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.

Leave Out All The Rest

I so frequently get to talk about depression, and how it affects my life, but I so rarely get to talk about mania. It’s a confusing time in my life, and I really have no life-altering things to say about it. But I want to give a peak into it anyway, for the sake of the story.

I’ve only had I’d say one episode of actual mania-the kind that keeps me up for weeks (not days!) without caffeine, the trouble focusing, the jittery kind of organic buzz that makes me need to multitask incomprehensibly. Everything else has been hypo-mania. And that is in no way less confusing, it is simply not as…devastatingly so. Welcome to today.

mvh

I can never tell when it’s going to hit. I always know when it’s going to end.

I pick up little indicators along the way. Being chatty, staying up late, needing to be artistic-like an actual need that consumes me, mind racing. And by the time all of these are present, chances are I’ll also exhibit the one last symptom that I have to fight to control: money spending.

I’m not a gambler-I’m really bad at it and I don’t necessarily like it. I don’t dislike it either. I just happen to like “getting” stuff when I spend money. It might be a couple of things here, some bits and bobs, herbs, trinkets. It really depends on my mood. All that actually matters is getting the mail. That’s my favorite part. It’s like a birthday that I give myself.

I didn’t experience the spending thing until rather recently-within the last two or three years. Spending money is normally a source of anxiety for me. I don’t like watching my bank account lose numbers. But every so often I go out and buy enough stuff that it creates a dent. And then I work my butt off to make sure that it left no lasting mark on my budget, my bills or anything else.

The first time it happened, I spent over $200 on trading cards. I told myself that I needed a hobby. So I bought cards (which had to be shipped to me) and then went to the store to buy the card protectors and a binder. My dad and I had a card collection since I was little, and I finally organized those too! It’s now one of my prized possessions.

prize

(This is my most prized card.)

The next time, I think it was herbs, oils and protective jewelry. I bought evil-eye stuff, relaxation stuff and I think I got some miscellaneous spiritual jewelry. Then came candles and soap. I bought the kind with jewelry in it. Double presents! Each time I knew I should put that money towards something more necessary-like saving for grad school, books for next semester or some clothes that actually fit. But those things aren’t fun-they’re just necessary. And necessary feels like a chore sometimes. Not manic-completely ordinary and therefore out of the question.

Thankfully, some small part of my brain still functions on a normal basis and I stop myself before I completely ruin my life. It’s always a fear though. But this time around, I am prepared. I have a million days worth of craft stuff, the book about body positivity and safety and I have hundreds of other ideas that might help. I think I’ll be okay.

I hate being on the “high”. My mind races so fast with such great ideas that I wish I could slow it down for just long enough to write everything down and complete everything. I start dozens of projects and I intend to finish them all, but they only reach partial completion and end up in the “I might get to this next time” pile. I fly around ideas so fast that it almost hurts.Because the only way to make it stop is to drown it out completely. When I’m up, it’s music 24/7-so that I can get some sleep, can moderate my activities. And I find it so weird that I have to stop myself in order to function.

But in all, some of the best ideas I’ve ever had have come from times like these. One Christmas/Yule season I made quilts for ALL of my in-laws (I think it came out to about 15 full sized quilts-the pictures were lost when my computer crashed), there was one time that I wrote 75000 words for a book in about 20 days, and of course, there are other not-so-grandiose things like finishing entire TV series in a couple days, reading whole sagas without stopping and the like.

late-night-reading_opt

As it would turn out, the days that I feel the least bit like me are the days when I act mostly in my own self interest. I set out to change the way I see the world. I craft things to make the dark days seem better, I buy things in preparation for the crappy days when I need something to make me smile. I set myself up opportunities to do great things and chug along so that when the bad days come (and they most certainly do) I can remind myself that I can do it.

So today, I send my children’s book out to agents, I powerhouse through my homework, the housework and then, if I feel really motivated, I may even sculpt a little. Because to lose this momentum will be a tragic, bizarre thing and I’m not ready to just yet.

Van Gogh’s Birthday

This day is such a beautiful day, each and every year. One of my favorite artists (second only to Da Vinci) was born on this day. He lived his life in such a way that it is remembered even today. Although not very rich, famous, or even renowned during his life, his work lives on today as invaluable.

  
   

                                                                  
(These are two of my favorite pieces of Van Gogh’s. They’re just fabulous.)

On top of that, today is World Bipolar Day. It was so chosen to be on this day BECAUSE it is Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday. You see, he was posthumously (after he was already deceased) diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which led him to commit suicide. Today, so many people are sharing their stories, promoting the end of stigmas and several hashtags, among which are #WeAreMoreThanADiagnosis and #WeAreNotAlone

                     

I’m in the middle of a couple other blogs, which are tandemly connected to this topic today about mania and depression, but I want to bring up one key point that resonates throughout. Today isn’t a day for words, it’s a day for pictures.

                                                   

                               

  
  

  

                                                 

Why Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

I don’t know about you, but I look through Pinterest and there are days when I get so revved up about what I see that I have to stop looking at it for a few hours, or I’ll keep going back to it and get all worked up. Especially when I look at the feminism stuff or mental illness pins. And I am very much for both of those sections. But you know as well as I do that any old fool can post things without having an inkling of knowledge to back up those words. And it is that ignorance that gets to me. So, let’s jump in the time machine and I will tell you all about why.

I’m a proud Pinterst fanatic. I have over 20 thousand pins. It’s taken LARGE amounts of my time to get that far, but I consider it an invaluable resource to my life. For those of you (are there any?) who don’t know what Pinterest is, it’s kind of like a networking site for ideas. You “Pin” ideas to a “board” and save recipes, DIY projects and so many things. But it can also be used for keeping ideas together. I belong to both camps. Today, I’m going to focus on how social media (specifically Pinterest) perpetuates incorrect information about mental illnesses and disorders: namely EDs (Eating Disorders).

I doubt there are in here, but I know how this works, so just in case.

***TRIGGER WARNING*** Some symptoms, stories and elements may cause flare ups of conditions. The author does not condone or suggest any actions which may cause bodily harm.

I know that if you go into Pinterest and type in “Eating Disorders” into the search bar, you will most likely get a different result list than I will. So I’m going to do this the only way I know how: screen shots! I will caption them with WHAT I want you to pay attention to and then WHY it’s important to today’s blog. This is going to be a personal one today, and I hope that means it helps more than I rant.

  
First off, I like this. I mean, I’m not really sure why I couldn’t immediately connect to Pinterest, but I’m ultimately glad I didn’t. And it goes to show, that the moment I try to prove my point, something inevitably happens that changes my mind. Sort of. So thank you, Pinterest for being on the ball. I appreciate that.

  
 
I want you to look at the top left “hand” picture AND the one right beside it. Those two pictures I am calling into question because although you cannot sum ANY disorder up into a single picture, these only scratch the surface. ALL of these pictures do. The focus is on being skinny. But this screen shot shows my point as well. Looks can be deceiving. And the truth is, you really may not ever know who you are until you break away all of the pieces you thought you were made of.

  
 
This time, focus on the gentleman , and the woman at opposite corners. The great thing is that it highlights men having EDs too; a topic we need to focus on more! The problem with the gentleman’s picture is the same as above: it focuses on the skinny issue. And granted you could argue that that is the “basis” of eating disorders, but I would argue it is merely a facet of some of them. The problem I have with the second one actually requires more than a caption so I’ll bump down a paragraph.

Yes you do. You absolutely do decide one day that that is the course of action you are going to take. It may be subtle, like backing off, extreme dieting or eating less and less. It may be abrupt and one day you just stop eating solids, or anything at all. But you DO decide it. And it basically happens in a day. You just can’t take the pressure or the shame or the guilt and you decide you’re going to do something about it.

I was 14 when I first started dabbling with EDs. Almost a decade later, I’m not sure I’m any better.

The first thing I tried was Bulimia. I can make myself purge on demand and I enjoyed the taste of food so I thought: At least I can still taste the things I love. But the thing is, I HATE puking. I really do. And no matter how much I convinced myself that it would help, I dreaded each meal for the sole reason that I would have to throw it up. I maybe lasted in this phase a grand total of 2 weeks. Any extraneous symptoms were not entirely present. (Or had been present BEFORE onset.)

  

So I moved to Anorexia. By the “height” of my time in this disorder, I was only eating an apple a day and that is why I became a caffeine addict. I fought so hard to stay awake every day. And since I have many years worth of experience in this disorder, let me tell you some things.

  

First. While the motivation to be skinny is a big draw into this disorder, it isn’t the thing that keeps you there. You become trapped, like you cannot stop. You feel like it’s your life now and that is all there will ever be. And did I mind that my collar bone stuck out, that my ribs were exceptionally visible? I lived for those signs that I was making progress. But those are the “sexy” side effects. I’m here to tell you about the not-so-sexy ones.

I began to pass out. Sometimes at home, sometimes at school, always without knowing it. It was kind of like narcolepsy-it just happened. And on top of the literal black outs, I began to loose whole chunks of time. There are, even still, very large portions of my memory that are not clear because I didn’t feed my brain enough to make them last. On top of that, I have little hairs all around, which were not there before. You wouldn’t know it, because I take care of it, but even now, they remain. And the hair on my head falls out in great clumps, just as it did before. I missed menstrual cycles-sometimes for 6 months or more. Not because I was pregnant, but because my body couldn’t succeed in normal functions. My fingernails would constantly chip and break, but the worst thing was how weak I felt. I felt slow, my head felt too big, it was like being stuck in extreme gravity for months on end.

And the thing is, no one even noticed. I wore baggy clothes, bundled up, and tried to hide from everyone. This photo was taken of my in my junior year, I believe. I was trying to catch up on some caffeine, clearly. (I said I was a caffeine addict. And I remember this. It was during prom planning, when I had to try hardest to fit in.) The shirt I was in was a medium. 

  

I was 5 foot 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall at that point, as I am still,  and “look healthy”. But what you can’t see are the constant struggles with food, the endless exercises,  the constant state of pain. All you can see is laughter. A facade.  The me that I outwardly projected. Which is exactly what my primary care physician saw when I went in with the complaint of forgetting chunks of time and passing out. She told me that it was all menstruation related and that I needed to “focus harder”. She could have inadvertently killed me with those words, but luckily I saw a psychiatrist soon after.

And now?

That’s what everyone wants, right?  The triumphant “I survived. And now I’m better. ” story. But I don’t think that’s the story I have for you.  Not today.

I currently fall into the “obese” category of the BMI chart. And does that bother me? A lot. I stay so far away from the starvation diet that I jumped right into the other band wagon. 

  
Puts an interesting spin on things, doesn’t it? Like a big fat slap in the face. I didn’t even know there was a name for what I was doing to myself. And the thing is: I’m not so different than I was before. I spend a day eating whatever I want followed by a day of not really eating, or by a week of heavy dieting. And the people who know me know that I diet a LOT. We’re talking everything shy of weight loss pills. And the cycle repeats. And I’m almost afraid to call it what it is, because I still can’t decide if it’s a lack of willpower, self control or if it’s just lazy, “emotional” eating. With Bulimia and Anorexia, I could relate to 90% of the psychiatrist’s symptom list, but only about 80% of the list I supplied. (More with AN than B.) But I can check off every single symptom up there for BED) and if that’s not saying something, I’ll tell you what is.

I’ve had some variety of ED for HALF MY LIFE (almost-we’re short by 2 years). My hair, even though it is thick (as we discussed a couple posts ago) falls out in large clumps. My nails break often (but I try to compensate with the vitamins I take). My body still has little hairs from being anorexic, I feel sluggish and exhausted a LOT, and I cannot say that I enjoy these decisions. By being anorexic, I ruined my body. I broke who I was as a person and watched the pieces slip away. But with B.E.D., I’ve hidden any growth behind a wall of food, shame and pain trying to avoid crushing my soul into oblivion (all while sabotaging it instead). 

So all in all, what I have to say can be boiled down into two parts. First, the Pinterest issue. Not all EDs are about being skinny. I didn’t even touch on orthorexia. Not all EDs are publicized, but ALL of them need to be taken seriously.

And second, I make a public promise to myself, that I will never stop fighting for people who need it, even if they do not look like anything is wrong. Because for years the only thing people were concerned about was the physical harm I was inflicting on myself, and noone even saw the neglect and torture behind it.

So although this isn’t an update for you all, I’ve been working on this post for over three weeks, and I want everyone to know that I am getting help I don’t know the future, but I have to take back control.

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.

What an Effing Nightmare

I’m fat is the stupidest sentence on the whole damn planet. I am not a blob of blubber, just as I am not strep throat or bipolar. I have those things (except for strep-I have had but do not currently). Anywho, I have spent over a decade telling myself this stupid sentence. If you notice, I have no pictures of myself on this blog, I have maybe 3 selfies on Instagram and overall, I really don’t do photographs. But why? Because I’m still trying to figure out how to define myself according to rules which are not that sentence.

  (This picture drives me crazy. At least we’re active, dammit.)

 I have fat. Mostly a lot of it. It’s kind of a big deal. And I hate it. I’ve been weaning myself off of soda (Dr. Pepper is my weakness), and I added a small but intense workout to my daily routine. It’s planks, wall sits and low cardio. And I have chosen to be open and honest about it. Not because I want you all to laugh at me, but because I have a message that others need to hear.

  (These aren’t me, but I think they’re a pretty solid representation of the parts that I keep hidden.)

 I decided I’d had enough of being fluffy. I want to look healthy, not like I do now. I feel embarrassed, and it’s a great source of sadness. I made myself this way, but I also didn’t. I was put on the birth control that allows for 3 periods a year because mine were really painful. And while I was on that birth control, I gained 80 pounds. That’s 4 times more than I gained from mood stabilizers and anti-depressants. I stress ate and that didn’t help at all. But after that, I continued to be large and in charge. Only I wasn’t in charge. I was out of control.

  But what is it that I ate? Salads mostly. And coffee, soda, pizza, spaghetti. My calorie intake was between 1300 and 1600 per day, over half of that was drinks. I ordered low fat coffee from Starbucks if I chose to get anything other than tea. Even now, I eat maybe twice a day, I drink coffee like it’s going out of stock and I drink water, between 2 and 3 bottles a day (unless it’s a hard day and then only 1-which is bad, I know). My calorie intake recently has been between 1400 and 1650, with most of it being creamer and dinner. My breakfast is usually peanut butter toast. Is it super healthy? No. But I should not be obese.

Did that word startle you? It did me too. But it isn’t a death sentence unless you make it so. Which is where we find me this past week. I decided I was far too stressed and I was going to try to get into a regular workout routine. And so far, I’m doing great. But it’s because I know the shitty parts have to end sometime.

  (This is a plank. It’s also called pain.)

 It started out just feeling tired. I felt like my body was at the point of sheer exhaustion. Then came the nausea, the light headedness and the muscle pain. The latter I had expected but the first two I hadn’t. This came on slow and then got worse the more days that passed. Fast forward to today (Okay fine. Today is day 3, but I’m trying darn it!) and I feel like I can only keep water down. Food turns my stomach, I feel really icky on the inside and my muscles are aware that I mean business. And it was in that line of thought that I recalled watching several seasons of The Biggest Loser a few years back. A lot of the people were really sick while they were beginning their workout routines. I remember watching an episode where the woman had to keep stopping to puke because her body was detoxing.

  I brought this up to my husband and he reminded me that I hate eating fast food and that I always get salads and I should be fine. But the thoughts persisted. He asked if I wanted him to work out with me and I said:

No. It’s embarrassing.

He then asked why it was embarrassing that I was making myself into a better me. I shook my head and got down to business. 

  But really. Why is it that I felt like it was embarrassing that I struggle? I’m doing something. I’m trying, which is more than I can say for the old me. It’s really hard. I feel sick, my tummy hurts (because I’ve been doing abs) and I feel all around like a big ball of crap. But I’m already more dedicated than I was in the past, because I’m pushing through the pain and working out anyway. And yes, I still feel a little embarrassed that I can only hold a wall sit for a minute and a half before it feels like someone is sawing off my thighs or that I can only hold a plank for 30 seconds before my flabby arms buckle from stress. But you know what? I’m doing something about it. And maybe today I will go for 2 minutes straight, or learn how to use an elliptical. And the fact that I’m still trying is worth more than the pain.

  

Or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

What I want people to take away from this, more than anything is that it’s hard. Change always is. And we can sit around waiting for life to correct the travesties it has enacted upon us or we can get up and kick it in the face. I really hate working out. I hate running, I hate lifting, I hate all of it. But I’m not doing all this because I really want to look at the number on the scale and smile. I am, we are so much more than a number. I want to look myself in the eyes in the mirror and be attracted to myself. I want to learn how to take myself out on dates, and have the confidence to walk into the mall and get my hair done or my nails (am I even that person?!) without feeling like everyone is staring at me because my stomach is round. I want you to take away that this sucks worse than anything I’ve ever purposefully done to myself, but I turn my music up that much louder and scream over how much it hurts. Because if I want to be around to see all my reams come true, or to survive the zombie apocalypse, I’m going to need to practice my roar.

  

(I would like to thank Google for always having the pictures I need to make my point.)