The State of The World

I normally try my best to not get into touchy subjects when I write my posts. However, after a discussion with some of my coworkers (bad idea…I know) I can’t help but feel that these are some things that I need to get off my chest. For those of you whom are sensitive to the subject, I suggest not reading this article

**TRIGGER WARNING**

Politics + Suicide

**TRIGGER WARNING**

So, for those of you still here, let me first say that I live in America. I don’t hide this fact, nor am I blind to the obvious advantages that a white male gets in this country. However, I can say without a doubt, that the current state of this country, and the world, disgusts me. To the point where I often contemplate if this is even a world worth living in. Yes, I am talking about suicide, as the current state of the world has always been a rather large part of my depression. I mean honestly, if you take a close hard look at how the world is, how can you not feel overwhelmingly despaired. Though, I’ll save my view on World Politics aside, for another time, for now. The reason being, as my coworker pointed out, I have no experience living in another country. So I really have no place to compare to America. A portion of my coworkers are an entire family, of immigrants, who came to America in search of freedom. Freedom that they did not have in their native country. That being said, since they’ve moved here to America, they have too been dyed in the Nationalist red, white and blue. To them, America is the greatest country on the planet, especially compared to their home country. And to be completely honest, I don’t really blame them. Not only were they living in an oppressive regime, but they also were not given the same opportunities that they received here in America.

The one problem that I do have with their views, is that they are I incredibly skewed. They believe America to be the greatest country in the world, simply due to how much better it is than their country. There seems to be a common issue here in America, that in my opinion, effects everyone, whether they know it or not. I am referring to the near toxic levels of Nationalism, or pride in America. In schools, or at least while I was in school, it was subconsciously taught that there is nothing wrong with being extremely prideful in America, in fact they encouraged it. Now don’t get me wrong, there is not inherently anything wrong with having pride in your respective country, however, as I mentioned, it is almost toxic in America. It is not deemed by any law, or required by any rule, to feel immense pride in America. Yet if you start to dissent from that prideful stance, you are almost immediately ostracized by the general public. It’s as if there is this “unspoken” rule that says you can’t show anything but pride towards America.

However, there is this certain scene, of a certain TV show, in which a college kid asks a panel of “journalists” why America is the greatest country on earth (you probably know which one I’m talking about). The first says some stereotypical garbage, the second just double downs on “freedom”, and the third makes a rather obvious non-answer about a popular sports team. It is then that the third journalist sees a young woman in the crowd holding a sign that says “It’s Not”. Upon seeing this, the third journalist starts what would become the most infamous tirade in modern history, on why America isn’t the greatest country in the world, though at one point, it was. Needless to say, the entire crowd, as well as his “colleges” are stunned speechless. And to be completely honest with you, so was I the first time I watched it. Like I said, when I was in school, there was almost an indoctrination like pride being implanted in the students. Almost every day began with the National Anthem of course. Almost every class had their lessons skewed to emphasize the greatness of America. While it certainly isn’t the teachers’ faults, they still remained silent on this subtle brainwashing, that they might not have even noticed happening.

As you can probably tell, there are many, many things that I have issues with about my country. To quote the show I was talking about earlier, “We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.” Also, to add my own to that infamous list, the number of mass shootings each year. There really isn’t anything all that great about America anymore. Sure we have FREEDOM, but so does over three quarters of the world. There isn’t anything special about freedom here in America either. The average citizen of the US spends the majority of their life trading their time for money. Money that doesn’t even really afford them most of the basic things in life, like clean water, healthy food, or a stable roof over their heads. There is another glaring issue with American freedom, the more money you have, the more free you are. For example, that whole college admissions scandal a while back. These celebrities with millions of dollars, essentially bribed various colleges to guarentee acceptance of their respective children. Not only did they succeed in getting their child into college by paying for it, but they also had barely any consequences, despite braking the law. If an affluent person of color did the same thing, they’d be thrown in jail probably for the rest of their lives. That’s another problem with America, we claim to be so free, and yet their is such rampant discrimination built into the cores of our society, it’s appalling. I’m not only talking about racism either, theirs sexism, classism, religious phobia, homophobia, and almost every other kind of -ism and phobia out there.

Granted, most of America’s problems stem from two things: The Ultra-Wealthy, and Stupidity. Often a combination of the two. In history class, we were taught that this country was created by the people, for the people. What they don’t tell you, is those people are those with either a ton of money, a ton of power, or both. Everything is run with profits in mind. War, profits. Laws, profits. Opinions, profits. Inovation, profits. Healthcare, profits. I could go on and on until the end of the world (which probably isn’t that far off at the rate we’re going). I personally like to think that I don’t fall into any political party, I’m solely driven by facts and respect. Though it might be a rather controversial stance, I believe that religion (any religion) has no place in government. You can’t force everyone in a country to follow your rules, just because “you want them to go to heaven” **cough**christans**cough**. Every living thing on this planet deserves some level of respect, regardless of religion, politics, skin color, nationality, “intelligence”, etc. Though where I do draw the line is pure stupidity. I’m not talking about the kind that you’re born with, you can’t change that, not easily anyways. I’m talking about the people who think they’re right, regardless of factual evidence stating the contrary. For example, flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers. These two groups of people believe what they want to believe (which I inherently have no problem with) but refuse mountains of evidence dropped at their feet, just because their “research” (5 minutes on Facebook mostly) claims otherwise. This kind of stupid, is clearly a choice. Anti-vaxxers use a single study from a decade ago, that has been proved false numerous times, and yet they believe it. I honestly want to ask an anti-vaxxer this single question: “Even “if” vaccines could cause autism, you’re saying that you’d rather your child be dead, than have autism.” I’m honestly rather curious on what their answer would be. It would most likely be a rather angry deflection that doesn’t answer the question, but rather somehow solidifies their stance. In my opinion, it’s similar to an animal chasing their own tail, thinking it’s some enemy creature of some kind, only to realize that when they finally bite down on this unknown monster, that they “suddenly” feel inexplicable pain for some reason.

There are a vast number of things that I don’t agree with, and so long as it doesn’t effect the freedom of others, you’re more than welcome to do whatever the hell you want. That’s what freedom truly means in my eyes. If you want to wear rotting fish instead of shoes, go right the hell ahead. But if you start preaching to me, that I should also wear fish on my feet, because sneakers were created by the evil lizardmen shadow government, that’s when it becomes a problem. Not only are you infringing on my rights, and wasting my rather valuable time (as we as humans only have so much time on this earth) you are making a mockery of the freedoms you hold so dearly. Yeah you can stand on your soapbox on the corner of a busy intersection and scream your opinions until the cows come home, but if you start doing so in the middle of the intersection causing an endless traffic jam, or visit my house and knock on my door just to spread the “truth” every day, then we start to have a problem.

If it wasn’t obvious at this point, let me clearly spell it out: I really could care less about what you do with what little life you have, or what you believe in, or don’t believe in for that matter. So long as you don’t vilify me for not bowing down and following your idiocy, you can do whatever you damn well please. I support the important things in life like total equality (gender, sexual orientation, skin color, etc), freedom to do just about anything you want so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, and everyone’s inate, inalienable right to a happy life if you so choose. I don’t care whether you agree with me, or despise me, like I said, I follow the facts, and general respect for nearly all cases.

You’re generally free to follow whatever causes you choose, and I won’t infringe upon that freedom, so long as you really only hold yourself to those standards. I figure I’ve ranted enough for one day. I don’t think I’ll change any hearts or minds just by simply getting a few things off my chest. However, my hope is, is that you’ll begin to look at life a little more skeptically, and decide things for yourself, fully aware of the rewards or consequences that await your actions. Alan Wolfgang, signing off.

Should You Have Kids If You Have a Mental Illness?

I often wonder if I’ve screwed up my children. Not only do I enact terrible punishments like limited screen time or healthy options before sugar, but I also insist they do homework and get to bed at a reasonable time.

Most of all, though, I worry that I literally screwed them up. You know, genetically.

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I have a veritable soup of family history maladies to pass on to them. Plus; I have my own limitations, bad days, breakdowns, and personal failings they’ve had to witness. They continue to witness. They witnessed just this morning.

The real punch to the gut comes when they exhibit signs of mental illness themselves: anxiety, fixation, depression, and negative self-talk.

As I rub my kid’s back and tell him advice didn’t follow the day before, I wonder, What have I done?? The unhelpful voice in my head adds, This is your fault, You are a terrible mom, and You shouldn’t have had children. Some days, it adds, They would be better off without you.

Back when we were deciding whether to have children yet, I worried about such ‘logical’ conclusions. I didn’t feel like the best genetic specimen.

The thing is: no one is the best genetic specimen.

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True, there are some people with very serious cases and/or horrible genetic diseases. Those people are true heroes, in my mind, for choosing the difficult option to not reproduce.

Besides those, I’m really just about as crazy as the next person. Mostly. In fact, compared to many of my relatives and ancestors (who obviously procreated), I’m stable enough to run a small country. But, as I said, they still had children. I even have a few distant relations who I think shouldn’t have had children and still did. And you know what? Their kids are fine. Mostly.

In trying to play Devil’s Advocate to my own mind; let’s suppose a hypothetical situation: What if I were a perfect parent? To continue that fantasy, my kids would have to be born perfect. Their kids would. And so on. Then, as happens in every sci-fi story line, the rest of the world would hunt us down and assassinate our family out of envy.

No one is perfect, at least by the definition of making no mistakes.

Further, despite what one of my kids thinks, mistakes are essential to life. Mistakes make us human and that’s not a bad thing to be. Frankly, we don’t have another option since we were born like this.

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To specifically answer those negative thoughts of my mind:

  • This is your fault: Blame doesn’t matter. What can we do moving forward?
  • You are a terrible momI am a good mom because they are alive and we keep trying.
  • You shouldn’t have had children: I’ve had the children and will continue to raise them well.
  • They would be better off without you: Of course they wouldn’t be better off without me. Have you seen how stepmothers in fairy tales are?

Having kids is hard no matter what. Beating myself up over their problems only adds to my mental strain and depressive triggers. Choosing to be pragmatic and move forward with what I have is a better option than giving up and hoping they’ll still turn out. Even if “moving forward” means that I might have to get checked into a recovery program, that makes a better future (one in which mom’s still around) than trying to maintain an impossible reality.

I saved the best benefit for last: since everyone deals with some sort of mental or physical issue at some point in life, my struggles and authentic life lessons are preparing my children for their own futures. Because of what they start with, what they learn, and what I teach them; they will be loving, honest, supportive, and self-aware.

They will, as every parent dreams, be able to make the world a better place. Someone’s got to live in the future, after all. I may as well try to help mine be better. Mostly.

 

Photo Credits:
Jenna Norman
Aditya Romansa
Sai De Silva

The extraordinarily ordinary moments in-between mental illness exist – I promise

But it does get better. 

Some parts of our lives are really hard, really dark, and when we look back it’s kind of like reflecting on what a long winter felt like when you’d go months without being able to remember what it felt like to feel your toes and fingers because it was so cold, and the sunsets were never there and the sun didn’t make you feel warm and everything was dry and icy-

But it does get better. 

And you won’t see it coming: you won’t notice it happening, the thawing – you won’t notice every day how you’re starting to hum to yourself again or how laughter is coming more easily than it did before or how you’ve started noticing sunsets and feeling sunshine again. 

You’ll just be sitting on your couch at 11 am on a Wednesday listening to traffic and lawn mowers and the neighbours music drinking coffee that’s too expensive but almost worth it with a book you didn’t realized how grateful you were to be reading until right this moment and –

it will be better.

casey-horner-394182-unsplashAnd you’ll suddenly realize that for the longest time you’ve forgotten what it felt like to not be ok, and that you’re excited to do… anything, really. The prospect of doing your dishes or getting started on that assignment or phoning up your parents to say hi or catching up with people you saw only yesterday is actually not a horrible idea, in fact you’re content and grateful for all of it. 

Suddenly your life will dawn on you at a completely ordinary moment, and it will bring with it the realization that you’re not exhausted by the thought of being alive, and that – that is so far from ordinary for so many of us. 

I’m not sure what it feels like to really say it’s normal for me to want to be alive, or to not be completely crippled by the daunting task of quite literally being conscious and getting out of bed and making myself a bowl of cereal, let alone all the other often exhausting activities required to be functional. Feeling kind of like being alive is a cool thing to do, all the time, is not normal for me. 

But it does get better. 

There will always be winters for me – a day, a week, sometimes many more – where I’m tired and my soul is uninterested in the world and it’s both exhausting to be a functional human AND convince myself I actually want to do that at the same time. Those seasons are always lurking, and I can never know when they’re coming or how long they’ll last when they do. 

But that’s ok, because I know that there will be many more ‘ordinary’ Wednesday mornings in my apartment when life will feel like it’s a good color on me and I can’t wait to wear it out into the world. 

Mental illness isn’t a teenager in a 5 bedroom house in ‘Riverdale’ who’s parents fight sometimes and failed a class and it rains all the time. Mental illness is war inside of us, and it’s disingenuous to romanticize it, because it’s ugly, painful, even horrific, impossible to understand from the outside, and even when it’s not happening, there’s always the feeling that it could happen again at any moment. 

joanna-kosinska-140783-unsplashBut it’s good to know from my lived experience, and that of many others, that there will also be peace sometimes, and it will be worth itit is worth it. In an understatement of the century, being depressed sucks, a lot.

But the Ordinary Days where your mind is feeling good about itself are pretty fucking amazing. 

I used to feel sad and angry that I was brought to tears with gratefulness for days that seemed so commonplace for everyone around me, because I felt like I deserved to feel like that all the time and it wasn’t ok that I responded to Normal Moments so dramatically. 

But, that doesn’t help me. Its pretty rough comparing yourself to mentally healthy people,  so, just don’t do that, it doesn’t serve you, and can bring you nothing but more unnecessary anger and pain. Making peace with our lot in life is an ongoing process for me, and I would be lying if I said the whole “accepting what you can’t change will bring you happiness” thing doesn’t REALLY piss me off, because accepting a generalized anxiety disorder and bunch of other really horrible stuff that got shipped in with my dysfunctional brain is actually not going to bring me happiness, but thank you Tumblr, it’s a nice sentiment. 

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I don’t have answers for how to work around that, because it’s something we battle all the time. But, I just wanted to let you know that, despite all of that, your Ordinary Days exist – now, or in the future – and they will be just as real as the wintery difficulties you’re living through now or have in the past. 

Peace exists, and just because you haven’t had your Oh-My-Gosh-I’m-Happy-To-Be-Alive-What-Is-This-Feeling! moment on a Wednesday morning yet, doesn’t mean it’s not coming. 

You’re still kicking, so don’t stop now – because someday you won’t have to kick anything to enjoy your day, I promise. 

– Steph (Hunting Happiness)

Mental Health Matters

In my last post I talked about the importance of living in a way that promotes the positive, that celebrates the good, because frankly people / this person with mental illness NEEDS that.  That extra dose of sunshine that sometimes we just don’t get. Over the course of the last few weeks, for my sins, I have in South Africa been engaged about our National Health Insurance, about the provision of services, particularly mental health services.  Ok, I just read that back and laughed out loud.   Literally. No, we don’t have a great frame of reference.

In the one meeting a healthworker suggested that another strike be held to demonstrate what they thought.  What they believed.  Now as I’ve become increasingly Bipolar, my ability to have a poker face has become near to completely impossible, and I showed my disgust.  I mean, isn’t the basic premise of working in the health system that you’d rather not have people die?  That patients needed to stay alive to be treated, and when they did, you’d offer them the best possible service that you could manage within your constraints?   Wouldn’t that be what anyone wanted to do?  I’m not a healthworker, but I thought that was important.  That I wouldn’t want the healthworker I’d need when I was vulnerable to not be there, on strike, or otherwise predisposed.  And that’s pretty much what happens to people with mental illness whether the clinic / hospital is open or closed.  We don’t receive services because sometimes we don’t know we’re ill, sometimes we’re pushed to the back of the row, or triaged as “ok” unless you were slightly more important i.e. dying from a suicide attempt.  Awesome.

From everything I listened to – another person calling our health system – in a conference – Schizophrenic.  I stood up.  I said please don’t say that.  That’s racist to me and everyone who has a mental illness – who my good people – will exceed the number of people living with communicable diseases in the all to near future. Unfortunately.  So I have a better idea.  Let’s start a new conversation.  Let’s start a loud and proud new narrative that brings about fundamental changes to the mental health system the world over.  Let us find the money to provide the kind of mental health services that everyone needs at some point in their lives.  Because actually, people with mental illness in the world are no longer a minority.

Because as much as I have witnessed crumbling health systems, I have also witnessed political will, harnessing of philanthropic interest, a new energy to change things, make things that exist better.  And I firmly believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way.  And not only that, but that we can do it with kindness.  That we can smile.  And we can make mental health – for everyone – matter.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t. I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Looking Towards the Future

I often have some down time where I think about the future. Not just the future of The Bipolar Writer, this blog and my memoir, but the where I go from my current problems. My inner fears start of cause real doubts in my mind, even if they are just temporary.

It’s my natural instinct to believe that the future is murky at best. I have plans. I have goals. For the first time it seems more like a reality that I will be able to reach those goals. But there is part of me, and I don’t know how strong that part is anymore, that worries that my future is an increase in my depression and anxiety.

I have never had a year that started this well. It’s usually April or May before I get my year together and start being a productive member of society. At this time last year I was about a week or so out of the hospital for my bleeding ulcers, and I was in the throes of really horrible anxiety. This year, the anxiety is still here but I am working towards better management.

My self-doubts are an all too common and familiar part of my mental illness. When things have gone too good in the past it was precursor to a major shift in the wrong direction. It’s not healthy to wait for the other shoe to drop, but to be fair, my history is stacked against me.

I have felt really worn this past few weeks like a rubber band that is stretched too thin. I am starting to wake up everyday more tired than when I went to sleep.

I am hopeful for the future. I have had enough bad over the last ten years to last me a lifetime. I can only go up right? I think these feelings come because I am on the tail end of another tough semester. I have closer than ever to finally getting my degree within the next few months.

It has been such a hard-fought journey I don’t want to give it up to my illness like I have done so many times in my life. I am much stronger now than in my past. I have been working towards my goals of 2018 and it looks good. Still I worry.

Maybe it’s not the best thing for my mental health, but worrying is a part of me. I have too much in my past not to worry.

It’s a new week though and that means new chances to keep moving forward. I have finals over the next two weeks so that should keep me busy. I am close to finishing a really important freelance project which has been lucrative and it helps with my publishing goals of my memoir.

I am weary but I am also hopeful. I wanted 2018 to be the year I don’t let depression and anxiety rule my life. For the most part that has been true. So here is to a great week from The Bipolar Writer. Let’s make this week the best ever in 2018.

James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit:unsplash-logoKyle Johnson