Gratitudes: February 22 – 28, 2016

Dear Internet,
Gratitudes and things that make me happy are a part of my carding coursework, and I track them everyday and I’ll post them here every Sunday. (And I also acknowledge this is going to take me a few weeks to go beyond “I have killer hair.”)

  1. Learning how to properly breathe during meditation
  2. For being able to recognize the things I need to change
  3. For having known my father
  4. My car is in good shape
  5. For falling in love with books to allow me to travel all over the world
  6. My capacity to always want to fall in love with everyone and thing I meet
  7. For finding out I don’t have breast cancer
  8. The changing of the seasons to indicate that nothing remains the same
  9. For people who are kind to me even if I’m not kind to them
  10. For those who teach me about humility


  1. The way my skin feels after moisturizing it
  2. Medium rare steak
  3. The magnitude of available British television
  4. Fuzzy socks
  5. That moment between getting out of the shower and grabbing a towel and the temperature is just perfect
  6. Fresh mani/pedis
  7. Movie popcorn
  8. New journals
  9. Singing
  10. Fleece tights


This Day in Lisa-Universe: 20152001, 2000

Gratitudes: February 15 – 21, 2016

Dear Internet,
Gratitudes and things that make me happy are a part of my carding coursework, and I track them everyday and I’ll post them here every Sunday. (And I also acknowledge this is going to take me a few weeks to go beyond “I have killer hair.”)

  1. For the family I have chosen
  2. For previous lovers who let me view and share in their worlds
  3. For those I have met over the years who have helped shape me into the person I am today
  4. For my pets who showed me what unconditional love really is
  5. For Caravaggio for allowing me to not only fall in love with his work but to finally get what art history really means
  6. For understanding that a million decisions brought me to this point in life
  7. For crazy drugs to allow me to be healthier rather than crazy(ier)
  8. For the wind through the trees to allow me to allow the gods to talk to me
  9. For sticking to my guns for doing the right thing
  10. Believing in the goodness of others


  1. An unexpected phone call from someone I love
  2. Writing letters and the joy people have when they receive them
  3. The smell of fresh cut grass
  4. The feel of clean sheets
  5. Glitter gel pens for making me smile when i write
  6. Chocolate. Because chocolate.
  7. Good burgers
  8. Making snow angles


This Day in Lisa-Universe: 20152004, 2002, 1999

Gratitudes: February 8 – 14, 2016

Dear Internet,
Gratitudes and things that make me happy are a part of my carding coursework, and I track them everyday and I’ll post them here every Sunday. (And I also acknowledge this is going to take me a few weeks to go beyond “I have killer hair.”)

  1. I am thankful for my parents for without them there would be no me
  2. I am thankful for the life I’ve been able to experience
  3. I am grateful there are preventatives for my allergies so I won’t be dead
  4. I am thankful for Kate, the person whom if I tell her I shot a man in Reno to watch him die, she would shoot him again to make sure he’s dead and then ask me where we’re going to bury him
  5. I am thankful I can often make people laugh
  6. I am grateful my body is strong and healthy to let me move the way I need it to
  7. I thankful my car is paid off
  8. I am grateful for my champions when I went back to college, for without them I would not excelled or want to continue with my education
  9. I am grateful for Natalie who gets my Jane Austen obsession and who can really make me think
  10. I am grateful I have the capacity to share all different kinds of love with all different kinds of people


  1. Long, near scalding, showers,
  2. Long soaks in a bathtub, when I can read until my skin is pickled
  3. The way my body feels after I moisturize it with coconut oil
  4. That first snowfall
  5. Gerbera daisies
  6. When I finish my todo list for the day and everything is completed
  7. The smell of just out of the oven baked goods; even more so if I have baked them myself
  8. Sleeping with my teddy bear
  9. The first kiss of a potential lover
  10. Getting cards and letters in the mail


This day in Lisa-Universe in: 20152010, 2010, 2001, 1999

Gratitudes: February 1 – 7, 2016

Dear Internet,
Something we should all be doing is showing gratitude for what we have in our lives — it’s being thankful for what one has versus what one wants. Writing down gratitudes, privately in a journal or publicly on the interwebs, is an essential part of DBT and meditation as well as being really important for borderlines. Within the last week my DBT book and my mediation guru have suggested writing down one gratitude a day and at the end of week, ending the list with a total of 10.
Gratitudes and things that make me happy are a part of my carding coursework, and I track them everyday, so this should be easy to complete every week and obviously I’ll post them here every Sunday. (And I also acknowledge this is going to take me a few weeks to go beyond “I have killer hair.”)

  1. My therapist for understanding
  2. I am not physically ill
  3. I have a large support network
  4. I am tenacious
  5. I have killer hair
  6. I have a big heart
  7. I try to do good things for others
  8. People who have faith in me


  1. The smell and taste of pineapple juice
  2. Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered pretzels
  3. The “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials
  4. Key & Peele shorts
  5. Wearing my grey old man cardigan (I have two in separate styles)
  6. Wearing my Black Phoenix Alchemy scents, especially Bliss


This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2015,1999


Dear Internet,
How do you learn? How do you change your patterns to not make the same mistakes twice (or thrice, etc)?
If you’re self-aware, how do you change your life from being a pain in the ass and how do you stop sabotaging yourself?
I’ve talked on and on about ThePlan for years; there is a similar version, from 10 years ago (!), that is nearly identical to the one I’m plotting now.

I always planned on conquering the world tomorrow and my past was filled with nothing but those empty tomorrows where I just existed and did not really live.
And I felt that sense of panic, that I would end up dead and alone, eaten by ThePugKids, all three of them fighting to eat my hands and feet. I can almost see them burping with a self-satisfied look on their faces. If pugs could smirk, mine surely would in utter defiance of not being spoilt rotten.

Change “ThePugKids” to “Thursday” and it is still absolutely true.
(And it’s pretty freaking clear I just finished watching Bridget Jones’ Diary before I wrote the above.)
Ten years on and many things have changed: I went on to get a second masters, I got married, I got divorced, I got … well you know how my life has gone. And some things have changed for the better (being on better mood stabilizing drugs, seeing a therapist on the regular, exercising on the regular), and others — not so much.
This got me thinking on how I roughly learn things. During my ill spent youth, I’ve always tested higher than I assumed I would in all subjects. Meaning, I was put into advanced classes where I didn’t think I belonged. I remember the day in 8th grade math when I found out they were bumping me up to honors math in high school. How in thee hell did that happen? I believe I am terrible at math. (low self-esteem)
Everything came tumbling down in high school. I dropped out in 11th grade. Repeated it and dropped out again. I got my GED. My first foray into college was a hot mess – I scrapped by on an 1.7 GPA. I was too busy interviewing rock stars, working on the student newspaper, and trying to start up a college radio station to study.
<a decade passes>
Now I’m 30 and I’m going back to college for the second time. I am desperate to get my BA so I cut out extracurricular activities (see how that did me in first time around) and study, study, study. I pull my overall GPA up from a 1.7 to a 3.4ish and a 4.0 in my second bachelors, letting me graduate with distinction.
I’ve done it.
I apply the same methods to my first and second masters, graduating each with high marks.
So how was I able to change my studying habits, and thusly my life, around 180 degrees? It was not just about passion or wanting something badly, it was more than likely due to wanting to feel the accomplishment of having a goal and completing that goal. (With that only goal the thing in my mind’s eye, I’m less likely to wade off the path.)
This is fine and good in theory but how in the hell did I do it?
Knowing my learning style, how my brain operates, and carding1.
Not in a “I am too young to buy alcohol I hope they don’t card me” way or “I’m playing poker and i hope they don’t see my tells” way either.
Carding, for me, is where I write something down on an index card, and shuffle through them as if I am dealing hands in poker. My French class cards? Word on the front, permutations on the back. Those cards towered in the inches thick category. Art History cards? Names, periods, movements, paintings — all carded. Name of thing on the front, every little bit of info I could cram on the back.
This went on for all my classes.
Where did I learn how to card? When I started college again, I volunteered to be a literacy tutor through the public library. In the training we were taught about the different methods of how people learned. I never thought about learning styles before or hell, even knew it existed. That’s when it all clicked.
For me to grasp a concept, the following has to happen:

  • An instructor lecturs (auditory) while I take notes (read-write)
  • I need to ask questions and discuss it to understand (kinesthetic)
  • Later, I card my notes (read-write)
  • I continue to go over my cards to cement the ideas (read-write)
  • By continually going over the cards, and going through the lecture in my head, I can break down and piece together the thing I am learning into something tangible

One thing I’m often saying is, “I need to figure it out on my own before I can get it.” (kinesthetic). I cannot learn a behaviour/thing with someone telling me how it works; it means nothing to me. For me to learn something, I need to experience it myself. If I want to learn how to fix a computer, I need to take it apart and put it together again. Now I’ve done X (taking apart a computer) and learned it leads to Y (fixing broken thing on a computer).
People have told me how this would work, but I didn’t believe them until I did it myself.
(The whole “don’t tell me, let me figure it out myself” can get a bit messy during emotional entanglements and I’ll just leave it at that.)
Most importantly, what works with learning styles, is my need for structure.
If I don’t have structure in my life, in any form, I flounder. Working a full time gig helps significantly with structuring where as being a freelance writer makes it super messy for me to keep in control. I’ve tried setting up my day to the minute before and that’s too much, I need something between ultra regiment and chaos.This is why it was agreed I needed a co-working space.
Now with all of that laid out, add in my mental disorders: borderline (attention seeking), bipolar (mania, disorganized behaviour, racing thoughts), adhd (fidgeting, boredom, forgetfulness), and our favorite pal anxiety and you see it gets a bit chaotic.
Knowing how these three things (structure, learning style, knowing how my mind works) worked is how I aced my education and kept my life together for many years.
(I am so burying the lede.)
I started the lede in the third paragraph: ThePlan2.
I’ve done variation after variation of ThePlan over the years and it’s always starts strong, starts to wane, and eventually fizzles out. How can I change this behaviour and make it last?
That is the ultimate question.
Carding will be my answer.
DBT’s main purpose is to change how your brain works. This idea is also the foundation for most of the self-help books out there. However, DBT is backed by scientists, papers, shrinks, and research3.
The four critical skills of DBT are:

  • Distress Tolerance Coping better with painful events
  • Mindfulness Experience living in the moment
  • Emotion Regulation Being able to recognize what you feel and then observe what’s happening so you don’t feel overwhelmed
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness Tools to express beliefs and needs; to set limits and work on negative problems

In order for DBT to work, you have to do it every single day. You have to practice some of the techniques to continue to rewire your brain. You can’t do what I did, start reading the book, highlight things, and then forget about it. This serves no one.
This is where carding comes in.
I had clear photo case box with 5×7 and 3×5 cards, purchased for a writing project that never got off the ground. I created the following dividers:

  • Things accomplished A listing of things I’ve done for that so I keep track of things I would normally forget, like how many times that week I’ve worked out. Each day has it’s own card
  • Negativity Disputation Techniques Techniques when I’m feeling feelings about something. An example of the ABCDE disputation technique:
    • Adversity  I can’t write
    • Beliefs Everything has been written
    • Consequence I have not written a story/article
    • Disputation I’m not scheduling time to write
    • Energize How can I change this behaviour
  • Gratitudes and Happy Things Weekly cards of things I’m happy or grateful or both of things from I really love the smell of pineapple juice to I have a large support network
  • Pithy Statements Those memes we see around the interwebs with such sayings as Dream big. Dream bigger. I have a love hate relationship with these things — hence they “pithy statement” card, but sometimes a girl needs a reminder of such things.
  • Mind / Body / Soul Cards that I need to fulfill that desire. Meditation and reading everyday (Mind); drink more water (Body); find good in people (Soul). Mind / body / soul each have their own dividers but I’ll probably itnergrate these things into the Happy Things list.
  • DBT Reminders Distraction plans (do yoga, smell someone else (YES. I will presume I’m weird. I associate people with smells, you smell good – you are a good person. You smell bad to me – you’re probably not such a good person. TheBassist has a specific scent of his deodorant mixed with pheromones mixed with normal body scent. (I’ve been known to sniff his deodorant when I was not feeling so great. Don’t judge me. (He knows.)) Steph smells like patchouli and vanilla. Mini-me smells of hot cocoa and clean shampoo.)), things to put into action (move your body)

My day to day:

  • I use my Bullet Journal to create my todo lists for the day
  • I do my todo list
  • I work on DBT stuff (do my homework, read, go over the cards)
  • I meditate
  • I do things that need to be done but are not on the todo list (walk the dog, load and unload the dishwasher)
  • I write down my accomplishments and my gratitudes
  • Move my body somehow
  • Write something

Some days there is more but the above is always the same.
Remember the breakdown I gave on how I learn? Let’s apply that to how to train my brain with DBT:

  • Someone lectures / talks to me about things: therapist / friends (auditory)
  • I need to ask questions and discuss it to understand (kinesthetic)
  • Later, I card my notes from therapy / add to DBT pile (read-write)
  • I continue to go over my cards to cement the ideas (read-write)
  • By continually going over the cards, and going through the discussions in my head, I can break down and piece together the thing I am learning/knowing into something tangible

You may think I’m crazy for putting this together. You may think this is a lot of work. You may think this is a load of bullshit. You don’t have to like it, agree with it, or even do what I’m doing. That is all fine. What I can tell you is while I’m just slowly making my way towards the good parts of life, this has been helping. It’s been a week, I know, but having this kind of structure (see above) helps me shape my life.
It looks like a  lot of work – it isn’t. Outside of my reading (about a half an hour a day), I spend another 10-15 carding. It looks complicated (it isn’t).
But it doesn’t matter. It’s for me and not for you. The end.

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2015, 2015

1. Carding is my fancy way of saying, “flash cards.”
2. Literally the number one reason why the TheBassist left was/is because I am a flight risk (borderline). The plan, as he says, always kept changing. I didn’t think so as I updated him as soon as I knew things, but, I’ll have to concede he has a point as I was so wishy washy. On more than one occasion he compared me to my being Lucy and his being Charlie Brown and the plan was the football.
3. I recommend Dialectal Skills Workbook and DBT Skills Training. While it is recommended you see a DBT specialist, you can certainly work on this solo.

…and zombies

#LisMentalHealth week is an initiative started by my good friend Cecily Walker and Kelly McElroy. You can follow along on Twitter, add resources to the Google doc, or check out the Storify of Monday’s chat. Please do not diagnosis yourself via the internet — if you are concerned about your mental health or someone else’s, see a professional immediately.

Dear Internet,
The last couple of posts discussed what was going on inside my head, some background on being bipolar and borderline, suicidal thoughts, and how that conflates in every day life. I want to excavate deeper into the every day life part because it’s necessary, important, and gives others a chance to know they are not feeling alone.
(Punctuated with GIFs from Pride and Prejudice & Zombies, Becoming Jane, and Pride and Prejudice (1995 AND 2005 editions). Because obviously.)
People with mental illness are bad ass mother fuckers.
As we stabilize, and start to integrate into regularized life, we have to still have to navigate all of the pitfalls of being mentally ill.
Inside our head.
This is not to say we don’t have a support system, a good therapist on call, or even the wrong drugs. But those things can only do so much and we need to be prepared to handle the rest.
We’re fighters.

And when we’re in crisis, which does not always mean suicidal, we’re kind of straying off track of the fight. But give us a moment and we’re back into the ring, ready to do another battle.
Sometimes we are down on the mat, and the ref is counting. Sometimes we feel the only way to win is to die. But those who walk that path are still brave for they took their own life on their terms. It’s hard to digest, I know, but there are something bigger than us, all of us, that cannot always be beaten.
They are not cowards. Death is not shameful. They deserved to make that decision.
I’m not advocating for suicide. I’m not saying everyone who is mentally ill should go kill themselves. I refuse, however, to put on the facade that this wasn’t the person’s choice. It is their choice. They made this decision to end it on their terms, they should have the dignity for making that decision.
(Some of us just need something to keep us here. If you feel like you’re going through a rough time and you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.8255.)

I know from my own experiences the line between wanting to fight and dying on my terms has been pretty blurred. What’s pulled me out of making the decision to die is my need to be a vengeful asshole and want to prove the world wrong.
I haven’t been suicidal in a very long time. I get into crisis mode which can be akin to waiting out a bad storm. I have too much to do in this world and like I said, I’m a vengeful asshole.
I wanted to die because I didn’t feel like anyone understood what I was going through. I wanted to die because I thought no one loved me. I wanted to die because I could not imaging going through life in this kind of pain.
It took a long time for me to accept people love me. People want to make sure I’m okay. When it looks like I’m going into crisis mode, people text/call me to make sure I’m okay or if I need anything. I know it will get better some day, so I let the tears out and the frustration, I take my drugs, I write in my journal, I meditate, and the sun starts to pinprick the clouds.
(And I’m a vengeful asshole, because fuck you non-believers of me.)
(My meditation guru, headspace, has this technique called noting. Instead of acting out on whatever (feeling, emotion, thought), you let the thing wander into your brain and you say to yourself, “oh. that’s just a feeling.” and the feeling, instead of overpowering, you acknowledge it which knocks it out of your way. I found that whenever a feeling / thought / emotion starts pushing its way forward, I note it, and it doesn’t feel so intense anymore. Headspace acknowledges that depression cannot be erased simply by noting, but it helps to better manage the symptoms.)

When I was 10? 11? 12? I wanted to write a book on suicide. Was I suicidal then? To be honest, I have no idea. I was sewing my fingers together and pulling out clumps of my hair, so who knows.
I went to the library constantly. Checked out books, memoirs, medical texts, anything I could find about suicide.
I was convinced they had it all wrong. No one knew what being suicidal was like. I knew. I could write this book.
Again, what does a middle schooler know about suicide? No one I knew had died by their own hand. Where did this come from? I cannot even guess.
I apparently thought I knew everything.
I have no idea what was going on through my mind. This was beyond writing a paper for school, there was this real big need to write a book.
No idea what happened to the papers or my thoughts on the matters.
But I did want you to know I’ve been there, it’s okay, and we can get through this together.

One of the big traits of being a borderline is our lack of self-image. What does that mean?
It means we cannot or have trouble with defining our own personalities. What we like. What we don’t like.
When you think of me, what do you think? My about page has a pretty good description of who I am and what I like. You follow me on Twitter or are a BFF on Facebook, my interests are pretty straight forward.
Every or nearly every day I think about what I like: James Bond, Doctor Who, Jane Austen, Vikings,  MINI Coopers, Regency, Edwardian, and Medieval history, Caravaggio, knitting, England, Scotland, Wales, BBC, literature, graphic novels & comic books, Jazz Age, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Baroque art, technology, travel, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Downton Abbey, Italy, and West Ham Football Club.
These are just a few of my favorite things.

Why do I like these things?
You could argue a lot of people pick up traits of the people they are involved with, regardless of the intimacy level. We’re being introduced to new things and those things resonate with us, so we make them ours and explore them on our own terms.  But with borderlines, we want to be like that person, so their things are now our favorite things, typically discarded when the relationship ends and we start all over again with the next person to get a whole another set of interests.
When I look at my main interests, listed above, some of them follow that described pattern. TheEx was heavily into F1, MINIs, West Ham United, James Bond, and knitting. Now they are my interests but if I’m honest with some of them I haven’t picked since we split nearly eight years ago. Some of them I follow half-heartedly. Others I keep with abandoning passion.

(That’s amazing thing about interests — spend a half-hour google searching and you can get up to date on that item real quick.)
I used to have a really hard time with music, television shows/movies, and anything else people find of interest. If you’ve been to any place I’ve lived, I’ve got a thousand and one things that look like I’m interested in, but in reality I’ve started and given up on most because I got bored or not everyone was doing the same thing anymore.
(Remember, we want to be loved so what you like, we like.)
It took a really long time for me to learn how to like something. I had to teach myself how to like something and honestly? I have a hard time moving beyond that thing.
Like music.
Music was a poultice to medicate, not to be enjoyed.
Bands like R.E.M, New Order, and The Smiths really resonated with me in high school, so I followed their careers obsessively for years and the cool kids I was desperate to join liked them. I also liked them because it was myself in their songs.
(I listened to industrial to drown out the crazy.)
I started paying attention to songs on the radio, in clubs, at friend’s houses. Why did I like this song? What could I like about this song, albums, band? I like the words. Okay, that’s good. I like the sound. Okay, even better. One plus one = two. Turn it into a logical equation and it’s easier to swallow.
I am really simplifying this as it’s not that straight forward.
A lot of you know I’m a big fan of Joy Division. I knew they were the precursor to New Order. The lead singer killed himself when he was 23. It was thought he was bipolar or at least depressed.
A man I could get behind.
I didn’t get into them until I was in my early 30s when I was researching something and came across Joy Division’s biography. Based upon what I found out and what I later learned, they became my band de jour.
My favorite song is not Love Will Tear Us Apart or Transmission but She’s Lost Control.

I could live a little better with the myths and the lies,
When the darkness broke in, I just broke down and cried.
I could live a little in a wider line,
When the change is gone, when the urge is gone,
To lose control. When here we come.
Here was a band who released this single when I was 7 and they are as relevant to me today as they were over 30 years ago.
They have a distinct sound. I call it the Mancuian sound, music straight from Manchester, UK. Every band I have fallen in love with either emulates that sound (Interpol), is from that period (Factory Records), or is heavily influenced by Joy Division. Almost without fail, when I hear a new song on the radio and I like the song, they are 90% not only from Britain but from Manchester.
Everything from food, to clothes, to where I want to live — nearly every aspect of my life is thought out, ruminated, digested, and researched before I decide to like it or not.
And all of this is going on with rapid fire thought, subconsciously without fail, every second of every day.
Teaching myself to like something was a big step towards being whole. My interests listed above? Took me a long time to separate the interest from the thing associated with it and make it mine. Now when I meet someone, I have very clear boundaries on what I like, I have ideas what I don’t like, and it’s work to maintain this is me rather this is me being you.
I sound aspie, but it’s not about keeping to a pattern, it’s about discovering what it is that makes “you” you and making it your own. This also does not mean I’m not open to new experiences or adventures, but please understand that to even consider that thing, I’m making rapid fire decisions, a 1000 a second.
Now tie this in with being bipolar, the mania, the need to be an exhibitionist. You are HERE and you’re living in this moment. But do you like this moment? Can you trust this moment?  I AM THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. But do you like me to being the center? Can I be in your world?
You stabilize the brain with drugs, so the needs become less punishing. Yet it physically hurts to think sometimes, so much is going on in my head.
And people wonder why I’m chaotic neutral.

This Day in LIsa-Universe: 2011, 2007, 2004, 2003, 1999

Crazy – The Jane Austen Edition

#LisMentalHealth week is an initiative started by my good friend Cecily Walker and Kelly McElroy. You can follow along on Twitter, add resources to the Google doc, or check out the Storify of Monday’s chat. Please do not diagnosis yourself via the internet — if you are concerned about your mental health or someone else’s, see a professional immediately.
Dear Internet,
When I was a kid, I used to sew my fingers “…together with needle and thread, through the upper layers of your skin. You would sew and sew and then rip it out gingerly and start over again.” As a teenager “…start a new habit of breaking things. You get angry and start breaking anything made of china or glass.” I used to stand in my bedroom, on top of my bed, smashing glass things on the floor. Never too much for my mother to notice, but enough so that she eventually did.
At one point I used to pull huge clumps of hair out. I’m surprised my hair hasn’t thinned or I have bald spots.
I no longer sew my fingers together. I not longer throw glass on the floor. I no longer pull huge clumps of my hair out.
Now I tattoo and pierce. Much more aesthetically pleasing.

I began this post with something wholly different in mind, with plans on concentrating being borderline as it is enough of an obscure disorder that had barely has been written on it in the public sphere other than medical chit chat. What I have found for community support and personal perspective is buried deep, deep into google search — essentially useless since hardly anyone goes beyond the first page of results. If interested, I’ve put together a list of resources found on websites, subreddits, and books I recommend/use are at the bottom of this post. (Be warned, some of the content can be triggering.)
If these posts helps someone not feel alone or to get help, that’s enough for me.

The above quotations comes from a piece I wrote in 2001, about a girl, dealing with the crazy to the point I was thisclose to having a mental breakdown. I found the piece when looking for the bit on sewing my fingers together that I was originally going to reference. I read about a girl, cried, and re-read some more. I’m no longer self-harming, hitting/punching people, or planning my death. TheExHusband, who was kind enough to listen when I read it out loud, pointed out if I was in the same state now as I was then, the pile on what happened in the last two years convinced him I would have killed myself because I couldn’t take it anymore.
He’s right. So yay me?!

So I’ll talk about being borderline interspersed with Jane Austen gifs. Get the word out. Find some other peeps who suffer, create a community. Think about how far I’ve come (I can marginally cook), I am not suicidal or do (as crazy) crazy things. I lived beyond the age of 40. Some good, yes?
Everything changes. Nothing changes. I will deal with this for the rest of my life.

I need your approval and adoration or else I do not exist

One of the tl;dr’s of about a girl was my mother’s lack of validation of me as a child. Who in thee fuck sends their nine year old to therapy? Grounds them for years for being a “bad” child, which meant punishing you for the mess your younger brother did?
I did not have validation, so I need validation from you or else I don’t exist.
I will do anything of that validation. Anything. I will get into a shitty relationship with you, I will do things I’m not comfortable with doing, I will lie for you. I am your pet trained monkey, say what you will and it is done.
I would deny the date rapes, the sexual harassment, the rapes and almost rapes because it meant someone(s) finally loved/wanted me. What more could a girl ask for?
Is it so terrible I have a credo which states I will do anything as long as I don’t land in jail? Bully for me I’ve been able to keep that creedo on point.

You will stay with me forever, even if you don’t like it.
Relationships, platonic and romantic, end. Some just drift apart, others there is a trauma, and yet still others you just manage to grow out of your mutual interests. Some of the endings are mutuals, others are not. Some of this sounds familiar to most of you — I can’t imagine anyone whose life is so perfectly balanced they haven’t navigated these waters.
With borderlines it’s different.
You could dislike me / break up with me for a host of a million reasons, all of them legit, but I need to know why. Why don’t you like me? What have I done that I can fix? What can I change to myself to make whatever has been fucked better for you and for me?
I don’t understand why there can’t be a change.
I don’t understand why you don’t like me.
I have made relationships worse with this behaviour. Relationships that could have been naturally saved if I had not decided to forcefully intervene.
I have burned bridges.
But after burning the bridges, after forcefully intervening, we tend to apologize for our behaviour.
A lot.

I throw out the lines “fuck ’em if they don’t like me” and “I don’t want to be with anyone who doesn’t want me” and “I’m not to everyone’s taste” but secretly I need you to validate who I am. I put on a brave face because that is what I am to do but secretly…I need you to like me.
A lot.

We are charming as fuck
We want your approval and we’re trained circus monkey’s who will do any trick we can to make you love us. We want you to validate us and by having you remember us, we will be adored.
For me, it’s anything I can do to make you remember me whether it’s as simple as remembering who you are to sending thank you cards (truly, I AM grateful when those are sent) to providing you with something you are missing in your life. So many people don’t remember names, send thank you cards, or do simple gestures so when someone DOES do those things, they are more memorable than not.
And I am validated.
My sarcasm and with tend to bring the smart people around to my side. My fashion choices tend to hook others.
I’ve got a million ways to charm you and if you’re a potential sex partner, some that will make your toes curl.

I am a pretty, pretty princess and I must always be the center of your world

Borderlines have to be the center of your world.
A fight means a break-up. A change in plans means you hate me. A missed phone call and you never want to hear from me again. Platonic friendships invoke jealousies. Friendships with ex-partners? Ha. Ha. Ha. You’re fucking cheating on me and you’re never going to change.
If we can make those things not happen (validation) and tap dance our charming ass off, borderlines will always be the center of your attention and therefore, we are finally whole.

I don’t self-mutilate, I pierce and tattoo (which is totally different. Ha. Ha. Ha.)
Borderlines tend to have incredibly self-destructive behaviour. They are alcoholics, drug users, risky with sex, self-mutilate, and attempt suicide at least once.
I tell myself, “Oh boy. Aren’t I lucky I’m not into those self-destructive behaviors!”
Self-destructive behaviors started when I was eight or nine and I would sew my fingers together. Then the hair pulling in clumps.  Then throwing glass against the floor. The manic behaviour in my 20s.
The the risky sex partners.  (How I’ve never gotten a STD from the crazy early 20s is a goddamned miracle. In the last ten years it’s been a string of long relationships with three separate men. Yay me? )
I forgot all of that. I forget a lot of things. It’s buried deep deep inside of me. A pomegranate seed I refuse to let grow. I do not water it. I do not tend to it. Yet it lurks its leaves under the soil waiting to bury it’s roots deep and its flowers high.
Instead I pierce. And I tattoo.
Nearly 15 years ago (jesus lord), sitting on the couch of an ex-boyfriend who in one breath wanted to fuck me and in the other called me a prision bitch. WHY LISA, WHY? You’ve ruined your innocence, he said.
You cry. But I tell him what the tattoos really mean: a protective seal to protect me.
If you see the tattoos, you’ll more than likely not fuck with me, if you don’t fuck with me, I’m safe. No worries about abandonment issues because I won’t let you in close enough to hurt me. As long as I played the guise of loudmouth, tattooed, bitchy bitch face, I was safe. People would respect me for it (which always blew my mind when they did. Which is a lot. People do like assholes.).
Because obviously tattoos and piercings, for some, are not a sign of self-mutilation but for me, they very subtly are.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
If you saw I was really a bookish, nerdish girl who would rather knit and read a book rather than get rowdy enough at a bar to get thrown out a bar (like I was at 21), you wouldn’t like me. No one liked me when I was a four eyed square in primary and middle school because I was different from everyone else (hoo boy, things changed when I grew breasts and got contacts), no one was going to like me now. Honestly? When I do show that side of myself, no one really expects it and think it’s some facade. What they can’t figure out is the opposite is true.
And the bitchy sarcastic cuntface continues to live supreme because that’s what people want, and I want them to like me, so it will remain so.


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Today in Lisa-Universe: 2015, 2011

Mental Illness, Shame, and the Art of Asking – 2016 Edition

#LisMentalHealth week is an initiative started by my good friend Cecily Walker and Kelly McElroy. You can follow along on Twitter, add resources to the Google doc, or check out the Storify of Monday’s chat.
Dear Internet,
If you’ve been reading (or following me on social media), it’s no surprise I’m open about my mental health. I talk pretty extensively on being bipolar (especially since I’m bipolar one which means I creep towards mania than depression), mental health in general, borderline personality disorder, adhd, depression when I get it, anxiety, and about my drugs, shrink, and fuck, probably a lot more I’m forgetting.
While I try not let me be these diseases, so much of what they do is an integral part of my life, it’s very hard to talk about them in some sort of context, “I’m being cray today. Ugh!”
So here is a week where I can talk freely and abundantly about my brain with professionals in my chosen career only to find as I opened up this editor to write — I am stumped on what exactly to say.
Three years ago (!), spurned by a TED Talk by Amanda Fucking Palmer, I wrote this piece: “Mental Illness, Shame, and The Art of Asking.”
In case you missed it, here is Amanda’s talk:
What I said three years ago

Yesterday, I was part of a panel at MSU Comics Forum where we gave a presentation on Golden Age: Comics and Graphic Novel Resources in Libraries. Our schtick is to present on this topic at non-library conferences because we knew it was important for artists, writers, creators, educators, and comic book lovers to be aware of what/how libraries are doing with comics and graphic novels. Within the library world, it is a given. Outside the library world, not so much.
While prepping for my talk, I was debating on whether or not to mention I was bipolar and relate that to graphic novels available on the topic. If part of my argument is graphic novels should be in libraries is because they help broach difficult topics, is this not a difficult topic and ergo a perfect example? The other question that would be asked is what kind of obligation do I have in mentioning I am bipolar to anyone about anything? Why does the onus fall on me?
This debate went on in my head up until I took the podium.
When the slide came up I had earmarked to mention being bipolar, I found myself just saying it as naturally if you please:
“I’m bipolar. I’ve had several friends who’ve read Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me and say to me, ‘Okay. I understand what you’re going through. It was eye opening.’ And this is perfectly illustrates how graphic novels and comics can help broach difficult topics.”
Several heads in the audience nodded with agreement.
In the space of a few minutes, I had negotiated in my head the trust relationship between myself and the audience. I gave myself permission to be candid. The floor did not open up and swallow me nor did fire come reigning down the heavens.
While I was feeling manic up until that moment, and then the world shifted into focus. When my 15 minutes was done, I felt my body relax for the first time in weeks.
Before watching AFP’s talk last night, I had not realized the mental negotiations taking place in my head about having a mental illness were about exchanges in trust with whomever. Oh, not you Internet, but with those in contact of my daily life, who don’t follow me across the social sphere or read this blog. There is a price tag on honesty, and on revealing, one that was too high in the past to contemplate, and one that is constantly always under scrutinizing but is becoming easier to negotiate.
AFP rationalized it is not about taking a risk, rather it is trust. Shame comes in when those not part of the negotiation attempt to criticize it. I am currying trust with my readership by telling them about my crazy, but someone who doesn’t read my blog, or know me, starts to make judgements on the already established link between me and my readership, they are installing shame on the affair. Anything different is open to criticism and this needs to change.
My name is Lisa and I am bipolar.
It needs to be said, it has to be said, I will continue to say it.

That piece still sums up what I feel today, except when it’s not.
Bipolar can be controlled with drugs and therapy. I’ve been on the same cocktail for over a year now and 9 times out of 10, life is pretty even keel. Now Borderline Personality Disorder is taking center stage, rearing its ugly head and that has been running my life for the last year+.
BPD has ruined a lot of things with the most current such as TheBassist1 breaking up with me not because he didn’t love and want me, but because I was a flight risk2 and will always be a flight risk until I got my shit together.
BPD has ruined not only romantic relationships, but platonic relationships; it’s distorted my world view; it’s fucked a lot of things for me and sometimes I feel utterly and completely out of control. “I hate you, don’t leave me!” “Everyone hates me; I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread.” “I have made a mistake somewhere and now I will be shunned/fired/etc.”
Coupled with being bipolar, I’m often surprised I’ve made it past 40. Hell, past 30.
I talk a lot about the domino effect which has plagued me these last few years. But what I haven’t discussed is exactly how that affected me on a much more personal level:

  • The #teamharpy case has made me a leper in the library world
  • nina and I racked up $15K in legal fees
  • I ran myself into $40K credit card debt between September 2014 and June 2015
  • On paper I’ve been homeless, on and off, since October 2014
  • I’ve had several breakdowns, starting with a long period of mania that lasted for about six months, then a bout of depression, back to mania, which finally came to a head in October when TheBassist broke it off with me.
  • From October to mid-December I rarely left TheExHusband’s condo or got out of my jimjams or did any kind of self-care. I ugly cried nearly every day
  • I’ve rarely smoked more than a couple of cigarettes a month until this past summer where I’m coming up to half a pack a day
  • While not suicidal, I’ve been in crisis at least twice in the last year

I’m probably missing a few things but this is the laundry list of ills that have been the albatross in my life for the last 18 months. A lot of these are my own choices, “If only I had…”

  • …used the word ‘alleged’ in that fucking tweet
  • …stop spending money on useless shit since I don’t have a job
  • …stopped denying everything was great and I was sick
  • …listened to what my loved ones said instead of thinking I could go at this alone

There are a lot of “If onlys.” Aren’t there always?
Being mentally ill is a goddamned highway with lots of on and off ramps. You make decisions based on your illness, it backfires, and you lose something important. You make a decision based on your illness, it comes up smelling of roses. You just never know how the die is going to roll and we keep taking the chance that what we decided was right.
We’re gamblers, we are. We worry by not telling anyone, we’ll not be able to get help when we need it. We worry if we do tell someone, we’ll lose out on life/partners/jobs. We worry how drugs will affect us or if self-care will actually work. We worry about the stigma, the pain, the anguish, the shame. We make ourselves sicker because we cannot disclose our sickness without fear something terrible is going to happen.
And the most painful thing? No one trusts you. TheBassist doesn’t trust me. TheExHusband doesn’t trust me. I’ve lost a lot of friends who can no longer trust me. What comes out of my mouth today can and has been either half-way true or another variation tomorrow3. It’s hard to ask for help when no one trusts you, even if they love you.
A lot of hard questions are coming up in the #lismentalhealth chat. Questions I want to be the queen of all that is mentally ill and bestow my wisdom to everyone as I have all the answers (“I am the greatest thing since sliced bread.”). I’m afraid to post because I don’t want to be seen as a scene stealer (“Everyone hates me.”). I don’t want to seem “weak” (“I can control this thing no matter what you say”), whatever that means, and I don’t want people to take pity on me even though I crave their adoration (“Don’t leave me.”). I’m a raging, sarcastic asshole towards people (“I hate you.”)
Being mentally ill is goddamned exhausting. I think this is one thing we can all agree upon.
One of the questions that did come up I can, somewhat, safely answer is about disclosing your illness to current and future employers. Right now I’m of the mindset of “No.” In my last position, because I was hell bent on being open and honest, I told my immediate boss. Within a few months, they used my illnesses against me. See the revised job description they put up when they did a call after my contact was about to expire. Look particularly at 12. They also would use verbiage such as, “Go take more drugs,” and “have you seen your therapist lately” out of spite. (Yes, I did try to get them reprimanded for such impertinence but since no one heard them, I had no physical proof…you get the idea where this going, right?) Despite the disability act/equal opportunity form you can volunteer to answer when you apply for a job, I choose “no response” to the question or I don’t fill out the damned thing at all. I cannot take the chance if someone sees I’m bipolar they will automatically disqualify me from getting a job. While this is illegal, I’ll never know since I will just get your standard rejection.
I have nothing to say. I have everything to say. I have a zillion answers. I have no answers.
I wish I did.

1. One day there will be a day when I don’t mention him in a piece but today is not that day.
2. I can’t blame him for this part of why our relationship failed this time around. When the love of you life is leaving you every couple of months and then calls you ugly crying, you’d probably cut ties off too. But that’s a post for another time.
3. Pinky swear, on my grandmother’s grave, everything I’ve written in here, my world, has been true. It may have been fucked up, crazy sounding, or depressing as fuck, but this is the only place I have always felt like my safe space and thus can be completely honest.

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2013, 2011, 2011, 1997

happy holidays

Me, 1975. I was three.

Dear Internet,
Five days. I lasted five days. I won’t promise that I’ll be updating on a super frequent basis as I’m massively writing in my paper diary these days but I’ll try to keep the world abreast of what’s going on.
My paper diary is an interesting read. I’ve been writing in it steadily for the last few months and you can follow the ups and downs of my emotions. I can not even begin to explain the swathe of emotions thrown about like a salad BUT it’s a good touchstone to figure out HOW things are getting there and how to be mindful of them in the future.

I was outside tonight having a smoke and the moon was so clear and bright, the valleys and mountains stains against the white of the surface. I stood staring at the moon as I smoked (I know, I KNOW!) and thought about the last few years and how my life profoundly changed.

I chronicle the last several years of my life as a chain of events beginning in February 2014. Wednesday died on February 1. I was served papers for the #teamharpy case in early June. I left my job to write a book on June 30. I left TheExHusband on August 24. I moved in with TheBassist on October 14. My book stalled in early November. Staring in mid-November, I started a whirlwind trip across these united states land that seemed to never stop. I’ve been living with TheExHusband since the first week of September 2015 when I went up to the cabin to close it down for him (and following him to Louisville after). In October 2015, TheBassist and I split.
In these last four months, this is the longest time I’ve lived at once location in the last yearish as I’ve been crisscrossing the US looking for work.
Coming up two years since the domino effect started and but I was internally dying before the domino started (job stress, marriage stress, etc). Yet, I would never have seen this massive amount of change coming from a million miles away. I could see maybe one or two things happening but the succession of each event turned my life into a country song.
Things have started to get better. The #teamharpy case settled on March 25, 2015. The divorce was granted on April 1. My interview rate has gone up (though no job offers – yet), I’ve been living in the same location for the last fourish months. Thursday came into my life.
The uptick has been slow, but it’s happening and I’m hoping the events that led me up today will start reversing itself, starting with the pug. That’s how it all started, right? In that vein, I (hopefully) will find out if I’m employed or not within the next few weeks. Once employed, then my own place, and so on and so forth.

There I am staring the moon and my thoughts turn to the things I am grateful for. I am grateful to TheExHusband and TheBassist for taking me in. I’m grateful for my friends. I’m grateful for TheExHusband letting me live with him while I wait for my life to straighten out. I’m grateful I have clothes on my back, food in my stomach, and my car paid off. My credit score is stable. I’m grateful that my health is good, I have a therapist, and a medication regime is keeping me on track.
No matter how fucked up my life is and has been, I am just thankful and grateful for being here, in this now.
I’m also grateful for TheBassist for breaking up with me, which is something I would never have admitted even a week ago.

One of his friends got in touch with me while I was in CT and joked as TheBassist had two extra tickets for the premier of Star Wars, I should go. I said sure, ask him. I’m curious about his response. The friend warned me TheBassist’s response to him was often slow. Time ticks on that night and as nothing has come back about a “yay” or “nay,” I accept it’s not going to happen. I will not lie and say I was not ready to leave at a moment’s notice, and I was. I will also not leave out I called TheBassist a day before my trip to see if he wanted to get together for dinner (no expectations, truly!) while I was in town and I was sent immediately to voicemail.
There I am, ready to rock if the answer comes back “yay” and if “nay”, I would accept this was okay, because it really was. Hope for the best, expect the worse and all that rot.
I fly back home on Friday and the friend gets in touch with me that night saying he heard from TheBassist. He then gives me the run down: TheBassist loves me and he always will, but I was a 24/7 flight risk. TheBassist broke down Borderline Personality Disorder and how I was sabotaging my life. He would never say never, but now? No.
It was in that moment when a switch flipped in my brain and everything changed. Something about the explanation of BPD TheBassist gave to the friend was that click. TheBassist knew, he’s always known. I ignored his advice and pleas to work on myself. He tried to save me, I wouldn’t let him or he couldn’t, and he had to let me go to figure it out myself.
Only I could save me and I’m no where near where I need to be in a relationship with TheBassist, let alone anyone else.
You’d think these chain of events would send me into a tizzy. But it didn’t. Two days prior when I flew into Hartford, I started sniffling. The sniffling turned into ugly crying as I walked the length of the airport. The ugly crying sent me running into the ladies’ where I let myself cry to get it all out. As I came out of the ladies’, I started doing deep breathing meditations as I walked towards the exit and tried not to look at the usual spot where TheBassist would be standing with a silly sign in his hand. With the deep breathing, I was able to make it through. I won’t lie and say I didn’t chain smoke outside while waiting for the rental car shuttle. I won’t lie that I didn’t take Klonopin to settle my nerves so I could drive 1.5 hours to my hotel. I will not leave out I wasn’t looking for his car in the pick-up lanes.
But Friday? I was fine. The world sharpened as it came into focus. I did deep breathing as the friend talked, asking if the response from TheBassist made sense. I said it did.
And I was happy. Fucking finally I was getting some peace.
This was not a manic happiness or a forced happiness. The last two months has been emotional pain. I could put a brave face to the world, doing my thing, letting the outside world think I was charming and personable (because really, I am). But home was a whole ‘nother story. I would cry for days. I would write disparaging things about TheBassist, what I would later call my “half-truths.” (Which one day, when I’m brave enough to write about it, I will give it a proper explanation.) But the pain in my heart was engulfing me and I begged TheExHusband and my friends to tell me how to get rid of it. I was willing to do almost anything put that flame out and no one had the answer.
For years, I was painting everyone who had remotely (or imagined) slighted me (especially TheBassist) as the bad guy when I only had myself to blame. I was trying to control things I could not control and nor should I have been. I put myself into situations that I could temper but didn’t. I could have ended those conversations, those thoughts, those feelings.
Only I could control myself. Only I could make the decision on what I wanted to do, something I evaded for the last 18 months. I wanted TheExHusband, TheBassist, and anyone close to me to make those decisions for me. No one would, of course, it was my life. But I didn’t understand that then my lack of decision was a decision.
(Please note I was never suicidal during this process. TheExHusband, my therapist, and I think someone else asked in a matter of days apart, if I had thoughts of ending my life. The answer is a resounding, “No!”. I want to be here on this planet and make my life meaningful and with purpose. Suicide were the farthest thing from my mind.)
The switch that flipped changed everything about my outlook. I accepted the emotional pain and rationalized it was not necessarily the end of a love affair with the man I knew to be the one, but the end of the affair was the breaking point. I was finally grieving for everything I had lost up to that moment. Oh, I said I was grieving, but remember the brave face and the half-truths? It was far easier to paint me as the wronged one rather than accept that if I had not sent that tweet, I would not have been sued. If I could have really tried, I could have saved my marriage. The only fault here was mine.
I began to, finally, accept the good things. I was steadily losing weight. I was keeping up with the exercising and the meditation. I was excite about my job interviews and the potentialy to have my own space. The pug helps ground me. I’m writing daily. I’ve been knitting like a fiend and the projects are getting complete. I savor going out in the world.
I am trying to be present and mindful.
BDP cannot be cured or control with drugs, but it can be lessened or recovery can happen via talk therapy (which I’m in now) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. I did DBT years and years ago, using some of the techniques to manage my emotions but I’ve let those tools rust and I need to get them back in rotation again. The writing and meditation help, but there is more. I’ve bought two books to work through the DBT alone (finding a good therapist, which I have, is difficult enough. Finding a DBT group is nearly impossible). I have done this before and I can do it again.
No one is ever really stable. Life is messy, but we can control how we messy we make life. I’m done with having chow mein existance and I strive to be more like a medium rare filet mignon. please.
And all the things, the plans I kept raving about, are finally solidifying. The sands are starting to turn into earth and one day will they will become mountains.

I sat out to write this as a “the holidays tend to suck, but I am grateful for these things (list things) and my life,” but has turned out to be more confessional then planned. Isn’t that always the case?

TheBassist is never far from my thoughts, but the worst of the pain has passed. I can stop boycotting Target, Barnes and Noble, Five Below or flinch when I see a Guitar Center. I have not cried when grocery shopping at a local store simply because it was the same layout as the grocery store TheBassist and I used to shop at. (I mean, really. A fucking crying jag in the produce aisle because it was designed similar to every other fucking grocery store on the planet but yet I associate it with ONE particular store? COME ON.) I’m okay when I pull out clothes that still smell of him and etc.

I cannot write this without thinking of e.e. cummings’ [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in], because that poem sings of my feelings for TheBassist. I have reconciled we may never see each other again, let alone get back together. I do know if/when I see him again, I will cry. Tears of relief, happiness, and everything in-between. Even if that is the only time I ever see him, I will cry. I better remember to not wear make-up.
Together we were not toxic, but I was toxic and in that toxicity I changed the pattern of the relationship. Love, faith, and want, at times, are simply not enough no matter how badly we want them to be.
Happy holidays.

Today in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 2013, 2011,  2002, 2001

year in review: 2014

Dear Internet,
Working at home today and getting supremely in the groove. Re-discovered that I used to do a round up, by month, of things that went on in the previous year as a year in review. This seems like a good idea to continue insofar as giving me a perspective for the year and helping me figure out what I need to improve or cut back on.
Previous years: 2000, 1997, 1996

Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s wish for 2015:

Be kind to yourself in the year ahead.

Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It’s too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them.

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.

It’s been a helluva a year. Here’s to 2015 being boring and slow.

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 2013, 1999

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