Tag Archive: karate


A Quiet Year


2014 was largely uneventful for me.  Which is good.  I like quiet and uneventful.  Which isn’t to say it wasn’t a good year: it was.  My husband’s job got reorganized and in the process he got a raise and the ability to work from home.  Which was a good thing, because I quit my job at the end of March.  And thank heavens.  I didn’t realize how much I was disliking my job until I quit and didn’t have to do it anymore.  My position had evolved from that of a very simple clerk to a part-time office manager, amongst other things.  I was the only employee and as such had to wear a lot of hats.  It got to be too much stress for me after a while.  The position just became too complicated over time.  So it was time for me to move on.  Unfortunately I didn’t do so in time to not have stressful feelings about the dojo, which means I haven’t been to class since I quit.  It was a mistake to have my boss be my karate instructor.  Now I can’t separate out my feelings about her two roles in my life.  She was difficult to work for, but because of our relationship, neither of us felt comfortable addressing any troubles.  It led to tears and bad feelings after a while.  Which is unfortunate.  One of the reasons I wanted to quit was so that my training wouldn’t be affected.  It seems I was too late on that front.

And that was the big event of my year.  Which on the one hand sounds a little sad, but on the other hand, like I said, I like quiet.  Quiet is good.  It’s given me the chance to get my mental health in order, for the most part.  I had some episodes over the summer, but I recovered from them quickly.  Overall I feel better than I have in quite some time.  I seem to have a good med regimen going.  I sometimes don’t want to get out of bed, but it’s not because I’m depressed.  I’m mostly bored.  An unfortunate side effect of my meds and of being down for so long is that my creativity has been sapped.  I have a lot of free time on my hands that I could be using to do any number of creative pursuits, but I’m not.  I find being creative incredibly difficult.  This is a common problem for bipolar people.  The meds that even us out deaden us in other ways.  They make us “flat”.  I’m not as flat as I’ve been in the past, thank heavens, but my personality is mostly gently rolling hills rather than valleys and mountains.  Which is good.  Too much up and down is bad, but it makes the scenery kind of boring.

Consequently I read a lot and watch a lot of tv and movies.  Which are things I really enjoy, and doing enjoyable things is important when you’re mentally ill.  I’m just not very active, which isn’t good.  I’m old enough now (43) that my body’s activity will only continue to decline, and I’ll have to work damn hard, harder than I would have had to ten years ago, to regain strength that I’ve lost.  That will be my big goal for 2015: to become more active, and to lose some of the extra weight I’ve put on.  I’m all for body and fat acceptance, but I’m unhealthy.  If I want to have a nice long life, I need to lose weight, and that’s that.  It’s not as hard as one thinks, really.  I just have to stop bingeing at night and cut down my carbs.  That combined with a walk every day would get me to where I want to be, though it would take a long time.  I know how to eat to be more healthy.  I just need to do it.

Motivation is something else I want to work on this year along with creativity.  They kind of go hand in hand.  If I want to be motivated to get up every day, I need to have something to look forward to.  I just need to find the kinds of creativity that will mesh with my mental capacity.  I like building and fixing things.  I also like putting things together, like beads and tiles.  I’ve always wanted to get into fixing and refinishing furniture.  Maybe that’s something I should afford myself the opportunity to do.  Whatever I do, it has to battle the anhedonia that has slowly settled into my life over the last few years.  It’s no longer an artifact of my mental illness: it’s just something I’ve grown used to.

I do have something that will give me a lot of motivation to get up in the morning, though it will be a few months before I can do it.  I’m going back to school, after 14 years.  I only need about 30 more credit hours in order to get my bachelor’s degree, so I’m going to finally finish it.  It will take me a couple of years because I can only afford to take 2 classes at a time, but I’ll get there!  And once I have a degree, my earning potential will really go up and I’ll be able to find real jobs.  Now I just have to figure out what to major in.  Once I pick it, I can’t change it again, because all I have left to take are major concentration classes.  I also think the University has rules about how close to graduation you can change your major.  I’d really like to major in microbiology, which was my absolute favorite subject when I was in school before.  Whether or not that college will let me transfer in is in question.  That’s the question for all of the potential colleges I may want to transfer into.  I may just be stuck finishing a Religious Studies degree.  Which I suppose wouldn’t be horrible.  It’s what I call a “ditch digging” degree, though, because that’s about all it’s good for.

So I have that to look forward to.  We also have some other potential big plans in the works, but we’ll have to talk about those later.  🙂  Let’s just say I think there are some big changes coming in the next few years.  All for the good.  For the first time in a long  time, I’m really looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

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Starting Slow


I’m trying to get my yoga and karate practice going again after quite a long absence, around six months.  My hiatus was for a few reasons, not the least of which was I just wanted a break from everything.  I felt spread a bit thin between family, work, and other obligations and I just wanted some time to let everything settle before trying to get a routine going again.

I also wanted to let my body rest.  Since beginning karate in late 2009, I injured my shoulder between doing the karate and doing my day job, which was cleaning houses.  Cleaning your own house is one thing: cleaning several houses a week for a few hours a day is quite another, and my shoulder let me know it loud and clear.  Unfortunately, shoulders are some of the longest-healing joints in the body because they’re almost impossible to immobilize, being the joints with the greatest range of motion.  I had to quit cleaning houses, which didn’t bother me all that much, but it was still another year before my shoulder healed, and even after that year it wasn’t completely happy.  Hence the six-month break.

Well it’s all better now, and will stay that way as long as I’m careful with it and don’t go back to cleaning houses.  The break killed my fitness level, though.  So did a year of pharmaceutical issues stemming from last year’s bipolar diagnosis, which caused me to gain a lot of weight.  The combination of the two has made getting back into the swing of things difficult.  Fortunately, I’m not in as bad of shape as I feared I was, though I am way out of breath by the end of class.  That was a nice confidence boost: I was really afraid of being unable to keep up.  Remembering all of my karate moves: that’s a different story.  The mind seems to be rustier than the body, but I figure that will follow in due time.

I’ve also gone back to yoga class, which was made immeasurably easier by two things: not having to shell out $100 to renew my yoga pass due to a strange quirk of record keeping, and hooking up with a friend to support one another in going to yoga class.  I tried my first kundalini yoga class, which was very interesting!  It was very different from your standard yoga class and involved a lot of breathwork and energy movement.  I found it very cleansing, which was the purpose!  I’ll be going back to that one for sure.  I’ll also be going back to restorative and gentle yoga classes until I know I can handle a standard hatha class.  I know if I try one of those now I’ll just get frustrated because my balance and strength aren’t up to snuff.

Starting slow is really important to maintaining focus and stamina for me, otherwise I give up.  I was very tempted to jump back into my old routine with both feet because I remembered how nice it was to be in that old groove, but I knew that would be a bad move since it had been so long, I’m so overweight, and am so out of shape.  On the other hand, starting really slowly showed me where I did not need to go so slow, which was a nice confidence booster.  I was glad that I didn’t have to start back at square one in all aspects of my training, but I’m also glad I gave myself permission to take it easy.


It seems to me that there are probably as many ways to pray as there are people on the Earth.  We also seem to group together according to how similarly we pray, I’ve noticed.

When first I asked the question of myself, “How do I pray?”, the answer was, “I don’t.”  Immediately followed by, “Bullshit.”  I don’t think it’s possible for someone who proclaims to feel spiritual energy as readily as I claim to, not to pray.  There must be some way that I pray, however subconsciously.  I need to expand my definition of what “pray” means.

At its most basic, “praying” is whatever method I choose at that particular moment to try to speak to God.  I have used many methods of prayer over the years.  There’s the regular verbal kind that most people think of, of course, though I don’t see that as the most fulfilling, personally.  There’s the musical kind of prayer, with which I am the most familiar.  I can play saxophone, flute, and a variety of hand drums, and any of them has felt more like praying than any words than I have ever used.  There’s the artistic form of prayer, with which I was intimately familiar for several years until I tried to mix prayer with business and turn my art into a way of living.  That turned out badly on both fronts and I have only recently begun to use art as prayer again (due in no small part to Spiritual Nomad).

Gardening is a form of prayer to me, as well as a form of meditation (so is fishkeeping).  In fact, music and art are also forms of meditation to me.  Maybe that’s why I have found both meditation and prayer so difficult whenever I have tried to pursue each one individually.  I think something needs to serve both roles in order to be a truly fulfilling exercise.  In any case, yes to gardening and fishkeeping as forms of prayer and meditation.  They’re also the things that put me into closest touch with my primary aspect of God, which is Nature itself.

I also pray like a scientist, which is something of a paradoxical notion in our society.  Science and God seem to be mutually exclusive in America, and perhaps the Western World in general.  I see no difference between the two, though, and am constantly frustrated by the world’s attempts to keep the two separate.  We could do even more amazing things if we stopped trying to keep the two things apart.  To me, a tornado is not just a series of mathematical equations that describe atmospheric shear, turbulence, potential energy, and wind speed.  It’s one of the most powerful forces on the face of the planet and almost certainly ranks up there with the other great meteorological forces of the solar system.  Yes, it may just be an artifact of rising and sinking airmasses combined with the Coriolis effect, but that does not diminish its power or beauty nor the feeling in my heart when I see one (though to date I’ve never seen one in person: I’m not sure I need to to appreciate its grandeur).  If I had to call a single place on Earth my temple, it would be The Sky.

Two other forms of prayer and meditation: cooking and baking.  Each is slightly different.  Cooking is more intuitive and is open to the “dash of this, bit of that” method of kitchen things.  Baking is less forgiving and is more like chemistry to me (probably because it is).  Both demand healthy helpings of love for optimum taste.  If you can’t taste the love, I didn’t do it right (read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel for an excellent fictional treatise on the magic of food).  There’s a great deal of peace and calm that come from slowing down enough to really enjoy the processes of cooking and baking.  If they’re hurried and are done only for the purpose of physical nourishment, there’s not so much energy in that.  We don’t usually enjoy those meals very much.

A form of prayer and meditation that I am remiss in not mentioning yet is karate.  It’s difficult to describe the seemingly conflicting energies of force and calm, but there’s a push/pull kind of thing going on that is like waves lapping on a shore.  There’s a rhythm at work that will break me if I work against it, but propels me if I don’t.  Karate’s very much like yoga in that way, which is yet another form of meditation and prayer that I very much enjoy.  It even involves a bit of prostration, which feels a lot like bowing in karate and is calming to me.  It is enjoying these two very physical forms of prayer that makes me want to explore yet another physical way of praying and meditating: dancing.

Dancing scares me in much the same way that singing does, though even moreso.  If I am frozen into silence by the sound of my own voice, I am petrified to stone by the thought of moving my body in a rhythmic way.  I’m not sure what about dancing is different from karate and yoga, though I’m guessing the former is much more freeform and less rigid than yoga and karate forms.  And I do have trouble operating without guidelines, which is what dancing seems to demand.  Rules and dancing seem diametrically opposed, even though I don’t dance (yet).

So those are more hidden forms of prayer for me.  Dancing is also there, but I haven’t used it yet.  Unlike the form I am currently using: writing.  If writing is prayer, I pray at least every other day, if not more.  The more I write, the more I want to write, and the more I like what I write.  I use it so often that it now defies description, unlike other more obscure forms of prayer that aren’t hidden to me, but are less well-used: exercising and running.  When I do those things, I can feel the rusty bits fall off the cogs and can see down the path to where they can take me, but I do them so infrequently that they never gain any momentum.  That’s going to be one of my goals this year: practicing my more physical forms of prayer as often as I can.  Of all of them, I feel they’re the best for me in all aspects.

Other ways that I have prayed before are by using mudras in yoga and meditation.  Mudras are essentially meditative or prayerful hand gestures.  There are tomes filled with the different ways the Hindu deities as well as Buddha will hold their hands, each signifying something different.  I’ve also read Tarot cards, though that is another method that doesn’t get used very often and probably should.  It’s not such a hard thing to draw a card a day to meditate upon.  Along those lines, astrology can be a form of prayer for me if it’s done as a daily reading.  It’s a way of opening myself to whatever the energies of the day might bring.  Over time, it’s just a generally good method of keeping myself “open”.  Which is a good thing for someone who gets really rigid sometimes.  I also very much enjoy walking meditating/praying.  I can do this with or without a labyrinth.  It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other and nothing more.

Perhaps my most powerful method of prayer in the past, has been to do nothing.  Others would call it meditation, but either the descriptions I have read of meditation fall as short as my own do, or I’m getting to a place that neither meditation nor prayer can reach by themselves.  I have to be in the right space to do this, and when I am in that right space, it happens automatically.  I have experienced this in fleeting moments, all in Nature, but every one of them perfect wells of peace, calm, and oneness.  I have wished I could bottle those moments and take them with me, they are so perfect.  And they are why I yearn to travel to the distant and isolated corners of the world, because that is where those moments happen.  In a Texas field devoid of sound save for the blowing wind.  In a car bespying distant, purple-hued mountains for the first time.  On a plane to a new place and seeing a lightning bolt jag from the sky to a spot on the shore left blazing by the light.  Driving through ancient, wet, green forests, or the endless expanse of the desert.  They just happen, like striking the edge of a singing bowl and reverberating for days past their experience.

Perhaps I have not been as bad at praying as I thought I was.  🙂

Refining


I’m up waaaaay too early for a day off. Especially after last week. I put in a lot of extra time at work last week for side projects. So I’m more tired today than usual.

Aaaand it might have something to do with not only going back to karate for the first time in six months (dear god I’m never doing THAT again), but also spending about eight solid hours cleaning out my garage with my husband yesterday. Consequently, just about every single muscle in my body hurts at some level or another. That’s okay, it’s kind of nice to feel evidence of moving around intensely for a while. I’m going to do it more often. It’s fun.  Karate that is.  Not cleaning out the garage.

Speaking of the garage, holy shit. We haven’t given the garage a thorough flensing in several years, so there was a lot of…stuff built up along the sides of the garage and then piled in a second layer towards the middle of the garage, leaving mountains alongside a narrow, and getting narrower, valley between them going from the inner kitchen door to the garage door. It was getting dangerous out there, never mind not actually being able to find or store anything any longer.

So out it all went into the driveway. We moved the mountains in reverse order into the driveway, but separating them into keep and discard piles. The keep pile was further filtered as it all went back into the garage, which we spent at least two hours actually *cleaning* and taking almost everything off of the shelves so everything could be grouped with their similar companions.  There was a lot of dust, cobwebs, and swearing, but also laughter, particularly when I decided to test the fire extinguisher IN the garage, resulting in a strange splot of sulfur dust on the floor.  That was entertaining.  Anyway, the result of our work was astonishing. We can actually find things now. There are a few areas and boxes that need going through and sorting, but overall it’s awesome.

Then we spent another two hours on the discard pile. Several boxes of house miscellany were put together along with an old computer, an old laser printer, and a few other larger items. The rest was trash or recycling. There are now four lawn and leaf bags full of trash and a mighty pile of recycling, not to mention the moderate pile of stuff that will go out in two weeks for bulky trash day. Sheesh. It was so great to filter through over thirteen years of stuff and get rid of a substantial portion of it that was useless, duplicated, or otherwise undesirable. Now it’s all sitting in a tidy and very large pile of boxes and such at the end of the driveway, awaiting a trip to Goodwill. I don’t have garage sales anymore. They’re a pain in the ass; not worth the effort for what little money one usually gets.

We found lots of stuff while we were cleaning, too. My husband likes to keep old electronic gadgets and measuring devices. He ran across a whole pile of scientific calculators and other stuff that only mad scientists like, including a magnetron from a microwave. Don’t ask. I found a bunch of aquarium stuff and got it all grouped together. We also found some media archives we had forgotten about, mostly magazines and other publications from our pagan/magick days. That stuff’s totally worth keeping for a walk down memory lane someday. I even found some stuff for the spawn in the form of cute little boxes. She loves them. So do I, so I guess she comes by it honestly (now that I think about it, that phrase doesn’t make any sense at all: I’m not sure why we use it).

Now that the garage has been cleaned, exposing the last boxes of my grandmother’s things, I can finally go through them, along with six boxes of papers, and finish up that four-year-old project. I need to send some things to the family that my grandmother was friends with and who took care of her during her last year. I’m ashamed that I have not been in much contact since then, but it was quite an experience to have to go out there to Orange County, pack up all of her stuff in two days, and then haul it all back to Texas by myself. Then I had to go through it all, and quickly if I wanted to ever use the garage again. That was about the time that our house became just a little too small for all of our stuff. After a few weeks, I pooped out and couldn’t go through any more boxes. They’ve sat there since then. My grandmother’s friends were hoping there might be some papers pertinent to the cabin they bought from her, and the wife was hoping to get some teacups from my grandmother’s kitchen things. I’ve never gone through the boxes, or sent the teacups. I still really want to do that. So I think I’ll be spending some more time in the garage today.

Rekindling


My karate dojo had a silent auction fundraiser last night. I brought my henna and glitter stuff to do body art for donation, even though I haven’t done either of those things in almost two years. I was a little nervous. I was worried I would suck after such a long time. A feeling that wasn’t made any better by my small practice design I did on my own hand, although I doubt that whatever I did would have made me happy. I’ve been suffering from a misperception about my art. Everything I do looks like ass to me, no matter how much other people love it.

It was nice to do that again, though. I only drew on or glittered a few people, but it was nice to be able to give something beautiful to someone and have them appreciate it. I worked for donations only. One of the things that killed my passion for henna two years ago was that I had been trying to monetize something that really is a sacred art to me, and to the people in the countries who use henna. I’m not a big believer in being rewarded or punished by a higher power, but in this case I do feel that, according to my own personal standards, I was suffering the consequences of trying to turn a sacred art into something that was NOT sacred.

So I stopped doing it altogether, and I’ve missed it so. I really have. There was a peaceful sensation to doing henna on myself that I had lost due to subverting that sacredness. I had lost my religion, so to speak. Well, last night I feel like I found it again in some small measure. Even though all I can see are the mistakes in the design I drew on myself, I once again feel a sense of fascination with the results of the bizarre plant that is henna, which is green but leaves a deep red stain. I love that dichotomy. And I love the ever-changing nature of a henna design. It’s different every day, like a living tattoo, albeit a temporary one.

I also rekindled another dormant desire, the one that made me want to go to karate class. The last time I was in class was the beginning of November. I had gotten my advanced yellow belt not long before, and for some reason I just wasn’t motivated to go to class. A few weeks turned into a few months, and I decided that I was just taking a hiatus from karate for an indefinite time period. I knew I would want to go back at the right time. Which seems to be now. I was very inspired by the black belt demonstration at the auction. I was reminded of what I liked about karate.

Now I just have to get over my self-consciousness at my woeful fitness level, larger size, and rustiness. I have inspiration for that too, luckily. I have my own past experience which tells me that I really can lose a lot of weight, it just takes time. I also have other students at the dojo to inspire me. One lady in particular has been busting her ass since she got there a couple of years ago and has lost an amazing amount of weight, about the same amount that I need to lose. Now, I don’t want to focus on losing pounds so much as I want to focus on being fit and healthy. Nevertheless, to be truly fit and healthy, I need to drop about 50 pounds to get myself to around 195. That’s the weight at which it becomes easier to find clothing that fits and at which I do not feel physically hampered by my weight or size. I can do yoga easily. I can do hard exercise without feeling like I’m going to die. And I feel better about myself, which is just about as important as the physical health benefits.

So tomorrow, I’m taking my karate stuff with me when I go to work, and I’ll split my shift so I can attend class. I’ll probably stick to the white belt classes for a few weeks, but then I’ll expand to other classes. Especially kata. I really love kata, and I have at least two new ones to learn from my promotion back in October. I also love the mental strength that comes with karate. I felt a lot more confident when I was going to class regularly. Once I get my class rhythm back, I’m going to work hard to keep it. I really do want to get my black belt someday. Then I get to play with staffs and break things. 😀


Praise Buddha, the heat wave has finally broken.  Not before we matched our hottest temperature ever: 112F.  Y’know, if I wanted to live in the fuckin’ desert, I would have moved to Las Vegas.  Now it’s a much more normal 90F-ish, but we traded almost living on the surface on the Sun to actually being there: wind and fire.  Tropical Storm Lee stirred up what lay dormant all summer with fierce winds, setting ablaze to places very close to home.  Many people have lost their homes over the last few days, and one of the closest state parks has been all but decimated.  The air is filled with the smell of the world’s largest campfire, and the sky is white with smoke.  My little girl is afraid that fires are going to sweep our city, and I’m having a hard time convincing her otherwise.

I know everything will be okay, but it’s hard to tell myself that when virtually every square inch of the city and areas surrounding are the color of toast.  The combination of one of the worst droughts in history and one of the worst heat waves in history has done very, very bad things to Texas.  I was brought to tears in recent weeks as I wondered when the heat would end.  I am still brought to tears occasionally as I wonder when it will rain again.  I swear that when it does, I may very well strip naked and raise my hands to the sky in gratitude and supplication to whatever deity has sought to bring us water.

In the personal meantime, my exercise routine has gone to complete and utter shit.  I can’t imagine why.  I mean, who wants to go jogging when it’s 105F or more outside?  The heat completely sapped my energy and I have been waiting and waiting for Hell to leave what is usually our little slice of Heaven here in Central Texas.  And it finally has!  The temperature dropped to the 60s at night and mere 90s in the day.  I never thought I’d be grateful for 93F.  It feels heavenly.  My little girl requested a sweater this morning!

And so it is time for me to get my shit together again.  I have returned to karate class, where I have finally gotten a couple of my kata right after weeks of working on them.  I haven’t returned to running or the gym yet, but I’ll get there.  You might wonder why I couldn’t get myself to an air-conditioned gym, but then again you’ve probably never experienced heat like we have.  It changes everything.  All you want to do is curl up on the couch.  No more, though.  I actually feel like doing something again, so I will.

Headmeat-wise, I’m still not entirely happy, and I realize I may not be for many more months.  It takes more than a year for some people to stabilize and get their particular cocktail of drugs just right.  Mostly I’m dealing with a lot of resentment, and sometimes it spills over into the rest of my life.  I’m approaching my 40th birthday, and I’m not happy about it at all.  I feel I have absolutely nothing to show for all of these years trodding about on Planet Earth, with the exception of my daughter and husband.  My henna art business is shot, I can’t afford to go to school, I can’t afford to go anywhere, jeez, I can’t even afford to replace the light on my fishtank right now.  And I’m dealing with some of the same problems that dogged my parents.  I feel like a complete and utter failure.

Then again, I look outside and see the smoke rising from the nearest large town and think that I’m being selfish for thinking that way.  Many people now have nothing, and would probably be very happy to have what I do.

That’s me: always able to find a way to flog myself.

I have the sensation that the Universe is removing various things from my life to make room for others, and when it’s done, it will start filling it up again.  I also think I should focus on what I do have and enjoy.  Family.  Cats.  An approaching birthday that will be filled with friends.  A job where I am well and truly appreciated.  A mostly healthy body that is very strong.  An outstanding mind.  Good health practitioners that are taking good care of me.  Doctor Who.  😀

The fires of my mind and the fires of my homeland will go out soon.  As I reminded my friends on Facebook with a picture of our city from just last February in which our fair town was blanketed in snow, it will end.  Money won’t always be the bane of our existence, my brain won’t always be the bane of MY existence, I’ll get that fishtank light replaced, and it will rain.  By Goddess, it will rain, and I’ll sit on the porch and watch it come down.  Though I probably won’t be naked.  🙂

Hot Hot Hot


“I tried not to think about the words SEARING.FLESH.” – Fight Club

It has been blazingly hot lately.  On Tuesday, I measured a temperature of 110F on my back porch.  Some people get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)  in the winter.  I get it in the summer.  After all, there’s not much going outside.  Not if you don’t want to spontaneously burst into flames.  And it’s depressing.  Everything is dead and brown.  I hate it.

Seriously though, I have taken up jogging with my friends.  We don’t go until the sun is nearly down, but I’m going.  This is remarkable for someone who used to laugh at joggers and runners for doing so without being chased.  And it does somehow make the heat more bearable, because it’s not going to rain for another month at least.  *cries*

On the plus side, my headmeat seems to have stabilized, but not until after a really unpleasant episode a couple of months ago during which I learned I really can’t fuck with my sleep.  That’s the trouble with having bipolar.  The only way to know your meds aren’t working is to feel like shit.  Ah well.  I have a small army of pharmacy bottles to take from each day, and a basket full of vitamins and supplements to counteract the side effects (mostly muscle twitches).  Two mood stabilizers, one antidepressant, one sleep aid, two antianxiety agents, and one thyroid med to counteract what one of the mood stabilizers does.

A calcium-magnesium-potassium supplement is crucial to stave off the muscle twitches, which aren’t nearly as bad as the ones trazodone gave me.  I don’t take that anymore, thank the gods: akathisia really, really sucks.  B-vitamins, fish oil, and a host of others.  Obviously, I found a headmeat doc (nurse, really) that does me a lot of good and is on tap via smartphone virtually any time.  Plus, he’s really funny.

Everything else I have allowed to sliiiiiiide.  I haven’t been to the Buddhist center in two months.  I haven’t done yoga in quite some time.  The only thing I’ve done is karate, which I will probably do more now that I know I don’t need that many more classes to get my next ranking.  I’ve gone to the gym more, though.  I have to adjust my diet, though, or those 20 pounds are never going to come off.

Obviously due to the heat wave, I’ve done no gardening.  It’s crispy out there.  I allowed my community garden plot to slide: who wants to put in community hours when it’s over 100 outside?  I hate the politics anyway.

Some things are good though, or at least better.  I’m enjoying things a little bit more.  I got the henna out for a friend last week and I was very pleased I haven’t lost my touch.  I haven’t had to lie to anyone about how I’m feeling, which also pleased me.  My memory is for shit, though, which my headmeat caretaker assures me will improve the happier I get.  I haven’t taken care of all that death paperwork to collect my grandmother’s ancient life insurance policy, but I actually want to, along with some remaining boxes that her friends in California were interested in.  I mean, it’s only been three years.  *sigh*

Other ways I know I’m better: I’m not murderously angry about the non-stop machinery I can hear from my house for the last, oh, year and a half?  I don’t feel like killing every asshat driver in South Austin (trust me, that’s remarkable, we have a high asshat density down here).  I’m a bit annoyed about the massive fence the neighbor behind us put up, but I haven’t thrown anything at it.  😀

There are other things that still need improving, but I’m hoping that they improve with more sleep and exercise and with an abatement of the heat.  It’s like a freakin’ blast furnace out there.

Anger


Anger and I are very, very old friends.  Anger came into my life when I was a baby.  I got to listen to anger through my father in what must have sounded like a monster as he drunkenly attacked my mother.  She told me I would stand up in my crib, holding the bars like a little jailee, screaming at the top of my lungs as my precious tiny ears were assaulted by the noises of her having the shit beaten out of her hard enough to send her to the hospital, more often than not.  My brother was introduced to anger at these times as well, though he was far too small to do much but lay there and cry, often in pain due to the problem he was born with: strangulated hernias.  Which is apparently a not uncommon problem for babies to deal with upon their introduction to life, but for him, it must have been especially grievous.

Anger became a fixture in my life again later, long after my father’s suicide, as the impact of that act slowly colored my mother’s behavior, as did the behavior, and lack thereof, of the man who married her following my father’s untimely death.  The man who I would be young enough to call “Dad” as I grew older and all memory of my father slipped from my young brain cells.  “Dad” was nothing more than a metal rectangle in the ground at Michigan Memorial Cemetery in Flat Rock, MI.  After a while I didn’t understand why we would go to visit him.  Thankfully I remembered as an adult, and the last time I visited his spare grave was ten years ago.  It was the first time anyone had visited his grave since we left Michigan in 1981.  Something about that just seems wrong.

Anger would never leave my life.  In fact, anger gained an ever-increasing presence as time went on and it became apparently that Richard, the stepfather, was nothing more than an abusive little boy, causing my mother to become increasingly bitter and angry herself.  She resorted to understandable coping mechanisms: drugs, drinking, and sex through casual relationships outside the marriage.  Which is not to say there’s anything inherently wrong with open relationships, but more than any other personal relationship we humans decide to pursue, those extracurricular relationships are the ones that must be undertaken with utmost care and precision.

Again, I got to bear witness to the fruits of anger between my now-parents: the drunkenness, the beatings, the shouting, and more and more frequently, the blood.  Slowly and deeply, those same seeds were planted inside me.  They would not bear fruit for many, many years, mostly because it just wasn’t safe for me, and deep down I knew it.  Anger and violence amongst adults is not just a game of seeing who can hurt the other the most.  It’s a game of control and power, and I knew only subconsciously that I was not old enough nor powerful enough to be able to engage in this game safely, let alone win it.  I continued to wear my mantle of anger hidden far beneath the much more palatable mantle of “good student”, which got me good attention at school, and at home it served as a buffer that kept much of the violence away from me.

Then came adolescence, and I began to blossom into the full human being that I was rightfully entitled to be.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t safe to do so.  Not only was I prey to my stepfather, who only had lewd and horrible things on his wretched mind, I was also prey to my mother, who was hellbent on controlling my life in almost every way, shape, and form in an effort to keep me from repeating the perceived mistakes of her own youth.  Which weren’t her mistakes: they were her own mother’s.  I’ve always wondered if she realized she was doing the exact same things that she had so often said she never would.

Needless to say, bad things began to happen as I grew and stopped being an academic wallflower.  I was never beaten, but I was kept under a tight rein that was often suffocating in its ability to control a willful adolescent.  When things came to a head in 1988, rather than attempt to manage things in such a way that I could finish school and then go out into the world on my own, Mom felt I was a danger to myself and had me hospitalized for two months.  Really, I was a danger to her own mid-life crisis driven lifestyle, and I was a mirror that reflected back at her every sordid voice and behavior that she herself was spewing out into the Universe in the name of “having fun”.  She was the walking definition of irony.

Anger has followed me these long years since I was finally able to escape her direct influence, and I finally let out my own anger in 2001 when I let her know just how I felt about oh so many things.  Our relationship was never the same after that, but I was certainly a healthier person.  I was breaking free, finally!  It took me to the age of 29 to do it, but I was doing it.

I wish I could say anger slowly slid away from my life, but it didn’t.  It found a comfortable place to sit and hunkered down, reminding me of all of my parents’ transgressions and how badly I had been fucked over.  Anger was right, though I can’t say it was truly doing me any good.  Rather, I can say that anger was an outstanding protector.  Anger stood over me with a very sharp sword and would whack off the head of anyone who dared to transgress my borders without my permission ever again.  Anger made me feel safe.  I kept him around, though I was leery because I knew the power that he had.  For the moment, though, it was refreshing and empowering to have this newfound power to wield against anyone or anything that might try to put me down, take control of me, or do anything else to hurt me.

Slowly, though, anger himself took control of me, or tried to anyway.  I recognized what he was doing, and I knew that I had to rip out those claws no matter how tightly they were dug into my psyche or how much temporary good they had done me.  Anger became a very powerful tool to keep cleaned and sheathed in the corner, only to be pulled out when absolutely necessary.  He could not be a constant companion.

Fortunately, I had begun my path towards Buddhism and yoga, and it was relatively easy to put anger into a manageable corner that left me free to rebuild the rest of my life.  He reared his ugly head again, though, not long after Zoe was born.  In retrospect I realize that was the ever-present specter of bipolar illness rising up from time to time, in combination with a very real and justifiable anger that had finally achieved emotional awareness and really wanted to talk about all of the things over the course of my life that I was perfectly justified to be pissed off about.  I pushed him down each time and tried to move forward.  I had a child to raise, after all, and if I could help it, I did NOT want anger to be walking with her hand-in-hand as he had with me.

It was impossible, though, and I realized that my only recourse was to make sure that she wielded her sword with more skill than I had done thus far.  That all by itself made me angry.  I suddenly found my inner psyche pitted with volcanoes of anger that had always been there, yet had lain dormant, waiting for just this moment.  Some of them oozed their lava across my soul; others exploded without warning, generating tsunamis of emotion that wreaked havoc upon my inner shores wherever they landed.

It was incidents like this that finally drove me to the psychiatric emergency room.  Each time one of these volcanoes released its load, I could see the fear in the eyes of anyone around me.  More frightening, I could see the potential for them to take hold of my daughter.  I steadfastly refused to allow anger to wield the sword.  If anyone was going to be holding that sword, it would be me and my daughter.  Skillfully and patiently, we would both lay to rest that horrible specter that had caused so much damage for the last nearly 40 years in my family.  I refused to allow it to take hold in us the way it had in those who came before us.

And so here we are, students at the finest karate school in Texas, learning bit by bit how to be the master rather than the mastered.  I’m still angry, though.  Every time I think I’m done being pissed off, another volcano erupts for me to deal with, which makes me sad and angry all over again.  Perhaps I will not truly be done until having those volcanoes go off simply does not bother me.  Because that will mean they no longer control me: it is I who control them.  When that happens, nothing will ever be able to stop me.

Water


I’m learning something really damned annoying: I can’t drink anymore.  At all.  Not that it was a problem or anything like that for me, but I do enjoy a couple of margaritas or hard ciders every now and then.  Not to mention I have a patch of mint in my garden that produces 3″ mint leaves just perfect for making mojitos.  It was always something of a point of pride for me, coming from a family of alcoholics and being the only one who could drink and not lose my shit or become a raving lunatic (oh wait).  These last couple of months, while I was being cautious, I retained my happiness that I could still enjoy a couple of grownup beverages without any adverse effects due to my medication.

I’m sad to say that is no longer the case.  There are many things that will cause a rise in blood lithium levels, and booze is one of them for some folks.  Like me, apparently.  Really, the problem isn’t the booze.  It’s dehydration.  Every drug has an annoying Sisyphean side effect: lithium’s is dehydration.  Dehydration increases the concentration of the drug in the bloodstream, leading to fun things like hand tremors and muscle twitches.  I’m a karate student: I can’t have this.  Which means not only do I get to do battle with my own brain, I have to hyper-hydrate and avoid anything that dehydrates me, whenever possible.  Such as anything with caffeine or alcohol.  I’ve also learned recently that if I’m craving a drink, it’s because my brain’s gone manic.  Why I like to drink when I’m manic, I have no idea, but it’s a warning.

Now, the alcohol I can do without.  The caffeine, however, that’s going to suck to do without.  Plus, it feels like a kick in the shins after going through the trouble of quitting smoking a few months ago.  Is this your way of forcing me to be the perfectly healthy human being I’m supposed to be, Universe?  You could have just sent me a text, or an email.  No need for all this physical drama, really.

Then again, I can be incredibly clueless and resistant to change, and perhaps I really will look back on all of this after a few years and see the good that it’s done me.  I can envision the person I want to be and should be if I don’t want to suffer the same fate as my parents.  I have to be the sort of person I’ve always made fun of to a certain extent, the more-enlightened-than-thou types that my fair city is unfortunately saturated in.  Except if I want to tolerate myself, I have to leave out the self-righteousness and judgment that really has no place in that sort of lifestyle.

What does the healthy me look like?  She gets up early and drinks some water (not tea/coffee), takes her meds, and does some meditation and yoga.  Then she wakes up her daughter, and because she’s already been up for a while, she’s not instantly irritated by the normal stress of getting a child moving for the day.  Then she eats and takes her vitamins and such (which are just as important as the meds, really).  And drinks more water.  Repeatedly.  All day, every day.  And she’ll know if she hasn’t been when her fingers start twitching and her legs feel like they have to run or they’ll explode.  When she gets agitated, she has to sit her ass down and meditate.  Right then, if at all possible.  Or do more yoga.

That has to be my life now, as much as possible.  Yoga.  Meditation.  Exercise.  Meds.  Vitamins.  Water.  Water.  Water.  I have to take care of myself in a way that no one else ever really has, even when they were supposed to, so as stupid as it sounds, I really don’t know how.  Which is what makes this so hard.  There’s still a sullen teenager parked on her butt with her arms crossed in the corner of my mind saying, “Fuck you.  You want me to do what other people were supposed to do but were too fucked up to?  You want me to do their job?  Fuck you.”  And I know I just need to fucking get over it, but I have to at least acknowledge her presence and tell her, “You’re right.  It sucks and it’s not fair, but if you want to live, here’s what has to happen.”  And hope she’s not too busy feeling bitter to do the right thing.  And drink lots of water.


I haven’t had a whole lot to say since my last post about being oversaturated, understandably.  Plus, I’ve just been busy.  I proudly work at my karate dojo and have been trying to catch up on the hours I lost last month to my various doctor appointments and medication adjustment issues.  I can easily say my karate family has been a very important part of me being as healthy as possible lately, and I don’t just mean physically.  Unrelatedly but not unappreciatively, I was rewarded with a new (to me) computer to work on, which always rocks.  🙂

It’s also prime gardening time here in Central Texas.  If there’s a rush hour of gardening in these parts, it’s now.  Particularly if you like tomatoes.  They have to be started indoors and then put in the ground as soon as the last freeze passes.  Any later and you risk not having any at all because the summer heat kills the blossoms (mind you, summer starts in May around these parts some years).  Consequently, every nursery and garden is a flurry of activity right now.

I guess you could say I’ve been doing the “chop wood, carry water” bit and just going about my life.  In fact, it’s felt a bit plain.  As I was thinking about it earlier, it struck me that this may be some of the “flatness” that a lot of people with bipolar illness complain about.  It’s a dangerous flatness, one that makes people go off their meds.  That way, as they say, lies madness.

This gives me a great deal of pause, because I don’t like the flatness.  And as soon as I talk to my new psychiatric nurse, I’m going to tell him that, because I’d rather not be one of those bipolar patients.  The ones who go off their meds only to flip out and have to go back on them.  Sometimes forcibly.  I really, really, really don’t want to be one of  those people (if for no reason other than the age old “dear Lord don’t let me be like my mother” baggage so many women have, bipolar or not).

I get it now.  I so totally and completely understand why some people decide to throw the meds in the trash so their life can be the kaleidoscopic landscape of mental color that it can be sometimes.  It’s intoxicating and makes you completely forget the times you’re in a hole so black no light gets in, or are so agitated you really can’t control yourself even if you want to.  Life on meds, in comparison to the near delirium and incredibly creativity and productivity of a hypomanic or manic state, can seem lifeless and dull, almost unbearably so, ironically.  It’s this sort of attitude that is probably what often causes people around us to get a little disgusted.  After all, it’s really just regular life that you’re disparaging as being pedantic or boring or useless or just too goddamned slow.  It’s all yet another reminder that you don’t think like everyone else does.

As much as I dislike the flatness (which may in fact have some remedies), I dislike more the extremes in mood fluctuation.  I still have them, though not as severely.  Really, the height of each peak and the depth of each trough are progressively lower and higher, respectively, the more time goes on.  Which is not to say I am not still occasionally gripped by a frustrated agitation that makes me cycle between murderous rage, pathetic weeping, suicidal despair, and exhausted melancholia.  I prefer the latter state of mind, really, because it means whatever cycle I’m in is over, for the moment anyway.

Until that happens, though, my thoughts in these cycles often frighten me, and I am struck with the horrible irony that in my parents’ suicides, I learned firsthand the aftermath that follows such a terrible thing, and as such seem to be blocked by my own personal morals from even contemplating my own end beyond natural causes in far old age.  I know there are many friends who are worried about me, so I try not to go too long between posts.  Thanks to the internet though, I’m never too far away.

I still hold out hope for that magic place between dark despair, crazed productivity, agitated madness, and flat apathy.  Truly, there has to be a place that allows for balance.  If there isn’t, and I have to choose a bit of moodiness by altering or removing meds to avoid that flatness, then that’s my choice, but only to a point of course.  I’d rather have more color in my life, even if they’re awash in darkness on occasion, than live in a world of emotional taupe.

For now, though, my job is still to try to wrangle as much stability out of my schedule as possible and to fall into healthier patterns of living.  I can’t tell you how frustrating this process is.  Sometimes all I can do is simply track my moods and behaviors from day to day, which has its usefulness in that the more time goes on, the more I can predict how I might be feeling from day to day.  That’s actually extremely valuable, because if I know it’s going to be a shitty day, I can try to avoid stressors.  Someday I hope to have as little fluctuation as possible while still feeling like a “colorful” person.  Until then, I am still my own experiment and as such, I am still collecting data.

I get it now, though.  I get a lot.  And I don’t like a lot of it.

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