A Weekend to Forget: A Lesson That Anxiety Can be Dangerous

I had no illusions or lofty expectations for my birthday last Friday. Some Chinese food and relaxing were on the agenda. My week was going okay. I was beginning my next semester as a graduate student, and I was ahead of schedule, which gave me a rare day off–and on my birthday no less! It seems anxiety and stress had a different idea.

Back in January 2017, I was in the midst of the worst two months of anxiety in my life. My levels of anxiety were so high every day that it was impossible to function, and most days, I failed. My doctor has tried unsuccessfully to take me off Ativan, and getting back on only made things worse. For the three weeks I was off benzodiazepines in December, I was on a rollercoaster of anxious thoughts, anxiety, isolation, and panic attacks.

The culmination was a week and a half in the hospital with bleeding ulcers (where I was literally bleeding in my stomach so much I was puking pints of blood), and I had to go through several blood transfusions and an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy three times. The first time I had a panic attack just before and passed out from the blood when they had to pull it prematurely. I spent two days in the ICU because of the loss of blood. It was the worst painful experience of my life. When I finally got the two endoscopies, first to fix the issues and then to see if it worked, my stomach was never the same for two years. I gave up meat entirely.

Afterward, when I went home, I realized that my anxiety can be a dangerous thing if left unchecked. I began to makes changes with adding meditation, and though I had issues over the next two years with what I could eat, and what made me hurl was an adventure. I got better at dealing with anxious thoughts, and panic attacks were not a weekly occurrence for the most part.

It was never perfect, but last summer, I was able to slowly reintroduce meat into my diet. It was good, and life was good. I wrote a 210,000-word novel and a 30K novella in just four months. No issues with my stomach. I took my daily dose of the neutralizing stomach acid medicine, and with the change from Ativan to Clonazepam last year, I was able to find some relative balance. Then COVID-19 happened.

I am not blaming everything on the virus. In truth, I am to blame for allowing fear, which I have talked about in the past, from taking over my life. Last week it culminated for the first time since 2019 that I had terrible stomach issues. The weekend I had to tone things down and change my diet (which included once again giving up coffee), and I had to de-stress my life. I walked away from social media and writing all weekend. I stayed in bed (which didn’t help my depression, but you can’t win every battle).

Monday, I felt a bit normal, and today I was able to eat. I am working not stressing out. Playing video games and writing helps. Also, not following every single article on COVID-19 really helped me. I am hopeful the upward trend continues. Less stress and more focusing on the positives. I am healthy and social distancing like I am supposed to, and I can only control what is in my orbit. Life indeed is too short to spend it obsessing if I will or won’t get sick. I am not going to go out and lick things, but social media takes a back seat. I will continue to do my part.

Last weekend was a life lesson in the dangers of anxiety and anxious thoughts.

Always Keep Fighting

James

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Can You Always Be Positive?

True happiness isn’t forever, it might not even be for a while. It is found in the moments we least expect it, and sometimes hidden in the times we need it most. Happiness is fleeting.

When I say that happiness doesn’t last forever, I don’t mean that in a such a cynical way. I say that happiness is fleeting because the truth is, life happens and we don’t ever get to choose when. Mistakes are made, things are lost, and bonds are broken. And with these losses, there goes our expectation of infinite happiness right down the gutter.

Many of us feel unsatisfied with our current state of life because our expectations of happiness don’t coincide with reality. Our ideas of what real success and happiness look like are corrupted by social media and the fabrications we’re exposed to every day. We are lead to believe that happiness is perfection, and we convince ourselves that once we are finally happy that it will last forever.

This faulty perception of happiness only gets worse when we begin browsing through social media. I consistently come across a sea of lifestyle posts and ‘hacks’ on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram that I can’t take seriously. These influencers tell us that if we drink more water and get some sunlight each day, then we’ll grow into the person we want to be as if we are mere plants rather than complex, unique human beings. If it were as easy as drinking water and getting sunlight, then we would achieve perfect physical and mental health. For someone who has dealt with anxiety that interferes with everyday life, I understand that there’s a lot more to overcoming the downs of life than that and I’m sure almost everyone can agree.

The thing is, of course platforms like Instagram are going to be filled with picture perfect profiles. We all want the world to see the best version of our lives- even when it isn’t truthful. I can relate with the desire to create a positive image, and I do believe that platforms such as Instagram can be beneficial in that sense. When people land on my profile I want them to see the best version of myself.

The issue I have with this is the negative effect it has on all of us to be mislead by these perfect profiles, particularly the younger generations who are so invested in social media. When we scroll through all of these images, we’re seeing people living in a dream like state. These perfectly crafted profiles make us feel as though we’re missing out on the joy that all of these people we follow are experiencing, or seem to be experiencing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people comparing themselves to popular influencers that promote this image, or commenting along the lines of “I wish I was you!”

So there we go again, reaching for something out there, for that pure joy we see on social media.

But it’s not real.

We can convince ourselves that we can control our lives the way that we control our social media profiles, picking and choosing which moments we want to live out.  

But again, that’s not possible. If that was the case, then we’d all be manic.

In real life we live out the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the sunshine and the rain. We don’t get to slap a sunset filter over it and say that we had a perfect day. Sometimes things just don’t go the way we want it to, and that’s okay. That’s life. And the sooner we begin embracing the unexpected rather than running away from it, the closer we are to real happiness.

I came across this quote while watching Euphoria the other day that perfectly sums up my point.

“I had a therapist once who said that these states will wax and wane.

Which gave my mother relief, because it meant that in the bad times, there would be good times.

But it also gave her anxiety because it meant that in the good times, there would be bad times.”

Although simple, this episode does an excellent job of explaining how clinical depression works for most individuals. Not only does this episode accurately portray how it feels to live with depression and anxiety, but it holds true to the nature of life for all of us.

It can be somewhat frightening to realize that we don’t always know when the next low point will be for us. But if everything always went the way we want it too, we simply wouldn’t be alive. Think of it as the ups and downs on a heart monitor. If you see a straight line, there’s no pulse. If you see it consistently going up, well, that’s not exactly healthy either.

So at this point you might be asking yourself, what’s the point? 

Why am I writing this? As I began to write this post I didn’t know exactly what direction I was headed, I just wanted to remain honest above anything else. Even though I try to keep my writing on the positive side, it’s not always so easy. If I only covered the positive topics then I would be missing out on exploring so many other subjects surrounding mental health that other people can relate to.

So back to the question I set out to answer, it’s a little complicated. While I don’t believe there is a way to always be positive, I do feel that it’s important to always hold on to the hope that things will get better.

If I could give anyone advice on how to be a more positive person, it’s to accept that you don’t always know what tomorrow will bring, but hold on to the hope that the hard times will pass and you will find yourself living out those happy moments again. Don’t let that fill you with fear, let it fill you with excitement.

Instead of viewing happiness as perfection, instead of trying to keep it forever, view it as moments. It’s true that happiness is fleeting; like every other emotion it comes and goes. Happiness is found in moments that turn into memories we can cherish.

So stop chasing perfection and start chasing those moments. It’s that rush you feel when you catch the perfect wave, or that moment when you break through the surface of the water after taking a daring leap. It’s the sense of pride you have when you can finally feel your diploma in your hands and the warmth that radiates from those who supported you along the way. It’s in those moments when you find yourself laughing until your chest aches, or that joy you feel when you reconnect with a friend for the first time in what felt like forever.

Even on your absolute worst days, happiness is there, in that smile that illuminates someone’s face when you do something kind. Happiness is everywhere, even in the bad, if you would just open your mind to it. 

It’s like catching a firefly in your hands, even in the darkest nights. There will be times where the nights feel dark and you think the light has ran out, but it is still there, waiting to land in the palms of your hands again. And those moments, like fireflies, will come back to you when you least expect it.

The Dark Side of Social Media

We live in a society today that is ruled by technology. We have access to so much more than we did ten years ago. There are a number of ways for us to stay connected these days thanks to social media. Social media can be both a blessing and a curse. There are times when social media can get toxic and bad for your mental health.

 

Living with a mental illness, I’ve found at times that social media has been toxic for myself. When I find myself feeling negative towards social media or I start being overly self critical; I know it’s time for me to take a breather from social media. While there are many positives for having social media, there are also some negative aspects to it.

 

Social media has been a blessing for staying connected with family and friends across the globe. It’s great being able to stay connected with those in your life who you don’t get to see as often as you would like. I love scrolling my feed seeing pictures of my family and friends enjoying their lives. Social media has been an incredible tool for staying connected with those in your life.

 

There are situations where social media can get to be toxic. We have the Internet at our disposal and it can be so easy to get lost in that void of being stuck behind a computer or phone all day long.

 

One way that social media can be toxic is cyber bulling. Cyber bullying has become more popular in a negative way. Unfortunately, it’s become more common for individuals to go through cyber bullying. Cyber bullying has made it easier for those bullies to target more people since they aren’t face to face and are doing it from a computer or phone.

 

I was cyber bullied during my years in high school. Experiencing it first hand, I know how hurtful it can be. It caused my depression to worsen and it dropped my confidence levels. It’s heartbreaking to see others go through that because I know how hard it can be facing a situation like that.

 

Another way social media can be toxic is comparing ourselves to others we see on social media. Majority of people on social media only share the “highlights” of their life leaving out the behind the scenes and not so pretty moments. I’ve gotten caught up in the comparison game numerous times especially on Instagram. I will catch myself comparing my body to another girls, wondering why my stomach can’t be flat like hers.

 

I’ve now learned that the comparison game gets you nowhere. The comparison game is only toxic and harmful to your mental health. It’s when I remind myself that what that person shares on social media is just a tiny part of their life. We don’t know their entire story or what their current life situation is. We are all uniquely and individually made so no two people are the same.

 

When you find yourself getting caught up in those negative thoughts or find yourself feeling negative towards social media; give yourself a break. It can be so refreshing to take a breather and focus on the other areas of your life. Spend a little extra time giving yourself love and attention that you deserve.

Social Media and Mental Health

Something I have really been noticing lately, is how bad my mental health (depression and anxiety) is after I spend a significant amount of time on social media. I see others and what they are doing and the accomplishments and success that they have and I feel so behind. I have to remember that 1) Social media is not an accurate depiction of someone’s life and 2) LIFE IS NOT A RACE! I’m exactly where I need to be, and I’m probably ahead of others in some aspects, such as being married at 23.

I also find myself comparing my looks to others online. Which I’m sure a lot of people do, but I think we often forget that most pictures on social media, has a filter or has been photoshopped. Remember, THAT ISN’T REAL! I try to post most of my pictures completely natural. I don’t even have any photoshopping apps on my phone or computer.

I’ve started to filter through who I follow on my accounts and delete people that either 1)posts negative things excessively or 2) I just really don’t care about knowing what is happening in their life. A lot of the people I follow are from high school and the people I want to know about, I keep in touch with anyways. Filtering out people has been somewhat helpful, but not completely. I have been contemplating completely deleting my social media accounts, but I honestly have serious FOMO, when it comes to that. I know that is silly and stupid, and I agree. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it.

Another thing about social media, that I’m sure everyone is aware of, is the lack of human interaction we have with people. Everyone is focusing on a screen. I too am guilty of this, as I’m sure many people my age are. I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort on putting away my phone and soaking up the world around me and interacting with those around me. I think relationships with humans are much more fulfilling than a relationship with your phone.

That is another reason I like to blog. I like connecting and interacting with people, and blogging lets me do that. I have always been able to express myself better through writing, so at this point in my life, blogging is perfect for me. I haven’t been blogging very long, and I just started on this blog; but so far, I have loved it! I know this post is pretty short, but it was just something I was thinking about!

What do you think about social media?

Bullying and Mental Health

This is perhaps the most important topic I have covered on The Bipolar Writer blog. It is also the most talked about, and today as I write some new posts for the remainder of the week, I wanted to repost thing blog post, because there has been so much feedback posted on this post. I think other than my posts on suicide, bullying and mental health is an important to ending the stigma surrounding mental illness.

My Take on Bullying and Mental Illness

It is always the goal of this blog to be informative. At the same time, I want to share my experiences on the topic in question. I wanted to write today about the realities of bullying and effects it can have on mental health when we are younger.

It was different when I was a kid. The technology that our kids (whether they be your child, a niece, or a nephew) have at their disposal changed the game when it came to bullying

Any expert will tell you that bullying at a young age can cause serious emotional distress. and even develop into mental disabilities.

I can remember some level of bullying when I was a child. In my own experiences, I am not sure if it affected my mental illness as much. In middle school, the bullying I received could have been one reason for later issues. It could be why in high school I became a loner introvert. When depression became a constant companion in my teenage year’s bullying didn’t help.

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In my own experiences. Other things in my childhood have more bearing in what were causes in my mental illness, but I won’t discuss that here.

In my middle school years my bullying was for being geeky (I played video games and D & D) had some bearing.

It’s different in today’s world. I can remember in my early twenties with MySpace and Facebook online bullying was taking shape. I am going to age myself a bit. I can also remember when chat rooms were big when I was a teenager. It often was a place for online bullying for those that were different.

Bullying can cause so much damage at a young age. It could interfere with social development. I became more myself when I was alone. I reveled in it. But it made it harder for me to be social in high school. It’s one of the causes of my social anxiety now.

It can hurt your self-esteem the more bullying takes place in your life. I know the bullying I received in middle school for being a teacher’s pet or a geek it often made me depressed. I can even remember times when I was anxious to go school during my high school years.

I remember once talking on MySpace about my cutting and self-harm. I got such negative remarks from people because it’s such a taboo subject. The ridicule I received was that of an outsider in the normal world. When I took such lengths at such a young age (my teenage and first years of adulthood) it people used it against me. So I became more secretive and hid in shame.

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In the last ten years, I have seen bullying turn to mental health issues for others on a global scale. I have seen people bullied online for going through depression or self-harm. People tend to not realize that those of us who talk about these issues might be reaching out. Talking about self-harm or suicide might be the last ditch hope to have someone listen.

The biggest thing I want to talk about here is for parents. It’s important to talk about bullying with your kids. It is paramount if your kids are starting to show signs of mental illness. If you are looking for things like prolonged depression or constant anxiety it will show up. You can watch. Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to check your teen’s social media. It is the biggest place that I have seen the most bullying in today’s world. I can’t imagine going through bullying during the day at school. Then you go online and you subjected to bullying there too. So many teens spend so much time in the digital world it’s become the breeding ground of online bullying.

We see the stories all the time, and I mean those of us in the mental health community. Kids so young taking their lives because bullying is such a major part of their daily routine. It becomes too much and we lose human beings who only want to be kids.

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This saddens me that so many young kids and teens are losing hope and turning to suicide. Bullying is a big part of this problem. I am not a parent but I have nieces at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Sometimes the most silent of us is being hurt the most. Words can cut deep. It’s important for parents to be active in their child’s life. Down the road, it could lead to an undiagnosed mental illness.

I was twenty-two when I was first diagnosed and no one realized I was in a bad place for so many years.

This part of the post is for those that are suffering from bullying and see no way out.

Get help. It’s important.

Writing my memoir has made me realize a lot of things. If I would have talked to my parents about how deep my depression was at fourteen I might have gotten the help I needed. I struggled so much because I left things unsaid. It was until I was in my early twenties before it got so out of control that I chose to commit suicide.

With technology overwhelming us with so much negative every day and with so much bullying online, its become a major issue. The human beings that we are losing are getting younger and younger.

On both sides, parents, and kids, the most important thing is to communicate with one another. It was a different world I grew up in. The stigma was tougher for those of suffering and it was easier to not talk about a mental illness. But this thinking in my mind now is wrong. You must talk about bullying and how it can lead to a mental illness down the road in your own life.

That’s the biggest mistake you can make in this life.

I am speaking to parents, children, teens, young adults, and even adults. We say such hurtful thing to one another on social media as adults. What are we teaching our children?

Learn from the mistakes I made.

I write these blog posts because the topics mean a lot to me. I want to be a voice. But those of us in mental illness community that have experience, have to be a more active voice for the younger generation.

I am adding a new thing to my blog. I will ask my fellow bloggers to share their own experiences with bullying and mental illness. Not just in my comments on this blog. In your own blog space.

I challenge you to, if you can, share your own experiences and add to what kids, teens, and young adults can do to combat bullying in a technological world.

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Always keep fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoOliver Cole

unsplash-logoHailey Kean

unsplash-logoWilliam Iven

unsplash-logoAndy Grizzell

unsplash-logoRachael Crowe

Dream It, and Then Just Do It

I was reminded today that if you want something you just have to go for it. It’s easy to sit and dream away the pounds, spend the money you will earn from all the success you are planning, hear the accolades in your head from those who are inspired by your work, imagine how your book will smell when you flip the pages, how the cover will emulate the amazing words on the inside, what kind of author picture you will take and how it will look sitting in the Barnes and Nobles….sorry, got distracted by my fantasy 😊

It’s important to dream, we need to dream, small, big, feasible and even what some may call impossible.  Dreaming fuels us, it’s exciting, it drives us outside of our comfort zone toward where we are meant to be, but many times this is where we stay, in dreamland. We know what we have to do, we know that in order to run a marathon we must train, and yet as we dream of the finish line, the early mornings, the long miles and the sacrifices are just not as glamorous as the medal. We know that in order to have a successful business, we must build it from nothing, and it takes time, effort, blood, sweat and tears, and in order to publish a book, you must write one. We know this, and yet we sit in dreamland, frustrated our dream hasn’t happened yet and wondering why.

You may have figured out by now, this is really my personal pep talk. I need to replace all the we’s with I’s, but I feel better about myself if I’m not the only one getting lectured 😉The frustration I have for myself can sometimes be overwhelming because every time I think I’ve defeated that pesky fear, it shows up as procrastination, social media, Netflix binges, social media, cleaning out and organizing closets that have never bothered me until the moment I sit down to write, and social media. Man, I really need social media anonymous. Its just so easy to fall into the blackhole of pointless thought, cute dogs and funny cats. It’s like a vacation for the mind, but it can be so difficult to reign it in.

Fear masks itself in many tricky ways, but the worst is when it appears in its true form, and whispers, “you’re not good enough”.  However, this post is my reminder, that the last time I looked fear in the face for the lie it really is, I wrote my first children’s book cover to cover 13k words in 10 days. I just did it and it felt amazing.

So today, after getting into the ring with fear once again I am reminding myself of that moment, and how I squeezed my dream tight, let it go and then chased it until it was mine.  Our dreams are ours, in our hearts, on so many personal levels for so many reasons, but until we make up our minds to share it, that’s exactly where it will stay, but the moment we let go and begin to chase it, the more likely that dream will become our reality.

Keep dreaming, and just go for it!

Much Love,

Lisa J

Saturday’s Guest Blogger

Happy Saturday my fellow bloggers. It is my honor to present another guest blogger on The Bipolar Writer blog. Today it my honor to present a piece from Emily. You can find her @ https://therealpuppetmaster.com

Running Towards Better Mental Health

My lungs and chest tightened; my legs had gone numb awhile ago. I had no idea how to make it up the mountain, the base of which our coach dropped us off earlier, telling us he would meet us at the top. This was my first week of training over the summer previous to my first year at VMI; being from Virginia Beach, the biggest mountain I’d run up was a hill called Mt. Trashmore- which is what is sounds like- a pile of trash that was then covered with grass, transformed into a park. I don’t know how I made it up that mountain in my first week, but after that, training was all mountains and hills- running them became easy- like breathing. The easier running became, the more weight I lost, and the more weight I lost, the faster I was. My coach had given me a goal weight when I came to VMI- 112 pounds at five foot, six inches. I scoffed at the time, being 120 pounds light and healthy. Cross country season flew by; I blinked and winter track had also passed. Spring track started and I was faster than ever and training to win our regional meet. I looked in the mirror and was pleased. I was 104 pounds; 104 pounds heavy. That season I placed third in all of my events at regionals, smashed my personal bests and surpassed expectations- especially for attending a military school where there was insufficient time to train and a constant lack of sleep, but I began to be injured more frequently. I knew I was too thin- I had anorexia and amenorrhea, so I started to eat, which led to binging and purging.

It took me three years to overcome this psychological addiction. It took external motivators at first, such as knowing the risk of my enamel. Eventually I was able to use internal motivators, such as the desire to overcome an urge.

Overcoming an addiction is extremely difficult. Obviously, it would be ideal if we didn’t let anyone or anything get to us to the point that we succumb to an unhealthy pattern that leads to addiction, but we also can’t just beat ourselves up for it. Life happens! Be patient with yourself and understand that even a psychological disorder such as an eating disorder is just as addictive as a drug addiction, even if society doesn’t see it that way. I was ashamed of my disorder at first, but once I embraced myself- who I am, what I’ve done and what I’ve been through- I started to love myself again. Never hide who you are. If anyone makes you feel ashamed for what you’ve been through or what you’re going through, they don’t deserve to know you. Surround yourself with people who are as real as you are.

What it Has Meant to me to Expand The Bipolar Writer

When I started The Bipolar Writer blog it was to share my experiences with my diagnosis. I have written so many articles on suicide, Bipolar depression, social anxiety, and anything related to my mental illness. It’s been a crazy the ride that I have been on for the past almost six months now.

Every month I seem to find new ways to change the complexity of my blog. I wanted to tell my story first, and for the most part, I have done that so far on my blog. I continue to share my experiences as they unfold each day and every week. I am always amazed by the responses that I get each day.

It has been amazing the level of confidence people have in my writing. I have told so many stories in the mental illness community. I will continue to do so with my feature interview articles. I got the idea after writing an article for a journalism class on one of my closest friends. In another journalism class, I wrote another article about my mom. That is how the interview features on The Bipolar Writer was born.

I didn’t know what the response would be that first time I offered to write the stories of others. It was another opportunity to grow my brand. At the same time, it helps me to share the stories of others as we as a community work to fight the stigmas surrounding mental illnesses. It’s grown to amazing heights to point where I am actually falling behind because of volume.

I do my best to write at least one feature article a week. The goal was to write two a week, but my schedule keeps me so busy as I work towards other goals outside of this blog. Still, I am amazed that people still find time to read my blog.

I had a set of goals to start this year. If I reached these goals I would do certain things. One of those goals was to add contributor writers when I reached 3,000 blogger followers. Those that have been following my blog have seen the results of my fellow mental health bloggers adding their voice to The Bipolar Writer blog.

*Just a note, I just reached 200 blog posts.

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I do my best to let each of the contributor writers I have added over the last couple of weeks let their content be theirs. I make minor grammar changes or add pictures but the content of my contributor writers is all their own. It was the next logical step for this blog.

So where to go from here? I don’t know. I am looking for someone willing to be an author or even an administrator for my blog. I am away away from this because I don’t trust easy, but it would mean less time having to always produce content. I have worked so hard to make this blog become a hub for the voices of the mental illness community. I am all for the aesthetic feel of my blog so I would have to find someone who understands how I prefer to set things up.

It means the world to me to see my blog grow even more than it has these past six months. I have tried to blog twice in my life, and it was never this successful. I have written an article about what I have found success in growing my blog, you can find it here.

Every comment and likes that my blog gets each day makes me glow with pride. I have been able to share peoples stories and at the same time allow authors a place to share their ideas with the community I have grown here. I will continue to grow my community and make it a safe place to write and share your voice. It amazes me every day and I can’t imagine waking up wondering what is next for The Bipolar Writer.

Thank you for every follow, for every comment, and every like. This has been the best journey I could have asked for in creating this content.

I am always looking for the next stage of The Bipolar Writer blog. If you have a suggestion let me know!

James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoJonatan Pie