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 Therapist Says.

My therapist says that I am responsible. She says that I am kinda, She says that I am a good person. She says that I handle my stress with grace. She tells me that I am doing a good job. She applauds the boundaries I am drawing. She agrees that I need to create more.

My therapist empowers me. She inspires me to make better choices. She reassures me that I am on the right path. She provides me with the tools I need to continue to grow and ensure it is in the right direction.

I think I was feeling especially inspired today when I told my grandmother to stop being so hateful towards my mother. I think I drew a very blatant boundary. The kind of boundary that says I have chosen my side. The kind that makes me her new enemy instead of her confidant. I just want to be her granddaughter. I don’t want to be her financial partner in crime and I don’t want to be the one in the ivory tower while she shits on all the peasants. I don’t want to think of it as her and me against the world. I don’t want to have to choose to be on her side vs my mom and sister’s. I want her to love us all the same. I want her to treat everyone like she does me.

I wish I didn’t feel so empowered today. Therapy normally feels like I took the world off my shoulders and rested for an hour. I feel like I added three bricks today. It was the first appointment that I didn’t end up in tears and yet here I am bawling.

No Therapy for The Bipolar Writer

What has Bugged me Since November, Losing my Therpaist

There has been something bugging me, and it came to the forefront of my mind today. I felt the need to get it off my chest, and writing is therapeutic for me. I want to begin with some history.

For those who might be new to my blog, I, James, have been in the adult system of care in the state of California and the county Monterey. Behavioral Health, as it is called, has been my home for everything mental health related . To meeting with psychiatrists (the many over the years) for medication refills and changes, the idea of group therapy which I never could do, and one therapist since 2007. I talk extensively about my experience with the adult system of care in my memoir. I was twenty-two at the start of this jouney, and fresh off my first stint in the psychiatric ward.

It was not until 2015 that I actually got insurance, thanks to Obamacare, and I was finally eligible for therapy. I met my therapist in the summer of 2015. Until November of last year, she was the one advocate in my life that cared about my daily struggles with Bipolar disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, and insomnia. This blog, my memoir, and becoming The Bipolar Writer only became possible when I opened up in therapy. Before, I was not very good at expressing the mental illness side. 

Everything Changed

Photo by Tim Chow on Unsplash

I can’t fault my therapist for moving from long hours for probably not the most exceptional pay for a better job. She was terrific, and she helped me through so much. I got to this point because of my mom, therapy, and undergraduate/graduate school. My therapist was also my case worker and tbat is important. Only one other person in the system, my psychiatrist from 2007-2012, actually cared.

It has been five months. I keep getting the run around in December, January, and February of this year. They are working on getting me a new caseworker and therapist. They wanted me in group therapy through it would not start until February. I was just working on getting ready for these types of situations, and so I declined group therapy. I have trouble with being around people in person. Which is ironic because I connect with people all the time here on my blog. I was hopeful that eventually, they would hire someone new, and things would get back to normal. Then COVID-19 happened to the world, with it was the changing of everything.

Now, as with everything else in my life when it comes to my mental health, I am in a holding pattern. The county is freezing hiring a new caseworker and therapist, and so I have no therapy for going on five months. Its the longest since I first came to therapy. There is always a silver lining when I write these posts. I am better equipped to deal than at any time in my life. Yes, its been hard since I began sheltering in place and social distancing when it comes to anxiety, but I am slowly adjusting.

It is looking like we are going to be this way in California for a while. I will deal with it the best way I know how, writing, some meditation, and perhaps adding some new things to my routine. When this is all over, maybe I will once again be in therapy. God knows that I will need it. Stay strong in the fight.

Always Keep Fighting

James

You can visit the author site of James Edgar Skye here.

Purchase The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir here.

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Need Help? Go On and Ask for It

Mental illness sucks.

That’s the summation of my thoughts, usually after a depressive spiral. It’s what I think when a good friend loses a job because of a schizophrenic episode. It’s my answer when another friend hits the low part of his bipolar cycle. It’s the phrase I mutter in response to people’s suicidal thoughts, lack of desire to do anything, or expressions of overall sadness.

Not only do we all experience the side effects of our mental issues, we also get no support whatsoever from our own minds. When enveloped in the venom of negative thoughts that mental illness supplies, we hear things like:

You’re a terrible person …with specific reasons.

No one likes you …complete with names.

Whatever you try fails …including examples.

No one can help you. No one wants to help you.

All of these Wormtongue-spoken messages are not true. In fact, the last one is the most not-true. There are plenty of people who can help. Heck; there are strange people who voluntarily went to school and paid a lot of money in order to listen to others’ mental health problems all day.

Weirdos.

I speak of counselors or therapists. I speak of psychologists. To some extent, I speak of psychiatrists as well. They have all chosen a career, voluntarily, to listen to crazy people like you and me.

Uh-oh: negative-thought brain is talking again:

They don’t really want to help you. They’re just doing it for their job …with examples of friends or relatives who’ve complained about a bad experience.

It’s impossible to find one who’ll be good …with reasons why your issues are a special case.

You can’t afford a counselor …with a list of your expenses.

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Guess what, brain! They really do want to help you. Granted, there must be therapists who are terrible. There must be some who are in it for the money. If you ask around and/or read online reviews, however, you’re likely to weed out the bad ones. After all, these weirdos did choose their job. In my experience, they did so because they wanted to help people.

Plus, the costs might be manageable. Depending on where you live, some of those strange people who can and want to help are cheap or free. Some are covered by job insurance plans, others by government programs, and still others by ecclesiastical assistance.

Don’t be afraid to ask around, get a good listening ear, and get going on your life!

You are important. You are worth any cost.

I promise.

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Photo Credit: Pexels
Matheus Ferrero
Dan Meyers

I Need to Call My Therapist

Today was the peak of my anxious December. Each day I have been getting more and more anxious, little things add up to become huge issues in my head.

A week ago I was nearly in tears because I was overwhelmed by anxiety. I often feel like I need to have a perfectly spotless house. When I’m tired or just want to relax, I sometimes ignore that and keep on cleaning. It becomes too much for me to handle so I crack.

Today I was experiencing a lot of anxiety that I don’t know where it was coming from. I was angry at everyone and everything for no reason. I could feel my muscles tense from the anxiety so I thought I would go to the gym to release it. Sadly it only helped a little bit. I walked back into my house and the stress fell back on to my shoulders.

Anxiety is the freaking worst. For me it is worrying about everything. Anxiety is stress piled up so high on my mind that I cannot see the top. It is being unable to act because I am frozen with anxiety.

On Monday I am calling my therapist to make an appointment. I need to hash out the worries and blockades in my brain that are holding me back.

How has your mental health been? If you struggle with anxiety, are you managing it ok?

Social Anxiety and Me

Starting a new job can be challenging for anyone but when mental illness is tossed into the mix, things can be even more difficult.

I am about to start the fourth week at my new job which involves doing marketing for a local charity. Of course during my first week I was nervous, you never know what your coworkers will be like after they aren’t obligated to be polite anymore.

Positive to Anxious

Everybody was very nice during my first week. I got to chat with a lot of people my age which was really great. I didn’t talk to many of my coworkers at my previous job so I had a lot of culture shock which is odd to say about a new work environment.

Week 2 was not as easy as week 1. I had become suffocated by my anxiety, unable to speak to anyone unless they started the conversation. Even then I would try to end the conversation or leave the room entirely to find a space to be by myself which is hard. I used to have my own office but now I share a workspace with 3 other people.

When I did get time alone, I was spinning in my chair, pacing the floors trying to get my head to relax. One day I had to hold my coffee cup with both hands to drink because I was shaking so badly. I asked myself, “Megan, what the hell?! It’s just a new job, how is your anxiety this bad?”

Here Comes the Depression!

That Friday as I walked out the door of the building into the chilly evening, my anxiety plummeted into depression. All weekend I had no interest in anything, I was completely numb. I kept myself busy by constantly cleaning and cooking so I wouldn’t fall pray to my usual answer to depression: laying in bed for hours.

My boyfriend kept thinking I was upset with him or that he had done something wrong. This is the first time he has truly seen my depression first hand since we moved in together. I had to explain that it wasn’t his fault, that it was the new job.

To help I asked if we could watch a “Harry Potter” movie together. I chose the fourth movie, “The Goblet of Fire” which is my favorite one! We got out our toy wands and he put on my special Harry glasses which made the experience so much more fun.

My Therapist Saves the Day

Thankfully I met with my therapist the next day to talk everything out. I explained my fear that nobody would want to talk with me even if I initiated the conversation and that I was too nervous to make the first move.

She reassured me as always that they all just met me and that in time maybe I will make a friend or two. That would be pretty cool to have a new friend!

Her positive words and encouragement helped me get through my 3 days of work last week. I was able to speak to people and even begin conversations with my coworkers!

So progress? We shall see what this week brings, I never seem to know what my future has in store for me.

Have you had a similar experience? How to do deal with social anxiety?

I’m sorry this is so terribly long!!

TLDR: New job makes me anxious so I talked to my therapist. Last week was better than expected.

The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir – Book Release on Amazon

The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir by James Edgar Skye

The day has finally come, the publishing of my memoir. It is called The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir, and it is now available on Amazon both in print and in Kindle Edition.

This journey to share my experiences as a diagnosed Bipolar writer started here in 2017, with the creation of this blog. It was the fantastic people I met, who were willing to accept my story and share their own, that prompted me to write my memoir. I worked tirelessly for a year, coming up with ideas, the direction the memoir would go, its overall design, and, eventually, the completion of a first draft.

After its completion, I didn’t know if it would ever be seen by others. I considered self-publishing, and I was well on my way down that route when I found Eliezer Tristan Publishing. Together they helped me become a published writer. This memoir meant a lot to me, and to finally see its completion, it a life-long dream realized.

You will find within its pages my story not written in linear form but rather in chapters of different thoughts, ideas, and parts of my life. You can go to any chapter and read it, and it will be enlightening. You can read it straight through and still learn about my experience with a mental illness.

You will find the link to my Amazon author page throughout this post where you can purchase my book. It would be an honor. If you can, please share this blog post on your own blog, not just for me, but so that together, we can share one experience in mental health in hopes of helping others and ending the stigma. Thank you, everyone, who has been waiting patiently for the release of this book. Much love,

James Edgar Skye

Always Keep Fighting

The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir by J,E, Skye

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The Not-So-Great Advice a Child Therapist Gave Me

I got my first counselor when I was six. She was an anger management counselor. I had a temper at a young age. Results from my home life. I saw anger and violence at an early age. I mimicked that behavior with my peers. The class was cleaning up the room before recess or lunch or something. I was putting a puzzle away. Another kid tried to help. I told him I got it. He helped anyway. I got angry and hit him with a chair. He was trying to be helpful and kind. I don’t even remember his name.

This incident prompted my parents and the school to get me into counseling. I don’t remember anything we spoke about. She gave me a calendar and told me to put a sticker on each day I didn’t get angry. If I went a whole month without anger, she would give me a present. I remember the excitement and anticipation. When the month finished, she gave me a pencil sharpener. It was a dome shape and looked like half a baseball. I remember thinking that present did not live up to my expectations. Regardless, I had that pencil sharpener for several years after.

When I was eight, my whole family went to counseling. My parents met with a couple’s counselor. My two older sisters went to group counseling. They may have had private counselors, but I don’t remember. I had my own counselor. I remember playing games and drawing pictures. We had many conversations, but I have no memories of these. I recall our on our last session she gave me a small ceramic elephant that wore pants and a button up shirt. I liked it and held onto it for several years along with the baseball pencil sharpener.

This counselor also helped me create something I could use when my parents were arguing. Many people refer to this as a survival kit. I don’t remember the name she used. I found an old Maxwell House coffee can. When they were still made of tin or aluminum. During one of my sessions, we used construction paper to cover the can and I decorated it. I don’t remember the instructions she gave me for the can. I put all sorts of things in it including my little elephant. The baseball pencil sharpener could have been in there at one time or another.

I opened this can and played with my toys every time my parents argued. Sometimes I played with those toys even if my parents didn’t argue. It was my escape from school and from home. I realized recently that I’ve spent most of my life trying to escape. I have nightmares once every two weeks. Sometimes every week. I’m always running from some unknown thing. Or I’m chased by a creature of some kind. Always trying to escape something. I had the epiphany that every time I have a new idea for a business or job, I’m only trying to escape my current situation.

I’ve stopped living with roommates because they made me feel trapped. I couldn’t afford to live on my own, but I still left. I’ve held several jobs over the last ten years. A couple I remained at for many years. But I couldn’t move up any higher. I felt trapped at those jobs, so I left. Most people don’t realize that running from something is not the same as escaping. I’ve been running my entire adult life trying to escape. I’ve only succeeded in getting trapped somewhere else. I haven’t faced my real issues. I’m not sure I know what they all are.

I don’t blame the counselor for helping me escape my childhood trauma. At the time, it was the best solution to an inescapable problem. But this solution doesn’t work for adults. Children don’t always have the ability to face a problem or get out of a situation. Adults do. I’ve been overcoming many issues and I’m trying to deal with problems I didn’t know I had. The only way to escape these issues is to face them and heal. I first have to learn the difference between escaping the problem and overcoming it.

Nightmares While I’m Awake

I lay in bed, my brain twisting with horrible thoughts. This weekend my husband takes two of our small children to a baseball game without me because I’ll stay home with the baby. A thousand scenarios race through my mind days before they leave. I can’t sleep and know I won’t be able to until they are home.

Someone could try to kidnap one of my children. There could be a bomb. My husband could be robbed at gunpoint in front of them. He could be hurt or killed.

My legs twitch and the pit in my stomach grows. Why do I do this? Worst case stories pile up. Which one is the worst? Because that’s the one I’ll play from start to finish multiple times. I hate myself for allowing these images to take over.

They could get in a car accident, killing everyone, leaving me with no family. There could be a random shooter.  

At therapy, this is explained to me as irrational thinking. My anxiety revs up when things are out of my control and I allow the news to intertwine with life. Does it help that my mother in law used to send me articles about children being snatched from grocery stories when their mothers turned their back for just a minute? No. And I’ve asked her to stop sending those. She just sent me an article about bacteria in the ocean killing people, though. I’m not sure we’ve made progress.

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They could be crossing the street and someone could run a red light. One of my kids could wander away and my husband wouldn’t notice because he’s preoccupied.

How do I turn this off? I don’t know if I can. I tell myself it’s irrational, but then a voice in my head tells me, “But these things really happen to people!” An attempt is made to silence the voice from continuing hounding me with horrible ideas.

Sunburn! Sure, it’s not as bad, but what if my husband forgets the sunscreen. Worse, they could accidentally fall off the top balcony.

Let the thoughts come in because trying to stop them causes me more anxiety. Recognize them, then figure out where they are coming from. In this case, it’s a lack of control. I won’t be there to watch after my babies (ages four and seven). My very capable husband will be companied by his father and another friend (albeit the friend has a 4-year-old also). The adults equal the number the children, which eases my worry, slightly. The scenarios anxiety comes up with play through like a train going over a crossing.

They could eat too much junk food and throw up in the car, coming homesick. Someone could flash them. I’ve been flashed in the city multiple times, the first time when I was their age. It’s not something you forget.  

I tell myself to see my thoughts. Let them pass, wave them goodbye, have hope, know the likelihood is everything will be fine. My children drive me crazy, but they are my life. I’m not always the best mom, but I’m pretty sure that definition is unattainable. Especially for an overactive thinker and anxious driven woman such as myself.

They will have a great time. They will be part of a parade of little leaguers and get to walk the bases. They will love this special time with their dad. He will feed them cotton candy and they will come home wired, maybe a little sunburn, and probably asking me about panhandlers.

Deep breath. I can’t control everything. Life would be boring and too predictable if I could, but truth be told. If I could put a magic protective bubble around my family, I would do anything to do so. Anxiety runs deep, affecting me in so many ways. Out of sight out of mind? Not when your anxiety fills in all the blanks for you.

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a blogger at Fingers To Sky with over two-hundred personal essays on book reviews, insights on aspiring to complete her first novel, and some good ol’ fashion soul searching. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram, she’ll follow you back and not delete you.

Featured Photo by Eduardo Balderas on Unsplash

Other Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

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I’m Okay. Why Do I Still Seek Therapy?

I can go into public places without fearing something will happen to my children or me. This is tremendous progress. Yesterday I went into a clothing store alone.

I thought about leaving when the checkout line was long, but I was determined to stay and see the process through. Lines make me feel trapped, though it’s gotten better, the feeling is still there. Instead of leaving, I circled the store and waited for the line to go down. I had a goal and goddammit I was going to stick with it. I didn’t turn away from the end result, which was to buy what I had in my hand: four shirts and one pair of shorts.

My head didn’t rush, my heart didn’t beat out of my chest, my vision stayed normal, the panic stayed away. A year ago, I never would have been able to do this. And there were times I didn’t think I would ever be able to. Strings attached to me everywhere, by personal choice. This day, however, I was fine.

In fact, I’d had a lot of fine days. It had been going so well that I considered stopping my therapy sessions altogether. Isn’t that what we do though? Once we feel good, we back off of what’s been supporting us. I think it’s human nature to do so, sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

When I left my therapist and told I’d let her know in a month if I needed to come back, I thought I’d walk away for good. Then thirty days slid by painfully slow. I missed my chance to vent and let my words fly without shame.

Sometimes big news came from small conversations. A day I had nothing to discuss would lead to a significant discovery. The chance for this would be gone if I didn’t continue.

I went back after thirty days, and I told her I missed coming here, so we agreed to every 3-4 weeks depending on my schedule. I’ve held this now for a few months and here’s what I’ve learned.

  • I have new goals to push toward.
  • I can truly recognize how far I’ve come and the life I’ve taken back.
  • There’s a comfort to having a familiar, someone I know will listen.
  • It has given me a chance to explore areas I didn’t realize needed attention.

street-art-2044085_640.jpgTherapy is one of the things that I have done to regain my life. I am stronger now, I’m not sure I’ll ever be “healed,” but I can do almost everything I used to before anxiety crippled my life.

Sometimes I hear people smugly suggest that therapy isn’t working if you have to keep going. Well, who are they to tout about something they don’t understand. I’m not doing myself any harm by continuing, in fact, it pushes me to take control and prepare myself for harder days that are unquestionably in my future. Life can’t be full of rainbows and sunshine all the time.

Therapy has been one of the many factors I use to battle/overcome/work with anxiety. It took several tries to find a therapist I trust, so if you find one that’s not fitting you, don’t be scared to try again. For me, it has worked to have continual checkups. I have no plan on stopping, even if I decide to decrease to once every other month, a therapist on hand provides me with the outlet I need.

 

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a lifestyle blogger at Fingers to Sky where she writes about her personal wellbeing, gardening, and her writing process as she tackles her first sci-fi novel. Check her out on Instagram or Facebook.

Images from Pixabay.

Always keep fighting!