Mental Health

"Art feeds my soul" or How I'm Staying Sane Right Now.



If you're my friend on Facebook, you may have noticed I am struggling with the tragedy of my country right now. If you follow me on Twitter you probably think I've lost my mind. But the world is a harsh place right now, and I am a sensitive girl.

There is a part of my mind that is constantly shouting out me to freak out. Constantly. To do nothing but shout and scream about these things. And to ignore everything but this. I am often convinced that this is the only answer and I should ignore everything else in my life to scream at the world.

DonnashoutingatitThis is Donna Noble, my Doctor Who hero, and her grandfather. 

And then every once in while a more sane voice reminds me screaming at the world will not make things better.

Luckily I have a good therapist and about 20 years of cognitive behavioral therapy practice. I called said therapist for an extra session last week and she suggested a total media black out. No news, no twitter, none of that. I said I could make promises, but there was no way I'd be able to follow that advice.

Earlier in our meeting we had been talking about art and that I've let myself forget how important that part of life was to my mental health. It was this brilliant book by Fred Babb in her waiting room that had reminded me:


So Jane suggested "Well, what if you spent equal time making art for any media time?"

Perfect. I thought I could do that.


Except I didn't Sunday, or Monday. And I could tell yesterday. So last night after all my chores were done I made some art time.

At first after I met with Jane I had some big ideas about making and binding my own amazing Mary Ann Moss style journal. I do really love that process. Then I realized that was a bit too ambitious when I haven't been making anything for a while. I grabbed a barely started journal from long ago and just started gluing or taping random things in. Last night I pulled out some markers and colored pencils and started making marks with them. The point is the process. It's the time spent in that creative and quiet part of my brain that's important. Being in the moment and in the flow is what I find healing.



It helps. It helps a lot, at least for me.
I just have to remember to keep doing it.



Art Journal = Mental Health


Sometimes when my mental health is acting up, I have to set aside expectations of a regular day an scale it back a bit. I pick out the things I know I have to do no matter what. The things Hannah's first grade teacher used to call the must dos. Pick up Hannah. Feed the dogs and feed the people. Different things on different days. I determine those and then I put everything else on hold.

And then I go to the art table.
I put some kind of show or music on the computer an just spend some time in my art journal.
And I don't care what it looks like at all. That is not what it is about. I just do what ever enters my mind. It's about the process. The magic that happens in your brain when you make art. And that feels better. And it helps.

As you know I'm going to see my hero in 6 days. So I've been listening to lots of Todd. Listening and loving the lyrics. There is one song called Second Wind. I think Todd was my age when he wrote this song. Somewhere close anyway. I could do some math to figure it out, but that would include doing math. It's about being that age, whenever it is for you. And you're good. You think this life is  nice and I could just relax now. Because I'm kind of tired. BUT about not falling for that. About wanting to keep going and go even better now that you're older and wiser and better at life.

This one set of lyrics was stuck in my head, so when I was sitting in the bed (trying to stay warm) watching TV, I decided to do this in my journal. I started with the page and worked backwards. I wrote with big wide letters in pencil, and then used a think maker to trace outside around the letters.

I did a line of the song per page going backwards until I had all four. I went through and erased all the pencil lines. It was messy. I'm sure there are better erasers. I had bought these to carve into stamps about 20 years ago.


And then i used my water color crayons on color them in. 










Next step, painting in the letters. This watercolor brush - it has a hollow handle that you fill with water and then you just paint any kind of water based media. It is amazing. I used it to paint in the letters, and I made you a movie of the last page.



I made a video because I love to watch people color or paint things in. It's spend up at 4x, and that's part of the aforementioned song that's the track. 




And this is a picture of the drawer where I keep my water color crayons. They are one of my most favorite art tools of all time, by the way. 



I really don't like the whiteness of the page backgrounds. We'll see how it is when I get done with a few more phaes. My COD (compulsive outline disorder) can not wait to start making lots of dots, and i think before that it needs one more trip around each word, probably with the sharpies. When I do, I'll show you.



I've been making backgrounds...

So I continue to be a little crazy over here. Mostly I'm just kinda... drugged. Because I'm drugged. How is it? Kinda boring. I've been hanging out with Alan and while we watch stuff or just sit and talk, I keep my brain and hands partly preoccupied at my art table.

I thought I'd show you.

This is the mess I started with. The table was covered with little photos I was covering my walls with, and a million other things that didn't belong there.


Cleaning it was a lot easier than it looked.
And then I got busy.


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I decided to be creatively cool like other bloggers and use the timer on my phone. And then I gave up.







This is the "credit" card I used to smudge the colors around. I like the way it looks after a bit of using.




And this is a bad picture of my dog Daisy. She's so adorable and fluffy though! She also thinks I steal her soul when I take her picture and that's why she doesn't look very happy.


The Manic side of Bipolar

So I'm a little crazy right now.
And by a little crazy, I mean a lot.

Managing it so it doesn't get out of control and make me mess up my life in serious ways, is pretty much all I'm doing right now.

Does it sound sucky? It is. It's the serious suck.

I'm not crazy like you probably think I am. I am not depressed. Or suicidal. Or anything like that. I am manic. I wanted to type that in all capitols, but that's annoying so I didn't. But yeah, manic. YeeHaw, right? but oh so not.

And maybe I'm not all the way manic. Maybe I'm just hypomanic. Because I'm never quite sure of the difference. I don't think there'a clear line. But I do know I'm not hearing audible voices, I'm not having hallucinations, and I don't think god or the universe or even Vincent D'Onofrio has a special answer meant just for me. Those are all very good signs. On one hand. On the other hand the fact that I am honestly considering those good points - well that is scary and creepy as fuck, my friends.

I do not want to be manic.

Oh I know the lovely picture of mania that is sometimes painted by fiction of many kinds, but If I were to become manic I'm pretty sure it would involve things like projects I indend to finish but involve cutting holes in walls or tearing out half the carpet. Or, I don't know other such insane projects that I would start and never ever finish. I might reorganzie my entire kitchen. I might throw out half the stuff in the garage without even looking at it. I might give all my clothes to goodwill planning to totally change my style and buy a nw wardrobe. Heck, I might try that smokey eye like the mom in the commercial. Or I might go on wild shpping sprees - especially at Hobby Lobby or the cupcake store. Or, best/worst of all, I might pack my bags, whip out my credit cards and take off on a fanatastic vacation. Good for me then, I guess, that I'm nto allowed to drive when I'm on this medication.

To me it just feels like lots gears wound up too fast inside my body. Gears that are going to keep going too fast and hit some kind of snag and end up all out of wack.

It's just not a pretty picture any way I try to describe it. 
Most of all I don't want to go to the hospital.

Here's the thing though -- I have been bipolar long enough to know that none of these moods last. It's the nature of bipolar to swing from one to another. So that's what I keep holding on to. "Don't screw anything up, Shelly," I tell myself, "and before you know it you'll be back to normal."

Of course I have talked to both of the doctors that care for my crazy bean. And of course I am following their advice although the crazy part of me literally screams for me to not listen and do it anyway.

For example, this is The birthday weekend at my mom's house in Pittsburg. When I went to see the drug doctor my car was loaded and I was ready to pick up my new pills and head south as soon as we were done. But she called me. "I don't want you driving to Pittsburg," she told me. "In fact I don't want you driving anywhere until your new meds are sorted out." I said ok but I knew at the time I was lying. I could not imagine any possible way I was not about to head off to see my family. I called my mom though, and while at first she was "I'm not going to tell you what to do," she called me back just a little bit later to tell me not to come. Which is in fact a crazy thing for my mom to say.

And so I'm home. I'm home and I can't drive. I swear to god I am on enough tranquilizers to knock out my former boyfriend King Kong and I still only feel calm when I'm sitting still and it's silent.

I don't know if I'm describing all that part well but I can't think of anything else at the moment. Don't blame me. I am on the drugs.

I will say that my family is so incredibly supportive. Danny and Hannah are patient with my bitchiness (they know I am truly trying to not let that stuff out). My mommy is checking on me and would come take care of me if she could. My baby niece Mady wondered why I wasn't coming after we had the plans. Her mom told her I was sick and Mady wanted to make sure I went to the doctor who might give me some medicine. Megan told her I did and would probably feel better enough to come next weekend.

My boyfriend is a little more confused about the whole set up, coming from a family that is so entirely different. And he has been  physically ill for at least the last week. Yes, he should go to the doctor himself, but he is his own kind of crazy and lumps all doctors into the evil camp so he won't go. I call that being a straight up dumb ass, but I am not the boss of him so he does what he wants. I'm sad that he's sick, I really am, but on the other hand I know I'd be a lot better if he could just come over here and hang out with me. Take care of me even. I want to throw a fit and demand he do it - but he's sick too and I have to be understanding about that, right? Right? Probably right.

So I'm here, and I'll keep being here (in life, maybe not on the blog so much because I am a Bad Bloger). I will keep taking drugs that work towards zombifying me out, and then hopefully taper back off of them into my normal amazing self.

In the mean time, I thought I'd share this little bit about the lesser known side of the bipolar disorder. I'm not very good at describing it while I'm having it, but there you go. As good as it gets for right now. If you want to ask me something, or tell me something, or help me stay mildly entertained while I'm stuck i the house and unable to drive please go right ahead.

I'll check back in, at least when I get better.



i could walk to my mom's house, but it would take 2 weeks


peter o’toole passed away today. one of those amazing actors. and british. so in honor, and to try to keep myself from being too depressed, i’m watching my favorite peter o’toole movie: creator. from 1985, it also stars mariel hemmingway, virginia madsen, david ogden stiers. here’s a link to it’s imdb page.


there's also a great picture of Peter O'Toole on his bike, but i can't figure out how to post it here. if you feel like clicking you can follow this link and see it.

it’s kinda 80s, but it’s kinda awesome. back in the day i had it on vhs and i don’t even know how many times i watched it. it’s really a beautiful movie. about love and science and philosophy and personal growth and the meaning of life. you should probably watch it sometime if you like that kind of stuff.

one of my plans for 2014 (which, i’ve decided, is going to be my year) is to get busy with the blogging. but for real. regularly and on purpose. today i decided i’m going to start now.

today i’m just back from 16 days in disney world. yeah, you read that right. sixteen days. man, it was dreamy. i mean don’t get me wrong. there were moments that i wondered what on earth i was doing and was sure i had made a terrible mistake. but those moments were rare and it was mostly a magical dreamy fun and thrilling vacation.

i’m just back and re-entry is hard. it’s always hard. i live for vacation and travel but the coming back is always tough. and i know no one wants to hear me whining about how hard it is to come back from 2 weeks at the happiest place on earth. but it’s where my head is so that’s what’s coming out of my head.

two things are making it harder. number one, i had an sd card failure and 2 of my days are pretty much devoid of photos. to me, that’s tragic. super tragic. and also photo related - my photopass account - which is where you can pay disney to take pictures of you in specific spots and situations while you’re there - is missing about 90% of the photos. i can probably get them to find many of them - but there’s no way i can remember all the photos we had them take on all the days we were there and this DEPRESSES me.

even more than i am depressed just from being home. post vacation depression. it’s a real thing. look it up. or don’t, because i just did. here’s a link from webmd, and one from wikipedia.

but i don’t even want to talk about disney just now.
so i’m stopping.

i have barely left my bed this entire day.

this is partly because it was time for some rest. over the last 2 weeks i have walked 147 miles. give or take a double.

i slept a lot. i was tired. and i ate food that people brought me. i seriously appreciated that. i cuddled some fluffy dogs and watched some boring tv on hulu. i also watched an episode of doctor who, because i wanted to watch something that would make me feel better. and i spent some time on the internet. not too much, because it all seemed boring. but some.

and i spent like a thousand hours transfering 4 sd cards onto the computer. it would have been 5 of course if it weren’t for the tragic failed one.

it’s also because tomorrow i have to get back with the busy. my dog daisy needs to revisit the vet about her injured knee. someone should have taken her while i was gone - and i’m trying very hard not to be really pissed that no one did - but now that i’m back that’s about first on my to do list.

and then it’s all the boring stuff of real life. unpack. reorganize. laundry and the grocery store and meal planning and paying the bills and well, you know. you have to do it too. probably. if you don’t, consider yourself extremely lucky.

i consider myself extremely lucky, really. i’m just having a rough day. it’s also about time to change my nuvaring and that always messes with my emotions. being a girl rocks, but there are parts of it that could do with some improvement. pretty soon i’ll be in bed and asleep, and when i wake up it will be a whole new day and a whole fresh new week. that’s always good. maybe i’ll feel better.


for the last week or so (it feels more like 18 months), i have been what my therapist calls "dysregulated". i'm not really totally bipolar crazy, but i can just NOT get it together and make my brain leave me alone to get stuff done and live my life. but i think it worst part is that i am seldom pleased with anything, including myself. that is not how i like to live. it is unpleasant.

i know it's unpleasant for the people around me (and please believe me when i say i'm really, really sorry) but also know it is no picnic from over here, either. i mean inside my own brain. i am trying to use my "skills" to keep on without letting my brain problems effect my daily life - but it is hard. and i don't always succeed. and mostly, it is just getting OLD. every night when i go to sleep i think well maybe tomorrow i'll feel normal again.

but i am still waiting.

anyway, it's not really so bad. i mean in the scheme of things. i am reminding myself this. plenty of people are struggling with much worse things this very minute. people i know and love, even. i'll get over it. but i just thought you might want to know. when i talk about bipolar stuff, i figure if you don't know anything about bipolar it might give you an idea or if you do, you'll recognize what i'm talking about and think that maybe you're not so crazy after all. 

i don't actually write very much about being bipolar. i think there a handful of things that contribute to that. number one is just that when i'm in the middle of being bipolar, i am in no place to sit down and write about it in any kind of way that makes sense. my brain won't even work like that. that's the point. there's also a little bit of shame involved, as much as there shouldn't be. it's announcing i'm defective, and knowing plenty of people have a skewed perception of what that means. i don't want to be judged, especially on false information. and the other part is i just don't think people want to hear it. 'oh, i have the bipolo and hannah has this and that and waah waah', you know?

but today i felt like writing about it and so i did. there.

get it together, dawn michele.

i am not doing to great at the getting myself together thing lately.
especially in the area of doccumenting life and blog keeping and that sort.
maybe you've noticed.

i don't have a project life started for this year. i don't even have a binder, although i have plenty of pages and left over cards and paraphenalia from the last couple years.

i haven't been taking hardly any pictures. or writing in my paper journal. or writing here.
yesterday i didn't even work on the disney trip report.

although yesterday was a highly messed up day. hannah had a seizure an hour away, at school. and for the exact 3 hours i was trying to get there and find her and drive home, our cell phones were OUT. at&t, you suck. hard. i realized pretty much everyone i am close to is on at&t. and i only know two people with land lines. it was a nice preview of how messed up life could get if the whole cell network went down. not pretty. that whole fiasco turned out fine, but it certainly threw me off. for the whole the day all i got done was one dryer load of laundry and a decent dinner.

i'm hoping i might get it together today. it's going to be above freezing out. that's always helpful. i'm going to go shopping - but only to the grocery store. i might get rid of table in this room, which is not that big of a job but i think it will make a big difference mentally. it's all kind of mental, isn't it? i think if i could just get my head into a better space, i'd be much better. well, duh really. from therapy i've learned one trick is to just get busy and do what you don't want to do. action. that's the ticket.

so that's why i'm here. i wrote this. that's a start.


Sometimes I get really crabby.

I was diagnosed as bipolar about 17 years ago, so I've had lots of time to learn ways to not be ruled my emotions, and I don't mean in the stuffing, unhealthy way that alcoholics and hoarders do. Through plenty of practice I've learned to recognize my emotions, acknowledge and then let them go. I am not my feelings.

That said, lately I have found myself kinda stuck almost every dang day. It's starting to interfere with my flow. I yelled at Hannah twice today. It's getting to me and I don't know how to get past it. It's bugging me.

Every day I am struggling with feeling cranky and negative. Even stabby. I am impatient with people I love. I am really harsh on myself. When I look at the internet and see ladies I admire doing cool things, instead of being inspired or encouraged as usual the response in my head is straight up negative. 'What's so big about that? Why is she so great?' or 'I did/can do that. Why don't I have any fans/fame/comments/praise/recognition/money?' Even when it's success in an area I am currently "enjoying" success in, I'm all 'So?'. I'm jealous that I'm not the only one doing it. Or I belittle what the other person has accomplished.

It's embarrassing. I'm so negative. I don't like to be around people like that, and I can obviously not get away from myself. It's like I have a big downer pseudo friend following me around all the time. I'm belittling of everyone including myself. It's not anything close to how I want to be or how I want to live my life. It's frustrating.

So why am I telling you this embarrassing stuff? I guess I want to share this to acknowledge it. I think it's important to share the not so great parts of life as well as the great because everyone has crap parts and a lot of the time people are afraid to acknowledge them. And just like me right now, I think we often get down on our selves about the crap stuff, like we're the only ones who fail and act in ways that don't make us proud. Maybe you feel like this sometimes too and I want you to know you're not alone.

Plus maybe this will somehow help me get past this crummy pit I've stumbled in to. I want to move on. I really have to move through it, and I don't really have a strategy. Not yet. I should probably start with radical acceptance though. That seems to always be a great place to start. It is what it is. I am bitchy. Yuck. It's unpleasant for everybody.

That done, the next step is probably to look for things to be positive about and focus on these things. I keep blowing off any thing that's good. 'Yeah but that's just stupid' or 'That doesn't even count' or 'That's worthless'. I need to think of what I'm thankful for every single day. Maybe even write it down.

Ok, that's what I'm going to do now.

1. Hannah is not quite healthy, but she's still alive and in one piece. She's never been stolen or beaten up. She's not on drugs or pregnant or living with an abusive lover boyfriend. She still has healthy insurance (at least for now).

2. I have two super adorable Lhasa Apsos pooches that I am crazy about. One of them is the son of my beloved but lost dog Luna. That is an extra special treat from the Universe.

3. I still have a mom. Brothers and sisters. I love them all.

4. There are the baby girls and I am going to see them next week. {i put that in italics because i really wanted to put it in sparkly glitter}

5. The unconventional family Danny and I have created not only has worked for over 20years, but it kind of kicks ass. It works so well, we are all about to have an amazing family vacation together (at the happiest place on earth even)!

6. D has a job, we have a good, big house, we can pay our bills and buy groceries every single week.

7. I have had the same boyfriend for like a dozen years. He is still nice to me and always willing to help me when I need it (like carrying the heavy bag of bird food and changing my wiper blades). We still have fun just talking about stuff.

8. I was reunited with the baby I relinquished for adoption many years ago. I'm going to see him again at Thanksgiving. We are friends.

9. I have great technology.

10. I have the time and the health and the freedom to pursue many things I am interested in.

Hey. I guess that was acting opposite to emotion, huh? Listing good things when all I want to do is complain. It's like when Danny and I went to counseling and our therapist made us make list of good things about each other instead of just going on and on about why we could never stand to live together, ever, no matter what.

And I feel better. Not fixed, but better. I think that's a good answer to what to do when you're all crabby. I will try to keep trying it.

where i am

I know I'm not posting anything here. I wish I were. I had just gotten into a bit of rhythm, and then my mental health butted in and I'm doing only a small fraction of the things I like to do.

Jenny Lawson is so right when she reminds people that depression lies. It straight up does. And it's so good at it since it lives in your brain and knows just the wrong things to say. But my favorite mantra when I'm on either side of the bipolar spectrum is "It will pass." Because it will. It always, always does. And then I'll pick back up where I left off.

(The key, I have learned, is not to mess things up too badly in the mean time.)

That wasn't my point tonight though. I wanted to say that even though I haven't been writing things here, I've still spent plenty of time online. D'uh. And I haven't really been able to keep my virtual mouth shut. Instead of writing real blogs entries that take some amout of caring and attention, I have been on fire with doing more mindless things. Like pinning on my pintrest boards. Reblogging on my Tumblr. And saying stuff about General Hospital on my GH tumblr/blog. So just in case you're having Shelly withdrawls, you can see what's been on my mind in those places.

thanks mother nature

i'm going to see the hunger games today.
i know!

i'm still unsure. i love those books so much. i know the movie made a lot of money over the weekend, but i haven't heard anyone say how good they are or what they thought. the way the movie Looks is so different than how it looked in my head. even the few clips i've accidentally seen have sort of taped over they way i saw it in my head. i can't even remember how i imagined katniss looked. i'm afraid my favorite images from the book (like gale and katniss sitting on the hill outside the fence) are going to be gone forever after i see the movie.

but i'm going to see it anyway. how can i not? and i'm going to take hannah even though she hasn't read any of the books. i was going to make her until she pointed out her images have already been formed by the movie, whether she sees it or not, because of all the bits we've seen. so we're both going.

we're going today to make up for the sad fact we're not seeing my sister and new baby. they had planned to come to kc to see a doctor today, but that fell through and i didn't find out till yesterday, so we are bummed. have i mentioned how i hate living so far away from the baby girls? i do. i won't see any of them again until easter weekend. too far away!

sometime last week, d, h and i sat down in danny's study together. it was time to renew our url and it seemed like a good time for each of us to get the url's we've been wanting. danny and hannah both had to settle for an extension they didn't love, but lucky for me, shellycentral was still available as a .com. !! lucky me. so it'll still be a while before danny gets our new server set up and ready to host a website, but it's a step closer and that makes me happy.

i was thinking last night about justin hall, and his from oh so long ago. i thought about the early days of the internet of having a web site and how i loved it. i'd like to write more about that time someday. thinking of it made me want a web site to post all my things again. you know, i should go ahead and start making it now so that when danny finally does get it going, i'm all ready to post it. or upload it. or whichever verb you like. that would be wise and ambitious. we'll see what happens.

you may have noticed - you probably didn't, but you may have noticed that yesterday was project life tuesday and i didn't post anything. if you're really on the ball and/or really into project life, you may have noticed i didn't post anything the tuesday before that either. i don't even know what to say. the pl binder is sitting on the art table with  spring break week half laid out all over it. last week's photos haven't even been chosen or printed. i'm just not feeling it. i'm sure i will though, soon, and i'll be all caught up.

sometime, too, i'd like to write some more bits about being bipolar. how even when it's not like the lady flight attendant who went all whack on her flight last week, it's still a part of life. i am definitely always trying to monitor "where i'm at" mood wise, and where i think i'm headed next, and how to not go there. i thought about it especially after reading this blog post from the super fun artist, samantha kira, but i want to write my own thoughts about it as well.

i'm going to go outside with daisy for a while now. i am still grateful and in love with the amazing weather. in. love. the rainy bits remind me and hannah of great britain and the sunny parts are just amazing. especially for march. thanks mother nature, i am off to enjoy your gift now!