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“I told her once I wasn’t good at anything. She told me survival is a talent.” -Susanna Kaysen

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Thankful Part 1

worth another post…

thebipolarfarmer

Opened my eyes to a brainful of worry and doubt this morning. So much so, I promptly closed them again. Not the way I planned to start my morning. Never a good sign. Rather than worry and be anxious I am going to write. Turn my mind and find a different path. What am I thankful for? It is often forgotten in the heaps of shit and finger pointing. Amongst the guilt and the anger. Never really looked at or even thought much about. It is really kind of sad, because there is so much I have to be thankful for. Here’s my reasons to be thankful. I’ll note it was extremely difficult to do this. It doesn’t come easy to sift through so much pain and loss.

Family- Even with all their issues and problems. All the years of chaos and difficulty. At the end of the day I…

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Willfulness vs. My Reality

What is wilfulness? As defined by a dictionary it is will·ful also wil·ful (w l f l). adj. 1. Said or done on purpose; deliberate. See Synonyms at voluntary. 2. Obstinately bent on having one’s own way.
but it has another definition when it comes to DBT “More simply, willingness is saying yes to the mystery of being alive in each moment. wilfulness is saying no, or perhaps more commonly, ‘yes, but…'” (quoted in Linehan, 1993, p. 148)

There is the part of DBT that is a bit out there, a little harder to grasp and hold onto. Willingness vs. wilfulness fits well in that category. To radically accept and do the best with what you have. To try your best with what it is you are given, regardless of whether it is good or bad. I have never truly grasped it, and clearly it continues to be that way. As I look at my life and the endless cycles of deep depression and returns to baseline I only see this writing on the wall, so to speak. I have often written about my strong sense that this life isn’t meant for me. Not in the long run. When called upon to envision my life in 10 years time I see nothing. Absolutely nothing. darkness. It is not a matter of if I will return to those dark days it is a matter of when. I guess you might say that indeed I am being willful by Linehan’s standards. That yes, maybe I am indeed sitting on my hands rather than actively doing something, but I am not sure that is the case. I work at my treatment. I go to sessions. I try my best. truly I do. I have never actively undermined (for lack of a better word) my treatment. I don’t not show up, nor do I ignore the advice of Virgil and Beatrice. I take my meds, and track my sleep, moods, meals and exercise. I do not say fuck it and do whatever. That is not me. That in my mind would be wilfulness. Instead I accept what it is. I understand that I will not be well forever. That this moment of normalcy is not to last. I could put my head in the sand and pretend this isn’t going to change. that would be willful. Instead I continue along, if anything dreading the day when the planets change their alignment, or whatever it is that causes the shift. I accept that I am bipolar. I accept that I cannot live my life the way I might want to. I cannot keep guns in my home. I cannot stay out partying and drinking instead of keeping to my sleep schedule. I cannot skip doses of meds. I ACCEPT that. How is that willful? When everything is falling down around me and my world becomes brittle and threatens to disintegrate. When I cannot spend another minute suffering silently- I am willful for chosing the only thing that is soothing in that moment? To rest a moment in the calm and quiet. To be free of pain and to be lost in my head. To make it through another day the only way I know how. Because I have found this refuge I am willful. I am chosing the wrong path. Apparently I have made the worst choice possible. I should stay and suffer in that cardboard universe of nothingness. That is what I SHOULD do. How is that the right choice? When is suffering the right choice? According to Virgil it is. According to Linehan it is. But neither tells me what to replace it with. What do I do in those horrible days when nothing occupies my mind but these thoughts? I guess I am supposed to hunker down and accept my pain. Get comfortable in the searing reality of a depression fathoms deep. I’d like to know how to do that. I want an answer. My mind created a very different reality when I was just a kid. This place of refuge has been with me my whole life. I am to turn away that escape. I am to willingly accept and remain in a place nobody can tell me how long will last. Do you have any idea how terrifying that is? To sit waiting, suffering trying to see a light at the end of that tunnel, but there isn’t one. Not when I am lost within it. The rational mind is long gone. So you say make the decision earlier while it is still possible. Very easy for you to say. What I see is a long road with no clear end in sight. I don’t think you understand what you are asking me to do. or maybe you do. I don’t understand what will take the place of the only soothing thing I have. I know it is maladaptive. Dangerous. wrong. I KNOW. I’m not an idiot. I understand, but I don’t feel I have the choice. You are not seeing it for what it is. It is a skill. It buys me time. I know you don’t understand this. It gives me a time out and lessens the suffering and pain. It lengthens the time I can live with the depression while you change meds and shift doses. I don’t know what to do without it. Without it I know I could not tolerate the depression. I could not hunker down and ride it out. Without my escape into my fantasies I cannot survive. If that is willful than so be it. I don’t see it that way. I see it as accepting what I need to do to make it through another minute, hour or day. It is a survival skill honed over many years. Yes, I understand the flip side of it is the dangerous nature of the fantasy and the ever looming possibility that the fantasy becomes all too welcoming. I know that. I just don’t know what else to do. I wish I could tell you all that I had the endurance and the willpower to ride it out. I’m not nearly that strong. Never was. I created a niche in my head to hide. If hiding is willful than yes, I am willful. I will never get this. I’m not sure most people understand the depths of the torment one has to endure just to make a hiding spot like that a reality. They don’t just appear one day. We don’t just decide to fantasize about killing ourselves. No this is the end product of being trapped and having nowhere to turn. It was early on for me. I still can’t fathom being that young and needing a place to disappear to. My closet wasn’t good enough. Not nearly deep or dark enough. To hide I needed the ultimate disappearing act. How terribly sad to think of a child wanting nothing more than to die rather than live silently suffering. That day when a choice was made and a path was beaten into new territory was the day I found a different way to cope. I did not realize then the ramifications of my choice. How could I? I wandered down a very different path chosing to pull back from life. I could not cope with my existence. That was 30 years ago. If I am willful than so be it. I don’t know another way. I wish the path had been different. God I wish it were so. My mind cannot even grasp what happened to that lost and terrified child so long ago. Death should never be embraced and danced with so sincerely. To lose such a precious gift is sickening. Sure I hate myself for the choices I have made and for the sorrow I have caused. I do not want to tie anyone’s hands. It is not my wish. It is NOT. I can’t help but weep for the difficult place I find myself. To chose between prolonged suffering I know I can’t endure or to seek amelioration in the recesses of my mind only to know that to do so is to hurt all those around me. That I must make a choice to walk away from a place that has both saved me and killed me. One cannot be teased away from the other. If only it could be. If only I knew a way to hold on and survive without the well-worn pathways in my brain embracing me. I just don’t even know what to think. I do not want to be willful. I just want to survive without hurting. That isn’t possible. My road is paved with fear and anguish. To say it is not would be foolhardy. and so I walk waiting for the next chapter without the ability to see it. I live in the here and now for I cannot foresee a future with me in it. It is all too easy to drift into the past. If only I knew where I was going. If only I had the confidence to believe in my ability to survive the next free fall.

On a different note

http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/164477/dad_takes_breathtaking_video_of

Saw this today and was so moved. Remarkable just how little 1.5 lbs is. I often wonder what happens to a child born so premature. Long months spent in a NICU trying to catch up developmentally without the bonding time spent in a mother’s arms. Does that change anything? How does it ultimately effect the bond to the parents if they are not 100% involved until months later?

I just can’t help but wonder.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/21/animal-abuse-walmart-pork-supplier_n_4312183.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009

I don’t even know where to start. Where does one even begin. Is this humanity as we know it? Is cruelty and brutality just part of who we are? How does a person do that to an animal? Or a human as demonstrated by this new “game” amongst kids where they walk by a stranger and hit them hard enough to render them unconscious just because of a dare. It is mind-boggling. The animals sicken me far more, as they are defenseless and voiceless. When I walk amongst the animals here and envision what their lives were like before they arrived here I often wonder what they must think. Not to anthropomorphize, but they do understand we are not here to cause them harm. Their capacity for change is staggering. To go from cowering and anxious to accepting and quiet all in a matter of months. If only humans had the same capacity. Rarely do we see the horse that cannot come around. They are few and far between. Horses can suffer horrible abuse and violence only to learn to trust again. There is nothing more rewarding than watching that transformation. The curiosity that draws them to us. Desperate for a leader and protector. Despite all the humans that hurt them along the way. I see in Ted’s eyes that flicker of worry. The split second of white around his eye shows me life hasn’t always been perfect for him. I see the moment when he decides to come to me anyway even though his instincts tell him people aren’t always kind. I love that he comes anyway. It happens often with horses. They let us off the hook for all our failures, our lapses in judgment
The individuals in the video are different. Those workers have fallen clear into depraved indifference and torture. They aren’t angry and losing their tempers. They seem to take pleasure in the aggression they are displaying. It is so over the top. Not an occasional lapse of judgement. This is just beyond words. I have seen workers fall into strange aggressive behaviors with one horse they find not to their liking. Usually it is in a large barn and it is easy to miss the issue. If they are caught they find some excuse. I can only imagine when groups of employees start feeding off each other. It seems a recipe for disaster. The unimaginable becomes the day to day reality. If it was one or two instances that is awful enough but these unimaginable treatments seem to be the working norm there. This plant is not alone. Take a minute to wander Youtube and hundreds of thousands of undercover videos are available. This depraved disgusting behavior can be found everywhere. From the veal calves being bludgeoned with pick axes at the TX farm to the downed cows being moved with skidsteers while still alive. This behavior is rampant in factory farming. Big Ag has moved to make the shooting of undercover video illegal. without these videos animals have no voice. As terrible as these videos are and as gut wrenching as they are to watch they do give these poor souls a voice. In light of this video circulating today WalMart has dropped its contract with this pork producer. Unfortunately this just illustrates we as a society and our needs are vastly outpacing our ability to produce product. In this case pork. Each year we consume more and the farms must expand to produce enough. Farmers used to produce small quantities, raising them as if they were family. How can we expect humility and compassion when the farmer is now under the gun to produce vast quantities as cheaply as possible? Now instead of 40 hogs it is 40,000 +. They become a nameless byproduct of this race to produce fast enough to stock the Walmart freezers. I don’t know that there is a way to factory farm humanely. No animal does well packed into massive warehouses. Disease and abnormal behavior run rampant. They cull hard to keep both in check. It is a never-ending process of killing. It doesn’t matter to their caretakers as these animals are “dead” anyway. It is only a matter of time. That line gets blurred. The torment begins. How can people be expected to work in those conditions and not crumble beneath the inhumanity of it all. How can we expect them to have respect for an animal when the factory farming system has no respect for any of them to begin with. It isn’t a pig in that gestation crate it is just a breeder to make more pork until the day she can no longer produce. When that day comes she becomes sausage, as a farm once told me, they use everything but the squeal. She was dead the day she was born into this. They don’t care. If she doesn’t survive there are hundreds of thousands more to fill her gestational crate. and so the never-ending process goes on. The workers are burned out and poorly paid. They quickly devolve into this behavior we see on video. It is sickening. It doesn’t take much to bring out the very worst in any person. Clearly illustrated by Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment. These farm workers had all the power and they wielded it like a club (literally). I don’t blame the workers on this video. I blame a broken system and a unsaitable need for our society to consume more and more. This is not the end of this. It is only the beginning.

Frustration

I was hoping polo night would take the edge off and make me feel a little better. It could not have been farther from if I tried. I wasn’t going to go tonight. I was feeling pretty tired and worn down. Since the grey horse Ted has a sale pending I wouldn’t be bringing him. My other pony has Lyme and hasn’t been feeling great. They all saw the chiropractor/ acupuncturist this past week and it was supposed to be a light night anyhow. Wish I had stayed home. Instead I brought Boo and figured two chukkars would have to do. We have a wide range of player skill at the club. Most nights it is very mixed. The first few chukkars of the evening are always the beginners and kids. Why he put me in one of those chukkars on Boo is beyond my comprehension. I said something and he told me he’d switch. That didn’t happen. I spent the first, of my two chukkars walking around and trying to control my mare. She hates slow polo. In fact it gets progressively worse unless she can gallop a bit. I kept her away from the kids and hoped she’d settle. After a very long wait we went back for our second chukkar. I knew it wasn’t our night when we ended up with much the same group. After the second foul called in as many seconds I watched Boo just come undone. I thought it was actually quite apropos. I was sitting on a powder keg. Literally. She was done and to be honest so was I. I haven’t been that frustrated and pissed off in a long while. Rather than fight with my mare I cantered clear out of the arena, out the door and left. Honestly if I could have ridden her clear onto the trailer and left I might have. I don’t think I have excused myself. Ever. But it was very clear to me that she would have run someone over that didn’t know any better. It was no longer worth the risk to either she or I, never mind the group I was playing with. Still I feel bad for losing my temper a bit and letting myself get far too wound up given the situation. I guess I just really wanted to blow off some steam and get my fix. When that evaporated I was upset. I drove home perplexed by the degree to which I was upset. This really wasn’t the end of the world. really it wasn’t. My other half tried to reason with me. Nope. Not happening. so here I am trying to wind down and let go of the abysmal evening. I don’t know that I really understand why this week has been this way. I don’t know what is torturing my while I try to sleep. What could be so bad? What is driving this restless agitated state that keeps me tossing and turning for hours on end. It is the tough thing about the seroquel you can really end up in this state somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. Instead of just getting up or trying to figure out what is going on I get trapped in that spot. I can’t seem get myself awake enough to get out of bed, but I’m not asleep either. I’m well aware that I am not asleep. Awake enough to think this isn’t good, I should be sleeping. Hopefully shifting the meds a bit tonight will help.
If anything tonight illustrates just how tenuous our control over our emotions is in the absence of sleep. That self-control I usually have vanished before I even knew it had. I just need to get caught up and get this back in order. Sleep is so critical to me. All of us really.

On the Easel

-3

It had been a year or so since I had worked on any of my art. What changed? I don’t know I can answer that. I guess you could say the creeping depression and lack of sleep may have played a part. I just gravitated toward my studio in the past week. Initially I figured a still life might be the best first project. I wasn’t happy. I took a look around the house and saw the tang horse. The rest just went from there. I spent a few hours sketching and developing the piece. I always go to pastels as my comfort medium. They are interesting to work with and you can work a piece pretty rapidly. They are also closest to sculpting for me. I use my hands quite a bit as I build the base and create the depth of color I am looking for. They are also filthy to work with. In short they are a lot of fun. The horse came together over a period of 3 days. I didn’t have more than a couple hours each day. I returned to it each morning when the sun was creating perfect lighting. I wrapped up the first Tang horse piece today. I knew it was just going to continue from there. Tang horses have always been my favorite. I love the horse distilled into a highly stylized sculpture. Throw in the San cai glazing and coloring and they are perfect. I have sculpted and drawn them on and off since college. Seems a perfect choice to jump back into my work. I’m happy to be creating again but wonder why I don’t create when my head is in a good place. What is it about depression that it unlocks my ability to draw from my creative self? It has always been like this. The more depressed I am the better the work I produce. It is as if some faucet gets turned on up there. To create is such a subconscious act. I know there is the actual skill of putting a pastel to paper. That is very much in the here and now, but the force that drives a piece to completion with good results comes from somewhere very different. It is either there or it isn’t. I cannot turn that on at will. Wish I could. Instead I work when I feel compelled to. This week I have been drawn to pastels. I am happy with the results. I hope to continue on and finish a series of the Tang horses.

Completed Tang Horse I.
-4

The Cardinal Rule

-2

There is a rule, the only hard and fast one in this business we call rescue. You don’t fall in love. Ever. You can’t get close because you never know when or if the horses will find a new home. We are just a way station in their journey from the worst of circumstances to a new and better home. Sure some do end up here as sanctuaries and they will live out their lives here. The rest though they are just waiting to find homes. I try hard to keep my distance. I do care for them, but often they are just another horse in a long list of horses. Nothing different or special about them.

They each have very different personalities like us. Some are loving and affectionate, others couldn’t be bothered to even react unless we are feeding them. There are horses that truly love people and chose to come to us. They are the ones that are happy to rest a head on your shoulder or call to us happily if we walk by their paddock.

Ted is one of those. I knew I was breaking my rule. I knew it but couldn’t help myself. I fell for Ted. I fell for him hard. He’s not a rescue. He came in under odd circumstances as a sale horse. I got on him that first week and knew I would have a tough time saying goodbye. He was just so damn sensible. Horse’s are not sensible creatures. Throw in some windy cold weather and a few too many days in a stall and even the most steady tend to be a handful. I rode him that first week in the midst of strong gusty wind and flapping ventilation louvers in the indoor arena. They make the best ones unhinged. I can’t stand them. It was a grievous error in planning and building. So I knew the first time he trotted happily beneath the noise and shimmering light of the wind snapping through the louvers that he was different. I loved that about him. With each ride over the past months I unlocked the pieces of his high degree of training, much like dropping through the gears on a sports car. Either they have that or they don’t. Ted has every gear. But it wasn’t just the time spent in the saddle it was the days spent visiting with him and grooming him. He made me realize what is missing here. I loved it again. I wanted to ride. I wanted to go stand at the window just so I could catch a glimpse of his dapple grey coat in the sun. That had left me long ago. They were just horses. They were just work. A lot of work. Ted changed that these late summer months. As the weeks passed and I had the opportunity to play him I caught a glimpse of my own potential. For the past 4 years I have played my motley crew of polo horses. All discarded at auction for reasons beyond our knowledge. I slowly worked with each of them to figure out their needs and what they would and wouldn’t do. I do well considering, but each takes a specific ride. None are high goal horses. Akin to professional sport in other disciplines. Polo is a sport based on ratings. Each player is given a rating based on their skill and ability on the polo field. Most of us will never see anything beyond a 0 or a 1 goal rating. Beyond that you have dedicated your time and life to the sport and work to achieve a professional status within the sport. The sport then breaks into various brackets for lack of a better term. A tournament is set using the total goals of a team. At the very highest levels of the sport here in the US a team will be 20 goal. In Argentina, the home of all things professional in polo and the country that produces the finest ponies and players has a series of tournaments that boast 40 goal teams. That means that each member of the four man team is rated at 10 goals, the highest achievable rating in our sport. When teams play each other if one does not have as many goals as another they are given the difference on the scoreboard to start the game. It levels the playing field so to speak. In the US we have all different levels of polo from beginner polo with 0-2 goal teams to medium goal 10-12 goal polo on to the higher levels played here which is 20 goal polo.
Ted was bred from the very finest polo stock in Argentina. Hopes were high for the little grey horse, but he never reached the polo which he was bred for, 40 goal. His mother played at that level successfully. Ted was brought here to play in the 20 goal polo leagues and did so for a few years. He spent the past two years playing under a professional while being offered for sale. I have never sat on a 20 goal horse in their prime. I have sat on them as they have made their way back down the ranks. Fried in the head from the speed and brutality of a full contact sport played at 40 mph. It takes a very special type of horse to tolerate this sport. All too often they just lose their minds. It is too much for them. They start to misbehave. When playing fast there is such a small margin of error, a misbehaving horse can literally get a player killed or seriously injured. They get rid of them quickly. Some end up at auctions, others end up donated to colleges. Some can be rehabilitated, many can not. They connect polo (the activity/ job) with anxiety and pain. The more they misbehave the harsher the punishment. The more they try and run away (a common defense in a prey animal) the more severe the bits put in their mouths. Polo = Pain. They don’t often come back.

My ponies are a mix. I have a big grey mare named Boo. The first time I laid eyes on her she was resting quietly in a back pen at an auction house. Horses completely relaxed and at ease will rest one hind leg and shift their weight to the other. It also provides them with the ability to kick in the split second it takes them to perceive a threat if they are roused from their relaxed state. Boo was completely at ease in this strange place. I knew she was an alpha mare, and a confident horse. She did not need any other horses for comfort or confidence. I brought her home and started my now almost five year long relationship. It has been a rough road, but a learning experience. As a horse trainer I have always been the dominant one in the relationship. I give the horse the cues and aids to perform what it is I’m asking whether it is playing polo or it is moving over in the stall so I can get to the feed bucket. The relationship is always the same. Once a horse establishes dominance over you a number of problems start to arise. They challenge repeatedly until you are no longer in control. That is a dangerous place to be when the one doing the dominating is 1200+ lbs. When I talk about dominance I don’t mean force. Sure there are times when you need to be forceful, but often once the relationship is established the horse accepts their place.They are comfortable in their submission.
Boo is not submissive. There is nothing about this mare that is willing to submit. I have worked hard to establish the détente we currently have. I cannot ever lay a whip on her, ever. I have to agree to her terms when we work. It is always the same. She is perfectly willing to trot 5 times around before she has to do her canter work. It never changes. I had to accept this. There was no changing her. I gave up a long time ago. Another cardinal rule of horsemanship. I broke that rule. We get along. She will play for me. She would walk through fire for me if I asked. I love her with all my heart, but she has no use for me. Aside from feeding her and playing polo. She is not affectionate. Though these days she gives me her Boo look and plays like she will nip me. That is about as much affection as I ever get. We agree to get along and play by each other’s rules. She is not easy to play polo off of. I have figured out her quirks but it is always a give and take. I learned to up my game on her and she taught me to reach for something beyond my comfort level.
Ted is the opposite. He is completely submissive. He wants to be with his human, despite not having a nice player to love him. He just wants to be near you. He calls for me to come to him and rests his head on my chest when I come. But it went beyond that when I played him. I felt that control and the sudden clear dominance I have when I play him. I can get to the ball before anyone else if I just put my hand down and let him change gears. I can stop faster, turn faster and hit farther than I ever have. In other words I just drove my first Ferrari. I won’t lie, it feels awesome. It feels electric to play him. He is so in tune to me and any request I have. I don’t have any doubts about what I can do or where I can get to. That doesn’t usually happen. Boo is a handful and sometimes it is tough to convince her a gear change is in order. They are very different animals.
At the end of the day as I see more interest in the little grey sale horse I fell in love with the more I realize our little love affair won’t last. It isn’t meant to. I couldn’t afford him even in the past. He is well beyond my reach. It has been such an honor to sit on and play such a skilled horse. I learned a great deal in a very short amount of time, mainly not to settle and that I can play a hell of a lot better with the right horse under me. But is it about skill and polo? Probably not. It is about the softest brown eyes that always have just a hint of worry. He loves so completely even though he knows polo people aren’t usually kind. He can’t help himself. All I want to do is snuggle at night check and take these ridiculous selfies with him. I know our time is short. I’m not sure where he will end up though I know it won’t be with me. I can’t help but feel heartbroken. I let it happen and now I have to deal with the pain of that. Doubt I will let myself get this close again. There is something so sad about that. To live devoid of attachment to these animals we save or to get close and get hurt? I don’t live in a land of greys. We know that. It is very black or white for me.

Oh Ted you stole my heart…