In The Face Of Mental Illness

There are often many things that fall by the wayside due to mental illness. They include, but are not limited to, hygiene, relationships, motivation, academics, social interaction, romance, honestly the list goes on and on. Though the one thing that I miss the most is probably a mixture of relationships, social interaction, and romance. I’ve had several romantic relationships in my years, none of them ending well, but also providing invaluable experience on what NOT to do the next time. I happen to have a rather uncanny ability to be attracted to women with their own mental health issues. It seems that out of all my romantic relationships, I have not had a single one that didn’t get rocky because of mental illness, mine, hers, or both. For example, my most recent relationship, which was several years ago now, ended because my partner was slowly killing herself through eating disorders and self harm. So, try as I could, I offered her as much help as humanly possible for someone struggling with their own mental health, but nothing helped. I imagine that she was where I reached with my depression not too long ago, where you just accept that life will be this way forever. After a year or two together, I couldn’t bear both watching her slowly fade away, or deal with my own depression. Unfortunately, even though I cared for this woman very deeply, still do actually, I had to end the relationship for my own mental health.

Romance is already a tricky subject for most people. There are those that believe that there is a single person whom matches the other perfectly. Which, from a scientific standpoint, is certainly plausible, as there are nearly 8 billion of us on the planet thus far. Then there are those, like myself, who go through numerous, often painful, experiences, both learning to love and be loved, until they find the right person for them. Humans are supposed to learn about love from their parents, both in an emotional viewpoint, as well as physical (Y’know, the “birds & the bees” talk). For those like me, this doesn’t happen. From my perspective, my parents never had what you would call a “healthy” marriage. So, right there is strike one, I couldn’t learn the correct way to love someone. Also I’ve discovered recently that the love from my parents is often conditional, though they claim otherwise. Strike two, couldn’t learn how to be loved in a healthy fashion. Then finally, the only person in this world that I felt that shared an unconditional love for one another, my grandmother, passed away in 2009. Which, honestly speaking, is still rather difficult for me to speak about. And there is strike three, losing the only “real” and “healthy” love I’ve ever had, caused me to rely on the “unhealthy” love that I experienced as a child. Then cue the numerous, highly unhealthy, incredibly painful romantic relationships that I did have in my teenage and young adult years. Still to this day, I yearn for the kind of love that my grandmother and I shared. I mean, it’s natural isn’t it? To want to be in a healthy, equal and fulfilling relationship with another person.

Now, I do care for my mother, very deeply; and by all accounts, she feels the same for me. However, the problem is, that she, probably unconsciously, sets these standards for me to meet, that I have yet to achieve. Whether it is cleanliness, academics, hobbies, financially, whatever, she has these expectations for me. Truthfully, I don’t blame her, as most if not all parents want their child to not only succeed, but surpass them. This is where I have my issues. My mother is a very driven individual, who has worked incredibly hard to get where she is, as well as what she has. That being said, she expected the same out of me. Unfortunately for the both of us, my depression derailed my progress in life very early on. It wasn’t even until I was 17 that anyone knew I was struggling so much (my first “major” suicide attempt). Granted, for someone like me, it was rather easy to hide my pain, especially from those closest to me. While I certainly do not blame my mother for my depression, she did exacerbate it during my youth. I was always a disappointment to her, from my grades, to sports, to friends, just about every aspect of my life didn’t “live up” to her expectations. While she still will wholeheartedly deny this, I cannot ignore the damage it has done to my psyche. I’m not sure if it is due to being depressed for so long, or if it’s just the way I am, but I am incredibly low maintenance. I am not bothered by unclean conditions, I don’t need the grass cut every week, I don’t even need to eat very often if I so choose. However, my mother is incredulous when it comes to cleaning, I will clean an area top to bottom, yet she will still find something that I missed, or ignored because no one ever sees it. For example, I would spend hours cleaning the bathroom, but she will still find places that aren’t even that dirty, that need to be cleaned, like behind the toilet. Enough about my mother, as you can tell, I am harboring a sizeable amount of resentment.

I do think that I miss social interaction the most, as it is usually the starting point for all relationships. Now that I am not depressed, I can start pushing myself towards more interactions. However, my social anxiety is still a very large burden, that prevents me from socializing quite often. For example, at my new job, despite developing a rapport with some colleagues, I still eat lunch by myself. I still barely speak when avoidable. I am not saying there is anything wrong with being solitary, or what the kids call “a lone wolf”. In fact, I often prefer it this way, because it is less maintenance on my part. Though like I stated prior, I am uncertain if this is due to my mental illnesses, or is just a part of my personality. Often times, especially lately, when I develop a romantic attraction towards another person, I have to take a step back. One because I need to make sure that it is genuine, not just a desire to be in a romantic relationship. Two, because as of late, these women that I am attracted to, are people that I work with. Three, because as I said, I have an uncanny ability to become attracted to women with mental illness(es). Also, there is a part of me that is still afraid of the pain involved with an unsuccessful relationship. Now, this is completely a natural fear, that almost everyone who has been through an “ugly” breakup experiences. Not many people like pain, and therefore we try our best to avoid it. However, I liken the situation with a young chick learning how to fly. As you may have heard, there are many species of bird that forcefully push their offspring out of the nest, where they either learn to fly, or die. Though, when it comes to romance, there often is not a “mother bird” to give us that push out of the nest (our comfort “zone”), so more times than not, we have to just make the leap ourselves, further inducing fear. The reason it is not easy for us (humans) to conquer our fear, is because fear is an evolved behavior of survival. To be afraid raises our blood pressure, increases our heart rate, increases the strain we can put on muscle fibers before they snap, all physically increasing our chance of “survival”. With such illnesses as anxiety, and whatever type of anxiety the person suffers from, we experience a “pre-programmed” aversion towards certain situations or objects. What initially was evolved to keep us alive, now makes our lives unbearable in most cases. I myself suffer from panic attacks, where I experience the physiological symptoms of fear, for what often are situations that are mundane and generally average. Not that I needed to explain a panic attack to a mental health audience, but hey, I’m a Biology Nerd. Anyways, this fear of exiting our “comfort zone” is also primal, as once our ancestors left their caves, they could ultimately die in a large number of fashions. This is usually incredibly multiplied in those of us with anxiety disorders. So even the thought of starting a conversation with a women I have an interest in, can send me into a state of panic (not really a full panic attack, but a “lite version”). So as you can probably imagine, actually doing it, well that seems entirely life or death in my mind. As we are most of the time opposed to death (at least should be) the act of speaking to a “crush” feels like jumping out of a plane with no parachute. Or in my metaphor’s case, jumping from the nest without knowing how to fly.

As a chronic over thinker, I will often isolate for the sole purpose of not over thinking. Conversations can go any number of ways with a specific person, and despite how I write, I prefer proactive rather than reactive. Add that together with my observatory skills, and you have yourself a fine recipe for unlimited anxiety. As during a conversation, I will not only be “preparing” for the different responses, I will be analyzing how the person reacted to my original statement, and further trying to predict the best course the conversation could take. The key word here is could, as despite how much effort I put into steering the conversation, people are near unpredictable. As you can imagine, or even relate, romance has not been easy for me. As many women who have reciprocated my attraction, there are many more whom I have “scared” away. If any of you, who have found a way to overcome your social anxiety, have any tips for me, I would greatly appreciate it. I think I have rambled on enough here, plus, my fingers are getting tired from all the typing.

ANYWHO, thanks for reading! ❤
Check me out on my own blog at Out of My Mind

My Delusions

So, as you are all probably painfully aware, depression is an illness that can take all of the life out of living. This was the case for me. For roughly 8 years, out of the 20+ years I’ve been depressed, I had nothing to live for. I tried to kill myself twice before 2011, when I was barely a teenager. Obviously, both tries were rather unsuccessful, I think that I have my poor planning skills to thank for that. My childhood was not great, but not awful either. Granted there was nearly constant bullying from people that I thought were my friends. However, you get into my teenage years, and it all seems to go even further downhill. I lose my will to live, secretly attempt suicide twice, and go through the motions with school, chores, relationships, etc. It wasn’t until 2011, that I really planned out my “next” suicide attempt. I had shoplifted 2 bottles of over the counter sleeping pills, that I originally was using for my insomnia, which I suppose could be related to my depression or even my anxiety. Though, I had gotten to a point, where I just couldn’t stand living another day. Going to school. going through the motions, getting bullied, going to football practice, coming home to a dysfunctional family, I just couldn’t do any of it anymore. So, over the course of about 3 hours, I drafted my first real suicide note. Posted it to Facebook, and then took roughly about 150 sleeping pills. This was my first serious suicide attempt. By serious, I mean, it actually had a chance of succeeding. Luckily for me, someone called the police once they saw my suicide note on Facebook, and I was saved, by the “skin of my teeth”. I woke up probably a day later, on a respirator machine, in the ICU of the local hospital. My parents both there beside me, with a rather obvious mix of anger, sadness, and joy written all over their faces. I then promptly got committed to an in-patient facility, and began my near lifelong journey in the mental health system. If any of you reading this are also residents of the lovely United States, you know that our mental health “system” is severely lacking, and filled with stigma.

So, the next few years weren’t easy, by any standpoint. Though I graduated high school, enrolled in college, had a rather serious girlfriend at the time, and life was going, not great, but well…at least for a little while. It was in college that I finally tried medication for my conditions, and not quickly, discovered that I was medication resistant. So, I believed that with a mix of medication and weekly therapy, I would be able to get back to living my life. For several years, it kinda worked, though I was still plagued by incessant suicidal thoughts, and severely deep depression. I also developed a rather unhealthy dependence on alcohol, but that’s for another time. Fast-forwards a bit, to 2016. I was technically a senior in college, but due to my inability to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I needed a fifth year in college. As a small side note, I couldn’t pay for my 5th year, as the scholarship I was “awarded” only lasted the 4 years. I was barely keeping my head above water at this point. Seeing my therapist every week, was basically the only thing keeping me alive. Though, with the constant suicidal thoughts, I always had a plan in motion to kill myself, I would just never act on it. My therapist knew this, and gave me some leeway in not committing me. The problem is, I was spiraling the drain, and I knew it, but I did nothing to stop it. What definitely didn’t help, was my chemistry teacher was also my academic advisor. He, when I went to him to schedule spring semester classes, told me that I would never amount to anything in life, or be hired by any company, if my GPA wasn’t above a 3.0, which it wasn’t. This single line is what pushed me over the edge. Turned, what I call “passive” suicidal thoughts, into “active” suicidal thoughts. One day, during my chemistry class, with Professor…oh I’m sorry…DR.WHATEVER THE HELL HIS NAME IS, I got fed up with listening to him pretending to be a good teacher. So I stormed out of his class, went to my therapist, and told her that I was probably going to act on my plan…SO, in what not to do to someone standing on the edge, she called the police on me, and had me committed to in-patient…

Fast-forwards a few more years now, I was single again, and have gone through several jobs with promising companies (contrary to what my advisor said) and began working at a rather large laboratory company. I, once again, began circling the drain, and I saw it coming from a mile away. I hated my job, hated my life, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah you get where I’m headed with this, right? So, this time, wanting my life to be different, and not go back to in-patient, I quit my job. Right there, on the spot, no warning, no advance notice. I then began to look into ECT treatment, which you all have probably heard me talk about before, so I’ll skip explaining it. After about 6 months of ECT treatment, I finally began to feel better. I went from, essentially, the bottom of a ravine, to the peak of a mountain, in the course of a few weeks. Yeah, I’ve read the articles that ECT causes permanent brain damage, and that the “elation” that I felt, was simply a symptom of the concussions ECT was giving me. I don’t believe any of that. I was saved by ECT, because it was more or less, my last resort. After a couple months of feeling like I was on top of the world (or so I thought). I began to “level out” and stopped being so happy all the time (which probably was as unhealthy as depression) and began experiencing what “normal” feels like. It was then that I was scared that a I would fall back into my deep depression, as my mood was starting to dip. What I didn’t realize for a few weeks, was that life is basically a whole lot of “blah” feelings, with a little bit of sadness or happiness sprinkled in at the right moments. So, coming off of this “high” I was on after my depression faded, I was scared of falling back into depression. I was under the impression that this “happiness” I felt, was going to be the way I was from then on. Of course, I was wrong. And contrary to my beliefs, my mood stabilized around a sort of “grey” middle-ground between happiness and sadness. This was not something I had ever experienced before, so I was (needlessly) worried for quite some time.

Y’know, I was under the impression that life would get easier once my depression was gone. While technically I was right, I was also completely wrong at the same time. I have always known that life is not easy, for almost everyone. Of course I also knew that this really depended on where and who you were born to. I have known for a long time, that I got rather lucky, as I was born a white male, to a successful mother, in the United States. Although, I was convinced that once my depression was gone, I would be able to do all the things I needed to do, that I couldn’t while depressed. Such as chores, simple self-hygiene, socializing, finish my degree, get a good job, pay my own bills, move out on my own. Y’know, become a true adult. While life certainly is much easier to manage without constant suicidal thoughts, and all the depression symptoms, it is not as easy as I thought it would be. I was unemployed for 7 months, in order to get my ECT treatments done. Though, because of my bills, I never stopped looking for a job after I quit my last one. Though, I have to say, until I was hired around the end of July, I have never had as much trouble finding a job, as I had during those 7 months. Even depressed, I had a seamless transition between two jobs, for more pay, and less commute. Though, without my depression, with all the energy and motivation that I had regained, I couldn’t find a suitable job for the life of me. I still dealt with all the same issues that I did while I was depressed. I couldn’t take care of myself, I could barely pay my bills, I didn’t do chores, I still had a drinking problem, I still had massive anxiety, it was like nothing even changed. My life was supposed to get better by leaps and bounds without depression, or so I convinced myself. The problem that I didn’t account for, is that life always sucks, whether you’re mentally ill or not. Life is always hard, and nothing will fall into your lap just because you want it. Like I said, life did get easier for me, but marginally (Compared to my “predictions” anyways).

I just had to realize a few things that most people learn in their childhoods (that I didn’t thanks to depression). #1, life is hard, for EVERYONE, regardless of circumstance. #2, life is not all happiness without depression. Like I said, it’s mostly this weird “grey” area, with a little bit of happiness and sadness sprinkled in. #3, if I want ANYTHING in my life, I am going to have to bust my a*s for it, no excuses. #4, my depression is in REMISSION, not cured. Unfortunately there is no cure for depression (yet), and it will worm it’s way back into my life at times. I just have to hope that I have enough experience to deal with it the right way, rather than just kill myself. Once I realized these things, life didn’t seem so bad. I go to work, pay my bills, hang out with my friends, actually live life. So if you are still struggling with mental illness, don’t delude yourself the way I did. Although life will get better if you get your illness under control, it won’t magically become super awesome. So continue with your treatment plan, go to therapy, take your meds, and just bust your butt, until what you want is realized. Having a dream that you are striving towards is usually a double-edged sword, take my word for it. It is great to have a goal in life, but you either have to make it realistic, or be prepared to never reach your goal. Granted, with a wild, outlandish aspiration, there will be a boatload of fun along the way, but it will be incredibly more difficult. So, y’know what, live your life the best you can. When your time comes, as all ours will, just make sure that you had enough good times to look back on as it all fades to black.

Hopefully this wasn’t too depressing for you people. I really wrote a lot didn’t I? Sorry…not sorry…hope you enjoyed reading. As always I would love to hear from all of you on what I should write about next. Especially since the future for the BPW blog is a little fuzzy at the moment.

ANYWAYS, hope you all have wonderful days today, and forever ❤

It’s Your Path in Your Time-Don’t Compare it to Others

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In a recent conversation with a friend, the subject of how easy it is to compare ourselves to others came up. We talked about how when we look at something that someone else has accomplished, especially if we have a similar dream, it feels natural to wonder how they climbed the mountain of success, how we can do it like them or even why we haven’t.

This is a vice for many, and a dark tunnel I entered many times through my journey, sometimes so focused on someone else’s happy ending, I lost sight of my own. While every now and then I find myself staring into the dark once again, I now close my eyes and realize what I learned from my past lessons.

That there is much more to someone’s back story then we will ever know, and each of us not only has a unique script, but a time for it to be told. 🧡

While we may all picture similar paths for ourselves, not one us accomplishes this life the same, not one of us is passionate for the same reason or dreams the same way. Each of us are unique, because each of us bring something spectacular to the table in our own perfect time.

Don’t compare yourself to those around you, believe in the uniqueness of your story, shine the light only you possess and walk the path only you were meant to, because the mountain may be steep, but it’s yours and yours alone, and it will be worth the climb. 🦋🧡

Much love,

Lisa J.

Life List

When I was ready to live in my truth, it felt like home ~ Lisa J.

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Photo by Pixabay

I had something profound happen to me last night that seemed like the cherry on top of a lovely day. If you’ve kept up on my blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed an underlying theme. I enjoy writing about how I’m finding my way to my happiness, and now that I’ve revamped the definition of my happiness, my path to my truth. It is also my practice and my joy to inspire others to look from a different perspective, believe in who they are, and listen to their hearts and the quiet voice from within.

In an earlier post, “This is Me, This is My Why”, I gave a short summary of my crazy life, which was a small glimpse of my sometimes chaotic, rocky, dark and unsteady, but purposeful journey. During these years of my life, never did I realize I was developing awareness or learning lessons that would have led me to where I am now, and it is a common occasion when I don’t realize just how far I’ve come.

Last night, I stumbled upon a “Life List” I wrote back in 2006, and as the name implies, it is a list of 60 things I wanted to accomplish in this life. However, the profound and fascinating part to me is not necessarily the list, but that I truly don’t ever remember making this list, why I made this list, or even that it was here in this house. Last night it served as a giant reminder, sign, smack in the face, whatever you want to call it, as to how much I’ve grown and changed, but yet, not changed, in the last 12 years.

While the entire list is not completed, like visiting Australia or New York, many, many of them are, and I honestly didn’t realize I was checking them off. This is truly something extraordinary that makes me realize my true nature, even when I thought I lost it so many years ago, stayed with me through dark and light, good and bad, so when I was ready to live in that truth, it felt like home.

The entire list is lengthy, so I won’t name them all, but I will touch on the ones that are significant and eye opening to me. The truth is though, to truly understand why this is so profound, you must understand where I was in my life when I wrote it. With no question, I had no idea where, or what, my life purpose or meaning was, or even what I was doing with myself or how to live without drama or madness; however, the items on this list were as important to me then (which I didn’t realize) as they are now, and made it full circle to becoming the foundation of this blog that I only began in July of this year without consciously realizing.

The below consists of various practices I apparently had hoped to accomplish, and many achieved, and you can see, at different periods over the last 12 years, and those I did not even think to begin to practice until this past July:

Forgiveness (2018); Be more confident (ongoing); Quit smoking (2011); Positivity (2018); Meditate (2006 and then never again until 2018); Remove the negative and take control of my life (2017-18); Get my Bachelors (2020, I’ll be 41); Pray more (2018, which I never thought I would do again); Face my fears (2018); Stop worrying about getting everyone’s approval (2018); Start running/exercise (2013); Coach (2011-2014); Volunteer (started at the animal shelter 2010); Travel to places I’ve never been (2006-present); and Inspire (hopefully, 2018). I can say without a doubt, this list got lost never to be thought of again until last night, but MOST of them happened within the last 12 years, without me even realizing.

I continue to be in awe that these items were written so many years ago and although I consciously did not see them every day, I was subconsciously checking them off one by one. That in mind, and as powerful as this is to me, I’ve decided to make a new list, but this time around, I plan to make it visible every day:

1)   All the stuff from the first list that is ongoing, or I have not yet accomplished, like learning to Salsa;

2)   Get married;

3)   Write for a living;

4)   Co-Create with one of my closest friends;

5)   Own a business (this was also on list #1);

6)   Practice self-care (eat better, exercise, meditate);

7)   Appreciate and be grateful for everybody and everything, small and large in my life;

8)   Travel, and travel more;

9)   Walk with faith;

10)                Love lots…

Your mind is a beautiful, mysterious and incredible thing. What we desire in this life is attainable if we desire from a place of passion, truth and love. Sit down, have the thoughts, say them out loud, make a list, plant the seeds in your subconscious, and your true nature and path will reveal itself, even if it’s 12 years later.

Much Love,
Lisa J.

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoCathryn Lavery

Developing a Diagnosis Dictionary

Last week I wrote about how SMD mad I was about being classified as something.  Ticked off by someone else who would doom me to no WOman’s mental illness land and I would cry uncontrollably, deteriorate significantly, and require care in a padded room for eternity as is the life of I dunno, severely sick anything.  And for a long time, I got cross about that.  I got to cross that my future, my life, my children’s lives, were determined by less than a 15-minute consultation where someone says oh, I dunno, your brain is going to die soon.  Because that’s how it feels.  Either it’s going to die, or you are going to need a brain transplant (don’t know or think this is recommended).  But as last week’s blog pointed out, after you’ve been ticked as loony, over the hill, whatever, well there aren’t really excellent places to go, other than the candy dispenser at the psych hospital or my personal favorite – the smoking balcony at 2 am in the morning – to keep the nurses on their toes.

So I’ve decided to do something different – and I hope that you will help me.  I want to re-write the dictionary that makes us people with mental illness what we are.  The list of symptoms and synonyms that are used to prescribe and prognosis – what is “wrong” with us.  Heck, I am even prepared to write a more politically correct set of stereotypes, so at least we can be nicknamed more appropriately.  Yes.  It’s like my own mother says I have multiple personality disorder when I don’t.  Gees.  Don’t get the stigma confused!   If you are going to insult me, please use the correctly developed, politically appropriate names people with mental illness allow.

No, I haven’t taken my meds for the longest time – but I want a different set of criteria, analysis and engagement to inform the meds I can and should take, different therapies that work, and the truth about the stuff that doesn’t work.  About the pretty things and the ugly things that families that people with mental illness don’t know about and need to be prepared for.  For example, I always tell my littlest daughter to have a bubble around her heart – and I say this because I’m known to be irritable and snap quickly, even when I really don’t mean to.  Especially not with her.  But it happens, and although I say sorry, perhaps by describing our dictionary more clearly,   by preparing them and us, through the heart-est won experience, we and ours can be ready to face the world with the reality we seek to bring about.   And while that littlest daughter and I love unicorns the most that is not the reality I’m talking about.

For example, I think my first listing would be Ashtma Inducing Anxiety.  This is the kind where you feel your chest close, and you hyperventilate, and you feel like your stomach is a washing machine twisting your guts clothing inside out,  and you may squidge out a nervous fart or two as you calm / a cough yourself down.  Yes, similar indeed.  I am serious, and I am dedicated to building a new future for people with mental illness. I am not a disorder, I am not a description, I am not the only diagnosis and getting it wrong could result really, in another kind of dead, neither you or I want to see.  Help me.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4M’s Bipolar Mom.

Photo Credit: Romain Vignes

Tweenager Teachers

For a while, I have not been able to write.  I was consumed by working to save lives (through amazing organizations), buying beads to make awesome jewelry in the future, discovering double chocolate coffee and awesome stuff like that.  And then as to be expected in a comical existence such as mine, life took over me.  It started by my kids being held at gunpoint for their phones, an immediate emergency extraction of teeth (x3), a dose of severe gastro which meant I couldn’t take my medication, followed by being robbed at home, of three of MY most prized possessions:  kettle to make coffee, my NEW phone (that took amazing pictures of my children), and my speakers that lifted me with mom cooking tunes, which usually brought about (never show anyone) mom cooking showstopping dance moves, whilst making supper before my family would usually get home.

At first, I was overcome.  Disabled even.  Angry, sad, a lot of things.  I put my development hat on and argued that crime was a result of so many years of pain, impoverishment and racial segregation and that it would be addressed if we worked harder to address poverty and inequality.  That argument lasted a good three minutes until I profoundly missed my so carefully compiled biscuit baking board on Pinterest, and the opportunity to take a selfie where my ex-phone automatically added lipstick and eyelashes.  Which self-respecting girl with mental illness doesn’t want a phone that makes her look like she has made up on (which she never wears) and makes her look awesome even better than other filter adding apps we’ve come to know and love.  NONE.  No.  We all want to look like we’ve spent hours applying our faces, when in fact, I usually prefer to get up after nine, stay in pj’s ’til five minutes before my family gets home, and then I run and shower and pretend like I’ve been um, clean, the whole day.

If you thought this was enough – the mental illness gods thought they’d add another dose of  “humor” into my life by bringing about an impromptu sleepover of nonstop eating/ talking/walking/playing / loud 12-year-old girls.  x 4.  And I will say that I loved my coordinator of the sleepover – my own 12 years old – less.   But what unfolded, was a number of tweens teaching me what was really important and what I needed to remember.  Being multi-racial, different aged, different voiced, different body shaped, they told me about being bullied for being fat, for having a skirt too short, basically anything that set them apart from others.  Well, these others were pretty unscrupulous – they could even tease you for being thin. They talked about the popular girls who set the rules in the school, who issued nicknames that were scrawled inside the toilet doors of the school.  That was heavily branded on the very vulnerable hearts and minds on whom they were issued.

A lot sounded similar.  A lot sounded like the playground we found ourselves in as people with mental illness.  The loud and silent taunting of ourselves because we are other, too extra, and in my case, much fat, chocolate inhaling someone, who is the most socially awkward person around.  And I realized something as I was talking to them, attempting to offer advice:  the bullies are usually less than those being bullied because let’s just been honest, most of us are in some way socially awkward whether we admit it or not.  And that if we all stood up, mental illness or not, that if we all shouted stop at the same time, maybe just maybe, we’d be able to call out the bullies, and cut what could be and is the most emotionally damaging in its tracks.  Because no-one should ever, ever keep quiet when someone else is made to cry.

For any reason whatsoever.  So instead of being sad, instead of being silenced, or taken out by what life’s dished my way, I am reminded that friends and family are the most important, that material possessions don’t matter, and that being extra is ok.  It’s more than ok.  It makes us better than anyone else. ’cause alongside that extraness is a whole lot of empathy that my tweenager taught me today.  I am reminded of what matters.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.

I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoThought Catalog

Invisible Illness

I heard / saw somewhere that mental illness is an invisible illness.   That people with mental illness are not afforded the proverbial “ramps” they require in order to cope and survive in the world.  And whilst I would suggest moving stairs as a must have for anyone with mental illness, particularly up hill, it’s actually this suggested invisibleness which amuses me so.  You see, if you’ve ever met me, or anyone who is really chronically ill, let’s just say that there’s a lot you’d rather wish you didn’t see, because this chick with severe Bipolar is a very proudly uninvisible me.  Also, if you didn’t know, I would be worried about YOU,

I know that I am inappropriate, that I say the wrong things at the wrong time.  That my brain mouth filter does not work, no matter how many times I try and lodge the closest item into my mouth, to avoid the lithium language that well, lingers after it’s come out.  Yes, I have been known to be THE singular fart in an otherwise perfume factory.  In fact, this endearing trait is perhaps my only consistent thing I’m able to do.  Basically, the opposite of everything that is socially acceptable and done by everyone else.  I’ve had these extraordinary abilities since I was little.  Even then I would feel and experience everything at least 1000 times more than anyone else.  I didn’t have a precise meter to measure this, other than the fact that my siblings didn’t vomit each day they had to go to school, on account of the nauseating anxiety of being late.  It appeared at least through this example,  that I was gut wrenchingly experiencing something else.  Well at least literally, my little psychiatrist self in the making believed.

I am also the same person that will make you three different kinds of biscuits if you come for tea, will write / draw (with no artistic ability) a little note with biscuits I send to take home, I will share my last piece of bread. I also have an even more extraordinary ability which not all people have:  the patience and understanding to help you cry. The kind of cry that’s tucked away, the pain in teardrops no-one wants to see.  No mental illness is not all sadness – but it is in my experience about hard earned boundless empathy.  When you’ve felt the spectrum of emotion I have in my long short life, there are very few emotions I have not encountered. And although I personally flip flopped through my own experience, I am now a well-versed pro in how to deal with anything uncomfortable, clumsy, drowsy, emotional anything.

But no matter how uncomfortable the world may be with my unbridled display of emotion – or stigmatised madness – I am not invisible.  My experiences are not invisible.  My daily fight to conquer my mental illness is real.  And if my eyes look slightly dazed, it isn’t because I’m mad.  It’s because I’m TIRED.  I am taking a nap, while standing, looking at you.  Yes, I have mastered this art too. Because when insomnia is real, you can sleep awake.  I’ve done and do this, cigarette in hand.   I can sing, and I can cry, even within the shortest space of time.  I feel inappropriate feelings at inappropriate times, and if it’s hard for anyone to see or be around, they are infinitely unaware of how it is overwhelmingly amplified in what I can see and feel in me.

People with mental illness are not invisible, we matter, and how we feel matters too.  The world has done the opposite I think/.  Pretended that mental illness doesn’t exist, or when it does, it should be housed in the strait jacket of psychiatric hospital and disability stuff. ’cause in the absence of ongoing stability (we are programmed to believe we can and will relapse) we do have this:  an abundance of feelings we do and don’t like.  All. The. Time. And if you don’t understand it, just think about this:  you would never want to be, at a minimum, invisible.  Please don’t do it to me.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t. I am 4M’s Bipolar Mom.

unsplash-logoGregory Pappas

My Insomniac Life

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting,

dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.

We loved with a love that was more than love.

Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!”

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream  

only by night.

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall

say where the one ends, and where the other begins?

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December; And each separate dying ember

wrought its ghost upon the floor.

 All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and

poetry.

 And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted—

nevermore!

– Edgar Allan Poe

My Insomniac Life

* This is a long chapter but an important one as it is a major part of my own mental health– sleep is always an issue in my life.

This is a long chapter, and I apologize for it being so. This might become a series as I start to work on my insomnia again.

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Insomnia has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I like to joke to people that “it’s in my blood to not sleep.” But, it is a severe issue in my life. You ask any professional they will tell you that good sleep is key to your mental health.

Unlike most of the things wrong with my life, like living with Bipolar disorder or my social anxiety, I have never felt in control of being an insomniac. I have been through several sleep studies in my life, but they never amount to actually helping me. I have worked on my sleep hygiene but, to no avail, it doesn’t really help me get to sleep. My biggest problem is the actual getting to sleep.

I can remember growing up eight or nine and not being able to sleep. Over the years it has become impossible to get to sleep without medication. I can’t remember the last time I could lay down and go to sleep without medication. I sometimes joke about this because I feel insecure about my rest. If I really think about it, I spend more time at night trying to shut my brain off enough to get sleep, than actually getting to sleep. I have tried every sleeping medication on the market, both prescription and not, and at best they’re a temporary fix.

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What has gotten me through the last few years is that I take the antipsychotic Seroquel to help with my Bipolar disorder and it is one medicine that can sleep. It’s the one medication that has been consistent in my life because it does a great job at shutting my brain down (although the side effects of having trouble getting out of bed as well as being in a constant haze have always been the worst.) Over the years my dosage of Seroquel has changed.

At one point in my life, I took that max dosage of Seroquel allowed for a patient at 600mg every night. This was early in my diagnoses in 2007, and it went like that for years. Most days that dosage got me to sleep, but the problem was that oversleeping became an issue. When I would oversleep, it would make it harder to sleep the next day. I grew wildly inconsistent with my sleep, and sometimes I would go days without sleep even with the high dose of Seroquel. My days were spent mostly in a haze, at least a few hours after waking. The drug is potent, and I felt that sleep would be impossible without it.

Around 2012 when I was starting to get back to normal, and going back to school was on the horizon, my doctor and I came up with a plan to find a workable dosage where I could still function. Eventually, we settled on a 300mg dose. It worked for three or four years and while I even got less than five hours of sleep, but at least it was something.

I should have realized last year that my sleep was starting to become a major issue again. There would be spurts of time over the previous year where sleep was impossible at 300mg. My doctor at the time made a choice to give me options. I would get 100mg tablets and continue to take the 300mg dose with the opportunity to go up to 600mg if needed.

It was slow, but the dosage over the last year has steadily increased. It started with 400mg to get me to sleep, and I would raise it to 500mg if needed. Sometimes it took that much more, but 400mg was enough.

Then this weekend happened. If I had known on Friday that my sleep would take a wrong turn, I might have worked harder to get back down to my 300mg dosage in the weeks prior. By I digress.

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It started on Saturday. I knew I had to wake up around 5am over the next couple days, so I figured why not go to sleep at a decent time? It usually takes me two hours from the time I take my Seroquel, to the time my mind shuts down so I can sleep. I took my usual 400mg and went to bed— early. I honestly tried to sleep. I was in total darkness, and I just laid there not feeling even a little tired.

I figured it was a night for another single dose, so I did that, and still sleep escaped me. Hours had started to pass, and I began to panic that I wouldn’t get enough sleep, it turns out that was the least of my worries. Around 2 am, I decided I had to get some sleep before waking up and did the unthinkable. For the first time in five years, I took a max dosage.

This story doesn’t get better. I didn’t sleep that night/morning and still had to get up to be normal. I had to do the things that were planned. I was exhausted. I felt heavy. The worst part is, it was about to get worse. By the time the evening rolled around, I could barely keep myself upright, and I figured why not try and sleep? My anxiety was at a very high level, and it was already in my head things were only going to get worse.

I tried to go long into the night before taking my medication, but I finally had enough around 6pm. I received my regular dose, and I was barely aware of my surroundings. I laid down with the hope of falling asleep, and for some reason that woke me up. I lay there in my bed once again my thoughts racing faster than the day before. It had been close to 36 hours since I last slept. After an hour, I upped my dosage to 500mg. After two more hours of lying there, I took one more dose. After 40 hours, sleep finally consumed me.

This is where I find myself today. I am depressed about this because of it such a significant deal and its finals this week. I am worried that tonight will be another step in the wrong direction with my sleep. I have no choice but to really work on my CBT today so that there is a hope to get my mind right. I have to get my mind right.

Insomnia like depression never comes when life is good, and nothing can bring you down. It happens when your mental health has taken a beating you are failing to recognize the symptoms and even the triggers. When I am overworked, I tend to forgo the things that help me get by. CBT, meditation, or using my heat lamp in the mornings. When my routine starts to change like waking up later and later each day.

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Your body always gives you signs. It does that to protect itself from total collapse. Considering what I have put my body through over the last ten years, my body is well versed in what is wrong. I implore you in this mental illness life to take a moment each day and assess where you at with your health. How many hours did you sleep? There is often a correlation between sleeping less and less each night and when my social anxiety starts to spiral.

Sometimes in this life, all three hit me at once. My social anxiety, depression, and anxiety. This is what I call my worst-case scenario because it takes its toll. For me, it starts with sleep. The less I get, the more issues I have in my day. I still don’t have it exactly right. I am weary that Insomnia will always be a part of my life.

Many of the conversations that I have with my therapist when my social anxiety is spiraling is how your sleep is? Insomnia can be a dangerous thing. I remember before all my sleeping medications and Seroquel that I would go days without real sleep. I once almost made it to six days before exhaustion caught up.

In those times my thoughts would race for days. I couldn’t tell you how I functioned and in a way, I didn’t function at all. I would do what I could to occupy my time. Playing video games often helped me. Watching DVD’s for hours on end (this was before the whole Netflix thing.) I would lay there in the darkness for hours until the morning light reached through my window to tell me it was another day. The worse my sleep got, the worse my other things like depression got.

In my chapters about my suicides, you find that insomnia is tied into each one. My sleep was so bad at one point that I took a sleeping aid on top of the Seroquel. The thing is, medication only works for so long. In about seven years I went through every sleep aid my psychiatrist could give me. Eventually, they stopped helping.

My battle with insomnia has been a really long one, and it seems one that I will bring with me for the rest of my life. One day I will find a better way of managing those two-three hours it takes me each night to get to sleep. My point is rest is the most essential part of the mental health recovery process. If you struggle with it and haven’t sought help, there are many resources available to you.

Always Keep Fighting (AKF)

James

Photo Credit:
Quin Stevenson

kaluci

Annie Spratt

Rafael Barquero

JD Mason

A Chapter from “The Bipolar Writer” Memoir

Today I decided to share one of the (completed but never complete) chapters of my memoir. I was asked several times over the past few weeks to discuss my thoughts on suicide. In my life I have tried unsuccessfully three times, that does not count the countless times I thought about it. This is an unusually long chapter so I would recommend only reading it when you have time.

 J.E.’s Thoughts on Suicide

Suicide. I have my own personal thoughts on this subject. This is just a part of what I will talk about on the subject of suicide.

In the darkest places of my mind, I still remember how it felt when suicide was consuming my every thought. I must go to that place again, but this time it’s only to understand and give you an idea of how suicidal thoughts was my life for the first three years of my diagnosis.

Many of us are put on this earth to help others deal with the same problems. I like to think this is one of those times and I am that person. I want to share my thoughts on suicide from my experience. You may not like every word that I say here in this chapter. Writing about suicide is never easy, and any writer who has experienced suicidal thoughts knows that once you are past suicide, it not fun to discuss. There is always a chance at relapsing back into suicidal thoughts, so I write this in hopes that I continue to know that suicide is not the answer.

I have so much to say about suicide. I have had the unfortunate pleasure of going down the road to suicide three times in my life, and surandy-jacob-358648-unsplash.jpgrvive. That doesn’t count the suicidal thoughts that have waged war in my head for so many years. I am one of the lucky ones in a way because I survived. There are so many of my fellow mental illness sufferers that have taken their life. I wear for them because I wish I could save every person that is suicidal. I had to get to a good place first, but I hope if you are reading this you understand the necessity of such a chapter.

I am afraid and excited at the same time to write suicide. I haven’t explored my thoughts about suicide other than expressing that I am against it to anyone that would listen since I started to figure out myself in this mental illness life. I have tried three unsuccessful times to take my life. It feels so strange to say I have survived, but it’s true.

The topic of suicide rarely comes up in my real life, and never in this way. That comes from in part because of the stigma and from people not wanting to talk about suicide. It took one person asking to write my thoughts about suicide that gave me the strength to write about this subject. So here I go.

It has taken me many years to be in the right place with my diagnosis so that talking about suicide is something that I can do. It’s been a over seven years since my last suicide attempt. Since that time I always advocate against suicide.

To be in a place where suicide is the only option isn’t as fresh in my mind, but it is the worst feeling I have ever felt in my life. I remember it well. You never forget the depths of the darkness that is suicidal thoughts. The places that my mind went to when my depression was at its darkest was hell, and it felt like there was no escape. I wanted to be anywhere but in my own body.

I thought it best to talk about my own experiences with suicide first. It speaks to why I tell people there is always a better alternative than to give into suicide.

My experiences with suicide attempts were the result of weeks of very little sleep. The constant racing of my thoughts would consume my every second. I spent so many minutes convincing myself that I was not good enough to live in the same world as everyone else. I went inward into myself disappearing from the real world. My appetite would disappear, and speaking words would escape me. I spent hours on end and days in bed lost in endless darkness. It was consuming to a point where I needed to escape this life.

Nothing was real to me the weeks leading up to my first suicide attempt. My girlfriend at the time always had to worry about my mental health. Weeks before, I had said goodbye to the world on social media. My family found me before I could take it to the level of suicide. The darkness was still there in my mind. I found myself convincing everyone in kasper-rasmussen-656992-unsplash.jpgmy family that things in my life were okay. I said, “I am fine” too much that I almost believed it to be true. I told everyone I was on the mend. It was a lie.

I don’t know why I wanted to convince the people that loved me that I was okay. It may have been a selfish need to make myself feel better about what I was planning, and yes it was very selfish. I failed to think or care about anyone but myself. It took three suicides for me to come to grip with reality. My suicide attempts hurt the people that loved me; it shows how selfish I was being.

Being who I am, I did research on suicide methods. I saw the real stats on suicides, and I didn’t care if I became another statistic on a website. The tools were there to let someone know that I was suicidal. Calling the suicide helpline should have been the first thing I did, but I didn’t want help. I wanted not to exist. I found the only means to take my life that was accessible to me, an overdose. It wasn’t a great solution, but at the time it felt right, even if it felt wrong after.

Over the weekend and the days leading up to my first suicide attempt, I didn’t sleep. I was fighting a war inside my head, and the battles were endless. I always remember my first suicide because the event happened during Thanksgiving week. I remember feeling angry that the doctors wouldn’t release me after I told them I was no longer suicidal. Looking back it was another lie, and it makes me sad that this was the first time in my life I would miss Thanksgiving.

My first suicide attempt failed because wanting not to be a part of this world was my cry for help. That is why I decided to tell the world that I planned to end my life, again (I had talked about suicide only a few weeks earlier on social media.) Deep down I wanted my family to stop me, which is what happened. The people that love me found me in time. It took me years to come to this conclusion. At the time, I was so mad at the world for surviving that all I could see was my will not to live.

It’s a weird feeling when you finally take that leap to commit suicide (for lack of a better word). At that moment the world became surreal for me. Everything in my mind became clear, and I felt for the first time that I was at peace. It wasn’t real peace of course, and it was only a temporary feeling. One that ended when I thought my life did.

I remember some of what happened next. Being rushed to the hospital. The doctors and nurses were forcing a black charcoal substance down the throat. The faint conversations about me trying committing suicide. The doctors and nurses knew something wrong with what I did, even if I didn’t believe it. Then, many hours later, a nurse and a security guard pushing me down a long hallway to the psych ward.

That was the first time that I was so deep into depression that I turned to suicide. Within a month, I tried again with the same result, a stint in the psych ward. I chose to write about the first and second suicide attempts together for two reasons. The first deep-down I didn’t want to die in those first two hasan-almasi-657415-unsplash.jpgsuicides. I can say that with confidence. The second suicide attempt was a month between my first suicide attempt so meshes in mind. I don’t remember much from the time in between and why I tried to kill myself so quickly after the first time. I mention this because it is different than the last time I committed suicide. It would be about two and a half years before I would be so deep into depression that suicide became my only solution.

In 2010, I again wanted to end my life, and the need to not be a part of this world was consuming. It had been two and a half years since my last attempt, and my life had only gotten worse. I was amid the most extended depression cycle of my life that spanned from 2006. I could not find my place in the world. I barely existed as is leaving my house only a handful of times in those first three years.

It was rare for me to leave my house during this time. When I was alone, my thoughts were dark. I imagined walking out of my house and down the street to walk into traffic on the highway. These thoughts were occurring almost daily as I continued my struggle with depression. I thought about hanging myself from the huge oak tree next to my house. I thought about slicing my wrists and bleeding out on my bed which was the couch in my parents living room. I thought about the many ways I could remove myself from existence, and it became an obsession for a month. I was on edge all the time just waiting for the time where it became too much and the only way to finally find peace was to jump.

Outside my immediate family, most of the people in my life gave up on me by 2010. If I am honest, only my mother still had faith in me at that time. Most of my family came to realize that if I wanted to commit suicide, there was not much anyone could do to stop me. I don’t blame them for giving up or for feeling helpless. I was the worst version of myself during these years.

I remember one day I was especially suicidal and some of my family came to visit my parents. I was alone in the dark with my thoughts when my aunt came into my room to check on me. My aunt is the sweetest lady in the world, but I was in a dangerous place in my mind. I picked a verbal fight with her. I resented when she called the cops after I told her if she didn’t leave me alone I would kill my myself. Suicide became this horrible weapon that I could wield against people who only wanted to help me. My aunt forgave me for it, but I often remember this and feel sorry for the altercation.

It was much of the same behaviors as the last time I tried to commit suicide, but it was also different. The most glaring difference was that for the first time in my life, I wanted to die. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted it to happen and that it would happen. Since the day of my diagnosis with Bipolar One, I didn’t believe that I would make it out of my twenties. There was something wrong with me. At that moment in 2010, it was becoming clear that my life was going to end.mitchell-hollander-282004-unsplash.jpg

I planned everything this time. For weeks, I hoarded my Seroquel so that I could take such an intense amount that it would kill me. At this point in my life, I was no longer in charge of holding onto my medicine only to take it. I found ways to pretend to take my medication. I told no one of my plans. I stopped all my online activity. I disconnected from life. It was lucky that my friend couldn’t get ahold me and had my parents checked in on me. It saved my life.

I don’t remember anything after taking my medication that night. Years later my mom told me it was the scariest suicide attempt that she had to live through. It was with reluctance that she explained what happened. I was in a coma for three days (which I remember waking from and thinking what the hell, why is there a catheter in me?.) The doctors had no idea if I would live or die, but one thing they were sure of, that my family got to me with little time to spare.

I spend a week in the hospital after I came out of the coma, and I my doctors released me into the care of my parents. About two days after my release I collapsed on the dining room table and had a seizure. It was in taken in an ambulance that brought me to the hospital where I had three more seizures over the next twenty-four hours. It was the scariest thing in the world that I have ever lived through in this life.

It is hard to believe I survived it all. My doctors thought it was a late reaction to the overdose but they were never actually sure, and never gave me a definite answer to my I had seizures. I was on anti-seizure medication for two years, and luckily I have never had another seizure. It was these two hospitalizations that changed my life and finally made me open to fix my problems.

Why tell this story? For one, a request came through that I share my thoughts about suicide on my blog. It was a great idea. I thought after writing that blog post that the subject deserved a chapter in my memoir. But how could I tell someone reading this that suicide is not the answer if I don’t share my own experience? So, I decided that I would share my story and then my thoughts. Here are my thoughts.volkan-olmez-523-unsplash.jpg

Suicide is dark, and it feels endless. If you decide to go down that route, there is a good chance that you won’t live past that decision. I am lucky in some ways because I am here, but it’s sad that I let myself get to that point. My story should be a cautionary tale. If you survive suicide, you must live with it, and it is better never to feel that way at all. No matter how my life has changed for the better, my family will always be wondering if they could have stopped me.

Even though over seven years have passed, it will always be in the back of my family’s minds that it could happen again. That I could go down the road of suicide if things get that bad again in my life. My family will always be looking at me and wondering when is the next time I will try to take my life. I deserve it, but it is a feeling that I wish would go away.

If you feel like there is nothing left to live for, I will tell you there is— your family, friends, and because it will not always be bad. Life. It is worth living. Things are bad now, sure. But even when life is at the absolute worst, it will get better. Yes, something very wrong is happening in your life. If you feel suicidal at this moment, that’s okay, but you can survive this darkness.

Suicide is never the answer. There are people in this world that are living with diseases that could take their life at any moment. They have no control, but you do. You can control your situation no matter what suicide tells you. Trust me when I say the voice that tells you suicide is okay is dead wrong.

I tell anyone who feels this way to seek help. Call the suicide hotline. Call a friend. Find a way to fight. I have my writing, reading, and music. I watch sports, and when I am down, I binge watch Netflix of shows that make me happy. Please learn from my experiences. Believe me when I say if I could go back, I would choose to get help instead of suicide.

If you know someone who is talking about suicide, please remember this important fact, 8 out of 10 people give signs their intentions on of suicide. Listen to the people around you especially those you love. If someone is joking about suicide or threatens to commit suicide takes the words at face value. I have joked about suicide before, but deep down I wanted someone to stop me. Just to know I exist. Call the authorities. It is better to be safe than to lose some to suicide. The person you love will forgive you, and if they don’t, it is still the right thing to do because saving their life is what need to start the healing process.

The greatest advice I can give those who are suffering from depression is this. If depression is leading you to suicidal thoughts, the first step is to understand something wrong in your life.

Its okay to admit this to yourself and to the people around you. The second part might be trickier so only when you are ready. On this path to recovery and understanding of my diagnosis, it took me a long time to understand. The first time that I was finally saying “I am Bipolar, it is a part of me, but it doesn’t define me,” was the first time believing that I could fight this disease.

Considering that in my life I have a mental illness, and that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with having a mental illness. After that, it became clear that suicide is never the answer. Depression was and always will be a dangerous thing in my life. My life changed, and my outlook became better when I decided suicide is not the answer. I started to fight, and it became the difference. I am able to write about suicide and share my experiences.

My life will always have elements of chaos. Every day I deal with depression and anxiety at some level, and often it hits the extreme levels of being Bipolar. I still fight every day. I am lucky enough to wake up each day alive. It gives me solace. I want to be active because death is never your friend. You never know when it will be your last day so make sure you make the decision to live.

Live as much as you can even if your depressed. I take days off too because sometimes you need a mental health day. Never give into suicide and the dark thoughts that occupancy it. The darkness will be there sometimes, but it will not last forever. I once thought I could never live outside my depression, and yet I am living proof that you can.sydney-rae-408416-unsplash.jpg

My highest aspiration in life is to teach people about suicide. The pain that suicide brings to your life and those around you is not worth it. My experiences are a part of me, and wouldn’t wish them on anyone. I can’t stress the importance of getting help so that I will repeat it. If you feel suicidal get help, it not worth it to give up hope.

Together we can prevent suicide. I want to end the stigma that comes along with this part of mental illness. I want people to learn from my mistakes. I know it’s idealistic to think this way. I’d rather believe this is possible than to see any more of my people die because of suicide.

James

Always Keep Fighting (AKF)

Photo Credit:

Masaaki Komori

Kasper Rasmussen

Hasan Almasi

Mitchell Hollander

Hailey Kean

Volkan Olmez

sydney Rae

When Fear Cleared I Found Anger

Fear has caused me to avoid certain situations, like long lines in the grocery store. I feared a panic attack and being stuck with no way out. Trapped. With therapy and self-awareness, I have started to realize a lot of the fear was attached to learned responses. My brain says “Holy shit, man! Panic! Something bad is going to happen. Get out now while you still can!” Truth is, I’m just waiting in a really long line that is moving slow. I have not had a panic attack in years, yet the feeling is still fresh. It is horrible and debilitating – and embarrassing. I learned that losing control like this feels like I’m dying; therefore I concluded that the potential risk of having a panic attack is good enough reason to avoid anything that could result in one. However, that fear is dissipating.

Previously I wondered what would replace anxiety when I was “cured.” Let me be clear, I do not believe that you can CURE anxiety. I do think you can relieve yourself from its grasp and live a productive life full of joy and sorrow and anger, all that ordinary life stuff without flipping out. Anxiety is low these days, but it will always be a part of me, even if it’s lying dormant. With fear at bay, I am discovering anger and frustration. Now, when I’m in line at the grocery store and no one is moving; the thoughts that rock through me are full of straight up hate: What the hell is taking so long? How stupid can you be? Just scan the friggin item and put it in the dang bag. Move people! Move! I have better places to be.

This recognition came as a surprise to me. The lid of fear is peeled back; what little prize do I find inside – anger. I wonder how fear and anger are connected? When I see my temper is rising, I try to suppress it, but it leaks out in shameful ways. I am short with people I care about. My husband, my kids, my family, friends. Self-care starts to suffer, I eat horrible, drink less water, don’t exercise, go to bed late and then don’t fall asleep, a dull headache plagues me for days.

Hello, internet. Seems there are a few things I can do to get ahead of the funk. Supplements, eating better, avoiding excess carbs and alcohol, be more active, taking breaks when life gets too stressful. All solid advice, easy to read, not so easy to put into motion. I think the most beneficial thing I have learned from therapy is that you don’t have to conquer all your vices today. It’s the small steps (sometimes microscopic) that have ultimately lead to success.

So, today I am drinking more water and setting a bedtime for myself. A time for bed with no excuses. I have recognized a direct connection between treating my body well and my mental health.

I’m even joining the gym – I hope I go.