Not All There (Part 1)

Dear Loyal Readers,

I am humbled by your support and positive feedback. Your encouragement motivates me. Thank you.

As promised in my last blog, posts won’t always be about cats. This one is about a dog. Not my dog but Doug the Pug.

I stumbled upon him in Barnes & Nobles Bookstore. No. I didn’t literally trip on a pug name Doug in the store. No. I didn’t meet him in person. I found his face surrounded by donuts on the cover of a 1000 piece puzzle box. Some remote, cobwebbed corner of my brain seems to remember learning of Doug’s existence long ago. Doug’s mug was welcoming, calming, almost soothing. And who doesn’t love donuts? People who are just plain crazy. (Meet Doug at #puglife)

I confess. Cats, dogs, and donuts are all high on my “awesome” list. (Truth: they are on the list way higher than my husband and kid. In fact so high, that my peeps are incredulous when my furry besties grace my screen savers instead of them. Can you blame me? My dog and two cats require three things from me: Love. Food. And a place to poop. Easy.) Hence, when I saw Doug’s mug sitting pretty sitting in a box of donuts, purchasing the puzzle was a no-brainer.

Some Bipolar people make impulse purchases when they’re not well. Usually lots of them. Or expensive ones. Or a combination of both. Let me be clear. This was not a bipolar impulse buy. (That’s not my thing. I see dead people. That’s my thing.) My love of jigsaw puzzles began in childhood. I was a nervous, often sickly kid. Puzzles made me feel better. I like putting things together. Building with my hands so to speak. I’m attracted to the bright colors and the meticulous organization of the pieces. Let me explain.

The Bipolar mind is a busy mind, like a hamster on a wheel busy. Ideas, memories, incidents, tasks, thoughts, and voices swirl in one large pool of chaos in my brain,  making it difficult to concentrate or focus on any one piece of information. The best way I can get you to relate is to explain it in terms of a can of paint. Let’s pretend you decided to paint your bedroom a shade of (insert color here). The employee will begin with a base shade of white. The can will be opened and placed under a dispenser. The color code is typed into the computer, and then various drops of other colors get dispensed into the base. At that point, it’s still a gallon of white paint with some drops of color on the top. If you were to stir it with a paint stick, you’d have beautiful swirls of a those added colors. To me, that’s a non-bipolar brain. Clear. Calm. Colorful.

The bipolar brain is best defined by what happens next. The employee caps the gallon and places it in a machine that shakes the hell out of it. All those calm, beautiful bands of color get violently smashed together for several minutes in a paint mosh pit, if you will. When the shaking stops and the cap is popped off again, the solid color is revealed, much like a rainbow after the storm.

This past year I lost my solid color. Think like someone scuffed your wall and you need to touch up the paint, but when you open the can colors have separated and need to be shaken again. In other words, I became unbalanced. I have spent the last 9 months bouncing between levels of depression and mania, 9 months of shaking. During this time, I rediscovered puzzles. I find comfort in the chaos of pieces, because I know I can sort them, organized them, and reconstruct something aesthetically pleasing. It’s like dumping that old paint out, separating it into its various colors, and then calmly, piece by piece, rebuilding a solid color.

When my mind is racing like a hamster on a wheel or like paint shaking in a can, I find the ability to focus and slow my thoughts by concentrating on organizing the puzzle. First flip over the pieces and while doing so separate the edges. Assemble the edges. Then sort the inside pieces by color. In the case of Doug and the donuts, I sorted by donut colors, sprinkles verses solid. Once properly sorted, I built the puzzle one donut at a time, sprinkled donuts first, followed by Doug, one feature at a time. Behold Doug:

doug full.JPG

TAH-DAH. Look closely at Doug. I know. He’s cute. Look closer. Not that close. You can’t eat those donuts. As they sing at Christmas time, “Do you see what I see?” Don’t see it yet?

doug partial.JPG

How about now? I’ll have you know, what you’re looking at is one of my worst nightmares. Still don’t see it? Let me ZOOM in.

dog missing.JPG


As my grandma Jenny would say, “No big deal, Jen. It’s just a puzzle.” (I hear her say that in my head. Literally. The voices are a real struggle.)

My response, “Are you just plain crazy, Gram? I’M MISSING A PIECE. Call chicken little. The sky is falling!”

Review my last post. I spoke about being at a crossroads in a mental hospital wing called Crossroads. While there, I found a puzzle to build. It was liking finding a small piece of home in Hell. Until I pulled the box off the shelf. There in big, bold black Sharpie it read: NOT ALL THERE. There is no home in Hell. I was in Crossroads because I was not all there. It was cruel to me all the puzzle wasn’t there either.

In retrospect, I’m glad that puzzle box had a user warning label. Have you seen the movie The Accountant with Ben Affleck? There is a scene in that movie where his childhood character has a breakdown because the puzzle he’s building is missing a piece. It’s a crucial scene in the movie as it defines his adult character. I imagine if I built that puzzle in the hospital only to learn there was a piece missing, I would have ended up drugged, in a straight jacket, in a padded room. So thanks for the warning, Crossroads.

Despite scouring the house, I never found Doug’s missing piece. I have since packed up the puzzle and started a new one. I am certain one of my damn cats stole the piece and hid it, the little assholes. Or maybe the dog or one of the cats ate it. I wouldn’t put it past any of them, but what I wouldn’t do is search the dog’s poop or the cats’ litter box because that would be just plain crazy.



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12 thoughts on “Not All There (Part 1)

  1. Hi, Jen,
    I love your blog! You have given me insight into a subject I know little about. Thank you! After decades of living in the bipolar world, you are finally sharing the wonderful gift given to you…writing… and writing with a sense of humor! Isn’t it just remarkable how recording those tough times gives you a sense of freedom!
    Jack is a puzzle buff too..along with Matt’s wife, Andrea. Their gig is winter but would build a puzzle anytime! They are continually sharing but if a piece is missing “look out”!!😝
    Love to you & keep those blogs a comin’, Jen!


    1. Thanks for your kind words. I had another friend who does puzzles reply via text. He actually had an extra piece in a puzzle once! Drove him just plain crazy!


  2. Thanks for the laugh. One of the teachers I work with her daughter is the creator of doug the pug. Her name is Leslie Mosier. How cool that you like puzzles. I think that is so great.
    Can’t wait for your next post.



  3. Another great post, and I must say…you are a fantastic—definitely above average—friend!


  4. I loved your blog. Oh so funny. Thanks for sharing.


  5. Wow Jen!
    Great insight and vulnerability about one of the most difficult journeys in life. Prayers continue for you and yours.
    Love ya
    Tedd and Lois❤️🙏✝️


  6. June M Haverly June 1, 2018 — 5:04 pm

    Jen, I am so sorry to learn of your illness. I wish there was something I could do to make things better for you. I am so proud of you for doing this blog, I truly believe your blog will help so many people suffering as you do.
    I will keep you in my prayers.


    1. Dear June,

      Hello!!!!!!! Thank you for reading. It’s so great to hear from you. I appreciate the support, the love, and the following. Hope you are well.



  7. I love puzzles too! A missing piece to a puzzle is unacceptable!! Miss u!


    1. Hey! Miss you, too. This was the very first puzzle I ever completed that was missing a piece. It was also the first I packed up and put away still missing a piece! Bah!


  8. I absolutely love reading these, Jen. I can hear your voice actually saying this out loud, you have a gift in your writing ability. Thank you for including us in this journey.


    1. Thanks for reading! And more importantly thanks for your support and friendship.


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