Scheduling a Breakdown

(I submitted this to The Mighty a couple days ago, but I know they’re busy, so I thought I’d share it here. I’ll snag the link if/when it goes live. Until then, you can find my articles here.)

It seems like the minute I have a hundred things to do, my brain decides it’s the perfect time for a breakdown. Even though I have no time for it, it’s not convenient and I really don’t want to think about all the things my depression brain focuses on, I find myself doing all of those things instead of my full calendar. So I’ve put together a list of things that help me put a pin in my symptoms momentarily so I can finish up a few things.

1. Set aside time for yourself.
Trust me, as someone who understands all about
procrastinating, this can seem like both an obvious thing and an impossible
thing to do. But I’m talking about a five minute break here or there. Drink
your cup of coffee, slowly. Smell the steam, watch your creamer swirl in the
cup. Live the experience fully. Go get the mail. Do you hear any crickets? The
sound of ice crunching beneath your feet? This little break reminds you to catch
a little perspective and maybe distract you long enough to work through it.

2. Let yourself be upset.
Telling yourself that you’re not that upset only makes you worse. If you
absolutely can’t be upset-do math. It can be simple, like 1+1, 2+2 and so on.
As it turns out, your brain doesn’t like feeling emotions and doing math at the
same time, so you can usually stall your tears for a moment. But if you have
the ability, just be upset. Again, it can be a little five minute moment in
which you feel like the world is crashing around you and all hope is gone. I
ugly cry, take a tissue and blow my nose then get up and grab some water. I’m
not saying I’m done being upset, but if I let myself be upset in little bits,
then it doesn’t come out in a marathon. It’s your right to be upset. Even if
you don’t think there’s a reason. The way you’re feeling is completely valid.

3. Find something you wanna smile about.
I hate the advice “just turn that frown upside
down”. Sometimes that’s the absolute last thing I want to do-and even then it
just makes me angrier, or cry harder. But what I’m talking about is finding
something that you know you enjoy and experience it. If you think penguin’s
laughing is cute-find a video (I think it’s fantastic). If you know you smile
when you make chicken parmesan, make it. Like bubble baths? Take one. Because
finding something to enjoy usually results in some kind of self-care and let’s
be honest-is that ever a bad thing?

4. Take a deep breath.
This isn’t a novel idea, but it’s important.
Your whole body needs oxygen to function. Your brain is absolutely no
different. Think about how hard your brain is working, trying to manage
everything, fix problems (especially the ones you’re worrying about “for
nothing”). You need air. Plus, if you take a moment and focus on your
breathing, sometimes you’ll find that you already knew the answer to the
problems, you were just so focused on everything all at once that you didn’t
notice.
While you’re breathing, try this little
exercise. Take one breath in and list five things you see. Breathe out. Take
another breath and list four things you hear. Breathe out. Take one more breath
and list three things you smell. Breathe out. One more breath and list two
things you can feel. Breathe out. Take another breath and list one thing you
can taste. Breathe out. Take another breath and carry on about your day.

5. Get a validation outfit.
This is one of my favorite things, and it
happened completely on accident. I got a sweatshirt a couple sizes too big and
washed it and decided that I would only wear it when I felt like a terrible
person. I told myself that while I was wearing it, I wasn’t allowed to degrade
myself. The shirt itself has a graphic about always loving yourself, so I
thought I’d wear it when I needed a reminder that I’m not a monster, and that I
matter. It hangs in my closet until I feel depressed, or feel worthless and
then I put it on and read the words. And when the thoughts popped into my head
like “I’m an idiot.” Or “I’m unlovable.” I look at the words on my shirt and
force myself to take ten seconds to say something nice about myself. “I am
fierce. I am valid. I am irreplaceable.” The nice thing about validation
outfits? They can be anything: a business suit, a pair of shoes, earrings, a
bracelet, a pair of socks. The important thing is to remember to love yourself.
Soon enough, it’ll be your favorite piece of clothing.

Life is hectic and hard sometimes. But the important
thing to remember is that you can do it-even when you’re convinced you can’t.

The Grey Areas of Going Dark

(I’ve literally JUST submitted this to The Mighty, so we’ll see if it gets accepted. In the mean time, here’s my thoughts on the depressive spectrum of suicidal ideation.)

There’s never once been a time when I have looked myself in the mirror and said the
five words that seem to adhere themselves to a mental illness diagnosis: “I
want to kill myself.” Not when I had my first psychotic break (or my second),
not when I reached the lowest part of my depression. And yet, if you asked me
if I had ever attempted suicide, my answer would be yes. Had I ever thought
about it? Yes again. But not once had I ever thought those five words.

One of the first lessons someone with a mental illness diagnosis learns is that
there are often no black-and-white situations. The line between correct
diagnosis and misdiagnosis isn’t a mile wide, it’s a hair’s width. We learn to
see things on a spectrum, on a scale. And yet, in this most prevalent of litmus
tests for depression, these five words seem to be a yes or no, black or white
area.

I’m here to disagree. Vehemently.

All too often, there isn’t a life versus death attitude that accompanies mental
illness. It’s much more layered, a muddled grey than it is a color dichotomy.
There’s often more desperation and anguish in the expression than the pointed
action of “I want to kill myself.” And what’s worse, the other phrases, which
carry just as much weight and sincerity as that one, aren’t even given a second
glance. They’re completely brushed off and put aside because, after all, everyone feels like that at some point,
right?

 

“I don’t want to live anymore.”

 

This sentence, much like the litmus
tester, is one I’ve never spoken aloud, but I can remember a few times when I mentally
said it to myself in the mirror, the tears running down my cheeks. It was the
point where the depression took over and I’d had enough. What I was really
saying was that I don’t want to live a life where I’m constantly feeling used
up, depressed and frustrated.

 

“I just want to sleep and not wake up.”
Life presents itself with some
fierce challenges sometimes. Fighting a battle against yourself is a long,
tiresome journey of epic proportions. Being able to rest for just a few moments
seems like the most luxurious perfection and it can feel like after years of
fighting yourself, you have earned a permanent reprieve. This is my own
personal indicator of depression, because what I’m really saying is that I’m
tired of constantly fighting a battle that no one even knows I’m in and I need
a break.

 


“I want to cease to be. Like I never existed.”

This phrase often comes close to
“rock bottom” when I’m clinging on to the walls of hope and love with bloody
knuckles, waiting for someone to throw me a metaphorical rope. I feel like the
one to blame for everything that’s wrong. If I were better, different, gone,
life would be better for everyone and everything. What I really mean is that I’m
tired of watching everything fall apart and feeling like it’s all my fault. I
want the pain to cease, not my life.

 


“I just want it all to stop.”

Variations of this one seem to be
spoken to the friends or family who got a little too close when I’m emotionally
vulnerable. I don’t want them to worry about me or involve themselves
unnecessarily, but I want them to understand that I’m in pain. I feel
overwhelmed by life: the things that have happened, will happen and are
happening. What I’m really saying is that I need life to pause without
consequences so I can take a deep breath, pull myself together and invest in
some serious self-care.

 


“I can’t do this anymore.”

This one is the rock bottom, end of the line sentence that creeps up at the worst
moments of my battle with depression. There’s no hidden meaning here, it’s very
much self-explanatory. At my very lowest point, this was
the phrase that played on repeat in my head. At that moment, I couldn’t exist
as I was, I couldn’t live the life I had. My last words on earth would have
been these five, because they were the ones that matched the heartache. I
didn’t want to die, but I could no longer live.

 
In the end, not everyone experiences depression or suicidal tendencies in the same
way. But no matter what you mean or what phrase you use, the implications are
real. Being stuck in the grey areas of suicidal thoughts is no less painful,
and yet it’s much less talked about, making it that much more dangerous. There
isn’t just one way to live, and there isn’t just one way to cry out for help.

10 Things Bipolar People DON’T Want You To Know

I can’t count the number of articles I’ve come across with the title # Things Bipolar People Want/Wish You Knew or the List Of Things People With Mental Illnesses Wish People Understood. And for the most part, they’re pretty spot on. But I want to come at it from a different angle. I’ve done my best to keep it pretty similar in format, but if you feel I got something wrong, or missed a key point, drop me a comment! (Images thanks to Google-I own nothing.)

  1. We’re scared of our symptoms too.

bp2There’s nothing quite like the dive between (hypo)mania and depression when you feel like you can see the world crumbling around you. Or the emptiness that makes you feel like a dead (wo)man walking-no cares, no love, nothing. Or the darkest parts of depression when it hurts to cry because you’re trying not to wake anyone, so you silent sob but then you realize you aren’t breathing either and your chest is on fire, but it also feels like you’ve got a ton of bricks on top of you. You wonder if it’s possible to be so sad that you die from it. You walk around with the stress of what could happen if you have a manic episode. The way you lock up your credit cards, carry around only a limited amount of cash because you know you can’t stop yourself from spending everything you have. The way you stay home because you know you’re bound to get into a bad situation because you’ve been manic for a few days and now you’re bored. No matter how “together” we feel we’ve got it, there are days when we are genuinely concerned that

2. We’ve given up hope for ourselves more than you

We know that sometimes we’re a hot mess. Hearing you say “I’m done.” when we have a bad day (or too many in a row), or watching you go for a drive because you “can’t handle” us at the moment just reminds us that we’re alone. And as many times as you’ve grown tired of us, we’ve done that twice as much with ourselves. bp7 If we trust you enough to open up, it’s because we know that we’re eventually going to fail ourselves and we need you to pick up the pieces. It’s not fair of us to smother you in our problems, but if we could figure out how to not make them problems, or how to deal with them on our own, we wouldn’t need help so much. In the end, when the words “I suck” are said, it’s our inner demons speaking and we need you to tell us why we shouldn’t believe them again.

3. We genuinely don’t need a reason to be upset (in any mood) and it makes us trust you less when you yell at us that we DO need a reason.

If we knew why we felt the way we did, we could fix it. We have a mood disorder, not an analysis-of-the-situation disorder. If we’re showing you we have a problem, don’t force us to talk about it before we’re ready. It just makes it worse and we’ll lie about why we’re upset because we just want you to be happy that there is a reason-even if there isn’t. If we have to lie to you, then we don’t respect you as much, because we already fell like we’re lying to ourselves. And lying to anyone else is just a repeat of what we’ve wanted to get away from.

bp8

4. We feel like actors. A Lot. And no, we don’t want to “remove our mask”.

bp1Feeling (hypo)manic? Better find a reason for being able to put in all the extra work, being extra chatty, being extra social. Feeling depressed? Better find a reason to feel sad. Or, better find a way to hide it behind the words “tired”, “sick”, and “allergies”. No one think to question the high-functioning worker or student, especially if it’s peak work time-end of the year sales, there’s a special on at work, it’s final’s season. We blame it on too much caffeine, the hyper form of exhaustion, being really excited for a goal or even wanting to get something done so that you can do something else (the key “give aways” here are goal orientation and chaos). Everyone avoids the depressed, especially if it’s the grey-faced, bags-under-the-eyes, slow-as-molasses individuals who seem to act like that for days. Everyone asks about the first day- “what’s wrong”, “need anything” and so on. But even the answers to those are lies. “Just tired”, “stressed”, “coming down with something”. It’s easier to just go on with the lies than it is to explain everything to every person. Because inevitably we’ll get the “avoidance” treatment ALL the time.

5. Looking at other, more successful people with Bipolar Disorder makes us feel like a disaster.

It is both a blessing and a curse to see the people who have come before (or are presently) and were (are) successful AND bipolar. Van Gogh. Lovato. Van Damme. Cobain. Churchill. Nightingale. Sinatra.Woolf. Artists, Singers, Actors, Leaders and more have graced history with their talents and their diagnoses, some of them succumbing to their disorders, some becoming great advocates. bp6 Not everyone with Bipolar Disorder is going to go on and be famous and we KNOW that. But it hurts quite a lot that some of the people who were most successful at their craft had it and we share a condition and aren’t sharing in the capabilities. It’s easy for us to start a painting or sculpture, musical instrument, novel, poem, whatever and then destroy it because we listen to the voice that says “you’ll never get noticed.” While we’re happy for the successful people with bipolar disorder, we want to be like them too and that usually doesn’t happen.

6. We’re absolutely normal-just in a more spectacular capacity.

successsWhether we want to admit it or not, we’re completely normal. We eat, drink, breathe and exist the same as anyone else. But we do so in a broader spectrum. We experience great sorrow at the loss of a friend, or freedom, or innocence. We experience great anger at perceived injustices, at inequality. We experience pure joy at the birth of our best friend’s first child, at the sight of a rainbow or a thunderstorm, at the realization that we succeeded at a task we’d never tried before. Where other people may feel confused, we feel it more. Where others may feel concern, we feel the weight of the world. It’s not about the Hollywood stereotype of the best-friend-turned-serial-killer. We have jobs that we fight desperately to keep, we have friends and families and we go to school. Just the same as any body else. We just live it more.

7. We become specialists in our diagnoses and we don’t appreciate being compared to your “crazy aunt” or your “moody neighbor”.

It’s nice when people have had genuine contact or a relationship with someone who actually had bipolar disorder. It’s nice to know that if you have an episode, you can talk to them and they can help you through it. It isn’t AT ALL nice when people pretend they understand. We aren’t like your “crazy aunt” who threw your uncle’s things out of the house because he broke her favorite plate. And we aren’t like your “moody neighbor” who doesn’t smile when you say good morning and cackles over his cup of black coffee at a kid who falls off their bike. We just experience life in a deeper spectrum (see number 6). bp4 And while we’re on the topic, STOP calling the weather bipolar. That’s offensive to the people who actually have bipolar and that’s altogether not hilarious. We get it, you have problems with the weather. Bipolar disorder has the capacity to destroy our lives. Pack a sweater and an umbrella. You’ll be fine.

8. We could write a dissertation on suicide and the types of suicidal tendencies.

bp9Everyone, just about, is familiar with the concept of suicide, and there may even be people who have experience with it on a more personal basis. A person with bipolar is exceptionally likely to thought about, if not tried suicide. But there’s more to it than being depressed and then dying. There’s plenty more motives than people want to discuss. And then there are the latent forms of suicidal tendencies. Because most people are familiar with the “I don’t want to live anymore” version. Not as many people think about the “I want to sleep and not wake up” kind or the “I wish I could just cease to be” kinds. We could write novels about this subject in particular and probably come pretty close to making it the encyclopedia of suicidal tendencies and things you never thought to associate with them.

9. We go between being really proud of who we are and feeling like a giant mistake

bp3.jpgWe know it’s a hassle. But some days we wake up feeling like we run the world. And those days are so few and far between that we run with them in the farthest possible manner. Because soon enough, we know there will come a day when we just can’t seem to do anything right. It isn’t that the days when we feel epic are the truth and the other days are lies. It’s more fluid, more layered than that. We are experts at living in all the times (past, present and future). So when we say “We rock” it is at that moment, we feel we have reached a milestone of success which can be seen at that moment. When we say “we suck” it is because at that moment all we can see are the failures. It doesn’t mean we’re completely failures or completely successes, it’s just what looks more prevalent at that particular moment.

10. We don’t know how to live our lives.

The sentence that seems to pop up the most lately is that of “adulting is hard”. There are even renditions which say “I’m done adulting. If you want me, I’ll be in my pillow fort with my coloring book.” At some point, we have come to realize that we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing. We can find things which help us manage our symptoms safely and in a positive way. We can avoid triggers. We can accept only what we can reasonably handle. But in the end, we don’t know what we’re doing. There is no manual for living with bipolar disorder. And even if there was, not everyone is the same, so it might not work for us. Funnily enough though, not too many people (with AND without the diagnosis) know how to live their lives. Turns out, people with bipolar disorder just might be the firs tot admit the way that everyone is feeling. No one knows what’s going on. And that’s part of the fun.

bp5.jpg

Unconventional Letter

Dear Michelle,

Thank you.

Thank you for never giving up. And I know there were times you thought you had to, that there was no other choice. I remember all those nights spent alone, crying in the bathroom, hoping to end your pain with a razor blade. I remember the long days spent not eating, drinking only a cup of coffee in the morning because you felt like you might fall asleep in the middle of calculus if not, then rushing home to see if you’d lost more weight. I remember all of this, but most of all I remember how even though there were times you wanted to, you didn’t choose to die and instead, you chose to live.

Thank you for learning to open up again. After you graduated from high school, you tried to close yourself off, masking your feelings with words like “exhausted”, “the flu” and “allergies”. You kept everyone at arm’s length until you couldn’t take it anymore and you decided to make friends. I know that was hard for you, but I promise it’s paid off.  You’re about to find out that you actually love coffee dates with friends and trying new things.

Thank you for going off meds-even at the disapproval of your then boyfriend. He didn’t know you, you didn’t stay with him, and you really had to choose your own life for your own reasons. I know at that point, you didn’t even understand fully your diagnosis. I’m so proud of you for making your own way. I know in the future you’ll contemplate going back on medicine, and it’ll be hard, but if you don’t want to do something, don’t let the fear of consequences force you to make a decision.

Thank you card

Thank you for walking away from the poisonous relationships you tried so hard to save. You thought that if you just tried harder, loved more deeply, that you could fix them. But they weren’t the ones who needed fixing, and abusive relationships aren’t worth your time. Or effort. I’m so sorry you had to learn that the hard way. But you got past it with some ice cream and art. That was the first time you thought that you might be okay with being alone instead of being with someone who told you that you were always to blame, and that everything he did was to show you that you deserved no one better. You may have been brokenhearted, and it felt like your whole world was dying, but you left. You’re so brave.

Speaking of bravery, there will come a time in your life that you’ll wake up and be paralyzed with the fear of driving. We’ll work through it, and it will be hard for a long time, but please don’t give up. Living in the past, living with the memories of what “could have” happened is only going to hurt us in the long run. Yeah, this is one of those corny “hello, younger me” letters that we swore we’d never write, but I have so many things to thank you for.

Thanks for taking a chance and going out with that boy from high school that you thought was “too short”. You’ll drive each other crazy, but you have a strong marriage, and a lot of really hilarious dating stories that will get you through any disagreements you might have. You even got a dog (he acts more like a cat, and you’ll learn to love him). That boy will learn how to understand your moods, and even help you get through them.

Thank you for working so hard during your mood swings. No one requests to have bipolar disorder, but you’ve done remarkable things with it. You laid the foundation for such great things to happen for your future. But don’t think for a minute that it’s shameful to change your major when you get to college. It’s gonna drive you mad and you’ll feel so completely used up, but you’ll see that the greatest thing is going to happen once you walk through all the open doors. You’ll continue to struggle with food, but honestly, you’re going to love yourself more at the heaviest weight than you ever did when you struggled with your eating disorders. Just don’t go too far in the other direction, okay? Eating too much is bad too. Food isn’t a drug, it’s not meant to protect you from life.

I know that you know life is hard. But thanks for going back into counseling. In hindsight, you probably didn’t have to hide it, because you’re about to become exceptionally vocal about mental health and women’s rights. You aren’t stuck, you aren’t defective, and you most definitely aren’t finished. We have so much work ahead of us, and it’s all thanks to you.

You stuck it out when the world grew dark, when our mind waged wars against us and our heart got so heavy it might burst. You fought each and every day for life to be better, waiting for the day it all meant something. You kept going, even when everything screamed at you to just stop. I know my battles, our battles, don’t end with this little note. We have a whole life to live yet! And I know I didn’t say it then, but I’m saying it now. Thank you, baby girl. Thank you with my whole heart.

You got this, Shells. You don’t need anybody else’s approval, just go for it. You’re about to take your first step in an amazing adventure and you’ll be so surprised where it leads you. I know I am.

The sun will rise again, and so will you.

All my love,

M.

Walk Away

There are days which comes at me a little more harshly than others. I feel like although this could probably be glanced over, maybe it’s still important to get it out in the open. Who knows, maybe someone else will have a similar story.

In three days, I will have been married to my husband for two years. In those two years, we have grown as a couple in ways that I didn’t think we could. We now can anticipate each other: he moves, I move. We know each other’s schedules-not just for day to day life, but days that are hard, moods, all of it. It’s really nice sometimes, sometimes it’s really annoying. (Sometimes I just want to be mad by myself, you know?) But anyway, it isn’t that that bothers me. I love being able to say I am married. And watching people look with their disapproving little heads at us. So many people thought we’d made a mistake getting married young, but we’re stronger now than we were, and we’ve now seen each other at our worst. He and I believe that you should work on a marriage every day, and that having each other is a gift to treasure, not a safety net for convenience.

Around this time, a lot of my Facebook friends have also gotten married. I smile at each and every one of them, hoping they have a good life, a life full of love and happiness. I was invited to several of their weddings, but somehow never managed to make it any.I have a very real issue with new places, new people and large quantities of them. That makes me exceptionally frustrated when I receive an invitation and in a mania state say “yes, I will be attending” and then find the day of the affair that I’m mid depression, full of social anxiety and unable to get dressed in “street clothes” let alone make my way to a glorious event. I’m not making excuses, I’m just highlighting an issue I wish wasn’t an issue.

But there’s something else, which creeps into my heart and creates an emotional disease. When I got married, Ben was in a suit, I was in a cream colored dress from Victoria’s Secret.

crochet (It was this one, as a matter of fact. No, this isn’t me.)

Ben and I were married in a classroom at our college, by one of Ben’s Political Science professors. It was an intimate ceremony, my parents, his dad, his best friend and his best friend’s parents, my siblings and maybe a straggler or two from the university.

I’ll tell the full story on our actual anniversary, because that’s a really epic story, but here’s the part that makes me sad. The professor brought his guitar and played us a song-our first song as a married couple. It was Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. I actually liked that song before, and knew the lyrics ahead of time.

“So take the photographs and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while”

We came back from our weekend away and waited for pictures. We hadn’t hired a photographer, we just asked everyone there to take some. My mother took a video recording (so she and my father are exempt from this).

Every picture was blurred.

I know it sounds trivial. I know. And I’ve gone back and forth for these last two years about how silly I sound. But I have no pictures from my wedding. They all are shaky, blurred images of my backside, of the professor, of the group of people who were there. I have the blurry images, and trust me, they were blurrier as I cried about it.

So I look at Facebook, and all of my friends who got married and the weddings I couldn’t attend. I look at their pictures, the photos they will have forever. And I can’t help but get a little gloomy. I hope they all have the best lives they possibly could. But I also wish that I too had photos to share.

As I listen to that song each anniversary, I can’t help but be reminded of the lines I quoted here. I am left with the memories in my head. And my brain isn’t the most reliable of things, let’s be honest.

jealous

I told Ben that I was upset because when I am old and don’t remember who I am anymore, I will have nothing to show for our wedding day. That’s certainly half of it. But it’s more than that. I also feel incredibly jealous that although I know and he knows that we got married, I have nothing to share with my friends. I can’t show them how happy we looked, our very first moments as a married couple, nothing. And they can all show me.

So I made it my mission to take as many pictures as I could from then on out. I’m working to save up more money for my anniversary tattoo, and I’m going to make sure that although I have no pictures of my first moments as Mrs., I will have enough proof to show that it wasn’t short lived.

(And for those of you interested in the video, there isn’t any audio, and it’s only the back of our heads.)

 

A Little Note

I wanted to post before I got ahead of myself. I thought I was entering depression again a few days ago-the day I put Going Dark up. Turns out, I was just experiencing stress. And that made me think a bit.

It’s incredibly easy to follow the thought patterns of everyone else who thinks they know better than you. I had a crying session in my shower after the poem went up and thought, hmmmm guess this is the end of my hypo(mania) streak. Pity it couldn’t last longer. I figured, if I was going to write dark poetry and then have a sob session in the shower (yay alliteration!) then that had to be it. Goodbye productivity and passion and planning, hello anxiety, depression and moping. I forgot that even I can have a bad day without it turning into a full blown bad time. I was so ready to just give in, letting the cycle take its hold and just collapse under the weight of the world that I hadn’t even stopped to consider that perhaps I was just taking a moment to vent out my pent up frustration.

So I thought I’d take a moment and do what I do best-tell a story.

This is the story of hypo mania from the view point of someone who is completely surprised by it EVERY time it comes up.

I’ve been in hypo for quite a while. Maybe a month? I’ve been exceptionally chatty, I eat a little more than I do when I’m depressed, I’ve taken on quite a few projects and decided to involve myself in the planning of a few others. 99% of my ideas are related to my field of study. I feel spacey in a way that seems…over active. I can barely complete sentences without jumbling words (my brain is thinking faster than I am speaking or typing), I’m louder than usual and I’m jumping from topic to topic as easily as if they were one cohesive train of thought. In fact, I’ve started EIGHT blogs today and had to stop writing all of them because I couldn’t finish. I have since deleted most of them. There are other signs and symptoms but of course my brain has already lept from that page.

I curse more passionately when I’m hypo. I curse more casually when I’m depressed. I cook more original recipes in hypo. The music I listen to changes. I wake up earlier than my alarms, I leave earlier and I manage to keep myself busy. I drive faster. I sing loudly out the window while I drive (complete with hair flipping at stops). 

And this doesn’t just happen on a “good” day-this is literally every day, all day.

So it’s clear to see the difference between hypo mania and depression. But what about actual mania?

Actual mania is a monster.

I’ve only had actual mania once. And that is more than enough to last a lifetime.

There are two things that seperate Mania from hypo (everything else is the same across the board). For me at least.

1. The amount of sleep (or lack thereof) and

2. Hallucinations

I am special in that I happucinate only in the most extreme cases. I can talk about what that’s like if anybody wants to know. If not, that’s just one of my markers. Turns out in the severest of depression, that also occurs. Interesting.

So while I was convinced that I was done being the way I am currently, turns out that I was just suffering from a case of “end of the semester has me completely stressed” and my poor little brai couldn’t take any more so I just popped for a moment, let off a little steam and went back to being the little engine that could.

Who knows how long I’ll be like this, but all I know is that this is better than Mania and if I can squeeze out just enough energy to get me through finals week, I’ll be doing just fine.

Going Dark

I am a hurricane with skin.

I’m falling apart perfectly.

I’m an earthquake between gritted teeth.

I am a massacre with open arms.

I am a plague entombed in jokes and apologies.

I am cosmic radiation in a hoodie.

I am turbulence lulling you to sleep with a song.

I am a sniper with baked goods.

I am fire swirled in a coffee cup.

I am a breakdown that’s gone too far.

I’m a subtle reminder that time doesn’t change.

I’m the weight of the world, on your shoulders.

I am devastating loss with no answers.

I am the teardrops in the rain.

I am depression.

I am rage.

I am loss.

I am conflicted.

I am broken.

I am doubt.

I am a tsunami wrapped up in cells and fat.

I am the pieces on the floor.

I am one of many.

I am the past that keeps you from sleep.

I am the present that feels more like a curse.

I am the future that was taken away.

I am the blackest skies and the deadliest waters concealed in two eye balls and a smile.

I am grief.

I am frustration.

I am hopelessness.

I am darkness.

I am the end.

The Day I Was Honest

I’ve held onto this post, mostly becuase I couldn’t give it all it deserved. I had to be in the right frame of mind. I’m not entirely sure it’s today, but I think I’ve got a good grip on what I want to say and I think it’s a lovely way to open the new calendar year.
Last semester (and thusly last year) I had a lot going on, as we’ve discussed. I had just transferred to the big city, made new friends, was working on establishing myself in the ways of the world. And I began to blog seriously. I watched this video today of an interview with Jada Pinkett Smith, which I absolutely loved and the idea came bubbling up in the back of my head. That’s why I’ve decided to blog on it today.

In the interview, she was talking about how to balance your life. That’s something I really struggle with. I live too much in the future and not enough in the now. I think about how to fix the problems I may encounter and not so much on how to prevent them. So when she said “focus on yourself. Do what makes you happy.”I really felt like we were approaching a revalation. Her argument was that if you do not find a way to keep yourself in balance, to take care of yourself, you will look to others to do so. You will blame them for sacrificing your entire life for them and not getting happiness out of it. And it blew my mind (metaphorically, of course). 

Now that you’ve had some background info, on to the actual point.

Last semester is by far and away not the first time I’ve had to take sick days. I’ve had bronchitis, strep, the stomach flu and a host of colds throughout my life. But I don’t skip irresponsibly. I take pride in my ability to attend school and work with punctuality and integrity. But last semester was the first time I was honest with myself. As I was crafting my email to my professors for the day, I began to reason out what my excuse for missing class was. Was I suffering from a 24 hour bug? Had I awoken with a flat tire or a low battery? Had I merely slept in? And I realized that I needed to stop kidding myself and respect myself as much as I respected the professors.

 

 

Good morning!

I will not be in class today. I need to take a mental health day and will return to class tomorrow. Thank you for your understanding.

Best,

Michelle BB.

For the first time in my entire life, I used that excuse. I’ve always been ashamed to, like it was some sort of cop-out excuse for being lazy. But it isn’t. And in fact, when I returned the next day, my professors went out of their way to make sure I was alright. Two of them even stopped by the office where I work and made it a point to see if I needed anything. They didn’t see me as a lazy, incompetent student. They saw me as an individual who responsibly needed a day to regroup.

  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at their reactions. Mental health has been quite a large topic lately, and I was taking a bunch of anthropology classes, so they all understand the value of psychobiological health. And as I said, I do not skip irresponsibly. There is always a reason-a real reason. But it got me thinking. How can I stand here (or sit) and tell you all that we need to take steps to mental health help and then be ashamed of the fact that I have to use that reason myself? Why was I ashamed in the first place?

Because it still carries the connotations. I don’t want anyone to see me as weak, unbalanced, incapable. I fight hard for people to see the bright, driven, passionate individual that I am. But I guess I got caught up in being a super heroine, without flaw or needs. And I viewed my own mental health as something along the lines of an excuse to be used as a cover up for the fact that I didn’t have the motivation to do something. That isn’t even the case. But I’m glad I learned that. Because mental health isn’t separate from physical health. It’s a facet of the same diamond. I was scared that my professors would use that against me in the future. But all that happened was me finally letting go of the fear and replacing it with the statement “I have to take care of myself-holistically.” And once I did that, I think I managed to do just that.

  So thank you, Jada Pinkett Smith, for reminding me that I do indeed need to find my balance and stop sacrificing myself away. No one else is responsible for my happiness and health.

Every Word’s The Same

I have to say

There seems to be a miscommunication

I thought secrets were for the living

But the only secrets are kept in death

If every second lasted just a second longer

Maybe the trust I thought I deserved 

Would shatter before my eyes

Instead of behind my back

My shoulder blades itch, 

Could you move the knife up and to the left?

Or should I just fall on my face

The beauty of the fall is my disgrace

Is that your heartbeat

Or is it just the echo of a chest that’s hollow

Because you’ve been a tin man your whole life

And I guess that makes me the one without courage.

It takes a tribe to raise a kid, but 

Maybe it was a village of idiots.

You thought you were so clever, so sweet

That I could save you from your own disasters 

You should have looked for a parachute

Because this plane’s about to go down.

I never thought it’d come down to this

A thief and a liar, oh but the twist,

We are the same, you and I

Connected by the handcuffed scars on our wrist.

  (Photo from Pinterest!) 

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

Years ago I had an art teacher tell me that I was no good at drawing, or coloring, or creativity. Those concepts carried into my time as a high schooler, making me avoid art class with a passion. I chose instead, to put all of my efforts into music-where I learned to play various instruments with adequate skill and sang my  heart out in groups and solo. It is the story of my music education that I will hold onto for another day. When I found myself in a visual art class one year, I went to the teacher and explained that “I sucked”. It wasn’t because I had been certified as an individual without artistic powers or that I wanted mercy in the expectations, but because someone had told the impressionable child-me that I was no good and I carried that with me as my own truth. My high school art teacher told me that I didn’t suck and kept after me to keep trying. When my first entry on a larger project was complimented by TWO art teachers, I was confused.

I thought I sucked.

And yet here I am, a number of years later still and I find both coloring and drawing to be comforting. My skills are unpolished and although I find it relaxing, I would not say I am an artist. If you ever wondered what a difference havig art in classrooms can make, please use this story. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I have the utmost respect for teachers with passion, use this story. And when you combine the two, you’ll understand why this is one of the life-defining moments in my life.

I struggle daily with how to define myself. The labels which have been handed to me do not present a complete picture, and there are not words for the other parts of me. As I explored this, I realized that I am in a transient state, changing, moving and shaping myself constantly. I have no labels, because I do not need them. I am an unfinished work of art, still being planned out by an artist who hasn’t decided where this project will go.

I look back on that moment in high school when I struggled with my identity. Perhaps it’s just high school, perhaps I was different. I didn’t know that by breaking down the walls of my childhood-the misconceptions that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worth investing time in-I would be doing the best thing for myself.

It has been 8 years since I stepped foot inside the high school I would graduate from. I was a junior when I took the art class that convinced me I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful. 

I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful.

So here I am, almost a decade after I began my transformation into the adult I will become. I haven’t finished changing, and in fact, I imagine I will be someone new before I finish. But the thing is, those words stuck with me. The teacher I had in high school is both someone whom I admire deeply and a source of great inspiration to me. She pushes me still to see the world in a different way than may be easy, or colorless. And so one of the things I’ve been working on this semester is exploring that change. What I came up with I’ve been putting into writing, becoming more assertive in what I need to say. What I don’t show people often is that I also put my messages into drawings. Sometimes they are tattoo sketches far too big and detailed to be reasonably priced, sometimes they are metaphorical and drawn in an utmost surreal context. But then there’s this piece.

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

  I so named it that because I wanted to show how my change is both reflective of who I am now, and the product of who I was. I’d like to take a moment and explain what I feel the message is. You don’t have to like it, just consider it.

The basic content is: a waterfall, a phoenix and two sets of hands. That much, I gather you could figure out for yourself. The next layer are the words in the background: Transform, Brave, Love, Acceptance, Beautiful, Hope, Life, Forgiveness, Growth. There is the color scheme to consider, the level of detail (and shading) in the hands, the size of the hands and the “decoration” of the hands, as well as the way the background is set up. 

The nine words are the ones I had to learn the hard way. They are reflective of self, things that were not always easy for me to fully grasp.

The background grows darker, more assertive as it approaches the bigger hands, more concrete. The waterfall is closer to the small hands. The left side of the picture in general is lighter, less defined, more washed out. 

And the hands themselves. On the left, you have a child’s hands. They are reaching out for help, open and expressive. The nails are painted black, and the waterfall is suggestive of losing oneself, “going off the deep end” and trying to “keep my head above the water”. The hands themselves are lightly shaded, as though the owner is becoming invisible. And yet there are bright red marks on the arms-dashes, hope and love. I can promise you that this isn’t a shock-and awe piece, but a true to life representation of the way my arms looked spring of my freshman year. I don’t talk about it often, it isn’t a story too many people know, but now they will. Those two words were the things I wanted most out of life-hope of a better life and love that would heal all wounds. And yes, I really did cut them into my arms with diamond Os and the Es facing vein length. It is honest and brutal.

On the right, there is the me that I am now. older, stronger hands with imperfections (like crooked fingers) reaching out to the younger me, the me that is representative of the 2-3 million people who engage in self harm each year. The right side reaches out, without judgement, offering safety and hope and love to those without. The nails are blue and a silver wedding band is there. But if you look closely, the scars are still there, silent reminders that what was done cannot be undone, but can make you stronger. 

In the end, it was never about being right or being wrong. It was always about being the person who broke free from their shell to embrace something new. I may not be perfect, but I made something beautiful: a new life. And that is the true evolution. Like a phoenix, I took my failures and created brilliance. I cannot wait to see what comes next.