Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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It seems that all I talk about on here sometimes are my little victories over my health struggles, how I have this great little tool, how I believe that things will get better. Last night would not be one of these little victories.

I had a pretty serious meltdown. When I was a teenager, I was yelled at when someone was angry with me. Oftentimes, the yelling was accompanied by hitting, either with a belt, switch, or paddle. Last night, I started to panic about leaving the house today (I have both my medication management and my therapy appointments this afternoon) and I was “going into my head,” an expression we’ve started to use whenever I stop listening to, or more accurately can’t hear, what someone is saying, and before the other person can finish their thought, my brain responds with the worst case scenario. This caused frustration in my wife, and she began raising her voice, since in her upbringing, you kept escalating volume until the other person acknowledged and validated what you were saying. Our pasts collided with one another as they usually do, with me unable to hear what she was saying in order to validate it, her yelling at me to get her point across, and me terrified that sooner or later, the hitting would start. I became a child again, mentally speaking, and that part of me was very scared at all the ruckus.

Eventually we calmed back down, and things got back to normal, but it took time and a lot of silence between us.

This morning, I’m not quite so panicked about my appointments, though the extraneous stops I was planning to make while I was out got tabled due to stress over money and effort. (While still fairly light, lugging my 17.3″ gaming ultrabook around, along with its cooling pad, power cord, mouse, headset, books to read, paper to take notes on, diabetes supplies, checklist books, pencils and erasers, and meds for the day suddenly became a lot more effort than I wanted to put into a trip to Starbucks. I can cut that down to the laptop, the mouse, my Bluetooth headset, my meds, my Moleskines, and my writing implements if I’m not planning a big trip, but the intent was to spend the morning out of the house, and a trip that long would eventually require battery power. Anyway, this is not a blog about my obsession with electronic gadgets, so let’s get back to the meat of the post, shall we?) I’m still planning my day around my two appointments, which means eating at a time that will allow me to check my glucose between appointments and not while in one or the other, and I’m still planning to pick my wife up from work (whenever I have the car, due to my agoraphobia, we usually plan on a plan B to get her home just in case; it’s been necessary about a third of the time).

If I can just make those two appointments, that will be the biggest single accomplishment that I’ve made in weeks. It’s difficult measuring your accomplishments not on the scale of getting a promotion at work (something that’s occurred precisely once in my life) or graduating from college (something that’s never occurred and likely at this point in my life never will) but on the scale of making it to your doctor and your therapist without completely freaking out and hiding under the covers in bed. It goes a long way to making me feel like my life has been and will continue to be a failure, but I have to remind myself that I have several chronic illnesses, and my body and brain are just not cut out for greatness measured in the way others measure it. As much as I’d love to say I’m going to get off disability, the fact of the matter is that right now I’m actually worse than I was when I was going through the application process, and I barely made it through that. With the way that my illnesses have been progressing, I see an extension of benefits in my future, not a career.

Yet there have been some astounding strides made to help me. I found out that my 30 year old bipolar diagnosis was either incomplete or incorrect, and that I’ve been treated using insufficient modalities all this time. I’ve learned a lot about my new borderline personality disorder diagnosis, and I’m continuing to educate myself on an almost daily basis. I’ve found that there are others out there who support me while I struggle to find some sense of normality in my life, and discovered who my true friends really are.

Maybe one day things will change. Maybe one day I can get back into the work force, doing something that I’m passionate about and can really set my mind to succeeding at. (I’ve wanted for over a year now to work toward certification and work as a peer support specialist, because the greatest resource I can offer many people is my life story and how I succeed in managing my symptoms through all I’ve experienced.) But today is not that day. Today is a day to conquer going through the door, out into the cold, bright day, facing my fears head on.

One step back. Two steps forward.

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Off the Bandwagon, Crossing the Streams

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I’m going back through the checklist that manages my life with BPD and diabetes and noticing that I’ve really let my new habits go during the holidays.

As described in an earlier post, I take Saturdays off from trying to accomplish everything on my list, but I’ve also decided that holidays are likewise exempt. Who wants to spend Christmas looking at a little black book trying to determine what comes next in a day of productivity? The problem with that is, if you consider the addition, there are four days out of the last two full weeks that I haven’t bothered to even crack open my Moleskine, and I can really feel the difference in my body and my mental state.

So, this being Monday, and the start of a new week, I’ve decided to rededicate myself to trying to get everything done. So far, today’s been good. I’m on time with my scheduled list of activities, and my blood glucose has been very good (both readings so far today in the high 90s).

This past weekend has been an exercise in putting my own health on the back burner in order to concentrate on my wife’s well-being. Without going into a lot of detail (I’ll leave that to her on her own blog, if and when she’s ready), most of last week has been a rough spot for her. Like me, the external validation wasn’t enough to fight the internal monologue, and she’s been struggling to keep a game face on. Unlike me, she rarely lets anyone ever know she’s having a bad time of things, so she keeps a brave face on until the negative self-talk is too powerful to hide anymore. This weekend has been one of those times that the mask broke, and I’ve been mindful of the fact that we both have BPD, and that can be an absolutely intimidating set of circumstances for a marriage to deal with.

Yet we tend to deal with it spectacularly, and I think I have an idea why.

According to DSM-IV, two of the diagnostic criteria for BPD are “a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation” and a “markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.” When one of us begins to exhibit signs of an unstable self-image, by expressing that we feel like we’re always in trouble, or someone’s always angry or disappointed in us, or whatever method the negativity channels itself through, the other immediately contributes by expressing the value that the relationship has to us. It helps to keep one symptom from sliding into the other one because the valuation of the relationship – not the idealization of it – becomes all the sufferer tends to hear. And eventually something clicks, we’re in the moment enough to listen to it, and soon the period of being actively symptomatic begins to fade.

I say “fade” rather than “go away” because recovery from being symptomatic in BPD seems to take time proportionate to the period of active symptoms. There’s a lingering belief that being symptomatic itself was wrong and getting past that takes some effort, for both of us.

Now, that’s not to say that only one of us is symptomatic at a time. Far from it. It’s when we’re simultaneously symptomatic that we have almost every disagreement, argument, and fight that we’ve ever had. Outside of our symptoms, our marriage seems almost ideal. But those symptoms keep us struggling.

For now, she has the distraction of work, and I have the distraction of my checklists to keep me occupied throughout the day. (I also have the cat, who just interrupted my writing to get some “daddy time” in. Having had quite enough of being petted and loved on, she’s now moved on to the next big adventure in her little kitty life, and I can get back to wrapping up this blog post.) Here’s hoping that our combined distractions are going to make tonight easier for both of us.