You Got Me There

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Today is the day that I come out of my shell once more, and tell you all about a subject that I believe needs more sincere attention. It is National Bipolar Awareness Day. I have some helpful infographics here for you all, and I think that Ineed to be the change I want to see in the world, so I’m going to discuss why YOU and I and EVERYONE needs to start talking about mental health.

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5.7 million Americans. “There are 321,271,372 people in the United States of America.” according to howmanyofme.com and that means that there are roughly 2% of Americans (1.77%) living with this disease. Comparatively, there are  10 times as many people who simply live with some mental illness diagnosis. Since this day is dedicated to Bipolar Disorder, I will focus thusly. (These numbers all change depending on where your sources are and who actually did the research, so keep that in mind. These are “low” estimates.)

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So what IS Bipolar Disorder?

I can promise you that it is NOT a crutch. People who live with this disorder are not seeking attention because they have very little else to do-it is a chemical imbalance in the brain.

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Sound like fun, right?

It isn’t. There are moments when you feel like you are invincible. You can go for days, live life freely. And then comes the crash-the moment when life isn’t your oyster, it’s your cage and you’re running out of oxygen. And there’s more than one kind. There are more than 2 kinds. But the 2 which everyone seems to be “familiar” with are:

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So what can we do to help?

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All in all, having a mental illness is not much different than having a physical one-because as a human, we are both the mental and the physical. You see, there are not too many people who would go to a cancer survivor and tell them to “get over themselves”, but there are plenty of people who passionately do that to someone with a mental illness. It’s time to change these stigmas and reclaim healthy lives.

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I Live Alone

Dawn breaks

And my heart with it.

I close the blinds

To keep harsh rays at bay.

Time passes

And yet my feelings remain.

The hands on my watch move

Without me.

I make a cup of tea,

But my tears leak into it

I can barely put it down

My hands shake so much.

My husband comes home

But I’m far away

He asks me what’s wrong

But there are too many right answers.

The sun sets

And my problems arise

Waiting for darkness

To persecute me.

I fall asleep

Wishing to be free

But the shell that is me

Keeps me caged and alone.

I’ll See You Tomorrow

It is this day.

Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day.

Before I get into what I have to say, I want to focus on you. You who are downtrodden, broken and hurting. You who have traveled and fought and muddled your way through the vast recesses of your mind only to find darkness, fear and loneliness.

You don’t have to be alone. You aren’t alone. And you don’t have to be afraid. We are here.Brain Hands

As I sat through class today (anthropological theory) we touched on Emile Durkheim. He was one of the first people to really study suicide and the reasons why someone would take that option. The professor looked around and asked “Is it today or tomorrow?” Knowing what she was referring to, I told her it was today, voice hushed and reverent. The words which came out of her mouth next will stick with me for the rest of my life. She said:

“I’m not going to tell you it will get better. That’s bullshit. What I will tell you is that you’re not alone. That’s the truth.”

Bipolar 2

I saw a tumblr blog (I believe) which said something like:

Today my anthro professor said something kind of really beautiful: “You all have a little bit of ‘I want to save the world in you’, that’s why you’re here, in college. I want you to know that it’s okay if you only save one person, and it’s okay if that person is you.” I feel like a few people I know could stand to read this.

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Now, firstly, as an anthro student, I’m excited we all have professors who just “get it”.

Anyway. The people at TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms) have a theme for today, which is conveniently located in my title. I want to tell you where that came from. This was taken from the email I received.

“Above all else, we choose to stay. We choose to fight the darkness and the sadness, to fight the questions and the lies and the myth of all that’s missing. We choose to stay, because we are stories still going. Because there is still some time for things to turn around, time for surprises and for change. We stay because no one else can play our part. Life is worth living. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

Bipolar 3

I know you are all carrying about your day and you’ve got a hundred thousand things on your mind. But remember this: At some point, your actions could have been the one thing making someone hold on when they felt like there was nothing left for them.

I was a freshman the first time I wanted to die. I was a little overweight, I felt the pressures of the expectations others had for me a little too greatly and I had excessive expectations for myself. But the thing is, no one told me that it was okay to be afraid and to let go of the things which were holding me back. No one told me that at the end of the day, it didn’t matter what society told me was needed from me. All I needed to hear was that I wasn’t alone: that I was loved and that there was hope. But then again, I’m not even sure I would have listened. Sometimes depression sucks that way.

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I carved the words “hope” and “love” on the insides of my forearms with razor blades. I had cut slices into my thighs. I had taken pills. The kind that when you take too many, bad things happen (like death). I took a LOT. I expected that in the end, someone would be glad that they didn’t have to clean up my blood, that they wouldn’t have to do much to make me look like I was sleeping. Inside, I was a scared little girl who had been pushed too far, had cried too much.

And then I threw up. I threw everything up and I kept on heaving. I tried and I tried to empty my stomach, empty my heart of feelings, empty myself until there was nothing left to hurt. And what I was left with was the quiet void of someone who felt a little too much and couldn’t go any further.

Into therapy I went, and if you look at the me who types here today, you can see that there are still some moments when the little empty shell pops out, waiting for a moment of your time. You can see the hurt and the pain which emptied me out all those years ago. But you can also see the me that faces my fears every single day. That pushes my boundaries and tries even when that little shell comes out. The little girl looks up at me with hope and love, kissing the scar tissue that remains on my skin.

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The thing is, no one gave me a reason to live, so I thought that that was a reason to die. But then I found out the most honest, sincere truth I’ve ever learned:

When I found no one to give me a reason, I gave myself the chance. I had to learn how to give myself love, how to open up a beacon of hope for myself.

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And here I sit, in my pajamas after a long day of class, drinking sweet tea and eating some zucchini thinking back on that dark time in my life, reflecting on the words of the two anthropology professors.

It isn’t that life stays bad forever. You just have to learn to see the good even when no one turns on the light.

So, my dear world, I would like to thank you all for existing. And I want you to know that I look forward to seeing each and every one of you tomorrow.

Third Quarter 2013 123

If I Could But Remember

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If I could but remember

The way my smiles came

The breeze by which they blew in

Or was it the summer rain?

There is no reason why I can’t

Recall the good times few

But each time I stopped believing them

I saw nightmares as true

The golden fleece of healing

Did nothing for my eyes

For all I saw was darkness

In the silver lining lies

If I could but remember

What it was making me so sad

Then perhaps I’d find a better way

To keep this smile that I had

The doom and gloom have left me

I cower in silence no more

For what I thought was incomplete

Was the thing I went looking for

The smiles came by blizzard

Not subtle but by force

It wasn’t the eternal kind

But the kind which dies of course

If I could but remember

Feeling normal though I try

I know it would all be sacrilege

To hide the smiles while I cry.

The Rant of June 19th.

*Preface–I found this little free write gem while I was cleaning out my computer files. While I don’t feel completely the same currently, the emotion is gloriously honest. Welcome, everyone, to the depression phase of my life.*

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The fact of the matter is that days like this suck. And I’m not talking about the regular, teenage version of the word. I’m talking about the full blown suck the life right out of you, can barely breathe kind of suck. And what is there to look forward to when you live your life like that? So I’m not supposed to be a victim, I’m supposed to be a victor or a warrior or a heroine. And you know what, for about point five of a second, I feel like I could do that if the situation arose but then I go back to being the me that I am literally every single day and gods that sucks. I mean, what is there that’s so freaking special about me anyway?

I felt like I was supposed to be born a different person, or at a time when I would have fit in and then I look at that long and hard and realize I would have never fit in anywhere. I mean honestly, am I that big of a freak that I literally have no place in the time space continuum that I can find some damn comradery? So here I am doing this free write, like it’s going to provide me with this epic insight into where I went wrong, or like it will magically strip me of all the negativity that I’ve built up-like a good teeth cleaning. But truth be told, I actually feel nothing. I mean literally nothing. I’m not upset, I’m not happy, but I know that I should feel something and that fact kinda bothers me. Either way, here I am and truly, I can only stop and notice that once upon a time I wished really hard that I would be special, that I would have something that would set me apart from the rest of the world. Little did I know. Honestly, I would probably go back in time to that me and punch her in the freaking nose. Stupid little shit.

But here I am, the girl who can fake a smile better than anybody and still feel like a fecking loser. What I don’t understand is how all these famous people I read about, like Robin Williams or Van Gogh actually found their muse. I mean I know that I don’t suck at everything-statistically that’s impossible- but I can’t seem to find the thing that I suck at less than everyone else. I tried painting, and singing and that was fine and well but really, I’m only good at those things if I sit and stare at a picture for hours, reworking it a million times or if people have nothing else to listen to. And then there’s writing and let me tell you something about that. I wrote a novel, some 75 thousand words and not one agent said “hey that’s pretty good, let me look at it further”. In fact they all said “that’s a good idea” but then followed with “but I’m not looking for it”. So which is it? Is it a good idea or is it a bad one? Because if it was good, you’d get it and make money. If not, then you lied.

So here I am an academic artist without a medium and I’m supposed to not be a victim. What does that even mean? I keep looking up “not a victim” quotes on Pinterest and such but all I get are those flaky shit things that are like “life is gonna be rainbows eventually”. That’s complete and total bullshit. But I hope somebody actually feels better when they read it. I just know that I don’t. I need meaning. I need honest, gritty, shitty truth. And this society is just full of shit. I don’t mean the people necessarily, I mean the crap we put on TV and the way that everything seems so damn fake and superficial. There used to be a bigger meaning, but now it’s all entitled bullshit.

But regardless, I think the therapy sessions I had been going to were helpful. I don’t necessarily feel like I’m a different person, but at least I found someone who was willing to listen to me without judgement or expectation of anything in return. That is the one thing I have going for me. I guess you could argue that I also have my husband going for me, and while that is true, it isn’t as though he’s there 100% of the time, after all he has his own life and his own independence. I’m saying that he’s my rock, and I have no other but sometimes I need to just get lost in the ocean for a while. I hate that I feel so adrift. I mean, is that normal? Is that the way every average 22 year old feels? Am I actually deluding myself into thinking that I’m extraordinary when in actuality I’m completely average? God that would be a fecking waste. I think that would be my breaking point.

And with that thought in mind, I decided I was going to get a medical ID bracelet. I know that that means that I need to get an updated diagnosis, and that I cannot go back once I decide to dawn that piece of metal. Is it like my superhero cape? Shit, that’s my life isn’t it? I’m not actually a superhero, I’m a mentally ill psycho with a damn piece of metal that says “CRAZY”. Great. But it could always be worse right? I mean I could be pregnant and into hard drugs and dropped out of college with all those student loans and then be crazy on top of that. Puts it into a kind of perspective I suppose.

Good talk team.

The Worlds of Grey and Color

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The world I live in is grey. It’s filled with grey buildings and grey streets. The water is grey, the clouds are too and the people no longer wear the smiles that were there before, but the deep anguish that comes to you as though the plague. It’s not though. It’s not the plague, it’s something far worse: anxiety, depression, sleepless nights spent in a lackluster life. Or maybe that’s just what I see when I look at them.
Sometimes I see the world in a golden haze. The shimmers of laughter so heartfelt that I can practically see the glitter falling from the moments. The memories fade like an old reel video, the kind with no color, just the black and white of stark reality. Those moments are contagious, leading one to another until all of a sudden the movie stops and I rewind it to have the same conversations, the same memories playing in my head for hours, days at a time. I don’t sleep, because it hinders my time being productive, and honestly I don’t miss it. I can keep going, no time for rest necessary. And as I continue to watch, the video speeds up, my consciousness with it, watching the reel in fast forward, rushing through my life, watching in the rearview mirror. The thing is, I know I’m watching it but not living in it. Suddenly I notice a scratch in the picture, like a reminder that I am telling a lie. I start to make lists, plan to fix it. I go out to buy the supplies, and when I return from my trip, I realize I’ve bought only half the things on my list and an entire collection of things I will never use, nor will I even look at for a few months. So I go back out, this time collecting a few more trinkets and a couple more items from my list until I realize that I’ve spent most of my hard earned money on useless objects and so I begin to agonize over the money I lost. The stress and anxiety eat at me, so much so that I cannot watch the tape of my life, even though I’ve been patching it up. So I try to make a new video.
That one starts out promising, but eventually I discover that it’s exactly like the first, a lie, and I stop my work. The videos provide me with the reassurance of the ordinary, the mundane and for a moment that comforts me. I can take a moment from the stress of living life and recall with perfect clarity times when my life was simple and made sense.
Until I can’t.
One day I wake up slowly, one night I can’t fall asleep. But it isn’t like before. This time I’m so tired I lie in bed for hours, praying for sleep to take me. The sun comes up on me, but I notice it isn’t carefree, it’s accusing me of being in bed for days at a time. I start to listen to the same sad songs about life being a lie, about the future that never comes and I realize that I’ve been making up the entire experience. There was never a film, nor was there a projector. I wasn’t living in the movies of my life, I was living in the recesses of my own mind, where there is no one but me, no matter how many people it seemed like there were.
So I tell someone.
They start out saying that they will be there for me, and I’ve heard it before. But I carry on, hoping that the feeling in the pit of my stomach is wrong. I tell them that I’m no longer sure where reality begins and my imagination ends. And for a while, they hold me protectively, as though I might shatter at the slightest change. I begin to feel at ease and I know that the past is the past and that I picked the wrong person to trust in last time, this time will be different.
Until it isn’t.
The person who said they’d always be there for me lied. Maybe not in the malicious way, but in the way that hurts me most. And that lie doesn’t just cause me to stop telling them things, it causes me to withdraw into my mind, the very place I just came out of. I stop trying to make myself feel better and I try to protect myself with walls that I had torn down. Eventually the relationship withers and dies and I blame myself. If only I didn’t need so much help. If only I weren’t so unlovable.
Then comes the darkness.
The world I live in is beautiful. It’s filled with beautiful scenes of color filled things, and there are people there who love me. The sky is blue, the water is too and there are songs which fill my heart to the brim with life and love and awe. There is no hatred, only the slightest whisper of the pain I vaguely remember.
As I begin to accept that I mean nothing, that my life is more trouble to live than others can accept, I do the one thing I can to protect what little self I have left: I run. Maybe not literally, but metaphorically. I run back into my mind, into the world I created. I feel at home in the bright blue skies, the crystal like oceans and the deep green of the trees. The parts of my mind that I had shunned come back out to greet me, as though they knew I wasn’t trying to hurt them, I was trying to live in the grey world. The more I talk to these parts, I realize that the only person who could possibly love me is myself, these little parts of my mind that welcome me without judgment each time I return.
But I feel guilty.
After all, I did run out on them, push them away and hurt their feelings, my feelings. These little parts of me that have always been with me, whispering in my ear that I can succeed, that I can be loved. These parts that whispered louder than those that wanted to tear me down. But soon enough I give into the solemn blackness that calls to me ever so softly. I am worthless. I am nothing. I could never fit in, everyone will lie to me, hurt me. And it’s all my fault. I start to slip down the spiral, deeper than before, into the deepest parts of the blackness inside me. So dark, I think I might never find the light again. Nor would I deserve the chance to.
And then I find a single speck of glitter.
I vaguely remember the parties in the sun, the laughter and wonder. What if I have it wrong? What if I just didn’t know what I do now? I could take this little piece of glitter and make a better me, a new and improved me. And all I have to do is fight for it. So I claw my way back into the sun, awaiting my day of recognition. And there I sit, filming the next reel, watching my life pass me by.
The world I live in is grey, but the other one is brightly colored. In the first there are people I cannot trust, but will always try to. And I get hurt each time I do. In the second, there are fragments of the me that I want everyone else to see, keeping me company as I repair the damage from each and every grey heartbreak. The parts of me in color wrap me in a cocoon, internalizing the good and the bad. But I can never seem to find the line that separates them. I never know which one I live in, or when I will go back to one or the other. What I do know is that each time I enter the world of color, it’s a little harder to leave, to find the speck of glitter. And each time I leave the world of grey, I want to come back less and less.
For me, there is no black or white, only the pain of grey and the hope of color.

(C) 2015 Michelle Brewer-Bunnell