Fate

And such indescribable and sublime loneliness.

I wanted to protect you from fate.

The fate that carries you away further and further…

Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind. Sending you angel love and blessings.

Love, Francesca.

Being Invalidated by a Bad Apple

Abuse is present in all kinds of relationships: from personal to professional, from sexual to medical, where ever there are humans, abuse exists. Unfortunately, no one is safe from experiencing it in any of its forms, especially in regards to mental health. In my own mental health journey, I have been fortunate with my connections, but I know so many out there have not. I know no two instances are alike, and abuse can take many forms in this world. My most recent experience with it has prompted me to bring this story to light. It is raw, and possibly chaotic in nature, but it is where I am at right now.

I am a young woman, a wife, and a mother, who just so happens to be diagnosed with Bipolar II. This diagnosis has been following me around for over eleven years, and it is not something I take lightly. I want to feel okay and happy. I want to feel normal, and if medication and therapy are required for this to happen, then so be it. I am worth the extra effort. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but I have never felt as if my team against me…until a few weeks ago. 

Back in August, my husband and I agreed we would start trying for baby #2, but I knew this meant I needed to get things prepped for my mental health ahead of time. When I was pregnant with my son, I struggled – because there was no safe medication for me to take at the time. Last year, my then psychiatrist told me if I was going to get pregnant again, there were options this time around. He knew me and knew intimately about what happened to me when I was pregnant. No one wanted to go through that again. 

Unfortunately, due to family circumstances on his end, he left, and I was given to someone new. He seemed nice and agreed to go off my previous doctor’s notes on my condition for starters and adding his own as we got to know each other. I saw no problem with this sentiment and was willing to give him the chance despite my hesitation because I was thrown to someone new so suddenly.  

As time progressed, I tried to trust him, but something always felt off and awkward with him. Sometimes a comment he made drew question marks in my head, but I brushed it off because we weren’t sitting face to face because of COVID. We only talked on the phone. Sometimes it was a ten-minute call, sometimes it was three minutes, but I felt we were on the same page.  

Before my husband and I talked about getting pregnant, I knew I wanted a game plan in place. I wanted time to get used to new meds and adjust as needed. My psychiatrist was an instrumental part in this plan, so setting up an appointment to discuss my options non-negotiable. Per instructions by my previous doctor and my own research, I already had an idea of what I needed, but I had to bring it up with my prescriber to get it. Simple and straightforward, right? WRONG! 

When the words of “trying to get pregnant” and “what are your suggestions” left my lips, the atmosphere of the conversation changed. Keep in mind, I have been diagnosed by four different psychiatrists, over the course of about sixteen years, that I have Bipolar II. I have been on the appropriate medication for that diagnosis for eleven years, and when I am consistent with taking the medication, I am stable.  

This man had the gall to let “Bipolar II is just a theory” and “many women find the symptoms go away during and after pregnancy” leave his pathetic lips. Despite me bringing up the recommended medication and explaining what happened the last time I was pregnant, he ignored me. Now, I refused to leave this session empty-handed, so he gave me two medications for “as needed” irritability and depression, low dosages with the possibility of increases. I am Bipolar, not irritable. 

I assumed this was better than nothing and began tapering my medication as designed and filled the prescriptions. After several days, I found I had to start taking more than the ‘low dosages’ to have any sort of effect, and I hit a major side-effect wall. I could either feel like I was drunk all day or be depressed. Since I work full-time and must be mentally sharp, I stopped taking the meds. I gave them less than 2 weeks, but they were not working in any capacity as he said they would.  

My therapist was appalled at his words but brushed them off when I spoke to her about it. She looked up my file and found he had not written anything he said to me, in my file (why would he?). Though she did not convince me directly, I put in a request to transfer psychiatrists the next day. Never have I ever been invalidated by a medical professional to my face like that, and even though I am struggling now because of him, I won’t let him win. 

Imperfect

I expressed some stances in my earlier post on this blog. I called the post “Perfect” because it had to do with the impression that we need a perfect life to grow as human beings. Or that having everything we ever wanted necessarily means happiness. Or that having things others think we should have is a measure of the person.

There are different forms of perfect. In my hometown, it is married life, a house arranged in provincial taste and children, jobs that give financial security and little pleasure in the work itself. Some aim higher as there are many contents to fill in the form of perfect. Of course, it is not always that gloomy, and some people enjoy genuinely happy lives in the province, even some who made space for acceptance of their alternative lifestyles. So do I envy people who made it perfect for themselves? Do I think it is all a shallow compromise? I get a lot of trolling once I make my point on that. My answer is; these questions make no sense at all! My point is somewhere else; it is to encourage myself and others to thrive despite the imperfect circumstances.

To make it more clear, I used the magnifier—lives of brilliant people who thrived despite unfavourable circumstances. In the post on Van Gogh and Slava Raskaj I tried to explain what I mean. I tried to describe the epic battle of someone who is trying to create despite illness and despite having a kind of life where you don’t have much to lose.

I wanted to do the recap to make my point; people can grow and create, risk and challenge themselves despite things (seemingly) not going great for them. Who has the right to talk down on them from a perfect or seemingly perfect position?

Keats got tuberculosis in his twenties, and it was a terminal illness at the time. He died when he was 25, his life was hardly perfect, but his poetry is almost there. I am not saying everyone can leave Opus Mangum, but then again, you never know who it will be, right? Maybe someone who has it all sorted out, of course, someone who drew better cards than Keats.

Still, a glance at things through a magnifier- lives of the greats who also struggled shows that personal growth, the achievement and happy moments is not only for those who get or seemingly get what they always wanted. So no, I am not trying to say feel envious, think as if missing out on things, I want to say thrive because the best of us, the most talented of us, the most decent of us can have it imperfect.

I don’t know the cure for the people who can’t see that even everyday people like me mean the world to someone and can enrich lives. The art of living well is rather democratic. There are many ways to practice it, and I don’t see why some would be privileged. That is all.

Photo by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

Too Many Excuses.

I love writing. I write lists as a comfort, and my thoughts as an outlet. Sometimes, I get hung up on others opinions of my writing. Opinions I shouldn’t worry about. I write for me. Most of it doesn’t make sense but it feels right.When I freeze while trying to consider opinions I haven’t heard yet, I am hurting myself more than anyone. With no paper to spill my feelings into, I find myself fixating on them more than ever.

So I am just gonna go for it. I am sorry if this is a little scattered.

Remember the first time you watched a movie from your childhood, but as an adult? Maybe there was a joke that went over your prepubescent head, or maybe it confirmed a theory you had. Either way, I find myself doing this often. I used to really push away from religion and even claimed to be atheist (ZERO opinion if you are or aren’t religious). I talked about things I didn’t have any knowledge on and put down anything that sounded like a religious comment. Now I turn to the Bible as a comfort. The words in that book mean more now.

The word mindfulness means more now. I understand how I can be mindful, and how that benefits my growth as a person. My BP diagnosis was my first step towards mindfulness. I finally recognized something wasn’t right and sought help for my mood and subsequent actions. With that came the realization that I had formed these habits that were hurting those around me. I didn’t want to just mask symptoms, I wanted to find the cause.

I have had a lot of great things happen lately, and I had a lot of shitty things happen too. As I revealed recently, I was hospitalized for thoughts of self harm. All is better now, I just had to get some meds tweaked and take some time to process my feelings in a safe place. I get back to work and disclose to a close coworker what my hospitalization was for. My boss comes back from vacation and suddenly, after almost a year, fires me for “low productivity”. I had just signed a lease on a two bedroom apartment for my self and my mom who I care for. I just bought a new car earlier this year. A lot of people close to me pointed out the timing of being let go, right after I was hospitalized. I just don’t want to be one of those people who blame others. I honestly was shocked when they let me go. I had never received any indication that my work was not meeting expectations. I have filed for unemployment, but I haven’t received anything as of yet. It has only been a week.

Isn’t it weird the things that can trigger depression. My job loss didn’t. I was upset and down as to be expected but it wasn’t depression. Having to ask and receive help from my sister who is so judgmental of any actions that aren’t 100% responsible, and my grandmother who I have been trying to set boundaries with, especially financially.

I got a verbal offer for a job today. Since completing my degree, I haven’t been job searching. Let me tell you, I am being offered hire positions then I have ever held. Positions that I most certainly feel I am unqualified for. I accepted but am waiting for the official offer letter.

I feel like things are looking up and all in all, this year wasn’t bad. It might be one of my best yet.

Time management

I decided to do this topic since I am facing a new severe health issue aside from bipolar, something that also starts as an invisible disability. Still, I am so active these days, although not manic.

I remember when I finally gained control over my bipolar years ago. One of the first things I did is- read books on time management. I had so much to do, and so much that I wanted to do so, I was guessing my best odds were at organising better.

I went through some of the books, and all the basic principles did not apply to me at all! That was the time I decided to write about it the first time I get the chance. I am going to stick, for the time being, with the primary obstacle.

First of my problems was, how on earth can I plan every hour of the day when I can’t predict how am I going to feel at all! What if my energy levels are too low to be active at that point. More or less I know I am doing lousy in the mornings, by now I know how I can manage through the day, but if I had a strict schedule, I would end up with the feeling of guilt and lack of accomplishment.

Still, there was one advice I could follow: get the planner! I did get the planner, and I would write down tasks for the day, ones that are a must and ones that are optional, no specific timing other than meetings and similar. It is working well for me. When I have energy, I do what it takes and sometimes even more than that, I pick up tasks from the day that follows.

One thing I have learned from one book was “the vacation principle”. It means giving ourselves more time than we need for the task or starting it as early as possible so we can make it before the official deadline. It provides a feeling of accomplishment. Also, don’t plan too ambitious. That would be my experience. It feels fantastic when we plan a decent workload but not too much, and then we get to do even more than expected!

It is always better to put things into some order, but we need to honour our needs and add self-care on the list as well. Maybe even use the planner to monitor mood swings or whatever we need to watch. Now that my skin is so oily due to meds, I am even planning my weekly Rhassoul clay facial mask, sometimes even longer walks.

I know the times when getting out of bed might become a significant task could be around the corner, but I will quote my doctor: “Do whatever your mind and body permit you to do and don’t even think you won’t be able to do things!”

How did you approach planning time and living with bipolar, I would love to hear your comments!

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

My Journey to Stability, Pt. 3

by Shara Adams

A circle of blurred faces surrounded me, all talking at once. The level of chaos outpaced my own mind and I struggled to keep track of what was going on. Drugged and intoxicated beyond capable cognition, the world began to slip away once again. In the mess of voices, the realization of my fragile state caught the action of the paramedics and I was whisked down the stairs from the apartment to the ambulance. Because of the design of our place, a stretcher was worthless. They half carried, and half walked me down the precarious stairway. Once I was inside the bus, one of the paramedics joined me and began a pleasant conversation with me.

Blonde hair and blue eyes watched me intently. It may have been my lost mind, but at that moment, he had the most beautiful eyes that I had ever seen. Smiling, I was lost in his hypnotizing gaze. His voice was soft and inviting. I felt like I could listen to it forever, and I did listen to it the whole way to the emergency room. He conversed with me to keep me awake and cognitive of what was around me, and it worked perfectly. It also kept my mind off the fact my husband had not come with me. I did not notice this fact in the middle of everything going on; he was completely absent from my side.

Once inside the ER, I was forced to drink charcoal from a small cup, and it did not take long for it to make a reappearance. It was absolutely disgusting, and my toxic stomach contents were having none of it. Frustrated nurses yelled at me for throwing it up and then gave me another cup – but I never touched it to my lips. Without something to focus on, I was slipping away from the bright lights of the room. Metal walls of the elevator were my final memory before losing consciousness. I have no recollection of being in the ICU or being ‘asleep’. No dreams or thoughts; it was as if I went to bed and woke up the next morning but waking up this time was a much different experience.

Stirring in the hospital bed, my eyes opened several days after my arrival. I felt lost and confused at my surroundings, but my eyes fell on a familiar face and relief washed over me. I am sure she felt the swell of relief as well. My mom had driven about 740 miles in eight hours to be by my side. We later calculated that she had averaged about 95 mph the entirety of the drive, never being pulled over. There was always a driver going faster than she was, and they were the ones to get caught. Her foot never left the gas pedal, and I will never make fun of her panic.

Once awake and somewhat aware of where I was, I noticed the lack of a certain person from the room: my husband. This was something my mom attempted to fix, but it was only mildly successful. He came to visit me once during my entire stay, but never said a word and refused to look at me. He sat on my bed and I rubbed his back, but nothing I did to interact with the stone-faced body made any difference. His blatant resentment was more than I could overcome. I began to wonder if I went too far to prove my point, but it also seemed to be working.

The chaos from the apartment had compartmentalized in my mind, blurry and distant memories, just like that night.

by Shara Adams

For more stories by Shara Adams, visit http://pennedinwhite.com.

My First Time.

I have never been hospitalized before. I think that I am pretty good at hiding things, but I couldn’t hide this from myself. I knew there was something wrong. I wasn’t sleeping more than a couple hours, I was becoming emotionally abusive, and I was falling back into overspending. Mania. This isn’t the first time I have been manic this year, but I hope it is the last. I moved into a new apartment earlier this week and I already can’t make rent. I am exhausting. I am tired from being me.

I took myself down to the hospital which I think we can agree is a feat on its own. Not having insurance was both a blessing a curse. The plus side is that I could choose whatever hospital I wanted and the downside is that I am uninsured. I can’t help but laugh that this insanely expensive vacation I just took and I didn’t even get to go to the pool. I am constantly, actively working to better myself. I take my medication, go to all my doctors appointments, religiously see my therapist, use the breathing exercises. I am not immune to it. It wasn’t at all what I had expected. Clean, hospital like in some ways, slightly degrading, and cold. BUT I am blessed to have gone to a place that provided me a private room and bathroom. Granted, everything was bolted to the floor and the bathroom had no door. Overall it was a really nice place filled with people actively trying to get better.

I was sad and anxious that I was taking all these days unpaid, but I had to. I had to go and get help. It was an out of body experience watching me set fire to all the relationships that took years to rebuild. One conversation has sent it all tumbling down. Here I am, trying to intervene and slow the damage. I was discharged yesterday afternoon and it seems that my grandparents are going to be the hardest to recover. I suppose it is divine timing because we just moved away after living next door to them. I am fortunate to still have my mom in my corner because it would be hell living together for the next year if I am going to be the source of her pain and anger.

I am doing better today. Better than yesterday, better than a week ago. I just have to keep pushing forward. My anxiety is manageable right now and I hope that it stays that way. I hope that this made inpatient stays a little less scary for those who haven’t experienced it.

Keep fighting the good fight!

My Journey to Stability, Pt. 2

“…you’re the spawn of the Devil!” 

After watching the pictures fly across the room, my husband turned back to his screen, acting unfazed by my actions or words.  His response, or lack thereof, only confirmed my decision; I had to reveal him to the world as the true demon he was to me. Red flags waved the last four years, but I brushed them away, creating excuses for his behavior and words. He was a narcissistic bastard taking advantage of my ignorance. For all those years, I blamed myself for everything he did said, convincing myself it was my fault for the way he treated me. I needed to learn my place in his sick world. Being young and naive, I did not realize how I was being manipulated by someone who was supposed to love me.  

I wanted to scream, but the sound never left my throat. Instead, I staggered over to my chair, sitting down with an obscene lack of grace and nearly toppling over. My desk was a mess, but what I was looking for was within easy reach. The Jameson thudded against the wood as I snatched up a white bottle. Effexor was the anti-depressant I was prescribed after a questionnaire was given to me for the Bipolar diagnostic process in 2007, of which it was determined I had Major Depression, not Bipolar Disorder. Several attempts to find a medication were made to help me feel somewhat normal. None of them worked, but I stuck with Effexor despite the roller coaster. 

By Shara Adams

I did not feel suicidal, but the world needed to open its eyes and see him for who he was. The world needed to see me, to save me from the hell I was living. Rising to my feet, I opened the white bottle and poured out a handful pills. I reached for the Jameson without counting the capsules and set my reserve; I knew what I had to do to save myself and destroy him. My shoulders rolled back with determination, but my thoughts remained a jumbled mess from the alcohol and my inundated emotions. The world was spinning, and I did not know what to think or feel. All I knew was I had to escape the pathetic excuse of a man. 

“Is this what you wanted?” 

Turning to face me, I smirked with satisfaction. I had his full undivided attention, for once. The impact I planned on having with my actions, played over and over in my head. I did not know what was going to happen, and my mind did not consider the consequences which were possible. Blinded by the potential freedom, I could not back away from my decision. As I held the pills in my hand with a drink in the other, I threw them all to the back of my throat and followed them with the last of the Jameson.

Relief washed over me as I sat back down, ignoring him. I felt I had done the right thing, but after several minutes, the world started to disappear and I began to question myself – like always. I tried to blame it on the entire bottle of liquor, which I had consumed in a matter of a few hours. About ten minutes later, a knock on our apartment door brought the light back, but I could not move. Before I reached the count of three, five to six people swarmed into our small space and surrounded me both physically and verbally. I was confused as to who they were, why they were here, and what they were asking, but I responded to their probing questions as best I could. The realization hit me like a brick after several questions: they were paramedics.

My husband had called 911. For once in his life, he may have done the right thing.

By Shara Adams

More stories can be found at pennedinwhite.com

Real

I dedicated the last few posts to people living with mental illness who managed to engage with the world and produce art. I don’t know of any data, but from my going through biographies, people living with a disability don’t seem to be underrepresented among people who made it in creative endeavours. So why are they underrepresented everywhere else? Rhetorical question, of course. I do think we should fight for our place in the grand scheme of things. I will probably continue this series, but now I intend to disrupt it.

I am thinking a lot about my situation lately. I can’t move because of the pandemic; I am stuck in my flat in the province. I got another severe diagnosis. But, I am constructive most of the time, I am learning new things and making sketches for my book to be. Prospects are gloomy, and I don’t have much to hope for, but I’ve been there already. Haven’t we all? Sometimes battles that can’t possibly be won are the battles that decide the history, like the battle of Thermopylae where Leonidas stopped the Persian power with a few good men. The analogy has to stop at some point, but knowing that battles you can’t win can be decisive is what keeps us hopeful, humble and real.

Perfectly healthy people can’t win against ageing and death because nobody can. It is a truism. Some try desperately to make it seem like they are slowing the process down, but there is no warrantee at all, for anything in life. Deception works on the minds of living beings, but it doesn’t work on the laws of nature. She is cruel to her children sometimes, but the least bit harsh if we align with her and listen to her beats that are present in every landscape.

That is why I feel good in this black hole of mine despite everything. I know I am using well the time I have at my hand. I am not giving up on the gift of life or seeing it as an adventure. In this pandemic, I can watch tea ceremony from Nara or attend language courses or study things in the realm of my academic interests with much more knowledgable people on all sorts of online platforms.

I don’t intend to apologize anymore for the things I couldn’t do because of my disability. Those days are over. I don’t see anyone apologizing for doing injustice to the community for their private interest which is often the case in my country and which is leaving disabled and healthy and however-they-want-to-identify people on the margins. I am not perfect, so I won’t say I did my best, but I did fight the battle I can’t win well so far.

So I am here, in this small provincial town writing about my current situation and hoping I am keeping it real, as I’d like to.

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash