It’s a Love Story

In my update of life, I promised to try to do three things: a depression post, a lifestyle and a love story. I did the lifestyle one, and as you can probably guess, I’m not here for depression. So let us begin.

 

I wanted to do this elaborate short story for ya’ll, with visuals and stuff, and while I still may in the future, my love story is a pictorial one. I took all of these myself and I will show you, through these pictures, the greatest love that I can.

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This frog was found while I was getting the pumpkin patch ready for planting.

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This is our puppy, before he went to the groomer. His name is PupPup.

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My husband bought me flowers just for funsies.

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This is the road I named “Shady Lane” when I was a kid, because of all the trees. Most of them have since been cleared out by the Amish.

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The berry bushes at my parent’s house. We’d gather in between 15 and 20 gallons of berries each year.

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Milkweed, which will come into play in a moment.

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This was the batch of wildflowers that served as my wedding bouquet.I dried them out and they are now in a labeled ziplock.

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This was taken at the park near my parent’s house. I absolutely loved the way the snow slung to the branches.IMG_1245

Also from that park, on one of the nature trails.

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The picture directly above this sentence and directly below are of the same field, just different years. It’s right across the street from my parent’s.

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I told you that milkweed would come into play. This was the best picture I’ve ever taken of a caterpillar. You can see the little drops of dew!

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And here the caterpillar is all grown up and transformed. I knew it was the same one because it remembered me and only came around when I went looking for it.

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This next picture is probably my hands-down favorite. I got to drive my dad’s car that day and the way the mirror lent itself to the view is just perfect. Same “Shady Lane” as before, just different direction, different season.

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These little purple flowers are all over the roadside and I love them!

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There are plenty more to share, but for now, the story is at an end.

It’s the Little Rays of Sunshine

Hey all, just stopping in to say a quick thank you, and to give ya’ll a life update.

I’m super swamped right now, I’ve been trying to reply to all ya’lls comments, trying not to be rude and the like. I’m actively job searching, I’m apartment searching, I’m literally searching for everything. It looks like I’m not going to get the other post done today (Sunday) but I sure will try to get it finished Monday. It’s a really hard one for me to write, because it’s so personal, but I’m doing my very best.

So my thank yous.

Thank you to my new followers, my old followers, and the people who simply stumbled upon my blogs by some delightful happenstance and decided to stay a while. I’m delighted to have you, feel free to poke around a bit and ask questions. I delight in conversation.

Thank you to everyone who has opened up and shared their stories, their ideas and thoughts. I feel so incredibly honored to have been privy to that information. I’ve done my best to reciprocate, because sharing is caring.

Thank you to everyone who speaks from their heart. It’s the most important thing in the world.

I suppose that’s all for now.

May your depression be little, your mania be the nice kind and your inner demons chill out.

My hope for the rest of the month is to get some personal accomplishments done (which I inevitably will discuss here), write a blog about a depression action with a letter, a lifestyle and a love story. These are my goals, we’re hoping to get it done.

Many blessings upon you, may light and love shine in your life and in your hearts.

XO,

M.

The Grey Areas of Going Dark

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

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

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

I’m here to disagree. Vehemently.

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

 

“I don’t want to live anymore.”

 

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

 

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

 


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

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

 


“I just want it all to stop.”

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

 


“I can’t do this anymore.”

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

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

Life Update

Captain’s log, Star Date 93978.45 (Yes, I looked it up and made sure it was the right date.)

In all the wonderful things which may happen to a person, this week (for reasons which I hold firmly in my belief system) has been such a bountiful treasure. My little apartment garden is up and thriving (little cilantro and tomato plants are cropping up!), I’ve had THE most successful blog I’ve EVER done (thanks you guys!) and I’ve been offered an interview at a place I’d love to work on Thursday. On top of that, I am now a contributor for The Mighty! I’d like to thank and welcome my new followers, and extend many loving thank yous to my lasting followers. I am beyond blessed.

I have chosen to believe that all things will work out for the best. That I am going to be able to do what I have set out to accomplish, that I will make it with some success and that I will be happy. And depending on how this interview goes, we might be moving closer to my new job. Which is also pretty cool. But we haven’t really decided anything yet, and therefore I cannot speak about that much.

I cannot be so presumptuous to think that these masterpieces of situations are all due to me. I know that somewhere out there, I’ve had a lot of prayers whispered over me, I’ve had the guidance of the best parents, the hopes of teachers who truly cared, and the blessings of the deities who watch out for me. I just start the ball rolling. It’s all about where I put my intentions.

Coming up this week: be on the look out for a blog about the “grey areas of suicide” and the “realities of self-harm in a post-emo adult world” as well as something about my topic of existence: bodily safety. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll write something a little more artsy-fartsy about purpose and meaning in life, but we’ll just have to see.

This is my masterpiece. And I won’t stop til it is beautiful. (Thanks for those words, Andy Grammar.)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

On Settling

I had a conversation with my sister recently about college and about passion and careers. I tried my best to be a guiding voice, as much as I could be, but I also am very conscious that everyone must make their own mistakes. I know I would not be the same person if I hadn’t “wasted” my time or made the choices I did. So I try to keep that in mind every time I give someone advice. Usually, I end up giving myself advice and they just listen.

But talking with her really was like talking to a younger version of myself. She hasn’t decided quite where she wants to go to college, what her passion is, what she wants out of life specifically. And I can appreciate that on so many levels. (Most of which come from making those mistakes I was talking about.)

I told her that it didn’t matter what she chose to do, as long as she chose it with her whole heart. Because settling for anything less than your passion is killing everything unique and creative about you. That applying to college as a high school senior was doing something insane that would work out in your favor later. And with that in mind, I told her if she wanted to go out of state, do it. If she wanted to stay at home and commute, do it. If she wanted to major in underwater basket weaving, do it. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get there, so long as you get there.

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I remember being a senior in high school and thinking that I had everything figured out. I would go into medicine, wear the white coat and then devote my life to saving kids (I wanted to be a Pediatric Oncologist-aka children’s cancer doctor). I thought I could do that, have time for hobbies and maybe, just maybe do something great with my life. I looked into all girl colleges, co-ed ones out of state, universities in Ireland. I literally wanted to run away from Ohio and never come back.

I never left Ohio. And I don’t really regret that as much as I thought I might. Mind you, Ben and I are looking for law schools out of state, but if we stay here, it isn’t the end of the world. High school doesn’t really give you the sense of “everything will work out”. Instead it gives you unrealistic ideas about college, and incomparably ridiculous amounts of unnecessary stress.

I couldn’t find a way to convince my sister of this, and that’s okay. She’s got to find her own path. But in the end, I think that what I said was the only thing I could have said. Because I didn’t know it then, and I wish I would have.

You have to commit to an entire lifestyle when you pick a career. And if you want to live to the fullest, you’re going to need to find out what drives you enough to make that easier. Anything less than your passion isn’t living-it’s torture.

I’ve decided on a few proto-ideas about what makes a person passionate, that I will be honing throughout my life, so maybe if I have kids, I will be able to help them more than I could do for my sister, but for now, that is what I will leave her with.

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What do you want out of life?

What do you want your typical day to be like?

What things can you not do without?

What things do you not want to do without?

What are your hobbies? Favorite classes?

Who are your role models? Why?

Who are your favorite teachers? Why?

What do you want out of your career?

What will it take to make you happy?

What would you do first if you were given a super-power?

What kind of super power would it be?