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.

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Leave Out All The Rest

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

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

mvh

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

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

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

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

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

prize

(This is my most prized card.)

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

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

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

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

late-night-reading_opt

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

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