The Nuts and Bolts of Me

When we got the assignment to introduce ourselves, I was thrilled.  I thought this is going to be a cinch, but then I really started thinking about what was being asked of us and I was actually stumped.  This assignment is much deeper for me than I could have ever imagined.  I’ve never been asked, point blank, who I am and why I’m here.  I thought about the simple answers of being a daughter, sister, aunt, partner, friend, and etc. until I reread the instructions and realized that I needed to dig a bit deeper than this.  I struggled over and over just to get started so instead of driving myself up a wall trying to be ‘perfect’; I have a major problem with perfection, I decided to just jump in and put it all out there.

My name is Kelli-Lynn and I started my blog, Showcasing She, because I am an artist and I wanted to find a platform to share my work.  As a painter I’m still learning and growing.  What I create is mostly abstract or still-life and I’m ok with that for now.  I am also a poet and I absolutely adore when the Muses visit me and I create some pretty cool stuff.  I like sharing what I create and I like looking back over my creations in amazement every time because I truly believe I go to another state of consciousness when my works take on their life.  I am also a writer of short stories and erotica.  Some people may judge the fact that I write erotica but I see this as just another form of artistic expression.  This leads into the name of my blog.

Image result for images of the mind

I chose Showcasing She because I wanted to highlight my work as a woman with all my different elements.  My blog gives me the freedom to be me and do me on my own terms.  Although I am unable to post my racier works, I am still able to use my blog to enlighten, entertain, inform and invite readers into my multi-faceted world with all its imperfections and silly quirks.  Initially I thought I would just use my blog as an artistic outlet but the more I checked out other blogs in the community I found that I could do even more good by opening my life to other people and telling my life stories.  I have recently been writing about being a recovering addict and living with bipolar disorder.  I look forward to writing more on these subjects and many others that affect me such as my journey to find my place in the world, how it feels to have a multi-racial background and how it affects how people treat me and what the creative process is for me.  I guess I don’t have just one thing to blog about, I just want to write and create and welcome other people to go with me down this road of writing and sharing.

I started a blog some years ago before my current one but I was not consistent with it at all.  I eventually deactivated it and put blogging out of my mind until a few years back however it wasn’t until recently that I became more consistent with Showcasing She.  I hope that by doing these assignments and networking with other people I can grow as a person and, hopefully, something that I share will help someone or give them hope or even make them laugh or smile a bit.  I guess it’s on now.  Let’s get this party started.

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Riding Darkness

In the darkness

in the throes of brooding silence

while the night comes alive

and the grass grows

where quiet wraps itself around me

and shields me from the distractions of the day

the beguiling of my conscious rationalizations rises

I feel it deep in my soul and it moves me to tears

In the darkness

where the questions and uncertainties falter together; lurking

speaking to my childhood creating doubts and worries

born of a fabricated past of actions

Nothing is as it appears

In the darkness my thoughts are my own

I am alone with the vibrations that bring my creativity

and the angels speak

and the melodies of all creation play in the trees

I am afraid in the darkness

unsure of myself, shunning all introspection keeping secrets

from the light and running from Evil

crying out for deliverance

looking for a place to hide from it all

I laugh hysterically in the darkness

sorry for unrealized dreams, where my heart breaks and

the weight of the world kills my aspirations and my frustrations

take me to the edge of Death

nothing makes sense here and I am confused

In the darkness I run for broken promises and regrets

that leave gaping wounds of despair

hugging myself tightly with all the brutality of real love

knowing that a foothold will bring me stability

Day comes

and

I am no longer

in the darkness

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Getting Out Alive

Getting out alive

My spirit is full

and I’m running from myself

I meet me around every corner I turn

and the disappointment grows stronger

minute by minute

I’m looking for that one thing that will

save me from myself

on this journey that never ends

The road gets longer the more I travel

Where is my freedom? I beg the question

Crying out for salvation

exhausted and abused with no one

to

break my fall

now I am confounded and confused

my heart is broken

This moment feels like forever

The darkness is the brightest thing I see

Sneaking up behind myself I am startled

by the realization of my sorrow

in all its majesty reigning

over the kingdom of my plight

I have struggled long enough

and my resolve is gone

finally I give in and lie down

with the melancholy of my truth

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Mental Illness and Two Types of Therapy

I have been in and out of treatment for my bipolar disorder and substance abuse for nearly fifteen years and I have gained a lot of knowledge about different treatment therapies.  Most recently I have been exposed to two types of therapy that have helped me tremendously. Following is a brief summary of each one of these therapy models.  I encourage further research on both.

The first of these is DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy). DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan to help people suffering severely with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). DBT deals with helping to reshape detrimental behaviors that can stand in the way of effectively living with BPD and, over the course of its history; it has been expanded to treat other mental illnesses and recovery from a number of addictions and disorders.

DBT is made up of four specific skill sets being taught that help with the stabilization of extreme moods and addictive behaviors.  These skill sets are mindfulness; being fully present and aware in the moment, distress tolerance; how to tolerate uncomfortable situations without the need to change them, interpersonal effectiveness; how to ask for what you want and learn to say no while maintaining positive relationships and emotion regulation; how to change emotions that need to be changed when you want to change them.

The dialectic module of treatment focuses on self-acceptance but also realizing that some behaviors need to change in order to facilitate mood stabilization and recovery.

The second therapy I have been in is CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).  This was developed by Dr. Aaron T. Beck and it deals with helping people with depression combat “automatic [negative] thoughts” that can increase this depression.  CBT helps patients to realize that how we see the world will affect how we feel; this, in turn, can increase or decrease depression.  Therapists help patients with anticipated challenging situations that may arise, and they help them to come up with a plan to combat these situations in a positive way.

Of all the different types of therapy and groups I have been a part of I would have to say that these two have been the most beneficial to my current journey towards recovery.  They have also helped me to develop skills that help me to deal with everyday life situations with bipolar disorder.  I highly recommend these therapy models to anyone suffering from mental illness and substance addiction.

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Medication and Mental Illness

To those of you, who have been recently diagnosed with any sort of mental illness, riding the roller coaster of medication regulation; hang in there.  I know how frustrating and nerve wracking it can be those first months trying to find the right medication or combination of medications to get you stabilized.  Let me tell you that, in the beginning, you will most often feel worse before you feel better.  You will feel like giving up and going off your medications altogether; don’t do it.  Finding the right recipe for your illness and circumstances will take time.

I know too well the ups and downs of medication management.  One drug is meant to stabilize your mood and is supposed to make you feel better while causing you to gain ungodly amounts of weight which just makes you feel horrible all over again.  Then there are those medications that zoot you out so much you can barely keep your eyes open causing you to spend hours in bed.  During this time you wonder how in the world these medications can be helping you.  You ask yourself why you even bother to keep up with something that can make you feel so bad.  This is par for the course unfortunately.  Fortunately, the longer you still with the prescribed medications the sooner you’ll start feeling better.

Initially all I had to worry about was finding the right medications for my bipolar disorder but during this time I developed several physical ailments which have made my journey quite challenging.  I suffer from diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, hypertension, hypothyroidism, pernicious anemia, severe acid reflux in addition to my bipolar disorder and anxiety.  I also had a neuroendocrine gastrinoma causing me to need major surgery during which a portion of my stomach and small intestine was removed and now I suffer from major nausea and vomiting at one time or another.  Because of all of this, finding the right combination of mental health medications has been an ongoing battle for me.  Since I have to take medications for what is wrong with me physically there is a delicate balance that must be reached in managing these medications and any medications I take for my bipolar disorder.

To date I have been on all of the following at one time or another; Effexor, Paxil, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Prozac, Latuda, Saboxone, Geodon, Cymbalta, Haldol, Lamictal, Trazadone, Topomax, Risperdal, Invega, Abilify, Saphris, Depakote, Xanax, Buspar, Pristiq and Neurontin (for my mood and pain).  I’m quite sure that this list will change and probably increase as my bipolar disorder and other physical ailments change their faces.  I say this simply to encourage you and let you know that you’re not alone and to appeal to you to stick with your medications.  It may take some time but the right medication or combination of medications is out there for you.  Try to look at the big picture and not get so consumed with how you may be feeling at this moment.   Over time you will find that you are feeling more balanced and you will see the benefit to sticking with your prescribed medication(s).  It may not be easy at times but, trust me, it is worth the fight.

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More About Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

Having a dual diagnosis means that I not only have to battle mental illness I also have to do battle with my alcohol and drug addiction.  Going off meds for me doesn’t just mean that my mind will start turning cartwheels; it means that I will go full-steam-ahead into an alcohol-infused, cocaine-snorting, pill-popping tirade that leaves me not knowing whether I’m coming or going.  It’s hard enough staying regulated when you suffer from a mental illness but pair this with any kind of substance abuse issue and you have the potential for an eruption of volcanic proportions.

For the years before my bipolar disorder diagnosis my alcohol and drug abuse pretty much took over my life.  At my lowest I would run home from work on my 30-minute lunch break, drink a 32-ounce beer and pop several Vicodin caps then drive back to work and finish out my shift.  After work I would drive home and down a case of beer, pop about six or seven more pills and wash all this down with a whiskey back.  Sometimes I would drink and drug until five or six o’clock in the morning.  My normal work shift was from 2PM-11PM.  Ironically, there were many days when I actually did overtime going in to work at 11AM after keeping the same out-of-control regimen of substance abuse the night before.

What I didn’t know was that this whole time I was abusing substances in an attempt to quiet the demons in my head of my undiagnosed bipolar disorder.  My addictions were a symptom of my mental disease; my disease was not causing my substance abuse.  Being drunk or high I could, I thought, function in my life and win over the feelings of anxiety, uneasiness and get rid of the feelings of wanting to jump out of my skin.  I abused substances because I couldn’t really put into words what was going on in my body and my head.  For me, it’s the chicken or the egg type thing.  Through therapy I found out that I abused substances because of my bipolar disorder; my bipolar disorder was not, inherently, the cause of my addictions.  Not everyone who has a substance abuse problem has a mental illness and not everyone with a mental illness will have a substance abuse issue.

Knowing that I will always be an alcoholic/addict and struggle with substance abuse has made it easier for me to manage and work through my bipolar disorder.  I know that in order for my medications to work I can’t abuse other substances…period.  I also know that when cravings bombard my brain I have to use the skills I’ve learned in therapy to help me get through to the other side (more about these skills later).  My life may be a struggle from time to time but I know that I can beat this monster if I just stay in the fight.

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Glorious Submission

Just the thought of you sends me to dimensions unknown where my feelings

transcend time and space and each and every fiber of my being is

interlaced

with

heated reserves of lust that I must satisfy by being next to you

What you do

to me

internally

far surpasses all that I have ever experienced in my core

for

you have me captured in the beauty of the rapture you invoke

in all I am

You are decadent and delicious and I crave the sweetness in the

most tender recesses of your thickness

I desire to claim you in the best way

play with my emotions and arouse my senses because

you intrigue me and satisfy my curiosity and each time we meet the heat

rises

and it is truly unbelievable how you make me come alive

I am your ethereal captive caught in the orbit of your timeless existence

where passion is of a placid fashion

uncensored

unencumbered

unrivaled

unbridled

it is all that we want it to be here between you and me where totally

we can love

you are the fix that can ease my pain and help me regain all that was lost

when I was tossed to and fro not so long ago

In your warmth I feel safe and I rest in the solitude of your mercy

your embraces soothe my hungry soul

and any remnants of control I had are now in your hands

You are the gentle breeze that blows across my heart

calming all uncertainty making me open to the possibility of blissful eternity

Take me I am yours to have as your own

mold me as your needs arise so that I emanate with all you desire

and whatever may transpire is meant to be

You called me forth from the darkness with your presence and placed in me

the full essence

of your womanness and my acceptance was effortless

in the presence of your light

Move me

come through me

consume me

transmute me

You are my savior and I worship at your feet with all humility for the way

you rescued me from myself

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Finding Myself in A Dual Diagnosis

My life with a dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and substance abuse is a challenging one but I am glad that I am, again, on the road to recovery.

I can remember, looking back, being a young child exhibiting bipolar characteristics but not being able to verbalize to my mother what was wrong.  I remember getting up in the middle of the night at five years old remaking my bed so that it was neat and orderly then getting back in it in such a way as to maintain perfection.  I remember organizing and reorganizing my toy chest putting toys in complete order then not wanting to pull anything out because it would mess up the order of things.  At any given time I could be found cleaning and creating order around me; I started helping my mother clean the house as early as seven years old.

When I became a teenager my bipolar disorder changed its face and I spent night after night crying, throwing fits in private and engaging in self-mutilation.  I was a latch-key kid so I was home alone for hours before my mother came home from work.  Being alone gave me the chance to totally demolish my bedroom taking my clothes out of drawers and the closet throwing them all around.  I would tear pictures off the walls; break all my fingernails off, engage in cutting myself and screaming at the top of my lungs.  I was able to hide all of this from my mother because I had time to throw a major tantrum then clean up from it before she got home.  My mother was, however, able to see some of my pain because of the numerous occasions when I would just break down into tears in front of her.  I could never really put into words how I was feeling; the closest thing I could think to say was that I was ‘tired’.  Throughout the years my need for order in my surroundings escalated so I did a lot of cleaning late into the nights which, unbeknownst to me, was a sign of the manic side of my bipolar disorder.

In my late teens my mother started taking me to the doctor to try to figure out what was wrong with me.  At that time bipolar disorder was not a common diagnosis so I was simply diagnosed with depression.  I was switched from one antidepressant to another trying to get me well.  At the same time I was diagnosed with pernicious anemia; an inability to process B12 in the body due to a lack of intrinsic factor in the stomach.  Ironically a lack of B12 can cause major disruptions in the nervous system which, in turn, was actually making the undiagnosed bipolar disorder worse.  Over time I was on and off B12 injections.  Eventually I was taken off these injections all together and this just helped my bipolar disorder to quickly progress.  I am currently on a regular schedule of B12.

Another aspect of my life that was a symptom of my undiagnosed bipolar disorder was the fact that, at the age of twelve, I’d started experimenting with drugs and alcohol.  Of course I hid this from my mother for years and years.  Any time I could get a hold of any type of drug or alcohol I did it.  I did this on quite a regular basis well into my teenage years and early twenties.  Before I was old enough to purchase alcohol on my own I had adults who would provide it to me.  As for drugs, I often got them from friends who lived in my neighborhood.  I did drugs and alcohol throughout my high school years and into college.

When I entered college I was very heavy into my addictions.  I had advanced to drinking and getting high every day.  My drink of choice was gin and I would smoke marijuana and snort cocaine every chance I got.  At this point I’d still not been diagnosed with more than depression.  Though I was typically under the influence at all times I was able to get my degree in communications.  During this time being under the influence of drugs and alcohol was my normal and I couldn’t function without them.  For many years after college my drug and alcohol use escalated and I eventually got addicted to pain killers along with the drugs and alcohol I used on a daily basis.  My life continued to spiral out of control for many years until my mother came to visit me.

When my mother came to visit she questioned me about my alcohol use; she was not aware of my addiction to drugs.  At this point I had graduated to drinking a case of beer and a fifth of whiskey a day every day.  Though I was always under the influence of something I managed to maintain my home, handle business and hold down a job.  After questioning me about my habits my mother took it upon herself to get me help for my addictions.  It was at this time, in my early thirties, that my bipolar disorder was finally diagnosed.  Because of my drug and alcohol abuse along with my bipolar disorder I have what is known as a dual diagnosis.

Over the years I have struggled with my bipolar disorder and drug and alcohol abuse on a daily basis.  I have had many periods of sobriety as well as suffering relapse after relapse.  I have been in intensive therapy and I have been on several different depression and bipolar medications.  Currently I am coming up on a year sober and I think that, with the help of my doctor and psychiatrist, I may be onto a promising path of stabilization with my bipolar disorder.  I attend group therapy three days a week and I go to individual therapy at least two to three times a month.  I do get overwhelmed from time to time but I know I have to continue doing what I’m doing if I want to overcome my addictions and my mental health disorder.

This road to recovery is not always easy but I will continue to put in the work so that I can finally find success.  A dual diagnosis is not a diagnosis for failure; life can go on with hard work and dedication.

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A Man’s Man

Women are bombarded daily with society’s standards for beauty.  Make-up ads, makeover shows, hair product commercials and the like constantly play to the images women see when they look in the mirror.  At times it seems that no matter what a woman does, she will never measure up to what she is told about herself from other outside sources.  This is a topic that is discussed all the time but there is a similar topic that is just as relevant but a lot less prevalent when talking about standards.

Just as women are constantly trying to live up to magazine, movie and talk show images of what is visually pleasing and socially acceptable, men are a segment of the population that is often overlooked when the conversation comes up about this topic.  Women are not the only ones who have to shoulder the pressures of being told what is physically acceptable and what makes someone a model of societal standards.  Men, too, are being hit up one side and down the other telling them what is wanted from them, what they should look like and how they should act.  If a man is losing his hair there are countless commercials telling him that he should get his hair back and look younger.  He can get the latest in hair transplants or an expensive, life-like toupee to boost the perceived lack of confidence that he suffers from.  If he is experiencing difficulty with intimacy he is told there is a pill, cream or spray that will instantly restore his virility and make him a sexual dynamo.  Commercial after commercial shows the next great invention to give him washboard abs, massive pecs and legs of steel that he must surely sport.  Men are constantly being told that they must live up to the requisite position of being the strong head of the household despite the fact that, in many households, both men and women work contributing to the household equally.

Men are also held to emotional standards that can be difficult.  Whereas women are encouraged to show their emotions, men are told to ‘suck it up’ and ‘be a man’.  Many times men are seen as weak if they show their emotions especially if they shed a tear.  These standards are oftentimes handed down to sons keeping the misconception going that a man who shows his emotions is less of a man.  Only emotions such as anger and aggression are shown to be acceptable for men by society and this is perpetuated by images we see in such areas as the sporting community, business and industry and action movies to name a few.

I don’t understand where this double standard comes from.  With society being so advanced why isn’t it okay for a man to be okay with his self and why isn’t it acceptable for men to show the same emotions as those that women do?  What’s wrong with a man just because he may have to wear a bald head because of hair loss or one who has a few extra pounds around the middle?  Why isn’t it okay for a man to cry when he is hurt or has suffered the loss of a good friend or loved one?  Why is a man seen as less of a man if he isn’t working the bedroom like a porn star or knocking out bad guys like a crazed vigilante?  It just doesn’t make sense.

In all of our fighting for equality in marriage, race, sexual orientation, age we should not be leaving men out and holding them to a different set of standards.  Men should not be demeaned for being themselves, whatever that may mean to them, whether or not they sport perfect hair or the latest designer suits or have the hardest body.  They should be able to be the same emotionally balanced human beings as their female counterparts and they should not have to live up to unrealistic macho images to be considered ‘real’.

When it comes down to it, a real man is a man who lives life on his own terms not those dictated by society.  We would do well to remember this.

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