KAIT MAURO

The Healing Work

Finding My Tribe

Adventures, Being An Artist, Journal, The Healing WorkKait MauroComment

For a long time now, I'm been wanting a tribe of woman friends - and I feel like I am beginning to have one. They don't all live in the same city as me - but we all have something in common. Mackenzie & I met on an app while I was living in Birmingham looking for models while going through a fashion photography phase. I was anxious about losing her when we moved to Montgomery in May but she's come to visit me pretty regularly. Last time she visited we went to Alabama Safari Park. Last time Edward & I went to a Safari park in Georgia (my first time at one) the petting zoo part made me cry because all of the animals seemed so trapped & miserable, but this one was different. There was also a massive aviary with lots of parakeets in in that you could feed. Mackenzie has such a soft spot for animals. She's a bit wary of cats, even Beatrice, but she loves Sam to pieces. She likes his nickname, Moose, because that was her animal name at summer camp once as a child. Also, how could anyone not love Sam?

Another woman friend I have in my tribe is Jessica. She was the first friend I made in Birmingham. I haven't seen her since I moved to Montgomery but we still text sometimes and she always has the best things to tell me. Jessica is my spiritual friend. She recently texted me a book recommendation & we talked about starting a little two person, over the phone book club. She's a blogger too, which is how we met (at the one & only blogging meet-up either of us ever attended) and spent a ridiculously kind amount of time trying to help me figure out what my blog's problem was when it was at artistashuman.com and glitching out. She's wicked smart and also loves animals & plants & has the most beautiful, easy-going style I have ever seen.

I meet them in unexpected places. I met a woman named Jessie at the dog park on Sunday and we hit it off so she & her dog, Pig, came over to our house for like 5 hours yesterday and we just talked & talked & talked while Sam & Pig played. It was amazing! I've been so isolated since I moved to Montgomery - I've literally said to Edward, "How can I find another woman friend who doesn't work during the day to spend time with me and is understanding of my anxiety struggles? How do I even begin to look for such a person?" Then appears Jessie. I feel like I almost willed her into being lmao. Her man is in law school (read: busy like Edward), she LOVES dogs & is super intuitive about them, she doesn't work right now because her anxiety is also through the roof & SHE NEEDS SOMEONE TO HANG OUT WITH DURING THE DAY OR ELSE SHE'S KINDA TRAPPED AT HOME - sound familiar? 

We all have mental health struggles in common, all of the women in my little spread out tribe. And a love of animals. There's something about us that just finds & understands each other because of it I think. There's some kind of magnetism between those of us who have brains that don't function quite along the rules they are "supposed to." Maybe it's because when the rest of the world is telling you to just "not be" depressed or manic or anxious or "too much" or whatever it is, and you meet someone who knows those feelings & can relate to them instead of trying to just tell you to basically "pull yourself out of it," you feel seen. We recognize each other. We find each other.

The Beast / Anxiety

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I don't feel much like an artist lately because I haven't been making much art. The obvious solution is just to do some creative work - but the trouble is my anxiety. I'm struggling so much with anxiety lately that it's getting in the way of my ability to function in day to day life. I realized last night that except for a photoshoot I had last week, I haven't left the house without Lena (my little dog) or Edward in far too long. Even driving alone is anxiety provoking. I have only been going to places Lena is allowed to go with me. I just don't feel safe alone out in the world. I don't know why this is. I feel too exposed - I need, for some reason, to have someone with me. I need to wear a cozy cardigan or wrap despite the Alabama in August heat because I find being wrapped up comforting when I am out in the world - less exposed, safer somehow. I feel overwhelmed by how much work I need to do on myself, how stuck I feel right now, how many emotions and experiences and traumas I still need to process, work through, learn from. I feel overwhelmed & under stimulated at the same time. I've started a new blogging project that's aimed at exploring these mental health things but I am keeping it private for now, separate from my name. I may change this eventually.

I'm trying.

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Magpie Anxiety

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"There is a time for growing, there is a time for hibernating, there is a time for basking in the sun. Right now, this is a time for making good soil. Allow the things that need to break down to break down. Shake off the dead leaves. Weather the hard knocks that are shaping you. Breathe into the new spaces even though the air is sharp and stings sometimes. It won't always be like this but right now, it needs to be. I have faith that I am where I need to be. Always on the path, always pulled in the right direction." - Aislin Fall 

I'm a magpie lately, collecting things I hope will help me cope with my anxiety - books, words, inspiration, knit stitches across my bamboo needles, guppies, fresh flowers in the vase once a week, chores, errands... I saw this quote on Instagram the other day & it resonated with me though, so I am sharing it here.

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Rabbit Hearted Girl

Journal, The Healing WorkKait Mauro2 Comments

First came the depression when I was a child. Then came the bipolar diagnosis when I was in my early twenties. Then came the borderline diagnosis a few years after that. Now, lately anyway, my main problem is anxiety. Anxiety is newer to me than depression or mania are. I don't think I had much of it back before Edward & I got together because my life was such a wreck that I had very little to lose. Not much to lose kind of means you have no reason to be anxious but there are lots of reasons to be depressed. That's how it has worked for me anyway. I still haven't worked out how to cope with the anxiety in the optimal way.

Falling Apart & Putting Myself Back Together

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It was a scary alone feeling, I don't know how to describe it to you well or how to explain what made it a scary kind of loneliness instead of just garden-variety loneliness. I guess it wasn't just loneliness - it was isolation & depression & panic & fear of the unknowns (will I always be this lonely in this marriage?). I wanted to just stay in bed with the dogs today, give up for a day, but I didn't & I'm not.

The scary loneliness led to a panic attack. Afterwards I was exhausted from it but I got out of bed, grabbed some coffee & went outside to drink it in the sunshine for a little bit. Then I took a shower. The shower really helped.

No Choir

Journal, The Healing WorkKait MauroComment

I have my now weekly therapy appointment in an hour & a half and I don't really know what to tell her. I'm working on myself so much - but am I getting anywhere? I've started a journal of sorts, I've been moving my body, I've been doing the therapy, I've been keeping up with the housework, I have been creating, I've been listening to audiobooks meant to help me heal...

But am I rushing this process like I rush so many other things? I always want immediate results. I don't remember if I've ever had much patience. I don't understand how a person can feel so overwhelmed & so completely under stimulated at the same time. What am I even hoping for though? How/who do I want to be?

Last night, fall apart.

Two nights ago, fall apart.

What I'm Learning Lately / Dancing Is Medicine

Journal, The Healing WorkKait MauroComment

My body holds a lot of trauma from it's past. This has shaped my brain and the ways I think, react & feel. But I can change it, heal & move forward.

Not all medicine comes in a pill bottle from the pharmacy. Dancing is medicine, making art is medicine, reading or writing can be medicine, a shower can be medicine, housework can be medicine, rituals can be medicine, rest can be medicine, breathing consciously can be medicine...

Tangled Roots

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've become interested in how developmental trauma effects the brain, changes the way it forms. If I'm being more transparent: I've become interested in how my own sometimes traumatic & highly strange childhood has effected my brain, how past traumas are related to my current mental health issues & how I can fix it (to the extent possible). When I read too much about it, I get overwhelmed. I feel irreparably damaged. It feels like such a big project.

What Bloggers Like Me Are Supposed To Write, Then The Truth

Being An Artist, Journal, The Healing WorkKait MauroComment

On Friday morning I learn I've gotten a grant I applied for - a photography grant having to do with reproductive rights! It is my first real grant as an artist & I am so excited I almost cry. I am floating around for a while after that news. But then the anxiety returns & I spend most of the afternoon giving my aquariums a very thorough cleaning and fixing the issues with the water so hopefully my fish will stop dying. It makes me really sad when one of them dies - I feel incredible guilt.

Now that I'm done being a good blogger, summarizing a week in my exceptionally dull life up with pretty words & photographs for you, here are four truths about my life right now:

  • I feel invisible.

  • My throat hurts from screaming.

  • Sex feels like abuse.

  • I want to disappear but I've cleaned the house instead.

Giving An Insulin Pump Another Go

Journal, The Healing WorkKait MauroComment

I have been on my new insulin pump for 9 days now. I like it so far, it doesn't annoy me too much. I was on one, a much older model because it was quite a time ago, from middle school through the beginning of college. I stopped wearing it because I had so much frustration with the infusion sets kinking up/not working or getting the tubing caught on things. I also think, being a freshman in college in a new part of the country, I felt like I had an opportunity to be someone new, in a way, and I didn't want to be the one everyone knew as "the girl with the beeper-looking thing on her hip."

Goodbye To You & The Storyline You Came From

Being An Artist, Journal, The Healing WorkKait Mauro2 Comments

This bracelet was given to me during a very low, broke phase in my life, right before my bipolar was diagnosed, by an older man who wanted to pay me to have sex with him (I didn't take him up on his offer). He left the price tag on when he gave it to me - it said it cost almost $400. I'm skeptical that it was the actual tag that went with the item though. I never wore it because I felt like it had bad karma attached to it. I should have saged it before giving it to my friend, Mackenzie, here in Birmingham.

Starting My Own Little DBT Journey

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After my suicide attempt in late January of 2015, I was referred to an outpatient program offering something called DBT (short for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy). I had never heard of it before. If you're interested in what DBT is and it's origins, Google can help you. I didn't attend the program for long because it wasn't a good fit for me, but now it's been a few years and I am still struggling more than I'd like with emotional regulation.

I'm not talking about the bipolar episodes of depression and hypomania, I'm talking about when my bipolar is in the "balanced" phase of things and I still seem to feel things more intensely than most people would - which is nice when it comes to the positive feelings but creates a lot of suffering for myself & others when I'm experiencing negative emotions. I also have a tendency to overreact and have a tough time bringing myself back to baseline once I am in what Edward refers to as one of my "spirals."

So I bought this book, The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, with the idea that I'd work my way through it and see what coping skills I could pick up without being in a formal DBT program. I have a few other books on mindfulness I am planning to read too.

I really like the subtitle: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation & Distress Tolerance. I like practical. I like exercises. I could certainly use to learn some mindfulness. My emotional regulation could certainly use some work, as well as my distress tolerance.

I wrote in a previous post about how I'm just kind of wired to have "wild weather patterns," meaning my emotions, but I've been given some hope lately about my borderline personality disorder or borderline tendencies or whatever you want to label it as. I heard a statistic a long time ago that 80% of people with bpd naturally recover from it on their own as they grow older. This made me hopeful at the time. But lately I've heard some stories from people who say they have actually fully or mostly recovered from BPD using DBT skills. I was hopeful I'd grow out of my emotional regulation problems as I got older - but why not hurry along the process now, you know?

At the end of the introduction, the book asked me to think about why I was reading it and three patterns I have that are not helpful and that I'd like to change. It didn't take me long to come up with my three goals:

  • Getting stuck in worries about the future (it's like an endless rabbit hole I can fall into, so many things could go wrong and I come up with ALL of them)
  • Black & white thinking
  • Feeding into/not knowing how to get out of negative emotional spirals

Right now I am only on page 23 of 227 in the workbook. I am going through it very slowly, a little bit each day, and taking the time to re-read different parts because I have a poor memory and if I really want to make these skills a part of my life (which I do) I need to really absorb the ideas and exercises.

To end this post on a less serious note, I'm a big fan of this video series and related a bit too much to this one:

Sometimes I Get Angry At My Body For Having Type 1 Diabetes

Journal, The Healing WorkKait MauroComment

I know I should love my body and just be able to accept my diabetes (especially after having it almost my entire life and not remembering a time before I had it) and manage it as well as anyone else can - and yet... I'm not one of those "inspirationally" ill or disabled people. I don't feel like "oh, I'm used to it by now," or "it's just a part of my life" (yet at least), or "I'm not going to let this stop me from living my life in any way." I'm not managing it well (though I am trying to do better). I get angry that I have it. I get frustrated with it and with my body, despite all of the ways in which it does work and serves me well. I complain about it. The inspirationally ill person doesn't complain or cry or scream into a pillow because they are so frustrated with their illness or disability, they smile and go about their life and manage their disease and have a team of medical people they trust and feel confident in and want to educate others about their condition. I do not want to educate anyone about my type 1 diabetes because I am ashamed of it. Why am I ashamed? I know it isn't my fault. It's just that when I was 2 years old my immune system got overly enthusiastic and attacked my pancreas and killed my body's ability to make insulin for itself. I know this. But I'm still ashamed of having a physical illness. Somehow, I'm more ashamed of my diabetes than my bipolar disorder even though mental illness carries much more of a stigma in our culture.

Wild Weather Patterns

Journal, The Healing WorkKait MauroComment

At first there are no photographs to go with this post because I’ve been struggling with on-and-off feelings of depression, anxiety and occasional agoraphobia and haven’t felt like making art, even with the enticement of my new camera. By the time I've finished, I've taken some pictures again. I am proud of this.

"I am learning that I am not my emotions. I am not my anxiety or my sadness or my fear; I am not my joy or my passion either. I’m a sky and my feelings are the weather. They come and they go. I embrace clear skies and I know that the storms will pass.

I have some wild weather patterns, that’s just how I’m wired. But I’m beginning to unravel the dark threads of brokenness that I have sewn my identity together with. I’m learning to step outside of my emotions and notice the way I’m feeding them or responding unhealthily to situations. To note negative patterns even when it painfully highlights how far I am from who I want to be. But that’s the point of all of this, isn’t it? To keep on growing.

The way I feel is important, but it doesn’t have to be my compass any more. I can let weather pass without being broken by it, without letting it rule my life. At least I can keep trying to."

These words are the ending of a post on Fire & Joy I read one night. I related to them so much - the "wiring" of having strong emotions, the major discomfort of trying to recognize my own negative/unhelpful patterns (or having them pointed out to me) because it highlights how far I still have to go in becoming who I want to be.

Arrival of Spring

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It's almost mid-March now so I am feeling optimistic that I successfully (thank you meds) skipped my annual late-January through mid-March depression this year. Yesterday I woke up at 5am because my dreams were so bad. I started working almost right away and worried I was becoming spring hypomania but today I slept until 10 so I think I am balanced for now, which is a relief.

I got a new camera at the end of February and it's reinvigorated my love of photography. Below are some of the photographs I've taken with it so far - I am shooting everything on manual (setting the ISO, aperture & shutter speed by hand instead of letting the camera set them all for me) these days because it'll make my art stronger. It's not as hard as I thought it would be, I remember more than I thought I did from way back in 2011 when I learned to shoot on manual for the first time.

Avoiding The Annual Late January Through Mid-March Depression

Journal, The Healing WorkKait MauroComment

The apartment becomes a prison, myself the prisoner. Almost every night I am held by nightmares. I awake and the feeling of just having woken up lingers all day despite how much coffee I drink. The days weigh on me and I cannot force myself to leave our apartment building. Every time I try to make myself go somewhere I turn on the car, sit in it for a while, turn it off and go back inside with the feeling that I am failing.

Yesterday vs Today

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Here is an except from some writing I did last night to try and exorcize myself of my emotions. I was in a bad place, you've been warned.

"I feel powerless but I can’t articulate why. Maybe I am combining powerless and hopeless into one confusing mess of emotion. They are confusingly similar feelings, at least to me. They basically mean the same thing. I don’t know why I have been using the word “powerless” all day when really I might mean “hopeless.” I don’t know which one I mean, so I am just going to go with both. I want to feel more powerfulhopeful - or at least less powerlesshopeless…”