It was dark.

The only light in the room was coming off the clock on the nightstand, which indicated that it was 4:02am by way of a dull blue glow. It was too fucking early. And too fucking dark. And cold. Fuck the cold.

Insomnia ravaged her. Again.

The grunting snores of her boyfriend, fast asleep next to her, sent her temper spiraling but she was comatose despite the succession of jittery shockwaves pulsing through her body. She didn’t get up. She didn’t move. No matter how hard she willed herself to, she didn’t so much as roll over.

Why bother?

She didn’t want to wait til dawn to break. She wanted it to come now. She needed it and needed it now, in this moment, because waiting is the worst and she didn’t have the patience for it. This sucked.

It was her fault, she hated to admit. She’d drugged herself to sleep (thank you sleeping pill, melatonin, and cbd oil) at 6:27 because she couldn’t stand the thought of being awake for a moment longer, staring blankly at the wall. No, her brain was too loud but it wouldn’t allow her to move and her stomach growled angrily but it couldn’t bear the heaviness of food and there were texts to answer but no words were available to her. No, fuck that. Time to fucking sleep.

At two in the morning she’d opened her eyes but forced them shut again. Forced her brain into a quasi sleep mode by having made up conversations in her head, half concentrating on them until she couldn’t any more and the fake attempt at batting away the longing for a friendly voice, a friendly presence, faded into unfulfilling sleep.

Two hour of tossing and turning and it brought her to her present wide-awake state. Fuck.

Get up and do something, she berated herself. Get to your headphones, blast some metal, or open your laptop, do some writing.

No amount of internal urging seemed to be enough to summon the motivation to move.

She was just about to attempt to get another round of restless sleep in, but the thought of doing so was more exhausting than actually doing it. So she finally got up. Cold enveloped her.

She paced. She paused. She stood motionless like a confused zombie trying to get her thoughts together but it was a messy, tangled web up in her mind. Wires were twisted. None of them were plugged into the right connections.

Gravity amazingly pulled her to her desk, where her headphones thankfully sat on a pile of books, which thankfully was next to her laptop. A sweatshirt was thrown over the back of her chair, and she used what little energy she had to pull it over herself. It was a miracle that the setting was now one that allowed for a meager amount of productivity to take place.

A miracle. That’s what’s worth calling a miracle? How stupid. How pathetically stupid. But whatever.

Headphones on. Music loud. Laptop open. Document pulled up. Aaaaand, go!

“Going” took another few minutes of zoned-out staring, but somehow her fingers were brought to the keyboard and somehow they started moving and somehow the movements formed words that appeared on the too-bright screen in front of her.

Why is this happening again? Why did I let this happen again? Why did I make this happen again and why am I continuing to push myself father into it. Again. I’m guilty as charged. I hate myself.

It went on like that for a while. Her words chased themselves in circles. Negativity. Self-hate. Anger. It went on until she began to write fervently and passionately and quickly, so quickly, her fingers barely keeping up with the pace at which her brain threw thoughts into formation.

She shrugged her sweatshirt off. Rolled up her sleeves. Was it getting hotter, or was she becoming overheated like a computer that’s been on for too long? Did it even matter?

Her eyes flicked away from the computer for a fraction of a second.

Bad move. Losing the flow was always a bad move. She lost the momentum and let her thoughts wander and…fuck, no. Why did she let her thoughts wander?

But the tattoo on her left forearm shouted loudly from its type-written font: Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise!

Fucking positivity.

Yet there was a pale light in the distance now. It fell through the window as if by accident but it stayed like it was comfortable in the bedroom. Morning had come. She shut her laptop.

She collapsed back into bed, weary from the exertion of being awake and alive.

But at least she got an hour and a half of sleep.

*

“If you have the courage to make it through a lonely night with nothing but your self destructive thoughts to keep you company, darling, you have the courage to make it through anything.”

I spoke too soon with this one, buuuutttt, I guess when my brain calms down after this round, the sentiment of this essay will be true again

They say “making a mountain out of a molehill” is expanding what is, in reality, a tiny insignificant issue into something monumental and dramatic.  An overreaction. An over-exaggeration. A histrionic response to something that doesn’t warrant such theatrical feedback.

I’m known for this.

A spilled cup of coffee is The End Of The World.  Spill a cup of coffee and the ground cracks in a violent zigzag that spits forth red-hot molten earth.  Spill a single drop and the skies open up, a foreboding, gaping hole revealing heaven itself, and the only result is torrents of rain that send floodwaters rising too high to fathom.  Spill, and the apocalypse is surely coming.

It works in reverse, too.  When I wake up and the sun is shining it means Life Is Amazing (so long as every other star has aligned itself with the sun so as to create such a perfect condition of Amazingness).  When I have a fun night out with my friends it means, for some reason, that I Am Invincible and if I wanted to go for a run I could make it across the country without needing to stop (particularly if this happens several nights in a row, but providing that nothing happens during the days between the nights that could fuck it all up).  When I’m driving and a song shuffles on that accurately fits my mood it is a Sign From The Universe that everything is perfect and nothing can go wrong and incredible things are going to happen and and and and (just as long none of my thoughts go rogue, because just one gone wrong could sabotage the whole thing).

And I guess there are more than a few people who fit into the category of blowing things out of proportion.  But of those people, even fewer experience it in the same ways I have.

We’re called bipolar.  And we come in different degrees of crazy, to phrase it in a probably-offensive way but one that speaks to how I personally feel about it.  But what I mean is we have differences in the nuances of our illnesses. We’re all different. Our symptoms manifest in different ways, and we experience different degrees of those oh-so-stigmatized monsters called Depression and Mania.  Some travel up and down faster than a slingshot roller coaster, ascending to deranging heights only to be dragged back down to earth accelerating faster than the 9.8 meters per second squared allowed by the laws of gravitation. Some fluctuate slowly, the wavelength between highs and lows longer, like a photon of angry red light as opposed to calm, collected blue.  

I would love to analogize by using the snowflake comparison, but I think that one should permanently retire; people are all unique in and of themselves, and unnecessarily comparing our species to a form of precipitation just, for some reason, fucking pisses me off me.  Like, WHY? That now-hackneyed characterization of human beings doesn’t make sense to me because the fact that everyone on this planet is totally individual should be as clear as day.  But people are dumb so it isn’t.

Oh but look, I’m being melodramatic again.  Unintentionally proving my point. What was my point again?

Right, I’m so used to “making mountains out of molehills.”  It’s second nature. Or perhaps a more appropriate description is that I go to step over a molehill and suddenly I’m looking up at a mountain, its dizzying height sending me into a panic because dammit wasn’t this thing so much smaller a literal second ago?!

Cue a little something I like to call “a proper dose of a medication that actually helps.”  And suddenly the idiom is reversed. The mountains I am so accustomed to, the ones I’ve had no choice but to expect after years and years of begrudgingly climbing them, they’re becoming smaller.  And I’m beating the phrase to death, but I’ll use it one more time in this reversal: the mountains are becoming molehills.

Yeah, so the obstacles are still there.  There are still days when coffee spillage is upsetting, even overly so, and on those days I might crawl under my covers and hide for a while.  But the earth doesn’t split open at its seams and I don’t fear for the end of existence as I know it. And there are definitely good days. Ones where I wake up feeling hopeful, go about my morning routine with a smile, hit every green light on my way to work, and actually getting to work doesn’t ruin that specific brand of inner peace that the day has brought me (or perhaps that I have brought myself).  On those days I still know that I’m in control. Under the layers of my consciousness, in the far reaches of my mind, no panic bubbles to the surface. Nothing hisses at me from the corner “this is too good to be true,” and I don’t respond with “oh shit you’re right.”

It’s weird, actually.  I’m still partially anticipating the worst.  But I’m not consumed with worry. That’s the weird part.  I’m not living in fear as a result of every hill I hike through.  I mean, that’s a good thing. I know that’s a good thing. So why am I somehow scared of it?

It’s change, I assume.  Or maybe it’s having to learn how to live life without making those molehills mountains.  The two are probably related.

Well, either way, I’ve gotta get used to it.  Gotta focus on scaling the other problems I have (I’m sure I can find enough of them to occupy myself).  And whether they reach the clouds or simply rise above ground-level in a mound, I’ll survive –and live to tell the tale dramatically.

Fighter

You are a fighter

which is another word for

magically resilient…

openly battling an enemy,

heart like a fist punching the wind out of opposition

however much of it there is.

A fighter,

you are a threat to life’s struggles, however strong they may be

(or seem to be).

A force to be reckoned with

because goddammit giving up isn’t an option.

Collector of emotions extreme,

sometimes (all times) aggressively powerful…

You are a fighter at all times, in all places

partially because you have to be

but mostly

because you simply are as you are

*keep fighting

5eba98a6-df01-4215-b3c3-10b8ca8cc90c

 

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.

How to know it’s coming on again (short version)

  • No matter what song I put on, it doesn’t feel right
  • No matter where I go, it doesn’t feel homey or safe or okay
  • So much dread
  • The fact that I have to get through a whole day (and subsequently a whole night) feels like I have to scale a mountain
  • “Life hurts”
  • I’m overwhelmed by everything
  • I’m having trouble doing small, menial tasks
  • I want to drive really fast so the anxiety can’t catch up to me
  • I can’t decide what mood I’m in or how I feel, I just know I don’t feel right
  • Oh dear GOD the irritability

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.

Manic

“Do you remember

When you were young

And you wanted to

Set the world on fire”

These lyrics hit me square in the stomach whenever my music shuffles to this song.  I remember so vividly listening to these words on last year’s hot summer days, filled to the brim with hot-blooded passion.  I was nothing if not wildly manic –and not the irritated, agitated, anxious, dysphoric kind that usually rips into me. It was transcendent happiness sending shockwaves of light, blindingly radiant, throughout my emotional core.  Which is why I didn’t simply listen to the music; I experienced it. Particularly distinct are my memories of listening to it one sunshiney August morning in my parents’ pool, as I alternated between sipping my coffee and swimming laps like I was training for the motherfucking Olympics.  “Teenage Anarchist” was roaring through my speaker at full volume, the perfect soundtrack to the perfect start to the perfect day after a perfect succession of days and nights and days and nights and…it blended together, obscuring any realistic interpretation of the previous seven weeks.  Perhaps the tangled mess of sleepless nights and unheard of caffeine intake fueled the fire, but then again, what wasn’t stoking the flames.  What wasn’t egging them on to rise higher, burn hotter.  To spread. The music was an energy that buzzed throughout each of my senses -I heard the interlaced harmonies, saw the notes pass over my vision, even tasted the electric shock of the guitarist striking each chord- finally resting in my sense of feeling.  It was euphoric. It was priceless. It was rampant energy, but this time with someplace to go. It shot out of my body like radiation emanating from the sun. The world was overflowing with a crazy joy, and I consumed it all greedily. I was at the top of the world, not knowing I was dangerously close to its edge.  And I continued to listen to that song, the song that existed for me, my song. The song that played on repeat, that stayed with me underneath my conscious awareness for two months. Two long fucking months.

…until it dissipated into frazzled distress like balloon that ascended too high into the atmosphere, reaching a deranging altitude, until it maxed out, popped, exploded.  Then the remnants of its container plummeted down to earth, somehow crashing into it with the force of the meteor that caused the goddamn ice age.

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)

“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.

How are names, a Harry Potter quote, exorcisms, and mental health related? Well I’m glad you asked…read on:

I think it’s obvious to anyone reading this that I have a natural affinity for words. Finding vocabulary that fits certain feelings I want to convey, finding phrases and linking them with other phrases that capture the essence of a particular topic, grouping sentences that are applicable to certain experiences together with one another…I fucking love that shit.

I like metaphors, I think in terms of them often, but still, whenever possible, I strive to call things what they are. There’s always been a particular kind of power in doing so. There always will be.

Yet calling things what they are can be scary in some situations.

Which brings me to a certain Harry Potter quote, naturally: “Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” Said by none other than the wisest of wizards, Albus Dumbledore, it refers to calling Voldemort (a dark wizard, a totally evil-as-shit kinda dude, if you haven’t read the books) by his actual name as opposed to “he who shall not be named.” When I read the books growing up, it never occurred to me to question the fact that everyone and their mother was afraid of saying his damn name. It drove the point home about what a scary, inhuman motherfucker Voldemort was. As I got older it definitely seemed silly and almost childish to dance around calling him his real name. But as I was coming to such realizations about Harry Potter, I was simultaneously struggling with calling my own shit what it was.

As I began to develop the anorexia that ultimately had me in its grasp for three years, I truly didn’t realize what I was doing had a name. I was just stressed and nauseous and upset and anxious and overwhelmed and sad. And therefore, couldn’t eat. The disorder gathered speed slowly at first but gained momentum rather quickly once I came to understand that, “holy shit, there IS a name for what this is.” I remember the exact moment. I was standing on the scale in the bathroom on December 23rd, 2007. I remember sneaking in there to step on what would define my self-worth that day, I remember that I’d faked my way through eating half a bagel with my parents, sister, and grandparents who were visiting for the holiday. I remember gently putting the scale on the floor, ever so quietly so no one would know what I was doing. I remember stepping on, I remember what I weighed. And I remember when truth knocked the innocence out of me, stepping off the scale, and staring into the mirror at myself, looking gaunt and pale and fearful. There was a fucking name for it.

I spent two more years hiding the name and accompanying behaviors from anyone and everyone. I didn’t say the name, I didn’t write the name, I tried not to think the name.

When I eventually had no choice but to acknowledge said name (and subsequently be hospitalized and treated for anorexia, something that literally saved my life), it was revolutionary. There was a certain freedom in saying it around other kids and teenagers like me. It was phenomenal to say it and be heard saying it and to be proud of saying it, all while trying to rid myself of it. To top it off, I discovered the language behind it. The medical terminology, the psychological terminology. Even slang used by the other patients, my friends. There was power in saying those names and those words.

Because by saying them, by naming things what they were, I regained control. I wasn’t afraid of it anymore. Or, I wasn’t more afraid than I had to be; yeah, it was pretty terrifying to have to face this brand new concept (recovery), but I didn’t have the additional fear of a simple fucking word. And furthermore, I had the language to explain it all and described it so it would be understood. I had the tools to fight it.

For some reason, that had always reminded me of exorcisms. Go with me here. If you’ve ever seen a movie about that nonsense, you know that the priest always tried to get the thing that’s possessing the human to say it’s name. I just checked it out in some religious website, so look:

“Naming something (the demon), or knowing its name, means having power over that thing. In fact, God gives Adam the power to name things. At the instant that the demon reveals his name, it shows that he has been weakened; if he doesn’t say it, he is still strong.”

Now, I’m not religious. But I like the analogy here. Because as I said, naming things puts the power back in my hands.

When I call my anxiety what it is and just allow the use of its name to settle, I feel like I have at least a sliver of an ability to make it go away. It’s anxiety, that’s all. It’s real and it’s there and it sucks, but it has a name and other people know its name. It’s okay.

If I call my depression what it is, if I declare that I’m in a bipolar depression, it isn’t as scary bc at least it’s a legitimate thing that has some potential to be managed. If I call my hypomania what it is (if I make myself acknowledge that I’m going a mile a minute and it’s not because I’m superhuman), it’s a real thing that I’m going through and it has an end, because it is defined, and I’ll make it to the end without seriously attempting to fly.

If I’m suicidal, I have to call it that. I have to label the sinister desire within me with a word that matches it in strength and character. I have to call these things what they are.

I’m not saying this naming business is the end all be all for recovery and mental health management. I’m not saying emotions and behaviors without names aren’t legitimate. I’m not even saying you can’t pull yourself out of a dark spot without being honest about it all (although I wouldn’t advise going that route). I just mean to say that there is so much fucking good that can come out of naming things what they are and not fearing what doing so may mean.