Friday, July 25, 2014

The current plan is, throw ALL THE THINGS at the wall and see what sticks.

Well, currently the wall is a MESS! And ain’t nothing sticking!

I feel like I’ve been going along and asking too many questions. As a grad student that wasn’t in the program yet, I had no advisor and no one was really answering my questions as to what’s what so I came up with the plan of attack of do all of it, email everyone, ask all the questions. Eventually, I got the answers that I needed to, likely not without annoying a few people, and now I’m where I should be in this process… I think.

Moving forward, there’s no new plan, per se, because I don’t know that I have enough answers. I’m not sure if I’m having issues understanding things, exactly, or if it’s just that I don’t have enough information.

The problem I have with my bipolar disorder sometimes is that messages get scrambled, either due to lack of focus or negative thinking. This means that, even when I get the proper information, my mind doesn’t always get the memo and I keep on responding as though there were no new information or that the new information is not so different from the old.

I’ve seen this at work as of late. There were 3 or so conversations online that, upon rereading the exchange, I realized that what the other person was saying wasn’t what I had taken it to mean. In other words, I heard their views or opinions with a negative slant towards me or in a way that was negative in meaning. I’m not sure that I’m explaining it properly, but know that it would have become an argument had I not stepped back.

Thankfully, I have learned to step away from the conversation (more often than not) when I’m feeling misunderstood or attacked by friends. It has become something that I know to evaluate than to take as real. If the misunderstanding is indeed real, though, it has helped me to take a look at their side and consider what is being said or argued. I see it as beneficial all around, really. However, the trick is that I have to be able to stop myself and catch it, which is not always possible.

Outside of conversations with friends, I’ve seen a cognitive distortion in how I’ve read instructions for assignments and in how I take in the information handed to me. The problem with the first is that I will interpret something a certain way and go about the assignment based on how I read it, which inevitably gets points deducted from my grade for “not following instructions.” You see the problem here.

The problem can also manifest itself in repetitive questions, usually causing the other person to lose patience. This was something that I found came into play during a recent interview for a graduate assistant position. Not wanting to ask the person the same question over and over (which I believe had already happened twice) in case it was my fault in the interpretation, I did what I always do and I threw general answers of all the things at them. I found that I rambled when I did this, resulting in confusion and frustration on my part to get to the pertinent answers… or at least the more pertinent answers in my understanding. No one wants to hear about my grocery experience when my software skills or tech skills are clearly what the job calls for.

How do I fix this? I’m not sure. The best I can think of doing is taking a step back to re-evaluate. It also might be that perhaps I am getting ahead of myself and I’m trying to answer questions that I don’t have to yet. Maybe I don’t have to rush into an internship yet, maybe I shouldn’t be looking into attending conferences either, and maybe it wouldn’t be clear to me which track to focus on in school even on a good day.

It’s a little dizzying, and slightly off-putting, too, but I feel like I need to step back and refocus. I hope that one day I’ll figure out a better way to work around this problem, especially in solving how it affects my work and opportunities. Living with bipolar disorder can be a bit of a handicap, and I don't know that this is something that they generally tell you about when working on skills to handle a mental condition. All I can go by is what I've experienced and been through. 

From the New Yorker © 2014

So, of course, I have to wonder... is this real?

Monday, July 14, 2014

I'm inspired almost every day by things that friends are doing. It seems I know a lot of people that are starting to do more of their creative thing or push for the next level of what they're doing creatively. They're putting themselves and their art out there, and that's very impressive because it takes courage, belief, and determination.

However, it also takes money. I try to support them as much as I can when and where possible because I believe in them. I know belief helps, but I know that sometimes money (when possible) helps more.

So my friend, Gren has a chance to be in this really neat Kickstarter project for an anthology of comic book stories inspired by Nine Inch Nails songs. I'm of fan of comic books and I'm a fan of Nine Inch Nails, so I'm completely on board. In order for Gren's story to get into the anthology, however, the project - which is currently funded to print the first few stories - needs to hit the $35,000 milestone before the group of stories that his is part of can be added.

I'd like to ask that you, dear reader, please help by contributing whatever possible and by spreading the word and link to the Kickstarter for this project (found here).

So... pretty please, with sugar on top.

The video for the Kickstarter project.

Gren's plea and video on the benchmarks to be reached.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Imagine you're walking down the street where you live. It's just any old night and nothing seems particularly fabulous. You might even be feeling a little low because life isn't very magical and everything is too real, too... stark.

Then, you see a faint, blue light coming from the garage of a boarded up old building across the street.
Copyright 2014 - Walter Hugo & Zionel

So you stop and stare, wondering... what are those little lights in a blue... room? What is that? 

You look around because the street seems a little different now, and you're not quite sure you're really here. The street is deserted. Is that right? Should it be? Or... 

So you cross the street to have a better view.
Copyright 2014 - Walter Hugo & Zionel

Suddenly, you're not you anymore and the world isn't real. There is a tank of jellyfish in this garage! What is it doing here? Who put it in the garage of this abandoned building? Why?

However, it doesn't really matter now. The world is all the more magical for it... and that's all that counts.

You can see the installation, The Physical Possibility of Inspiring Imagination in the Mind of Somebody Living, and the livestream at London's Gazelli Art House.

Monday, July 7, 2014

I have been having a hard time putting into words how I have been feeling. Hell, I have been having a hard time feeling about how I have been feeling!

This past weekend was the anniversary of a couple of significant things:
1) A year ago today/last night Stephen broke his back - a complete fracture of the T12 vertebra
2) A year ago this past Saturday, I almost moved out.

After dealing too long with his self-destructive downward spiral, I was setting up a plan to move out of our house. I felt I was getting better while Stephen was still reeling from various things - most significantly his divorce... and most astonishingly (to me) his alcoholism. We were aware of the former, but I (and maybe he??) was in denial of the latter. That is, until July 5th when, especially with the 4th of July holiday, it all just came to a head for me.

I can't say exactly what was different this time, just that there was finally something in me that said, yes, he is an alcoholic, yes you are enabling him, and yes you have to do something about it for you. 

So I prepared myself to move out, knowing that I needed my own space for my sanity, especially because I still loved him and didn't want to leave him... just the situation. I also knew that this could very well mean the end of everything. He could easily take it as an act of aggression - an all-out act of war - and continue to do things that would make it so that I had no choice, but to walk away completely. Still, I had finally come to the point that I accepted the possible outcome of my move. So it was with wobbly steps that I went forward, trying to procure a place to stay as part of my first.

That Saturday the 6th he took me to dinner after he finished work, the conversation laying a good foundation for what I thought could make for a reasonable talk the next day. I hoped I could explain that I was moving out and why, without him calling an end to it all together. After dinner, he suggested we stop to see a friend's band play... which is where all the rest happened. Once at the bar, a bike and the boyo down later, we were on the way to the hospital maybe 30 minutes after we had left dinner.

I remember being so angry. I was angry because I didn't know what had happened, didn't know how badly he was hurt, and I was especially angry because, at the moment I was resolved to take action, something like this comes along and happens. What was I supposed to do now?

When I found out that he had completely fractured the T12 vertebra and that he could have been completely paralyzed with one wrong move, I was both horrified with how badly he was injured and thankful that he was still fine. We weren't all clear yet, though - surgery would tell the tale. He needed to get his spine fused, having surgery done where they used rods to fuse the T11 and L1 vertebrae to secure the spine. Depending on how surgery went, would depend on what the future held for him.

I was angry for a week after that, knowing I had to make a decision on whether or not to leave, whether or not I wanted to see if and how things would change, and whether or not I wanted to stick this out with him.

I decided to stay.

It's now a year later and I can tell you that I have been dealing with a bit of the fuzziness of how the accident and decision worked out. There are still reactions in me that come from long-gone actions and ways of being. So much has changed, but a little has stayed the same. Those little things still bring about knee-jerk reactions, so I spent this weekend mostly at home - thinking things out, weighing differences, checking my feelings, and mostly trying to avoid any triggers. It's not always possible, but usually the less I have to deal with, the easier it is for me to work with the triggers instead of reacting to them.

I survived the weekend with little mental discomfort, anxiety, or anguish. In fact, I made it through this weekend feeling like I've learned more about my relationship, especially how much we've both put into it and ourselves to make us work better. It's amazing how sometimes one walks away from something life changing a whole lot stronger, when the outcome could have been so devastating.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On Mentors and Writing

Last night I had a meeting with my career advisor... who is also kind of acting as a Life mentor for me. I nearly forgot that I had made my appointment over a month ago! Thinking back, I made it when I first got that feeling of "have to write this book NOW!" Wow, that was over 2 months ago. Meeting with her last night helped reanimate me and helped me find the focus that I've been looking for lately.

So for those that don't know/didn't get the speech, my friend Sean posted this article back in April. It's an article about the stigma of mental health issues and I highly recommend it. What it did for me was help me realize that now is the time to jump in on this conversation, and I want in! I have a lot to add to it and I want to do my part in helping kids especially. They should know they're okay and that there are more of us that feel the same way out there.

I'd say that it's been since declaring my major as creative writing in college that I've wanted to write and publish this book. That was sort of my acceptance that I wanted to write professionally. I had my second round of counseling my sophomore year and I knew that I wanted to help anyone who felt like I did. I hadn't been diagnosed yet, but I knew there was something I was battling, and writing, books, and music went a long way in helping me through things. I figured if creativity & art could help me, maybe what I could do when I am good enough is write a book that others can go to that will help them not feel alone in this.

Notice I said when I am good enough. This book (that doesn't exist yet... well, it's a rough sketch at the moment) was and is important to me. It's the book I wish I had when I was in high school - one about a girl that is bipolar - just like me (so it turned out)! Who is going through the same emotions and changes - just like me! Oh, what I would have given for that character when I was 16! As it's so important, I want it to be perfect - or as perfect as it can be. So I never felt ready because I saw writing as this super important business that I didn't have the keys to yet.

When I first met with my counselor over a year ago, it was about another book. In getting to know me, though, she heard a lot about The Book - this one I have to write. So she wanted to know, why am I not writing this book? Which made me wonder, yeah... why am I not writing this book? Because I'm not a published author with answers as to how to write this?? One thing I have learned is... well, you never have the answers... you just learn some tricks. So, what was I waiting for?

It's taken some prodding, some thinking, and Mark Joyella's article on Medium to get me to where I am now. I'm writing this book. I'm writing it to join the conversation on mental health, I'm writing it to let kids know that it's ok - I feel that way, too, and I'm writing it for me... because I survived. If I can help just one kid survive it, too, then my book will have made all the difference.