Where is my Christmas Spirit?

Christmas is my favorite holiday, it always has been. I look forward to the holiday season all year long. It’s always the highlight of my year. But now, I can’t seem to get into the Christmas mood. I’m doing all of the things I normally do to enjoy the holiday season except they aren’t making me as happy as they used to.

I don’t know if it’s age, where I’m at in my life or because it’s 2020 but I have been trying hard to get into the Christmas mood but can’t. I thought maybe snow would help. It snowed 2 feet (which isn’t common where I live) and it didn’t make me feel much better. I thought maybe giving gifts and baking cookies would help. It only made a little bit of a difference.

It makes me depressed that my favorite time of the year is so lack luster. I want this time of the year to be the best part of the entire thing! I am longing to feel the happiness that Christmas has brought me in the past.

Sadly this year I will be spending most of Christmas alone. My boyfriend is working and my brother is quarantining after a business trip so we have to hold off on our family get togethers. I will be spending a few hours with my mom so I guess I won’t totally be alone but it won’t be like past Christmases. I will wake up alone, eat alone and give my pets their presents alone.

This potentially shit Christmas is effecting my mood. I’ve been extra tired and cranky as well as binge eating like nobody’s business. I want to be happy during my favorite time of the year. Why can’t I be? My God I sound like Charlie Brown.

I guess there is no guaranteed happiness at any point in time even during Christmas. You can’t just turn depression on and off even though I’m sure so many of us would love to.

I want to be happy, cheery and all of the great emotions that come with Christmas. I’m just not there this year. Sure, it’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with feeling this way, it’s just that I don’t want to. I can’t force happiness upon myself but I can try to do things that make me not feel like shit. So somewhere in the middle. Maybe?

I don’t know, I just want to be happy. You know?

How are you feeling about this time of year? Is it normally a sad time or a happy time for you? Leave a comment and tell me!

Happy Healthy Holidays

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

Lots of wishes float around this time of year. Lists are jam packed with material goods, gadgets and toys people covet. Well wishes also abound as folks entreat each other to celebrate all of the holidays that fall in December. In that spirit, I want to wish all of us in this community a Healthy Holiday season.

Remembering Christmases when my children were younger brings up some painful memories. Mania gripped my mind years before (and after) I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The stress of trying to provide a happy holiday seemed to exacerbate my tendency to overspend. This left a mound of unwrapped (and mostly unnecessary) gifts at 2am on Christmas Eve more years than I care to count.

Another year, I stayed up late hand-stitching personalized Christmas stockings for my in-laws. The socks didn’t turn out great and my morning was marred by lack of sleep.

I understand firsthand the desire to buy your way into your loved one’s hearts. Especially this year, when things have been so dismal. For those of us who suffer from a lack of impulse control, I wish you restraint, moderation and creativity in meeting the needs of those around you. And your own.

The flipside of mania, depression, can also come to call around this time. Personally, the shortened days and lack of sunlight can have a real detrimental effect on my moods. Couple that with expectations of constant cheerfulness that are impossible to achieve and it’s not just Elvis having a Blue Christmas.

But the biggest obstacle to enjoying the holidays this year will be our unconventional celebration. Like a lot of families, we’ve made the decision not to gather in person. The consequences are too grave should the virus invade our group or be contracted by vulnerable family members back home. I haven’t been able to listen to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” or Mariah Carey’s “Miss You Most”. I fear I’ll cry my eyes out and won’t be able to put them back in my head.

So instead, I’m going to be grateful. I believe it was Shawn Achor, the best-selling author of “The Happiness Advantage” and positive psychology expert, who offered a stunning antidote to depression. He said (paraphrasing), that you can’t be simultaneously grateful and depressed. I’ve found this to be true and extremely helpful in dealing with my depression.

I will try my best not to have a bipolar Christmas. I’m hoping thirty years of living with the diagnosis and achieving a certain level of insight will allow me a healthy holiday season. And that’s exactly what I’m wishing for you.

Be well,

Colleen

I’m the Other James

You may not have realized we had more than one James posting on this blog. James Edgar Skye started this blog and I am not him. I am James Pack. The other James. I changed my author tag to J. Pack to help eliminate confusion. Had you all noticed? It felt fitting to write this post on April Fool’s Day. For some, April Fool’s was never a happy holiday. I often received pranks instead of giving them. If you grew up in an abusive household as I did, these pranks only reminded you of life at home.

What are the origins of April Fool’s Day? The closest known date of the first April Fool’s started in 1582 in France.  Before that year, April 1stwas New Year’s Day according to the Julian Calendar.  In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered the creation of a new calendar.  The new Gregorian Calendar placed New Year’s Day on January 1st. During the introduction of the new calendar, many people continued celebrating New Year’s Day on April 1st. Many others rejected the new calendar and decided to use April 1stas a day for pranks.

The term “poisson d’avril” referred to those victimized by pranks. The French term means “April Fish.” After centuries, the day eventually evolved into the modern tradition and spread across several countries. Scotland, for example, has a popular prank where they send people on a cuckoo hunt.  Unfortunately for the victim, cuckoos are not real.  Scotland may have originated the “Kick Me” sign as well. Mexico’s counterpart for April Fool’s falls on December 28th.  Originally a sad day for remembering the slaughter of innocent children by King Herod, but it later evolved into a day of pranks and trickery.

If you must participate in the jokes and pranks, please be aware of other’s boundaries. Avoid pranks that involve invading someone’s personal space or involve scaring. Something small to you may trigger someone else. Keep the jokes light hearted and fun. Don’t press to far unless you know your friends can handle the joke. Even then, tread lightly. Have fun with friends and don’t get fooled by this other James when reading posts on this blog, or you’ll become the next poisson d’avril.

When Family Makes You Feel Alone During the Holidays

I know I’m not alone when I say I don’t like the holidays. Everyone has their reasons. Family gatherings always reminded me of or created more bad memories. I moved away from home to get away from family. It never felt like family. Living on my own, and no family, watching everyone else enjoying the holidays with their loved ones; this only reminded me of what I didn’t have. For a few years, I didn’t have friends around the holidays. If I could, I worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Working was better than feeling lonely at home.

As I got older, I developed a kind of family with some friends and coworkers, but this took a long time to build. I had a place to eat on Thanksgiving. I had someone to exchange gifts with on Christmas. After a while, I realized this new family was only a step up from my biological family. It’s difficult feeling alone when you’re surrounded by people; people who are supposed to be there for you but never notice you because they’re trapped within their own mind and problems. Sometimes you can’t find people you click with. People vibrate at different frequencies.

Moving on, getting older, once again I thought I had found a family. The harsh reality that I’ll never be a part of the family as I would like to be is just as painful as feeling like nothing around my other family. I know I have people who care for me. I know they would be there if everything was falling apart. But people who care for you can still make you feel alone or not important without meaning to. There’s no malicious intent. They’re going through problems too. Other’s feelings are forgotten when you’re caught up in your own.

If I can, I still work on Christmas. There are too many unhappy memories around that holiday. At the moment, I’m trying to decipher how much fault is mine in dealing with anyone else. Do they inadvertently make me feel unimportant because I make them feel that way? I’ve started looking back at myself every time I feel wronged. I have to be careful otherwise I’ll fall into the habit of assuming I deserve poor treatment. When do I start assuming I deserve happy memories during the holidays? When do I feel like people want me around for the holidays? This year wasn’t bad. Each year gets a little better. 

Surviving the Holiday Season

As I am back in my hometown to be with my family during this holiday season, there is so much laughter, joy but also unwanted questions coming towards my way.

The number one question I was asked

“You are taking the LOWEST possible dosage of your SSRI right?”

The answer is, no.

My psychiatrist suggested going up a notch to tackle my OCD symptoms a bit better.

When I share this news, everyone immediately look sad and even worse – disappointed.

It was hard to answer the same question as I continuously met with familiar faces back in my hometown. This led me to doubting the progress I’ve made since my diagnosis.

But I wasn’t going to let my mental illness take me down like that again.

I wanted to share few things I learned lately to make this Holliday season a bit more… “Bearable” (in terms of our mental health)

I learned the hard way that I don’t have to be completely honest with everyone. From my distant relatives to acquaintances that came across my social media, they are familiar with my blogging journey with my mental health this past year. However, that doesn’t mean they get the right to know every bit of my life.

I was so guilty at first not being transparent with everyone – but now I know. Sometimes, you need to put yourself before others to protect yourself.

I’ve been also keeping in touch with relationships I formed from my support group, which has been immensely helpful. Even as we are spread throughout the globe for this season, knowing a group of people who knows and care about my mental health is just a text message away gives me so much peace. Finding my niche and support was honestly one of the best things that happened to me this year.

I would love to hear what are your tips on not only getting through this hectic time of the year, but to also enjoy the holiday season.

Stay warm,

Haelim

 

 

Stay Safe This Holiday Season – A Mental Health Advisory Post

thought-catalog-480626-unsplash.jpg

Between now and the end of the year is a fantastic time. We see family and friends, meet for coffee, eat some amazing food, and shop for those special people in our lives. This is also a time where people with mental illness struggle the most to be normal.

The fact is this time of the year is tough for anyone, but here on The Bipolar Writer blog, my focus is on those struggling with mental illness, many for the first time. If you are finding yourself lost in the darkness that is depression, I want you to know it is okay. There is nothing wrong with struggling, and you can fight it. You’re stronger than you know, and if you ever need someone to talk to, there are so many great resources and people, including The Bipolar Writer, that you can reach out to in your time of need.

There is also the other side if you notice that someone in your life is struggling to find themselves in a happy place this time of year doesn’t be afraid to reach out. The hardest thing for someone struggling with mental illness is the feeling that you will be a burden to your loved ones at this time of year. I only ask that you be kind to everyone in your life because it could mean the difference between struggling and finding hope.

The stigma of mental illness exists because both sides struggle to understand mental illness. Those of us that advocate know that as individuals we need to change the stigma before society realizes that mental illness is a real thing.

It sounds cliche, but I have always thought that there was no hope at this time of year for people like me, when I am struggling in my mental illness. It is not true. You can find your way in the darkness. I did.

Love yourself first this holiday season.

Stay strong in the fight this holiday season.

Always Keep Fighting

James

Photo Credit:

Thought Catalog

Cutting and Self-harm, My Story​

\*disclaimer\* I am not advocating that cutting is right or wrong. For some people, like myself for a good portion of my life, it is just a way that you have to live with when emotional pain becomes unbearable.

This is a reblog in a sense, but really this is an expanded version of a post from when I first started writing this blog in September. It’s a real subject and outside my posts about suicide, it is one of the most important subjects I will ever talk about in my journey here on my blog.

This subject means the world to me. When I look at the scars on my arm, it is a constant reminder of who I was, and how far I have come since I was a teenager. It’s a sensitive subject, but I would rather talk about then push it to the side.

So here is my story, of how cutting and self-harm a major part of my life…

Today I decided to touch a subject that most people hate talking about (or hearing about) which is the subject of cutting and self-harm. I believe that if people knew more about this subject of self-harm that people would be less likely to ridicule someone who has lived through something so traumatic they chose to cut on their skin.

Humans are more connected than ever before thanks to social media. With so many people connected, it opens a floodgate for people to be more open about their lives. Our little lives are just out there on display for all to see. And yes, I realize people don’t have to put their lives out there in the world, but I digress.

Some people just want to post their every thought and emotion on social media simply to make a real connection with the world. The result of people posting about their self-harm and cutting on social media can result in people posting harsh comments.

I have seen people bullied because someone was reaching out to talk about “cutting.” The comments that people leave are part of the problem, but the issue is deeper and darker. It saddens me because I understand, I have lived it, and people making horrible comments only makes it harder for people to get real help for this issue plaguing the mental illness community.

People at times hate what they don’t understand.

When the subject if cutting comes up on social media, people tend to attack it in vicious ways. Most are on one of two sides: the people that cut (I will call them us) and the people that criticize (I will call them, well them.) In this world, there is not much grey area, and people see us as attention seekers.

This is an untrue judgment, the posts we make might just be what gets us through a second, a minute, or day without the feeling of the emotional pain that comes along with self-harm. There is always a history of someone who chooses to self-harm, and most people don’t know that person’s history.

If you knew this history would you still judge us?

So that’s where this post is headed. I want people to know some of my own storied histories with cutting and self-harm. If you see the history of one us, you might understand what leads us down this path. It is not pretty, and it’s a subject in my past that I would rather not talk about here on my blog. But again, I have to write this blog post.

Emotions have always gotten the better of me. The depression side of my Bipolar One diagnosis means my emotions are heightened to the extremes. It is a cruel world and most people prefer not to hear about your problems. They have issues of their own and that’s understandable.

Since I was a teenager and into my twenties I always hid my self-harm. People saw the side I let them see, on the, outside I was an okay kid. I now call it one of the masks I wear in my life. I got good grades and interacted with people the best I could as a teenager. On the inside, I was much different.

Dealing with my problems was never my strong suit (it still isn’t.) I prefer to shut my problems inside, and never deal with them head-on. I have never been a people person, and I prefer to be shut inside writing or the confines of my bedroom to going out socializing with the world.

I had people I knew in school, and I guess you can call them friends. I could never talk about how I felt about cutting and self-harm. Most days life just passed me by. This made me different, an outsider. My problems compiled in my head. I never talked about how I felt. I allowed my pain to keep building until it left emotional scars, and those are the worst kind of scars.

Emotional pain can be an unbearable experience. The world disappears. You get lost in your mind and escape seems impossible. You feel tired. Alone. It is a dark place. You feel like you are holding on to the weight of the world. I would lay there for hours doing nothing but staring into space lost in my mind.

Every human being experiences emotional pain in their lives, but for me, my emotions were magnified by a thousand some nights. The emotional pain would go on for days, weeks, months, and yes, sometimes years. The toll it took on me, it always led me to bad solutions.

It is emotional pain led me to do things like cutting for some of my teenage years and into my early twenties. Physical pain, compared to the emotional pain, is easier to deal with because at least physical pain can be healed. That is why my solutions led me to cut on my arms.

My arms and a razor became my sanctuary. When I cut, the emotional pain was pushed out of mind for a short time. Physical scars heal over time, but emotional scars may never heal. I would hide outside my scars with hoodies that I never took off so that people couldn’t see what I was doing to myself.

The point I am trying to make is that life for some people like me, it can be very harsh. We are human just like everyone else. It has been many years since the last time that I turned to self-harm. I got to a point where I could manage my emotional pain at the level where I didn’t have the need to cut.

I have come a long way but the scars on my arms are still the reminders of a time where I couldn’t deal with life. It hurt. It cut deep. But ridiculing someone because they would rather have physical pain instead of emotional pain cuts just as deep.

There are so many people out there, especially at teenage level (when I started cutting) and I speak to them now. It will be okay. If you haven’t already get help. It would mean the world to me if you got help. If you would like to share your story with me please do. I will not share it with the world. If you need someone to talk to, I am always there for you. Cutting is not the end of the world.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: Taylor Bryant

 

​​​

Holidays and Kids

This week has been a long week for me. I’ve really been in a lot of pain due to constant weather changes. I’m getting migraines from the same. It was just Valentine’s Day which is a holiday I don’t understand. It only promotes hurt as far as I can tell.

Shouldn’t we be showing our family, friends, children and significant others every day how we love them? Valentine’s Day just sets you up to get hurt. You get your hopes up for that special someone to notice you or remember you and when it doesn’t happen….day is ruined, you hurt and feel forgotten or left out. I’ve never cared for this holiday. This year was no different. Set myself up, and………nothing. Not a word, not a peep, not a thing.

Then, later in the week my youngest son, only 17, signed up and got sworn into the United States Marine Corps. He leaves either April or May. When did my baby grow up? To hear your child say the words “I swear to protect my country from all enemies, foreign and domestic…” (rephrased) that’s pretty hard to hear as a mom. My older two also went into the Marine Corps. While I couldn’t be more proud of them, it’s tough being a Marine mom. Very tough.

tired

Photo by ANMOL on Unsplash

This has been a week of being surrounded by stress. Seems like everywhere I turn, there is something new. I need a break. I want to stop hurting so much. I want to have a day where I am happy and not just getting along ok. It’s been a very emotional and lonely and painful week. Forecast for today is not looking any different.

I’m tired of being strong. I want to be weak just for a while and have someone else take care of me for a bit. I wish for that so much, but I know that every day when I wake up I will be fighting my battles without a partner. I will have to be strong even though I can barely function. You show any sign of weakness and the demons come for you, preying on your mind and emotions.

Every day is a mental battle of wills. Be strong, be strong, be strong. Keep the demons at bay. Don’t let them win.

I’m so tired.

by kilee

www.kileegoecke.blog

Finding Happiness with a Mental Illness

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a very close family member. They basically told me they are just living life, doing what they have to until they die. This hurt me on so many levels. I am really close to this family member and what he said resonated in my life because I have had those thoughts plenty of times. I tried to offer him ways to get out of the feeling of loneliness but nothing helped. I realized if the roles were reversed I would feel the same way.

james-sutton-201871.jpg

What makes us humans get to a point that we think there is nothing worth living for in this life? That feeling that we are just getting by waiting for death to claim us is a real thing that crosses the mind for many people. Is it that society says that we should be a certain way, a worker bee that works long hours and that we can’t enjoy life? It has something to do with it, but it can’t just be that simple. There are plenty of people that enjoy life.

Do they have something we don’t? Or is we have something they don’t​?

I wondered to myself about being alone after talking to my family member which prompted this blog post. I know what he wants in this life is someone to love but he believes so strongly that you have to find a supermodel to be happy and that is far from the truth. I think just finding someone that loves you should be enough. He doesn’t believe that the way he looks is good enough for anyone so he has given up the idea of being happy. That, in turn, has made him believe he is just doing what he can to move through life waiting for the clutches of death. He is just going through the motions in his own way.

I am the opposite of that because I revel in the loneliness that is my life. I just do better by myself, but this subject has come up on my blog before, and after talking to my family member some truth crossed my mind. In my own way, I have given up on relationships and companionship simply because I have been alone for so long.

Am I just waiting alone for death to take me someday?

There are nights when my anxiety reaches such high levels, it crosses my mind that if I had some in my life, I could discuss what is bothering me. It doesn’t bother me so much that I want to go out tomorrow and get a girlfriend, but will I always be okay with being alone? It’s a serious thing to think about because this topic never really came up in my anxiety thoughts until this year. 

I quit my last relationship because I knew this life I lead would be impossible to put on another human being. I deal with so much and my life is always messy, how could I ever bring a person into my chaos?

It could be I am just fooling myself to believe that I am okay being alone, and eventually, like most things in my life it will catch up to me at the wrong time. I don’t feel the need for companionship unless my life is really going wrong like it has during the winter times the last three years.

I just don’t look for companionship anymore though there have been a few that have tried. I am so focused on finishing my degree that I am close to finishing that goal that I often forget about the outside world.

I have my blog, my screenplay, and my memoir that keeps me busy. I have used my writing to get through some of the worst parts of my life and I feel good that I can turn to writing for a place of solace. The question is still valid.

Can someone go this long without someone special in their lives without losing a real part of themselves forever?

I am so torn because this is not a subject that doesn’t come up in my life very often. Its a trigger that hardly happens because I am so laser focused from the moment I wake up and I am trying so hard to get things done in my life before I let someone in.

For so long I didn’t believe that someone like me could never find happiness because I have a mental illness.

I am curious what my fellow bloggers think about this. Do you have a partner that understands your ups and downs of your mental illness, or are you like me and content with being alone?

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. SkyeJ.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

Emma Frances Logan

James Sutton

Going Through the Motions of Life

Life with a mental illness is a funny thing, and sometimes you just keep going through the motions of life.

When I am engaged in life, things are good. My writing flows, I get everything on my daily list done, and my focus is on point. I wish every day is good, but the reality of having a mental illness is that you will have days when you just go through the motions of life because of things like depression or anxiety. At times it just might be because it’s been a long week.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t be productive.

So that is where today’s blog topic is going. In your life with a mental illness, there are going to be times where you have to go through the motions of life on a given day. What does this mean? It means that you may have to do the things you need to, but you might not be here on earth mentally.

I find myself doing this often and I found myself doing it yesterday. I had an early start to my day. I woke up at 4:30 am (which I am far from a morning person) and I got going with my day. My morning was filled with tasks outside of my house and with the lack of sleep I got the night before, I decided to turn my mind on autopilot and go through the motions of life.

I just did the tasks that I could without worrying about things that are normally flooding my mind in my waking hours. It’s a strange feeling when I make the decision to go through the motions of life because there is a peace in my mind. It’s almost like being a robot, and I put one foot in front of the other. I don’t over think every second of my life, and the results of this type of day aren’t always bad.

I find that I can be very productive on an autopilot yesterday. I was able to write a blog post, a good one, in between tasks that morning. I usually need total focus to write a blog, but it worked out well enough that I could post a legit subject that seemed to be popular.I could post a legit subject that seemed to be popular.

I was able to write back comments on my blog from the night/early morning before I woke up. I was effective in completing my tasks up until got home almost five hours after walking where I finally crashed taking a much-needed nap for a few hours (this is a rare occurrence in my life but given that slept very little the previous four days it was expected.)

Even when I woke a few hours later, I did some tasks like working on a ​chapter and getting some reading for my business communications class done. I wrote a second small post about where my blog The Bipolar Writer is going. When I hit my limit, I was done for the day and spent the rest of my time binge-watching my favorite shows.

My point of this blog post is simple. Even when you have days where you have to go through the motions of life, it doesn’t mean that you should give up on your day. At any point yesterday morning I could have just given up on the day and make the decision to go back sleep before the tasks of my morning were done. In fact, in the middle, I did take much-needed rest, but I was still effective.

The other side of this is when you absolutely have to check out completely, don’t feel bad about it. Life with a mental illness is far from easy and you will experience days where getting out of bed seems impossible and checking out is possible. So, if you can, stay in bed and have a mental health day and maybe sleep in. Sure, in the long run, it is not an effective strategy to live life with a mental illness. 

If you can go through the motions of life, so it the best you can in that day until you reach the limit. The biggest thing is knowing your limit. If not take the day to work on your mental health by doing tasks like meditation or yoga. It could also mean just binge-watching Netflix all day, well then give yourself a break. Know your bodies limits when it comes to your mental health.

One thing I have learned on my Bipolar One journey is giving myself a break from life at least one day a week where my only goal is getting my mental health back on track. Even when I feel like I have no choice but to go through the motions in life, I “just do it” to steal the Nike phrase. You might surprise yourself that you can still be effective, I know I did yesterday.

I like to always end my blogs with a question and I am interested to hear from my fellow mental health bloggers.

What are some of the things you do when you “go through the motions of life” when you are mentally checked out of a day?

Have you ever found yourself effective despite checking out and going through the motions of life?

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: Anubhav Saxena