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Category Archives: Mindfulness

????????????????These earrings personify the bipolar experience for me. When I am manic, I am like the skeletor face and when I am depressed I am the personification of the drooping mask…even though we are required to wear masks in our day-to-day life I don’t know about you, but it is nearly impossible for me to wear a happy face in all arenas.

For the longest time I was reluctant to wear these earrings because I thought they were too weird and Aztec pagan, but recently I realized they are the perfect expression of my personality. Someone from outside could look at these and think they are weird or cool. But no one but myself will know what they truly signify. And I don’t know about you but sadly being bipolar is part of my identity.

I think, from DBT class and a lot of other blogs, that bipolar shouldn’t define a person. You can use your social and behavioral skills to mask it and not rock the boat for anyone else. But, right or wrong, being bipolar is part of who I am. I cannot escape from this, no matter how acceptably I behave; no matter what positive philosophy I adopt.

And I truly do believe that these positive philosophies are the way to go. Bipolar DOES NOT own you. But for my part, though it doesn’t own me, it is still a part of who I am and I do get sick of all the “positivity” and “cheerleading”. Does that make me a person who gives up? I don’t think so. Being aware is OK. It keeps a person ready to think a moment before reacting to something.

Because you are aware. Awareness isn’t a failing. Acknowledgement is not a failing. Acknowledgement is important and really the best way to help yourself.

Acknowledgement is not the same thing as characterizing oneself. I have been guilty of this. Acknowledgement does not give the disorder its power. Its power comes from characterizing yourself.

You are more than your bipolar disorder. But acknowledging it, even gaining personal power from the knowledge and experience, are good things, in my opinion as a person who has struggled with self-hatred and inferiority from this disease.

So I do like my earrings. They don’t mean the same thing to everyone.

Nothing does.

There is power in personal symbols.


I wish all of it was this easy...

I wish all of it was this easy…

I call it macro-shoveling, and I hate it. But it’s necessary in order to obtain beauty.

It’s the part of the job where I go into the weed-infested area that was the flower garden last year (where’d all the weeds come from??), and turn the earth over with a full-sized hand shovel. Step on shovel with one foot, anchor the shovel in the dirt, then jump on it with both feet, jump off, and heave the chunk of soil over. And do it over. And over. And again. I’m out of shape and it’s exhausting and my back hurts.

Oh, no…is Horsebackwriter going into some kind of stupid metaphor about how working hard to prepare garden soil is like managing bipolar disorder?


So my husband is going to go over that with the little hand-push tiller, and then it will be time for the good part. The micro-shoveling, where I go in there with a little spade and dig little holes. And we plant flowers! Whoopee!

This is partly why no writing lately. Schedule is mad. School kids are in finals, horses and track, and stress. And preparing the big vegetable garden (with the tractor, hubby’s way)… That and of course bipolar disorder, and depression. Yes I’m writing about bipolar, but it seems like I only write about it when things suck. Kind of like how I used to pray to God. When things suck. Now, through grace, I manage to give gratitude and praise even when things don’t suck.

So when things most recently sucked, I did not write about it, on purpose. Things don’t suck now, so I think I must be slightly manic. Especially since the adventure this afternoon. While driving the car to the bus stop, I smelled something burning. This in itself is not unusual, because of the oil leak dripping onto the engine somewhere, I think hubby said some kind of “manifold,” which causes enough smoke to slither from beneath the hood to make me believe the engine is on fire.

This smell was more rubbery. Mind you, the ignition was so hot from the sun I felt like I was burning my fingers when I started the car. But when I got to the bus stop to wait for the kids, after turning the car off, I noticed smoke coming off the steering column. Funny, I thought it was hot but not that hot. I turned the ignition to “on” so I could listen to my Supertramp tape, and oh, goodness, there was the smoke and stench again. I turned it off. The smoke disappeared. Thinking it was just too hot I turned the ignition to “on” again, and opened the windows. When I looked back down the steering column was smoking again. I turned the ignition off. As I did these things the smoke got to billowing, but only when the ignition was on.

The steering column will explode if I try to drive the kids home!! I thought.

Kids, I said, we have to walk home. No, don’t leave your books in the car, it may burst into flames. How was the track meet? Did you have to give your English presentation today?

Two miles later, I hadn’t yet noticed that I had not experienced a negative emotion one time during this frightening inconvenience. No switches flipping, no panic, no anger, no nothing, except tired. All afternoon macro-digging, and now this. The kids were way ahead of me. I felt old. And I had such a bad toothache that I didn’t dare open my mouth to huff and puff because the driving wind might hurt me. But accepting of circumstances, I plodded along like a horse.

Hubby scoffed at my concern that he was going to get blown up if he went back for the car and tried to drive it home. I said a little prayer when hubby’s friend drove him over to get the car, and soon enough hubby was back safely.

THERE HAD BEEN NO SMOKE! NO NOTHING! Of course, not for him. Well.

BUT IT WAS THERE! And the burning rubber stench, too, I asserted. Asserted, not yelled. Well I am happy for him but a bit appalled that since I will no longer drive that car ever again (I’ve made that promise before), I worry that he will blithely drive it clear into town and not notice when the steering column is once again about to go up in flames.

I wish they made a fertilizer for tilling the soil that also contained a substance lethal to all species of ants but completely nontoxic to humans and animals. Wouldn’t that be great?

Pain is an element.

Love is God’s element.

Pain shrinks the universe.

Love expands the universe.

Pain expands the universe.

Pain is the universe.

God is the universe.

God expands the universe.

God is love.

God is pain.

Love is pain.

Pain, Love, and God are each a means and an end.

Pain, Love, and God are are cathartic.

Love and pain and God are self-perpetuating.

Love and pain expand each other and themselves.

Love, pain and God are verbs.

The word passion can be substituted for all three.


(I can explain further when I haven’t got a migraine). And, I have been very unstable lately :0


Losing focus . .  . it is the first sign of change for the worse. It means that I am either stepping up from hypomania into irritable disorientation and rage; or slipping down into useless depression. It doesn’t take me long to figure out which. And the feeling of losing focus, which I’ve been lost in among the ravages of paralyzing depression, is a terrible thing. So, since it is my current condition, I will try to be mindful and describe the feeling.

Losing focus is trying to grasp a tendril of smoke that wasn’t smoke before. It’s anxiety producing.

It feels like . . . hmm.

Searching among fragmented paths for a way home

Fermented clouds soaking the brain

Plucking at harpstrings of dry wool

Bird bashing head against green-glass walls, while frenetic wings continue flapping

Slinky nooses around a mind of gleaming burlap in the night

My head hacked on, off, and into. . .

So . . .

If I were focused, I could make poems of these.  I wish I were.  I am trying to get there.

OK, depression, I’ve got you in my teeth like a wild warg and I’m slamming you this way and that and you better just lie there, bloodied and broken and submissive, at least through tomorrow.

Uh, does that sound manic? Am I manic, or just excited? How do I tell the difference?

Last night we survived being pulled over, on the way home from my daughter’s 4-H club meeting.

I thought it might be that the officer thought I was drunk because, with a benighted dashboard before me (that will never again illuminate its information) I could not see the speedometer. I was trying to flip down my highbeams, turn on my dome light, stay in my lane, and peer around my own shadow to read the speedometer by the light of the dome, all at the same time. With two squealing teenage girls in the back seat, I fought visceral terror at the flashing lights behind me and pulled over.

I couldn’t open the window on my side for the officer because I hadn’t pulled over far enough for the officer to be safe there, and I couldn’t open the window on the passenger side, where he arrived, because it was broken. So I opened my passenger door, and the officer was treated to the spectacle of my nervous, fumbling hand vainly searching in the glove box among flashlights, dirty napkins, fuses, dirt, and other things that weren’t gloves, for the registration. He watched me move the envelope around for a while, then suggested that that might be it. I handed it to him.

The girls tittered and joked around while the officer retired to his patrol car. They were what kept me sane. Then he returned, offering to check the function of my highbeams. It seemed to him that one of them was out. Sure enough, both headlights worked except on highbeam, the driver’s side didn’t brighten. He issued me a friendly warning.

What a vigilant fellow to notice something like that and then pull them over for it. We all thanked God and went on our merry way, and somehow my mood became elevated…just like that.

So today, before my daughter’s birthday cake and ice cream, I made good on my promise to myself and got my butt out to the barn and took a walk in the sun on the snow and the ice with my horse beside me. We walked for an hour and it felt like 15 minutes. When I got back to the house I discovered we had no birthday candles. My daughter, with perfect teenage nonchalance, blew out fifteen imaginary candles on the lopsided chocolate cake my husband had baked, and the party commenced.

Tomorrow I’m going to a boot camp for writers. I used to be a writer. Yes, it’s true. At least, that’s how I thought of myself. But I haven’t written in years, and now all of a sudden with the fog clearing, I think I want to try to write again. But in a public, structured setting with PEOPLE there??

I guess I’m better off than a painter struggling to re-emerge. At least no one will observe my hesitant strokes while I’m trying to create.

I see this plan to attend boot camp as a positive step against the force of depression, a willful lurch out of paralysis. Unfortunately I cannot say or guess how long this positive surge will last… but I will ride it gladly, toward whatever bright vistas, as if it will never end.

It will take work. There will be things I will have to make myself do: pull on my boots, drive my falling-to-pieces Jeep, step across thresholds, speak with people I know and don’t know and whose names I am mortified I don’t remember, but hopefully it will be worth it. If anyone is reading this, please wish me luck.

Also I shall wish myself luck. Good luck, me.


There’s a blood smear on the ceiling. I stare straight up at it as I lay in bed, which I’ve been doing entirely too much of lately.

Depression has been having its way with me, and I suppose it’s my fault for letting it…I am suffering a period of serious social withdrawal and sadness. I’m running away from or pushing away everyone I can, and struggling to put on a smile for those whom I cannot avoid, who are so necessary…for just that reason.

I recently read something that reminded me of what I am supposed to be doing… forcing myself to get up and DO what I know will be healing, or at least useful. To that end, after 4-H, I came home and stared the beast in the face: Examined that I want to be with Zil, and yet I cannot go to her except to throw hay and run in from the cold. It adds to the torment to know that I know what to do to help myself (and her) and I can’t do it. If I don’t do it today, it’s harder tomorrow. It feels like exponential helplessness and it really, really hurts. It is the paralysis that comes with depression. It takes a fierce hold upon the will.

But I have a more pressing issue at the moment. The bloodstain on the ceiling.

The other night my husband, in his usual nonspecific way, commented on the size of “that spider.” Of course, I had no idea what spider, but I was tired of asking stuff like that, so I didn’t worry about it. Until later that night I lay down on my back and saw what was on the ceiling straight above my face. It looked like it had sixteen legs. Eight of those, of course, sprouted from its shadow, but the creepiness was undaunted by the fact.

I could not possibly sleep with that behemoth there, which could decide at any moment to descend on its self-spun cable, and crawl upon my face. So I got up, grabbed a shoe, and swatted it.

It landed as a black, wilted puddle on the carpet. I knelt to smoosh it in a tissue. From above, my husband exclaimed, “Wow! It was all FULL of blood!”

That grossed me out. Then he said something sobering: “It must have been eating all the other bugs.”

(Yeah we have bugs in our house but that’s not the point).

I had just killed a creature that, all unknown to me, had been doing us a service all this while. Quietly going about its business, bothering no one, helpfully keeping all the plastic glow-in-the-dark constellations clean of UFOs…and possibly other creatures that could land on my face.

Could it have been my guardian angel that I’d just swatted? Oh, that I were more Buddhist sometimes! I could have gently blown at it, or nudged it, just to make it move away. I didn’t have to kill it! Another living thing, God’s creature? I could have chosen to move it. I could have let it live.

Then, on the toilet, where I get philosophical (or think I do), I began to wonder how many people who, in our wanderings, have crossed paths with me, intending me no harm, but were swatted anyway. Had their feelings swatted. Had their intellect swatted. Had their self-worth swatted. Been swatted out of my life. When we could have helped each other. Built each other up. Formed a relationship, or just randomly momentarily made one another’s day better.

I haven’t washed the bloodstain away, because it serves as a reminder to me. We can never really know how another is feeling. I often feel that I look for the best in people, but not all the time. No matter how we feel, it seems better to use a fleeting moment to smile, or to stretch our comfort level just a bit (Opposite Action?), even if it’s a herculean effort only to say, “Good morning.”

One could, all unknowing, help lift someone else’s depression just a bit. Or one could just swat the person by the simple act of looking away or beyond, like they don’t exist. I have thought about all those phone calls that have gone unanswered because there were people at the other end. But those people have feelings too. I don’t know if I can do it, but I can just do one tiny little thing in one tiny little moment, one single act of will. That tiny little blood stain reminds me.

One simple act of will.


I have been fighting depression and anxiety a great deal of late, and hard at that.  As the behavioral-ists say, as if I were a cow, “Have you been ruminating again?” Because, they say, “ruminating” upon feelings, occurrences, or memories that have me really pissed off, frightened, or saddened reduces my chances for victory. Well, yes, excessive obsessing can do that.

Yet I find that having these feelings, occurrences, memories, or whatever else cycloning around in my racing thoughts makes the sedentary, passive activity of “rumination” quite impossible.

Me no moo.

Rather, focusing those preoccupations through writing actually can help. Writing is not a form of “distraction” found in a Distress Tolerance list; neither is it a “pleasant activity.” Most especially, it is not rumination. Writing is looking hard for the splinter in your hand and stabbing it with a needle until the splinter comes out and you realize why you couldn’t see it without going through the pain: it was a tiny sliver of white wood, burrowed in there, invisible.

Sometimes you’ll do it through poetry (even if the esthetic results are dismal, the process is the point).

Sometimes through fiction.

I highly recommend writing in a journal (that’s what I do; I write in a journal). I don’t recommend “journaling”.  God, no! “Journal” must never, ever, become a legitimate verb! Please don’t help it to be so.

Or, and this is no new thought either, you could puke your guts out in a blog, which sometimes edifies, but usually just embarrasses. And yet we keep on doing it anyway! Go figure.

It may not solve your problem or cure your depression, but it’s bound to occupy your mind and could help you work through something, stall a suicidal impulse, become a prayer, slow the racing thoughts, ease the anxiety, be the only entity in the universe in whom you can confide the real you. . .whatever it does, it’s better than “ruminating.”

I may be obsessive, but I am NOT a cow.

“Organizing your sock drawer” is commonly a euphemism for sitting around with your thumb up your ass, or prioritizing the wrong thing, or belittling someone’s request for your presence by saying “I have to organize my sock drawer.”

But having an organized sock drawer is more important than you think.

First of all, the process of organizing something as simple as socks can be a very grounding, effective exercise in mindfulness. The socks are a jumbled mess. Some have holes. Some are missing their mate. The ones at the bottom are those loud leggins from the 80s, which you may then choose to continue wearing as a fashion statement, should they still fit; or throw away if they’re “hosed” no pun intended; or donate if they’re in excellent condition. Then, as you dig further, you might find that secret buried treasure you had forgotten where you hid or even forgotten that you had!

If you really focus on these things, each separate thing, you can clear your mind from all else and enter a mindful zone.

Start by putting your socks in pairs. Lay one out, its mate on top of it, then fold the pair in half. I don’t recommend hooking them together by folding the tops down; this just stretches out the top of your socks. Then separate them according to whatever categories please you. Then, stack them neatly. Yes, that’s right, I know it sounds crazy, but just do it. Wow. You have more room in that drawer than you imagined, don’t you?

Your reasonable (rational) mind has sorted, organized.  Your feelings have chosen the most pleasing arrangement of things you want to keep and enjoy. The tidy sock drawer is now a reference point for a grounded, wise mind state.

That is just one of the benefits. Another is, you’ll be able to get dressed faster, especially in the dark, because you just grab a pair and know they’ll match!

Another is, every time you open that drawer you will not feel despair at the jumbled mess that signifies your life. Instead, having that secret place neat and tidy that no one else sees will actually help your mind. You will begin to find more ways to experience yourself as clean on the inside. You are liberating yourself, no longer limited only to whisking together a hurried facade, to hide the crazy under the rug.

You will be able to begin to organize your life and free your mind and heart in other ways, ways that are more significant to you.

So, if you choose to, go clean that sock drawer.

Suicidal State of Mind

The idea of the suicidal state of mind is fraught with controversy and contradiction.

From the outside, it is viewed as “crazy”; “attention seeking” (if shared with others); a “cry for help”; “selfish” (if carried through); “tragic”; and makes friends and loved ones feel helpless.

From the inside, it can be all these things as well. But there are many more things going on, as anyone knows who has truly experienced a suicidal state that goes beyond ideation.

Strategies for the suicidal

These strategies worked for me. They are offered as a way out for the severely depressed, cornered, isolated, helpless person on the brink of suicide. They are mind exercises that you can go through as a checklist, even if you don’t feel like it; it will force you to think, despite what you are feeling.

1. It is certain that this state of mind WILL come to an end if I do not act. Then, I will be glad I did not act.

2. Think of anyone or anything I have a responsibility to.  Examples might be:
A cause I believe in
A project close to my heart that I want to finish

Problems concerning some of these might be the very things that triggered my depression, so I must make an effort not to focus on them. It is very difficult to consider others because of this black whirlpool that has tightened around me. But what might happen to my people, causes or projects if I am gone? Despite what I think right now, I AM needed.

3. How would I feel if my significant other committed suicide, or was killed, leaving ME with the responsibility for everything? I would be overwhelmed. Do I really want to do that to someone else?

4. Think of my achievements, pleasant or rewarding activities, milestones I have witnessed in my children’s lives, etc. that I would have missed if I had succumbed to a previous suicidal episode. Many more of these experiences lie before me.

5. Remember how I got through the previous suicidal episode.

6. Let self-interest work for me. What would happen to me if I attempted suicide and was unsuccessful? What and who do I have to lose in life afterward if I fail?

7. The idea of God and an afterlife requires faith. What do I believe in? Is suicide a sin? Do I believe I would end up in heaven, or hell?

8. The idea that there is no God, and there is only blessed nothing after death, also requires faith. No one knows what lies beyond that barrier. There’s no proof that I will attain freedom or relief from my torment. There are plenty of other possibilities. After committing suicide, my soul could end up trapped forever in the exact same state of torment as it was in when I died. For forever, no release.

9. Write, draw, or play it out. Meaning, write my thoughts down, even if only to burn them later. Or, draw/paint/sculpt whatever my hands will do. Or, if I am musical, play whatever comes out. If I enjoy cooking, cook something. This is cathartic and provides relief.

10. Pray or meditate or practice EFT or other mental strategies.

11. Escape into movies or books. Take to my bed and make no apologies for it. I have arrived at my current state through unbearable stresses and I am entitled to take a break.

12. Escape through exercise, a walk in a pleasant park, the woods.

13. Care for animals. Pet my dog or cat, groom my horse, get a fish.

14. Consider the possibility that I am under the influence of someone or something else, and that this horrid thing I hate is not really ME. Direct my self-hatred toward that influence instead, and banish it through prayer, intention, or whatever else I believe will work.

15. Think about tomorrow. The sun will rise just the same, and I may wake up feeling completely different than I do now. Each day is a fresh start.

I hope this can help me in the future, or help someone else.

St. Jude candle

“I was named for the Saint of Lost Causes. It’s true. You can look it up.”

That’s what one of my long-lost half brothers told me many years ago, and I thought it was cool. It fit in with my insanity so perfectly, and I envied him. At the time, I was clinically psychotic.

Here’s the prayer on the pretty St. Jude Tadeo candle I bought at the dollar store.

“Most holy apostle, St. Jude, Faithful Servant and Friend of Jesus, Patron of Hopeless Cases, of Things Almost Despaired Of, pray for me. I am so helpless and alone. Make use I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. I promise to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron. Amen.”

Actually, that’s a pretty good prayer.

All of us at one time or another feel like this. I often like to think we bipolar people feel these sorts of things more keenly…maybe “we” do and maybe “we” don’t. I don’t, can’t, presume to speak for any person living in bipolar other than myself, and I am very aware of my tendency to elevate my condition to an epic sort of stature, knowing full well that it’s no more epic than a host of other conditions, mental and physical.

There are a lot of good words in the St. Jude prayer.

Today, since I’m in a more healthy frame of mind than I was when I made the first post, I shall latch on to the most helpful word: Mindful.

Mindfulness is the core skill taught in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. DBT was created for Borderline Personality Disorder, but it teaches a skill set that is helpful to all. All skills in DBT come back to this one core skill, being Mindful.

What does mindfulness mean? I can only tell you what mindfulness means to me.

It means being fully present in your mind, body, emotions and environment. It is a means of grounding oneself and finding rest inside the turmoil. It means pulling back and acknowledging your feeling and accepting it without judging it. It’s not a good feeling or a bad one, not right or wrong, no matter how strong it is: It is what it is, nothing more or less.

Say that I feel anxious. I also feel the chair against my body, the responsive keys under my fingertips, and I hear the keys clicking and the rain and thunder outside. I concentrate on these things, allowing the feeling to exist but not allowing it to take over, or to represent things that cannot be helped or may be “despaired of.” Rather than allowing the anxiety to direct me to worry over whether there will be a job for my husband, or dwell on the fear that a horse will colic, or obsess that posting this stupid blog caused people to un-friend me on Facebook, I simply accept the feelings of anxiety as I accept the smell of the rain and the wet dog under my desk. I am Mindful.  And the anxiety feelings often will slip away.

There is also a technique of breathing, which is pretty much the same as any relaxation technique of breathing, I think. You breathe deep, and concentrate on it, and you let the thoughts in your head be there and go on their way, without judging them or berating yourself for having thoughts.

Hypocritical Quandaries

I am still not sure what I am trying to accomplish with this blog. I certainly don’t intend for it to be a vent for negative feelings, though that is what started it. I am sure the good people at the National Alliance on Mental Illness would not look approvingly on my previous post, although I stand by it as expressing a valid point-of-view, that is, one point-of-view among multitudes.

For those who might wonder, yes, I have dealt with cancer. More than one member of my family has battled it. Not me personally. But I live with chronic, often debilitating pain, and I have experienced at least part of my share of pain so severe that hospital medication is inadequate to assuage it.

More troubling to me is that after all that spouting off about the injustice of being misunderstood and stigmatized for a mental disequilibrium, I find myself on the other side of the river! I wish to cut all ties with someone because of that person’s behavior, and I know that behavior is at least partly the result of the heinous bipolar mania that the person is currently trapped in. What a hell for this individual, and me over here a freakin’ hypocrite.

I want to help the person, and the person does not appear to be managing the condition responsibly. I, who should know how to help, can’t figure out what I should say or do. Whatever it is would be proactive on my part, because the person in question doesn’t call me and isn’t really that big a part of my life. Maybe I am questioning whether it’s my place to jump in. Maybe this person has a support system of friends and doesn’t need me.

But I expect this individual is suffering alone, alone as I was, because except for a very few exceptional people, no one wants to be around a person acting like this unless they are paying them money. This individual is pushing people out of connection, whether intentionally or not. I can relate to this person. Oh, can I! But there are certain attitudes I do not want to enable by agreeing with them.

I do appreciate the quandary my manic depressive episodes place people in. Most of the people avoiding me during the worst of it did not have the tools and perspective that I have, so how can I blame them for jettisoning me, if I can’t figure out what to do here and now?

Well, until I work it out, I can pray.

Most Holy Apostle St. Jude…

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