a shitshow of a brain-dump

Even though I keep thinking this episode is over, it never is. Or, it hasn’t been yet. Eventually, it will be. Hopefully sometime fucking soon. But today is not that day, my friends.

I went to bed at 4:30pm last night. Like, the afternoon. Slept til 7 this morning, too, which I guess isn’t a bad thing. It certainly beats being conscious. But maybe that’s a bad way to look at it haha, like, I shouldn’t want to be unconscious. It’s just like…how else am I supposed to deal while just waiting this fuckin’ thing out?

I was asking myself what’s better. Crying for hours, tears saturated with anguish and discomfort and uncertainty and fear? Or all-consuming emptiness, nothing left to think or feel or experience, al emotion lost in the void? They both suck. But it’s been changing up nightly, so there’s at least some variety in the fucking depression.

I had therapy this morning, which always helps, and it did help, and I’m so relieved because I’m still kinda riding that high even though I needed my Klonopin (that I’ve been taking daily, because why suffer, I can’t take the suffering).

Anyway. I went in all mopey and folded into myself as usual but she eventually got me talking (damn, how does she do that?) and I was able to breathe for 45 minutes and have that time as a break from wanting to cease existing just to escape the torment. I could go on forever about the miracles that happen there, while we sit next to each other on the floor by the window, but more on that later.

I hung out with a friend after, a fellow mental health warrior, and it was a great distraction, and she totally understood that I needed to bolt outta there once I felt the oncoming, out-of-nowhere panic attack ready to pounce.

Came home. Ate fucking food (berries and cottage cheese, weird but healthy, I guess?). I actually ate something with my therapist today too, she gave me some of those breakfast biscuit things, and I ate them, go me.

I took all my fucking vitamins and supplements. Multi bc I’m not getting enough shit I need, biotin because since I’m not getting the shit I need my hair is falling out. Magnesium because it’s supposed to help with anxiety. PassionFlower extract because that is alsooo supposed to help with anxiety and I am desperate.

I also feel the need to say that I’m doing everything right. I’m taking the meds and stopping to inhale and exhale like a normal human, I’m tryinggggg to stay positive. I’m disheartened (and fucking furious) that this still happened.

Now for the brain-dump part that probably isn’t going to make any sense because it’s literally just random nonsense I typed up throughout the day.

I was thinking about what I want right now (an end to the torture, a plan of attack to kick back at this bullshit, some internal motivation that doesn’t dissipate abruptly and painfully) and about what I need (aside from a damn miracle). Like, how do I ask for help from people? What can I tell them I need? Basically I just need patience. Lots of love and affection (all the hugs and cuddles, please). I need work to be understanding about this. Which they are. It’s just ugh I’m still embarrassed.

Okay, now a word on understanding. I hate when people tell me they understand because unless they have bipolar, they most certainly do not and don’t insult me by saying that you do. I’m not gonna invalidate the pain other people feel, that’d be a shitty thing to do. But like, it’s insulting and upsetting. If I’m trying to explain how in my dark moments I literally CANNOT see clearly, I CANNOT fathom a time when I wasn’t in pain or a time when I won’t be in pain, I CANNOT function…and you tell me you’ve been there? Well then why can’t I just “be positive” and move on, like you apparently were able to do. I don’t wanna rant about this too much, but like. It’s on my mind.

I also had this random thought: I take one step forward, two steps back, two steps forward, one step back. I’m staying in the same place (cue bitter frustration seeping out of my brain). But I’m kinda dancing with it. Dancing in place. Like, what I mean by that is I’m trying. I’m doing new things and trying my best (when I am capable of it) and just. I dunno, is that a good perspective?

Lastly, I’m trying to find a way to love myself even with my malfunctioning, glitch-ridden brain. Even with my blossoming bouquet of mental illnesses. What I really mean by that is I’m trying to be proud of myself in spite of feeling like a total failure. I mean, yeah, surviving on a daily basis is a HUGE accomplishment for someone who’s got a mental illness. If you’re in that category of people, congrats and I’m so proud of you. But like gahhh I wanna be proud of myself and it seems to be a struggle for me. I’m gonna try being patient. I mean, nothing says I can’t get back up on the horse and try again. Actually, I’m gonna do that. Because I really have no choice, but because that’s how I like to think I am. Resilient, blah blah, we know. Bipolars are resilient. But, like. Yeah.

Some definitions:

  • Fail- to be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goals
  • Success- the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
  • Goal- the object of a person’s ambition or effort, the desired aim or result
  • Ambition- a strong desire to do or achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work

And some quotes:

  • “Failure is not a sin” –dunno who said it but my HS principal said this at our graduation
  • The only way to fail is to not try –again, dunno who said it, but we all know this basic idea, don’t we
  • “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” –apparently Henry Ford said this
  • Success is a journey, not a destination –I think of happiness the same way, interesting
  • “Ambition is believing in yourself even when no one else in the world does”

I’m just trying to convince myself that I’m worthy of the time it’s gonna take for me to get my shit to an acceptable level of “together.” The words I typed up there totally aren’t gonna make sense if anyone reads them, buuuuut maybe when I go back and read this thingggg later, it’ll jog something in my brain that helps.

Alrighty. Enough smashing this keyboard for the night.

this round: a summary

I’m hesitant to say this round is over. I won’t say that just yet. The remnants of unbearable fear are still with me, the trauma is still too recent.

Like, fuck. It was (I’ll use the past tense there) like 15 or so days of just. Well, if you’ve read my shit before you know what it was like. Or if you’re unlucky enough to suffer this sinister fucking disorder, you know. You don’t need me reminding you.

It always starts with the violent, aggressive, uncontrollable irritability. It has no actual cause and therefore no clear way to be diffused. It’s terrifying. I notice it in the car the most, driving. No matter who’s in front of me and no matter how they’re driving, I am angry. Intensely. White-hot rage is literally all I know or have ever known.

Then major depression. I noticed that when I was driving during that phase, I was angry as fuck still but literally to weary to respond with anger. It turned inward and tore me apart from the inside. It literally radiates off of me (like my anxiety does). My boyfriend always comments when he feels it radiating off of me.

Sidenote, I love that he senses/sees the changes that happen within me. They’re so sudden and for no reason, and they leave me feeling crazy (I already feel crazy like, generally, but I’m constantly questioning like “did that really just happen, did I really just sob hysterically for an hour?”). 

After that (or along with it) comes anxiety. Fuck the fucking anxiety. Like, physical panic attack symptoms coupled with the racing thoughts, none of which I can fully latch onto, most of them scary, many of them about death. It’s just indescribable to not have a safe place in your brain. No amount of visualization or breathing can fix it. Not even having someone next to me speaking words of comfort. Not even a hug, and I love hugs.

I had family stuff all weekend, and my cousins were visiting from another state. And it was terrible because I spent one day holding back tears and hiding and then actually letting the tears just fuckin’ flow. I couldn’t even bring myself to make eye contact with anyone that day. Yesterday was a little better. I was mopey and uncomfortable and distracted and totally not myself.

Then, of course, I got home and was hysterical for a little over an hour. And not that I wanna put myself back in that terrible, terrible moment (or any of the MANY previous ones I’ve had), but I just remember so vividly wondering how I’d ever be able to function again. I couldn’t fathom how I’d ever been able to function before. There was no escape, nothing else but inward-pointing disgust and depression and fear. I couldn’t stop crying, I couldn’t stop dwelling on the fact that I’m only fucking 28 and that this thing is gonna live with me for the rest of  my ever, and it might get worse and there’s no cure and like. Yeah, the cure thing. I explained to a friend of mine that “cure” is not a thing. Meds are not a cure, therapy is not a cure, doing all the right things is not a cure. They help. They give me better tools to survive the next round. But that’s all it is, most times: survival.

Sounds like a totally negative way to view it. And I feel no guilt for feeling that way. This. Shit. Sucks. I deserve a pity party after every fucking episode. At least grant me that (not that I need or am asking for permission).

Also, could timing possibly have been any worse? Ugh. I missed them all and they were physically here. The guilt I felt made things worse. The longing didn’t help either.

And I’m pretty sure none of them have ever seen me quite that bad. I was afraid I scared or upset them. But honestly, they are all so understanding and helpful and supportive, and the tremendous amount of love I feel for them is mind-blowing. I am so lucky, and I’m at a loss for words. I doubt that in a lifetime of writing and collecting words, I’ll ever get enough to explain how lucky I am or how much all that means to me.

And I have to mention my sister. And brother in law. Not only their actually support, but they were sending pictures of my amazing perfect adorable pure nephew. Immediately puts a smile on my face. Lots of people reminded me that he’s a big WHY. I want to be the aunt he deserves. And I know I can be, although I dread having to explain to my little guy why Aunt Laura loses it every now and again (but there’s a Dr Seuss book about feelings which is actually totally about bipolar disorder that I’m gonna use when he’s old enough). It sometimes hurt that I had to feel so shitty and have that someone be connected to how he was making me feel better. There was some measure of guilt that I can’t explain. But my god is his little face and his little rolls worth it.

Right. So I’m feeling better but not ready to call it being out of the woods yet. If nothing else I think it’ll be less dramatic from here on out, and I think it’ll be less rapid cycling. I think I’ll be at least somewhat less reactive to tiny insignificant bullshit going “wrong.”

Mind you, this is all sheer optimism and positivity. And I do not for a single second take for granted the fact that I am, at this moment, capable of thinking that way. It’s fleeting. All of this is fleeting. I mean, life can be looked at that way by everyone, which might be a helpful push toward “living in the moment.” But bipolar fleeting. Moods are fleeting. Flux is constant and its effects are omnipresent.

I’m just trying to find the silver lining. Wrap this up in a bow, as I tend to do. Actually no, as I need to do. And like, don’t we all? Part of what made this episode suck so bad was that I couldn’t write (even though I had some deadlines) and I couldn’t describe this bullshit in a way that I haven’t already. Each bought of insanity brings with it new…shit. And it is infuriating to not be able to explain it again. Also, I couldn’t move let alone form words. Couldn’t make eye contact let alone summon the energy to talk with other human beings.

I dunno. I guess for now I’m gonna focus (something I’m able to do again!) on finding the beauty in the spaces in between the chaos. Find a way to drill it so deep in my brain that I’ll inherently remember it (or just fucking FEEL it) next depression (well actually this was a mixed episode but whatever).

Until I get around to doing that, peace out, internet.

Saturday 1/25/20

Dear tomorrow, you stupid motherfucker,

I hate you. I hate you already because I know what you’re certain to bring. More of this absolute torture. More gruesome depression. More of the same agony, the agony I write about over and over and over again. I’ve put so many words to it, I don’t think there are many more to be used.  I’ve spent so many hours feverishly writing about this thing, this demon come to life and ravaging my brain, passionately and powerfully. But it doesn’t matter, nothing does, and I still know that when you come in the morning, I’m gonna get gutted with it all. Again. So I hate you. I wish you wouldn’t come. I’m afraid I can’t handle you. It’s all-consuming.

After you leave, there’ll be another tomorrow. I write that sentence as a plain fact, but there’s still emotion attached to it. Maybe the days following yours will be just as bad. Maybe they’ll be worse. The emotions there are obviously…not good. But then, of course, there’s the eventual tomorrow when the sun starts shining again and I start my mornings humming and the magic inside my first cup of coffee stays with me for the entire rest of the day.

It sucks that I have to face you before I feel the world get lighter again. I hate that.

Maybe I shouldn’t hate you, though.  At least not specifically. You’re gonna be hard, and surviving you is sure to suck (this thing is gonna last a while longer). But if nothing else, you’ll be a bridge to better days. Aaaaand to cross the bridge, I’ll need to see you. Tomorrow.

Fuck you for now,

Laura

again

I am completely exhausted. Insomnia has finally given way to excessive sleeping, or maybe it’s just because I’ve been taking multiple doses of multiple sleep aids every night, starting at five, just to become unconscious. I don’t want to have to think. Although I say that as if thinking is an active process at this point. It’s something that just happens. I’m dragged into it. The thoughts come in, rising like floodwaters, forcing me wherever they want me to go. My moods move in a similar, violent fashion, dragging me with them in a deranging pattern that seems never to end. I’m scared, as dramatic as it may seem to say. There’s no other way to describe it. Nothing else seems to capture what this feels like, although everyone I come across who sees my dead expression and my body twisted with anxiety seems to “understand.” Because, apparently, they’ve felt the same way at one point or another. I need that to not be true. Because if “everyone” feels this intensely terrible, then what in the fuck is wrong with me? Have they really experienced the painful ripping of their sanity from their brain? Repeatedly? Have they suffered the debilitating fear waiting for it to happen again? Have they been pulverized by the gravity of the rage within them, caused and quelled by absolutely nothing? Have they collapsed into bed, exhausted from staring blankly into space trying to summon the will to move. Have they laid there in agony that stems from nowhere, that goes on without a beginning or an end, an explanation or a solution? Cried empty tears for hours? Heaved heavy sobs until the accompanying headache stops them in their tracks? Yes, sadness happens to all of us. And yes, even depression can be felt by those still lucky enough to not have bipolar disorder. But do not. do NOT tell me you understand. Don’t insult me like that. Don’t compare your commonplace emotions to the colliding hurricanes of unwarranted pain I am tortured into feeling. Your sadness was caused by something, and I don’t deny how much that sucks. But my suffering comes without reason. There is nothing to blame it on, and nothing to repair to try to end it. It is meaningless, but its omnipresence demands it be given a meaning. Confusion rips into every aspect of who I am. My concentration is turned to smoke and dissipates like it never existed. I am sick with it. My appetite is stolen and morphed into disgust. Mr. Hyde to its Dr. Jekyll, they are one and the same, and maybe one is an excuse for the other as goes the moral of the story, but how can I be blamed for the defect thrust into me, for the malfunction that invaded my body and soul like a virus and continues to violate my every moment. Survival is all I can hope for. Day to day, minute to minute. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. It is heavy, the air like lead, but there is no cure. There is nothing left to do. Deal with it. Barely get by, but get by. It requires constant distraction. Frantic, panicked distraction. One wrong thought and I’m paralyzed. One spare moment and I’m incapacitated, another day wasted in the darkness of my mind in the darkness of my bedroom in the darkness of life itself. It wouldn’t be so extreme if it didn’t bring powerful uncertainty and unintelligible, mangled discomfort. All-consuming distress. My deadened eyes announce the signs of visible resignation. The dark bags have never left, and I don’t need a mirror to know they’re getting more pronounced. I scream into my pillow, not actually hearing the blood-curdling slice through the silence. It’s a faraway sound. It might be coming from something outside of myself, but what does it matter if I don’t have a concept of who in the fuck I even am? Spiral again. Spiral further into it. Rather than reaching for relief, clinging to whatever remnants of happiness I can find in my memories, I give up. Relief would only be fleeting. Why bother? Maybe giving myself up for consumption will get this whole ordeal over with sooner. But for now, existing is difficult. Building myself up over and over again is futile, but I have to keep doing it if I want to drag myself from under my covers to the bathroom at least twice a day. My brain is mush, but it’s still firing neurons or something, I’m still alive or something, so I’m left with gray matter leaking down into the rest of me. It’s sticky, and a sickening sight. And it lacks the neurotransmitters that might be some sort of help in this fucked up situation, lucky me. I am left with a mind disconnected, sensations out of my control, moods trying to escape the bounds of their intangible nature, and a stomach ache. Congratulations to me, I’m having en episode.

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.

Happy things to appreciate 💙 (updates!)

Random acts of kindness 💕

Cloud watching ☁️

Giving something my all💯

The tippytap of my dog’s paws as he comes to me when I call him 🐾❣️

Family!! 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧

Fairytales about princesses and castles 🏰👑

Classic Disney movies °O° 📼

Waking up without an alarm ⏰ 🌅

Selfies when I’m really feeling myself 🤳🏻

Coffee ☕️ enjoying that first cup in the morning 🙂

Meeting up with friends 👭

Getting stronger 🏋🏼‍♀️ (physically or mentallyyy)❗️

Proving my resilience ⬇️🆙

Beer with friends after a long week 🗓🍻

Going on a trip ✈️

Pretty bows 🎀 (and other accessories) 💍

Smiling for no particular reason 😃

Roller coasters!🎢 the anticipation at the top!

Fruit salad 🍒🥝🍍🍎🍉🍇🍐🍌

When it all comes together like a puzzle 🧩

Old school video games 🎮

Leaving love notes (or any notes!) 💌

Gettingggg love notes (or any notes!) 📬

Good news in the paper 📰

Enjoying nature 🏔🏕

Karaoke 🎤

Flowers on a spring day 🌷🌻🌺🌿🌸

Cookies and milk 🍪🥛

The smell of rain/ thunderstorms ⛈⚡️

Balloons 🎈

Tea 🍵 with honey 🍯

Binge watching a good show on Netflix/Hulu 🖥

Tropical vacations 🏝

The smell of mom baking apple pie on a fall morning 🍎 🥧

The sun, rising every day 🌅

A fresh notebook waiting to be filled 📓

Cute puppies 🐶

Cute cats 🐱

My favorite music 🎼 🎶🎵

A stack of books waiting to be read 📚

Seeing a rainbow 🌈

Photography that captures feelings 📸

Improving myself 📈

The sun coming out 🌥⛅️🌤☀️

Fireworks 🎆🎇

Cosmic phenomena 🌙💫 -notice the miracles

Getting a good night’s sleep 💤😴

City skylines 🌇 🌃

Office supplies 📎✏️ 📋

Magic✨/ unicorns 🦄 / etc 🌟

Being alive!! 🌎 appreciate that 👈🏻

Shooting for the moon 🚀 🌕

Hot chocolate 🍫 on a cold winter day ❄️

Making someone happy 😃

Deep conversations 🗣 with close friends 👥

My perfect nephew 👶🏼

Learning something new about science 🧬

Comfy pajamas ✔️

Jeans that fit just right 👖

Frantically writing ✍🏻 getting ideas💡 on paper

Pride 🏳️‍🌈 for whatever I am

Connecting w people I love on social media 💻📱

Self-care 🕯 🧼🛁🧖🏻‍♀️

Really appreciating stars 🌟 in the night sky 🌌

Good fortune 🔮

Getting into a video game 🎮 (or watching one)

Shopping sprees! 🛍

Fall 🍁🍂🌾🌼 bonfires 🔥

Achieving something to be proud of 🎓

A big paycheck 💵

Late night car rides🚙 with Andrew🥰 singing🎶

Funny memes 😂

The incredibleee excitement the night before a Disney trip 🔜

Waking up on Christmas morning 🎄🎁

Feeling lucky 🍀

Winning something 🎰

Classical music that brings back memories 🎻

When things fit together perfectly 🔐

Making art 👩🏻‍🎨🖍🖌🖊

Appreciating all the world’s differences 🗺

Becoming the best version of me 🏆

Learning 👩🏻‍🎓

Books 📖 & how so many of them exist📚

Making wishes 🧞‍♀️🧞‍♂️✨

Things that comfort me 🧸 🐘 (my stuffed elly!)

My favorite perfume 🥰

The first snow ⛄️ of the season 🗓 [peaceful!]

Singing in the rain ☔️

Checking something off my to do list ☑️

Tattoos 🌀

Ice cream (size congruent with my mood) 🍦

Parties 🥳

Quiet mornings 🔇

Crocheting someone a hat 🧶

Ska shows 🏁

Facing fears 🕸

My infinite internal power ♾ 💥

The journey 🛤

Climbing into bed feeling accomplished after a long day 🛏

A new haircut (or color!) 🆕👱🏻‍♀️💙

Reliving memories 💭 / looking through keepsakes 🎟🎫

Being the perfect amount of energetic🔋

Finding light in the darkness 🔦

When good things fall apart but better things fall together 💔➡️❤️

Counting down on New Year’s Eve just like the entire rest of the world 🎆🎇

Making someone proud (even if it’s myself)☺️

Late night adventures 🌙

The fact that I kicked the fucking shit out of anorexia once and I can fucking do it again 🍽

How can I know what “normal” is if I’ve never experienced it?

“I don’t even know what a normal life would look like,” I sighed, disheartened at the fact that my lack of normal was largely due to my apparent need for drama.

I’m bipolar. For close to twelve years, I cycled between deep depressions and wildly irritable, energetic, too-much-in-too-small-a-space hypomanias. It happened every three months like clockwork. And before that, I’d spent the better portion of my teenage years slipping ever downward into an eating disordered abyss.

So it really isn’t my fault that I can’t imagine “normal.” I haven’t had a long enough period of stability to even think about it.

Until now.  I’m rounding the bend on half of a year.  A whole six months without totally losing my shit, without my sanity being painfully ripped from my mind and tossed aside like garbage. I haven’t had to pick up the shattered pieces of my mindset and use energy pulled out of nowhere to put them all together again. I haven’t had to do any of that. In six months.

I have the time to figure it out now, this “normal” thing, and I think I’m going to try. I felt stupid about it at first, thinking it was dumb to be confused about something so obvious, but apparently, it’s a good question. And even if it isn’t, my standards are different than other people’s. I have a different set of circumstances. And I respect myself enough to cut myself some slack.

Right. Onto defining normal.

I think what it really comes down to is “who am I when I’m not struggling” and “how is my life when I’m not struggling.”  Who am I when I’m not in a mood episode, when I’m not fighting with myself over my weight, when I’m relatively stable, when I’m not actively in a crisis.

Part of me has been afraid to ask such a question because I’m afraid of the answer. What if I’m no one without my diagnoses? What if my life is pointless without my struggles?

There’s no doubt that lots of ME is inextricably linked to my bipolar disorder (or my ADHD, my anxiety, and I guess even my eating disorder). Things that make up my personality are also markers for my mental health issues. Particularly my intensity and my reactivity. While they’re both telltale signs of being a raging bipolar, they’re also two of my favorite qualities.  The same can go for my passion, my one-track-mind, my motivation to create. I see the world differently because mental illness requires it, and I’m driven beyond belief to fervently capture that difference in an imaginative and exciting way, and not stop until I’m finished. I’m so often wildly energetic, unable to sit still or stay in one place. My ADHD is probably to thank, but isn’t that also just part of who I am?

I think for “normal” to happen, I’d need to set aside the drama that accompanies mental illness. After all, I have been known to sabotage my sanity when things are going too smoothly. I don’t blame myself –I blame my brain for having fucked with me for so long that I’m scared of the quiet hidden in the moments of calm. But normal requires slowing down. It requires letting go of the need to be busy every waking moment of the day to keep from becoming too reflective. It’s not like I’m in a period where I’m constantly working. But I still create lists of things to complete each day with way more tasks than need to be done. I will myself to concentrate on something, anything, because I worry where one stray thought might lead me. If I wanna move forward, I can’t be afraid to be alone with my thoughts.

To keep things short, normal probably means less negativity and less anxiety about my future. Not living in constant fear of another mood episode while still being realistic about the possibility and trying to prevent one. Doing the right things for myself while not focusing solely on symptom relief.

No obsessive thoughts, less stress. Calm, content happiness. Excitement (in a comfortable, contained way).

Knowledge. Self-awareness. Knowing my purpose, my reason, my why, my truth. Working to be the best version of me. Thinking about the big picture. Being more productive in a variety of ways. Accomplishing what I set my mind to. Actually looking forward to the future. Enjoying each moment as it comes. Being sure of who I am and how I want to be. Being sure of my values.

Being the ME I want to be: bright, bubbly, outgoing, energetic, friendly, kind, optimistic, loving, hard-working, full of life, a social butterfly, accountable, trustworthy, helpful, inspiring. With that, being seen as I want to be seen. I want to be known for those good qualities I value (while also not letting it bother me when every single person doesn’t get to know me; not everyone will know me personally, not everyone will know my story, and that’s okay because not everyone has to). I also want to be seen and understood as the whole, multifaceted, and at times contradictory person that I am. Because I accept that I am and always will be more reactive, more intense, and yes, more dramatic. I want to see and understand myself as the whole, multifaceted, contradictory way that I just am.

I think listing shit like that will help me to envision normal because it shows what I think I’d be like and what my life would be like if I continue in this period of relative peace.

Like…I was recently inspired to picture the kind of future I want to have. What will I be like? What will my circumstances be? When I really stop and think about things like that, I do picture myself happy and successful and fulfilled and proud of my accomplishments (deep down I know I’m smart and capable, so I can manage that!). I picture myself doing okay with the resources I have. I picture myself surrounded by the same love I’m lucky to have now, as well as new love. Basically, I picture a normal life. And I think all of what I described above relates to that.

So I guess I already have an idea of what normal is, and I guess it’s time to just…manifest that shit.

Waking up like “how long will it take for the weight of the day ahead to smash me into a bad mood,” and spending time to counteract life’s crap

woke up feeling shitty and anxious and mopey

spent lots of time wondering why i felt that way and thinking about confusing shit about how i have to constantly readjust my moods and how i’m literally just unsure of how to do that at this point

taking my adhd meds helped because now i can at least focus on something distracting or productive

ingesting hella caffeine is making me feel better too

and my favorite band (reel big fish) playing in the background is working to make me not feel shitty

anyway

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and now for a vaguely poetic brain dump

 

Wake up.

It’s comfortable at first, and then the world hits you.

Mind too big in a world too small.

Or perhaps the opposite.

Because there are too many thoughts,

Too much noise at too high a volume,

But there’s too much room for it all to fly free in total chaos

Which means you have to focus,

Use specific, deliberate effort to adjust and readjust.

It requires all of you,

The effort,

The fight, from within and without, against unseen demons.

And as you look around at the confusion

That has nearly turned your mind,

Too big and too small,

Into ruins.

Get it out.

It’s urgent to do so.

Spill it, pour it, put it elsewhere,

Into the ether

Or onto a page that may or may not be read

Or even remembered.

An hour into consciousness and you’re tired and unsure.

Anxious? Depressed? Empty?

(You are continually putting words to the intangible,

But somehow can’t when it comes to emotions, those mercurial things).

Take your meds. Drink some water. Eat something.

What are you even doing,

Sitting there comatose when you have shit to do?

Inhale. Exhale.

How can you hold it together today?

What’s the plan (you’ll be lost without one)?

Put on some music,

Your favorite band,

Turn it up.

The forceful pressure recedes, permitting some sort of flow,

Some influx of something that resembles calm,

Some release.

Your mind shrinks,

Or perhaps grows,

But you’re not analyzing it so you feel better.

Your free-flying thoughts organize into

What is more reminiscent of graduation caps mid-air,

Thrown up in celebration of achievement.

Still messy.

It’ll take time to find your cap, the one you were looking for.

That doesn’t necessarily matter;

The photographer snapped a picture and the frozen moment makes you happy.

Organized.

So maybe, you think, there’s something to strive for

In the potential to turn a day around

(or a month, a year, a life).

Potential for new thoughts,

For finding happiness as opposed to forcing something vaguely similar to it,

For not letting sadness with when all else fails

Because you’re coming at life with full force.

Although survival mode played its role,

It’s in the past for now.

So tomorrow if you have to drag yourself out of bed

As you doubt your ability to get through the day,

Don’t wallow in confusion.

Let it out, find the words, 

Take your meds, drink some water, eat something.

Breathe. Music.

Let your mind shift, take shape, rearrange and reorganize.

Give it time, don’t dwell, stay calm, and fight hard.

After all,

Haven’t you proven your strength to yourself yet?

Eating Healthy (for real), in spite of eating disordered thoughts

“Think about how it’s nourishing you.”

 

I’ve gotta cut the crap with this “falling back into my eating disorder” thing.

So I’m supposed to eat at least 2 actual meals a day and while I eat, I’m supposed to think about all the good the food is doing me. Nourishing my body. Making my skin and hair healthy, helping me function the right way. Nourishing my brain. Allowing my meds to work the right way.

I ate one actual meal today already (almost immediately after being told that I have to do the above by my therapist). I tracked it on this app I’m gonna start using called “Recovery Record” (because it’s a fucking cool app and because even though I’m once again shocked by how I’m at such a low with the eating stuff, it’s apparently necessary for me to get all the help I can). And I truly did think about how food is literally necessary for a person’s body and brain and health and happiness, etc etc etc

#therapywin

It’s actually a really helpful thing to think while eating. It’s really comforting to know that I’m doing something good for myself. I mean, it’s quite obvious that restricting and starving or whatever other bullshit I’ve been doing is bad for me. For my body and for my already dysfunctional brain. But the allure was obviously still there (for reasons I’ve said before and reasons I think I’ve still got buried under the piles of crap in my mind).

So yeah. Focusing on health. And on that note, I’ve compiled a list of things that sorta have to do with food and how it related to actual physical and mental health.

 

The obvious stuff first, some of which I’ve already said, and other general positives of eating healthily and not restricting :

— good nutrition gives your body and brain what it needs to function properly (duh)

— therefore making you feel good (as opposed to weak and hungry and overall just shitty)

— hi, if you want energy, you need food and you need calories (which, by the way, is a word that means energy)

— hi, if you also want to focus, then eat some goddamn food, because not eating reduces gray matter in your brain, which as you can imagine is not a good thing to be reduced

— eating well has a positive impact on mood (as I’ve learned multiple times and should definitely try to fucking remember because my moods are fucked up enough)

— making good choices ensures you’ll feel good and be in good health later in life (AKA don’t screw up the entire second half of your life due to dumbass reasons to stay eating disordered)

— it maintains your immune system so you don’t get sick every other week and so you don’t stay sick for months at a time when you do get sick

— basically, food affects every aspect of your life and eating like a normal human being is hella helpful (granted “normal” is subjective, but I use it to try and kick some sense into myself)

 

Stuff that happens with the disorder gets really bad:

— the loss of your period (amenorrhea), which is the result of fucking up your estrogen hormones by not eating, can decrease your bone density by decreasing calcium in your body, leading to osteoporosis, which honestly sounds really terrible, so let’s just not [sidenote about the calcium thing, taking a Ca supplement when you actually get your period totally helps cramps]

— also you might mess up your chances of ever getting pregnant, so there’s that, and the sooner you “restore your period” the better your chances of staying fertile are

— your body will start eating its own muscles, including that good old heart muscle, because of something called like, “protein-energy malnutrition” or something

— anemia, lack of iron, not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen (which is kind of important) through your body

 

List of things that are “not otherwise specified” (see what I did there? EDNOS? I don’t think that’s what they call it anymore, but whatever):

— preventing yourself from eating for a prolonged period of time only makes you eventually want to start eating and not stop for a prolonged period of time, which, if you have an eating disorder, is confusing and upsetting (not that there’s anything wrong with eating to your heart’s content, but if you’ve been there, you know what I mean)

— dude, you’ve gotta get them vitamins, and yeah taking supplements helps (I certainly take all mine when I’m not eating because I might as well hold onto a sliver of health, amiright?) but those don’t do as well as vitamins and minerals from actual sustenance

— I keep thinking about the skin and hair thing that my therapist mentioned, and I love remembering that eating makes my them healthy (because that stuff makes me look healthier in a way unrelated to weight, and that’ll make me feel better) [also, when I went back to school after being in the hospital for a few months due to the anorexia that I’d suffered from for three years, one of my teachers complimented my hair specifically, and I remember thinking that that was the absolute most perfect thing to say because it didn’t have to do with my weight, and it made me feel proud to be healthy]

 

I could keep going with these lists, but I feel like that’s a good start. Maybe I’ll continue adding as I think of more things. We shall see, but tbh now I have to go focus on eating another actual meal. I’m gonna think about this stuff while simultaneously trying to eat “mindfully” and “intuitively” haha, so go me, I guess?

 

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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.