Find a safe space

You’re having a panic attack, struggling to see straight, calm your racing thoughts, slow your pounding heart, and breathe. You tell yourself you’re okay. You aren’t in actual, physical danger. But something triggered your alarm system, which sent a message to your amygdala, which made all this shit happen in your body in order to keep you safe. Too bad the danger lives more internally than externally. Still, your fight-or-flight instinct has taken over (even though you can’t run from or fight the source of your crippling anxiety), and adrenaline is surging through you, all because we inherited such a response from our ancestors thousands of years ago and our brain systems just haven’t caught the fuck up. So what do you DO?

You can try to force yourself into breathing normally. Inhale slowly, hold it, exhale slowly, hold it. Repeat. Repeat. Or you can try to “ground” yourself, to reconnect with the fact that you’re exactly where you are, here and now, to live in this present moment instead of the impending future. You can try (almost desperately) to distract yourself. Solving math problems is great for that. So are word puzzles. Your brain can’t focus on figuring things out and panicking at the same time. The same is true of experiencing a rapid and drastic change in temperature. Take an icy cold shower if you can. Your brain will stop processing the paralyzing fear you’re experiencing (or so I’m told). The scent of lavender is supposed to be calming, but personally, I open a familiar perfume bottle and breathe in the comfort it carries for me. I always use that perfume before I do happy, relaxing things. So I’ve (almost) effectively trained my brain to associate it with happiness and relaxation.

But something that’s been particularly interesting to me lately is visualization. A kind of intense mental imagery. A purposeful relocation to a safe place.

I have a pretty active imagination. Maybe that’s the writer in me, but I have a particular proclivity for getting myself lost in whatever place I’m thinking of. Like, I force myself there. I picture everything vividly, paying careful attention to detail. I mentally feel the sensations that accompany that place. I let myself experience the feelings that would go along with being there.

Sometimes it’s a made-up place in a random, made-up scenario. Sometimes it’s an actual place in a scenario I wish would happen there. There are the typical escapes. The beach, with sun shining, the waves crashing, the smell of sunblock wafting through the air. And the perhaps less typical cozy cafe, with a good cup of coffee and a book I’m completely absorbed in. A lot of times it’s a memory that, a moment in my past that I’d love to go back to. (Again, that might be the writer in me; I love the quote “we write to taste life twice,” and I think reliving memories is another way to do that)

I haven’t had a full-on, gasping, clutching, gut-wrenching panic attack in about a month. And after being prescribed an as-needed benzodiazepine about two months ago, I definitely feel more in control of those situations. Knowing I have a pill in my bag that can alleviate those sickening physical symptoms is often enough to reduce the unrelenting (and usually unnecessary) fear. And if that isn’t enough, I put the pill in my mouth and swallow.

But I’m still an anxious person. That probably won’t ever change. So I’m trying to get this visualization thing set in my mind so I can get a better handle on my general, day-to-day anxiety. I’m trying to set up predetermined safe places that I can teleport to at a moment’s notice. So here’s my attempt at collecting them and getting them ready for use:

Disney World. The Happiest Place on Earth. In any park, with any loved one, either in memory or projection. Perhaps it’s the Magic Kingdom on Main Street USA in the early morning with my parents and sister. There’s time-appropriate music playing from seemingly nowhere, and we’ve just turned the corner to see Cinderella Castle standing majestically in the distance, and I feel like I’m Home, like nothing else matters because this moment is perfect. The love I feel around me is palpable. The excitement is tangible. All is well.

Driving down Ocean Parkway, looping from one Long Island beach to another, singing loudly to a crazy array of music with the man who’d soon become my boyfriend. It’s late at night and we’ve been driving for hours, alternating between deep conversations and enjoying the fact that our tastes in music are so similar. I’m calm and happy and fulfilled.

The bookstore. Summer 2010, the summer I really came into my own. My best friend just walked in the door and we greet each other by immediately launching into talking about exciting plans and things to try and what’s been going on since we’ve seen each other a day ago. We get matching cups of coffee and sit by the window and we bounce ideas off each other while simultaneously bouncing off the walls. When we’ve exhausted that, we wander the bookstore, admiring the books we hope to buy, feeling the peace that comes with being surrounded by such an awesome amount of written knowledge. Things are good.

Christmas morning. My parent’s living room. The day that we’ve been anticipating for an entire season. Surrounded by my family and presents, the Yule Log on the TV, love and laughter and magic filling the entire room. It feels right.

I’m at a concert venue about to see my favorite band play. My friends and I are standing by the mosh pit, being bumped by someone dancing in circles every now and then, and we’re all screaming the lyrics to the songs we know by heart. The music fills my entire soul and leaves me feeling energetic in the best way. They start playing my favorite song. Then the singer cuts out and he points the mic into the crowd so that the crowd can take over the song. We’re all different but also so similar, most of us with tattoos and dyed hair and checkered vans and band t-shirts and the like. I feel connected and important.

It’s Monday morning and I just sat down in my therapist’s office, on the floor by the window, where we can watch the clouds go by and the wind blow through the trees and the cars driving by. But we’re talking about important things and processing the chaos that is my life, and occasionally veering off topic to easier things, and oftentimes looking at funny memes. I’m wiggly and all over the place, but there’s safety and comfort sitting across from me so it’s okay.

I’m in our room, sitting there on the bed under my weighted blanket, laptop propped up on a pillow, and I’m scrolling tumblr. He’s sitting next to me, and every 10 seconds we stop to show each other something stupid we stumbled across online. We’ve been sitting there for like an hour in relative silence, but it’s the epitome of what love looks like. I don’t have to worry about anything because he’s there and he understands and he loves me.

My favorite places, my favorite moments. There are more, of course. And I’m sure throughout my life I’ll continue finding ones to add to the list. But for now, I’m gonna try to remember that I have these to escape to whenever the need arises.

Bipolar and the senses

So last year, or maybe it was two years ago, I was sitting cross-legged on my bed, laptop propped up against a pillow, listening to Duel of the Fates from the Star Wars prequels on repeat. I remember it rather vividly. I’d had a huge mental breakdown the night before, where my then best friend and soon-to-be-boyfriend drove me until one in the morning as we listened to music and I alternated between crying and singing along to the loud punk rock hitting me in waves out of the speakers. I was home from work, having called out by leaving a frantic voicemail detailing how I was insane and the thought of coming in to work made me want to die. So appropriate, I know. But there I was, sitting there trying to hold on to some semblance of calm, the vague, fleeting feeling that came and went throughout that entire day. I hadn’t eaten. I’d barely had any water. I was just existing, trying to write just to be doing something, thinking about something. Not one of my better moments.

And here I am now. That same Star Wars song on repeat. And it’s weird because I can taste the insanity of my past. I taste the feeling of hunger, acerbic in my mouth, just like I tasted two years ago. I can feel my insides grabbing for what little bit of calm it can grab. The memory of the thoughts I thought are echoing through my head, bouncing off the walls of my mind like that someone slammed a super ball as hard as they could in a gymnasium, the ball going going going with seemingly endless momentum. Or maybe it’s more like a balloon flying every which way after someone untied it and let it loose. The point is that I’m there again. I’m sitting on my bed, legs crossed, laptop in front of me, fingers flying frantically over my keyboard just because. I’m there again. Because of this song I’ve got on repeat.

It’s weird how that happens. The taste of my gummy melatonin does the same thing. That strawberry-esque flavor melting in my mouth, even now, transports me back to the nights I was plagued with what I’ll call violent, agitated insomnia.

On the flip side, I have this one roll-on perfume that calms me down. I always put it on before therapy and now when I roll it on before work, I smell the panic going the fuck away and my chest easing up. I feel full, deep breaths steadying my heart rate as I take actual air into my lungs (as much as I’m able to, at least).

I have an elephant stuffed animal that I hug close to me when I sleep at night. And I have a mini keychain with the same elephant on it. And I make a point to take out that little keychain and rub the elephant’s ears when I start to lose my cool, when I feel the anxiety bubbling up from my stomach all the way up my esophagus and ultimately reaching my head, dizziness ensuing.

And lastly, I’m comforted in the best way possible when someone I love wraps me in a protective hug, sending love vibrations into my being with the pressure they put on me, squeezing my broken pieces together with a strength that can only come from true care and concern.

It’s amazing how this shit works. What our sense can do for us.

Rational & Reassuring Thoughts, I Guess?

Guilt is a useless emotion. It has no purpose. Grow from experiences, learn from mistakes, but chances are guilt is not needed in the majority of situations. It just isn’t.

Worry is what’s on the other end of the spectrum. It has nothing to do with what’s actually happening right now in reality. Worrying only makes you suffer twice. So fucking don’t. Distract yourself, bat the worry away with whatever blunt object you can get your hands on, and just don’t.

The stuff you’re stressing about now won’t matter in a year, or even a month, and probably not even in a week. Everything is pointless and nothing matters, and there’s actually some sort of twisted beauty in that fact, in that deeply philosophical concept, because perspective, apparently, is key.

Your mental health is more important. It matters more. No excuses needed, no explanations required, you just do what’s best for you and your brain.

Different people have different capabilities, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Your struggles are your struggles, and they’re valid.

One hour to getting my shit together (a quick reset)

Sooooo I’m feeling kind of off and pretty overwhelmed. I still have sleep to catch up on (thanks to bipolar-related insomnia and being super busy the last few days) and my boyfriend and I are definitely fighting colds or something. I’m home now, and I wanna reset my brainnnnn so I can focusssss and feel betterrr. And a big part of that is getting my surroundings in order. And then relaxing once it all feels less cluttered.

Ignore what is kind of a random list of nonsense that needs to get done, but I’m really feeling like checking it all off is gonna help me.

Because like, apparently clutter is linked to higher levels or cortisol (steroid hormone that’s a part of the body’s stress response), especially in women. Not to mention that on a personal level, I need what’s around me to be as NOT messy as possible because what’s inside me is messy enough. And honestly, I LIKE things clean.

I’ve been feeling a THING coming on, an impending MOOD EPISODE, and I’m in that phase where I’m kiiiind of just wishing it comes now and does it’s terrible, torturous thing, and then leaves and then it’s done and over with. But I’m also attempting to summon the strength and willpower to keep it at bay for as long as I possibly can.

My point is that I’m gonna do the following things and then hope I feel less overwhelmed afterwards.

TO DO:

  1. Light a candle, spray some lavender, throw open a window, and tell myself I’m about to kick the shit out of the next 60 minutes.
  2. Put on ska Pandora radio and turn up the volume.
  3. Put the clean dishes away and the dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
  4. Fold laundry that’s been in the dryer for almost a week and put it in the drawers. Then throw in another load.
  5. Sweep the floors.
  6. Time to STOP and get on the floor and stretch the tension out of my body,
  7. Take all the supplements I’m supposed to take, aaaand vitamin C since I feel a cold coming on.
  8. Drink as much water as I possibly can.
  9. Wash my face because I’ll most likely be hot and need to cool down.
  10. Take a book or notebook outside and sit in the fresh air reading or writing.
  11. Make a to-do list. Get the things knocking around in my head out onto paper so I can stop worrying about them.

 

And from thereon out I’ll be able to do as this picture I took today says, and focus on one thing at a time…

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Visiting Insanity

Lately, my brain and my meds have been in the middle of an intense tug-of-war game.  They’re battling it out to see if I’m gonna inch closer to crazy and then fall off the edge, or continue for a few more months on stable, solid ground.

So I whipped out some old writing (I was actually just organizing my google docs and came across some stuff).

This is something I wrote back in early January when I was feeling good (after a long three-month depression).  I was still seeing my old psychiatrist, but I felt like some good things were gonna happen, I felt like my future held positive things.

It kind of talks about how I was panicking because I wasn’t sure who/what I would be without periodically losing my mind. (I wasn’t aware that I’d lose it three more times over the course of like 5 months, but ahhh to be naive)…

Anyway, here we go:

Visiting Insanity

I’m sitting on the couch in our living room, listening to a murder podcast with Andrew.  I have a beer on the coffee table, and I’ve been sipping it casually even though I suck at drinking alcohol.  I really like the idea of it, and I like being drunk, but it’s just that the actual ingesting of the alcohol is somewhat tiring.  That aside, I’m having a pretty good evening. Work was decent today, Andrew and I went food shopping and ate afterward, and now I’m feeling quite relaxed as my fingers start flying over my keyboard to create this document.

I thought about what I wanted to write about before I began typing.  I thought about it for a while, actually, and I couldn’t figure out where to start or what to say.  I’ve been rereading so much of my old stuff lately, and I love it all, for so many reasons, but I don’t want to sit here and write something that’s already been written.  Especially if it’s been written by ME already.

But like, shit, I’m so proud of myself for the intangible things I’ve made real with via words I put onto a page.  Not to beep my own horn (fucking beep beep), but I can bring a reader into a downswing with me and send them spiraling so chaotically into nihility that they almost actually understand what it’s like to have this disorder.  Reading through my work makes what I’ve gone through seem like nonfiction…because for a while there, in the midst of the tumultuous ebbs and flows, it felt like mere psychosomatic nonsense as opposed to true experience. After all, how could something that fucking CRAZY have been real?  I had to have imagined it. Rereading my shit makes the continual ups and downs, which I have for a fact lived through, seem significant. It makes the extreme fluctuations seem purposeful and important. When I revisit my words describing the horrors of bipolar disorder in my years passed, I remember who I am –not because I am the personification of the word Mercurial, but because I am a survivor.  I love remembering what I’ve survived (and will survive again).

It’s just that right now, I’m on the precipice of…something.  It’s an exciting edge I’m looking at, but there is no element of fear looking forward at it.  I’m happy to be on it, this turning point. And although I can’t be certain, I think I’m staring NORMAL in the face (as if the conventional meaning of such a word exists).

After ten years of being on the same medication, one that at its best only tamed my persistent mood episodes mildly, I have finally switched to a different one.  Due to a mixture of dumb luck and another overwhelming depression motivating me to somehow acquire a change, I managed to acquire that change. I even took the self-help a step further and got into therapy again.

Three-ish months later, and I feel like the “something” that I’m staring at has been a long time coming.  No, I wasn’t supposed to be so wildly up and so sickeningly down, so often, for so long, while having been on a mood stabilizer.  No, I don’t have to live that way anymore, and no, it doesn’t have to be how it’s always been: I can manage this. I can cope with these chemicals in my brain that has morphed into a monster (the definition of “cope” being “to deal effectively with something difficult,” by the way).  I can function better. It doesn’t have to take so much energy to control something as simple (or complex) as my mood. I can do this.

The writer in me is worried.  What will I write about if I don’t have insanity fueling my words?  Will I be boring without the cyclic breaks from reality? Can I even write well when the subject isn’t something as important as my delicate mental health?  I mean, skill is skill, but having no power behind it scares me.

You have to admit, it is worrisome.  Or at least, it WOULD be worrisome, until this essay-thing started pouring out of me.  Writing begets writing. Does that make sense? Am I using that word correctly? What I mean is that the problem that had to do with writing was solved by writing.  I’m writing about writing. It’s a very “meta” thing, now that I’m thinking about it.

But the main point is that being more stable is not going to negatively impact my writing.  Maybe it’ll even have the opposite effect. I’ll be able to concentrate on words ALL the time, as opposed to only when I’ve emotionally evened out (the task of writing, though as necessary to me as breathing, is insurmountably difficult when I’m not evened out).  And who says I won’t still be writing about my mental health? I write about the anorexia that nearly killed me, and I write about it expertly I think, and that isn’t my main enemy anymore. Why shouldn’t the same logic extend to the bipolar disorder? Furthermore, even if I’m writing a story about a completely random topic, who says I won’t inject mental health into the story’s meaning?

WHO I AM is more than BIPOLAR, but my mood disorder is a tremendous part of what has made me who I am.  So I am certain that it will permeate all corners of my writing just like it reaches all corners of who I am.  As it should. As I like it. I like who I am and I like that I’m a survivor and I like that the two are mixed evenly together to make a homogenous writer who is proud of herself.

There are so many things I can write about outside the realm of mental health.  I’m so excited to delve into them all. I can’t wait to practice writing in all its glorious forms, gaining as many skills as I can and learning as much as possible.  I will write about everything as eloquently as I can; such is why I write, after all.

A part of me is sad because as I leave the shores of practically-untreated bipolar disorder behind, I might miss being the frantically up-and-down Laura that I’ve always been.  But I am reminding myself that it is a part of me I’m not giving up so much as growing from.

And besides.  Whenever I miss my insanity, I can always visit it with words.

Laura’s Bipolar Survival Guide

I wrote this “survival guide” thing like, a few months ago. I was so determined to reach my goal of making my major episodes fewer and farther between. Didn’t work right away (totally had like two more major depressions or mixed states and rapid cycled and just dealt with all the usual bullshit), but I’ve been okay since the start of June (which makes this period of stability –and I will call it stability at this point– just over a month and a half long (so far!). I think maybe, just maybe, I’ll be okay for a longer period of time this time. Anyway…dunno if anyone will be helped out by this, but it couldn’t hurt to post.

Bipolar Survival Guide

Goal: make it five full months without a major episode

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY:

When you feel the itch come on, or experience the start of insomnia, or fear what’s

to come is actually coming soon, or think it’s all about to start in any way…

  • Have someone make you accountable for taking your fucking medication; don’t fucking fuck with your meds EVER, especially when you’re heading for trouble
  • Start thinking all that positive shit; do it now while you’re still able to; tell yourself you’ll get through this, give yourself a pep talk, read inspirational quotes, etc
  • Take supplements that are supposed to help, too; Magnesium, B12, and fish oil are all supposed to help, and passionflower extract does wonders for your anxiety; and I fucking know you have plenty of all of those
  • Hide all the knives and shit; don’t cut yourself, you aren’t a fucking child and you know it’s a stupid thing to do; you don’t WANT to anyway, you really fucking don’t
  • Do NOT drink alcohol; you always do that when it gets rough and you always regret it; you don’t have to make this shit worse and you know if you were fully in your right mind you wouldn’t drinkkkkk
  • Warn friends & family what’s coming in a smart, mature way; tell them what you need now & anticipate needing soon; do it in advance, while you still have clarity of mind
  • Exercise as much as possible; get the wiggles out, get the energy out, get the frustration out; plus, it’ll help you sleep better
  • Eat healthier than you normally would; fruits and veggies and all that shit; it couldn’t hurt, and it’ll make you feel more like a functioning human being
  • Drink water like it’s your fuckin’ job; again, it couldn’t fucking hurt
  • CBD oil to relax and stay calm (worth a shot, right?)
  • Mindfulness and all that nonsense; meditation apps and youtube videos; breathe with that thing that goes in and out and just focus on fucking breathing; affirmation youtube videos, and if anything just leave them on in the background while you do something else; adult coloring pages; etc
  • If you need an immediate reset: 
    • Take a shower, either really hot or really cold; the change in temperature helps reduce anxiety because your brain can’t process anxiety and a sudden change like that
    • Call someone to talk; it’s distracting and they might be able to actually help (fuckin’ imagine that)
    • Remove yourself from the situation that’s causing emotional distress (if you can)
    • Count the number 1-20, but out of order (again, your brain can’t focus on doing that and being anxious at the same time)
    • Sleeeeeeep; just escape it all and take a nap, if possible)
    • Use one of the many mental health  apps on your phone to reset yourself; there’s CalmHarm and ClearFear and What’s Up and Aloe Bud and Virtual Hope Box and Mood Shift and Rootd; etc
  • If you need to make sure your day really goes as planned:
    • Drink a full glass of water when you wake up
    • Take your fucking meds, all of them, right away (don’t wait otherwise you won’t take them, you know that, dumbass)
    • Take vitamins and supplements and all that too, while you’re at it
    • Clean something; it makes you feel accomplished, and a clean space leaves less room for anxiety, and less external chaos means less internal chaos
    • Turn music on; happy songs are probably best, but the usual hardcore screamy stuff will do just fine
    • Take a shower; you have the time, just fucking get in the shower and wash your body and do your hair and get all nice and squeaky clean, you’ll fucking feel better, you idiot
    • Journal; get those feelings out, you have the compulsive need to do it anyway, so just do it now in the morning, for as long as possible or as long as it takes to be emptied of the bullshit
    • Do some of that meditating or mindfulness crap; just do it
  • Remember that the torturous parts of this disorder are temporary. Yes, it fucking BLOWS to have to remember that when you’re in the throes of it or if you’re heading there soon. But seriously. You’ve been through this before, you’ve been through it more times than you can count, and yes I realize that sounds like a bad thing, but motherFUCKER if anyone can survive this one, it’s YOU ‘cause you’re a fucking badass bitch from hell and this bipolar shit ain’t got nothing on you. Boom.
  • Be aware of triggers:
    • Stress at work or in any area of life, really
    • Being physically sick is a big one, so stay healthy and take care of yourself if you feel a cold or something on
    • Too many good things happening may trigger mania, although I don’t think you’ve written down enough data to make that hypothesis seem correct; just be careful of that anyway
  • Other things that help:
    • Video game music helps you focus
    • Lavender spray makes you calm down, at least a little
    • Lighting a candle makes you happy
    • Turn on a show you can watch mindlessly (Family Guy, probably)
    • Fidget toys help when you start to get too twisty and fidgety
  • Continue to keep track of your moods (Daylio and eMoods are absolutely necessary, but use the other ones too as things get trickier), and then ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE OF THEM and FIND PATTERNS so you can PLAN FOR THE FUTURE BETTER
  • Read a book about bipolar disorder (it helps you feel like you can make sense of all this shit and maybe have some semblance of control over it all); “Brilliant Advice from my Bipolar Life” is a really good guide with tons of tips, and it’s got lots of fun cartoons in it; or “Bipolar Survival Guide” is another good one; or “Bipolar Disorder: a guide for patients and families” is another; orrrr just research biochemistry and other related information, because if anything it’ll distract you
  • Write!!! Work on something, anything. Just write. Throw yourself into it. And if you’re already at the point where you can’t fucking focus or form coherent thoughts or whatever, do something that’ll improve your writing eventually; like reading about writing (books with tips and advice or even just advice from other writers on tumblr or online somewhere)
  • Maybe it’ll help to focus on the good things that come with being bipolar
    •  You’re creative, can’t deny that, being bipolar is at least somewhat tied to that
    • You’re kind and compassionate, and that comes at least partially from having such a wide range of emotions and emotional experiences, so you can relate to and help so many other people as a result
    • You’re braver and stronger than most people just by being alive still, just by having survived your own fucking life, be proud of that, keep building upon that
    • Think of as many more of these as you need to (even though it’s gonna be a hard thing to do in the moment)
  • Look up Carrie Fisher quotes (RIP Space Mom), either the ones about being bipolar or any of her other famous quotes, because she was fucking awesome; if she could do it, so can you; and furthermore, you wanna do her proud, don’t ya?
  • Speaking of quotes, here, have some inspirational ones (generic or not, just fucking read them, it’ll help you and you know it):
    • This too shall pass
    • “In the depths of winter I finally found that within me was an invincible summer”
    • Every little thing is gonna be alright 🙂
    • If you believe in something, believe in it all the way
    • You don’t have to know where you’re headed to be going in the right direction
    • Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire
    • Attack every day with enthusiasm!
    • It’s going to be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay it’s not the end
    • Leap and the net will appear
    • Wake up, Drink coffee, Kick ass, Repeat
    • “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”
    • Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it
    • What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us
    • I am an optimist; it doesn’t seem much use to be anything else
    • Life is a mirror; it’ll smile at you if you smile at it
    • Be the person who can smile on the worst day
    • If you want a different outcome you have to do different things
    • Without struggle, there can be no progress
    • “Keep your face always towards the sunshine and the shadows will always fall behind you”
    • If you don’t know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take
    • Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come
    • You’ve survived 100% of your worst days so far
    • Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted
    • Cut yourself some slack, you’re doing better than you think
    • “Surviving is my best revenge, what hurts you once won’t hurt you again”
    • Find one small thing that doesn’t suck and hold onto it
    • Everything is figureoutable
    • “Make a wish and do as dreamers do…and all your wishes will come true” ❤
    • When life gives you 100 reasons to be sad, show life you have 1000 reasons to smile
    • “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”
    • “The sun comes up every morning; hope gets lost but never dies; love is so much stronger than hate; seasons change; don’t forget the smell after a storm”
    • “Even the darkest nights will end and the sun will rise!”
    • “Follow every rainbow til you find your dream”
    • Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves
    • If life shuts a door, open it again; it’s a door, that’s how they work
    • Believe in the happily fucking ever after
    • What if = fear ; Even if – faith
    • You can be  both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously
    • The energy we use is never wasted
  • And don’t forget the ones tattoed on your fucking body:
    • It takes rain to make a rainbow
    • Happiness can be found, even if the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light
    • Have a magical day!
    • Just keep swimming, just keep swimming
    • Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise
  • Things you can control:
    • Your beliefs
    • Your attitudes
    • Your thoughts
    • Your perspective
    • Who your friends are
    • What books you read
    • How often you exercise
    • The type of food you eat
    • How you interpret situations
    • How kind you are to others
    • How kind you are to yourself
    • How often you say “I love you”
    • How often you say “thank you”
    • How you express your feelings
    • Whether or not you ask for help
    • How often you practice gratitude
    • How many times you smile today
    • The amount of effort you put forth
    • How much time you spend worrying
    • How much you appreciate the things you have
  • Real Talk: be kind to yourself; this shit sucks and you’ve been handling it for too long, and you’re handling it right now; so cut yourself some slack and give yourself the credit you damn well deserve, even if no one else does (ESPECIALLY if no one else does)

Morning Affirmations

The sky woke up with a dull, gray covering this morning. And although I usually prefer when dawn chases the night away, forcing it to retreat while purples become pinks become oranges, I’m trying to view this rainy, stormy day as a potential adventure. The heavens are open, life-giving water is pouring into the earth, and the sound of rolling thunder is somehow calming. I’m at my favorite coffee shop. The meditative, chattering background noise along with the raindrops pitter-pattering against the large window in front of me soothes my mind —which is fairly quiet this morning compared to a typical day in my life. I’m taking slow, full breaths, inhaling the deep aroma of freshly brewed coffee and positivity. Exhaling thoughts of today’s potential chaos. My insides are expanding to allow space for observation; today I will watch my emotions flow back and forth, melting into one another, as an impartial judge. I refuse to contract, to fold into myself. I refuse to decrease in size, to shrivel into fear, to let myself tighten when I needn’t let myself tighten. I am vast and all-encompassing. I greet this day with a curious disposition. And as I sit here in contemplative stillness as the world and I wake up, gaining conscious preparedness, following the tried-and-true routines that keep us safely secured amid the rush of life, I know I can retain the cozy comfort of this rainy, stormy morning.

“We’re only given one spark of madness.”

I have this hooded denim vest that I stick all my pins and patches on. It’s fun to wear because it’s fun and colorful, and overall just an outward expression of who I am, how I feel in the inside. My favorite pin on there, as of lately, is an orange one with a Robin Williams quote: “You are only given one tiny spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” I’ve thought a lot about those words lately.

Madness is something I know well. I know it may sound like a subjective thing, madness. Who’s to say what makes a person mad? What are the qualifications? Who’s a typical example of madness, who can we base our judgment off of? I know personally, I feel I’m mad because my ridiculously extreme mood fluctuations and my tenuous grip on my sanity makes me act in an over-the-top, out of control way. So like, I’m pretty sure I know madness in the way Robin Williams meant it. I know how he must have felt as he said those words. He was known to have suffered from depression, and unfortunately lost his battle against it.

But taking the definition of madness and putting it aside, what the comedian was saying is that madness is a gift. It doesn’t have to be veiled in darkness, the word doesn’t have to hold a negative connotation.

I agree to an extent. My insanity can certainly be a gift (although that might be a fairly magnanimous way to view it). It’s given me many wonderful things: my creativity, my capability to show empathy, my motivation, my passionate personality. Maybe neither the bad or the good outweighs the other, maybe comparing the benefits and disadvantages of being crazy is like comparing two totally unrelated things. But what I know for sure is I wouldn’t change who I am, madness and all, even if I could. I simply wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to risk losing the good, despite all of the bad.

Because as much as it sucks, my bipolar makes me see things differently. I see the world and all that it encompasses in a unique way. It’s not always beautiful, but it’s not always ugly. It is always my way, though. It is always true to me.

Again, it makes me creative, it helps me manipulate words, helps me bend them, helps me to warp their meaning by surrounding them with other words of varying meanings, all to get you to understand or allow you to escape or propel you into your own imagination. It makes me empathetic, allows me to understand the other human beings that walk this earth alongside me. It helps me connect to them in meaningful, beautiful ways. It drives me forward, and although my one-track mind isn’t always ideal, the passion behind it is powerful and glorious.

This all brings me to the ever-popular question amongst those with my affliction: where does my bipolar stop and where do I start? If the qualities I value about myself are so inextricably linked to my disorder, then is my disorder the only thing I like about myself?

In terms of recovering from anorexia, it wasn’t a matter of going back to who I was prior to diving into the depths of the disorder; rather, it was a matter of reinventing myself, new and while and happy, once the detrimental mental clutter was all cleared out. I couldn’t go back to before (a literal child). I couldn’t stay within it (utterly and painfully obsessed with food and calories and weight, chained to self-destruction). I had to decide who I wanted to be and be it.

Of course, deciding who I wanted to be wasn’t easy. So many options, ya know? I wanted to be me. Just me. But I needed a clearer image of what “just me” meant.

Bipolar is an entirely different animal. First of all, I’m stuck with it. It ain’t goin’ anywhere. Second, it’s more of a personality trait thing than a behavior thing.

Not to mention how some people with bipolar experience periods of normal stability in between major episodes. Or so they say. I’ve heard that and read it a thousand times lately. But like, what does that mean for me?? What is normal? What is stable? What is an even keel? I feel like all of that alludes me, or maybe I just like to feel down on myself.

One spark. One glittering, luminous, dangerous, shocking spark. That’s all we get in this life, and maybe if we were to let it fizzle out prematurely, we’d regret it.

One spark of madness. One diagnosis. One chance to utilize what it’s given me.

One chance to survive and thrive, to take the bullshit along with the best of it and make this thing work, because one day I may regret it if I don’t.

The point I’m trying to make is that madness is not a punishment. I mustn’t think of it in that way. I must open the madness up to the sparkling light, applying the benefits of it to my life. I think by understanding it in that way I’ll be better able to discern who I am.

Still some fight in me

My car has always been a sort of limbo;
I wait here, time passing.
I am not patient but still content
to stay here listening to classical music
(some of which I remember playing, years ago)
that reminds me I have a past
that was full of pain and torment but
also of
music and its reverberating explosions that send shockwaves of unimaginable hope through my being,
out my arteries, down through my fingertips,
and carried back to my heart with triumph.
I cannot always hang tight into that hope
(I don’t know anyone who has a right to blame me).
I cannot always see a way to weather the storms
(that come fast and hard, quicker than ever now, gaining intensity and ferocity)…but
I am intensity. I am ferocity.
I cannot always know this, see this, understand this, feel this.
But it doesn’t change that I am.
So I sit in limbo. Waiting, time passing…
Minutes march on,
thank some sort of god that they do,
and I’m surviving
(though not always actively).
How often have I sat here in the in-between?
Does it even matter?
Does anything?
I don’t have to know.
I’m wearing makeup and earrings
and a shirt that says “hello sunshine;”
I clearly have some sort of fight left in me.

A poem about my daily life that ends far too optimistically, but whatever…

She woke before seven, excitement abundant, still groggy but ready to thrive.
She sprang out of bed (or did something like that); it was morning and she was alive!

With a handful of pills and a few sips of water, she began with a plea to stay stable.
Then came washing and dressing, while counting each blessing…the gratitude made her feel able.

The birds started chirping, the world started waking, the sun started brightening the sky.
The quiet was punctured, (perhaps that was better), and then the thoughts started to fly…

With resolve she stayed focused on what she thought mattered: the good that this new day would bring.
Because in only one hour, or probably less, she had felt her moods climb, fall, and swing.

“Come ON,” she thought loudly above all the chaos, “you got this, just sit and calm down!”
But would sitting there help when annoyance was rising and rage on her face put a frown?

The always-there need to be NOT sitting still then took over. She got in her car.
She wanted to drive fast, away from confusion, away, anywhere, near or far.

She wound up (surprise!) at the cafe in town, as if the paths toward it were paved.
And soon coffee was brewing, her passion renewing. Just maybe the day could be saved.

For her mug full of love was symbolic of passion and all the excitement it brings.
With sugar and milk added for extra goodness, the winter outside became spring!

“Alright,” went her brain-talk, “you know now you’re able to change your emotional state.”
Deep inside, though, she knew her bipolar disorder would get her, would always checkmate.

What was she to do, this mess of a human, when life brings such her up, down, and up?
She takes all the meds and she thinks the right things, she forever fills her coffee cup.

Though the grand fluctuations are now less intense, though the coaster-ride invokes less fear,
The daily uncertainty, constant unsureness, make it hard to know ‘normal’ is near.

Yet for all she knows, ‘normal’ is just as dramatic, confusing, and full of such flux.
So honestly, why should she bother? She shouldn’t! She shouldn’t give so many fucks.

Now tomorrow is dawning, it’s come to forgive her, to show her a new chance to live.
And yes it will test her, and also will bless her, will prove to the girl it can give.

Because that is tomorrow and that is the next day, that’s life in a nutshell, you see.
The crazy’s expected, can even be fun, once you realize this you can be free.