Why Do We Do What We Always Do?

I’ve been a little down lately.

For anyone who ever feels the effects of depression, that’s code for: crying sporadically, feeling worthless, and avoiding people in general.

On the plus side, I’ve been doing some thinking. How? A detached, more logical human often steps aside from the involved, emotional creature on the floor and studies her like an anthropologist.

Here are some of my observations:

  1. When feeling bad, I try to feel worse.
  2. I really just want someone to love me, so I hurt anyone who gets close enough to even talk.
  3. Although self-care and routine would help, I intentionally do not sleep and avoid cognitive behavioral therapy-like activities.
  4. I often think nothing will get better, though a hormone shift completely alters my perspective.
  5. Despite knowing to avoid vices, I dive right in.
  6. I tell myself mean, cutting, disparaging, rude, abusive, sarcastic, reproachful, cruel phrases that I also say are all true. They’re not.

In short, mein patient, I haf observed that I not only shoot myself in the foot; I also get the arm, gut, and a hopeful shot near something vital. Why?

Fear. Self-protection. Habit.

Fear? I fear change and the unknown so much that I sink back into habits and negative feelings because they are more familiar. I do not know the outside.

Self-protection? What I do know of the outside is painful. People are rude and hurt me, even by not paying attention –especially by not paying attention. Things I hope for will not come true, I will feel sad, and the world is full of disparity.

Habit? Besides those reasons, I do not have enough motivation to believe that the small steps others (including myself) recommend will make a positive change. I inch a toe out just a teensy bit toward a better habit, see little or no difference, and crawl back to my mud.

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So what’s a person to do?

In actual practice, I repeat my ingrained cycle over and over. I avoid self-motivation by constantly blocking ways that might help. I deny outside help, even shutting the door on physical interventions as simple as a hug. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for in doing this.

Yet, occasionally, the outside observer and the person on the floor become one. I blink, look around, and realize this isn’t such a great place to be. Others may have this happen the morning after a night of drinking or doping, the moment sedatives wear off, or at that terrible time of early morning when you still can’t sleep and know any effort to try will not be enough.

No wonder we’re depressed.

I believe what I’m waiting for is an outside intervention. I’m hoping that a knight in shining armor will show he cares enough for me always, perfectly, consistently. Motivation is his noble steed. His blade is The Real Truth, and his shield The Defender of All Who Might Hurt Me. He never gives up, never takes, “No,” for an answer, and is never distanced by the rude things my inner voice says.

And, until he charges up to little, fat, depressed, muddy me; I am determined to keep up the bad habits.

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This expectation is not reasonable.

So, what’s a person really to do?

*Sigh* I think I need to cut out the crap. In some cases, literally; like not giving into unhealthy vices. I also think I need to really commit to the cognitive behavioral therapy stuff. I talk about it, endorse it, and encourage others to do it. Then, I …don’t.

As a New Year’s resolution this November day, I am going to check out some free resources and get on it. If you might possibly relate to fear, self-protection, and habit-driven behaviors, I recommend coming along, too.

I am worth better than this, and so are you.

Let’s keep fighting.

My Worst Anxiety/Panic Attack Day

ryan-whitlow-535703-unsplashYesterday sucked, it was the hardest and longest panic attack that I have had in a long while. Since the moment I woke I had this feeling of dread, that it would take all that I could to get through this day– and I was right.

It has been relatively quiet when it comes to the panic attack department this summer. I have had a couple since July, but while my anxiety is high, lately it has not gone into full panic attack mode. I am guessing that it was inevitable that I would hit that place again, it has been all too familiar in the past two years.

In the first few hours of my day, it was spent trying to get my anxiety out of panic attack mode. much-needed I tried all the old tricks. I sat in the sun and tried to relax, that lasted about two minutes.

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I was a mess by the time I came down from the panic attack about two hours later. One o the worst things with panic attacks is that your whole body feels like you ran a marathon after without actually running a marathon. What is worse is that even though the panic attack is over, you still have to deal with the anxiety.

The only way I came down was with Ativan, as I have not learned how to deal with anxiety/social anxiety without medications (I am a work in progress.) It sucked. The rest of my day consisted of anxiety and Ativan. I found a way to keep going. I ended up getting a much needed haircut and got pizza after. It was something postive.

Then I entered into no sleep which was worse, but that is for another blog post.

With that said it has been a tough week and I am only a few days (October 1st) from starting my master’s program. I worried. I always somehow find a way to pull it out of nowhere and figure this out. I am going to take a day off and then hopefully get back on track. I need a mental health day.

Always Keep Fighting (AKF)

James

Photo Credit:

Luke Palmer

Ryan Whitlow

Rob Bye

All About James – Part Two

I am so close to the final draft of my memoir “The Bipolar Writer.” I want to share in two parts of the first chapter of my memoir, and today is part two. All About James – Part One

In the past, I have shown chapters in different parts of the process. This first chapter is so important to my memoir that I wanted to share it so that feedback is possible. It is perhaps my most polished and most worked chapter, that is not to say it is perfect (I am still considering having a few people look at all the chapters together when you are close to project you can miss things.) With that said this will be a real and raw look at James, the early years leading up to my diagnosis.

 Who is J.E. Skye? The Origins of The Bipolar Writer

Part Two

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I got back on track in a big way my junior year of high school. My grades got back to their normal levels. It helped that I had become a part of a group organization (my local sheriff explorers) that took up so much of my time during the end my sophomore year. It became a place where I belonged, and I did belong at some level. The truth is that as much as I belonged, I was an outsider because I was very manic at this point in my life. I can look back to the long hours spent at events and ride-along with a deputy sheriff’s as a sign just how manic I really was at this point in my life. (I will explain more about this time in a later chapter.)

By my senior year, my depression became a significant part of my life again, but this time it hurt less to miss a ton of school this time around. I won’t lie, it came down to the wire if I would be able to graduate, but I figured it out. It wasn’t that I was smart. It has always been the opposite. I was barely trying when I was lost in the endless depression.

My senior year was the first time that I can say that I went through my first real depression cycle. It started early my senior year and lasted all the way to well past when I graduated high school. I began to spend days at a time laying in bed lost in the endless darkness that was my depression. It was a strange place to be, and I had no idea that there was something really wrong with me.

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That feeling of darkness would become a familiar part of my life in the coming years. I had taken an introductory psychology class in my junior year of high school. I knew at some level what depression does to a person, and what it can do. My knowledge was only at the textbook level, and truthfully, I was in denial that something was wrong. I even thought that it was possible that I was Bipolar at one point as a teen, but I laughed it off as something that people do after taking a class in psychology. Self-diagnosing is never a good thing I shook it off as a ludicrous idea. I continued to struggle.

It was a year after graduating from high school that I was able to break out of my first depression cycle. I started working for my dad part time, and later I found my first job. Things got better after securing my first job. I was an adult finally, and there was so much to look forward to in my life. But my journey and its beginning is not a happy one as I would learn.

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Between my first job and my first suicide attempt was the first time that my manic side was at its most evident. In the past, my mania was mostly being overly productive and spending days at a time without sleep. My thoughts would race, but I would find comfort in staying busy. The manic episodes of my life are still hard to write about because I have never fully understood my mania. I could always deal better when I am manic. The signs were there that I was Bipolar, and it is no wonder my diagnosis became Bipolar One.

My manic episodes are exciting to look back on because I had no idea they were symptoms. My mania would last for days. I would go four or five days with no sleep. My energy levels would go through the roof to a point where I would go for walks or drive for hours. I had too much energy to sit still. I would feel restless the less sleep I would get, but it didn’t bother me. I could drive four hours in any direction and then go right back without pause.

I would take unwarranted risks like driving down the highway at 2 am at 100 miles an hour in my car. It gave me more energy the more reckless my behavior became, and it was a great feeling to “feel real” for the first time in my life. It was a lie because it was just the mania taking me over. I didn’t have to hide who I was in a manic episode, so it never really registered as an issue like depression has over my life.

One of the worst parts of my manic episodes during the early years was the excessive spending sprees. Some of my worst events featured me spending hundreds of dollars in one store on electronics and DVD’s only to pay as much in a different store on the same day. I would spend every dollar I had and then ask others like my family for money. I had no regard for money and savings. I ran up every single one of my credit cards when I was manic because it helped me “get through” not sleeping. I had no idea that these behaviors were terrible for me, looking back at the moment can you blame me?

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I can see the mixed episodes before my diagnosis as some of the worst parts of myself. There were still days where I did nothing but lay in bed, and then go on a reckless spending spree the next day. It became so bad at one point that I had to take time off from work for six months just to keep myself from going so far into debt. I didn’t know which way was up. I talked fast all the time. When I was in a manic episode, my thoughts were often jumbled and incoherent. My mind would be racing at a million miles a minute. I was quick to anger and reckless behavior.

It came to a point in my adult life where in May of 2006 I walked into my boss’ office one morning and quit my job. It was sudden. My family had their reservations about my someone leaving their job in that manner. It had a deeper meaning that no one saw at the time. They had no idea the dark thoughts that were going through my mind. It was the start of what would become my long journey, but I was not there yet. It was over a year and half of not working and pretending that I was looking for a job. The reality was that most days I could not find the strength to leave my bed. The darkness of depression was looming over my life, and I was on a collision course with reality.

I know to look back that there were many signs that I should have gotten help, but life is never so black and white. Thinking about that time in my life I was young, and there was a real stigma about mental illness that it was “bad” or “outside of the social norm” to have a mental illness.  It played a part in why I never sought help until it was too late, but in truth that is an excuse. There was enough information out there for teenagers dealing with my depression, but I was in denial that there was something wrong, it was just easier to deal with in my head.

On a cold night in November 2007, my life changed forever.

James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit:

Ella Jardim

Nam Hoang

Akshar Dave

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Isami Daehn Interview Feature

There are times when writing interview features for The Bipolar Writer blog that it gets personal to me because I can directly relate to the subject of the article. When that happens, I feel as if I must tell the story right. Today I share the story of Isami Daehn, originally from Sagamihara, Japan— and currently lives in Florida. You can find her blog at https://happy-thinks.com

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Joy Daehn: A Story of Overcomer

In every journey with a mental illness, we all start at the point where an event or something significant influences how your mental illness affects the rest of your life. For Isami Daehn, her mental illness started very young due to abuse.

“It’s hard to say if I was born with a mental illness or if it formed over time,” Isami explains about her mental illness origins. “I would say that it is my biggest curse, but also my biggest blessing.”

Since her childhood, Isami has always wanted to help others, find her purpose, and at the same time feel welcomed. Joy believes that her mental illness has allowed her to connect with so many wonderful people on her blog, but to reliving the trauma she faced a child is something she would never want to relive.

“There are good people in this world that sometimes ‘just don’t get it.’ They mean well, but they will never understand.”

On a daily basis Joy has to contend with her diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with dissociative symptoms, a diagnosis she finally got in February of 2018. Due to the fear about the stigma of mental illness Joy decided to put off evaluation— this is a common occurrence in this mental illness life.

“I honestly do not remember a time I have not struggled with some form of mental health,” she remembers, “I remember having suicidal thoughts as a child and being depressed as early as age nine.”

What Isami sees in her life is being able to understand what it is like to have suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and panic attacks ruling her life. This understanding has allowed her to step into a place with other people that otherwise may not have permission to go. “And I say ‘with’ because I am still figuring this thing out.”

The hardest part of the daily routine of living with PTSD involves people who don’t know or don’t understand what it means to have a panic attack that is PTSD related.

“It has often made me afraid to go into social settings even though I enjoy being around people for the most part,” Joy explains about this type of anxiety.

To get through a single day Joy is very much a planner. Each day she has an agenda that Joy writes the day before, it helps her get through her daily grind. It has become a routine in Joy’s life, and it coincides with her mood journal that she keeps daily.

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“This helps me clear my mind of any negativity. Prayer and meditation at the end of the day it also helps me reset my thinking,” Isami says, “I guess you could say it’s much mental preparation the day before. I know my mental illness isn’t going anywhere soon, so preparing to coexist with it seems to be the best option for me.”

Writing a mental health blog can be therapeutic and enlightening. I always ask my interviewees what they would like to share with the mental community— and this is what Joy asked me to share her little piece of wisdom.

  1. “I believe my blog has always been a place where people of any background can come over. I don’t believe there is a single person on the planet that is exempt from mental health issues.
  2. “But, if you read my posts you will probably notice that I speak from experience 99% of the time. So, from experience, I would share something with the faith community.”
  3. “If you read my story, you know the environment I grew up in did not believe in caring for mental health. You might relate to this if you grew up in a similar background. Although you may have left these teachings, there is a part of you that still nags at you and calls you a bad person for being the slightest concerned about your mental state.”
  4. “To this, I have to say; God did not only make you be a spiritual being. He created you with the intention to be a body, mind, and soul. Yes, caring for your spirituality is important for your soul, but neglecting the other two are completely contradictory to God’s design.”
  5. “You are not sinning for caring for your mental health. And trust me, the more you realize it’s okay to practice self-care, the more you will be able to care for others.”

Writing a mental health blog for Joy has done absolute wonders in her life. “Before the blog posts, I thought NO ONE understood the pain I was feeling. However, I started receiving messages upon messages from people just like me. These people and I have become a community, and it has meant the world to me,” Isami explains about her mental health blog.

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For Isami, life itself makes life worth living every day. Living according to PTSD’s agenda can be quite miserable according to Joy, but along with the planners she uses she has a vision board full of pictures. It helps her to stay excited about the good things in life, to have something to look forward to in this life.

To end the interview, Joy had this to say:

“Have a support group. I sincerely don’t know where I would be without the support of my husband, sister, best friend, and my boss. Some people will truly care about you if you let them. You are worth being cared for!”

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If you would like to know more about Isami journey with PTSD and her past you can follow the links below to pages from her blog.

I always like to end these interviews with my thoughts on the story I have shared with you in this feature on Isami Daehn. I am genuinely in awe that Joy dares to share her abuse story, it is something that I still struggle in my own journey—I barely talk about it. At some point, I hope to find the courage to do so.

Always Keep Fighting.

James

Interviewee: Isami Daehn

Interviewer/Author: James Edgar Skye

The Cure for Depression: Never Give Up, Never Surrender

Hello, there! Feeling depressed? I’m here to offer you a little encouragement.

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Perhaps you are familiar with James Edgar Skye’s favorite life maxim: Keep fighting.

What does that mean, exactly? Is he encouraging site visitors to violence? I’m sure you all know that’s not the answer. Despite your astute intelligence, however, do you keep fighting?

Or, are you in my preferred category of fence-sitting numbness?

Worse yet, are you all alone, hiding from everything except the dark recesses of your mind?

That is no way to fight.

Don’t roll your eyes at me; you’re the one practicing bad habits. …Yes, I intend to get dressed and eat something besides these cookies. Yes, I’m wearing exercise clothes because I’m going to do something more aerobic than climb the step stool to reach another package of cookies.

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Hmm. Maybe we both need to step up our game.

Way back in May of this year I revealed the most secret of secrets: The Cure for Depression. Over the next few, heavily-procrastinated months I then discussed the secret steps involved.

In fact, last time I wrote about figuring out what’s helping and sticking with it.

Are you still not trying any of these?

Again, that’s no way to fight.

Fight is an action verb, and not one like “yawn,” or “scratch.” Think about what you picture when someone says, “Fight.” It’s not a person laying amidst packages of desserts, feebly raising a hand to scroll through this article and resolve to think about trying something tomorrow.

It’s pride.

It’s power.

It’s a bad-ass mother who won’t take no crap off of nobody!!!

The “nobody” we depressive types need to address is most often ourselves.

Think of how you would get ready for a physical fight. Besides psyching yourself up with a little mirror speech (which, by the way, is like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), you place your feet and hands in a defensive stance. Given time to prepare, you might wear protective clothing, train with a professional, and bring something besides air to smack the enemy with.

D’ya see the correlation? Your daily, healthy practices arm you for the fight against depression -a fight with your own, flawed mind.

It’s a battle we face every day, but one that is easier if we’re prepared. After following the recommended steps, that battle doesn’t even happen some days. Isn’t that worth fighting for?

Yes, it is. Now, get out there. Keep fighting.

Never give up. Never surrender.

Photo credits:
Whitney Wright
And Giphy.

My Dark Days of Infertility: Part 2

For over a year and a half, we went through more fertility treatments, each time ramping them up and exposing my body to more drugs/stronger drugs. Finally, my husband and I put up our hands and said STOP. We need a break. When we set up a meeting with our doctor to tell him we wanted to take six months off, he told me that my body was just getting older and he wouldn’t recommend taking a break. He also handed us pamphlets on finding an egg donor. My heart was racing, I could feel the static rushing through my head, threatening a panic attack. Inside I heard the words, run like hell! Though for some reason I couldn’t.

I asked my sisters if they would consider it, not entirely sold on the idea myself. My family did not take this well. It was hard to hear all of their concerns being thrown at me at once. To me, it felt like all I could hear was, “No we will not help you get pregnant. You aren’t going to have kids. Just get over it.” I know this wasn’t their meaning, but when people who aren’t involved tend to get involved, it starts to become overwhelming and draining.

My husband and I went back to the idea that we needed a break from everything and everyone. AND a new doctor, which we did find after interviewing several practices. This is one advice I would lay on anyone trying to find a doctor. PLEASE PLEASE talk to more than one person. I wish I had from the beginning.

We traveled to Alaska and then Costa Rica, tasting life as we went I started to feel a little more whole again and opened the door to a few friends so they would understand why I had been so absent. Most everyone was sympathetic, but then the commentary started. Here are the top three stories that made me want to punch someone:

  1. I know this couple who stopped trying and then it just happened for them. Maybe you should just stop trying so hard? – Let’s pretend you have an arrow sticking out of your heart. Now walk around and pretend it’s not there, go ahead, it’s so easy just to stop thinking about an arrow sticking out of your chest.
  2. I know this couple that adopted a baby and then got pregnant right after they adopted. – Good for them, I am not sure why this is relevant to my story. You basically just told me that someone got pregnant when I cannot get pregnant. How is that comforting to me?
  3. I’m sorry, I know it will happen for you guys. – No, you don’t know that. Do you have some ability where you can read into the future or something?

So, I withdrew from society again to avoid feeling pitiful around friends and hating their stories that were intended for comfort. Quietly we decided to give the new doctor a chance, his practice was not as intense, and we felt more at ease. He did further tests on my husband and me, he actually was able to tell me what was wrong. My progesterone levels were not high enough to allow for implantation. He looked at me with his soft eyes, he said, “We are going to get you pregnant on the first try.”

My soul was rattled. How could he make such a promise like that to me? I had been through IVF three times already. I believed him though because I wanted to.

After three years of trying, we got pregnant with our son on the first try with the new doctor. Griffin is now a healthy, silly, loud (really loud) 6-year-old. I wish I could tell you that the darkness lifted. It didn’t, in fact, it morphed into something else. My children have always brought me joy, even when they are driving me crazy. I am fighting this fight for them, for me, for my husband, for everyone anywhere that is scared to fight. I’m fighting for all of us.

Social anxiety took a severe grip on me. I couldn’t leave the house alone, especially with my son. I feared something would happen to him or to us, but I wasn’t sure what or why I felt this way. Avoidance behavior started to run its ugly course. I discovered grocery delivery services, Amazon could bring me anything, and I only went to parties if a close friend or my husband accompanied me. It felt okay. I actually felt like this was okay. I still found joy in my life. A new baby was hard, but I loved him so deeply, I remember just watching him fall asleep in my arms and wonder how I was so lucky.

The anxiety became a way of life and avoiding things that triggered panic to take over. I got really good at it, so I didn’t face the real issue.

Part 1 of this story can be found on my blog here. I thought part 2 related more to posts The Bipolar Writer’s audience would appreciate and relate to, so I wanted to share here.

Compared to My Siblings

The frustration inside of me bubbles to the surface with a sharp bite. My parents treat us differently. I know this because I have ears and eyes and use them like most humans. It’s not hard to pick up my father handing my sibling a wound up wad of cash to “help her out.” Or when my parents show more interest in my sibling’s career choice (it’s within the medical profession), while I try to become a content writer I hear, “that’s interesting.” What I want is someone to say, “Good for you! Follow your heart! Money doesn’t mean anything if you’re not happy.”

See what I just did here? Over and over and over in my head, I weigh out the differences between my siblings and me. How we compare, who is thinner, who is stronger, who makes more money, which takes more handouts, who dresses better. Then I replay my own scenario, instead of hearing a monotone response or something equally lackluster, I envision the message I want to. I want them to say I’m talented, smart, courageous – something! Anything that makes me feel approved or praised.

I have a generalized anxiety disorder. Maybe I should have mentioned that sooner or if you are like me then you may have picked up on my battering thought process. It’s something we anxious people like to do. I’m insecure, I want someone to randomly ask me, “So, how is that writing career going?”  Then I could tell them I’m taking significant steps towards my first paying gig! Instead, I haven’t brought it up because I feel their response wouldn’t hold a candle to the thrill that I already feel inside.

Therapy has helped me with this area, even if the frustration and comparing still surface, sometimes unexpectedly. The answers I seek are already in my complex heart. It’s time for me to put myself on the pedestal and know that if I am seeking approval from others or I dream about praise, these things are already sewn into my soul. I know I want people to say I’m doing a good job, so therefore I already feel that I am. I’m going to have a party for myself that celebrates big steps and small steps. I’m going to do this today! Starbucks here I come! Make it a Verde.

Yes, I do feel like Stuart Smiley, but you know — gosh darn it I’m worth it. I may tease, but this is no laughing matter. You are worth it, and you don’t need other people to tell you this. In case you do though, I just said it, so I will repeat it. You are worth it!

 

Brought to you by Fingers to Sky: Soul Searching. Writing. Gardening

Let’s Start at the Beginning

This a chapter in my memoir I have been working on, I wanted to see what people think about this chapter. My origins story is something that I always worry about writing because I always worry about my memories. Sure I remember a lot, but it takes writing things down before things start to become more evident. As I continue to edit each chapter more memories will be reminded, and this chapter is always evolving.

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My Orgins Story

I chose to focus this memoir on the last ten years starting in 2007 when, on that wet November night, my life changed forever. My diagnosis became Bipolar One. It is where my adult life with mental illness began. I was twenty-two at the time. If I am honest, I had no idea the realities that would define the next ten years of my life. When I was twenty-two and starting this journey, I never thought I would see my thirtieth birthday. I never believed that there was something wrong with me— my first mistake. It took three very different suicide attempts over a three year period that made me who I am today— The Bipolar Writer.

Those of us in the mental illness community have an origins story, and mine is no different. My journey began at twenty-two, but in truth, this journey starts at the beginning when my symptoms first started to take shape. It is easier to look back on it now because those early memories are hard to forget.

I was born in the small town of Salinas, California— the central coast as it often referred to by the locals. The area is where John Steinbeck lived and wrote many of his literary works. My childhood was typical. My parents were hard-working, and they always instilled in me their hard work ethic. I was a horrible as a kid in my early years, and often did more bad things than good. I had this extreme need as a kid to steal anything that wasn’t tied down in my house. More often than not I would get caught, which is good, I would never make it as a thief as an adult. I got disciplined the right way, and it made me a better person as I became an adult.

I am a regular guy to the outside world. I have always had an affinity for books, writing, and music. I love Japanese food and the anime culture. Korean pop music seems to be my guilty pleasure, and I am learning to speak the language. I would like to move to South Korea in the future. It’s funny talking about the future because it wasn’t always a possibility in my life.

I am a coffee addict, and you will usually find me at a coffee house getting my coffee fix and writing. I am a fantastic role-playing game gamer. Ask anyone who has ever seen me play knows how good I am at strategy turn-based RPGs, but any role-playing game is what I have always used to combat my depression. If there is a boss that is unbeatable in the video game, I will beat it. My best boss battle ever for an unbeatable boss was beating Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts 2. It was amazing. My best series of games that I am proud of beating is the Dark Souls series (up to the latest.)

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I am a guy who loves watching baseball, football, and basketball. I love rooting for my teams. I love hard. I would help other people with their problems before fix any of my issues. If we become friends in this life, you become family to me. I am also Bipolar. I am all these things, and you find that in this memoir I will expose every aspect of my life.

I can trace my depression back to when I was a teenager around fourteen. It was the first time in my life that I felt comfortable being an introvert, and I struggled to keep up with my friends. Before high school, I went to my friend’s sleepovers and lived like an average kid. So many things changed in high school experience that led me to be who I am today. I hung out with friends in high school, but not outside of school I preferred to be alone. I realize now that school became a “safe place” because it was a place that I had to be.

A safe place is a theme that shows up often in my life. I started to realize I could be happy alone. My depression would take severe turns during my high school years. It was easier to be myself when depression took me over. It was a familiar feeling. Loneliness was something I did well when everything else in my life fell apart it felt right.

My sophomore year is an excellent example of events that shaped how I dealt with depression. It was a sad year for me, and to combat it. I ditched school almost weekly with my cousin. It was the first time in my life that turned to marijuana to cope with my depression and my social anxiety.

I would spend days at the time in bed if when not hanging out with my cousin, or sitting around for hours playing video games. I ditched school so much, but I always had a good excuse in hand and could write excuse notes like there was no tomorrow. My parents never knew about the time I missed that year. To this day, I am not sure why the school believed that someone could be sick as often as I called in sick. In my sophomore year was the first time in my life that I failed classes in school. I got back on track that summer and took classes to make up for my bad grades.

At the time I chalked my sophomore year to something kids do. It was so much deeper than that because it was a sign that I was getting good at hiding things. Another theme that often comes up in my life. It was the first time that I let my depression control me for an extended period in my life. Depression became my constant companion after my sophomore year in high school.

I got back on track in a big way my junior year of high school. My grades got back to their normal levels. It helped that I had become a part of a group organization that took up so much of my time during the end my sophomore year. It became a place where I belonged, and I did belong at some level. The truth is that as much as I belonged, I was an outsider because I was very manic at this point in my life. I can look back to the long hours. (I will explain more about this time in a later chapter.)

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By my senior year, my depression became a significant part of my life again, it didn’t hurt to miss a ton of school this time around. I won’t lie, it came down to the wire if I would be able to graduate but I figured it out. It wasn’t that I was smart. It has always been the opposite. I was barely trying when I was lost in the endless depression.

My senior year was the first time that I would consider that I went through my first real depression cycle. It started early that year and lasted all the way to well past when I graduated high school. I began to spend days at a time laying in bed lost in the endless darkness that was my depression.

That feeling of darkness would become a familiar part of my life in the coming years. I had taken an introductory psychology class in my junior year of high school. I knew at some level what depression does to a person, and what it can do. My knowledge was only at the textbook level, and truthfully I was in denial. I even thought that it was possible that I was Bipolar at one point as a teen. Self-diagnosing is never a good thing I shook it off as a ludicrous idea.

It was almost a year after graduating from high school that I was able to break out of this depression cycle. I started working for my dad part time, and later I found my first job. Things got better after securing my first job. I was an adult finally, and there was so much to look forward to in my life. But my journey and its beginning is not a happy one as I would learn.

Between my first job and my first suicide attempt was the first time that my manic side was at its most evident. The manic episodes of my life are still hard to write. The signs were there that I was Bipolar and it is no wonder my diagnosis became Bipolar One.

My manic episodes are exciting to look back on because I had no idea they were symptoms. My mania would last for days. I would go four or five days with no sleep. My energy levels would go through the roof to a point where I would go for walks or drive for hours. I had too much energy to sit still. I would feel restless the less sleep I would get, but it didn’t bother me. I could drive four hours in any direction and then go right back without pause.

I would take unwarranted risks like driving down the highway at 2 am at 100 miles an hour in my car. It gave me more energy the more reckless my behavior became, and it was a great feeling to “feel real.” I didn’t have to hide who I was in a manic episode.

One of the worst parts of my manic episodes during the early years was the excessive spending sprees. Some of my worst events featured me spending hundreds of dollars in one store on electronics and DVD’s only to pay as much in a different store on the same day.

I ran up every single one of my credit cards when I was manic because it helped me “get through” not sleeping. I had no idea that these behaviors were terrible for me, looking back at the moment can you blame me?

I can see the mixed episodes before my diagnosis was some of the worst parts of myself. There were still days where I did nothing but lay in bed one day, and then go on a reckless spending spree the next day. It became so bad at one point that I had to take time off from work to keep myself from going so far into debt. I didn’t know which way was up. I talked fast all the time. When I was in a manic episode, my thoughts were often jumbled and incoherent. My mind would be racing at a million miles a minute.

It came to a point where in May of 2006 I walked into my boss’ office and quit my job. It was sudden. My family had their reservations about my someone leaving their job. They had no idea the dark thoughts that were going through my mind. It was the start of what would become my long journey.

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I know to look back that there were many signs that I should have gotten help, but life is never so black and white. Thinking about that time in my life I was young, and there was a real stigma about mental illness. It played a part in why I never sought help until it was too late, but that’s an excuse. There was not enough information out there for teenagers dealing with my depression. I didn’t know.

On a cold night in November 2007, my life changed forever.

Photo Credit

unsplash-logoKerrie DeFelice

unsplash-logoRedd Angelo

unsplash-logoFrankie Valentine

unsplash-logoRendiansyah Nugroho

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

Asking: Is Medication the Answer?

Anxiety creeps in and doesn’t whisper sweet nothings into my ear. It screams at me, “You are weak! No way in hell can you do this! Quit! Go hide!” I shake my head, trying to relieve my brain from this damaging downward spiral. It’s no use, it won’t stop.

While I have made a lot of progress, I still feel as though there are things I should have overcome at this point in therapy. For years I have avoided medication. There are a lot of reasons for this, but mainly I think it’s because I’m scared. Sometimes I wonder if taking a pill would really calm the angry voices inside, the self-doubts, the mountain of fears. Is it really that simple? A daily regimen of drugs, foreign toxins introduced to our blood, recreating and shifting our brain chemistry. Would it leave me the same person I am, but a better version of myself? It’s so hard to believe it’s that simple.

Also, weight gain terrifies me. That is probably a stupid reason to avoid helpful medication, but it is the truth, please don’t shame me for speaking my truth.

With several friends openly taking medication I wonder if they are better off than I am. I want to break free from the cycles of self-doubt and fear. I feel like I’m on this plateau, stuck on progress. I had one goal, to be able to go into a store and walk through the check outline by myself. I have done this here and there. Though the anxiety that creeps in every time I consider doing this is haunting. So much so that I still avoid doing this whenever I can.

This is classic avoidance, I know this. I should care more, create a goal, but I don’t want to. The motivation to face my fears is strongly lacking. Would medication change this also? Maybe I would suddenly feel like joining a running team and volunteering at my son’s school. Hmmm, probably not. I have to fly out of state twice in the upcoming months. While flying has never been a trigger for me, there are a lot of triggers in an airport. All the LINES that don’t move!!! No way out!!! Oh my god, I am sweating just by typing that!

I have a prescription of Lexapro in my nightstand drawer, from over a year ago, that I never took.

This post is more of a question to followers of The Bipolar Writer. If you can share your story with medication, I am all ears and very grateful. I will never pass judgement on those taking or not taking medication. Shame free zone here!

Brought to you by Fingers to Sky

 

Juggling, Hiding, Saying No

When there is a relatively calm week with nothing outside of the ordinary happening, I can easily handle a hiccup or two. Now, if you expect me to be able to juggle multiple situations at one time, I may start to withdraw. Like a turtle drawing his head into his shell, I close myself off.

The static in my brain starts to send out sparks, misfires occur, rapid thinking, jumping to conclusions, and hopeless impressions wander through me. You can’t do this! Just quit! My inner demon whispers. This advice is so tempting. Quitting is easy. It might sting for a while, but the wound heals pretty quickly in most cases.

There are times when we pile on too much, and saying NO can be healthy, and part of self-care. However, we must be aware when we raise our hands in surrender to soon. Trying to avoid something that is demanding, or labor intense, we might turn our head at a challenge before we find out what we are capable of.

It’s too difficult, it’s too hard, I can’t do this! There are too many things going on at one time. I can’t juggle all of this at once!

Excuse me for throwing out a term so loosely, because the truth is I do not meditate in the traditional sense. I have tried, it’s just not my dish. When things pile up and start to crash down upon me however, I do say to myself, “It’s time to meditate on this.” To me this is taking a break, a step back. Thinking out all the logical options, and most importantly coming up with boundaries and goals. Breathe through it. If a situation is elevated beyond a determined margin, then maybe it is time to make an exit. Until then, it’s time to stick with it!

I find that when more than one task (even if a pleasant) falls on me, I start to get a little erratic. I haven’t been able to stop this from happening, but I do recognize it more quickly than in the past. I’m not sure if this is my anxious tendencies or just a normal human response to a lot going on.

Continued stress can do horrible things to our mind and body. Not accomplishing goals or backing out of a commitment can also wreak havoc on our inner self. Sometimes we need a little stress to propel us forward. Understanding our limits is important. More important yet, is pushing these limits in a healthy manner so we can gain achievement and self-worth.

Brought to you by Fingers To Sky