Posts Tagged With: strength

SENSITIVE STEEL

I have bipolar disorder.

I am constantly challenged by my own intense emotions.

I feel everything you feel . . . times a thousand.

The good, the bad, and the ugly . . . times a thousand.

The loneliness and depression can be devastating, and the endless and exhausting struggle to cope, pure torture.

The statistics confirm it. One out of every five people afflicted with bipolar disorder successfully takes their own life.

My life consists of agitated anxious thinking and tormented isolation, with brief intermittent bursts of joy.

Even the happiness is heartbreaking. So erratic. And fleeting.

When I feel a joyous moment, I try to grab hold of it and capture it like a lightning bug in a jar. I embrace it. I consume it and feed it to my hungry heart. I am a quiet little hoarder of happiness.

Because I don’t know when I’ll see another lightning bug again.

Maybe never.

When most of you meet new people, you get to know them and then you judge whether or not to trust them and let them into your heart.

I do the opposite.

I take people at face value, and after a quick scan of my instincts, I pretty much let everyone in. And then I judge, as they prove dramatic, unstable, or hurtful, which ones are unhealthy for me.

It’s an awful way to live, but I’ve tried being careful and guarded, and it’s just not my nature.

I love quickly and with a wide open heart.

I view everyone as being unique and magnificent, and I let them come in, and I celebrate them loudly. That’s how I am.

But I forget.

I forget that people don’t always say what they mean. And sometimes they’ll say what they mean all day long until you need them to, and then they won’t. People are funny like that.

I also forget that people misuse the word “love”, and when they hug me and say it, they mean it casually like, “It’s been nice to see you”. They don’t really love me.

And I forget that people don’t feel as intensely as I do.

And when I am reminded, it breaks my heart.

I am a constant victim . . . of my own brain.

So I strive to make better choices about people. Who I let in. Who I believe. And trust. And love.

And when I get hurt, as surely I will, because I will always love quickly and hugely, I will take the hit to my heart, lick my wounds, adjust, and then get right back out into the world.

But I will remember this pain.

For a little while anyway.

And then I’ll forget again.

Because that’s just my nature.

I love quickly. And I have a terrible memory. Sheesh.

The irony is, that as sensitive as I am . . .

I am as strong as you are . . .  times a thousand.

We bipolars are funny that way.

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(Read, “Being Bipolar” at: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-hF).

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Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Friends, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

ABOUT ME & MY JOURNEY

In this blog I bear my soul. I’ve suffered some rather traumatic family losses in my lifetime and have overcome some rough stuff: the loss of my only child; an infant son, a 40-year dysfunctional, (but comfortable), relationship with grief, suicide and drug addiction in the family, and everything from quitting a 35 yr smoking habit, to overcoming prescription drug addiction, to my challenges with bipolar disorder. smiling glasses allieGOOD

Now, at the age of 54, I’m facing a whole new world through clear eyes! Everything is fresh and exciting, and challenging and scary . . . and I’m embracing it all!

In this blog, I share (purge) my past experiences, however painful, raw, or revealing. And I share new adventures . . . both emotionally and physically out in the world. I take you into the world of bipolar disorder . . . or maybe to the local cancer center to meet cancer patients who heal through their art, or to an art gallery exhibition, to the local park to snap pics, or maybe downtown to our wonderful City of Detroit!

I’m on the cusp . . . of change.

I believe in celebrating the people and places around me. I will seldom vent, rant, or approach something in a negative way. If I don’t enjoy an art show, or a new business, or a new artist, I simply won’t blog about it. Anything else is just too easy. I look for the good, the funny, the kind, the loving, and the inspirational things; and they are EVERYWHERE! I hope to make you laugh, or cry, or maybe even think about things a bit differently.

So, please, join me on this beautiful, incredible, painful, and amazing journey called life. And please, share your thoughts with me by leaving a comment on my blog! Also, to “Follow” me on my journey, just enter your email address in the “Follow” box and you will be notified by email each time I post a new blog entry.

Thanks for visiting! Be safe. Be careful. And please . . . remember to be kind. xoxoJulia

*Blog content & photographs © 2013 by Julia Kovach, unless otherwise noted.

Categories: Addiction, Bipolar/Depression, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Humor, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

THE OTHER SISTER

There were four daughters born to my parents. The eldest died of lung cancer at the age of 52. The second eldest took her own life at the age of 39. Then there is me. And then comes my youngest sister who, although very much alive, has always seemed fragile and unreliable.

I was the strong one, the confident, unshakeable, unafraid, independent middle child and the fixer of all things unacceptable or unjustified. And I proudly wore that label for most of my life.

Until it caught up with me.

Until all of that self-imposed responsibility chipped away at my boulder-like core and I began to diminish . . . one small piece at a time, until finally crumbling, when I was needed most.

I am great in a crisis. No kidding. Point me towards an explosion and within minutes, I will assess the situation, determine the damages, and map out a plan of action. Because that is what I do. I fix things.

And I expected no less from myself when my Mom recently suffered some sudden and very serious health issues.

The moment she arrived at the hospital, I went into work mode. I made inquiries, recited the millions of memorized bits detailing her medical history, confirmed information, and ensured that the greatly appreciated hospital staff was doing their jobs.

I did not know it, but that was the easy part.

What I did not anticipate was the change in Mom’s behavior. It was due to hospital psychosis, a temporary psychiatric condition that affects many older patients who become hospitalized. I learned that it is an elderly patient’s involuntary negative reaction to the overstimulation, confusion, and unfamiliarity of a new and hectic environment, coupled with the debilitating effects of their physical ailments. Its symptoms present in irrational and sometimes violent behavior such as hallucinations, depression, attempts to climb out of bed, removal of intravenous tubing or other devices, paranoia, fear, or a demand to return home.

And Mom delivered it all . . . full blast. And man, was I unprepared. And ill equipped. Even though I knew that this new condition was not her fault, I reacted badly.

I suffer from bipolar disorder. (Read, “Being Bipolar” at: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-hF ). I am hypersensitive to sounds, my brain obsesses, races, and rarely stops, I’m over-emotional and often prickly and annoyed. Hospitals, grocery stores, and nightclubs are three of my most difficult environments, in terms of sounds and the frustrations and difficulties of interacting with the public.

Now, take the unique ingredient of hospital ambiance: the bright, harsh lights, the steady barrage of sounds – like beeping machines, sounding alarms, blasting intercoms, and the boisterous staff who assume that everyone has a hearing deficiency, and add to that the challenges of having bipolar disorder, and then add to that the stress of a critically ill family member who now suddenly seems out of her mind . . . and what you have is the perfect recipe for a mental breakdown.

Mine.

I am not kidding. I am terrified that I will awaken one morning in unfamiliar and padded accommodations and not know how I got there. I’m pretty sure that’s how it happens – you just awaken in that room. I don’t think you feel it coming on. And if so, it probably feels something like this.

I remember standing, trembling, in the doorway of Mom’s hospital room. She was on a ventilator and could not be sedated because of her dangerously low blood pressure. She was highly agitated and was trying to remove the vent. She was still irrational the day after its removal and was demanding to leave.

Everything negative and bipolar triggered in me. Even though I knew that Mom could NOT help it, I was angry with her for being difficult and for struggling. I was horrified at the tubing, the fluids, and the sound of the ventilator and her gurgling. I felt tortured by the alarms that went off each time she tried to sit up. I resented that she had not taken better care of herself. Hell, I even resented her for being old. And then I really saw her . . . looking so thin, frail, and helpless, and I hated myself for feeling as I had. The guilt was overwhelming. I wanted to run away and hide. Or to just die.

I watched Brenda, my remaining sister, the younger less competent one, as she stood at Mom’s bedside and gently held her shoulders down while explaining to her why she could not leave. She stroked her hair and lovingly whispered her reassurances. And Mom quieted.

Hysterical and unable to bear it, I went home and cried myself to sleep.

But Brenda stayed at Mom’s side and calmed her down, over and over again, throughout the entire long night.

The next morning, I arrived early to find my sister exhausted, but still there.

I hugged her and began to cry.

“All this time . . . I thought I was the strong one. But I was wrong. You are. I have never given you any credit for anything. I have always criticized you and judged your choices. I am so sorry. I was wrong. I didn’t know.” I said.

In the days since then, Brenda and I have talked more and have become closer. We know that when it comes to the medical care and daily living assistance now required by my reluctant, stubborn, and sometimes selfish parents, we both have different strengths. I am the one who remembers every single medical detail, handles the quick decisions, and ensures a plan of action; and Brenda is the one who is patient and compassionate. She is the understanding and calming force, the one that gets my parents to listen and to accept. After all, none of my action serves any good if they will not listen or receive our help.

I was the fixer for way too long. It was impossible for me to learn anything new because I already knew it all; I had the answers to everything. My ears were not listening and my mind was not open. Nor was my heart.

But I have corrected that.

Mom is currently, somewhat stable. But she is not well and she is not out of the woods yet. We have a long journey of unknowns before us.

And I am suspecting that along with bipolar disorder that I may be suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. I have seen first-hand, too many dead bodies, sat with too many dying ones, and witnessed too many collapses and injuries. The images flash through my mind. I jump out of my seat if someone twitches. My heart races if the phone rings. And I cry the moment I open my eyes in the morning. I do not know how long this level of anxiety can be sustained or this constant stream of adrenaline can be tolerated before something in me just . . . goes.

But I am trying to take care of myself. I have an upcoming appointment with my therapist, and meanwhile, I have learned to say a few things I have never said before:

  • “I have a mental illness. I am bipolar. I can’t handle someone else’s instability.”
  • “No, I am sorry, but I can’t do that”.
  • “Please, help me”.

And I am not alone anymore.

I have some really terrific friends who love and accept me, keep me in check, and sometimes can even make me laugh; they are good medicine .

And I have a really wonderful and compassionate little sister who steps up to the plate and accomplishes what I cannot.

Her name is Brenda.

She is the strong one.

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Family, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

THE RIGHT SHOES AND A BOX OF BANDAIDS

Recently, I heard, “Oh, Julia! You’re so strong! You quit smoking after 30 years, you overcame a lifetime of prescription drug addiction, you quit drinking soda, you lost so much weight, you’ve had so many losses and you’ve let go of so much pain!”

I just smiled.

“I love you, you silly fool, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Look at how incredibly WEAK I was! I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for over 30 years, I popped pills and lived in a fog to escape from life, I ate my way through 195 pounds of comfort food, and I clung desperately to my bitterness and grief. I was one of the WEAKEST people I ever knew!”

Strength is a choice.

You don’t have to be born strong, or be a rock star, or be someone incredibly noble, and you don’t have to be super extraordinary. All you have to do is decide . . . and try. And it starts with one single, tiny, baby step in the right direction. Sometimes it’s literally putting one foot in front of the other and remembering to breathe while you’re doing it.

You know what? There IS something worse than making a mistake and falling down, and that is not trying at all. Shoot, a little humiliation and a skinned knee aren’t going to stop this old gal! Besides, I’ve learned to wear humiliation pretty well; all it takes is the right shoes and a box of Band-Aids!   

So, friends, while you’re out in the world today, if you encounter someone who is a bit too loud, or kind of pushy, or really obnoxious – try to remember that those people are usually the MOST frightened and insecure of all. Try to be patient and not to judge them too harshly. Remember, sometimes being brave and being strong have to be learned and practiced. Maybe we can teach by example through kindness and patience?

And if you’re afraid . . . that’s okay, I’m standing right next to you; just take my hand.

Categories: Addiction, Grief/Healing, Humor, Inspiration/Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 54 Comments

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