Managing my mental health

I had a random thought pop into my had and I was thinking about it. And I know there are countless ways to dive into this topic and that there’s so much under the umbrella of mental health management because mental health is made up of so many different things. But I think, for me, there are three components to staying on top of it. Even typing that feels weird because the number three doesn’t capture how hugely important mental health is. But at it’s most basic level, at this point in time with my current train of thought, it comes down to:

  1. What goes into my body. My meds, obviously. And vitamins and supplements, which I take because there’s no harm in doing so. Food. Water. You get the point.
  2. The things that I do. How I use my body and brain. My daily routines, the habits I’ve formed (and have tried to keep healthy). Journaling. Tracking my moods and anxiety and sleep. Going to therapy.
  3. The thoughts in my mind. What I focus on. How often I renew my motivation. My internal monologue and self-talk.

I need the most work in the category of thoughts. I am consistent with what I take in terms of meds (finally) and supplements, and I’ve been making more effort to drink enough water, and now that I’m saner (thanks, lithium) I’m not struggling with eating as much. I’m pretty good with my structured routines, even though this period of time is difficult and different, with the quarantine and whatnot.

But now I have to be careful about what I do with my mind and my thoughts.

I think a key thing I can do to make sure I’m thinking positively is to work on only consuming content that makes me feel good. I’ve been bored (obviously), so I’ve been spending too much time on YouTube. Which is fine, but I have to really put in the effort to process how I feel about it. I enjoy it (mostly) but also feel guilty about enjoying it (since I’m mindlessly consuming what other people create instead of creating myself, I guess!) and compare myself to these random influencers (which I honestly rarely do in real life).

I’d love to rattle off some statistics about how much content the average person consumes every day, but I also don’t wanna do that so suffice it to say it’s an overwhelming amount. YouTube videos, news websites, blogs, social media, apps, music, podcasts, shows, books, movies…so much going into our brains ahhhhh. It totally makes sense that I’m thinking about how to make sure it’s mostly positive and helpful (because what goes into my brain influences how my life is). Anything to keep me in a good frame of mind, with THIS EXACT level of sanity (I spent far too long fighting with myself and my moods and my brain and my disorder, and now that I’m okay let’s fuckin’ keep it that way, shall we?), and every little bit helps.

The renewing the motivation thing is also important for me. I have this desperate desire to be productive because it is somehow linked to my worth (I know, I know, I’m working on fixing that). But I’m not always productive. I have ADHD and my moods get in the way sometimes and oh yeah I’m a human being haha, and that’s just how humans are. But I think it’s a matter of getting back on the horse when I’m unfocused or can’t seem to do what I want/need to do. Not getting discouraged or thinking it’s the end of the world.

While this post might seem totally pointless, I just want to say that I love writingggggg because I can start with some random thought I had a few hours ago and make sense of it (sort of) and it makes me happy!

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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.

Different days can take different forms. Rolling with it.

It’s a new day, sunny and bright. The snow that fell quietly but persistently yesterday is melting. I’m off from work again. I was yesterday, too, and it was a “do literally nothing all day” day, where we didn’t leave the house at all, even to shovel. I woke up and changed into sweatpants and a hoodie and put on thick fuzzy socks and made like four cups of tea (after having coffee, obviously). I enjoyed it a lot. Before for the boredom-turned-to-existential-dread feeling kicked in, of course. My mood took a dip, but not in an overly-dramatic bipolar way. I was just “blah” and “off.” It was survivable.

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Right, but as I said, it’s a new day and that’s brought a fresh start and plenty of possibilities (what a cliche but inspiring thought). I can shape this day any way I want to. I don’t have a specific plan for today, other than hopefully bang out the rest of the article I’m writing for that eating disorder magazine, and maybe the other article I’m writing for the psych magazine. And I’m hoping to get a movie in, or maybe a few episodes of whatever funny tv show I feel like binging. Basically, I want to repeat yesterday but with more…pizzaz. Or something similar haha.

For now, though, I’m flipping through my planner and sort of reviewing my 2020 goals #letgetit. It’s almost the end of January (holy shit that went fast). And I haven’t totally forgotten what I wanna do this year. I’ve pretty much followed through. I didn’t include anything completely life-altering on my list of shit to do but having the reminders written down and knocking around in my head definitely help direct me.

Basically: Don’t miss any days of meds, take those vitamins and supplements, drink more water, go for a walk every once in a while and move more in general. There’s obviously shit like “read more” on there, and that goes along with “work on writing more, find more writing jobs, submit some short stories to competitions, and take some writing classes.” And the obvious, save money. The more specific things are to whiten my teeth and make sure my skin isn’t constantly dry. Oh, and I wanna start writing more here (and maybe get people to actually read it? haha).

Anywayyyy, so far, at 10:30 in the morning, today looks like it’s shaping up to be a good one. I’m determined for it to be. To continue with the subtle metaphor I’m going with, I’m gonna be like a fricken sculptor to make sure of it.

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Boom. Happy Sunday, people 🙂

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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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.”

Morning Routines: why I (try to) stick to mine and how (I think) it helps with the bipolar thing

I’ve been watching YouTube videos a lot lately.  A habit that started out by me using it as background noise (I’d literally search “Disney World area loop music” and just listen to it while working and pretend I’m at the parks, ahhhh).  And then I discovered guided meditations and positive affirmations and all that. The ASMR videos are cool too. But like, YouTubers are a thing now. A huge thing, actually. I’m pretty sure it’s mostly a thing for the youngsters of today’s world, so I feel kinda silly getting sucked into that world at 28 (even though someone literally told me that another group of people she knows asked “why isn’t she in school” and “does she drive herself here” –AKA, they thought I was 18 years old at most, lmao). Buuuuut there are so many interesting videos to watch.  I generally stay in the self-improvement category. And yeah, it’s all these like, put-together looking girls in these minimalistic apartments, and not gonna lie it kinds makes me feel like I’m a shitty adult haha. But the videos fascinate me.

Now, to my actual point: there’s a lot of emphasis on morning routines in that genre of video.  A topic I’ve always found interesting, by the way. I remember having this little notebook in fifth or sixth grade (it had black pages so I wrote on it with a purple glitter gel pen…remember those?) and every night I’d write down what I had to or wanted to do the next morning.  As if a ten-year-old had so much to fucking remember. Also, it’s an interesting memory because I’m pretty sure it’s indicative of the slew of mental illnesses I’d later develop haha. Anyway, I continued to do the routine thing through high school. In my anorexic high school days I had a fairly rigid morning routine (the whole day was routine, actually, scheduled pretty much minute to minute…like I said, hello mental illness!).

I’m rambling. Surprise.  Moving on, though…

Nowadays I try and stick to a specific set of steps after waking up.  Because it’s apparently good for us bipolars, with our disrupted cycles, sleep patterns, body clocks, and circadian rhythms, to keep external things in check.  Makes sense. Keeping everything as routine and structured as possible minimizes external chaos (we have enough internal chaos). Minimizes anxiety. In other words, since we need all the help we can get, might as well help ourselves that way.

Routines are also helpful in that they make us more efficient, saves time (which is such a valuable commodity), allows us to build better habits, and gives us more mental space by reducing how many decisions we have to make (I can’t be the only bipolar person who fuckin’ sucks at making decisions).  Damn, that sentence was so research-papery. Whatever.

Okay, before I continueeee, allow me to reveal to all three of you who might be reading this what my mornings actually look like:

I wake up around 6 or 7.  Like, every day. I just spring awake at that time usually, and even if I have to kinda urge myself out from under the covers, I like getting up early.  So I make myself. Mornings are full of promise and possibility and coffee.  Gotta savor the good shit, amiright?

Then I hafta immediately take my meds, otherwise GUESS WHAT, I ain’t gonna.  Swallow three pills. Boom. Finish the glass of water. Take some more supplements (calcium, fish oil, magnesium, passionflower extract which btw is amazing for anxiety reduction, etc).  And right after all that, I record my sleep, meds and supplements, and moods in some of my many mood-tracking apps (mainly Daylio and eMoods, both of which I suggest you download).

Moving into the bathroom.  Wash my face. Brush my teeth and listerine the shit outta my mouth to remove that chalky disgusting med taste away.  Do my hair. Bedroom. Get dressed in the outfit I laid out last night because I’m anal about that. Put on makeup and earrings if I feel so inclined.

I might stretch or something.  Ya know. Limber up. Try to get all nice and bendy.  And because I’m having a “fun little throwback to the eating disorder of my youth,” I’ve been doing crunches and pushups, because doesn’t that sound fun.

Oh, and I try to take conscious breaths before I throw myself into the land of social media and journaling and all that nonsense.  Inhale and exhale. I struggle with that, dunno if any of you do too?).

Anddddd who could forget coffee.  Gotta get that coffee. And enjoy every damn sip.  I’d love to tell you I do the whole mindful drinking thing, but eh, I can only do so much good for myself hahaha.

Okay, right.  That’s what I do in the morning, and I actually do think it sets me up for success.  All the hip YouTubers say what you do in the morning matters (there are literally tons of videos about it, go find some fun ones if you want).

I dunno why I felt the need to share this information with all of you readers (all three of you…I am not a very popular blog, I should proooobably work on growing this thing if I wanan be the writer I was born to be, huh?), but I had fun writing it, so.  Yeah. Morning routines 🙂

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.

We don’t have curtains on our windows, which is probably dumb for a few reasons, but the upside is that I get to wake up in harmony with the entire stretch of world that exists on the other side of the glass. Sometimes that means there’s a gradual lightening of everything outside that is echoed on my face when I’m starting to open my eyes and sometimes that means night’s darkness simply fades into a dull gray. Sometimes it means waking up to a burgeoning sunrise that paints the sky in broad red and orange strokes. It all depends on the day.

I’ve come to think of the morning sky as a screen on which the quality of my day ahead is projected.  In layman’s terms, the weather has a pretty big effect on the already-tenuous grip I have on my moods. And this isn’t coming from a place of superstition. Weather patterns actually impact mood. The sun can pull people away from the abyss of depression, rain can send gloom through even the happiest of people, and humidity makes people edgy and irritable. It makes sense. Not to mention seasonal affect disorder, whose sufferers’ moods cycle with seasonal changes (and oh hey, as a resident bipolar, I’ve obviously noted that my episodes align with such patterns).

So when the morning sky is a vast expanse of bright blue, chances are I’ll be starting out well-rested, rejuvenated, ready for the day’s adventures to begin. When the early morning is masked with cloudy skies, I’ll likely be starting with a vague ennui that might develop into nagging anxiety if not taken care of. When red and orange clouds linger with the climbing sun, it’s usually wise for me to heed the phrase that sailors have passed down over time and “take warning,” since chaos is surely brewing. Picturesque dawn means the sun is shining from below as inclement weather approaches from the west, scattering light through the present water vapor. And as beautiful as it might be, the calming hues of purple and blue are still chased away as if frightened by the impending storm.

In reality, no known atmospheric condition has power in itself to transcend symbolism and legitimately affect the circumstances of my day. My reaction to certain circumstances is certainly influenced by them; sunshine might make me more inclined to brush aside annoyances, clouds might make that harder to do, and a storm might bring forth my desire to hide away.

But it’s necessary to remember, even if only in the back of my mind, that I have the power to control how my days go. Regardless of the weather, and mood disorder aside, I have more power than I think.

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.