Te Cuidas..En Dos (o Mas) Idiomas

I read an article once about a man coping with his wife’s mental breakdowns and how she would switch languages whenever she became depressed. I remember thinking “Wow! I can relate!” and not really understanding that there were people who suffered in only one language. I mean, obviously it’s entirely acceptable and completely normal to use the language you are comfortable with and fluent in to express yourself.

For me, bilinguialism is a tip off that I’m about to become depressed.

Think of it like listening to the radio. When you’re happy, you listen to songs about fun and happy times. When you’re sad, like when you’re getting over a break up, you listen to sad songs, songs you can cry to and scream at. But my “playlists” turn to a whole different language.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to use multiple languages in a general setting. It helps me professionally, it gives me access to other cultures and some really excellent foods. But when my heart is breaking, when the deep clouds of depression are hovering, my own language fails to live up to my needs. English leaves something to be desired.

I notice the change very abruptly. Instead of involving myself casually in another language, I will switch entirely from English into the other one. My music will become entirely Latinx, for example. Or I will only read in Cyrillic. Sometimes it will be a little more gradual and I’ll switch my recipes to all Kenyan, then start writing myself notes in Swahili. And then I will refuse to speak in English, I’ll write my grocery list in something else and I will immerse myself in this entire other state of being. It is then that I realize I need to double-down for some self-care time and take care of myself. When I start pulling out of my depression, I can go back to enjoying those same activities, but without the despair that anti-mania brings. Those extra cultures give me a safe place to go so I can start to heal.

In the realm of mental health and self-care, it’s really common to hear about things to look out for: an increase in impulsive behavior for mania, apathy for depression, paranoia for psychotic episodes and more. Physical symptoms take a really forward presence in your overall health, the life threatening symptoms next and then the ongoing symptoms. Signs you’re about to enter into a “danger zone” come in lists, self-help articles and off-handed comments. But it’s much harder when no one talks about potential tip offs that aren’t as common-but still just as serious.

When I was learning other languages, I was told that they would be keys to a door. I didn’t ask what that door would look like because I thought it was “to other cultures”. It turns out, it was a door to self-expression and the way I know I need to prepare myself for the pending breakdown.

Whatever your tip offs, you shouldn’t doubt yourself. And you should always invest in your own self-care. You know yourself best.

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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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.

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.