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.

The List.

 

I once read that a good strategy in dealing with bipolar is to recognize what is an episode and what is just a run of the mill bad day. When I find myself feeling “moody” I make a list of things that are pissing me off. I look over it and try to determine if the things triggering my anger are truly things that I should be upset about or if I am overreacting. Whether or not it is an episode, it is a way to hold myself accountable.

 

I thought I would give you a glimpse into my list from this week. It truly is….something. If anything, it is hilariously ridiculous.

 

  1. I walked into the copy room to use the copy machine and there was a coworker in there organizing the incoming faxes. I just started the job so I asked her if I needed to dial nine to fax, to which she responded no. As I start typing in the number in she turns to me and says, “you have to wait until I am done with the fax machine”.
  2. People answering a question with any information outside of the answer to the question I asked.
  3. I work with a woman named Carrie. That is how she spells her name. She is from New York. She corrects anyone who says her name without the New York accent.
  4. Someone held the door for me and then proceeded to their car. When I went to back out (after taking time to plug my phone in and respond to a text) they were backing out behind me and I had to wait.

 

This list is small. This is because I am saving you from the 13 other ridiculously unimportant things that pissed me off. As you can see, I blew things out of proportion.

 

My whole life, my grandmother has hated when someone does not clear the microwave after using it. Lets say that you put food in to heat up for one minute and took the food out after 45 seconds. You better not leave that fifteen seconds on the microwave. My thoughts on this have always been if I see it as being easy enough for her to just not say anything and clear the microwave, then it is just as easy for me to do the same.

 

These things that happened did not hurt me or alter my life in anyway. It is far easier for me to make myself aware of this than it is to explain to someone that I have a mental illness full of mixed episodes and mood swings where I blow up over the preferred pronunciation of YOUR name.

 

I am a huge proponent of people learning about mental illness, ending stigma, and coexisting with those that have them. I am not a proponent for expecting everyone around me to deal with the fallout of my bad days.

Mental Illness, Escapism, and Addiction

I have been on medication for my bipolar disorder – and depression before it – for a great number of years. The most recent cocktail of drugs has been the same since late 2015, when I nearly ended my own life, and it’s been keeping me pretty steady, as these things go. I’m not perfect, but the extremes of mood, the violent anger, and the crushing depressions are lessened, if not gone entirely.

I also drink. Not a lot – not every day – but when I drink, I usually drink too much. It’s contraindicated with my medications, but that doesn’t really mean much to me. I drink anyway. I drink, very specifically, to get drunk. I drink beer, I drink wine, I drink rum and scotch, and I drink quite deliberately, pacing myself over minutes and hours until I fall into a stupor in bed and sleep it off through the night.

I think, deep down, I’m somewhat of a hedonist. I don’t know if this comes from the depression or some other innate personality trait, but I am, for lack of a better phrase, a pleasure-seeker. I very much enjoy physical pleasure, and the sensation of drunkenness falls into this category for me. It’s a form of escapism that requires very little concentration or effort, and when it hits, I can just lie back and let it wash over me.

With medications keeping me level, why do I need escapism, you might ask. Why do I need a vehicle for altering my state of mind, when the whole point of the ‘official’ drugs is to keep my mind from entering that altered state in the first place?

I think a part of it is that I have conditioned myself over decades to avoid misery. I have been so miserable for so long that I instinctively gravitate to anything that feels good, happy or pleasurable. I have very little self-control in this regard; I don’t set rules for myself, like ‘you can have a drink after you do the dishes’; I just drink, and fuck the dishes.

Another part is, almost certainly, a dangerous level of chemical dependency. As I mentioned above, I don’t drink every day – but I do go through phases where I might drink daily for several weeks straight. I usually drink until I’m out of alcohol. It rapidly becomes habit. The same is true of other vices; I recently acquired a small amount of pot from a friend, and against my original intention of maybe once a weekend, I’ve been smoking three or four times a week.

This all leads me to question my behaviors, and the more fundamental motivations behind them. Do I smoke and drink because I’m miserable, because I’m addicted, or because I really kind of just … like it? Like all behavior affected by mental illness, it’s a difficult question to answer, because the very nature of mental illness is changed behaviors … but there comes a point where illness ends and addiction takes over.

I’m not an alcoholic; I know people who are, and I don’t ‘need’ booze to function. I’m not a drug addict; I don’t blow hundreds on weed, and I don’t smoke before, during and after work (for example). But I am dangerously close to this level of functional need, and I recognize it when the thing I look forward to at the end of the day is getting high and watching Family Guy reruns.

That’s usually when I stop – when I see the signs of tipping into the abyss, and take steps to right myself. So far I’ve always been able to come back from the brink, but I worry about one day …

Yet I continue anyway. I refuse to stop permanently. I refuse to relinquish the physical pleasures of drink and drugs. I don’t ‘need’ them, but I want them. Like, a lot.

And sometimes, I wonder if it’s really so bad. I’m aware of the long-term physical and mental changes and harm caused by alcohol and drug use, but I still can’t help believing that the immediate reward is worth it. Intellectually I know that liver damage, lung cancer and mental deterioration are some of the absolute worst ways to die, but emotionally … I kind of just don’t care. I’ve had people tell me that my health is all I have; I’ve heard the arguments before. But when your mental health fails you, you couldn’t care less about your physical health. And whilst the two are most definitely related, it’s difficult to have the second without the first.

That’s when I wonder if the escapism of physical pleasure isn’t worth it after all. The mental toll each day takes, whilst variable, is still a harsh one, and the ability to use a substance – of one kind or another – to forget it is dreadfully tempting. And I recognize this as a controversial perspective – why, you ask, don’t I deal with my problems instead of avoiding them – but I truly believe life is for living, and should be enjoyed daily, if at all possible.

What do you do, when your brain refuses to let you do just that? What do you do, when your own mind is a battleground of misery and despair? What happens when you wake up and simply can’t get out of bed? What is there to look forward to?

And in those trying times, is self-medication justifiable? Is it even self-medication at all – or just an excuse to escape from reality?

And is such escapism really so wrong?

Makeup Saved My Life

Please don’t judge me for the title of my post, hear me out before you think of me as someone who is “fake” or “self-absorbed.”

In my life, I have always enjoyed wearing makeup. I never thought I did a great job at it, but I admired others who had a true talent for it.

I fell into a severe depression in 2016 where I could barely get out of bed, was self-harming and was suicidal. At this time I was seeing my therapist twice a week and starting my 6-month long journey to finding the right antidepressant for me.

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon the beauty community on YouTube, but once I did, I was completely sucked in. As I watched the makeup tutorial after foundation review after getting ready with me videos, I was able to forget the pain. For the moments I was watching the videos, I wasn’t consumed by suicidal thoughts that plagued me day in and day out.

Watching women like KathleenLights, Tati Westbrook and Emilynoel88 made me feel like they were my friends and that they were helping me through this horrible part of my life. I could count on them to make me feel better when nobody else could.

Eventually, I started buying lots of makeup that they recommended. My makeup collection grew from a small bag of products to a small pond of them. I began practicing their techniques which helped me express myself in a new way. When I was focused on recreating a look, I could go into my zone and be safe.

At the time I was working for a newspaper so I asked if I could have my own makeup column. I wrote Megan Does Makeup for a year and I loved it! I started an Instagram account, @megandoesmakeupxo, to go with it and everything, it was (and still is) great for my mental health to have that creative outlet.

It’s 2018 now, and I have come so far in my mental health journey. Makeup is still an amazing escape for me when I’m feeling depressed or anxious. I am so incredibly thankful that I stumbled upon whatever video first pulled me into the beauty community.

See, I’m not so shallow, am I? 😉

The Things We Do When We’re Lonely

Despite having lived with people for most of my life, I’m no stranger to loneliness. In fact, those of you who suffer from depression as I do can probably attest to the fact that you can feel lonely in the most crowded of places, surrounded by the most loving of friends and family. When it sinks its teeth in, nothing can bring you back.

I’m lonely right now. I’m lonely through situation – my wife and son have left on vacation and I wasn’t able to go with them – but I’m also lonely through isolation. Because of the events that led to them leaving without me (I forgot to book the time off from work), I feel a great measure of guilt, which only serves to deepen my sense of loneliness – a sensation that somehow I deserve to feel this way, and that I shouldn’t do anything about it.

I’ve also been lonely before in my life. It started when I first became depressed as a teenager. The first bouts of depression felt like they stemmed from a sense of insignificance, that in the grand scheme of things I didn’t matter, and nothing I did would ever amount to anything worthwhile. Feeling like a blip on the radar of life is a very isolating experience, I can tell you.

Later, I began to isolate myself from my friends at school, both deliberately and through sheer ignorance and bad luck. It came to a head one drunken night at a friend’s house where I made a fool of myself and got us banned from going over there again. My friends turned on me, left me and abandoned me, and I’d never known such loneliness. This led to some of my first truly suicidal thoughts.

When I went to college in London, I lived in a dorm but with a room of my own. That one year was the absolute worst of my life. I saw no one, spoke to no one, almost never got out of bed; I rarely showered, didn’t shave, stank, and fended off everyone around me with vitriol. I hated myself, hated my life, hated everyone else in the world. And I knew – absolutely knew – that it would never get better.

It did.

I met my wife, we had a child, and for a little bit, loneliness was delayed. But it always returned, in the deep of night or on a cloudy day at home when everyone else was away. And I did some strange things, some of which I recall fondly, whilst others are less positive.

In my teenage years, of course, I dealt with loneliness through self-harm. Before losing my friends, I would compare scars with one of the girls at work. Hers were always deeper, but mine were more plentiful. I dealt with it through drinking, too – sneaking whiskey from my father’s liquor cabinet as often as I dared.

Later, as an adult, I continued to deal with it through alcohol. I would finish a bottle of whiskey every few nights. I stopped cutting, but I drank more and more, and kept the loneliness at bay by minimizing my sobriety as much as possible.

Now, I find myself retreating to drink again, but I’m trying to control it. I know the things that will help, and the things that will make it worse. I’m trying to go out more (I’m writing this at a coffee house instead of my bed), trying to invite people to come over and spend time with me.

My cat also helps me feel less lonely. She is my rock, the one creature who will always show me affection no matter what I do or how I feel. When I pick her up she smushes her face into mine. I talk to her, I play with her, and I act like a complete goofball with her. It all helps.

But in the end, loneliness will always be there in the background, waiting to flood my life and drown me in solitude. I can fight it, I can cope with it, but I’ll never be rid of it. It’s as much a part of my life as my bipolar, my depression and my scars.

What makes you feel lonely, and how do you cope with it? Let me know in the comments.

Gratitude–a Game Changer

According to Google Dictionary, A game changer is defined as “an event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current manner of doing or thinking about something.”  Gratitude, for me, was such a thing as I struggled through deep depression from bipolar disorder.

While we are looking up definitions, why not take a look at Gratitude?  This is defined by Google Dictionary as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

Could something as simple as being thankful, really be a game changer?  I will attempt to illustrate just how this worked in my life.  Who knows?  Maybe you will find it to be that “ace up your sleeve” that will help you turn a corner in your recovery from significant depression.

If you have been reading my posts, you know that my most recent episode of bipolar depression caused me intense mental pain and a feeling of being in deep darkness.  I also had many physical manifestations of my depression.  I had excessive weakness and fatigue that caused me to wonder if there was a serious physical medical problem going on.  To say that I felt overwhelmed by what I was experiencing is an understatement.  I was emotionally drowning in tidal waves of hopelessness.  I felt completely inadequate to handle what was happening.  I finally got on needed medications and this helped to just take the edge of of what I was feeling, but I was still suffering.  On top of this I felt very negative about who I was.

Everything was terrible.  It was too hard for me to bear.  I would never make it through.  There was nothing to be glad about.  These were my thoughts at this time.

I went on like this for a period of months–I don’t remember how long now.  But then, as I have recounted before, I had a moment where I realized something had to change.  I had to change.  I didn’t know how long this would be going on.  Would my circumstances stay like this for 5, 10 years?  Maybe the rest of my life?  I certainly didn’t know.  I just knew that if this was going to be a long haul, I wanted to do my best to be happy.

I couldn’t change my circumstances, but I could change me.

I had an epiphany, of sorts–I decided to try cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  It was difficult, at first.  I had to look deeper than I was accustomed to looking.  I decided, that my way of cultivating an attitude of gratitude within me would be to say a prayer of thanks, any time I noticed something good in my life.  I have heard others say that having a notebook handy to record a positive occurrence in your life, works as well.

I would acknowledge any good thing, no matter how small.

For example, I recall a time I was headed to the dentist, but I was running late.  I had green lights at every intersection which sped my arrival.  Now, in the past, I might had overlooked that, but because I was really trying to notice something–anything good–I saw positive things I would have missed otherwise.

Here’s another, more recent example.  I had a short window time to do a little shopping.  I headed to the thrift store–a hobby of mine– and found an armful of things.  When I got ready to purchase my items, I realized that I was going to be late picking up my son from preschool, unless I had a very fast checkout.  There was a problem, though–every line was long and each person in line seemed to have as many items to purchase as I did.  I inwardly groaned.  Thankfully, a new register was opened right next to me and I was invited to check out there.  My checkout process was quick enough that I made it in time to pick up my son from school.  Definitely something to be grateful for!

Now, maybe you are thinking–noticing a couple of good things isn’t going to do anything for me.  And you might be right.  But if you can start to notice and record all the little things going right each day, at the end of the day, you will quickly realize just how long the list is. It won’t be just one or two measly things, it will be dozens of small things that add up to this: there are many things going right in your life.  That is what happened for me and I can assure you that you will notice the same!

It became my quest to look for the good things happening in my life.  It still is.  Being able to really look and notice the good, shifted my perspective from one of negativity and self-pity, to one of deep gratitude.  Just imagine what it could do for you–if you could make it your quest to notice positive occurrences in your daily life.

I still had depression.  I still struggled with negative thoughts and feelings.  I still had difficulty coping with my life, but I was able to do so with gratitude.  I could see the good.  My attitude had changed and I endured with greater patience and greater peace.

Have you had experience with this?  I would love to hear about it.

Before I conclude, let me share some things I’m thankful for today.  Right now, I am really grateful that my son took a nap this afternoon, so that I can have some quiet time to myself.  I am thankful I had hummus and veggies for lunch because it’s one of my favorite foods.  I am thankful I got to go the gym today and use my favorite machine.  I am grateful a good episode of “Fixer Upper” was on while I used the elliptical because it helped me get through my workout.  The list can go on and on and on–It’s all in your perspective.

What will you notice today?

Logic, Your Greatest Tool

When the greatest pain and darkness of my depression started to lift, I was left with an overall feeling of sadness as well as a constant barrage of negative thoughts and feelings. I would often overreact, inwardly, in a very negative way to most situations that arose in my life. I lived in a dark gray fog of general unhappiness, despite my best efforts to change this.

I was often caught in circling negative mental dialogue. My feelings were real and try as I might I could not get to a good place emotionally. I was riding these unhappy waves and trying to make sense of them but this never helped.

This went on for a period of years, increasing and decreasing at times, like the incoming and outgoing tide. But although some periods of time were easier than others, I would still find myself getting mentally “stuck” frequently.

For example, we had just moved to a new neighborhood and I shared, in a group setting at church, that I had struggled with mental illness and how I had been able to overcome a lot of it. I went home that day, immediately regretting my decision to share something so personal with a bunch of women I didn’t know. I had done it, of course, to hopefully help someone else but I couldn’t shake my regrets and worries. For a period of a couple weeks I was stuck, mentally on this one instance, trying to figure out how I could feel better about it. My thoughts went in circles and I couldn’t get out. I was constantly distressed and worried. Logically, I could tell myself that everyone had already forgotten it and I should too but I still couldn’t stop my swirling feelings.

Finally, I told my husband my worries. He heard me out and asked me if I could logically see that I didn’t need to worry about it anymore. I told him that I could, but I realized, in that moment, that I wasn’t trusting my logic. I was being ruled by my feelings.

My feelings were telling me something was wrong and I needed to fix it, so I believed them.

I am very in tune with my feelings and tend to be led by them rather than logic. To disregard my feelings and fully trust the logic went against my natural inclinations. However, I learned that acquiring this skill would be very helpful in helping me see through the foggy storm of my swirling thoughts and emotions, to the truth of the situation.

Depression lies to us, constantly. It tells us we are failing. It whispers we aren’t good enough, and that we aren’t doing enough. It makes us suspicious of other people’s motives and makes friends look like enemies. It twists everything on its head.

I’ve learned that I can’t trust what depression tells me.

I found, that I had greater peace when I used logic to combat depression’s lies. But I had to trust the logic and I had to get off the wave ride of swirling emotions to do this. It’s not easy at first, but with practice it has become more natural. I find, in general that I approach life now with more logic, rather than letting my feelings lead.

This may seem simple, and it is. But when you are in a constant fog, and your depressed brain is lying to you, it’s really hard to navigate what is true and real. But it took me a very long time to get to this place while wading through deep depression. If you are stuck in negative emotions about something, try it. If you need help, ask a friend to give you a logical perspective on the situation and if it seems sound, trust it. You will find, as I have, that logic is one of your greatest tools in combatting depression.

Try it! And let me know how it goes.

Depression Survival Tools and Tricks, Part I

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Everyone experiences depression differently. When it was at its worst for me, I felt constant, intense mental pain and a feeling of being completely enveloped by darkness. I was always in a state of emotional distress. I couldn’t handle completing simple daily tasks without my pain being intensified, but I had 4 children including a new baby to care for, so I needed to figure out how to keep going as best I could.

Little by little I learned some things that helped me get through my pain. I hope these ideas will help someone else:

1. Strip life’s tasks down to the bare minimum, focus on your “core” needs, and drop everything else from your life.  In other words, shift into survival mode.  

As a mom, this was hard for me to wrap my head around simply because it required me to make a paradigm shift. To go from doing as much as I could in a day to as little as possible just felt wrong. But I had no choice. It was essential for my survival.

To do this I came up with a short list of things I needed to do for myself each day that were essential for my well-being, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I made the same type of list for my family as a whole.  I also determined what the bare minimum was where daily essential tasks was concerned. Then, I did my best thing only do those things and nothing else. Doing those essential tasks, and meeting my core needs was plenty. Anything extra, I simply just didn’t do at all during that time.  This meant I had to stop doing some things. I also had to say no to some people when they approached me for help or to take part in extra “things.”

So, if you think this might help you, try making a list of your core needs and bare minimum essential tasks. Only do those core and essential items. As you start to feel better, add other tasks, but do so with care so as not to overload yourself. Whenever possible, simplify essential tasks so that they are easier to complete–for example, instead of grocery shopping the traditional way, consider, grocery pickup or delivery.  If keeping things clean is a challenge, like it was for me, consider having a friend help you get rid of excess possessions to simplify your life.

2. Medication, and regular visits to my psychiatrist. Even with my intense symptoms I was really nervous to go back on medication. I was all mixed up and couldn’t think straight. I knew I needed to do something though so I took a leap of faith and just decided to go in to a psychiatrist and try out what they prescribed. I am so glad I did. I started feeling improvement very quickly. This helped me to know I was on the right path. If you are considering medication, I recommend trying it. But definitely use a psychiatrist whenever possible as they are experts in the field of mental health and will have prescription options available that PCPs generally are not comfortable utilizing.

3. Make sleep a priority.  And not only that, but learn how you can help yourself sleep better.  Personally, my pain was at it’s worst at night, so I often found it very difficult to fall asleep.  The following things helped me:

  • Having a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Turning out the lights an hour or so before you get ready to turn in.  Darkness signals the brain to produce melatonin, which relaxes the body for sleep.  Avoiding light, even from a screen, will aid in melatonin production.  If you must see, try using a red head lamp.  Red light will not inhibit melatonin production and may even increase it!   You can read about that here.
  • Go to bed while you are feeling relaxed and sleepy.  This usually happened for me at some point every evening.  If I pushed myself to stay awake past this point, I would miss my window of opportunity.  My pain would then come with a vengeance when I finally tried to go to bed.  So, really tune in to your body.  When you are feeling ready to go to bed, do it.
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary by keeping it clean and reserving your bed for sleep and sex only.  This helps your brain associate being in bed with relaxing and will aid you in your quest for better sleep.
  • If, despite your best efforts you are unable to get sufficient sleep, consider speaking with your doctor about a prescription sleep aid, or even trying over the counter options.  Sleeping well helped alleviate my symptoms.  Sleeping poorly exasperated them.

4.  Learn to calm your mind.  This one will look different for everyone.  My mind was in a constant state of upheaval, so I learned to add activities to my day that would help my mind to relax.  Some of these, for me, were reading fiction, prayer, quiet time alone, journalling, aromatherapy with essential oils, and utilizing calming mantras.  Basically, anything that helps relax your mind should be done as much as possible.  Activities that cause your pain to be worse should be avoided, or done as infrequently as possible.  If they must be done, plan on following up with some mind calming activities to help relax you.

5.  Music.  Listening to calming music helped my mind to relax and inspirational music helped me have courage to overcome.  What kind of music helps you?

Look for more tips in a coming post.

What is depression like for you?  Do you have to deal with emotional pain like me, or is yours different?  What kinds of things do you do to alleviate your distress?

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoJD Mason

To Be(er), Or Not To Be(er)

“Please Drink Responsibly” is the phrase slapped across every product you must be twenty-one years of age to purchase in the United States. Alcohol has been, is, and always will be one of the most controversial matters in history for many reasons. Our grandfathers’ fathers made it hidden in the south eastern mountains to provide for their families in the most lucrative way they could. A tradition has been made out of its’ recipes and stories of bootlegging and prohibition. It’s the one thing that even the United States government couldn’t stop.

As with anything however, where there are pros, there are cons. As with anything, if enjoyed in excess there are many debilitating effects it can cause on your health and the health of others. Poor judgements and decisions are made which can impact many people for the rest of their lives. If you live just below the Bible belt as I do, don’t be surprised if some mega church preacher attempts to release you from the grasp of the Devils’ nectar as he lovingly embraces you while reaching for your wallet and groping every square inch of your wife with his eyes.

The point I am trying to make is that we live in a society that welcomes the use of alcohol like an old family friend. It’s as American as apple pie, baseball, McDonald’s, and this messed up obsession we all have over reality television. So if no one else seems to have a problem, and it all just is a natural part of life, do I really have as big of a problem as I think I do?

If you have followed me or my blog for any amount of time, you may have stumbled across my introduction or several works about alcohol and my battle with the bottle. Today I want to give you a little background about it, as the subject weighs heavily on my mind lately. I have been drinking since I was fourteen years old. It started out as simply as it typically would. Tall bottles of Smirnoff Ice which eventually led my curious tongue to tall cans of malt liquor. I drank A LOT of gut rot, gas station specials as an early teenager such as Steel Reserve 211 and the likes, until I finally calmed down into normal domestic beers.

At around the age of eighteen I began to indulge in liquor. Trying a little bit of anything I could get my hands on, I quickly discovered that vodka and gin were two of my least favorite liquors. As stereotypical as it will sound, I was a bourbon guy through and through just like my father. The smoky taste, the warm burn of eighty proof tingling down your throat, and that decadent smell of oak as it swirled around in my glass could make my mouth water with every sip. I had made it my mission to become a connoisseur of bottom shelf bourbon. Even when I moved out on my own, the only things I had to my name were a few pots and pans, a record player, a futon mattress, and most importantly… a bottle of rye whisky.

It wasn’t until last year in September that a panic attack made me really look at myself and question my life. Once I began my journey for better mental health, I realized I was using the alcohol to self medicate my anxieties and possibly even some of my bipolar tendencies when I look back in retrospect. I made a lot of changes to my lifestyle with help from my wife. I decided to not keep beer in the apartment we share and she agrees because she feels it’s a waste of money. We agree to only drink when we go to restaurants or concerts and I stopped buying liquor all together because if it’s in my reach, I will drink it.

It’s not uncommon for me to become my own worst enemy. I am my worst critic, my worst judge of character, and the last person I ever want to have to confront. Lately if I’m out somewhere and decide to have a beer, I look at myself in shame and feel regret over my decision. I feel as though I’m letting myself down and even you down. Even though I don’t drink for the same reason anymore, enjoying one beer throws so many questions into my mind, it almost makes me wonder if it’s worth it. On the other hand, I’m not drinking for the same reason anymore. I enjoy beer as a craft and a beverage. Taking barley and hops and creating a flavorful masterpiece is a skill I am honestly envious of. There are so many good things about beer that go far beyond alcohol content.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a situation that is different. I am not writing this to sway someone who is struggling with addiction to drink. If you are someone who is on the fence, I encourage you to please take the plunge and reach out to your local alcoholics anonymous program or outpatient rehabilitation center. What I am writing this for is to tell my story and to pose a question to my friends, the readers.

With the habits I continue to follow, I find myself wondering if I really have as big of a problem as I think I do. Am I more in control than I realize? Am I blowing this entirely out of proportion? If no one else seems to have an issue, then what is my problem? I am fine with not buying liquor, but am I wrong if I buy beer from time to time? What are your thoughts, and do you struggle this as well?

Introduction

If you have ever ridden a roller coaster, you understand the excitement and fear that courses through your mind and body as you burst through the track. You experience such an intense jolt of so many emotions as your breath is stolen from falling and you only have enough time to take another breath as you ascend. In a lot of ways, bipolar disorder seems to share many similarities. It seems to change a person drastically in mere moments and can even span episodes for days at a time. You never know how you will feel when you wake up in the morning. You never know what will happen to send you spiraling into a depressive episode. I often like to call it a “Jekyll and Hyde” effect in my personal blog.

I am Shelton Fisher and recently I have been given the privilege to be a contributing writer for The Bipolar Writer. I am a 25 year old with a full time job, an amazing wife, and the two best dogs in the world. I used to be a decent musician and writing has become a passion of mine. Amid the wonderful things that life has provided for me, I have mental health issues that fight me tooth and nail on a regular basis. Anxiety has been a familiar part of my life since I was a child, but alcoholism and panic attacks made me realize that I needed to finally address these problem medically. In September of last year I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and began a regimen of serotonin inhibitors and recently I have began seeing a therapist. After several sessions addressing my childhood behaviors and my current behaviors, we have discussed that I may be bipolar and the symptoms honestly surprised me.

As I continue the journey into my mental health to confirm a diagnosis and discover how to live a better life, I want to include you through personal stories, free verse poetry, and the occasional informative post. I am not a professional by any means, but I am living proof that mental health is a war to be won. If you have ever been afraid to speak, afraid to make a move, lost motivation and hope, hurt yourself because you couldn’t find the right words or felt trapped inside your body, screamed at the top of your lungs with tears rolling down your boiling red cheeks, self medicated with alcohol or drugs, fallen into depression for no apparent reason, or just want to know how I am handling things, my posts are for you.