Living With Mental Illness is Like Swimming With A Great White Shark Lurking Nearby

Recently, I have been waking up every morning and thinking, “Another day. Ho hum. Just another day,” while feelings of melancholy fill my heart and ache my soul. Although writing this reminds me that it is not just another day. It is more than another day and I am blessed to be in this day, blessed to be alive. I need to remind myself that every day is a precious gift and I need to find a way to celebrate it and find a way to celebrate me and love myself.

However, the truth is often times mental illness wins and is stubborn, shuts me out and obviously has a mind of its own. The reality of depression hits hard as I try to fight to keep my sanity before it wins and destroys once again as it has done so savagely in the past, before it overtakes what I have battled to win.

My PTSD triggered some depression and memories of regrets and mistakes I have made after mental illness struck. Besides the painful symptoms of mental illness I often must fight through the painful reminders of the destruction that mental illness caused in my life, the mistakes I made while I fought to survive a disease that was killing me from the inside out. I must fight how the stigma of mental illness reared its ugly head through the years in many subtle and blatant gruesome ways.

Countless times my brain was in so much distress that I was not living but was surviving, doing anything just to make it through another day. I made many mistakes along the way. and behaved in ways that I would “normally” not do. I felt like if I did not do this or that I could not go on. It was the only solution and it was better than the alternative of not making it.

Presently, I am battling through the destruction that living with mental illness for over two decades has caused. I am looking at how my life turned out because I had the misfortune of getting mental illness. I grieve for what life would have been for me and who I could have become.

I grieve for friends I would have had. Instead I do not have any friends. Not one. Again let me repeat, not one.

Part of the problem with that is that I am afraid to make friends and have friends because I really do not know how to after all these years living a mental illness life. I also fear getting hurt. Living a mental illness life caused me to be hurt so often and so deeply I cannot touch that pain again. It frightens me so intensely that I stay away from it.

Today I do not feel like I am likeable. Who could like someone who has lived through what I have and has done the things I did for survival or not. I am not a good person because of the pain I have lived through. No one wants to deal with what the truth is. No one wants to hear it. It is too much. It is too much for me. I have to battle through it and no one else needs to or deserves to listen to what I have endured for too long. The pain that a mental illness life caused is beyond what most people could even remotely comprehend, so they don’t. They don’t want to know that kind of pain.

I can pretend for a while, but after a while the memories resurface and I have to fight through them. I try not to live in the past but that is where I am today. I will stop visiting my past soon and will keep soul searching. I will get beyond my melancholy so I can enjoy the beauty of living again. I will work through it because I have no other choice.

I will work hard to be present today. I will live for today. I will appreciate that I survived and overcame more than I like to remember.

Today melancholy causes me to want to and need to be alone. I will bask in my solitude. As I fight through the darkness melancholy is causing, I will search for the flicker of light. I will let the sun shine in on my gray mind and heart.

Melancholy is an old friend I have known since I was a child. It’s familiarity sometimes brings a peaceful contentment, but the reality of sightings of the great white shark lurk nearby.

© 2020 Susan Walz | myloudwhispersofhope.com | All Rights Reserved

Photo Credit: Photo by Alex Steyn on Unsplash

An Unwelcome Itch – a poem

Mental illness is a bitch

that leaves an unwelcome itch

I cant scratch away.

Believe me. I’ve tried all day.

Can’t remove this crud

that entered like mud

after Hurricane Fred

entered inside my head

and very soon spread,

multiplied and bled

throughout my insides.

Been swept away by the tides

of depression and anxiety,

maybe triggered by PTSD.

Who knows. Doesn’t matter

as long as I don’t splatter

and get any fatter

by eating from the platter

of anger and disgust.

Piss me off in the dust.

Come back coping strategies.

Do your healing thing, please,

before it’s too late

and love becomes hate

and I deteriorate

inside my crate of fate

which lingers and looms

above the darkest of glooms

and deciduous tombs.

Help me. I cry.

Like a sty in my eye,

you are unwelcome here.

Your presence I fear,

quick departure I cheer.

Oh, I pray it’s near.

Ready to be free of this mental illness bug

Such a cruel, heartless, destructive thug.

Why me?

Why not me?

Just flee out of me.

Mental illness let me be.

I’ve had more than enough

of your disgusting stuff.

I’m tired

and wired

like a barbed wire fence

poking me and hence

the discomfort and pain.

No wonder I’m stained.

~written by Susan Walz

© 2020 Susan Walz | myloudwhispersofhope.com | All Rights Reserved

Photo Credit: Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

How to Have Kids When You’re Crazy

Awhile back, I advocated in favor of having children when you have a mental illness. Even at the time, I felt wishy-washy in doing so. I may talk the talk and chase after the children I’ve birthed, but I don’t exactly walk the walk.

Birthing children and raising them is HARD. Doing so whilst battling Depression or Anxiety or Bipolar is HARDER.

However, unless you’ve got a serious condition, producing a mini-you or two is possible. It’s worth it. It’s fun.

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To anyone sitting on the fence of indecision, having a child is the best thing I ever did. To those reading this at 2 a.m. and feeling ready to return their child to the hospital, I’ll add that I’ve been there, too.

Mental illness or not, you need some helps in place when a kid comes around. Even those who don’t regularly admit to mental issues need helps. Babies don’t sleep. Babies require clean clothes, blankets, burp cloths, diapers, and bedding several times a day. Babies only come with a ‘Check Engine’ light, in the form of incessant crying.

Babies are helpless. They NEED you. And someone who needs you cannot have you checking out, flipping out, or acting out.

Instead, how about you check out a babysitter or friend so you can take a short nap?

How about you flip out a freezer meal or pizza when it’s dinnertime?

How about you act out your 2 a.m. dreams of taking an hour-long bubble bath -after guilting your partner into hour-long tending?

See how it works?

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I knew a woman who was expecting triplets. After she birthed them, her family had a brilliant idea: when a friend or relative offered to help, they whipped out a calendar and asked, “Which day and time can you come?” They wrote in who would help, when, and what they would be doing. In a world of round-the-clock feeding, changing, and tending, one woman did not have enough hands to do it alone.

I’ve only produced one child at a time, and one’s enough to ask help for. A neighbor vacuumed my floors for me. Another folded my laundry. A third came and picked up all the crap my kids left on the floor. Heck -I once had a friend come over and hold my son for half an hour, just so I could sleep.

So, consider having a child, but not alone.

In fact, also consider helps specifically for your mental health. I speak of medication and counseling. There are quite a few medications that are safe to take while pregnant or nursing. Ask your doctor.

Now that my children are older, I enjoy the benefits of their company. We play computer and board games together. We plan family campouts. We cook, clean, cry, and live. It’s hard, but not HARD. I’m so glad I had them, and more glad for the helps I’ve had for them throughout the years.

Some days, I even reconsider wanting to return them to the hospital.

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—–
©2020 Chelsea Owens

Photo Credit:
Jordan Whitt
Thiago Cerqueira
@rw.studios
Edward Cisneros

Postpartum Depression: Why Mental Health Surveys Suck

I had a baby recently. It’s been a while since I popped one out, so all the hospital stuff was new to me and my postpartum short-term memory.

One BIG thing I noticed was the addition of questions regarding mental health. I not only filled out two questionnaires, I also verbally answered a survey the nurse gave. My obstetrician went over concerns at discharge. Then, two weeks later, the pediatrician’s office (read: at the appointment for the baby) included a typed survey in their New Patient paperwork.

Wonderful, I thought. But, also, Not really helpful.

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Why?

For anyone who’s fighting the Mental Illness Fight, you know that a simple, typed questionnaire is not sufficient. Theirs included questions like:

How often do you feel hopeless?

Have you cried uncontrollably in the last week?

Have you ever had thoughts of hurting yourself?

Great questions, yes? They’re almost as good as the responses you can choose from: Not very often, Often, Sometimes, No more than usual.

That final phrase is the one I chose most, and one that keeps flitting through my mind: No more than usual.

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No, nurses-doctor-pediatrician, I am not experiencing Postpartum Depression. It’s regular, run-of-the-mill Depression for me. Just hand me the baby, and we’ll (hopefully) make it through. Don’t worry -it’s no more than usual…

What’s the solution, then? Should the clinics not bother? Pretend these things don’t exist?

No, of course not.

When I first went to my obstetrician’s office, I saw a few papers taped to the back of the bathroom door. One encouraged women who felt they were in an abusive relationship to get help, and had tear-off phone numbers. Another paper discussed which contraceptives were most effective. The final flier caught my eye first: a bright, informative piece explaining that Postpartum Depression included things like anxiety or OCD or physical ailments as well, and to talk to your doctor if they cropped up.

At the time I saw that paper, I felt touched. I felt like dropping my urine protein test right away and giving the whole office staff a hug for including that information.

Since birthing and experiencing ‘usual’ symptoms, however, I’ve felt each nurse and doctor needs a short lecture. I’d begin with, “Make eye contact with your patient and ask them ‘yes-or-no’ questions.” Like:

Did you feel hopeless in the last week?

Did you cry?

Did you feel like hurting yourself?

Instead of Often, Usual, Never, etc., try a scale from 0-10. Or, try sitting and LISTENING sincerely to the woman’s responses.

Another helpful tip would be to explain what might happen if the answers are alarming. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t need the staff committing me to a psych ward because they don’t understand. I mean, maybe I just need a hug and a nap.

And medication.

The point is that mental health surveys are a good step in the right direction. With a little tweaking and lot more human interaction, they could even be helpful.

Let’s try it, and help those of us trying to fight mental illness. We might just ‘usual’ly beat it.

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—–
©2019 Chelsea Owens

Photo Credit:
Liv Bruce
Zach Lucero
Jenna Norman
Kelly Sikkema

The Bipolar Writers Next Big Idea!

I have been thinking a lot since finishing my memoir. Telling my story has changed everything for me. When I found our my memoir was officially published, it was as if a weight lifted from my mind and shoulders. My story is out there, and even it only helps one person, it will be worth it in the end.

I had this idea when I started this blog of sharing the stories of others, and I did that to an extent here. I want to do so much more than what I did in these interviews. I want to write a book where I interview members of the mental illness community and then write their stories into one book. I don’t plan on making money on this project. Instead, I want to use the money that would be made to continue to share the experiences of others beyond this blog.

It is a significant idea, and I am working on the logistics of such a project. For now, I am reaching out to the community to see if anyone would be interested. I will compile a list of interested people and see where that takes me. If you’re interested, please email me from my contact page with your email and first/ last name or a pseudonym you would like to use.

I look forward to hearing from the mental illness community on this idea.

Always Keep Fighting

P.S. If you have time, please purchase my book. You can find it on Amazon by looking up my pen name James Edgar Skye. The name of the book is The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir. It is available in print and Kindle edition. Thank you for your support. I will also link my Amazon page below.

https://www.amazon.com/author/jamesedgarskye

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A Guest Blog Post – NooseGirl

This is a guest blog from a writer that calls herself NooseGirl. She asked me to share this blog post with my fellow bloggers. This is a guest blog from a writer that calls herself NooseGirl. She asked me to share this blog post with my fellow bloggers. What is said in these guests posts are the position of the author and not James Edgar Skye or this blog. I allow each guest author to write in the way they feel comfortable when sharing as guests or contributors. You can find NooseGirl here: http://breathingwithanoose.com

A Week in the Mental Health Ward

By my third year of living alongside acute, pervasive psychosis, I had sufficiently conditioned myself enough to mask my internal worries. Able to convincingly conceal my constant fear of government abduction, I searched for and successfully secured a new job. I accepted the Director of Sales & Marketing position for a new hotel opening up in downtown Baltimore. 

Daily, I plastered insincere charm and confidence over my dread and discomfort and performed as expected. It was a typical corporate office environment and I was able to numbly execute the duties of staff meetings, sales lunches, and budget reviews. Unbeknownst to my employer and coworkers, I was also enduring some of the most intense and distressing episodes of inescapable, intense psychosis.

While I believed my delusions were 100% real, I never revealed them to casual friends, coworkers, or acquaintances. I limited my frank and honest concerns about secret agents and sex cults to my boyfriend, a select few family members, and some of the doctors I encountered during hospitalizations. Unless you were included in that limited group of people, you would never know I was suffering through immense emotional angst.

Believing that my boyfriend was a secret agent and assigned as my guardian, partner, and influencer created a very stressful environment. I equated the arrangement to the act of sleeping with my enemy. I believed he had the influence and power to reveal the truth, stop the constant surveillance, and curtail the coded messaging. 

I would often lash out, demanding that he redirect “the assignment,” and order “his people” back off. Invariably, he would deny all accusations of association with a secret society, shadow government, or covert mission. His insistence of innocence only served to infuriate me.

Unable to secure an admission of his involvement would often escalate the intensity of my anger. Often, I would unleash my frustrations, confusion, and animosity at him. I would rail at him for the inhumane government plot to breed and brainwash children like myself. I would throw and break things. I would rail at the indignity of perpetual manipulation even after I had clearly uncovered the truth. I raged that everyone involved in “my case” held tight to their secret identities. I erupted with resentment that “Weirdness” would not directly communicate with me, instead electing the obscure and cryptic method of secret messaging.  My ranting was vicious, unrelenting, and could border on violent.

Sometimes, in my fury, I would try to run away. My boyfriend would have to block and restrain me, determined to protect me from roaming downtown Baltimore in a reckless, unstable rage. The fiery battle for truth could extend into hours. This memory is from one of these explosive and erratic days.

I can not remember why or how we came to find ourselves in this particular heated and emotional argument. But, after a couple of hours of intense screaming, scratching, and attempts to flee the apartment, somehow, my boyfriend had located a psychiatrist in the neighborhood that was immediately available to meet with us.

Exhausted from the vicious arguing, I agreed that it might be a good idea to halt the fighting and pursue a calmer state. I was hopeful that the doctor could provide some type of mood-stabilizing or anti-anxiety medicine. So I calmed down and agreed to go. But although I seemingly transformed my demeanor, inside I was still seething with resentment and enmity.

In the doctor’s office, my anger resurfaced upon detecting coded messages throughout the doctor’s interaction with me. I promptly flew into a frenzy. I did not hold back my unshakable conviction that the doctor was also “part of it.” 

I began to berate her. I began to scream. I perched on the edge of her desk, slamming my hand down and inching closer and closer to her. I tried to shame her, screaming at the top of my lungs . . .”How do you people live with yourself?!?!? . .. . how do you expect me to save the world when you are making it impossible for me to work and concentrate!?!?! . . . do you people just sit in a room and think of ways you can further fuck up my life and mind!?!?! . . .you are an evil fucking bitch . . you and all of your people!!!”

The doctor maintained a steady gaze and was very calm and stoic throughout my tirade. She only reached her hand towards her phone, never breaking eye contact, and slowly picked up the receiver. “NooseGirl, I am calling in some other people to help us. You are making me very uncomfortable right now. Try to calm down.”

Within minutes, 3 very large uniformed armed guards walked into the room. They stood by the door as she explained to me and my boyfriend that she thought admittance into the hospital would be a good idea. She explained that the calm, controlled environment of the “behavioral health unit” along with a carefully prescribed treatment of medications could offer supportive surroundings designed to improve emotional stability and a return to comfortable normalcy. I continued to protest, but ultimately, between she, my boyfriend and the calm, friendly disposition of the guards, my tirade ceased. As I agreed to hospitalization and signed the papers to self admit, everyone, relaxed and exhaled a collective sigh of relief.

This drama rolled out on a Thursday or Friday, During the hospitalization, if I took any time off at all, it would have only been one sick day. My weekend in the behavioral health unit was spent watching tv, making crafts, reading books, attending group therapy and taking closely monitored medication. While the experience did not cure my psychosis, it did allow me to de-stress and calm down. The therapeutic visit provided an unplanned “staycation.”

I was released on Sunday night and back to work on Monday morning. I was all smiles, professionalism, (and as the sales & marketing leader) unrelenting team cheerleader. My job included internal PR so I was constantly engaging with and offering inspiration to employees with the intent of raising their self-confidence, their sense of ownership, and empowering them to perform with pride for our new business. I was Miss GoTeam all the way.

And just like the prior 3 years of living and working in psychosis, no one knew the hidden truth. No one suspected the depth and pain of my internal struggles. No one had an inkling that I passed the weekend away in a hospital mental ward. And no one would have ever fathomed that I believed the entire business was a government front and that most of the employees were secret agents. 

No one knew anything . . .  they just knew I was smart, funny, inspiring NooseGirl.

Celebrating Another Milestone on The Bipolar Writer Collaborative Blog

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Even with the slowdown in blog posts on The Bipolar Writer Collaborative blog, we have reached another fantastic milestone, and it is all because of the amazing followers on this blog!

13,000 total followers!

I am amazed at the things this blog has done over the years. I think 2020 will be the best ever!

Always Keep Fighting

James

P.S. If you have time, please purchase my book. You can find it on Amazon by looking up my pen name James Edgar Skye. The name of the book is The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir. It is available in print and Kindle edition. Thank you for your support. I will also link my Amazon page below.

https://www.amazon.com/author/jamesedgarskye

Become a Patron!https://c6.patreon.com/becomePatronButton.bundle.js

Reclaiming My Love For Literature

I am guessing that most of you might have realized that I have been absent for quite some time. Despite me being an advocate for mental health, I too suffer from mental health issues and the health issues hinder my day-to-day experiences. Though I understand that I was diagnosed with Bipolar Mood Disorder, it doesn’t define who I am and who I aspire to be.

It takes a lot more effort though to manage and deal with what is expected of us, from our jobs, schools, work and family life. It can be quite taxing especially when one is currently having an episode. When I had my fourth episode this year, I was hospitalized for quite a while, longer than I have ever been before. I had suicidal ideation and had no recollection of anything that I was doing.

I lost a sense of who I was because, at the time, I had not found the right cocktail of medications that worked for me. It was all trial and error and I was frustrated since nothing was working and that I took longer to recover from episodes.

I lost so much interest in things that I used to love doing. I stopped journaling, writing code, blogging and of course, began despising literature. Mind you, I’m not a literature student, I am a computer science and engineering student. This may sound extremely weird for most people because most people in Stem fields have little or no interest in literature. Believe me you, there are so many of us, in stem that appreciate language beyond research purposes but for the beauty that the art of language portrays.

Before and during my hospitalization I lost my ability to read and retain what I read. I was infuriated by this because literature was my canvas, my form of expression besides science. I was lost and felt hopeless. While I was in hospital my boyfriend brought me novels and non-fiction books. I struggled to read more than 10 pages a day, but as time went by I picked up speed and began reading and writing. Before I knew it, I finished a 150-page novel in two days within the second week of my hospital stay. I progressed and read more books which were a bit longer than the first. My love for literature and reading was reignited.

I found me again. It’s through the little things in life that we know our life purpose. It’s not about the money or the physical things that fulfill us but rather the tiny little basic needs that we require to live our lives. The ability to have the freedom to express what we want and the freedom to be authentically ourselves. As I mentioned, I found me again and I couldn’t be happier!

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

Angel love and rainbows.

Love, Francesca.

Transformation

As I was washing my hands at the bathroom sink,

I glanced up and saw a nameless faceless image in the mirror.

Quickly I averted my eyes from the reflection staring back at me

and looked down into the sink and took a moment to comprehend what I saw.

I didn’t recognize the unfamiliar face with a large body attached.

There was once a beautiful vibrant young woman staring back at me.

She had so much potential. Where did she go?

Bravely I looked up again to see the image that has become me.

Staring at my image, I took me all in.

Reminiscing of who I used to be and what I have done,

everything my image has accomplished, conquered and survived–

the mistakes and successes,

the good and the bad, happy and sad.

The years passed by quickly and all of a sudden I am here at the age I am–

seemingly, missing much of the living my body did.

Never giving my body permission to live some of the life I lived.

But, there is no going back now.

No erasing the past.

Many years of living blended together and transformed me into my new image

staring back at me.

Like art, I have become more valuable from the years of living I have lived.

Not a monetary value, but the value from my experiences and wisdom I have gained.

Beauty lies within one’s spirit and soul,

and is in the eye of the beholder.

Even if I am older,

I must dust myself off,

pick myself up,

hold my head high

and love the new image staring back at me

which has been wonderfully transformed

from all the living I have done.

I am blessed to be alive

to enjoy many more years

of living.

~written by Susan Walz

“I look forward to being older, when what you look like becomes less and less an issue and what you are is the point.” ~Susan Sarandon

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

~Pablo Picasso

Photo Credit:  Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash


© 2019 Susan Walz | myloudwhispersofhope.com | All Rights Reserved

The Blurry Lines of Mental Illness

“There is no greater joy than being freed from the captivity of your mind.”

~Susan Walz

The escape from the interference of mental illness frequencies that affect your inner being, spirit and everything you think, breathe or consume is exhilarating and a blessing beyond many.

Life is lighter, brighter and everything is shinier compared to the contrast of the heaviness, darkness and pain of mental illness. The contrast causes happiness to be happier and brightness to be brighter.

Mental illness burns nearly every aspect of your life–turning everything dismal and dark.

If you have never been held captive inside the prison of mental illness, you can never know or experience the sharp contrast that the release and freedom recovery brings.

So, am I luckier to have experienced the severe pain of mental illness just so I could know my new present joy, peace and love after surviving and achieving recovery and mental wellness? This is a question I sometimes ponder.

Being beyond blessed to achieve recovery and mental wellness does not mean that I crossed a line that I have never and will never cross backwards over again and if there is a line, it is a blurred line at best.

Occasionally, I still cross the blurry line back into the world of mental illness but I never cross far or stay there long enough to lose sight of the line of mental wellness. I always know it is possible to reach the line of recovery and mental wellness again for I have been there before.

And it is not to say I never suffer from mental illness symptoms. I have moments that define I still have PTSD and anxiety. Plus, I have many scars that exist that remind me where I have been and how far I’ve come. Stronger yet is that it reminds me I never want to visit that place of mental illness captivity again.

I fight hard to stay proactive and have not been overcome to a place that I am trapped and stuck in bondage unable to break free on my own.

Years ago, the stigma and treatment of mental illness caused me to lose myself, my identity, my self esteem and my dignity. I was locked inside my own mind where I needed outside help of psychotropic medications, hospitalizations and ECTs. Locked behind those bars caused me to be imprisoned behind more bars of stigma and people making decisions for me. I never want to lose my identity, dignity or my freedom to make my own decisions again.

When I start crossing backwards over the line of mental illness away from wellness, I fight hard not to go too far back into that space of mental illness. The further back I travel into mental illness and the longer I stay there the harder it is for me to break free.

For over a year now, I’ve been fortunate not to have traveled too far back and get lost behind the bars of mental illness–where I spent the previous twenty-five years. Instead, I fight hard to cross back over the line of mental illness and stay as close to the blurry line of mental wellness as I can so I can feel the joy, peace and love of life that recovery and mental wellness create in me.

Everyone’s line between mental illness and mental wellness looks differently. There may be no line at all but a gradual blending of hues from dark to light. As in a graphite pencil drawing, the better the shading the more realistic the image.

For mental illness, addiction and recovery the slower and more gradual the process of recovery the more permanent and lasting the recovery and wellness will be.

Good luck on drawing and shading your masterpiece–YOU.

Take your time. Go slow and don’t be afraid to erase some lines and start over.

Don’t be afraid to color outside your lines…

You are a unique masterpiece.

Remember… the more unique the art

the more valuable it is.

You are valuable.

Make sure you have a good frame for your completed work of art–YOU!

You are beautiful.

Keep working on you.

You are loved.

“There is no greater joy than being freed from the captivity of your mind.”

~Susan Walz

Photo credit:  Photo by Nicholas Kwok on Unsplash


© 2019 Susan Walz | myloudwhispersofhope.com | All Rights Reserved