Psycho Education: Things I Learned in the Psychiatric Hospital

I knew I needed to be hospitalized. I’ve known that for a while. Hell, I tried to get myself into a hospital prior to this, because I was desperate for some relief, and nothing happened. I guess it all accumulated for the past year or so, though. I went to my psychiatrist for a normal appointment on February 10th, and she sent me to the ER like, immediately. She actually called them and told them I’d be coming (I felt like such a VIP: very important psycho). My boyfriend left work early and picked me up and we went. And thus began an interesting journey where I learned a bunch of things that I’m going to explain in a vaguely chronological but unimportant order. This doesn’t include everything, and I have so many more thoughts that I’m dying to get onto a page, but I think it’s important that my first post is positive and talks about the last month as a learning experience.

I was in the ER for a day and a half. It was an overwhelming experience. I was crying a lot, and I just wanted to lay there on the gurney under the sheets and be “alone.” But I was on Constant Observation (since I was suicidal) and had someone watching me at all times. And apparently I couldn’t go completely under the covers because they had to see that I wasn’t killing myself under there. So I was basically inconsolable.

I hated the guy watching me, at first. He would ask questions and I’d try to answer, but I’d just start crying at the fact that I didn’t think he understood what I was actually experiencing. How much pain I was in. Like…was he belittling me? I couldn’t tell.

I came around to him eventually. I don’t know when, exactly. Maybe after he went on his break. The nurse manager watched me while he was gone, and she was really nice. We talked a little bit, and maybe that little bit where I was broken out of my shell helped me not feel so upset with Charles who had to sit there and stare at me. Not that he was creepy; he wasn’t. He was cool. It was just a hard situation, and I was emotional and all over the place. I realized that seeking comfort is okay and even brave at times, but at the end of the day, when no one else can do it you have to do it yourself. I was lying there, tossing and turning, my mind racing, all of my painfully confused…and I had to just calm myself down. I’m not saying I was successful at that (I wasn’t). But the lesson stuck with me. I asked for help, and I’m proud that I did. But I also learned that I can’t get help with everything. I can’t have someone help me control my emotions, it doesn’t work that way.

Charles and I eventually got into conversation, and he imparted a gem of wisdom that totally relates and that I wrote down as soon as I had a notebook in which to do so: no one can swim for you and no one can breathe for you. I couldn’t tell you what the hell we were talking about (I’m assuming it was the impending hospitalization ahead of me), but it’s true. The coming weeks were something I was gonna have to face on my own.

Yeah, definitely true. Although once I got to the psych hospital, I wasn’t completely on my own. I made friends almost immediately (once I stopped crying, showered for the first time in three days, and actually consumed some sort of food). I guess there’s nothing quite like being locked up together to bring about friendships. It also probably helps that we were all in a similar place mentally and emotionally. We related to one another. We grew into a weird little dysfunctional family.

And dysfunctional we indeed were. Lock a bunch of crazies up together and shit DOES get intense. I realized pretty early on that sometimes it’s best to just walk away. Walk away from a fight or confrontation, walk away from a trigger. Hell, sometimes you even need to walk away from someone crying who just needs to cry. I loved when the other patients there calmed me down as I was crying. A fist-bump and a sneaky hug go a long way (we weren’t technically allowed to touch each other). But there were moments I just needed to cry. And I saw the same being true of other people.

We were a unique bunch.  It became increasingly clear to me why you should never judge anyone without talking to them first. Like, everyone has their own shit. You literally never know someone’s story without asking them. And human beings are interesting, so ask! Listen to everyone’s story and learn from them, because my god is there so much to learn. Not to mention that people are all complicated, with or without mental illness. We’re all just different. It’s fascinating.

I sat down next to the schizophrenic who needed to be restrained and sedated the day before and actually talked to him. I was happy I did because he’s got a lot of wisdom inside of him next to all his fear. We sat there on the floor outside the med window after each taking our cocktail of pills, and started talking. The day after that was not one of my better ones. And he was the one to sit down next to me. “Hey,” he said. “Put out your hands like this.” I wiped my tears and looked up at him. I held out my hands in front of me. “Do you see them?” he asked, to which I responded with a tentative ‘yes.’ “See? You’re here, you’re safe, you’re okay.” I used that technique to ground myself a few more times after that.

I can’t talk about lessons learned in the psych hospital without mentioning how I learned to be thankful in a simple but grand way. I vowed that when I got out I’d stop taking day to day conveniences for granted. My phone and my laptop are wonderful tools I have, and I’ll never again forget how fucking cool they are. I was, however, already thankful for the support I am lucky enough to have. Every morning we had a “community meeting” where we told everyone how we were feeling, what our goal was for the day, and who our support was. I never once forgot how special the people around me are that they love and support me as much as they do.

Then there’s the lesson I’m continually re-learning: let it go. I really tried to tone down my reactions to minor little things while I was there. Like, I put serious effort into it. There were a few instances in the beginning when I was uhh…using humor as a coping mechanism, and it wasn’t received well by some of the staff. So I was told to stop. Which, okay, that’s fine, right? It is, and looking back I realize it right away now. But my general response is to feel stupid and dumb and dwell on the situation for far too long and then feel stupid again and just continue on and on. But I’m actually damn proud of how I let it go because I literally forgot about how angry I was at that staff member until just now. We turned out to be chill with each other anyway, and I’m glad we turned out that way because I feel happy to have known the guy. But yeah, I’m giving myself major props for that one, and I’m gonna remember this exact paragraph next time I go to overthink about something like that. I also want to phrase it differently, in case I didn’t make my point as effectively as I wanted to: don’t worry so much about what’s going on in other people’s heads, because you don’t have to live there.

As I got more stable (I’m gonna write a whole post about how that was able to happen to begin with, because holy shit was it a process), I started to get the itch to get the fuck out of there. I wanted to go home. I was naturally going stir-crazy, as you can imagine would happen after being cooped up for over two weeks, and I was even getting anxious wondering when they were gonna release me. I was tentatively scheduled to be discharged Tuesday the 25th, but on morning on the day before, I’d just about lost my mind wondering if that date was still set. The weekends went slow there, and no doctors or social workers were there, so I was left hanging and wondering. Anyway, as I was freaking out, another patient pulled me aside and told me that in his struggle with drugs, whenever he told himself “just don’t do drugs” every day, he’d inevitably wind up doing them. But “when I told myself I was gonna get up, go for a run, make breakfast, and so on, guess what I did?” I stared at him for a second. “I’m gonna go home tomorrow,” I told him, and he smiled and nodded. The moral of the story, I guess, is either that you attract what you think about, or that it’s easy to spot what you’re always thinking about. And it turns out I did go home the next day!

As I was getting ready to be discharged, I started to reflect back. I’d filled an entire marble notebook with thoughts and feelings, but there was still a lot I wanted to think about. Still a lot I had to think about. I said to the counselors and my social worker that even though I’d done so much work and self-reflection, I knew I still had a lot more work to do once I left. And oh boy is there still a lot of work to do haha. Self-discovery is a never-ending process. I think I used to let that overwhelm me, but honestly? It isn’t such a scary thing. Life is a never-ending process. Self-discovery is just a way of life.

And finally, because I actually do feel hopeful that I’ll succeed in my quest to be the best version of me: remember to have hope.

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.

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 🍽

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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My insides were rotting with fiery emptiness. 

A terrifying lack of control stoked the flames along with tenacious sadness. The sadness that had simmered on my internal burner for too long, causing the contents of the pot, the emptiness that filled me, to boil over, eventually turning it into the unmatched heat of full-blown depression.

The parts of me that hadn’t already been rotted away were scorched away into nothing as hell itself had come for me.  I drowned in the flames.

My skin melted off, my bones were incinerated, the essence of my humanity was reduced to dust and blown away by the gale-force winds of the surrounding stormy hellfire.

Because the whole thing had to do with more than just me.  Yes, I was the one burning. But that was either caused by the storm forever raging beneath heaven and earth, or perhaps the reverse. Perhaps my internal fire run rampant had somehow caused the swirling chaos encompassing it, had caused hell to alight. Perhaps it was a matched flicked to life in an underworld full of gas, working its way toward combustion, creating an explosion that took down a whole damned place, in addition to swallowing the little match wholly and completely.

The fire took me. I decomposed.

But guess what. I’m a fucking phoenix. So fire, and its ferocious affinity for destruction, did not end me. It could never end me. Decomposition? That’s where I’m born, motherfucker.

Yeah. I was reborn eleven years ago. I built another life, somehow related to the previous one but still distinctly new and radiant and beautiful. I wore my vibrant red, purple, and yellow hues with pride (an experience that had died long before I was taken by the aforementioned flames). I took to the skies, flying freely above the world, observing it all with a birds-eye view (the wind felt like home, and the return of my scope of vision felt powerful). I participated in life and all its majesties (who would have thought it possible?).

Eleven years ago. And then suddenly the temperature began to rise. It had been a lifetime since that had happened, but I reacted reflexively. A phoenix should know what’s coming, shouldn’t it? Their lives are reminiscent of the adage “same shit, different day.” Life live. Burst into flames. New life. It’s expected, isn’t it?

But apparently, I don’t have to throw myself into the depths of hell in order to start again. I’m a motherfucking phoenix, but hey, that’s just a metaphor. And the cool thing about that is that I can choose to rise up from the ashes without the morbid part having to happen.

 

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.

Happy things 💙

Random acts of kindness 💕

Cloud watching ☁️

Giving something my all💯

Stories about princesses 🏰👑

Selfies when I’m feeling myself 🤳🏻

Coffee ☕️

Meeting up with friends 👭

Getting stronger 🏋🏼‍♀️ (physically or emotionally)❗️

Proving my resilience ⬇️🆙

Beer with friends after a long week 🗓🍻

Going on a trip ✈️

Pretty bows 🎀 (and other accessories) 💍

Smiling 😃

Roller coaster parks 🎢

Fruit salad 🍒🥝🍍🍎🍉🍇🍐🍌

Leaving love notes (or any notes!) 💌

Getting 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 🍯

Tropical vacations 🏝

The sun, rising every day 🌅

A fresh notebook waiting to be filled 📓

Cute puppies 🐶

Your 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 🌙💫

Getting into bed after a long day 💤😴

City skylines 🌇 🌃

Office supplies 📎✏️ 📋

Magic✨/ unicorns 🦄 / etc 🌟

Being alive!! 🌎

Hot chocolate 🍫 on a cold winter day ❄️

Deep conversations 🗣 with close friends 👥

My perfect nephew 👶🏼

Learning something new about science 🧬

Frantically writing ✍🏻 getting ideas 💡 on paper

Connecting w people I love on social media 💻📱

Self-care 🕯 🧼🛁🧖🏻‍♀️

Really appreciating stars 🌟 in the night sky 🌌

Getting into a video game 🎮 (or watching one)

Fall 🍁🍂🌾🌼 bonfires 🔥

Achieving something to be proud of 🎓

A big paycheck 💵

Late night car rides🚙 with Andrew🥰 singing🎶

The anticipation the night before Disney 🔜

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 worlds differences 🗺

Becoming the best version of me 🏆

Learning 👩🏻‍🎓

Books 📖 & how many of them exist📚

Making wishes 🧞‍♀️🧞‍♂️✨

Things that comfort me 🧸 🐘 (my stuff animal!)

Singing in the rain ☔️

Checking something off my to do list ☑️

Ice cream (size congruent with my mood) 🍦

Parties 🥳

Quiet mornings 🔇

Crocheting someone a hat 🧶

Ska shows 🏁

Facing fears 🕸

Corner of Good: Fall Edition

As much as I loveeee summer and the bright colors, the enveloping heat, and the late nights and early mornings that accompany it…I so appreciate when the season starts to merge into fall.  When the colors turn their warm shades of orange and red, when the weather gets cooler and there’s a crispness to the air, and when shorter days start to invite hot cups of morning coffee, cozy nights inside, and the scent of my favorite candle burning on my desk.  When stores stock their shelves with the ever-cliched flavor of pumpkin in EVERYTHING, when I can wear cute jeans, fuzzy boots, chunky scarves, and my leather jacket.  Basically, I love and appreciate this time when change is at its best.  

Now, as if all that isn’t enough to fill you with goodness, I have a few more things about fall that will hopefully fill your heart with happiness 🙂

1. Change can be scary, but I don’t think anyone actually fears autumn.  It’s definitely change.  Kind of a big one.  Everything is moving on, and as much as life is continuing, it’s also starting to wind down in some ways (leaves falling, more hours of darkness).  But it’s just amazing to me how that all pretty much gets swept under the rug.  How people usually view this time as another New Year.  It isn’t the start of a new orbit around the sun (although January 1 is kind of just an arbitrary think, right?).  But it’s new.  And it invites opportunity.  It’s stimulating and invigorating and there’s a buzz in the air that revitalizes our energy, somehow.  So yeah.  Amazing.

2. Pies are a thing.  That’s something to marvel at right there, the fact that people think of these awesome recipes and share them with other people and we all enjoy the deliciousness of them.  But pie is somehow symbolic for me.  I remember this one time when I was in high school (which, if you know me or even have scrolled a ways back on this blog of time, you’ll know was a pretty fuckin’ shitty time for me) I literally woke up on Saturday morning to the smell of my mom making apple pie.  And it gave me such hope.  It made me happy.  And even though I’m fairly certain I didn’t eat any of it (thanks, anorexia), I think the fact that pies are a thing should be included in this corner of good.

3. Halloween, in general, is pretty amazing if you think about it.  Not only do we get to dress up, delve into another character (perhaps one that’s meaningful, maybe one that’s just fun), and enjoy the company of friends at parties or whatever other gatherings…but like, the whole thing where strangers give candy to kids?  Pretty cool.  And I’m not just talking “cool, free candy.”  I’m thinking about how people buy candy, lots of it, and give it away for free to children just for the purpose of making them happy.  I know it lights me up inside when a little kid comes to my door yelling “trick-or-treat!” in an adorable little costume.  It lights me up to see them light up.  And even if it’s a bigger kid.  Don’t you remember walking around the neighborhood in your early teens with your friends, feeling excited and happy?  It’s awesome that they can still take part in the tradition.  So let’s all take a moment to think about and value that.

4. By the time November rolls around, we start to think about what we’re thankful for.  It’s like, a time where we’re specifically invited to do that.  We might not always accept the invitation, but that fact that the reminder is marked on our calendars?  That’s great!  Gratitude is such a huge part of living a happy life.  We have to be grateful for what we have because that means we’re looking at the good shit.  And even if things aren’t going well (or if things are going terribly, even), trying to find the good, actively seeking out the positive, really does help.  I can go on about this topic more, but seriously.  A quick google search for “practicing gratitude” and you’ll find countless articles detailing why it’s so great.

5. Some of us are now hyper-aware that the winter holidays are approaching.  And if you’re like me, that makes you happy too.  I’ve learned not to rush it, though, because enjoying this time, right now, is important.  Mindfulness is always a good thing.  But more than that, right now holds the excitement with a far less intense amount of stress.  Not that holiday stress isn’t worth it (and not that it even has to be necessary).  It’s just that I feel like fall is particularly relaxed.  Summer tends to hold so much energy, which is a good thing, but by the time September hits, we’ve all earned a break.  Okay, for the younger ones it means back-to-school, and that’s certainly no break, but at least the fact that it’s a new year with new chances is kinda nice.

 

In conclusion, yay for fall!

My life is strongly and intensely magnetic

I am a magnet.  Of two specific poles: the highs and lows, the ups and downs.   Both are in disagreement. It is one or the other, but the one and the other are related, connected.  They oppose each other. But since magnets produce fields as well as respond to them, so do my highs and lows and ups and my downs feed into one another.  My anxious, agitated dysphoric hypomanias exit my north pole and enter the low, low depressions of my south like magnetic lines of force. Repel. Attract.  Push. Pull. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I am moved and shoved through means of these unseen forces that control my every move. It’s possible for magnets to lose power (raise their temperature or shock them), but their magnetic state returns in the end.  I can raise myself high by doing what I should, but the fluxes still return. I can be shocked into stability, like after a particularly deranging episode ends, but it doesn’t last forever. It is an unceasing dance caused by the spin and momentum of electrons, by life’s disorganization and the speed at which it all flies by.  It is bipolar disorder. It is unrelenting.

My life is strongly and intensely magnetic.

And it seems as though my magnetization repels good and attracts bad.

Yet with all that, it’s possible to put the exhaustively persistent magnetic forces to good use.  Daily life is the way it is largely because of them. Everything from headphones and refrigerators to computers and medical equipment functions properly due to magnets.  Their forces may have been mysterious to us at one time, but we understand them now, and we make them work for us.

I spent far too many years being confused by the seemingly capricious ups and downs of my bipolar life.  It wasn’t until later, much later, that I made sense of what was previously confusing and chaotic. Previously mysterious.  I’ve come to understand that there are warning signs to signal what might be coming, and guidelines to follow to prevent the very same “what” that might come.  It doesn’t always make sense; this analogy isn’t perfect. Still, I understand what I can understand, which I can extrapolate a bit to reach the ways I can make my opposite poles work for me.

First, I’ll need to revisit the somewhat beneficial aspects of bipolar disorder.  I worked hard to weed through the detrimental aspects to find the beneficial ones, and I’m proud to say I found quite a few.  So I’m excited to be citing them here: creativity, empathy, compassion, the ability to feel wholly and completely, fierce resilience, and the strong friendships I’ve built because of these traits.

So how can I  put the forces of my bipolar disorder to good use?  I mean, my daily life is the way it is largely because of the disorder.  This might seem like a fairly negative thing, particularly when I look back to how my wild reactivity, tendency toward overexcitement, drastic changes in energy, and sudden mood changes have caused, for lack of a better phrase, utter chaos.  But are those things wholly and completely negative? My reactivity, my ultra-hyper response to stimuli, brings with it a certain quick emotional reflex that can help me discern my true emotions. My excitable nature gives me a passionate determination that helps at work and in my personal life.  Having too much energy and then not enough, flying high and then plunging low makes me appreciate what I have at the moment, and such a perspective is immeasurably useful in life. Yeah, I know. A bit of a stretch. But my point is that technology progressed when we utilized magnetic power, so can I grow as a person by putting my inherent traits to good use.  It requires thinking outside the box, that’s for damn sure, but fuck, we’ve gotta find the silver lining.  

The next step, I believe, is learning how to pull apart the two when they’re all mixed up together, tangled in a messy cluster of wires going every which way.  It’s a matter of figuring it out as I go along, I guess. But there’s an answer out there, a solution to the struggles bipolar comes with. It’s science. It’s life.