hiding in the darkness
Today is May 31, the last day of Mental Health Awareness Month…
I live with mental illness every day. I’ve even managed to pass it on to one of my kids, so awareness is a 365 day a year thing around here. Normally, we find ways to laugh and live around it. But sometimes...the shadow grows into something monstrous enough to block out all traces of light.
Six months ago I ran away from home. And by home, I mean my online home. I gave my Facebook page to Hubby, deleted 90% of the blog thing, and stopped posting on any social media sites.
I wrapped myself in my mental glitch, using it to build a blanket fort and crawled inside to hide in its darkest depths. Truth? These last few months have been the closest to suicide I’ve ever come.
So very, very close.
Part of me was completely at peace with the idea. Because that’s how mental illness works sometimes.
Safe in my bleak cocoon, I cut myself off from all my friends, both online and in real life. I swallowed my despair and slapped on a pleasant smile, answering the eternal question of, “Are you OK?” with the cookie cutter answer, “I’m fine.”
So it went; day in, day out.
But bipolar and borderline are tricky beasts. Just when you think you’ll never smile from your soul again, the switch flips and suddenly, there’s the real possibility that life will go on. And you’ll want to be a part of it.
For those of you who are lucky enough to have never lived with demons, know that I refuse to label either living or dying as the easy choice because neither one is. I refuse to say someone took the coward’s way out because that threshold is still too fresh in my memory and I sure as fuck didn’t feel cowardly. I won’t play the, “Think about your family,” card because I WAS thinking about them.
I will ask that you not offer me sympathy or pity. I don’t want it. Most of us don’t. The currency we’d rather trade in is compassion and empathy. Listen without judgement. Sit with us in silence. Hold our hand to remind us life still has a pulse.
Simply put, just be there.
There is no end to this post...no moral to the story or high horse to be ridden into the sunset. There is only the knowledge that, deep within self-made blanket forts of mental illness, hidden away from the burning questions of, “Are you OK?” there are still people fighting the demons that whisper in their brains.
With all my heart, I hope that they find that faint glimmer of light that slips in around the edges and remember that their world can be other than it currently is. I pray that they too make the choice to search for the reasons and ways to stay.
Maybe it helps to know they’re not alone. Although...sometimes? It doesn’t.The bottom line is, I hope you stay too.
Rude awakenings and I may be a plague on the State Tourism Trade
Babyface, my beloved Rheumy, moved out of the country this month. Which got me to thinking - my first Rheumy and every last person I’ve ever dated have all left the state after our break-ups. I can’t help but start to wonder, is it’s me?
The brand of pain-in-the-ass that would drive people that far away isn’t really the point, but it does explain why yesterday found me in a meeting with a New Doc that started with the never ending interview with Mr. Intern and plenty of goofiness on my behalf.
What could go wrong? Apparently, everything.
I was trying so hard to adult right, y’all. I mean, I was in an atmosphere that screamed, “Serious things happen here!” Which only meant the urge to act like a giant kid became too powerful a pull, like the Dark Side summoning Anakin.
Mr. Intern: “How many years have you smoked?”
Me: “Since I was 18. So that's...36 years. No! Wait...18. No! Wait…”
Hubby: “Are you kidding me? Chris, it’s 26 years.”
Me: “26 years! Sorry. I didn’t want to use my fingers because I was trying not to look stupid.”
Hubby & Mr. Intern: “How’d that work out for ya?”
By this point my mascara, the only makeup I’d worn, was running down my cheeks in a torrent of giggle-tears. And I was on a roll.
Mr. Intern: “What do you do for a living?”
Me: “Professional smartass?”
Mr. Intern: “...”
Me: “That’s not a real job, is it?”
Mr. Intern: “...”
Me: “I’m a writer. I write things.”
Poor Hubby was sitting next to me, hiding his face in his hands and ever so slightly shaking his head. I’m guessing because there was no way to claim he didn’t know me.
After 30 minutes of this, a confused Mr. Intern left the room to fetch the Doc. So I killed time by making guppy faces and showing Hubby how well I could add and subtract when I could use my fingers to help.
Then my new Rheumatologist walked in and everything changed. This woman wasn’t amused by my kooky hijinks. Nor was she understanding about the way I’d ditched most of my Team of healthcare people. She was actually more...annoyed would be a good word to use.
My version of my truth: I have glitches that I find ways to live around. They’re by no means life threatening, just annoying. So I take meds to deal with the symptoms and keep on keepin’ on, on my own terms.
Her version of my truth: I have an illness that isn’t serious. Yet. The goal is to keep it that way. I deal with things by not dealing with them. I take my health for granted in a way that is not only bad for my health but a slap in the face to the patients she treats who don’t have that luxury. And the ridiculousness needs to stop here.
So I did what any mature person would do and threw a temper tantrum all the way home. Because I have issues with authority figures. And difficulty functioning in an environment devoid of all nonsense.
After an extended tirade that covered such topics as life isn’t fair, the new Doc is a meany and I don’t wanna *insert medical test here*, I took a long nap and then messaged the Nurse Practitioner of Awesomeness.
“It won’t really work to throw a fit and declare that I quit with this whole being sick thing, will it?”
She proved her awesomeness by simply answering, “No.”
I didn’t choose to end up with a body that doesn’t like to play nice. I did, however, choose to ignore it and play ditch the Doc with everyone but my Rheumatologist. And now I’m faced with the choice to either follow the rules (and my frequent advice to others) and take this shit seriously or continue on the path I’m on playing pretend that it’s not that big a deal.
Of course, that’s a choice that’s not really a choice at all, is it?
So my fun begins again with the bazillion appointments, the pouting over tests I don’t wanna take, and figuring out the best way I can bring a little nonsense to a no-nonsense situation without pushing it over the line.
Facing the reality of a chronic illness is, without question, a serious thing. I’m just not a serious person. If I couldn’t laugh at the things that scare the living shnikies outta me, I’d lose what little mind I have left. And that, my friends, is most certainly not an option.
PS About that thing with the exes...really guys, is it me!?!
I Am Not My Disorder: The Girl's Story
Yesterday I opened an email from The Girl - an email containing a request to guest post and a piece of writing. And just like that, my Mother’s heart filled with all manner of warm and fuzzy feelings, pride being the frontrunner.
Back in April I wrote about the guilt I felt over having a child with a mental illness. I also said I wouldn’t write about their journey because it was their story to tell, if and when they were ready.
That email I mentioned? Said she was ready.
The Girl’s Story
Over the course of my twenty-two years I’ve let a lot of things define me. I am a writer, a poet, a dreamer, a sister, a daughter and a student. I have a 3.0 GPA in college and am working on a degree that only three other people are going for in my school. Four people in an entire school are working toward and English Literature degree, that astounds me beyond words. I am nearly finished with my path to conversion and will, as of next week, be Jewish. I cannot begin to express the joy that all of the things bring into my life, but that is something to discuss another day.
What I refuse to let define me is the very thing I’ve been hiding for over a year, something that started at the beginning of the school year last fall and hasn’t gone away. I was scared and maybe even in a bit of denial, not wanting to admit that what was going on was getting bad until it was so out of hand that I couldn’t hide it and had no choice but to talk to someone.
A couple of my close friends will know I’ve been bouncing through therapists since early April. By “Bouncing through” I mean I was having trouble finding someone who would listen to me. Living in a small town, surrounded by other small towns unless you want to drive an hour, there weren’t a lot of options on where to go. It took me three months just to find one who listens to me, who I feel comfortable enough with that I can talk about what’s really going on. Since February, my parents and brothers have been my rocks. They’ve been with me every step of the way. My mom’s been my biggest supporter, even going to appointments with me and listening to all the crazy days of tears or angry screams, reminding me that problems like this often takes years to be diagnosed.
It took me about four months and a bad decision to be diagnosed. A few weeks ago I finally managed to get an appointment with a psychiatrist in a town about half an hour away, close to where my therapy appointments are. I calmly explained to her my symptoms and it’s been determined that stress has been the trigger for everything. I swallow my stress, in doing so I’ve given myself some pretty bad anxiety and a lot of other problems, I didn’t even know how bad it was until it became out of control. As a way to try and lessen the stress and maybe help some of the symptoms, I was prescribed some antidepressant and antipsychotic medication. And that is how I found myself where I am now.
The antidepressant didn’t take away my anxiety. In fact, it made it worse and spiraled me into a manic phase that I’m only beginning to come down from. I felt fine, I felt like I could run a marathon or swim miles through the ocean. I wasn’t sleeping and was living off soda and candy bars. I had all these brilliant ideas that seemed like the best thing ever, but before I could follow through with one I’d think of another, my thoughts moving so fast that I couldn’t focus on anything to save my life. But I felt fine, I wanted to cut my hair and tattoo myself. I even thought about giving myself new piercings, who needs to go pay someone for that, anyway? I wanted to run around and party. I felt like I could do anything and I never had to sleep.
I didn’t do any of that. Not because I didn’t want to, but when I started acting differently my family, specifically my mom and dad, were aware enough of it that they sat me down. My mom told me that she thought I was entering a manic phase and was watching me. I asked her if she’d accompany me to my next appointment and took the action of locking myself inside the house. I wanted to do so many things, stupid things just for the hell of it. Because, why not? I was bored. But I didn’t.
Enter the second psychiatrist appointment. I was so distracted by silly things, like the pictures on the wall or my own thoughts, that I couldn’t finish most of my sentences, fortunately mom was following my disjointed thought pattern and finished every one of them, even adding her own comments. The doctor told me I should’ve called, and instructed me to stop taking the antidepressants, promptly starting me on a heavy dose of lithium.
I am bipolar. Because of the reasons I began to go to start with, I’m Bipolar Type One. The diagnosis was a mixed bag of things. At the time it was given I was so relieved to finally have an answer, especially one that explained why I was experiencing what I was. But, as I come down from the manic phase and am able to think more clearly, I’m finding that while I’m relieved, I have to remind myself again and again that this changes nothing. I’m still the same person I was before. I’m not the disorder and I won’t let the stigma define me. I remind myself that I may not need to be on medication my entire life, but for now it is necessary to get myself back into a healthy lifestyle. I tell myself I need to stop some of the things I’ve been doing, things that aren’t healthy and will only make the disorder worse.
Now, of course, all I want to do is sleep. It feels as though all the weeks of sleep I missed out on is catching up to me all at once. Each day I feel a little more like the ‘me’ I know and less like ‘manic me’ that can’t tell anything’s wrong. I have an answer, and I was lucky and got it a lot faster than I expected I would. Now my goal is to focus on getting myself into a better place, and learning new ways to deal with it.
One thing I can’t shake is the idea that some of my friends will stop speaking to me after this comes out, that they’ll hear the name of the beast and think I’m a freak or that somehow overnight I’ve changed. But the thing is, I haven’t. I’m still the same girl I’ve always been, that hasn’t changed. What’s changed is there’s a name to call the beast, a way to address it when I tell it I am stronger than it is. I will not let it consume me and I am not my disorder. I refuse to let the stigma push me down and hide part of me like it’s something I should be ashamed of. I’m choosing not to be ashamed; I’m choosing not to hide because I have no reason why I should. I am not my disorder, I’m stronger than it and I haven’t changed. I’m the same girl I’ve always been.
I Am Not My Disorder
I am not my disorder
I am in charge of my life,
What I know is right
I’m a survivor, a fighter
I’m the decider of my destiny
I am not my disorder
I will not let the stigma define me
Or be all that people see.
I am the same beautiful, caring girl I was before
The same me you’ve always seen
I am my friend and my own worst enemy
My mind is my safe haven
And my toughest battle
I am in charge of my fate
I am the master of my life
I will fight the stigma
I am not my disorder
I am simply me, the same me you’ve always seen.
Mental Illness and Why We're Celebrating
You enter that place where the house grows quieter, the days move slower and the adventures become a little more tame. The people who were once the main characters in your personal story request their names are now left out of things. They refuse to let you take pictures of them wearing a cat as a neckwarmer, tape their impression of Christopher Walken singing I Like Big Butts, or film them performing the theme song they wrote for their brother. (Ahhh-hhhh...Moist!) (Sometimes it’s best not to ask too many questions. This? Is probably one of them.) More and more the only time you hear from them is when they need roadside assistance. So you begin the letting go, the casual smiles in passing, and the days without really having much conversation. Until that moment you realize that, while you were busy working on letting go, one of them has been silently asking for your arm to help hold their heads above water.
There are both dangers and advantages to knowing your Offspring so well that you become aware of the small shifts in demeanor or personality. The advantages are obvious, but the downside of familiarity is you can mistakenly assume the early stages of mental illness are just normal teenage angst and the push for freedom.
Yesterday we finally got an answer in the form of a diagnosis for Unnamed Offspring. Now we have a foothold for our first steps on the path to mental health.
And so we celebrated. Which might sound weird to those who deal with things in a slightly more serious and mature way. But neither of those words holds much meaning in a house where we prefer celebrating the surprise bumps in the road, over mourning the things we think we’ve lost.
So, we laughed and we hugged.
Then I cried and said, “Thank you,” over and over.
“Why are you thanking me?”
“Because you were brave enough to ask for help.”
Now that we have a name for the Dragon, we can begin the journey of learning how to tame it and live the fullest life possible despite it. We can gather tools for keeping the small crack in the windshield from becoming so much broken glass. (That fine line between psychosis and a psychotic break.) Now we have a goal to focus our fear of the unknown into determination to become whole. And that’s a damn fine reason to celebrate.
It Is Never Too Late and You Are Never Too Old!
Hi! My name is Jody and I blog at Truth2beingfit. I am 57 years old .. or young, ;). I have been working out since my early 20’s BUT I do know overweight. I grew up a kid that got heavy young, lived with the teasing that came along with that, carried it into adulthood and yes, sometimes still sees that little fat kid in the mirror. Lucky for me I see that kid very rarely these days but it took years & years to get there.
Why do I tell you this – I want you to learn from my mistakes. Not just the eating mistakes although there were plenty of those. Once I lost weight, I went the crazy route – only salads, not enough protein & healthy fats, no balance in life food. It took me into my 30’s and even 40’s to really get this down correctly. Now, I still change things up based on age & what my body is telling me.
I also had to learn the balance of workouts. I had to learn that no rest days lead to burnout & injury.. I also had to learn to listen to my body. I wrote a post about that Wednesday.
Chris wrote me and asked if I would guest post for her. She wrote this: YEARS ago, I lifted like a fiend. So I know all the benefits and how good it can make you feel. The difference is then I was starting from a place of healthy. Now, well...triceps kickbacks with a 1 pound weight break me out in a sweat from head to toe. I guess I want others in my situation to know they can get back control of their lives, even if it's baby steps and you are great at putting that concept into words.
Chris made my day & month & year! WHY? This - The thing I love about Chris is that she got my message! I am not just out to reach hard-core lifters or weight lifting people only. I am trying to reach all ages & sexes to just do what is right for you; It is all OK whether you can do a little or a lot. She got that is was NOT about me.. it was about HER & what she can do for herself! We can't compare ourselves to other people - it is only about you & what is right & works for you!
I think we are so caught up in comparing ourselves to others. Social media, movies, TV and magazines do a trip on us - especially women & older people and honestly, the “not pretty people”. Heck I did it for too many years to count! I still catch myself doing it. I am always a work in progress, always learning. I don’t pretend to not fall into that trap. I GET IT! That hard part is understanding & knowing that no matter what, you are enough at every stage of your journey – no matter how slow it may be for you!
YES, I have worked out for years but I was once a beginner too! I have been a beginner many times in my life! We all have & will be again! It is called life and trying & falling & getting back up. It is not failure. It is trying and learning!
I wrote a post about comparison is a thief. There are some great motivational quotes in there that may help you. You can’t compare yourself to me or anyone else. Quite honestly, we don’t even know what has gone on in other’s lives behind the scenes.
Read Chris’s About Post! WOW!!!! She is not giving up! She is starting from a new place for her. She is not giving up!
Even when I write to people that have no illness, no injury, no roadblocks. I always tell them to take baby steps. We all start at the beginning at some point. YES, it is hard. YES, it takes patience… BUT you have to be kind to yourself. Never look at anything as a failure. IT IS LEARNING! So you mess up or miss a day or week. NEVER GIVE UP… just get back to it. Move on & forward. Any step forward is a step.
I hope this has helped. I hope you are motivated TO TRY no matter what your situation. I hope that you know it is OK to not be the best or the fittest or the prettiest or anything else. YOU ARE ENOUGH! It took me a long time to get there – Into my late 40’s and 50’s! Learn it young or learn it now because YOU ARE ENOUGH!
Thank you so much Chris for asking me to contribute to your blog! HUGS!
If you care to reach me on my social media channels, here they are: