Small Steps

Small Steps. Me & My Dad.
Never too early to learn good oral hygiene (I was probably teething)

Progress sometimes comes in small steps. This weekend I walked the dog with my husband, which meant I stepped away from my computer and actually went outside.

Beautiful outside. Weather warm. Sky clear. Saddleback Mountain gorgeous, every nook and cranny visible as if I could reach out and touch it.

Honestly, I find it hard to overcome inertia, to get up and get out. But when I do so, when I go outside, I benefit. My mood improves. My spirit lightens. Both my physical and mental health reap gains.

Sunday I even ran a car-load of stuff to Goodwill, including my father’s old clothes. My father died a year ago next week, and I’ve been holding onto his old clothes since then.

To remember him, I’ve kept his flannel shirts. Wearing his flannel shirts, I feel enveloped in the warmth of his love, like I’m getting a big hug from him.

When we were little, he’d call us over for big bear hugs, but there was nothing rough in his hugs. Just love. Protective love. The big loving protective hugs of a father for his daughters.

My eyes are tearing up now. Good tears. I was loved. I loved my dad. He loved us dearly and deeply.

Who, Me, Dating?

DatingNews.com
interviewed me about dating and marriage while living with bipolar disorder.
Here’s how the article starts:
Kitt O'Malley: Love, Learn & Live with Bipolar Disorder. Blogger Kitt O'Malley Opens Up About Her Experiences Living, Loving & Laughing with Bipolar Disorder

At age 30, Kitt O’Malley moved in with her parents after treatment for debilitating depression resulted in psychotic mania which left her unable to do her work as a licensed marriage and family therapist. She left her career aspirations behind, and she started seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist who treated her for what was still thought to be chronic depression.

So when the guy she was dating said “You’re the most independent woman I’ve ever met,” Kitt couldn’t help but laugh. She had never been more dependent in her life, but he didn’t see those circumstances or her mental illness. He saw her, and that in itself was a small miracle…

Read the rest of the interview here. Thanks!

Recovering from Hypomania

Cut Back Taking it Easy

Recovering from hypomania and subsequent low energy which could be called depression. Honestly, I do not experience the fatigue following a hypomanic or mixed episode as depression. Now, rarely do I experience depressive thoughts during these recovery periods. I simply need to relax. I need to heal. The low energy, the fatigue, calls for me to slow down. My body can no longer sustain hypomania.

In January, I overdid it. I took on too much.

My Son Began College

My son began community college, which I drive him to and from.

My Freshman Experience

Yes, when I was his age (and younger), I could get myself to and from college, sometimes commuting by bus from Hermosa Beach to UCLA. Honestly, though, as my dad worked in Westwood, I’d usually catch a ride with him for summer school classes and hang out in a library or volunteer in the medical center for the rest of the day.

During the school year, I lived on the seventh floor of Dykstra Hall facing the fraternities lining Gayley Ave. I despised dorm life. Too much noise. Not enough privacy. I couldn’t sleep, went home most weekends, ended up suicidal, turned to cognitive psychotherapy, and quit UCLA.

My Son Isn’t Me

My son is not like me. Yes, we both have struggled with depression. But, ever since he was a toddler, he’s suffered severe debilitating migraines (involving headache, nausea, and vomiting). His migraines are much improved with medication, but he still gets them, just less often and less severely.  He also gets motion sick and catches whatever virus is circulating. When he gets sick, it takes him down hard. So much for taking the bus to and from college.

Going to College is a Huge Achievement

Now, it’s a major achievement for him to attend class at all. For those not familiar with my son’s struggles, his migraines, getting sick often, depression, and social anxiety, prevented him from finishing high school. He decided to take the GED, instead.

Unfortunately, he was sick last week (all three of us were), throwing up, not eating, sleeping all day… I hope and pray that he pulls himself together and gets back on track this upcoming week.

Still Visiting My Mom

Remember, I still visit my mom about once a week. Doesn’t sound like all that much. I wish I had the energy to do so more often. Visiting her or taking her out for a meal is challenging. Draining. Emotionally exhausting.

Her stroke in 2015 severely damaged the left hemisphere and frontal cortex of her brain. She has global aphasia and can no longer communicate using language – verbal, written, drawn, or symbolic. She understands facial expressions and emotions. She communicates using face expressions and pointing. She lets me know if my driving makes her uncomfortable with a simple sound, clearly expressing disapproval and warning. (The syllable clearly translates to slow down or watch out.)

Still, I to speak to her, narrating our time together, gesturing and animating what I’m communicating (luckily, I’m a drama geek, very theatrical), and treating her as if she can understand. She’s still a highly intelligent woman who knows what’s going on.

We enjoy visiting diners with photographs on the menu. She chooses what she wants to eat with my help in navigating the written portions of the menu.

Over-Enrolled, Over-Extended

Same week my son began his classes, what did I do?

Creative Writing Course

Started taking a creative writing course through our local community college emeritus program. Great class, but I need time to relax, solitude, not more demands on my time.

For me, social stimulation and demands on my time trigger hypomanic symptoms. I get “energized” in a negative way. My mood cycling begins.

I prefer and need SOLITUDE!

Qigong

As someone living with bipolar, I’ve experienced hypomania and mania with energetic, euphoric, spiritual symptoms. Enrolling in Qigong backfired.

The instructor had us visualize taking the energy of the universe (that’s a LOT of energy) in through the top of our heads, channel it through our bodies, and then into the ground.

Now this may be great for someone else, but I’m highly suggestive. I can imagine the energy of the universe, and it’s simply way too much for me to channel. Needless to say, the exercise triggered hypomania.

I experience hypomania energetically. I’ve had hypomanic and manic episodes where energy filled me up, pushed through my skin, and cleansed me, and I’ve experienced energy that was deceptive, tried to tell me that it was good for me, but felt scary, false, and threatened my sanity. Some of these experiences, I’ve framed as mystical. Some, dangerous. Because I cannot control which way the experience takes me, and because they come at a cost, I no longer seek them.

I MUST BE GROUNDED IN REALITY.

Personal Training Contract

In my hypomanic spree, I signed up for an expensive annual personal training contract with a gym. Gyms are not good places for me. Again, overstimulating.

Overspending, over-committing, over-zealous activity — all symptoms of hypomania and mania — all factored into my signing that expensive contract.

Now, I’m trying to cancel it…

Invested Too Much Money in a Venture

In my hypomanic state, I invested WAY too much money in my friend Sarah Fader‘s publishing house, Eliezer Tristan Publishing (ETP). I’m a HUGE supporter of Sarah and the work ETP does. Sarah did not solicit the money from me.

Riding the high of hypomania, I offered an angel investment that was ten times what she thought I was offering. Think of that. Someone thinks you are generous offering an investment of x. Then you say, “No, I meant x times 10.” For those not algebra inclined, move the decimal point over once to the right:

If x = $100, x times 10 = $1,000.
If x = $250, x times 10 = $2,500.
If x = $500, x times 10 = $5,000.

She was thrilled with an angel investment in the hundreds. I made an investment in the thousands! Yikes!

Honestly, though, Sarah and ETP need the money more than I do. The money is going to good use. It’s doing good things for the writers published and for the world.

ETP’s co-founders, Sarah Fader and Sarah Comerford, are mental health advocates. The publishing company specializes in publishing “nonfiction and fiction works largely focusing on survival, in its many iterations.

Still… Didn’t think it out. Was impulsive.

Yes, I’m impulsive, especially when hypomanic.

Oh, well.

Trying to Do the Right Thing

All these activities, in and of themselvs, seem to be good. I was trying to do the right thing. Writing. Relaxing, meditative exercise. Exercise to improve my health, my cholesterol and triglycerides, which are high in spite of taking medications for them. Still, none of these things were, in fact, good for me. Maybe, if I had taken just one on. Maybe, if I wasn’t exhausted by caretaking responsbilities.

But, as I age, I find more and more, that solitude suits me.

Solitude is Not Isolation

Solitude is not isolation. I am not lonely. I am not alone. I am very much a part of a family. I am very much a part of a community. You are part of my community.

I am loved.

I love.

I’ve Been Quiet Lately

Quietly Taking Care. Writing & Doing Less.

I’ve been quiet lately. Out of commission. Taking it easy.

This holiday season brings tough firsts. First Thanksgiving since my father died in April. First Christmas coming up. My sister and I plan to remember him and observe our family Christmas traditions. We need each other. We miss our dad.

Seasonal affective disorder hit hard, too. As the days got shorter, I cocooned, became seasonally and situationally depressed. Seasonal depression, bipolar disorder and now my grief overwhelm me at times.

Taking care of myself….mostly. Seeing my psychiatrist and psychologist. Going to a grief support group at Jewish Federation & Family Services. Reaching out and asking for help, for support, when I need it.

SO IMPORTANT that you ask for and accept help. My insight into my need for help, reaching out for it and accepting it, has KEPT ME ALIVE.

When I was 18 years old and suicidal, realizing I needed help, asking for it and accepting it made all the difference.