Thankfulness, Day 16

Today I am thankful. That’s what I set out to do, afterall. I wanted to change my attitude about the way I saw the world, just as I vow to do every year. And whether I’m thankful for abstract concepts or things which are very much concrete, I try to keep those ideals in my head, remembering the reasons why I’m thankful for them in the first place. Today, I could not find a concrete thing, so I went for the abstract. But before I get to what it is exactly, I think I want to share a story.

When I was a child and the all powerful “they” asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was a coroner. I was reprimanded for that answer, and was told that being a doctor was something I should want to focus on instead. I was five.

When I was in elementary school, I told people that I could heal them with leaves and would go around placing frsh picked leaves on any scrapes and injuries there were. I was then informed about germs and germ theory, and how there were things in motion about the way the body healed itself that I didn’t understand. I was 9. 

When I was in middle school, I thought I wanted to play volleyball. Although the season was tough, I lasted through it. I even become a valued player. I was told that quitters will never succeed and that even if I was completely miserable, I was not supposed to give up. I was supposed to suffer through it. (This advice did NOT come from my parents, but rather from the mother of another player.) I was 13.

When I was in high school, I assumed I could change the world and save everyone in it. I lost countless hours of sleep, cried with other people, uplifted spirits who were torn to shreds. It is then that I learned that if you really want to help someone, they have to want to hep themselves. I had been a pawn in the lives of people who soon forgot about my efforts, even though I never forgot about them. I was 15.

When I went to college, I thought it would be just like high school-something I could easily succeed at if I just paid attention. How wrong I again was. College broke through my assumptions an pinned me to the wall, beating me for my metaphorical lunch money. It was then that I learned that sometimes I will just know nothing. I was 18.

When I got married, I thought it would be just like dating, only my private life would become, you know-private. But it was then that I learned the true power of gossip. I was 21.

I’ve never fit into the mold neatly, or even altogether willingly. I’ve been too much of some things and not enough of others. People have used me as a way to see their own ends, just as I have done so to others. I have been to the depths of my soul, broken down by the hurtful words of bullies, who didn’t understand that the number on the scale, or the one which represented my bank account were not the things which defined me as a person. I have heard the hateful words of wellwishers, pushing me down paths that were more acceptable because it wasn’t right for “someone so gifted to be so morbid”. I have heard the lessons, felt the sting and have risen from my past, more alive than before.

Today, I am thankful that I was never quite right. I was always too much, or not enough. My heart came too big, just like my waistline and my bank account was never full enough. That I spent too much time hearing the cries of others and not enough time quelling slander directed at tearing me down. Am I perfect? Hardly! Am I bulletproof? Not a chance! I’m not a robot and words do hurt. But what I am is myself, and in then end, all that happened simply led me to be who I wanted to be-for all the exactly right reasons.   

  

You Got Me There

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

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

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So what IS Bipolar Disorder?

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

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Sound like fun, right?

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

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So what can we do to help?

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

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I Live Alone

Dawn breaks

And my heart with it.

I close the blinds

To keep harsh rays at bay.

Time passes

And yet my feelings remain.

The hands on my watch move

Without me.

I make a cup of tea,

But my tears leak into it

I can barely put it down

My hands shake so much.

My husband comes home

But I’m far away

He asks me what’s wrong

But there are too many right answers.

The sun sets

And my problems arise

Waiting for darkness

To persecute me.

I fall asleep

Wishing to be free

But the shell that is me

Keeps me caged and alone.

I’ll See You Tomorrow

It is this day.

Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day.

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

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

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

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

Bipolar 2

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

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

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

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

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

Bipolar 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’ll Follow You Into The Dark

Public perception and stigma. (Yep. I’m taking a break from the mental health blogging to bring you an insight on something else I’m big on.)

I’m writing today to bring attention to the saddest bits of information which have become public.

Why is it that children who have two parents are treated differently than those with one? Or with non-biological parents?

Why is it that children who have parents of different “races” are treated differently than those with similar?

Why is it that children with two gendered parents are treated differently than those with two parents of the same gender?

Why is it that children who do not look like others are treated differently than those who look like everyone else?

Why is it that children who practice one religion are treated differently than those who practice a different one?

Why is it that children who dress one way are treated differently than those who dress differently?

Why is it that children are taught to conform to gender roles instead of embracing whatever roles they wish?

Why is it that children with non-hetero preferences are treated differently than those who are heterosexual?

Why is it that children with mental illnesses are treated differently than those with physical illnesses?

Why is it that children are pressured to conform to standards set much too high for their own good?

Why is it that we, as adults, do not foster beliefs that individuality and imperfection are the qualities which matter not only in life, but as a way to keep ourselves alive. Being different is not a curse, nor is it a negative thing. Being different is what makes us special, what gives us a chance to be who we were meant to be.

And the thing is, it isn’t just children that we treat differently. It’s ourselves too. We shame others, we shame ourselves. We need to realize that the only one who hurts when we give into these stigmas isn’t “one” it’s “every” one.

So instead of watching people commit suicide because they are bullied, instead of judging those we deem differently than ourselves, instead of forcing everyone to be replicas of us-celebrate the diversity and the uniqueness of all those around you. Celebrate the you that you wanted to be, not the you that you felt pressured into.