Reflecting.

Mental illness can be exhausting. I feel that this past two years have been a whirlwind of emotion and change. Both fast and slow at the same time. Depressive episodes have made the days drag and falling into the pits of despair made them almost unbearable. Stable moods made days of adventure seem like flashes of happiness rather than long days of fun.

I hated this past year.

I feel like my mental health management consumed me. The constant ups and downs were exhausting and I felt as though it would be the end of me. I really didn’t think I would make it. I lost my humor and silliness. I did not dance in my kitchen, I did not play silly pranks on my sister who has come to adore them, I did not go out with friends more than a handful of times, and I did not love myself. I am an extrovert through and through, but this past year I was a shut in.

2019

4 doctors.

2 states.

4 jobs.

2 moves.

4 lapses in medications.

5 lapses in health insurance.

6 medication changes.

This is not my ideal year. I have let bipolar run my life. It has humbled me. Sometimes, when I am feeling under control, I let doubt creep in and think that maybe I am completely fine. Maybe I don’t need medication and I am just one of those people that needs and excuse to behave badly or skirt responsibilities.

I am in fact, not that person. I am completely, without a doubt 100%, mentally ill. And in 2020 I will, for the first time in my life, be making a resolution. I will consistently manage my illness.

2020

Choose a new doctor (mine quit)

continuously take my meds

blog twice per month (because I made a commitment that I never kept)

finish my graduate degree

be okay with being okay.

 

Do you ever have a normal day?

Has anyone  ever seen the film I Robot starring Will Smith? It’s based on a story by Isaac Asimov.  Smith plays his  typical action man role with misbehaving robots added.  The ultimate premise of the tale is how does one keep humanity safe – not from sci-fi’s ubiquitous invading aliens, no not even killer robots which someone has to program  – but from itself?   There is a line in the film where a scientist says to Will Smith’s character,  Do you ever have a normal day?  He replies: I did once.

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That is how it feels to be a mental health sufferer.  If you have a normal day you remember it. I shall remember November 18th for that reason because I got three quarters of the way through it before thinking.  Why don’t I feel ill, exhausted, depressed, agitated, fed up, sick?  Perm any one from five thousand, you know how it is.

I’m hoping I can keep this up, this whatever passes for the new normality. Not because I have to save humanity from awry robots, but just so as I can be and do the things I normally want to be and do without it being quite so much effort.

I am writing again which is good news, going out more, protesting about iniquitous politicians and am generally much busier than I was, in a good way of course.  Still it’s necessary to watch the business thing (or ‘busy-ness’ thing) because that can lead back down to the vortex.  But so can sitting about doing nothing I guess.  The trick is  as always  to find a balance.   Sometimes I work 24/7 to save myself from staring down the black hole.

When I get very busy I can feel my brain speeding up telling me now this needs doing, now this, now this, now this!! I start to panic at the overwhelming amount of stuff that I need to get done – and without Will Smith or robotic assistance, there is sadly only me to do it.  This is not helped by the internet and constant online-ness of everything but I do not think that has been the cause.  I have always tried to outrun father time, but he just shakes his head sadly behind my shoulder.

The fragility of being a mere human being.   I’ve been told that this kind of  thinking is a result of lack of confidence – that people who lack confidence in themselves feel that nothing they achieve could ever be enough so they drive on and on and wear themselves to a raveling.  Well I’m no psych person but it sounds logical to me and certainly reflects my life tendencies. The fear inside, the need for an unattainable perfection.  Setting small daily goals helps because it’s valuable to concentrate on what has been achieved rather that thinking of the distance still to run.

But this is how I see it.  I’ve been given my brain and if it works or if it doesn’t work it’s mine to cope with.  But also it’s mine to use to the best of my ability.  I read somewhere that the average human being (that’s pretty much most of us except for Stephen Hawking RIP and a few others) uses only around 30%  of his/her potential brain power.  Imagine that!  Only one-third. We’ve still got two-thirds to go guys – and there’s a planet to save.

Two Weeks Notice.

My psychiatrist put in her two weeks notice. It is a difficult pill to swallow, knowing that I have to find yet another doctor. I don’t feel this way with any other type of physician. I am not sure how to articulate that I don’t trust another doctor not to second guess the work that was being done by myself with my current provider.

I feel like any time I have had to change psychiatrists there has been the question of which bipolar I have….does that matter? Mental health is the only time I have ever wished that someone would just treat my symptoms instead of trying to pinpoint the exact disease. Then there is the question, “why do you think you have bipolar?” or “how did you determine that it is bipolar?”. I didn’t. A health care professional did. I always feel like I am being questioned, like I did something wrong. I did not choose this. I just want to keep under a treatment that has been working for me.

I feel like a science experiment with all the med changes. I know it isn’t an exact science, but it is one of the most painful things I have experienced emotionally. I don’t want to be in the middle of a pissing contest between providers and someone being right. But there is no winner here. Why question something that is clearly working?

Pray for me. I am not sure I can take another round of medication roulette.

New Doctor, New Me.

Haven’t written in a while. Blame the mental illness. I stopped doing a bit of everything for awhile. I finally moved and have been back in Arizona for a couple months. I could already feel better just being back around my support system. Isn’t it weird that you don’t even realize how familiar environments can make or break you?

I started seeing my new doctor the day after I arrived. She really took the time to listen. She asked me a ton of questions and even asked that I take the time to write some things down that we didn’t get a chance to discuss. I was put on an additional medication, respiradone, that was to help in addition to my lamictal and Seroquel. It made me incredibly sick and I have been told that I had what is called Melatonin syndrome. FUN. NOT.

I have since been switched to a new med and only time will tell if it helps. I know that it can be difficult to know if you are improving or not because we do not see how we are, we only feel. I know that I have had problems my whole life with what was mostly referred to as “my attitude and tone”. I now know that it should have been known as my moods (hello mood disorder). I was constantly told that I need to focus on my tone with people and customers at work. This greatly impacted my professional life. It would always begin with being commended for my work ethic, skills, and problem solving skills. A few weeks in and I was kind of discarded because of my attitude. This completely sucked. I would leave work and come back the next morning telling myself that I am just going to do my job and keep my head down. Didn’t happen.

The job I have now has been AMAZING. Since getting back on all my medication (I just up and stopped taking them, bad girl) I have seen a drastic change. I received a raise and was even commended on my professional tone by multiple members of management. MEDICATION WORKS YA’LL. I know that my outlook and perseverance has a hand in my treatment, but I am telling you that I think I am in a good place.

I was recommended for a job by a friend for a project manager position. This a HUGE deal. I have never had anyone offer to help me in getting a leg up in my career. This is the position I acquired over 100k in school loans for. IT’S HERE! As much as I like my current job, I am at a place where there is no growth potential which is incredibly disappointing.

This is not to say that my life has suddenly improved 100% and I have no issues. I am struggling financially and frankly am drowning in debt right now. I can say that had this all come about a few months ago, I am not sure I would be writing this. I was in a really bad place and not managing my mental health in a healthy way at all. I have found myself on a good treatment plan that is allowing me to really manage the stress. Apparently that is a huge trigger for my mania. Isn’t that fun?

I know we have all been at low lows and dark places we can’t imagine pulling ourselves from. Just remember that you recognize your own lows and you are responsible for seeking the help. You can get it. You can manage this.

 

p.s. I promise to contribute more. Money woes=no internet.

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

My Healing Journey

At the beginning of the year my number one goal was for me to work on healing myself from the inside out. I had put my own inner healing on hold for a long time. I had pushed down the most painful memories of my childhood in hopes I would never have to think about them again. Over these last eight months more and more old wounds have been resurfacing. Old wounds that I forgot were even there were resurfacing. This was finally my time to work on healing myself.

 

I grew up in an abusive household facing abuse from my mother on a daily basis. I suffered from this abuse from a very young age up until my early adulthood. I suffered from physical, verbal, and psychological abuse. The most damaging towards me was the psychological abuse.

 

Growing up I always knew there was something “off” about my mom because of the way she treated me. I was the oldest child and I guess my mom figured she could take out all her aggression on me. My brother was extremely lucky because my mom treated him completely opposite of how she treated me.

 

A month ago I read a book about healing from Narcissistic abuse. It opened up my eyes to what narcissistic abuse is all about and it confirmed for me that it was the abuse I suffered from growing up. It confirmed my theory that my mom was a narcissist and the symptoms & actions described fit my mom perfectly.

 

My entire life I could never fully be myself. My mom was the one who called all of the shots during my childhood. It didn’t matter what I wanted to do, if she didn’t like it then I couldn’t do it. It was like my mom was trying to live out her life through me. I wanted to play piano and my mom hated that, she threw away my piano books because she didn’t want me to play it. I wanted to do gymnastics, but she told me no & convinced me that I was never good enough to do it in the first place. She hated me having friends and never let me hang out with my friends. This occurred throughout my entire childhood.

 

She terrorized me, manipulated me, and controlled me my entire life. This book opened up my eyes to how abusive a narcissist can be and how evil they can be.

My mom caused me immense pain growing up. She told me things no child or person should ever have to hear especially from your own mother. I was screamed at so many times. She told me lies like that she didn’t want me born, she wished she aborted me when she had the chance, no one in my family likes me, I’m a burden, I have no friends, I’m fat, I’m not pretty, and I’m not good enough. She RARELY told me she loved me & meant it.

 

Now that I’ve reached adulthood and have started my own healing, I feel like I’m starting to find myself all over again. My mom never let me express who I was so I was always fitting into the mold she wanted. I finally feel like I’m starting to find my own identity and who I truly am as a person.

 

At first I felt like I was going through an identity crisis because I didn’t know who I was as a person at first. It’s forced me to dig deep inwards to get in touch with my true authentic self. I’m still learning who I truly am on a daily basis. I’m starting to finally feel free again since I no longer have to conform to what she had led me to believe my entire life.

No Longer Hiding my Emotions

Over the years I’ve become extremely good at hiding my emotions from others.

I grew up with the belief that sadness & tears made me weak so I did my best to never cry in front of people.

I believed that my problems didn’t matter because out there in the world there was someone else with bigger problems than mine.

I believed that people wouldn’t care about what I was going through or that I would be considered a burden.

These beliefs have stayed with me up until this very day. While I’ve gotten more & more comfortable sharing my emotions & problems with others, it’s still something I struggle with today.

This has probably been one of the most difficult habits for myself to break because it’s become natural for me to just hide my emotions & bottle them up never sharing with anyone.

My entire life I’ve done my best to remain strong through all the difficult situations I faced up until now. I didn’t let others see or know the true pain I was in. There were periods where I would spend many nights crying myself to sleep at night. I didn’t want to dump my own problems on anyone else because I didn’t want to be a burden. I ended up not only carrying my own weight of problems, but the weight of those closest to me as well. I put off working through & healing my own issues, to help the ones I loved most.

It’s taken me up until now to realize that it’s important to take care of our own selves first. I neglected my own healing & stuffed my emotions deep down inside of me. In order to be of service & help to others in our lives, we must heal ourselves from within as well.

Because of the difficulties & pain I’ve faced, I never want others to feel alone or feel like they’re a burden. I am here for anyone and can be that shoulder for you to cry on. Never feel like you are a burden to others or that your problems don’t matter because they do! No matter how big or small the problem you’re faced with, it still matters.

Confronting Your Shadow Self

“There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.” – Carl Jung

This last month I stumbled upon something new called shadow work. It was something I’ve never heard of before and it intrigued me. Shadow work is when you take a closer look within yourself at the parts of yourself that you hide. The “dark side” of your personality; the negative parts you might be ashamed of, fearful around, or feel guilt around. It’s something we all have inside of ourselves, but it can be hard to acknowledge and address it.

The psychologist Carl Jung was the one who coined the term “personal shadow.” This is the part of the psyche a lot of people tend to neglect and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Even when you pretend it doesn’t exist your personal shadow can operate on it’s own without us being fully aware. It’s when the unconscious mind assumes control while our conscious self goes on autopilot. The longer you repress your shadow the more you start to see those qualities in the others around you.

At the beginning of the year, one of my resolutions was to work on my self-awareness and to heal myself from within. I spent the last three years focusing on my physical health; I didn’t spend as much time on my mental health and inner work as I should have. Something I’ve learned through my journey is that the mental transformation is just as powerful if not more powerful than a physical transformation.

Shadow work is for everyone, as humans we all have parts of ourselves we like to hide or feel embarrassed to share with others about. Throughout my childhood and early adulthood I’ve had to overcome numerous obstacles like the abuse my mom put me through for almost 18 years. All of those painful memories & experiences I had growing up, I pushed so far back in my head wanting to never think about them again.

When I stumbled upon shadow work it made me realize that I need to stop pretending that the memories don’t exist. Yes they are painful and I’m embarrassed about some of them, but they are going to resurface at some point in time so I can fully move on and continue my growth. Diving into the shadow work and committing to the process was a little scary for me. What scared me the most was fully addressing all those memories & allowing myself come to terms with them.

One of the first steps of shadow work is addressing the memories or emotions you’ve hid from for so long. You also must figure out and identify possible triggers that cause certain emotions with those memories. When you’ve identified the memories & triggers you can start to work on moving on from those to create new beliefs that will bring positive light into your life.

For me this is just the beginning of my own shadow work and bringing awareness to those dark parts so I can bring in new light. If this is something that does intrigue you I encourage you to look more into it as well. It’s something that everyone can benefit from and will only bring in more positivity in the long run.

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A Special Thank You to my Friends & Family

Right now I’m at a period of my life where I’ve been focusing more and more on my own inner work & personal development. It’s something I neglected and put off for far too long. I held the belief that if I pushed away the painful memories & experiences I could forget about them forever. I’ve learned though, that’s not the truth. At some point they will resurface and force you to deal with them.

For being 23 years old I feel I have experienced so much already in my lifetime. I grew up in an abusive household for almost 18 years being abused by my mother on a daily basis. I was sexually assaulted at the age of 19. I struggled with an alcohol addiction during that period as well. I hit rock bottom and almost killed myself. I was hospitalized for my mental illness. I was in & out of depressive episodes along with manic episodes. It was only two years ago when I got the help I needed & became stable again.

During the years when I was away at college and struggled with my alcohol addiction I stopped caring about the others around me. I stopped caring when my friends voiced their concerns about me and wanted to help me. My actions became careless and reckless that cost me friendships at that time.

I think back and wonder that if I did listen to them or if I showed more compassion maybe some of those people would still be in my life. I wonder that if I didn’t struggle with alcohol and mental illness that some of those people would still be in my life. It also showed me, who my true friends were, the ones who stuck by me through it all and are still in my life today.

It’s why I want to say thank you. I want to say thank you to my family and closest friends who stuck by me through my darkest moments. I thank you for not giving up on me when I was at my lowest points. I thank you for not getting mad or leaving when I wouldn’t listen to your advice. I thank you for always being there to support and show me love even when I didn’t want to receive it.

I believe it’s always through our darkest struggles and moments that shows us the people in our lives who truly care. It strengthens us to rise up even higher than before. So again, thank you to all those who showed me support and love through my darkest moments.

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Why You Should Start Practicing Mood Hygiene

We practice personal hygiene, dental hygiene, etc. But have you ever thought to practice mood or mental health hygiene?

The word hygiene was derived from the Greek goddess of health, Hygiea. Hygiene is defined as the science of the establishment and maintenance of health. Mood hygiene is when you practice and build habits that will promote good control of your mood symptoms. For those who have a mental illness this helps take preventive measures to improve the symptoms over time.

Living with mental illness, I never thought to add mood hygiene into my routine. The more I learned about it made me realize how beneficial it can be. Practicing mood hygiene doesn’t have to be just for those who have mental illness; it can be for everyone to practice. There are a few ways to practice mood hygiene and incorporate it into your daily life.

  1. Stress and conflict management

When you find yourself in stressful situations, it can sometimes trigger symptoms of your illness like a depressive episode or anxiety attack. There are several ways that you can take to help and prevent stress in your life such as exercising regularly or meditating.

I’ve learned that when I find myself in stressful situations is when my depressive episodes start to surface again. It’s why I’ve added exercise and meditation into my routine because it does help eliminate the stress and lifts that weight off of your shoulders.

  1. Lifestyle regularity

Having structure in your day-to-day life is extremely important. By establishing and sticking to a schedule will help build that structure in your life. For example, I wake up at the same time everyday and have a morning routine that I stick to everyday. I start my mornings by journaling and listing out a few things that I am grateful for each morning. By practicing that gratitude also helps get me in a positive mindset for the day. I then get my workout in before I start my workday.

By having a schedule you stick to on a regular basis builds the structure in your life that will help you feel in control of your life.

  1. Track your moods

By keeping track of your moods will help you determine if there is a certain pattern or cycle in your moods. I started tracking my moods a couple months ago in my journal and it has helped me become more self-aware. It’s helped me notice a pattern in my moods and it allows me to get my moods more under control. It allows me to prepare for the month so I can be strategic with my commitments and make sure I don’t over extend myself.

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These are just a few ways on how you can practice mood hygiene and start implementing them into your own daily life. Practicing mood hygiene on a regular basis will help immensely in the mental health recovery process. It allows you to have a new sense of control in your life and can be empowering for the individual.