Making friends with stress

Stress is bad. We hear this everywhere; our culture is filled with pressure to be productive and efficient and all kinds of obstacles that prohibit our success, but doctors are always telling us to “reduce stress.” I guess…get a massage, take a bath, take a long walk, say no more often, “unplug,” do aromatherapy, adult coloring…etc–the list of “stress” treatments goes on and on.

I envy people who can go with the flow, or who would describe themselves as “laid-back” (every guy on Match.com, if memory serves). But I’m a naturally high-strung person. I’m worried, reactive, and paranoid. My brain is a constant flurry of “what ifs.” Sleeping is hard because my brain wants to remember every incident in my life, however irrelevant to my current circumstances. I am always worried about what needs to be done. I’m a type A personality, but also an expert procrastinator. Being in college for four years has helped me somewhat with “time management,” and I’m used to functioning under high stress situations–my job, for one.

As graduation approaches, I’m tentatively taking steps into what my future holds. For the longest time, I assumed I would apply for grad school, not even pursuing teaching certification without a Master’s degree. Now, I’m not so sure. Having a Master’s can earn you more pay, but it can also price you out of a job when districts don’t want to pay that extra. Maybe I should go through the steps to get certified pre-grad school, and keep that on the back burner as an option? Part of me wants to keep the momentum going of being in school because I love it, and not that much in my life has to change–I can still work full-time and take my online classes, and I’m used to the routine of having homework all the time. I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I suppose I’m going to start by contacting the New Hampshire DOE to see what their process is for alternative certification. I wish SO hard that I had done the “normal” thing and gone to college right after high school…maybe things would be easier now and I would already be doing something rewarding/fulfilling. Alas, that was not my path.

uncertainty

The uncertainty of what comes next, combined with daily stressors (work, mid-March blizzards delivering 20+ inches of snow) has made me feel like I’m about to explode. Rather than eliminate all stress (unrealistic), I’m trying to make friends with my stress and help it help me achieve my goals. According to Psychology Today, moderate stress can be a good thing: it helps motivate you and prepares you to better handle other stressful live events better than those who experience little to no adversity. A study at UC Berkelely found that exposure to moderate stress actually increased brain activity.

Questions for you, reader: How are the stress levels in your life? What stresses you out the most? What tools do you use to deal with stress? Please share in the comments!

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call me a gypsy

USA Roadtrip 2 -1

I’m living out of a duffle bag and a laundry basket right now. All of my stuff is scattered.  I’m really no good at being nomadic. I never have been. I’ve always done better in my own space, knowing where everything is. Staying with my dear friend is awesome in a lot of ways. I know I’m not mentally healthy enough to be by myself, really. But I miss my –our–home. I’ve been going to the apartment once a day to feed the cats, grab stuff I need, etc…but it feels so strange. Without my boyfriend, without his stuff, it feels so hollow and empty. It’s truly the saddest feeling.

I have “my” room set up, and it’s nice enough. It feels like some kind of weird and unwelcome vacation. I do love having the company of my friend, but all I really want is my soulmate back. We spent the fourth together, in his hometown. Went to the lake and played in the water. We held each other. I cried. I cry a lot lately. He loves me and I can tell. We tell each other constantly. This is hard for him, too, I know. And I know that he doesn’t want to backslide into old habits. In the meantime my “coping method” is just moment to moment. I hold myself together, even though I feel completely unraveled.

I stopped by at our place on my way home for the cat chores. Then I went to my friend’s place and laid in the yellow bed for an hour after I talked to bf on the phone, just thinking, being, dealing.

I’m back on my meds. It’s going to take time to feel/notice the effects again. I never felt them in the first place. I guess that’s common with antidepressants? Other people noticed, apparently. Who knows. That’s why I stopped. Also, no word from any of the psychiatrists I was referred to. Sad and frustrating that when you really want help and are asking for it, it seems to be out of reach.

Everything that’s going on makes it nearly impossible to focus on things that I need to do–like coursework–and the things that I want to do, like painting. All I do is think, and wait patiently for something to change inside of me.

Have you ever lived out of a suitcase before? Or felt like you didn’t know where you belong? Comment and let me know. xx

a separate peace

The last two nights I’ve slept in a yellow bed that isn’t my own. It feels like a vacation that I didn’t choose.

I’ve written about my relationships before, and my BPD (borderline personality disorder). The two do not play well together. Two days ago, my boyfriend moved out of the apartment we moved into only a month ago. This was triggered by my constant vitriolic behavior with regards to his new teaching job — something I *should* be proud of him for, and want to celebrate with him. Only his getting that job only made me feel small, stupid and unaccomplished, and most of all, angry with myself for not making the “right” choices earlier in life. Despite our solid connection and deep love for each other, he left.

modifythinking

I came home from work to a near-empty apartment. He took everything of his. I begged and pleaded on the phone. (Classic BPD behavior: “I hate you/Don’t leave me.”) Through many tearful experiences and an act of self-harm I won’t get into, I wound up staying at my best friend’s house. When I pulled up in the driveway (a total mess) I saw my other best friend’s car in the driveway. Having my friends there helped tremendously. I really do have the best friends in the world–they seem to think that with a little time, and me getting the help I need, that me and bf can work things out.

We’ve been in pretty consistent contact. He’s said “I love you” so many times, and so have I. He was the one who took me to the hospital yesterday. The love hasn’t changed. I want him to come home so much. My cats are alone there, which breaks my heart. They’ve been cared for every day so far, but I miss them and worry about them. But being there is impossible, being alone is impossible. There’s nothing left there. No internet, no TV, no xbox, no air conditioner. No boyfriend, no love. I feel like he took it with him when he left.

At the urgency of my friends, my PCP and a psychiatrist’s office I was referred to, I went to the emergency room yesterday to be evaluated. They decided to release me because I wasn’t an immediate danger. The plan is to see a psychiatrist, start back up on my Wellbutrin and find out if I really do have BPD. (The therapist who “diagnosed me a few years back was a LICSW, which means she can’t technically diagnose mental illnesses.)

This is the hardest and most painful thing I’ve ever done. A part of me is afraid boyfriend won’t come home, even though he says he wants to. I’m afraid it will take longer than I want. I’ve been reading online about the benefits of separation (I can only find stuff on marital separations, really) and I’m hoping that starting the path of getting help, and getting some space away from the relationship will give us both perspective. I know it won’t change how I feel about him, and I hope it doesn’t change how he feels about me. My heart hurts. All I want is to be in his arms.

It’s been too many nights of being with
To now suddenly be without.

– Jewel

coping with BPD in romantic relationships

lanawar

Romantic relationships have been a tremendous struggle for me my entire life. I was diagnosed with BPD (borderline personality disorder) at age 24, and that seemed to make sense for many of my failed relationships, especially the one I was in at the time. Emotional instability, chronic mood swings, fear of abandonment, impulsive tendencies – those traits all did their part to dismantle every attempt at a successful, long-term romantic relationship. With many mental illnesses, especially one as complicated as BPD, it’s hard to walk the line between “blaming” my actions on my illness and taking responsibility – especially when my impulses can be extremely hard to control. I’ve been in recovery for over three years now and it continues to be a battle. Though I am now in a loving, healthy, adult relationship for the first time ever, my BPD symptoms still come up quite often. Luckily, my partner is patient and understanding, which helps minimize my “outbursts” when they do occur.

Identity disturbance is listed as one of the 9 identifying traits when diagosing borderline personality disorder. That, above almost all else, is the most pronounced trait that I can identify within myself as a borderline.

“People with an identity disturbance may speak, think or act in ways which are contradictory to themselves. They may think the world of themselves one day and think nothing of themselves the next. Their actions or thoughts may seem self-serving one day and flip into self-effacing, or self-destructive patterns the next. They may excel in one activity and appear incompetent in another. They may have impressive energy and enthusiasm for a season and be lethargic and withdrawn in another…People who suffer from personality disorders are sometimes prone to think emotionally, rather than logically, and apply this kind of emotional shorthand or “splitting” to situations that ultimately hurt themselves and those around them. This can lead to extreme emotional highs and lows in response to the natural ebb and flow of life’s circumstances that can lead them to make unsubstantiated, grandiose claims of superiority one day and self-condemning statements of worthlessness the next.” (Source: outofthefog.net)

I really do feel like I have a war in my mind sometimes. I feel myself becoming purposely difficult, belligerent, even downright mean – and seem to have no control over what’s coming out of my mouth; I’m in my right mind. I feel like I’m always “testing” him and even though he always “passes,” I don’t want to put that stress on him. Being borderline is basically being the most difficult person to be with – I crave intimacy yet sometimes act in a way that pushes people away. No matter how loving, caring, supportive, and willing my romantic partner may be – BPD still continues to rear its ugly head. I’ve accepted that to some extent, I will always have to live with this inside of me. (Although many books and websites I’ve read say that the symptoms do lessen when the individual enters her thirties and forties.) It’s a part of who I am, and my partner has acknowledged this as well. I’m eternally grateful for his willingness and understanding, but in the end, I have to help myself.

savemyself

People don’t often realize that a seemingly “put-together” individual – with a job, a driver’s license, a 401k – can be “crazy.” The more intelligent and vibrant the individual, the more extreme the psychological effects of a mental disorder can be. I’ve been with my current beau for a little less than five months. While I’m trying desperately not to let often-crippling anxiety and BPD symptoms inform our relationship, I have to admit, I fear for its longevity. This is the love of my life. I don’t want my crazy to make it crumble.

Feel free to share your own experiences (if any) with BPD, mental illness, and how it has impacted your romantic relationships in the comments.

fill your spiritual gas tank.

This blog concept came to me from a series of experiences in conjunction with a dream that a “spiritual running buddy” of mine had. I hate pumping gas. I mean, really hate it. Especially in the cold New Hampshire winters. I’m not a morning person so I usually forget that I need gas, and wind up with just enough to get to work. Three weeks IN A ROW I have pulled into the gas station that’s off the highway exit near my house, and just as I pull up to the pump — my “low fuel” light comes on and makes its dinging reminder. But I’m okay, because I’m there. I made it. I can fuel up and go where I need to go now, and I had just enough to get me where I needed to be, when I needed to be there.

My friend’s dream (if I remember correctly) was her driving around on empty and our mutual teacher and guru (Gabrielle Bernstein) somehow appearing with fuel at just the right moment when she was about to run out. The universe provided. I believe that if we are truly connected with spirit, we will get where we need to be. I feel so strongly connected to this message. As I pulled up to the pump today and I heard my car’s “low fuel” chime (I predicted and almost knew it would), I knew this was not a coincidence. This was a lesson that’s meant to be shared and it doesn’t just have to do with gasoline that we put in our cars…

It also has to do with how we fuel ourselves spiritually. Not everyone understands this. Many, many people in this world go from day to day, feeling burned out and depleted, not knowing how to juggle responsibilities and ambitions and families and self-care. It is a constant challenge that I face daily as well. There will constantly be times where we get tripped up, and things don’t go our way. We can very easily begin to feel drained. People say that all the time “man, I’m so drained,” or “I feel like I don’t have anything to give.” I’m there myself a lot – that’s how and why I know that self-care and “filling your spiritual gas tank” is so key to feeling like life is manageable.

So what’s your fuel? It can be ANYTHING. This video blog really inspired me – China riffs on basically the same topic and emphasizes that “if we do not make spiritual fitness a priority, we will go spiritually bankrupt.” True! Like China I love painting my nails to start – taking baths, shaving my legs, burning incense and/or sage, lighting candles, petting my cats, listening to guided meditations and spiritual podcasts and vlogs by other gurus and like-minded spirits. Running, cooking a healthy and delicious meal for myself, good sex, yoga, poetry, long talks with friends, free writing, tea – the list goes on. A combination of these practiced on a daily basis keep my spiritual gas tank full. What fills yours when you feel like you’re running on E?

Love and light,
V