S1 E12 of The Bipolar Writer Podcast

I am not advocating that cutting is right or wrong. For some people, like myself, it is just a way you have to live with when emotional pain becomes unbearable for a good portion of my life. This subject means the world to me. When I look at the scars on my arm, it is a constant reminder of who I was and how far I have come since I was a teenager.

Cutting and Self Harm – Why So Serious?

Photo by Alysha Rosly on Unsplash

\*disclaimer\* I am not advocating that cutting is right or wrong. For some people, like myself, it is just a way you have to live with when emotional pain becomes unbearable for a good portion of my life. This subject means the world to me. When I look at the scars on my arm, it is a constant reminder of who I was and how far I have come since I was a teenager. It’s a sensitive subject, but I would rather talk about it than push it to the side. Here is my story of how cutting and self-harm was a significant part of my life.

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The Bipolar Writer Podcast Interview with Alaina The Bipolar Writer Podcast

Episode Description Alaina became an advocate for mental health in 2017 following a psychotic episode. During this episode, she experienced delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations. Initially, she was diagnosed with brief psychotic disorder, which mental health professionals believed was stress-induced, as Alaina was a full-time Ph.D. student. Later in the same year, Alaina's diagnosis changed to bipolar I disorder. While she did not complete her Ph.D. program, she is currently in school for ultrasound, and she will begin a master's program in health administration in the fall of 2021. If you would like to know more about Alaina, you can follow her blog at http://www.thebipolarbuzz.com and subscribe to her YouTube channel, Alaina Raquel. -Alaina If you are looking for all things James Edgar Skye, you can find his social media visiting https://linqapp.com/james_skye The Bipolar Writer Podcast is listener-supported, and for as little as $5 a month, you can help support the mental health advocacy that I do by visiting http://www.buymeacoffee.com/jamesedgarskye. Please help this podcast grow by sharing with friends or anyone that you think will benefit from the experiences of others and myself. You can also find me on the following websites. You can also find me on the following websites to book your interview, ask questions, and reach out to me. http://www.jamesedgarskye.me Purchase my books at: https://www.jamesedgarskye.me/jamesedgarskyebooks — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/jamesedgarskye22/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/jamesedgarskye22/support
  1. The Bipolar Writer Podcast Interview with Alaina
  2. The Bipolar Writer Podcast Interview with Colleen
  3. Bullying and Mental Health
  4. The Bipolar Writer Podcast Interview with Krystal
  5. The Bipolar Writer Podcast Interview with Gavin

Always Keep Fighting.

What is the worst that can happen?

James Edgar Skye

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The Bipolar Writer Podcast

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“You Can Talk to Us”: Social Anxiety at Work

Social anxiety presents itself in a variety of forms for different people and can be perceived by others in a lot of negative ways. Last week I got called out by a coworker for rarely speaking to the employees on the first floor.

My desk is in the basement along with 3 other workspaces that occupy two part-time employees and one is there twice a week. Most days I am downstairs by myself.

The fridge and microwave are on the first floor so when I arrive in the morning I put my lunch away and come back up a few hours later to get it. In those few moments I am upstairs I try not to make eye contact or speak with anyone else.

bts-v-shy-02
What I look like walking down the hallway at work.

Last week I was walking back to the basement after heating up my lunch when my coworker said, “you know you can talk to us.”

I was dumbfounded. I felt exposed as if she pulled back the curtain to see socially anxious little me hugging my favorite teddy bear.

My anxiety has always told me that nobody wants to talk to me or cares what I have to say. It has made me believe that it is best for me to keep to myself so I don’t bother others.

My response was, “Oh, I can? I thought you were all really busy most of the time.”

She said they aren’t then we proceeded to casually chat for a few minutes.

Over the years, I have shut myself off socially at work.

At my last job I kept to myself except for talking to my supervisor. Most of my other coworkers weren’t friendly so I didn’t speak to them unless necessary.

Nobody has called me out on my social anxiety (except my therapist) so it has become a normal way of living for me. It has definitely given me some perspective on how others view me at work. Something to certainly think about.

Do you have social anxiety? If so, how do you cope with it at work/school?

Also what is your current coping method when you’re struggling with your mental illness?

As you can see from the featured image, my current coping mechanism is BTS. Whether it’s watching their incredible dancing in their music videos or reading along with the translated lyrics, BTS makes me happy in all ways. It also helps that they are all super cute. (If you’re a fellow Army, I love Jin, V and RM most.)

What warms my heart is their lyrics in “Love Yourself” that say, “even the scars that were formed from my mistakes are my very own constellations.” These words are powerful for me because of my history with self-harm.

My Demon Said To Me

Broken and alone
Chilled to the bone
Confused, spinning
From the chorus in my home
‘You’re not enough
You’re not enough
You can’t do it on your own’

I concede
I give in
Okay, I’ll listen
I must admit
I’ve come to love
The way the cold blade glistens

But when I close my eyes to go
Among those who
Took fate by the throat
Something whispers
Soft and slow

I tilt my head
To lean in to the muse
And my demon says
No one can hurt you

As long as I’m here…no one can hurt you.

Now I See

Yesterday, I received my very first pair of glasses. I didn’t realize how blind I was. I now see everything so differently. So crisp. So clear. It’s insane. I had no idea that I wasn’t seeing things clearly. And it reminded me of myself when I realized something was wrong with my brain.

I have struggled with crippling depressions ever since I can remember. And these depressions are a lot longer than a week or a day. They last from 6 months to 3 years. My most recent depression lasted 3 years and included 6 months of not eating, which resulted in my body nearly shutting down. It included many, many nights of self-harm. And when I finally came out of it, I dove straight into my very first manic episode.

My manic episode lasted for a little over a year. And it took 9 months to figure out that something was wrong with me. During the first 9 months, I was extremely reckless, hyper-sexual, and felt indestructible, all-knowing, and ecstatic. I didn’t need sleep because I was fueled up on manic energy. I was creating art, music, books, and I wasn’t going to stop just to sleep. In order to stay awake when I did get tired, I turned to drugs, which is COMPLETELY out of character for me. The mania caused me to lose my appetite, so I lost a lot of weight again, and the drug use just made it worse. I overdosed 6 months into my mania (didn’t tell anybody, though). During the next 3 months, I was desperate for money and I was still hyper-sexual, so I began taking money for sex. This is also COMPLETELY out of character for me. It was after I got roofied that I realized something had to be terribly wrong with me.

I went to my PCP, who said it sounded like I had bipolar disorder. However, they weren’t equipped to handle mental illnesses, and asked me repeatedly to go to a psychiatrist. I put it off because I was feeling great (still manic). I also didn’t want to admit I had a mental illness. It didn’t take long before I tripped and fell face-first into another depression. This one was intense, and lasted 3 months. By the end of the 3 months, I was experiencing depression and mania at the same time.

I became extremely reckless with men again, and I was hallucinating a terrifying black demon. I couldn’t sleep anymore. I couldn’t even go into my bedroom; I was so afraid. The only way to get the demon to go away was to cut myself. So I started etching little red ditches in my thighs every time it happened. I begged for help. I went to the hospital and begged to be admitted to the psych ward. They even saw my thighs. They wouldn’t take me because they said I wasn’t a danger to myself or others. I never felt more invisible and helpless in my life.

A week later, I called my boss and told them what was happening to me. She has bipolar disorder, too, so she immediately called 911 and asked them to do a wellness check on me. Instead of coming to my house, they called me and asked if I was okay. I wasn’t ready to go to the hospital yet. I wanted to say good-bye to my daughter (who I sent to my mom’s because I knew I wasn’t safe). So I told them I was fine. Thankfully, my cousin decided to call them again, so then they actually came to my door. It was just in time, because I was just trying to cut a path in my arm that was deep enough to bleed out. They saw my arm and said if I didn’t come with them, they would 302 me (give me no choice). I said PLEASE take me, I’ve only been trying to go for a month. So, I finally got the help I needed, and it was 2.5 years ago. I’ll write about my stay in the psych ward another time.

My whole point is that sometimes you don’t realize how blind you are to your situation, actions, behaviors, etc until something is put in front of your eyes to make you see it. For me, being raped opened my eyes. And then my brand new glasses made my vision clear, for real. 😉 The important thing is to make sure that once you see your issues, you get the right help for them. And then do the research so that you can be self-aware and catch episodes before they have a chance to spin out of control, which we all know happens very quickly.

2019

2019 has been a year of growth and challenges.

But I can never blame myself for wanting to live.

Everything is teaching me something.
As long as I’m open and willing to learn.

Everyone comes into this world being enough. I am enough. 💫

Here is to 2020.

Thank you for being with me.
Angel Love and Blessings.

Love, Francesca.

A Decade Mental Health Reflection

10 years is a really freaking long time. Looking back I think this may have been the most transformative decade of my life because so many monumental things happened.

I graduated from high school and college. I got my first part time job at Wendy’s (a fast food restaurant in America) and first full time job (that I reluctantly quit). I fell in love twice, lost my virginity, had my heart broken many times and bought a house with my boyfriend of nearly 3 years.

**I’m going to be writing about self harm and suicide. If this may be triggering for you, I suggest waiting for my next post. Talking about self harm is triggering for me still but I want to talk about it openly and honestly.**

Self-Harm

During this decade I learned about depression and anxiety, finally labeling how I had felt for most of my life. I cut myself for the first time in 2011 in my college dorm room because I felt an overwhelming sense of depression and loneliness. This action impacted my life quite a lot. I used it to cope with my mental illness when I was at my lowest points for many years.

You can still see some of those early scars on my arms in the right light. I usually notice them in the summer when the sun shines the brightest. It takes me back to all of the pain I felt in those moments, when I thought this was the only way I could survive each day.

Therapy

Back in 2014 I was in my last year of university, I had returned to the main campus after spending a year in a big city and abroad in England. I struggled so much to readjust to life on campus but I couldn’t. I couldn’t focus, I had no energy and no drive to attend classes or do my assignments.

This brought me to seeing my first therapist, Jennifer. She was the total opposite of me personality wise, she was straight-laced, practical and put together while I walked into her office a total wreck. She was a counselor at my university that I saw every other week. She helped me take those first steps to sorting through my mental illness which lead me to the therapist I have been seeing since September 2016.

I love my current therapist. She has been with me through my very darkest times struggling with intense suicidal thoughts and daily self harm. I saw her twice a week for months until I got a grip on myself. Once I finally made it to once a week I was so proud of myself. I now see her more or less on an as needed basis which I never thought would be possible.

Suicide

After a bad breakup from my first love, my life was in shambles. Before this I had occasionally had suicidal thoughts but they were not even close to the level of intensity these were. “Kill yourself” was on repeat in my mind constantly. I couldn’t have a moment of silence without hearing that phrase.

I never attempted suicide, I think because I had such a strong team of professionals supporting me. My therapist, doctor and psychiatrist were helping me, I didn’t want to let them down by dying. And we were all working to find a medicine that would help me.

Since being on medicine I haven’t had intense suicidal thoughts. I have them occasionally  if I’m at a low point but other than that I am ok.

I’m sorry this post is so long but I wanted to write up a brief bit of my mental health journey from this past decade. In 2010 I wouldn’t have expected for all of this to happen. Life surprises us, it surprises me on a regular basis.

I wish you all a Happy New Year!

“Is Cutting a Cry for Attention?”

Just as a warning to anyone in a sensitive time, I am writing about suicidal thoughts and self injury. I even triggered myself writing this so please take care of yourself.

Last week at work we had a suicide prevention seminar. A client killed herself in our building earlier this year so my boss thought it was appropriate to have one of the local universities bring their special suicide prevention team over to do a presentation.

Being someone who has been suicidal and being relatively active in the mental community, I had my critic hat on. I didn’t expect to learn much because I know the signs that somebody is suicidal. I lived it for many months.

So the presentation went fine, I had no qualms or anything to be pissed off about. Until…

For some reason that I don’t have the answer for, two of our organization’s board members were present. I had no idea why they were there but they were. It all went to shit when the one woman raised her hand and asked:

“So what about cutting? Do people cut themselves as a cry for attention? Are they suicidal?”

I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly fell over. I was hoping the speaker would say something intelligent, to show that she actually knew what the hell she was talking about. Instead her response was outdated and she was entirely misinformed.

She said yes to both of her questions. I immediately became silently angry. I couldn’t believe that somebody who is an alleged expert about this is telling my coworkers that people who cut want attention and want to die.

Here’s my response to her question:

You can’t lump every person who self injures into a shallow explanation like that. As someone who has struggled with self injury for 8 years, I never once did it for attention. I have always work diligently to hide my cuts and scars from people. The last thing I ever wanted was for someone to see what I did to myself. For me, it’s always been embarrassing.

Some people are suicidal and cut but use self injury as a coping mechanism. Not as a means to kill themselves. During my severe depression where I had constant thoughts of suicide, I cut myself daily. But that’s just my experience, not everyone’s.

Responses to questions like that only perpetuate the falsehoods about people who self injure or are suicidal.

What are your thoughts about this? What would your response be to that woman?

What Anger Is To Me

Please don’t tell me that a smile and your sorrow just don’t go together.

I would not look upon my anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight. I have to deal with my anger with care, with love, with tenderness, and with non-violence.

When I get angry, I have to produce awareness: “I am angry. Anger is in me. I am anger”. That is the first thing to do.

Thank you for being with me. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Angel love and rainbows.

Love, Francesca.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month. While it’s great there’s a month dedicated to this, it should be 365-day year awareness.

I understand suicide can be a touchy subject especially for those who have struggled with it themselves or have lost a loved one to it.

I wanted to share my personal story with suicide because that was something I struggled with for a long time.

I was 14 years old when I started getting suicidal thoughts. I was in high school and was completely miserable. I was living in an abusive household suffering abuse from my mom on a daily basis. It was physical, verbal, & psychological abuse. Living in such a toxic environment and experiencing that abuse on a regular basis caused me to go into a severe depression.

I would spend hours locked in my room crying myself to sleep. I would always question God asking him “why me?”

“Why was this happening to me?”

“Why did I have to get a mom who treated me so terribly?”

It wasn’t much longer when I started to get suicidal thoughts on a regular basis.

My mom told me so many lies on a regular basis that it was hard for me to not believe them. She convinced me I was a burden to others & that I shouldn’t be on this earth. She told me things that no child or person should ever here. She told me she wished I were never born and that she wished she had me aborted when she had the chance. These are things I wish I could say never happened, but those were all lies she told me.

My thoughts started to become more negative and darker as the days went on. I started to lose feelings of happiness and forgot what happiness felt like. I started to feel numb & empty on the inside not feeling any emotions but sadness. I started to cope with self-harm when I was 14 years old. I believed it was the only way for me to feel something besides emptiness & sadness so I turned to self-harm.

That’s when the suicidal thoughts started to creep in and became more frequent. I started to believe the lies my mom and my depression told me. I believed I was a burden to others and that the world would be a better place without me in it. I wanted out of the world so bad that I came up with a plan when I was 15 years old to end my life. I had been prescribed pain medication from a dentist visit when I had to get a root canal and researched that medication and found that if I took all of the pills in the bottle I could never wake up again. That was my plan.

It was like playing tug o war in my mind though, there was that part of me that believed I was a burden and that I should just leave the world now, but there was another part of me that wanted to keep fighting. It told me to keep pushing through that those negative thoughts were lies and I could beat them.

I confided in my high school’s guidance counselor and he helped me push through the suicidal thoughts. I didn’t seek out treatment for my depression at the time even though I should have. Throughout high school I still struggled with depression and being active in sports helped me manage it.

After high school and when I went away to University the suicidal thoughts started to creep in again. I thought it was just homesickness since I was going to school on the other side of the country, but it was much deeper than that for me.

It was the summer of 2014 when I was home from University that I sought out treatment for my depression. I struggled with an alcohol addiction and one day when I had way too much to drink I couldn’t control the suicidal thoughts. I knew that if I didn’t seek out help that night, I would have harmed myself and may not be alive today. I had my best friend’s boyfriend drive me to the mental hospital and drop me off. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this and I told him yes I knew if I didn’t get help I was only going to get worse.

I spent three days in the crisis unit of the mental hospital. I was put on Zoloft and anxiety medication that helped ease my anxiety while I was there. I wish I could say going on Zoloft helped with my depression, but it actually made things worse for me. At the time I was diagnosed with depression and didn’t know I had bipolar disorder. When I was on Zoloft I felt like a zombie I was so out of it and numb, I hated it. I didn’t realize that for those who have bipolar disorder, anti-depressants could cause you to go into mania, which it did for me.

When I was back at University that semester I was a wreck. I was in and out of depressive episodes along with being in manic episodes. My alcohol problem was out of control and my behavior was reckless. I was failing all of my classes and was drinking on a daily basis. I started to struggle with self-harm again and the suicidal thoughts again. I knew that if I didn’t leave University and get myself out of that environment things were only going to get worse for me. That’s when I withdrew from University and moved back home to Florida.

I wish I could say everything got better for me when I got back home to Florida, but my depression grew worse. The psychiatrist I was seeing was no help at all to me and didn’t listen to my problems. He didn’t care to give me a proper psych evaluation and just wrote me a script for the next anti-depressant out there. I continued to struggle with self-harm and battled the suicidal thoughts daily.

I was empty & numb living in an endless cycle of my depression.

It wasn’t until the end of 2016 when I finally found a psychiatrist who gave me a proper psych evaluation and diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. Getting on the proper medication and changing my lifestyle to healthier habits, put an end to the suicidal thoughts. It was like the fog had finally been lifted and I could see clearly again. I started to see a therapist for a few months as well that helped me work through some of the issues from my past.

I’m happy to say that I am stable now and have not harmed myself in over three years now. I still find myself going into depressive episodes every now and then and will catch the suicidal thoughts creeping into my mind. I’ve become a lot stronger than I was three years ago and can fight off the thoughts much better than before.

I know living with a mental illness will be a life long battle for me. I’ve spent over ten years now fighting the demons and while it can be exhausting, I know I will survive the fight.

For those of you that have experienced something similar or going through a tough time please never hesitate to seek out help. There are so many resources available out there today and remember you are not a burden to others. Your life matters and you are never alone in this fight.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Taking a Break with my Therapist

I have been thinking for a while now that I want to stop seeing my therapist. Typing that makes me nervous about ending it!

I have been seeing my therapist almost 3 years, which is crazy to think about. She has been my support through everything that’s happened in my life. When I was suicidal, she was there for me if I ever needed her outside of our sessions. When I was struggling with self-harm, she never shamed me (I am 487 days clean!). She was helped me dig through my negative thoughts, depressive episodes and anxiety attacks.

My mental health has been pretty good for the past few months. I have been seeing her monthly to discuss what’s going on in my life, how my mental health is and whatever I’m worried about at the moment. I love seeing her but I think it is time to take a break with our sessions.

The idea of stopping therapy scares me.

It automatically turns on the anxiety bells in my brain and starts to tie my stomach into knots. My worry is that I will get bad again, that I will plummet to the bottom and not have her there to help me get back up.

She has helped me get to this positive place in my mental health journey. She has helped me with coping skills, rational thinking and how to question my anxious thoughts.

BUT

Change always makes me depressed even if it’s a good change. Growing up I would get depressed when I moved up to the next grade. I got depressed every time I moved back to college or moved home from college. Most big changes immediately send me into a depressive spiral.

I have a big change coming up that I am pretty sure will make me depressed even though I am excited about it. My boyfriend and I are taking a huge step together! We are buying a house! (Please don’t tell me in the comments that I should be married first or that I’m doing this backwards.)

I’m worried already about everything that comes with buying a house and moving in with a long-term partner. I worry that all of the stress will push me into a depressive/anxious mess that I would have to cope with without my therapist.

I meet with her the second Monday of July. There I will tell her what I’m thinking, maybe she will alleviate some of my worries.

What has your experience been like after you stopped therapy? Leave me a comment please!