Back To School

A couple months before summer hit I made the decision to go back to college. At 32yrs old I decided I wanted more than what I am doing now. Currently I am a pediatric home health aide, taking care of special needs children one on one. Ultimately I would like to do home health care company restricting. I would like to go into companies and restructure their low performing field offices. Making improvements so that not only does the company function better, but so clients get the care they need. There are so many clients who don’t get care or what they get is subpar. I want to change that.

So I started classes this past summer. I went to college in 2007-2008 but I was unable to keep going. My mental health hindered me and I had no help at the time. Now I am at a better place and feel that I can do this. It is not easy but I will keep going. Some days are harder. Yesterday I was in such a funk that I did nothing. I just laid there, knowing I should work, but not wanting to.

 

One of my classes requires I create a Queer Archive as a final project. For my project I am creating an Archive about individuals who have come out at a later age, late 20’s and up. It is a project that I hold close to my heart because of my late coming out. While I came out as bisexual in high school it took me till a little over 2yrs ago to come to terms with actually being a lesbian.

Now I’m here. I would like to ask a favor of the readers here and on my own blog. I am looking for personal testimonials of individuals. If you are interested you can comment here, on my personal page, or visit the page directly https://sites.psu.edu/outlate/

Dear Patient

Dear patients,

Stigma is ever present when it comes to mental health, but I feel that it needs to be addressed. It needs to be addressed over and over and over. I have never been so proud to sound like a broken record. I got into health care to break stigmas. I didn’t want patients to feel like their needs and concerns weren’t heard. I didn’t want patients to feel like they were being judged. Honest to God, I don’t judge a single patient.

I don’t judge you for having multiple partners.

I don’t judge you for being on Medicaid.

I don’t judge you because you are gay.

I don’t judge you for your addictions.

I judge people based on their character and I won’t apologize. Don’t be a shitty human. The end.

I have to say something about my experiences because I hope that it breaks the stigma of health care and mental health. I do not get up before daylight and work a 12 hour shift for the money. I don’t sit and listen to other people’s issues at some of the most vulnerable time in their lives for money. 99% of people in health care are there because they truly want to make a positive impact. We ask the same question to every single patient over the age of 12. “In the past two weeks have you been feeling down, hopeless, or depressed?”

I get so many different answers but few anger me, disgust me, and make me forget why I am in the field I am in. I want to scream at you.

It isn’t funny, don’t laugh.

It isn’t something you can jokingly say, “yes, all the time” to.

There are so many people who burst into tears as they admit that yes, yes they do feel this way. It is okay to feel this way. “I’m glad you’re here today.” That is what I say. That is what someone told me, and that is what I will say to every single person who is strong enough to say what is most certainly a hard thing to say out loud. Today, I had to out myself. I am an open book and if you ask I will tell. I don’t walk around telling people I have bipolar. I pretend. I tell half truths.

“I couldn’t sleep.” And I stayed up until 4 AM compulsively making nonsensical lists that didn’t need to be made.

“I am just not feeling it today.” I barely got out of bed and forced myself to shower after three days of not doing so.

“I’m just not talkative.” I am afraid I am going to explode on you so I am choosing silence.

Today, I did none of that. Today, I told my coworkers that I have a mental illness, I struggle to function a lot of the time, I am just like that patient you called crazy, and I am sick of hearing them talk about people I relate to so much. Your doctor’s office is a safe space. An asylum where you can be open, honest, and seek help. Shame on them, not us. Today, I was someone I do not know. I hope you know that I am honored that you trust me. I am a safe haven. I will never downplay your concerns, symptoms, or feelings. You are someone’s parent, child, sibling, best friend, or coworker. I will treat you as I want myself and those I love to be treated. Without you, I would not have a purpose or a job.

Even the assholes who choose to believe that you are immune to depression.

Please don’t be ashamed. I am at times, but never too ashamed to ask for help.

Forever your biggest advocate,

Bailey

P.S. I have an appointment tomorrow with a new health care provider. Let’s hope she is one of the good ones.

The Craziness of Mental Health

I’ve read about the mental healthcare systems abroad, some of the “things” that are available (like therapy) and thought a lot about ours.  I’m not suggesting that things are rosy everywhere else, but merely to reflect on the system we have here.  I live in South Africa and most of the laws and policies here are like Nelson Mandela authored.  We put the D in democracy and the humane into human rights, thereotically.  In practice, it doesn’t work that way.

For example, I once “trained” a group of women in a rural area in our country on the beautiful domestic violence act we have.  Thereotically the police can intervene, you can obtain a protection order, and again thereotically, be protected.  In your home.  In your house with your children.  They listened, dilligently took notes and smiled when I paused.  When I found their silence too much I asked why they weren’t talking / participating.  One of the older women stood up and said:  “The closest police station is at least 300 km away for most of us.  The court is even further.  And you’d be lucky if they serviced you on the same day, IF you have transport money to spare / get there.  We have our own act.  If your partner is threatening violence, we hang a certain item of clothing on the line, which means I need help.  The woman who sees it alerts others in the street, and we all come for “tea”.  We stay there, with endless conversation, until the situation is diffused. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  But that’s what really helps us”.

I kept quiet.  I was humbled by what these women went through and how they tried to help each other.  But that didn’t mean that they shouldn’t be helped more, and that resources and attention shouldn’t immediately be directed to make their lives better.  In the context of mental healthcare things are even more ominous.  There are people with chronic mental illness who died because they were dehydrated.  Yes, there were other factors, but dehydration?  Not being fed?  If I consider what it’s like to have mental illness and to die for these or ANY reasons just isn’t ok.  No matter how we try to dissect it.  If you don’t have the money for private health care (it cost me about 800 US Dollars for myself and my children on private medical aid per month) you will find that there aren’t any services that are responsive enough to cater for people with mental illness, no matter how ill they are.

For example, you can’t get into a psychiatric ward without being suicidal.  This based on my own and other people’s experience has meant that you need to have tried to commit suicide and required immediate hospitalisation / care.  Not if you were intending to.  No, preventative is nice.  We don’t (although there are a few attempts) have a sufficient suicide call in number for people who feel suicidal, or their families who are a concerned.  And I will not go onto describe the ambulance service, which as the rural women teacher taught me, is just not realistic in some parts of our country.   There are frequent drug stockouts, a lack of psychiatrists in the public health system and therapy is a luxury.

I have to face the reality of this system now.  I was retrenched and do not have the resources for private healthcare.  My psychiatrist costs $150 per session, my therapist $80 and private psychiatric hospitals (which are funnily still like jails) are thousands and thousands.  The implementation of our far-reaching mental healthcare act, like the domestic violence act is failing the people who it was designed to poetically protect.  And most people with mental illness do not in our country, have communities of support where they can hang the “I need help underpants” on the line.  We need to draw attention to the state of the system (or perhaps the lack of it), the way people with mental illness are treated and the services they are subjected to, and the not so silent genocide of people with mental illness in our country.  I intend to.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Mental Health Detective Report Back

There I was, I had planned my trip to the PRIMARY HEALTHCARE Clinic.  The Government Service.  The supposed to be free one.  The one in AFRICA one.  You would be forgiven for imaginging lions and elephants trawling about the yards of the clinic, because if that were true, it would simply capacitate you to function BETTER in the system.  A) If you’d been mauled, you would get pushed up the queue (and be taken more seriously than JUST a chronic mental illness) and B) You’d have a “funny” story to tell an otherwise disinterested and very tired, healthworker.  And whilst there aren’t lions and elephants serving as gate keepers to mental health services, there are many other um, hairy hindrances that do.

In the country that I live in, the first challenge that we confront is that there are far, far too few psychiatrists in practice, particularly in the public health sector.  It takes weeks / months to access a psychiatrist in the public sector, which is in fact life-threatening for a person with chronic mental illness.   Now I’m well aware that medication is not the only thing a person with mental illness requires, but in my case (and I recommend this) it’s a huge part.  Not being able to see a doctor that could give you medication.  Well, the mind boggles.  Thereafter the other very real reality is that there will be medication stockouts, or that the medication you are on is not seen as ‘necessary’ by Government.  For example they think that some anti-depressants aren’t necessary.  Grimace.

But before I complain about the shortcomings of the health system,  the very real challenge – and the reason why I ended up NOT going – is the horrible, disabling stigma that exists in our communities and which in my case – and I’m sure many others – results in the worst form of stigma:  believing what people tell you about you.  You see even if I had jumped the hurdles of waiting forever, expecting to have to come back for appointments numerous times, I was most worried about what each tier of the public healthcare system would require of me:  telling “the story” that informed my diagnosis. Having to “speak up” and contend with much “and how did that make you feel” is both frustrating but also heartbreaking to have to recall and retell – again and again and again. Honestly, being a slightly clever girl, one would have thought that I would have taped the “how did I get crazy” convo by now, so I could just press play and have the healthworker informed.  But funnily enough, each time I’ve needed to outline the top ten reasons why I’m mentally ill, I haven’t had the candour or humour to record it.

So the truth is that this mental health detective went as far as playing out going to the clinic in her mind, and retreated immediately to the couch to eat the snacks she had packed for the trip (and as many others as she could carry in a single trip from kitchen to couch, but hey who’s counting).  Oh, and she may have had a little cry, an anxiety tab or two, and a nap. Because I don’t want to do that right now.  Explore how broken I am in order to be slightly fixed with medication I may only get six weeks  / months later thing.  No thanks.  I’m an expert in roasting myself, I don’t need help or reminders of the cracks and creaks my being holds or has a lack of.  This is the coward way out, I know, I am paying for medication I can’t afford, but am too chicken to attain from the Government Service.  Ok, I will work on going to the Government Service.  I think I may try and convince myself that I’m doing a public service so I can feel heroic about it.  Ok, a couple levels lower than heroic, but a lot levels higher than chicken.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

My Weekly Wrap-Up 12/18 – 12/24

Well, we have finally arrived the day before the big day, Christmas Eve. For me, it has been a weird up and down rollercoaster. I finished my finals and I am ready for some much-needed rest from school. Rest for me means writing because I find nothing more therapeutic. I am closing in on a real first draft of my memoir The Bipolar Writer, and I hope for it to be completed in my time off becomes a reality.

I always like these weekly wrap-ups because of its an opportunity to look back on what I wrote and what we talked about on this blog. So let’s get started.

A Little White Pill

I opened my week with a poem. A Little White Pill was another poem I wrote about dealing with panic attacks. A common theme over the month of December. It is similar to my poem 12:15 am but it dives deeper into the issue. It was written during a particularly tough panic attack I went through.

What Drives Me

This blog post I talk about the things that drive me daily to continue to achieve my goals. I have so many big things coming in 2018 and the biggest finishing my Bachelor’s degree and completing my memoir. There are other equally important goals like starting my Master’s program and maybe winning the BEA student screenwriting competition. I reached my 2000th follower just before writing this blog post and it felt like another amazing goal for me to reach. It is important for someone like me, who deals with being Bipolar and anxiety daily, to always be moving forward.

Morgan’s Interview Feature

I was excited to write my first interview feature article for The Bipolar Writer on a very special friend of my mine, Morgan. It meant a lot that Morgan was willing to share very personal experiences with me and to allow me to share them with my followers. Every journey with a mental illness is different, and its important to me to share the stories of others. Take a journey from the origins of Morgan’s mental illness to how she turned her issues into the creative process. Morgan’s Interview Feature is a must read.

Learning From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

I wanted to celebrate my eight months of working with CBT to get my anxiety under control with one of the techniques I have learned during my time. It has been an up and down process but I have learned a lot about how effective CBT can be. In this post, I talk about “Nonjudgemental Focused Emotional Awareness.” The point of this exercise is to see how you do at not judging the thoughts that come through your head while you are focusing on your breathing. In my own experience, it has been helpful to break down my thoughts into a spreadsheet that breaks down each session. It’s great for really breaking down turning negative thoughts that often come racing through my head.

My Bipolar Experience with the ER

In this post, I talk about the first three years of my diagnosis and how the many emergency room visits within the American Healthcare system can be counterproductive for someone with a mental illness. Everyone experiences the emergency room differently but I eventually realized that it is not always the most effective place to go. In the blog post, I share my experiences as an example of what could happen.

Tony’s Interview Feature

Tony’s Interview Feature was the second installment of what is shaping up to be one of the biggest series on the Bipolar Writer. Tony’s story is another look at how a mental illness can affect the course of someone’s life. It is amazing how people are willing to share their story with me, it really means the world. Like all of our stories, Tony’s journey is a unique one, and another story that about turning the worst part of our mental illness into a creative outlet.

Then, There are Nights

In this blog post, I talk about what I am not describing as one of the worst panic attacks since starting this journey. It lasted for hours and almost landed me in the hospital. The post was a short one but I talk a lot about looking at the triggers and look toward the future at getting my anxiety back under control.

My Fourth Honest Post

I love writing these posts because they are all about reflection and looking towards my future. This reflection was one of my favorites because it was after the worse panic attacks of my life. It is amazing how something like a panic attack can really put things into perspective. I really looked towards the future of this post. reflection is good for the soul.

Giving up Coffee

In this post, I talk about a different medical issue in my life dealing with my stomach problems and my issues with ulcers. I had to talk to my stomach doctor again and it seems that I will have to give up coffee, which if you follow my blog, will be a difficult task over the next few months.

That is my week, and to be honest, its been a good one even with the craziness that is my life.

I wanted to end this post by wishing all my fellow bloggers and followers a very Merry Christmas. It has been an honor to have so many great people read about my journey. The best thing I did was start this blog.

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J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logorawpixel.com

unsplash-logoIgor Ovsyannykov

Things Better Left Unsaid

This week something that I thought was dead and buried came up this week and it came close to me taking many steps back in the wrong direction that could have derailed everything I am working on. I have been so open over the last few months and there has been really little of my part that I haven’t written about, but there is one specific thing I have talked about since 2007.

I wish I could share it with you now. It is one of those things that I have always left unsaid. In fact, the only people that I have ever shared this piece of my past with was my first psychiatrist, my parents, and now one of my closest friends yesterday. I knew I could trust her, and that she was the only one that could talk me off the ledge so to speak.

I never name my close friends and families in this blog because they may not be so comfortable being on here by name.

What I have written about my past in this blog and in my memoir goes back to when I was a child, but there are years before that I still can’t talk about at least not where I am at right now. I have always prided myself on my blog for being open about my diagnosis, the issues and for the most part my past.

Sometimes, things are just better left unsaid.

I hope I will be able to talk about in the future. I may write a chapter in my memoir about and when the first draft of The Bipolar Writer is completed it will serve me to make the decision right then to add the chapter in the final draft.

I decided to write this small post to let my many followers know that I have always been 100% truthful in sharing my life with you. I will continue to work towards finding the strength to share the worst parts of me that I often went in my most depressed episode because of my past. I am still dealing with those memories that lurk at the darkest depths that have changed my entire existence. There are just a few things that I don’t feel comfortable sharing right at this moment.

I am doing okay today. My friend helped me work through the worst of it. It will be a few days until I am back on total track with all of my writing and school work. With finals this week and next I will be busy so that will help.

I think at my next appointment I will open up to my therapist about the past. It might be good for me to deal with my past in therapy first before I write in my memoir.

I wanted to end this blog with a thank you. For every like and comment that I have received over the last, not over three months. It keeps me going, and keeps me writing.

Always Keep Fighting

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoPeter Oswald

When Life Throws you a Curveball

I just really loved the picture and I couldn’t find a good curveball picture.

There are days when you wake up and realize everything bad that can happen will most likely happen.

That happened to me yesterday.

That is true for all people, but for someone with a mental illness, it can spell real trouble. That’s how I feel today.

I started my day by waking up at six in the morning and not getting out of bed until 9:30am. I just laid there, as life started to tell me, “not today James.”

I hate those days.

When I finally found the will to get out of bed it was like nothing could go right. Water was too cold to start my shower. Then I couldn’t focus half the time and more than once got lost in a daydream.

I finally got dressed to start my day, my plans were a coffee shop visit, a few hours of studying, and a much needed Costco visit.

It just wasn’t my day.

My car wouldn’t start. Figures. It failed this morning because I was forgetful last Friday and left my key in my car in the start position. I failed to drive my car after yesterday morning and over the weekend so my battery never had a chance to charge. What can I say I have been really busy when I left my keys in the car.

I couldn’t get someone to jump start my car so I ended being stranded. So much for the best-laid plans. At times life just wants to throw a curveball at you, you can try and hit it out of the park or just let it hit the catchers glove.

So I chose to restructure my day. Wrote a blog. Wrote a discussion post for my classes and did some writing. I finished my edits and put in my application for the screenplay competition. I thought, okay today started out bad but hey but in baseball, there is always another at-bat.

So there I was ready to hit that curveball again and things just fell apart. Things were said and I am sitting here in a really bad mood trying my best to write every bad feeling out of my head.

It times like these where I just need to realize that it’s not my day. It was never fated that I would have a great day. Life is funny like that at times.

So I made the decision to just let go. Play some much-needed gaming time on Shadow of War. Maybe spend some money on something I want.

I really should have just walked away and not say anything. Listened to my inner voice to just let it go. I really should have stayed in bed yesterday. It would have served me so much better. I get lost in all the messiness of my life, and it always seems when things are going good in my life, something bad comes up. I took a big risk and it’s hard to know where to go from here.

Good thing there is today. I am not letting what happened yesterday to makes it way into my life today. Or at least I will try my best to. I really want so bad to just give up today and save it for another day.

I just need to get through a few more hours of real writing done and hopefully complete some school work. It might be better to just take the day off, but if I let this one thing, the one thing I swore ten years ago to never let back in my life…

And yet, its a part of me again and that can’t be good.

Life is funny. It will throw you a curveball when you least expect it. And yesterday life was throwing it for strikes.

Three strikes and your out.

Life is funny.

Always keep fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoJaanus Jagomägi

Changes

At times, little changes can make all the difference in the world.

It has been a couple of weeks since I finally got what I desired most this year, a real change in my medication, and finally some light going into 2018. So far I have seen major changes in my anxiety at night which have meant during my day I am not dreading going to sleep with anxiety levels through the roof.

In “Light in all the darkness” I talked about the changes my new psychiatrist made in my last doctor’s appointment. My doctor gave me the ability to take up to 4mg of Ativan a day up from just 2mg a day, which my previous dosage a few years ago was 3mg throughout my day, and it has been a success so far.

In the first few days, I took all 4mg of Ativan throughout my day just so that my body would get used to the new, and much better, dosage. Since that time I was able to adjust on normal days to take 3mg a day, and those days where I am more out of my safe space I can move up to my max dosage.

It’s not a cure-all but I think it helps in the interim so I can refocus my efforts on fighting my anxiety. I even had two different nights where I didn’t need my night time dose of Ativan (that hasn’t happened in years.) Since changing my dosage my anxiety levels have gone back down to very manageable which is great.

I still had a bad day over the last couple weeks, but I am realizing the more I talk about my issues here on my blog the less these days affect my week.

I am hitting a stretch run in my final two weeks on my last semester of 2017. I am so close to the end of my bachelor’s degree and to be honest it has been a tough and long journey. Still, 2018 is shaping up to be a good year. I will be starting my master’s program in the summer, I graduate, and I am hoping big things with my writing projects.

The other change in my medication has also helped me adjust to a better nighttime routine. Prior to my last appointment my Seroquel dosage I took every night was an interesting one. I had 100mg tablets with the option to take anywhere from 300-600mg at night. It was never the same every night and it made my sleeping schedule very erratic. Some nights 400mg would suffice to get me to sleep while others it took 500-600mg.

The upside of the higher dosage is I slept okay for six hours a night, but it would take me three hours from the time I opened my eyes to get out to bed (one of the side effects for me with more Seroquel in my system is that when I wake, the medicine is still in my system and if I fail to fully wake up for hours.) It stands to reason the lower dosage I take the better chance I have to wake in the morning in a better mood.

After explaining this to my new doctor he made the decision to change my individual dosage while still keeping the options open every night. I now can take up to three 200mg tablets at night. I have found in the last two weeks that I can sleep well enough most nights with just taking 400mg. With my original dosage, I took 300mg right away and then moved up to 600mg as needed throughout the night. It meant sometimes three hours before I would go from laying down to actual sleep.

Again its just a few weeks in so I have no idea what the long-term effects will be when it comes to the two most important medications that I take. I think the next logical step would be a change in anti-depressant because my current one just doesn’t feel like it is working.

Change is good, and I feel as if I can really look at the possibility of finally getting my social anxiety and my general anxiety back under control to a functioning level. My new nighttime routine has helped me get to sleep earlier and sleep better. I still wake up during the night way too much, but one issue at a time.

I have really felt so much better. I have been able to start my day with a small dose of Ativan and it helps me get through my late afternoon before having to take another dose. My anxiety level, which was hitting 9-10 over the last month has been a more manageable 5-7 level most days. I logged one day in the past week that was an eight, but if I can somehow get into the 3-5 range it means I am managing my anxiety again.

So that is where The Bipolar Writer is at the moment. Looking forward to getting through the next two weeks and having some much need break time from school.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoRoss Findon

Weekly Wrap-up 12/4 – 12/10

My original plan was to spend my day editing and forgo my weekly wrap-up, but when I woke this morning I felt good and the need to write was there for me. What I love about writing my weekly wrap-up is it gives me a chance to close out my week and talk recap of the issues that were discussed.

So, here is the review of my week.

Cutting and Self-harm, My Story

The first blog post of the week was a reblogged piece I wrote in September but a more extensive and edited piece. Self-harm was a big part of my life as a teenager and young adult, and I felt it was important to share my own experience with the topic. These types of subjects are hard to understand if you have never had to deal with self-harm, so my aim was to tell my own story so that people can relate or at some level understand why someone would choose to self-harm.

Car Anxiety

In this blog piece, I explore a part of my social anxiety that has become a major part of my daily routine, my driving anxiety (which I really love to call “car anxiety.”) What was good about a piece like this one is that car anxiety encompasses both driving and being a passenger in a moving vehicle. It was great to get feedback on a piece like this and I made the decision to add this subject to my memoir. I am not sure if it will make the final cut but it was fun to write.

Going Through the Motions of Life

Going through the motions of life. With a mental illness as a part of your life, it is not uncommon to have this feeling. We have all, for the sake of sanity, made the decision to go through the motions of a daily schedule without actually being there mentally. This blog piece talks about how you can still be productive despite going through the motions of life.

Finding Happiness With a Mental Illness

Can you find happiness with a mental illness? I am still on the fence that I could share my life with someone who has never spent a day in my shoes. The chaos of life is bad enough but to share my mental illness with someone is an idea that I may never be comfortable with, still, in this blog post I explore my thoughts on the subject of finding happiness with a mental illness.

My Mother Saved My Life

Without my mother, there would be no James Edgar Skye or The Bipolar Writer. In this blog post, I talk about the one person who has always been there in my ten years of ups and downs that have come with my diagnosis. This piece is small because in my memoir I devoted two different chapters about how my mother saved me from myself. This was a good piece to write as we near the end of 2017. I wouldn’t have the courage to write my blog if my mother would have given up on me.

My Experience with the American Healthcare System

What can I say, my experience with the American Healthcare System hasn’t always been great. Over the course of my diagnosis I have racked up way too much medical expense debt and over the years my family has had issues being able to afford my medications. I talk about how having a “pre-existing condition” worked against me, and how finally having the ability to have insurance is no guarantee that I will be able to keep it. I really liked the response from other bloggers from other countries around the world because it shows just how messed up the American system is compared to the world.

Why the Mental Illness Community Should Share Their Story

In the coming weeks, I will feature the stories of other fellow bloggers on my blog The Bipolar Writer. Sharing my own story has changed my life and it has helped me analyze the many aspects of my illness. In this blog post, I make a simple case why sharing your story is helpful to the mental illness community.

Other Blog Posts

I talk about entering my screenplay into a competition here.

I also reblogged a couple of older posts…

A Look How Suicide Effects Families

Winter Speaks Memories

So that is my week in review. Thank you taking the time to read about my journey every week. The positive comments I get each week (and even the few negative ones) make writing this blog worth every second.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt