Monday, December 31, 2012

Thinking about the new year...

Lots of people take stock in their new-year posts; I'm thinking about what's coming up. Soon I will be leaving group. It's inevitable. They said they want to discharge me in January. It's mondo-bizarro how these complete strangers have come to mean so much to me. Well, some more than others... and most of the "some" have already been discharged. So I can say I'm on the tail-end of what I consider my cadre: peers in age and stage. Which means I gotta get my ass out the door soon. But what next?

I was talking to A about a week or so ago and she suggested I "work with the energy of the solstice" (so yeah, it was around Dec 21) and consider, in a playful way, the concept of starting over new. She said it was important to consider it as mental play, not a serious undertaking. I didn't know what to make of her comment at first so I put it on the back burner.

During some idle time when I got home I turned it over in my mind. I could see why she said to not consider it seriously. I take everything seriously, perhaps too much so. When I thought seriously about it, I started to cry. So many things have just gouged the hell out of me in the last four months that the idea of starting over new is like... hello? I'm barely scarred over! Give me some time! But as a "pretend" question, it made me feel a bit liberated from my sadness.  I thought about last January, when I was starting my "year of quitting." I never imagined the ending it would have, or should I say, the last third of the year. Act 3. What if I started over on my year of quitting? [Note: I think my blog was on tumblr at this point so you might not know that I had sarcastically referred to taking a year to solely concentrate on writing, publishing, attending and giving readings as my year of quitting. Like quitting the job that sucked the life out of me for something that doesn't pay but is super-fulfilling.]

I remember now with great nostalgia the anxiety that, then, had made me cry. I was taking a huge leap of faith and I was doing it in the shittiest part of the year for taking leaps: winter. I had to fill a blank slate (woo, mixed metaphors) not knowing if my endeavor would be successful. One of my fb status updates at the time was "looking at design blogs and crying." Well, in my world, art begets art. I started myself on a disciplined schedule. I submitted every workday in the beginning --I would say the first 3-4 months. I kept up the momentum on faith, until the acceptances started coming in, validating my decision. I would say the best part was April through July. I was ON FIRE. I was so happy. I was so not prepared for what August would bring.

Now, despite my recent (and for the second time!) publication in MiPOesias, and upcoming pubs in RHINO, Hayden's, and Bone Bouquet, my submission pipeline is low. I feel like I don't have a lot of work to submit.

That feeling of having nothing may be false. It is false. I haven't been writing at the speed I was --I was generating 1-2 drafts A WEEK. For eight months. But I haven't published all of it. And I wrote a chapbook-sized sheaf of grieving poems, some of which have to be good enough to revise.

[Note: can you tell I've become worse at writing blog entries? It's my ability to concentrate. It's gone way down. I can't put together ideas as fluidly as before. Nor can I read a book all the way through. Or watch a whole movie without great restlessness. I don't watch them in the theatre any more-- at least for now. Therapist J says that this restlessness and lack of concentration is normal when experiencing grief. She also says it could go on for awhile.]

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is even though I have great anxiety about "my year of starting over," I began "my year of quitting" also with great anxiety. And that time it was fruitful. I showed up and did the work and I was successful.

There's this little (actually it's not so little) voice, the anxiety voice, that says, you never knoooooowwwwww about the future. You might not be any good any more. Maybe you broke yourself. 

But I leapt before and it was good. Maybe I can do it again. I'm lucky to be in a financial position to try it. I don't have to go back to some thankless job. I can do YWI part-time and maybe everything will be okay. Not grand, but okay. I'm shooting for okay.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Universe Box and Radical Acceptance

The day I walked into the room where my therapy sessions are held, the words RADICAL ACCEPTANCE were scribbled on the whiteboard in failing black marker. I dimly remembered this skill from last time (199something). There was something else written under it which my mind wants to paraphrase as "This really sucks right now but there's nothing I can do about it."

Easier seen on the whiteboard than taken into the heart and mind. A few days later, a fellow group member let me in on his idea for something called a God Box. You made a special box where you put thoughts and feelings that were just too big, overwhelming, too much for you to handle. The idea was to physically and metaphorically give up control to a higher power, who has the capacity to handle these things much better than you do.

This box works if you believe in any version of a higher power at all.... even if the higher power is just the best parts of your Self, not easily accessed --that strong core that has kept you alive thus far. I called mine the Universe Box because it suited me.

Here's a picture of the top of my box. I didn't have the energy to make the whole thing pretty but I did at least do the top.

That uneven black rectangle is the slot I cut where I put the thoughts. I made it small deliberately, so that I would have to fold up the pieces of paper REALLY TINY to get them in there. And I glued a nautilus to the front because I find them beautiful. It sort of looks like the thoughts might all be pouring into the mouth of the nautilus as well.

Here's more about radical acceptance. This is from the book, by Marsha Linehan, Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder (c) 1993. When I first did this therapy, they were only using it for borderlines, but docs and clinicians have since seen the value of using it as a therapy for bipolar, depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and probably more than that.

Btw, if you google Marsha Linehan, the first thing that comes up is all these images of tees and sweatshirts from CafePress that say things like "Marsha Linehan is my homegirl." Not even kidding. Well, her therapy did save my life once, and now we're working on rescuing my sanity 17 years later.

Okay, so the ideas of radical acceptance, straight from "Distress Tolerance Handout 5: Basic Principles of Accepting Reality." There's two sub-sections I'm going to outline here. One is called Radical Acceptance. One is called Turning the Mind. These aren't my words. Please Marsha, don't sue me.

I do have lots of italicized notes though, like this one.

[NOTE: if you are reading this blog and you're pretty well-adjusted, you might think that the worksheet title is odd. You may not have trouble accepting your reality. You may even enjoy your reality most of the time. And for the times when you don't enjoy it, you may be doing things about it that are effectively helping your reality conform to the way you'd rather have it. That person was pretty much me, from about 1998 or so to August 9, 2012. I'm not saying I was super-sane or asymptomatic, but I was relatively good until the flea infestation that started off my downward spiral. Which I am planning on discussing in group today. Anyway, IF you have trouble accepting your reality because something SO world-rocking happened and you have limited or no control over it, then radical acceptance may be for you.]


  • Freedom from suffering requires ACCEPTANCE from deep within of what is. Let yourself go completely with what is. Let go of fighting reality.
  • ACCEPTANCE is the only way out of hell.  >>> I starred that one
  • Pain creates suffering only when you refuse to ACCEPT the pain.
  • Deciding to tolerate the moment is ACCEPTANCE. >>> with all the self-medicating I'm doing right now, I really want to work on this aspect some more
  • ACCEPTANCE is acknowledging what is.
  • To accept something is not the same as judging it good. >>> This one is very important to me. It means that even though my mom killed herself, I don't have to forgive her right now, or even seek my own emotional understanding of her motives. It just means I have to accept, for example, that there was no way I could fix her.

As I understand it, this means literally re-orienting your mind from a place where you are attached to the pain, where you ruminate and dwell on what-ifs and should-haves and whys --which, remember, you have no control over--to a place where you allow yourself to let go.

  • Acceptance of reality as it is requires an act of CHOICE. It is like coming to a fork in the road. You have to turn your mind towards the acceptance road and away from the "rejecting" reality road. >>> Note: rejecting reality is not the same as denial, although it might be. Rejecting could be, for example, going over a problem in your head that is past all help, but you can't stop dwelling on it. I just thought of Adam's t-shirt on Mythbusters that says "I reject your reality and substitute my own." I love that shirt. And it's fine in an imaginative sense, when you are engaging in acts of creativity, or when you need an escape, or if it's a joke printed on a shirt. Or if substituting one's own reality can actually produce a positive change. Damn, I love that show. I wonder if they had a new season when I wasn't paying attention.
  • You have to make an inner COMMITMENT to accept. >>> I find that if you believe in a higher power, it's really helpful to lean on that higher power to help you make the commitment. 

  • The COMMITMENT to accept does not itself equal acceptance. It just turns you toward the path. But it is the first step.
  • You have to turn your mind and commit to acceptance OVER and OVER and OVER again. Sometimes you have to make the commitment many times in the space of a few minutes. >>> I starred this one too. It's so important. I remember when I was in my first year of recovery from self-injury. I definitely had to re-commit every minute in some stressful circumstances. Because it's like your brain has carved these neurological pathways that tell you [insert destructive pattern here] is the only way, and it's not. My pathways for self-injury haven't caused me to act on them for 14 years, even though those neurons that say do it still fire. 
[end handout]

I hope that I can switch my neurons again. Before (in 199something) I felt it was the one pattern I had to work on. Don't self-injure. Don't self-injure. But now I feel like it's a bunch of smaller counterproductive patterns (erm, like a fear of leaving the house, e.g.) that I would like to mend, and it's all complicated by this grieving process that I know barely anything about. Except it's unpredictable, nonlinear, and it can take a long time. Woo hoo.

Monday, December 10, 2012

and stuff

I woke up at 4:10 this morning and couldn't turn off the thoughts. What could I have done to prevent her from doing what she did? I'mabaddaughterbaddaughterbaddaughter. Even though by now extensive therapizing has convinced me that this is not a fruitful path for my brain to go down. I folded up some thoughts and put them into the Universe Box but still could not go back to sleep.

My mother killed herself.

She sat on the couch for four weeks while she starved to death.

She would not allow anyone to intervene.

These things happened.

I need to say it. Because I can't believe it. Because it fucking blows my mind whenever I think about it or whenever I'm not thinking about it. For example, when I'm trying to sleep. I wonder if my aunt can sleep. I wonder if she's having nightmares. Or if she's put it behind her. I can't call. I can't email. They don't email me or call either even though they have my number / address. I probably wouldn't answer if they did call. I want to ask DO YOU FEEL THINGS ABOUT THIS? Because I feel things. I feel many things. I want to throw up just thinking about it. The holidays this year (Thanksgiving-birthday-Xmas) have sort of divided between happy moments and being a fucking sham. That is, I'm the sham. I shamble. I try to move and talk like a human. I make small talk. I come up with talking points in advance.

I went to a reading this weekend. I had to read a thing. And before and after I had to talk to people. It was short. It went well. Livingdeadgirl looks / acts so real.

It's a real wasteland in there. My brain is. Sometimes (like, all the time) I worry that there is no coming back from this.

I Want to Believe

Monday, December 3, 2012

surprise; it's another collage

[click to enlarge]

Rum Library Records

I keep giving you pictures b/c I can't give you any words.
Most of my doings are private and/or internal.
They're gonna let me out I bet in like 2-3 weeks.