Y’all Are Crazy, and That’s Okay

Having a mental illness is a lonely thing.

Like most people, we want at least someone with whom we can talk. We want a friend to cry with, or even laugh with. We need a deep connection with another human, to feel loved and validated.

Unfortunately, we have a few things that get in the way of socializing.

Many of us are scared. We have trust issues. When we feel hurt, we feel very deeply and wish to avoid feeling that way again. Often, we’ve had a bad experience of someone breaking a promise or shying away when we shared how we think. Heck, a lot of us have a bonafide diagnosis from a doctor that we have social anxieties.

Besides the hurt and fear, we avoid people for their own benefit. We tell ourselves that we are flawed and unsafe. We justify our anti-social behavior with statements like, “I know I’m a downer,” “No ones talks to me at parties. They can see, in my face, that I’m no fun,” and “If they really wanted to be around me, they’d talk to me.”

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Those reasons and that voice are hard to work with, but our health and mental stability need to fight against them. I mean, did you know that human connections were rated the most important thing in a happy life?

So stop beating yourself up. Seriously. I’ll tell you why:

  • Most people are some level of crazy. They may not be certified, but they have issues. I can’t tell you how many people I talk with who have experienced some angle of what I have, if not the whole enchilada.
  • Even though you are crazy, what are you gonna do about it? I’ve tried starting over, but the person that is me always shines through. I am what I have to work with and I accept that.
  • Crazy people have options, like crazy-people doctors and crazy-people medications and crazy-people blogs. There are even …crazy people groups that meet and talk crazy together. It’s a blast.
  • You are you, and are a work in progress. Just think: are you still crawling around and stuffing car keys in your mouth? NO! You did that as a baby, silly. Now you are older and know better. You are knowing better every day.
  • The future will be better. The future will be even betterer if you keep moving forward -even if all you can manage is a shuffle.
  • If all else fails, there is chocolate.
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I have a few friends. Of those, a few have mental health challenges. Some struggle with depression and social anxiety like I do. One has panic attacks. Another is schizophrenic. A mutual acquaintance is bipolar.

Sometimes when I try to plan a get-together, a friend flakes and doesn’t show up. Sometimes I have a terrible week and have to cancel on one of them. Since we are all in this not-sea-worthy-at-all boat together, however, we get it. If not, we talk about it. We hug. We pull out the chocolate.

I need people. I need understanding. I need connection. So do you. Plus, your challenges and perspectives mean that you are more understanding and empathetic than other people.

I mean, we may all be crazy, but that’s okay. We’re as human as the next person and our needs are just as valid.

You are worth it. I promise.

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Photo Credits:
Sayo Garcia
Ethan Sykes
Anita Austvika

How Depression Feels

After the successful results of our last how-to article, “Depression for Dummies,” I felt a continuation of similar advice might be helpful. I may have decided this after yet another conversation with my loving, wonderful, clueless husband.

Thing is, non-crazies do not understand how we think. They are not living inside us, feeling the things we feel or thinking what we think or assuming what we assume after someone says something. They are inside them, usually feeling pretty darn good.

Lucky.

So, drag that fortunate spouse, significant other, friend, boss, or coworker over here. I’m going to teach them what it feels like to be depressed.

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First, class, you need to get really uncomfortable. Don’t shower and don’t brush your teeth for five days. At least. On top of that, I’m going to need you to roll around in some mud and let it harden in uncomfortable places. Finally, put on some clothes that do not fit right and make you think you look like a muddy, fat elephant who hasn’t visited the watering hole in five days.

Did you do all that? Good! Now onto Step Two:

During or after your five days dirtying the outside, I want you to work on the inside. Eat foods that are bad for you like candy, soda pop, Taco Bell, and Lima beans. I don’t want to go too far, so I’m not going to encourage anything harder. Simply eating poorly ought to do it.

Are you with me so far? Excellent.

Next, you need to contract some kind of virus. No one wants you actually dying, so aim for a bad cough or for that cold that’s going around.

Feeling bad yet? You only think you are.

Lastly, I want you to sit in front of a mirror and tell yourself that you are ugly. You eat like a pig. You are sick. On top of all that, you are worthless and no one likes you.

Are you feeling something now? Something sad? Congratulations! -because you have touched the surface of the ongoing mindset that is Depression. Whenever you want to say something ‘helpful’ in the future like, “This will pass,” “You have great potential; why don’t you use it?,” or “Why would you feel depressed?,” remember what all of this felt like. Maybe you’ll say a more encouraging, empathetic phrase, instead.

Maybe you’ll just listen, and give the depressed person some chocolate.

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Now, I’m not heartless enough to leave anyone down as far as we went, so you can’t leave until we reverse everything we did today. In fact, all of you people hiding in your closets and corners feeling depressed: come over here and do it, too.

First, I want you to get up, take off the uncomfortable clothes that make you feel fat and ugly, and go take the most awesome and refreshing shower you’ve ever experienced. Feel the warm water stimulate your happy nerves as you watch muddy elephant runoff slide down the drain.

Feeling somewhat better? Keep going.

Next, I want you to make the healthiest food that you enjoy and eat it. I’d go for an excellent, nutritious sandwich or shake. Whatever you choose ought to have whole foods, a few food groups, and definitely vegetables.
Brush your teeth afterwards and revel in the minty fresh taste of your smiling mouth.

You’re still with me, right? It gets better:

Go visit a doctor or take some over-the-counter medications to help with your cold symptoms. I really am sorry I recommended that you contract one; they’re the worst. Rest and breathing exercises help as well.

Did you do all of the steps so far? We’re nearly finished!

Get back over to your mirror and sit down. With a nice amount of natural light around, I want you to apologize for saying nasty things. I want you to say the following, instead: “I am good enough; I am smart enough; and doggone it, people like me for me.” Pull up some good Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programs on your phone and run through a few.

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I’d say you should feel right as rain about now, but I’m more honest than that. If you followed all of the recommended steps then I am certain you feel a lot better, but I am also certain that you remember how you felt when you were depressed.

That’s because, during Depression, we tell ourselves some pretty damaging things; things that don’t wash down a drain or disappear when we turn on the light.

But they do diminish. Some days, they almost disappear. With the support of our (now) less-clueless friends and significant others, you will get better. And that’s worth fighting for.

 

Photo Credits:
Miguel Henriques
Jordane Mathieu

Speak Up! And Your Voice Will Help You

Sometimes I wonder what world optimists live in. It can’t possibly be the same as mine, because mine is one of twisting mists, overcast skies, and lurking shadows.

Besides the possibility of parallel universes, this phenomenon is likely a matter of perspective.

What is perspective?

Duh; it’s how you see everything. And, I mean everything. In fact, perspective is how you see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and sensedeadpeople everything. It’s like eyeglasses you wear on all your senses.

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Now, I know you’re a smart cookie who already knew all that. But, did you think about how perspective applies to mental health? Specifically, did you think that this means other people will have no clue how to relate to what you are sensing all the time?

While you are lying in bed, certain that nothing will ever change and that people are crap, someone else is skipping around and wondering how to spend such a glorious day. That person may even be in your house and driving you crazy with the skipping.

I know. I’m married to a skipper.

I often resort to sticking a leg out as he passes -but, my counselor suggests I ought to engage in fewer sabotaging behaviors like that.

What I and you really need is for others to understand what we are going through. We want them to help us because we often can’t help ourselves. We want acceptance and love. We also don’t always know what we want besides to just feel better.

This is where perspective comes in.

Many, many posts here at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog of Amazing Stories and Poems and Posts and Mental Health Issues and Such If You’re Still Reading This Title I’m Amazed deal with the perspective of mental illness sufferers. I’ve learned a lot, and consider myself part of this little group -though from a safe distance because I also have social anxiety.

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These stories help others to understand. But, they are only the first step.

For other people to get us the help we need, we need to walk at least one more pace. Now, don’t get stressed and close this article and go binge on chocolate. I’m always about keeping things doable. My steps are always baby steps.

All I’m saying is that, after you share your perspective, you need to ask for the help you need.

Not sure what I mean? I wasn’t, either, till recently.

I began counseling just over a year ago from a very dark, confused place. I hadn’t even found this lovely blog. No one seemed to relate to my anxiety or concerns or negative self-talk. If anyone talked to me about my issues, they handed out aphorisms like useless bits of random jigsaw puzzles.

Fast-forward to a lot of sessions (and money) later, and I had an epiphany. (That means an inspirational thought. Look how much I’m teaching you today!)

I had been attending counseling sessions, waiting for her to know exactly what to do based on the few answers I’d given to questions. I expected that she felt my anxious hesitancy about groups, that she was always looking at the glass half-empty, and that she also saw life as an endless drag of sameness.

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Nope, she didn’t.

Apparently, she skips, too -though, less than my husband. And I needed to tell her what I was sensing.

“I need you to give me exact phrases I can say when I feel that way,” I finally admitted.

Or, “Today, I need to talk about how to talk myself out of a depressive cycle before I spiral and don’t want to even get up.”

Or, even, “Can you please explain what you meant by that term?”

Thing is, the counselor has a different perspective. She has hers. You have yours. That random guy walking past has his. That woman over there has hers as well.

In regards to mental health professionals, we need to approach sessions the way we would a regular doctor visit. If you were at the doctor’s office, the dialogue might run as follows:

What are you seeing the doctor for today?

-Oh, you know; I was walking up the stairs and stubbed my toe really hard. I think it’s broken.

Applied to our mental health, the dialogue would go like this:

And how are we feeling today?

-Oh, today I woke up feeling like even the sun hated me and I had a major panic attack at the thought of riding the bus.

As my husband says, we’re paying the counselor to fix the problems. It’s her job.

If you are smarter than a random blog-writer like me, you may already be past the step of telling your mental health professional what you need. So, smarty-pants, have you gone on to apply this to talking with your partner? Close friend? Mother? Busybody neighbor?

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Don’t go crazy -crazier– admitting all your problems to strangers. Let me tell you: one Facebook post can alienate your neighbors. I am, however, advocating appropriate responses that help friends or nagging neighbors to give you the breathing room and support you might need.

If you’re feeling a bit down and think no one loves you, try texting a friend and telling him or her that you need to feel better. It might be a good night for movies.

If you think you could just use a good laugh, call someone who tells jokes.

If you’re feeling too much pressure from demands, ask if you can’t have a few things due at a later period.

When I attended a local mom’s group we talked about the Audacious Ask. The idea was that we needn’t be afraid to ask other people for help. We were challenged to ask a friend or neighbor for something we needed for us, even if we were stressed that they wouldn’t want to.

My counselor agrees that we all have different perspectives. She also says mine can be tweaked a bit up the positivity scale, but that’s a topic for another post.

In the meantime, I challenge you to use your new power of perspective to ask for what you need.

Don’t be afraid. If your friend came to you, wouldn’t you want to help?

Photo credits:

Josh Calabrese
Kyle Broad
Bryan Minear
Bewakoof.com Official

Depression for Dummies

Hi. I’m Chelsea, and I am married to a wonderful, talented, intelligent man who is pretty dumb when it comes to mental illness.

Perhaps you know someone like this. Your bright, helpful person may be a friend, parent, brother, sister, or boss. As well-meaning as he or she might pretend to be, this acquaintance just doesn’t get it. Worse, he or she is often so inept that whenever effort is made, you feel he or she constantly places a clumsy finger right on a fresh bruise and pushes.

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But our friends and family don’t have to be idiots. Honestly, we really need love and support for our mental health and we can be tough nuts to crack.

In light of that, I’ve developed a helpful guide. I call it The Depressive Feelings/Better Responses Guide (of Science). Just whip this puppy out whenever you want to whip them upside the head and you’ll both feel better:

  1. When someone says that he is feeling depressed, a cheery life aphorism like, “Life isn’t all bad,” “Don’t worry; be happy,” or “The sun’ll come out tomorrow” isn’t helpful. At all.
    Instead, try, “I understand that you are feeling depressed.” This may easily be followed by, “I’d like to help alleviate some of your stress. Can I clean your whole kitchen for you?,” or “…I happen to know that chocolate is half-off at the store. I’ll be right back with a pound or two.”
  2. If a depressed person says she feels hopeless; that everything in life is hard: the incorrect response is to point out how easy her life is. Please oh please do not say, “But you don’t have any serious issues like cancer or your arms falling off.”
    A better answer? “Let’s address your concerns one at a time. Maybe you could write a list, then we can come up with a solution for each one.”
    Or simply listen, without criticism. Some people just really need an ear to dump in.
  3. How about fatigue? Do you tell someone with depression that he shouldn’t be tired? That he should get to bed earlier? No, silly. He knows he should get to bed earlier; worrying about how he needs to sleep is one of the things that kept him up.
    Validate the feelings of the tired person. A passable idea might be to describe a cool idea you read recently -about writing all of one’s concerns on a paper by the side of the bed at night. Maybe you have a really boring book you could lend him.
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  4. Let’s say she is feeling poorly about herself. Her self-esteem is in the toilet of the deep, dark dungeon of the evil underworld troll king’s nephew. Do not advise a person with depressive tendencies that, “You’re a great person,” or how many talents she has and how she has the potential for so much more.
    Telling a depressed person of wasted potential will bring on a crying fit. You’re just backing up the mean little voice already in her head (herself).
    One of the best things to say is that you like her, that you like a specific thing about her (say, her ability to come up with Britney Spears song lyrics at the drop of a hat). Try to turn the focus on something else, especially if that is on a happy memory.
  5. When someone with depressive tendencies withdraws from life, reach out. You need to act if he does one of the following: not answering texts, appearing less-frequently online, and even telling people, “Goodbye.”
    If you can’t go, try to get his family or other friends to physically check in. Even a vocal phone call is better than a text. A visit is better than an e-mail. A long, in-person conversation is better than a social media message.

I have a difficult time with about everything in life due to a negative perspective and very little self-motivation. I need my husband, my few friends, and my family. Theirs are the hands that reach into the cave of my mind and pull me to safety.

With specific directions like this, we can work toward loving the hand that reaches. At the very least, we won’t feel like slapping it away.

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Picture credits:
Pixabay
Pexels
Unsplash

Trauma Didn’t Cause This

For years I searched for a reason or cause for my anxiety. Some of us have these demons because of something traumatic that happened to us. This however, is not my story. I am not taking away from those that have this experience: we all have different journeys. Some of us are born with our brain firing off differently. For me, my little brain fires off in ways that produce an abundance of overthinking. Thoughts that are at times irrational and negative, killing my confidence and causing me to believe bad things happen because I deserve it. While my anxiety is not due to a singular traumatic event, but it can cause them. Raise your hand if you’ve had a panic attack in Old Navy, simply for being in a long line. Anyone else? No? Just me?

I ran into an old friend just a few days ago – someone I haven’t seen in well over a decade. I have always been drawn to this person because they were interesting, charismatic, and there was something else to them that I could never put a finger on. I think this person has always made me a little nervous, like they could see things I’m often successful in hiding from others. Maybe it’s because I also see it in them. This person said to me that our past is what creates us, our burdens today are because of traumas that happened to us when we were younger. I said that wasn’t always true; sometimes people are born this way. He disagreed, and politely told me that I had trauma in my life, I just don’t remember it.

I suppose I can’t argue about something I don’t remember, though I do have a pretty good memory, fortunately or unfortunately. I have also spent years trying to attach my anxiety to something that happened to me. I’ve tried to place the blame on something physical so I could see and touch it, to no avail.

While trauma is not the cause of my anxiety, it nevertheless has shaped me. At times it makes me stronger and wiser, then in other instances it cripples me. These crippling areas are a work in progress. However, as I dig deeper into my psyche I’m realizing that anxiety has always been there. It manifested its way inside of me differently throughout the years. During childhood I had difficulty making friends and excelling in school; as a teenager I thought others talked about me behind my back, and feared recognition; in college, panic attacks started along with the fear of being in closed rooms. In my twenties, being put on the spot, or having to take the lead would cause near hyperventilation; in my thirties I went through infertility, and it was one of the darkest periods in my life from which I am still recovering. It left me unable to trust my body or the medical profession. Finally, today I still struggle with social situations and being on my own in public indoor places.

See there? All of my life. Misery is a part of me, but I don’t know many that have not had something distressful happen to them. I have been hit by a car while on a bike, almost fell to my death in Alaska, been grabbed by men in clubs, been unable to get pregnant for many years, suffered miscarriages, buried friends and family I loved, dumped by someone I thought I loved, and I’ve wiggled my way out of an abusive relationship before it got ugly, just to name a few. I don’t think we fully recover from the physical or emotional effects of pain; we take a piece of it with us for the rest of our lives.

Trauma does shape me, yes: I cannot disagree. My anxiety causes my reactions to unpleasant situations to sometimes be illogical. But, it is not the root of my anxiety. Today I am learning to recognize triggers, reprocess them, and find healthier ways of coping. It’s working. I have had this with me my entire life, and I know I will always carry it, but it will not own me.