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

Advertisements

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.

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.

This One’s For You

I’ve been talking for months now about women, safety and health, as an entity. But it was mentioned to me that perhaps just as I did not know everything about sexual assault, others may not know where to turn for information or help. So I present to you the work of an entire work shift plus some. I’ve spent my entire day looking up resources, trying to find places that help, educate and guide victims of sexual abuse as well as bystanders. I have found safety shelters, mental health sites, alternatives to Planned Parenthood, what happens to cases that are taken to court and other things. I just want the information to be out there. I tried my best to help others. But there is one site that I need to mention by name. I looked up the price of a rape kit, and I have to be honest, I am outraged. So for EVERYONE, please look at the first website and you will see what I mean. ( Find it here.) As a precaution, I have done my best to compile this list, but I am not perfect. If a link doesn’t work, or if it leads somewhere fishy, please let me know so I can update the list. And if there is anything you think I’ve missed, drop a comment! I alphabetized these as best I could (apart from these first 4.)

 

Planned Parenthood Alternative Finder: Get Your Care

Planned Parenthood: Home Page

What Happens to Rape Kits: End the Backlog

The Marshall Project: Rape Kit Facts

Resources for Victims

A

  • AEquitas AEquitas is a resource for prosecutors to improve the quality of justice in sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and human trafficking cases.
  • Agent of Change Agent of Change is an interactive, online violence prevention training tool.
  • American Association of University Women The AAUW is an advocacy and empowerment organization for women and girls.
  • Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center: The center serves abused Americans, mostly women and children, in both civilian and military populations overseas. In addition to providing domestic violence advocacy, safety planning and case management, the center assists victims with relocation, emergency funds for housing and childcare, and funds for payment of legal fees.
  • Arte Sana Arte Sana is a national Latina-led nonprofit committed to ending sexual violence and other forms of gender-based aggressions and engage marginalized communities as agents of change.
  • Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence The Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence is a national resource center on domestic violence, sexual violence, trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence in Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
  • Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling: Directory of LGBT-friendly mental health specialists across the United States. Specialists listed are verified members of AGLBTIC, a division of the American Counseling Association.
  • Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers ATSA offers an annual conference, fact sheets, and other materials for professionals working with adults, adolescents, or children.  In particular they have two summaries, one about adolescents and one about children that provide an overview of the issues facing this population.
  • Attorney Referral Line: Refers callers to attorneys in their geographic area who can represent them in their pursuit of civil claims and victim restitution. The referral line is not an anonymous service. Their website also gives information about civil lawsuits. Phone: 202-467-8716

B

C

  • The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault This coalition offers technical assistance to campuses in order to develop effective coordinated community responses that prevent and respond to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
  • Campus Clarity Campus Clarity provides online training programs for students and universities.
  • Campus Outreach Services: Offer information and expertise to schools on sexual violence, diversity, sexual harassment, bullying, hate crimes, healthy relationships, assertiveness, eating disorders, suicide, and related risk issues.
  • Casa de Esperanza Casa de Esperanza is a national resource center on domestic violence in the Latina community, with a mission to mobilize Latinas and Latino communities to end domestic violence. Their work includes community building, as well as direct advocacy and resources for victims of domestic violence in Latina communities.
  • CAVANET: This organization addresses violence against women, human rights, genocide, and crime victims with disabilities.
  • CenterLink The community of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Centers exist to support the development of strong, sustainable LGBT community centers and to build a unified center movement. CenterLink works with other national organizations to advance the rights of LGBT individuals and to provide LGBT community centers with information and analysis of key issues
  • The Center For Disease Control National Prevention Information Network (AIDS/HIV, STI Information): U.S. reference, referral, and distribution service for information on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Hotline: 800-458-5231
  • Child Help: Speak Up Be Safe: Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe is a newly developed, school-based, child abuse prevention education program that focuses on child safety. It is an evolution of Good Touch Bad Touch.
  • The Clery Center for Security on Campus The Clery Center educates and trains campus stakeholders about safety, prevention, peer intervention and Clery Act compliance. Clery Act compliance requires an understanding of counting and collecting crime statistics, emergency notification and timely warning policy, generation of an annual security report, and adherence to the campus sexual assault victim bill of rights.
  • Coaching Boys Into Men Playbook (Copyright © Family Violence Prevention Fund) This guidebook provides strategies for parents, teachers, coaches, and other role models to teach boys about violence against women in an effort to prevent it.
  • Community Health Centers The Health Resources and Services Administration operates health centers in most cities and rural areas, and offers well-checks, treatment, pre-natal care, immunization, dental care, prescriptions, and mental health and substance abuse care. These health centers do not require patients to have health insurance and charge patients what they can afford based on income.
  • Connect Directory The National Center’s Connect Directoryprovides a fast and easy way for victims to locate service providers specializing in specific areas of victimization in a wide variety of jurisdictions throughout the country. Users enter information into a simple form which is used to pull up contact information for service providers nearby who can help.
  • Culture of Respect Culture of Respect is a nonprofit organization strengthening sexual assault prevention efforts on college campuses.

D

  • Darkness to Light: They provide crisis intervention and referral services to children or people affected by sexual abuse of children. Hotline calls are automatically routed to a local center. Helpline: 866-FOR-LIGHT (367-5444)
  • The Date Safe Project: The DATE SAFE Project, Inc. provides positive how-to skills and helpful insights for addressing verbal consent (asking first), respecting of boundaries, sexual decision-making, bystander intervention, and supporting survivors (opening the door for family and friends).
  • Deaf Abused Women’s Network(DAWN): Legal, medical, system advocacy and survivor support services. Video Phone: 202-559-5366
  • Department of Defense (“DoD”) Safe Helpline
    Hotline: 877-995-5247
    Offers crisis support service for members of the DoD (military) community affected by sexual assault. It provides live, one-on-one advice, support, and information to the worldwide DoD community. The service is anonymous, secure, and available 24/7 – providing victims with the help they need, anytime, anywhere.
  • gov This resource connects people with disabilities, their families and caregivers to helpful resources on such topics as how to apply for disability benefits, find a job, get health care, or pay for accessible housing.
  • Domestic Shelters https://www.domesticshelters.org/, a project of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), and Theresa’s Fund, provides abuse victims, their friends and family, and agencies, with the most comprehensive, searchable database housing more than 300,000 data points on more than 3,000 domestic violence shelters, agencies and programs in the U.S.

E

  • East Central University East Central University offers both executive/administrative peer-to-peer technical assistance, education and training to help grantees meet the mandatory law enforcement training component of the Campus Program. Serves as a mentor to campuses and their law enforcement/security departments and governing boards.
  • End Rape on Campus: An advocacy organization dedicated to assisting students file Title IX complaints.
  • Every Choice This online resource offers video-based bystander intervention training.

F

G

  • Get Help Bulletins GetHelp Bulletinsprovide information on a wide range of topics, including the impact of crime, victims’ rights, and the criminal and civil justice processes. The bulletins also include resources for victims, their families, and friends.
  • GirlThrive: Girlthrive Inc. honors teen girls and young women who have survived incest and all sex abuse through thriverships, opportunity and education.
  • GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project: Website, information and hotline for GLBTQ victims of domestic violence and their families. Hotline: 800-832-1901
  • GLBT National Hotline: Call center that refers to over 15,000 resources across the country that support LGBTQ individuals. Hotline: 888-THE-GLNH (843-4564)
  • org: GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries worldwide who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.
  • Green Dot Green Dot offers training institutes and campus-specific consultation that is research informed, data supported and consistent with the mandatory prevention and education component of the Campus Program. Helps campuses mobilize a broad-base of their communities in prevention efforts.

H

  • Haven—Understanding Sexual Assault Online training for college students on sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking.
  • Healthcare Center Directory: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a Healthcare Center Directory. This directory lists federally funded health centers that provide a variety of services even if the recipient does not have health insurance. Users pay a co-payment based on their income. These health centers generally provide primary care services. Phone: 877-464-4772
  • Health Cares About IPV Health Cares about IPV is a federally funded program that provides training and technical assistance to over 22,000 health care professionals working to implement best practices for treating intimate partner violence (IPV) and dating violence survivors, including new guidelines to screen for abuse and refer patients to services.
  • Health Resources and Services Administration The Health Resources and Services Administration provides information from the Health Resources and Services Administration on the National LGBT Health Education Center health disparities, and links to additional resources.
  • Hope Exists After Rape Trauma: The mission of Hope Exists After Rape Trauma (H-E-A-R-T) is to provide HOPE for victims of sexual assault through the provision of essential and therapeutic support, by affecting positive change in laws influencing their lives, and by educating both the public and professionals commissioned to serve victims.

I

  • International Association of Forensic Nurses: An international membership organization comprised of forensic nurses working around the world and other professionals who support and complement the work of forensic nursing.
  • International Sexual Assault Centers
    Web: http://rainn.org/get-help/sexual-assault-and-rape-international-resources
    The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) has a list of sexual assault and domestic violence centers in 19 countries. Click on the link above to see if one is listed for the country you are in.
  • Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community focuses on African Americans as they face issues related to domestic violence and intimate partner violence, including dating violence, child abuse, elder maltreatment, and community violence.
  • It Happened to Alexa Foundation: It Happened to Alexa Foundation
    411 Center Street
    Lewiston NY, 14092
    Phone: (716) 754-9105
    Phone: 877-77-ALEXA (25392)
    Fax: (716) 754-4676
    Web: http://ithappenedtoalexa.org/
    The purpose of the It Happened to Alexa Foundation is to help support rape survivors through the trauma of the criminal trial, in the hopes that more survivors will go through with the prosecution in order to put these perpetrators behind bars. Established in 2003, the foundation assists rape victims’ families throughout the United States with travel expenses during the litigation process.

J

  • com: This site has articles that discuss the effects of child sexual abuse on adult men and their loved ones.
  • Joyful Heart Foundation Joyful Heart Foundation is a national organization dedicated to healing, educating, and empowering survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse.
  • Justice for Children: Provides a full range of advocacy services for abused and neglected children.

K

  • Know Your IX: Provides information for students about their Title IX rights in regards to ending sexual violence on campus.

L

  • The Laws in Your State: A database of state laws including mandatory reporting, confidentiality laws, HIV/AIDS testing of sexual offenders, termination of rapists’ parental rights, and statutes of limitations for each state.
  • LGBTQ Health This resource offers information and resources tailored to perspectives and needs of the LGBTQ population who are at increased risk for a number of health threats when compared to their heterosexual peers. Differences in sexual behavior account for some of these disparities, but others are associated with social and structural inequities, such as the stigma and discrimination. This resource is produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • The Line Campaign The Line Campaign is a nonprofit organization and movement committed to empowering young leaders to create a world without sexual violence.
  • Locator http://locator.aids.gov Find publicly supported health services including health centers, mental health providers, family planning centers, and substance abuse treatment providers.

M

  • org: This site has information and a therapist search for male survivors of sexual violence. MaleSurvivor
    Web: http://www.malesurvivor.org
    MaleSurvivor provides critical resources to male survivors of sexual trauma and all their partners in recovery by building communities of Hope, Healing, & Support. Services include: Online discussion forums for male survivors and their partners, Online therapist directory, professionally facilitated healing retreats and workshops for survivors,and training for professional across disciplines.
  • Men Can Stop Rape Men Can Stop Rape offers individualized training and technical assistance to grantees on engaging men in the prevention of gender based violence. Trainings can include, but are not limited to: Coordinated Community Response team trainings on effective approaches to engaging men in prevention activities, training, and community awareness; workshops for campus students on raising awareness about rape as a men’s issue; and general information to OVW Campus Program grantees.
  • Midwest Regional Children’s Advocacy Center This CAC provides training and technical assistance resources for communities to develop Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Teams and Children’s Advocacy Centers in the Midwest.
  • The Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault This coalitions provides comprehensive training that focuses on developing and implementing campus policies, protocols, and training programs for hearing officers and disciplinary boards to ensure more effective responses to the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking on campus.

N

  • National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) This alliance is a national advocacy organization representing state coalitions and local programs organizing against sexual violence and for survivors.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI): Provides information and referral services, not counseling. Helpline: 888-950-NAMI (6264)
  • National Adolescent Perpetrator Network at the Kempe Center NAPN hosts an annual conference for those working with adolescents or children who have sexually abused.
  • National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
    Phone: 512.407.9020 Web: http://www.ncdsv.org Email: Debby Tucker, Executive Director, dtucker@ncdsv.org The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence designs, provides, and customizes training and consultation; influences policy; promotes collaboration; and enhances diversity with the goal of ending domestic and sexual violence. This organization sponsors national and regional conferences and co-chairs the U.S. Department of Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence (DTFDV). Provides military specific information for victims of domestic violence. They do not provide crisis services to victims.
  • National Center for Sexual Behavior in Youth This website is funded through an Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) grant and provides Information for parents of youths with sexual behavior problems.  The website will have information for professionals and others working with these youths in the coming months.
  • The National Center for Victims of Crime 
    Suite 480 2000 M Street, NW Washington DC, 20036-3398
    Hotline: 800-FYI-CALL Phone: 202-467-8700 Fax: 202-467-8757
    Web: http://www.ncvc.org The National Center for Victims of Crime is a nonprofit organization advocating for all victims of crime – adults and children. They educate child victims about their rights and the recent provisions that have been established to protect them. The National Victim Center has a toll-free number that acts as a referral service for children who have been exploited.
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: They can provide local referrals for services. A centralized call center provides the caller with the option of talking to a counselor. They are also connected to a language line that can provide service in over 140 languages. Hotline: 800-4-A-CHILD (422-2253)
  • National Children’s Advocacy Center This Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) coordinates national prevention and intervention services, while serving as the local CAC for Huntsville, Alabama.
  • National Children’s Alliance: This organization represents the national network of Child Advocacy Centers (CAC). CACs are a multidisciplinary team of law enforcement, mental and physical health practitioners who investigate instances of child physical and sexual abuse. Their website explains the process and has a directory according to geographic location.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) NCTSN is a national organization funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides resources and information for families with children who are survivors of sexual assault.
  • National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs: A coalition of programs that document and advocate for victims of anti-LGBT and anti-HIV/AIDS violence/harassment, domestic violence, sexual assault, police misconduct and other forms of victimization. Site has a list of local anti-violence programs and publications. Hotline: 212-714-1141
  • National Crime Victim Bar Associationis a network of attorneys and allied professionals dedicated to facilitating civil actions brought by crime victims. Crime victims may be able to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and responsible third parties for the damages the victims suffered as a result of the crime.
  • National Disability Rights Network: NDRN members investigate reports of abuse and neglect, and seek systemic change to prevent further incidents; advocate for basic rights; and ensure accountability in health care, education, employment, housing, transportation, and within the juvenile and criminal justice systems for individuals with disabilities.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: Through this hotline an advocate can provide local direct service resources (safehouse shelters, transportation, casework assistance) and crisis intervention. Interpreter services available in 170 languages. They also partner with the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Center to provide a videophone option. Hotline: 800-799-SAFE
  • National Eating Disorder Helpline: Information, crisis and referral hotline for people dealing with eating disorders. Helpline: 800-931-2237
  • National Human Trafficking Resource Center:A national multilingual anti-trafficking hotline. Caller can report a tip; connect with anti-trafficking services in their area; or request training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources. Hotline: 888-373-7888
  • National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) This national social change organization is dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists.
  • National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence hosts a resource library home of thousands of materials on violence against women and related issues, with particular attention to its intersections with various forms of oppression.
  • National Organization of Asians and Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence (NAPIESV) This national advocacy organization provides technical assistance to culturally and linguistically specific organizations that are currently serving or attempting to serve victims of sexual assault in Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
  • National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA) This national advocacy organization supports and advocates for women of color and organizations by and for communities of color.
  • National Organization for Victim Assistance: Founded in 1975, NOVA is the oldest national victim assistance organization of its type in the United States as the recognized leader in this noble cause.
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: National hotline, operated by RAINN, that serves people affected by sexual violence. It automatically routes the caller to their nearest sexual assault service provider. You can also search your local center here. Hotline: 800-656-HOPE
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center: This site offers a wide variety of information relating to sexual violence including a large legal resource library.
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Campus Sexual Violence Resource List This list includes resources for administrators, student activists, and law enforcement, on such topics as primary prevention on campus, crime statistics, and training tools.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Provides crisis suicide intervention, self-harm counseling and assistance, and local mental health referrals. Calls are routed to local centers. Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255) and for the Spanish line call 888-628-9454 or TTY: 800-799-4TTY (4889)
  • National Teen Dating Abuse Online Helpline: This online helpline assists teens who are, or may be, in abusive relationships.\National Coalition against Domestic Violence: The national coalition of Domestic Violence organizations is dedicated to empowering victims and changing society to a zero tolerance policy.
  • National Violence against Women Prevention Research Center: Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this website to be useful to scientists, practitioners, advocates, grassroots organizations, and any other professional or layperson interested in current topics related to violence against women and its prevention.
  • National Women’s Health Information Center
    Phone: 1-800-994-9662 Web: http://www.4woman.gov/violence/index.cfm?page=91
    Website provides lots of information, resources and links.
  • Native Youth Sexual Health Network The Native Youth Sexual Health Network provides culturally relevant resources and has developed a comprehensive online directory of Two Spirit organizations and social media tools for the LGBTQ community.
  • NEARI Press In addition to books, this nonprofit offers free webinars, free online courses and a monthly newsletter about current research for professionals working with children and/or youth with sexual behavior problems.
  • the Network la Red: The Network/La Red hotline provides emotional support, information, and safety planning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and/or transgender folks, as well as folks in the BDSM or Polyamorous communities who are being abused or have been abused by a partner. Support available in English and Spanish. Hotline: 617-742-4911
  • Northeast Regional Children’s Advocacy Center This CAC provides training and technical assistance resources for communities to develop Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Teams and Children’s Advocacy Centers in the Northeast.
  • The Northwest Network The NW Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse works to end violence and abuse by building loving and equitable relationships in our community and across the country.
  • NotAlone.gov: A government website dedicated to educating students and schools about Title IX and sexual assault.

O

  • The Office on Women’s Health This webpage includes information on: what rape and sexual assault are; health effects; how to get help; how to stay safe; and where to find more information.
  • OK2TALK OK2TALK encourages teens and young adults struggling with mental health problems to talk about what they’re experiencing by sharing their personal stories of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope.

P

  • Pandora’s Project Web: http://www.pandorasproject.org/
    Provides information, support, and resources to survivors of rape and sexual abuse and their friends and family. Pandora’s Project offers peer support to anyone who has been a victim of rape, sexual assault, or sexual abuse through our online support group, Pandora’s Aquarium. Pandora’s Project offers message boards where sexual violence survivors participate in healing discussions and a chat room, where victims of sex crimes can discuss healing-related issues in a safe and supportive atmosphere.
  • Parent Centers Local Parent Centers can connect families with local resources to more effectively address the educational, counseling, and medical needs of youth with disabilities.
  • Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center
    Hotline: 631-689-2672 1(888)ASK-PFML Web: http://www.parentsformeganslaw.org
    Email: pfmeganslaw@aol.com Parents for Megan’s Law, Inc. is a national community and victim’s rights organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse through the provision of education, advocacy, counseling, policy and legislative support services. They are a certified Rape Crisis Center and staff the National Megan’s Law Hotline and the National Sex Offender Registration Tips Program.
  • PreventConnect: The goal of PreventConnect is to advance the primary prevention of sexual assault and relationship violence by building a community of practice among people who are engaged in such efforts.
  • Project HER:  Engage. Respond.
    Sexual Assault staff is trained to provide support to women veterans who have experienced any form of sexual assault before, during, or after their military service.  Project HER is committed to creating a safe environment to build a community of support for women who have served in the military. A wide variety of services are offered free of charge.
    For questions or to be connected to a sexual assault counselor, please call: (714) 834-4317
  • Project Respect: Project Respect aims to create discussions and share a positive alternative model of relationships for youth.
  • org Web: http://www.promotetruth.org Support and information about sexual violence issues for teens and their communities
  • Psychology Today: Find detailed professional listings for treatment centers in the United States and Canada.

R

  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) RAINN is a national advocacy organization that operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline. 2000 L Street NW
    Suite 406 Washington DC, 20036
    Hotline: (800) 656-HOPE Phone: (202) 544-1034 Web: http://www.rainn.org
    Email: info@RAINN.org Provides information, help and resources throughout the country, and a helpline.
  • The Red Flag Campaign The Red Flag Campaign is a public awareness campaign designed to address dating violence and promote the prevention of dating violence on college campuses.
  • Resource Sharing Project (RSP) RSP provides technical assistance, support, and the dissemination of peer-driven resources for all state and territorial sexual assault coalitions.

S

  • Safe Dates This program is designed to prevent the initiation of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse on dates or between individuals in a dating relationship; Designed for use by eighth and ninth grade students.
  • Safe Helpline: Department of Defense (DoD) Safe Helpline is a groundbreaking crisis support service for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. Safe Helpline provides live, one-on-one support and information to the worldwide DoD community. The service is confidential, anonymous, secure, and available worldwide, 24/7 by click, call or text — providing victims with the help they need anytime, anywhere. Hotline: 877-995-5247
  • Safer Society Foundation The Safer Society Foundation is dedicated to ending sexual abuse by promoting effective prevention and best-practice treatment for sexual abusers and their victims.
  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE): The SANE/SART program offers sensitive, caring, and supportive care following a sexual assault. Their website provides a list of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) programs in each state. These specialists are registered nurses, who have advanced education in forensic examination of sexual assault victims. To locate the nearest SANE program, click here.
  • Sexual Violence Justice Institute This institute is a national resource for expertise in the criminal justice response to sexual violence.
  • Shifting Boundaries Shifting Boundaries is a classroom and school wide intervention designed to reduce dating violence and sexual harassment among middle school students.
  • Sidran Traumatic Stress Foundation: The Sidran Institute provides information on traumatic stress (including PTSD), dissociative disorders, and co-occurring issues such as addictions, self-injury, and suicidal behaviors.
  • Stalking Resource Center: The Stalking Resource Center is a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Their website provides statistics on stalking, information on safety planning and other resources.
  • State, Territorial and Tribal Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Coalitions Sexual assault and domestic violence coalitions often maintain statewide crisis lines and link to local service providers and local crisis lines. These coalitions are excellent resources for information about sexual assault and the options available in your state.
  • Stop It Now: Provides information to victims and parents/relatives/friends of child sexual abuse. The site also has resources for offender treatment as well as information on recognizing the signs of child sexual abuse. Hotline: 888-PREVENT (773-8368)
  • Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) SAFER is an organization dedicated to empowering students to hold their universities accountable for having strong campus sexual assault policies and programming.
  • Student Success’s Sexual Assault Prevention program Student Success works with over 300 colleges and universities, creating research-driven, video-based online prevention programs that resonate with students intellectually, socially, and emotionally.
  • Survivors of Incest Anonymous: They provide information on how to find incest survivor support groups in your area and empowers individuals to become survivors and thrivers.
  • SurvJustice SurvJustice decreases the prevalence of sexual violence by assisting survivors, empowering activists, and supporting institutions.

T

  • Take Back The Night Foundation: Legal support for survivors in every state. Referrals to counseling, support, legal aid, hospitals, and nearest TBTN Event Holders. Hotline: 866-966-9013 Take Back the Night Foundation
    Phone: 888-995-1113 Web: http://takebackthenight.org/
    The Take Back the Night Foundation serves over 600 communities around the world in their efforts to raise awareness through rallies, walks, marches, and vigils. We support survivors of all forms of sexual violence. We are comprised of all volunteers. Our website provides information about how to hold and event and offers a comprehensive manual for organizers; offers a place for survivors to share their stories and read about the experiences of other sexual assault survivors. We are inclusive to all and offer webinars for survivors, a survivor voice-quilt, art and music and other ways for survivors to heal. We also are associated with a national law firm, which can provide free legal assistance to help you understand your options in the justice system.
  • That’s Not Cool That’s Not Cool provides tools for addressing dating violence through social media.
  • The Voices and Faces Project
    Web: http://www.voicesandfaces.org/index.asp
    Giving voice and face to rape survivors, offering a sense of solidarity and possibility to those who have lived through abuse, while raising awareness of how this human rights and public health issue impacts victims, families and communities.
  • Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations Information and Resource Kit This kit includes information from the Health Resources and Services Administration on the National LGBT Health Education Center health disparities, and links to additional resources.
  • The Trevor Project: Help and suicide prevention for GBLTQ youth. Hotline: 866-488-7386
  • Tribal Court Clearinghouse
  • This website serves as a resource for American Indian and Alaska Native Nations, include laws and publications on sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and more.

U

  • U.S. Department of Justice Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Complaint Line: Call to report suspected instances of human trafficking or worker exploitation or contact the FBI field office nearest you. Offers foreign language translation services in most languages as well as TTY. After business hours, the complaint line has a message service in English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin. Hotline: 888-428-7581

V

  • vawnet.org This website is a source for information about intervention, prevention, perpetration, education and awareness, advocacy, program development, and population-specific approaches to sexual assault.
  • VictimConnect The VictimConnect Resource Centeris a place for crime victims to learn about their rights and options confidentially and compassionately. A program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, it combines:  A traditional telephone-based helpline: 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846) An innovative online chat: VictimConnect.org  Web-based information and service referrals:VictimConnect.org With extensive specialized training, our Victim Assistance Specialists stand ready to help crime victims understand their rights and options, find information and connect with resources, access referrals, and craft next steps to regain control over their lives.
  • Victim Rights Law Center The Victim Rights Law Center provides national training for attorneys and advocates on issues of sexual assault.
  • Violence against Women with Disabilities
  • The Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides publications, websites, and organizations especially designed to address the unique challenges that women with disabilities face.

W

  • Walk a Mile in Her Shoes This international men’s march is a campaign to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence.
  • Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center This CAC provides training and technical assistance resources for communities to develop Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Teams and Children’s Advocacy Centers in the West.
  • org: Information about restraining orders and other legal protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Y

  • Yes ICAN
    Web: http://www.yesican.org/chat.html
    The Yes ICAN chatroom is to be used by individuals who wish to discuss issues around surviving child abuse, parenting and domestic violence. The YesICAN chat room is available to those who need support. YesICAN chats are facilitated by trained facilitators. There are scheduled times for various subjects, including emotional abuse, incest, sibling abuse and physical abuse. Please go to their website for full details and the schedule.

#

  • 1 is 2 Many 1 is 2 Many is Vice President Biden’s initiative to change attitudes that lead to violence and educate the public on the realities of abuse.
  • 1in6(for men sexually abused as children): Provides educational information and resources for men, family and friends, and professionals. Also provides access to the online hotline.

 

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.