Track Your Shit

lose your mind with me

I sat on the couch in my psychiatrist’s office with my arms crossed and steam billowing out of my ears.

“Are you on cocaine?” he asked without a hint of sarcasm. 

“No,” I shot back, completely bewildered but appropriately defensive.

“Then you’re bipolar.”

Yup. That was how I was diagnosed.  And to my memory, that was really the only major piece of information my psychiatrist gave me that day.  There was no supplemental information given to me, no sort of enlightenment or introduction into the all-consuming project that would be managing my difficult and sometimes debilitating condition, and I left the office with what felt like a really random label and a higher dose of Abilify.  I was nineteen years old, I was a chemistry major in college, I’d kicked the hell out of an eating disorder, and I was bipolar. The facts didn’t matter too much. Right?

Over the…

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Words of the Year, 5 months later

I think it was like a few years ago, in early January, I heard about people picking a “word of the year” instead of making New Year resolutions. And this year a blog post by blessingmanifesting reminded me of it. She said to choose a word that embodies how you want to be and think and feel and do, “something you can apply in little ways throughout your life instead of a concrete goal that involves either failure or success.” I chose three words this January, and as I was just looking through my current journal, I found myself thinking about them again. The first word I wrote down was “continue,” because shit was hard a few months ago and I wanted to keep going, keep moving forward, and not let anything stop me in doing that. Which is why word numero two was “unstoppable.” Can’t let things get in my way. My third was “unbothered,” and by that I meant I didn’t wanna let was customers upset me, not let the insignificant action of others influence my mood. And that’s the one that really got me connecting the words I wrote down five months ago to this present moment. I’m not at that shitty job, so letting morons bother me is n out an issue, but I’m not really letting any random nonsense bother me. Like minor mood fluctuations that would have sent me spiraling (for obvious reasons, after having uncontrolled bipolar for yearsss). Alsooo, I sure as fuck continued in spite of difficulties. So check those boxes too. I haven’t written in my physical journal too often lately (I switch between digital journaling and physical journaling, best of both worlds alwayssss) but I’m glad I found these three little words and the pretty butterfly I glued next to it (I’m gonna stop writing before I go offfff about how symbolic a butterfly is in relation to continuing…it is right? or is it just me who feels that way lol)

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.

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.

It was dark.

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

Insomnia ravaged her. Again.

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

Why bother?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fucking positivity.

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

I’m known for this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

I can’t figure out my emotions/ moods/ anything involving self-awareness…or can I? No really, someone tell me which.

I discovered the word “alexithymia” like, ten years ago with my friend Meg at the Barnes and Noble between our houses.

For the longest time, she was the only person I knew in the real world (not from treatment) who struggled with mental illness like I did.  We connected immediately, skipping most of the normal pleasantries required of new friendships and got right into the deeper, and usually darker, stuff.  We talked for hours about the ins and outs of anorexia and bulimia, the nitty-gritty of what went on in our eating disordered lives. We talked about how, as a result of crashing into the brick wall of mental illnesses so intensely we were completely flattened by it, we nearly had our lives stolen from us.  We talked about what we survived. What we were still surviving.

Anyway, I digress.  In the middle of what was a time of great self-discovery, exploration, and reflection, we came across the word “alexithymia.”  I don’t know what we were looking up to stumble upon it, or what we were even talking about specifically. But we were sitting in the bookstore (our favorite meeting spot and general happy place) when we tried the word out in our mouths and tested the meaning in our minds, and we had to stop and think about it.

It’s apparently the inability to identify and articulate your emotions to other people.  It’s like an actual thing, and neither of us actually have it, but after getting together nearly every day for an entire summer discuss our struggles as philosophically and knowledgeably as teenagers could, I guess we’d somehow been halted.

Again, we shouldn’t really be described as really having it, but I’m trying to make a point and citing this memory is the best entrance into it I could come up with.  So yeah, let’s get to my point.

Meg and I both felt suuuuuper self-aware.  We figured out why we did what we did and had lengthy conversations dissecting our actions.  We were honest with ourselves and each other. The typically elusive reasons for engaging in eating disordered behaviors suddenly seemed so obvious to us.  Looking back, we were a little conceited in our thinking that if a person had no insight into what they were doing, they’d better get their shit together and quick.  Like, calm down young Laura and Meg.

That still isn’t my point.  But this next sentence is, I promise you.

Even though we “had awareness of our character, feelings, motives, and desires,” we were also still fucking clueless.  I guess it’s one of those things where there’s always more to learn?

I don’t know, but the reason I’m thinking about that one random situation so intensely right now is that I’ve been sucking at talking about my actual feelings lately.  I’ve always felt like I was so great at getting myself.  But do I actually get myself?

Spoiler: I don’t.

I dunnooooo, maybe I used to be good at it but stopped being good at it for some reason.  If I was self-aware I’d probably know the reason. But I’m not. I don’t think? Fuck, this is confusing.

(Sidenote, I legit just googles “self-awareness test” and tried to complete it and it only proved to me that I have some emotional and mental sorting out to do)

I was diagnosed bipolar around the time Meg and I spent that summer in that bookstore.  And ten years later, I’m literally sitting right here in that same store typing a long-winded analysis of what I thought I was so good at when I was 18.

The problem I’m facing right now is that I’ve been all over the place with my moods for so damn long and I think I’m just sick of trying to figure them out.  It requires a lot of effort. I mean, I know when I’m crippled with depression. And I know when I’m irritable and agitated and violent, when I’m in a Hulk-like bipolar rage.  I know when I’m flying high, riding on the adrenaline from too much energy in too small a space. I have apps on my phone that track the mood fluctuations, my symptoms, when I take my meds, and the like.  I journal pretty obsessively. I do it all and I thought it was enough.

Maybe I’m confused about what I’m confused about.  ‘Cause my therapist always asks for me to describe how I feel and I can’t do it.  And I just had a psychiatrist appointment where I babbled for 20 minutes without saying anything productive or useful.  Can I just not describe this shit under the pressure of someone watching me? I’m tryinggggg. A while back I made a list of emotion words for me to use when I need to come up with a word for what I’m feeling.  I haven’t really referenced the list. But still. I have a scale I made up, a 0-10 rating scale that I use to conceptualize how I’m feeling. The problem with that is that my moods change over the course of the day.  Oh, and a while ago I realized that what I feel as mood fluctuations might really be my anxiety going up and down. And all of that could be situational. And maybe it’s just a normal thing that normal people feel on a normal bunch of days.  Not everyone is happy all the time. Ahhhhhh. And maybe what I’m feeling now is just NOT MANIC and NOT DEPRESSED and I’m not fuckin’ used to it.

I was so fricken excited about June and July.  I kept telling everyone how great it was to have nearly two months of stability.  It wasn’t too great. Meaning it wasn’t painfully great, precariously great. It was just stable.

Or was I actually manic?  Because there’s a marked difference between what I feel now and what I was feeling then.

It’s a constant struggle to determine what the truth of the situation is.  I wrote in a poem the other day that I can’t tell the difference between what’s reality and what’s “overdramatic, over-imagined hyperbole.”  Good line, if I do say so myself. But seriously.

I have nothing to measure my life against.  I’ve only ever existed the way I exist. I have nothing to compare it to as a test.  I have no control group in this scientific experiment. All I have is my bewildering take on things.

Alright, this is one of those posts that don’t necessarily help me solve the problem.  It’s probably a start, though. To be thinking in this way and at least trying.  I’m gonna keep journaling, keep doing what I tried to do here.  And I’m gonna make those journal entries more than what they normally are (to-do lists and random shit I did that day).  Gotta get back to that self-aware life.

Wish me luck.

Standing in my own way (?)

She wanted me to know that she wasn’t frustrated with me, that lots of people who see her have some type of roadblock (usually maladaptive behaviors, or repeatedly putting themselves in bad situations) that stop them from being the best version of themselves or the most mentally stable they can be.  But like, she explained to me that I’m standing in my own way.  How I’m a barrier to my own recovery and mental health, I guess.

I’m talking about my therapist (obviously) and what she was trying to get across to me while we sat on the floor by the window (where we always sit, because it’s more comfortable and somehow safer and easier and because I can be my fidgety self and even tug on the hem of her pants, which makes me feel connected and reassured that someone is there and present and near me in case my anxiety skyrockets and and and).  I’m standing in my own way.  I looked at her as she talked to me, making phenomenal eye contact if I do say so myself, and promised to think about it all (meaning write about it all, since that’s how I process shit) when I got home.  So hereeee I am.  Let’s gooooo…

The first thing I assume she was talking about was med compliance.  As in, taking my medications like a good girl, the way they’re prescribed, and every day, and at a regular time, etc.  And I’ll admit, for a (long) while there, I was not med compliant.  I was shitty with it for so long because the psychiatrist I saw for 11 years, the only one I’d ever seen, didn’t really impress upon me its importance, and because I had virtually no psychoeducation, and because let’s face it, taking that shit can be hard.  As I got sick and tired of continually going through the exhaustive cycles of bipolar disorder, as I started to do the right things without anyone ever telling me they were the right things, I downloaded an app that would let me keep track of when I took my pills.  For a year or two, I thought it was GREAT if I only missed like three or four days a month.  Which realistically fucking sucks.  It makes my moods more chaotic.  Duh.  But worse than that, when I feel shitty, I have even MORE trouble taking my meds regularly, because I’m kinda just like “fuck it, this sucks anyway, I might as well play into it.”  Not smart, my friends.  Not smart.

I wrote a whole list a while back with reasons it’s hard to stay on top of the meds thing.  There were things 17 on that list.  Things like “I forgot,” “laziness,” and “I choked on the pills” (I have lots of trouble swallowing pills, ugh).  There were also things like “I resent having to take them,” and “because they make me gain weight and that’s a huge issue to me.”  One bullet point was “I’d rather be fully crazy than have the vague sense of impending doom at half-crazy because at least when it’s full-blown I have a valid excuse for my horribly erratic behavior.”  There were darker reasons.  “I’m always gonna be insane so I might as well be really insane.”  “I’m violently angry that I’ve been given this bullshit fucking disorder and that anger is corrosive enough to wear down my will to choke down a handful of pills.

But I really have gotten better with it!  I made a counter list with reasons to do what I’m supposed to do.  And even that aside, I’ve only missed 2 pills in four months, and that’s a tremendous fucking achievement.  Not sure if it still says “not med compliant” in big letters across her notes about me (come to think of it, it may still say “suicide risk” in even larger letters, hmmm) but like.  I take my fucking pills.  I do.

Agh okay, maybe I struggle with the ADHD one, because in my mind “I don’t have to concentrate that well allll of the time.”  And I just got one for anxiety, and it does say to take it as needed but fuck, okay, maybe I should take it more because the endless surges of adrenaline, the unceasing rapidly palpitating heart, and the like?  Just not good for me.

Alsoooo, I see my psychiatrist Thursday, and basically, I have to come at her with more data so we can figure out what to do/where to go from here.

My therapist also said a week or two ago that I’m not even fully treatment compliant.  Because I was having a shitty fucking time, crying and being sad and anxious and just ugh fuck blah.  The anxiety I have usually sits in my chest but it was expanding into my stomach making it gross and upset, it was bubbling up my throat causing acid reflux, it was making me dizzy and shaky and weak and terrible.  And oh hey, that’s a fucking panic attack, so.  Yeah.  She said to me a few times to call my psychiatrist because “there’s no need to suffer” and because my psychiatrist can fucking HELP ME WITH MEDS which is SUCH AN ATTAINABLE SOLUTION.

I listen, though.  I listen to both of them and do (most of) what they say and come home and consciously try to process what we talk about when we see each other.  I put in the effort.  I work fucking hard.  I’m trying.

It’s making me wonder, though: am I just sitting here trying to convince myself that I’m not actually standing in my way?  ‘Cause I mean, even though I try really hard doesn’t mean I’m still not causing it to be harder than it has to be.

I guesssss the point of this rambling stream-of-consciousness is that I’m gonna try to figure out how I’m standing in my own way.  Figure that shit out so I can be honest with myself about it.  And that seeing/acknowledging the problem is the first step to solving it.  Not to mention when I’m able to think about it more clearly, I’ll be able to go back and hash this all out with my therapist and “do work,” the work that therapy requires.

I guess there’ll be more on this subject later.  So stay tuned???