perched on my own little hill.”
And then the reality of what I had done to myself set in. When I finally slowed down, when the endorphins faded, when the hardest working lazy woman in Chronically Awesome-Ville finally sat her ass down, it happened:
I was exhausted, but satisfied. My trips to Ikea, and Costco were complete. Bed, Bath, and Beyond was well beyond me. I climbed into my beautiful new bed, and I slept. And as I slept, a breeze blew through that room and knocked that crown right the fuck off of my head. When I awoke, the first thing I felt: the pain. When my toes hit the carpet, the steely knives shoved themselves from the tips of those usually numb piggies right through to the ends of my hair.
And hey! What happened to my crown?
I looked under the bed, behind the headboard, under the pillow. The thing was just gone!
The next mistake is getting stuck in the drama of bad news, or perceiving the wrong lesson out of what happened.
I was stuck in embarrassment, and all I could think about when I considered what was to be learned here was that I did too much because I had no help. Ok, that I did not have enough help. I have no “IRL” friends. I have some flaw in me, and because of that I am alone. Because I am alone I was left to do this almost entirely by myself.
Another reason I so embarrassed? Because I had made such a fuss that I had “grown so much, changed so much, gotten so much better.” And the first thing I did? I fell apart.
It is so humiliating that I had one friend in the world beyond the Internet, and in this move I have lost that friend. I had a past to say goodbye to that I did not know was going to turn to the past. Now, when I move things from the apartment, it is a solo affair. And when I get to the new place? I can ask, in some weak, simpering, and embarrassing way for the help of the only person in town willing to see me. I ask to please help me carry things up the stairs. “Please”, I think as I ask, “don’t let me haul that lazy man’s load up the stairs.” I have blown it; I have hurt myself. And, to one of the people that I have bragged to about this new strength, I am looking like a total fool.
It’s been three weeks since that flare started. Three weeks since I realized what a terrible thing it was that I did to my body, and I am finally, just now over the physical pain. Moreover, it’s been over a week since I have seen a single person that I know. Not just because I locked that door again, but because I left that old, scared me outside as sentinel.
I cannot get lost in this. The third mistake is: do not caught up in the worst of it when we know that this too shall pass. What if we could just get to the “shall pass” part? Even the worst circumstances have something to offer in time. The trick is to skip over the worst and get to the gratitude for what you WILL learn, even before you learn it. You know it will come, eventually. Why not skip the shit, and find the gratitude?
In my last post, I was so grateful and excited for this opportunity to learn more about myself. I was ready to start this journey of discovery. Before I fell into the pain flare of moving and the embarrassment of falling apart I was chanting, “I am Jules, hear me roar!” How can I get back to that? How can I skip past this anxiety that crept in like a thief in the night? Can I turn back to the good that this change, and transition will offer me over time? How can I get off of this couch and do a load of laundry?
Resourceful as I am, I found some tips to help me with that as well. Some of them are total no brainers that I could smack myself in the head for not doing them already. It’s easy to not do for me what I so readily tell others to do for themselves. That is what I do. That is what many helper types like me do. We give until it hurts and then we give a little more, always forgetting to recharge the batteries.
The biggest favor I can do for myself, the moment I finish this post is to stop all the damned thinking. I think far too much. If our brains had only so much thinking to do in our lifespan before they finished, mine would have stopped a long time ago. Mind you, I am not talking about super productive thinking here. I am talking about over thinking every minor incident and issue. I am still thinking about stupid things I said in the second grade.
This also includes wondering about every possible future event. All the “what if’s” of my life. I need to take things as they come.
The next thing I can do for myself. Get some sleep. Those were doctor’s orders and I have seen fit to fight those orders every step of the way.
Once I saw that my dogs were going to make sure that I could not get the full 8-10 hours of sleep my doctor wanted me to get for 10 days straight, I just threw in the towel. I fight sleep like a baby. You have seen what a baby does. So afraid she is going to miss something exciting in the room if she closes her eyes for just one minute. That’s me! Seriously, there is nothing that fascinating going on here. Take naps, go to bed earlier, and just sleep!
I have learned that getting sleep also means: once you take your meds just close your eyes and sleep. Do not try to send one more text, do not post one more post to Facebook. Those meds work fast and whatever you try to say once those meds are down is NOT going to make sense.
Get more exercise. Well that is simply too obvious. Enough said.
Eat. Nobody freak out on me, I have enough people doing that already. (Yes, just because I said I don’t have people sitting RIGHT HERE on the sofa with me does not mean I do not have people that care!) I believe that I have lost at least 13 pounds since I moved into this apartment on August 9th. If I could eat one meal a day, that would be a good start. I think my mom is going to help with that. When my FitBit broke, she ordered me an UP band. She and I will be a team. She will watch what I am eating (thus not eating).
Accept this new situation. Accept it with all its ups and downs, that includes allowing myself to feel whatever it is I am feeling. Just do what it is I always tell people to do with thoughts and feelings. Let them come in, let them rattle around and do their thing, accept their presence in me, and let them rattle their way right back out again.
This is where I am. There are good things here, and I know what they are. I need to go after them. I need to go to the beach, Disneyland (I DO have an annual pass!), see my daughter, take the dogs to the park. This is my situation. This is my life. Sometimes I may get sad, okay. Sometimes I may be happy, okay. Here is the thing about life, feelings, and this situation: they are all mine. None of this is good or bad. These things are neutral until I assign them some sort of label. It’s my job to assign the labels. So, what are they going to be?
I need to keep in touch with my support system. I have a tendency to isolate when I am depressed. I am certain that at the moment there are people who think that I have simply not bothered to contact them since I have been back. Or, that I just do not check in with them enough (whatever, I am not going to make up feelings for other people, that is just going to take me down that road again). The reality is that I have been shithole deep in anxiety and depression. That is when I turn inward. I have a group of friends that I have warned about this. They know that when they do not hear from me in a certain number of days that they ought to get in touch with me. I also know that if I have not talked to people in a few days that I should make the effort. Keeping the support system close is important.
Last, but definitely not least: how many things have I made it through in the past? A few I would say. Maybe it’s time I made a list of all my victories. When I look at that list I think I would be able to rank moving into an apartment on my own as nowhere near the toughest. I mean really, did I ever tell you the story about the 32 hours of labor that resulted in the most beautiful daughter imaginable. She will be 22 this year. She is truly amazing. It was absolute greatest victory, after my most brilliant, yet toughest challenge.
I did that.
So yah… I’ve got this.