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Halfway through Mental Health Awareness Month and I’ve barely posted anything specific about it. I feel like I totally should. Why not celebrate my mental illness (sounds like a weird thing but I meant more like, celebrate the fact that this month is supposed to highlight mental illnesses and how they affect people so more people are aware and therefore can be more supportive…ya know). Aaaaaanywho, here’s a Van Gogh quote because I love examples of people who created beautiful things even while struggling with mental shit. Being “normal” (whatever that means) is fine, but I’m glad I’m unique in the ways that I’m unique because it allows me to see things like the flowers along my life’s path. Also, I’m pretty sure this painting is on the wall in my therapist’s office (haven’t been there in like two months ugh quarantine lol) and I know that when I was in the hospital, we had to recreate a famous piece of art and I chose this one, so I like Starry Night a lot 😃

enjoy the little things

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Thought this quote was fitting because good little things are what’s getting me through the all-consuming boredom (things like fancy coffee from my own personal at-home cafe lol, finding and downloading and playing new games on my phone, infused water, and video calling my family♡ every day).
I’m telling myself to focus on these awesome little things because I just regained my mental stability and I don’t want unending boredom and the looming feeling of uncertainty to uproot that. The second part sounds dramatic, but seriously, the world is a mess and the uncertainty is a trigger (for lots of people!). The first part sounds like it shouldn’t be a big deal buuuuut
Boredom makes me feel super shitty. I want to be motivated and productive and feel accomplished (and not because the world is telling me I have to, it’s just an internal feeling of calm I get from it that I want). I need structure (I am clinging to my morning routine bc I like the way my mornings go, and that helps, but still, I don’t have places to BE). Oh hang on, I started writing this wanting it to be a positive rant lol so yeah, focusing on the little things and enjoying them to their fullest and doing what I can to combat the negativity that comes with the quarantine (that’s an absolute necessity still, by the way) and thinking good things.

Laura’s Bipolar Survival Guide

I wrote this “survival guide” thing like, a few months ago. I was so determined to reach my goal of making my major episodes fewer and farther between. Didn’t work right away (totally had like two more major depressions or mixed states and rapid cycled and just dealt with all the usual bullshit), but I’ve been okay since the start of June (which makes this period of stability –and I will call it stability at this point– just over a month and a half long (so far!). I think maybe, just maybe, I’ll be okay for a longer period of time this time. Anyway…dunno if anyone will be helped out by this, but it couldn’t hurt to post.

Bipolar Survival Guide

Goal: make it five full months without a major episode

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY:

When you feel the itch come on, or experience the start of insomnia, or fear what’s

to come is actually coming soon, or think it’s all about to start in any way…

  • Have someone make you accountable for taking your fucking medication; don’t fucking fuck with your meds EVER, especially when you’re heading for trouble
  • Start thinking all that positive shit; do it now while you’re still able to; tell yourself you’ll get through this, give yourself a pep talk, read inspirational quotes, etc
  • Take supplements that are supposed to help, too; Magnesium, B12, and fish oil are all supposed to help, and passionflower extract does wonders for your anxiety; and I fucking know you have plenty of all of those
  • Hide all the knives and shit; don’t cut yourself, you aren’t a fucking child and you know it’s a stupid thing to do; you don’t WANT to anyway, you really fucking don’t
  • Do NOT drink alcohol; you always do that when it gets rough and you always regret it; you don’t have to make this shit worse and you know if you were fully in your right mind you wouldn’t drinkkkkk
  • Warn friends & family what’s coming in a smart, mature way; tell them what you need now & anticipate needing soon; do it in advance, while you still have clarity of mind
  • Exercise as much as possible; get the wiggles out, get the energy out, get the frustration out; plus, it’ll help you sleep better
  • Eat healthier than you normally would; fruits and veggies and all that shit; it couldn’t hurt, and it’ll make you feel more like a functioning human being
  • Drink water like it’s your fuckin’ job; again, it couldn’t fucking hurt
  • CBD oil to relax and stay calm (worth a shot, right?)
  • Mindfulness and all that nonsense; meditation apps and youtube videos; breathe with that thing that goes in and out and just focus on fucking breathing; affirmation youtube videos, and if anything just leave them on in the background while you do something else; adult coloring pages; etc
  • If you need an immediate reset: 
    • Take a shower, either really hot or really cold; the change in temperature helps reduce anxiety because your brain can’t process anxiety and a sudden change like that
    • Call someone to talk; it’s distracting and they might be able to actually help (fuckin’ imagine that)
    • Remove yourself from the situation that’s causing emotional distress (if you can)
    • Count the number 1-20, but out of order (again, your brain can’t focus on doing that and being anxious at the same time)
    • Sleeeeeeep; just escape it all and take a nap, if possible)
    • Use one of the many mental health  apps on your phone to reset yourself; there’s CalmHarm and ClearFear and What’s Up and Aloe Bud and Virtual Hope Box and Mood Shift and Rootd; etc
  • If you need to make sure your day really goes as planned:
    • Drink a full glass of water when you wake up
    • Take your fucking meds, all of them, right away (don’t wait otherwise you won’t take them, you know that, dumbass)
    • Take vitamins and supplements and all that too, while you’re at it
    • Clean something; it makes you feel accomplished, and a clean space leaves less room for anxiety, and less external chaos means less internal chaos
    • Turn music on; happy songs are probably best, but the usual hardcore screamy stuff will do just fine
    • Take a shower; you have the time, just fucking get in the shower and wash your body and do your hair and get all nice and squeaky clean, you’ll fucking feel better, you idiot
    • Journal; get those feelings out, you have the compulsive need to do it anyway, so just do it now in the morning, for as long as possible or as long as it takes to be emptied of the bullshit
    • Do some of that meditating or mindfulness crap; just do it
  • Remember that the torturous parts of this disorder are temporary. Yes, it fucking BLOWS to have to remember that when you’re in the throes of it or if you’re heading there soon. But seriously. You’ve been through this before, you’ve been through it more times than you can count, and yes I realize that sounds like a bad thing, but motherFUCKER if anyone can survive this one, it’s YOU ‘cause you’re a fucking badass bitch from hell and this bipolar shit ain’t got nothing on you. Boom.
  • Be aware of triggers:
    • Stress at work or in any area of life, really
    • Being physically sick is a big one, so stay healthy and take care of yourself if you feel a cold or something on
    • Too many good things happening may trigger mania, although I don’t think you’ve written down enough data to make that hypothesis seem correct; just be careful of that anyway
  • Other things that help:
    • Video game music helps you focus
    • Lavender spray makes you calm down, at least a little
    • Lighting a candle makes you happy
    • Turn on a show you can watch mindlessly (Family Guy, probably)
    • Fidget toys help when you start to get too twisty and fidgety
  • Continue to keep track of your moods (Daylio and eMoods are absolutely necessary, but use the other ones too as things get trickier), and then ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE OF THEM and FIND PATTERNS so you can PLAN FOR THE FUTURE BETTER
  • Read a book about bipolar disorder (it helps you feel like you can make sense of all this shit and maybe have some semblance of control over it all); “Brilliant Advice from my Bipolar Life” is a really good guide with tons of tips, and it’s got lots of fun cartoons in it; or “Bipolar Survival Guide” is another good one; or “Bipolar Disorder: a guide for patients and families” is another; orrrr just research biochemistry and other related information, because if anything it’ll distract you
  • Write!!! Work on something, anything. Just write. Throw yourself into it. And if you’re already at the point where you can’t fucking focus or form coherent thoughts or whatever, do something that’ll improve your writing eventually; like reading about writing (books with tips and advice or even just advice from other writers on tumblr or online somewhere)
  • Maybe it’ll help to focus on the good things that come with being bipolar
    •  You’re creative, can’t deny that, being bipolar is at least somewhat tied to that
    • You’re kind and compassionate, and that comes at least partially from having such a wide range of emotions and emotional experiences, so you can relate to and help so many other people as a result
    • You’re braver and stronger than most people just by being alive still, just by having survived your own fucking life, be proud of that, keep building upon that
    • Think of as many more of these as you need to (even though it’s gonna be a hard thing to do in the moment)
  • Look up Carrie Fisher quotes (RIP Space Mom), either the ones about being bipolar or any of her other famous quotes, because she was fucking awesome; if she could do it, so can you; and furthermore, you wanna do her proud, don’t ya?
  • Speaking of quotes, here, have some inspirational ones (generic or not, just fucking read them, it’ll help you and you know it):
    • This too shall pass
    • “In the depths of winter I finally found that within me was an invincible summer”
    • Every little thing is gonna be alright 🙂
    • If you believe in something, believe in it all the way
    • You don’t have to know where you’re headed to be going in the right direction
    • Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire
    • Attack every day with enthusiasm!
    • It’s going to be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay it’s not the end
    • Leap and the net will appear
    • Wake up, Drink coffee, Kick ass, Repeat
    • “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”
    • Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it
    • What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us
    • I am an optimist; it doesn’t seem much use to be anything else
    • Life is a mirror; it’ll smile at you if you smile at it
    • Be the person who can smile on the worst day
    • If you want a different outcome you have to do different things
    • Without struggle, there can be no progress
    • “Keep your face always towards the sunshine and the shadows will always fall behind you”
    • If you don’t know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take
    • Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come
    • You’ve survived 100% of your worst days so far
    • Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted
    • Cut yourself some slack, you’re doing better than you think
    • “Surviving is my best revenge, what hurts you once won’t hurt you again”
    • Find one small thing that doesn’t suck and hold onto it
    • Everything is figureoutable
    • “Make a wish and do as dreamers do…and all your wishes will come true” ❤
    • When life gives you 100 reasons to be sad, show life you have 1000 reasons to smile
    • “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”
    • “The sun comes up every morning; hope gets lost but never dies; love is so much stronger than hate; seasons change; don’t forget the smell after a storm”
    • “Even the darkest nights will end and the sun will rise!”
    • “Follow every rainbow til you find your dream”
    • Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves
    • If life shuts a door, open it again; it’s a door, that’s how they work
    • Believe in the happily fucking ever after
    • What if = fear ; Even if – faith
    • You can be  both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously
    • The energy we use is never wasted
  • And don’t forget the ones tattoed on your fucking body:
    • It takes rain to make a rainbow
    • Happiness can be found, even if the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light
    • Have a magical day!
    • Just keep swimming, just keep swimming
    • Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise
  • Things you can control:
    • Your beliefs
    • Your attitudes
    • Your thoughts
    • Your perspective
    • Who your friends are
    • What books you read
    • How often you exercise
    • The type of food you eat
    • How you interpret situations
    • How kind you are to others
    • How kind you are to yourself
    • How often you say “I love you”
    • How often you say “thank you”
    • How you express your feelings
    • Whether or not you ask for help
    • How often you practice gratitude
    • How many times you smile today
    • The amount of effort you put forth
    • How much time you spend worrying
    • How much you appreciate the things you have
  • Real Talk: be kind to yourself; this shit sucks and you’ve been handling it for too long, and you’re handling it right now; so cut yourself some slack and give yourself the credit you damn well deserve, even if no one else does (ESPECIALLY if no one else does)

“We’re only given one spark of madness.”

I have this hooded denim vest that I stick all my pins and patches on. It’s fun to wear because it’s fun and colorful, and overall just an outward expression of who I am, how I feel in the inside. My favorite pin on there, as of lately, is an orange one with a Robin Williams quote: “You are only given one tiny spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” I’ve thought a lot about those words lately.

Madness is something I know well. I know it may sound like a subjective thing, madness. Who’s to say what makes a person mad? What are the qualifications? Who’s a typical example of madness, who can we base our judgment off of? I know personally, I feel I’m mad because my ridiculously extreme mood fluctuations and my tenuous grip on my sanity makes me act in an over-the-top, out of control way. So like, I’m pretty sure I know madness in the way Robin Williams meant it. I know how he must have felt as he said those words. He was known to have suffered from depression, and unfortunately lost his battle against it.

But taking the definition of madness and putting it aside, what the comedian was saying is that madness is a gift. It doesn’t have to be veiled in darkness, the word doesn’t have to hold a negative connotation.

I agree to an extent. My insanity can certainly be a gift (although that might be a fairly magnanimous way to view it). It’s given me many wonderful things: my creativity, my capability to show empathy, my motivation, my passionate personality. Maybe neither the bad or the good outweighs the other, maybe comparing the benefits and disadvantages of being crazy is like comparing two totally unrelated things. But what I know for sure is I wouldn’t change who I am, madness and all, even if I could. I simply wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to risk losing the good, despite all of the bad.

Because as much as it sucks, my bipolar makes me see things differently. I see the world and all that it encompasses in a unique way. It’s not always beautiful, but it’s not always ugly. It is always my way, though. It is always true to me.

Again, it makes me creative, it helps me manipulate words, helps me bend them, helps me to warp their meaning by surrounding them with other words of varying meanings, all to get you to understand or allow you to escape or propel you into your own imagination. It makes me empathetic, allows me to understand the other human beings that walk this earth alongside me. It helps me connect to them in meaningful, beautiful ways. It drives me forward, and although my one-track mind isn’t always ideal, the passion behind it is powerful and glorious.

This all brings me to the ever-popular question amongst those with my affliction: where does my bipolar stop and where do I start? If the qualities I value about myself are so inextricably linked to my disorder, then is my disorder the only thing I like about myself?

In terms of recovering from anorexia, it wasn’t a matter of going back to who I was prior to diving into the depths of the disorder; rather, it was a matter of reinventing myself, new and while and happy, once the detrimental mental clutter was all cleared out. I couldn’t go back to before (a literal child). I couldn’t stay within it (utterly and painfully obsessed with food and calories and weight, chained to self-destruction). I had to decide who I wanted to be and be it.

Of course, deciding who I wanted to be wasn’t easy. So many options, ya know? I wanted to be me. Just me. But I needed a clearer image of what “just me” meant.

Bipolar is an entirely different animal. First of all, I’m stuck with it. It ain’t goin’ anywhere. Second, it’s more of a personality trait thing than a behavior thing.

Not to mention how some people with bipolar experience periods of normal stability in between major episodes. Or so they say. I’ve heard that and read it a thousand times lately. But like, what does that mean for me?? What is normal? What is stable? What is an even keel? I feel like all of that alludes me, or maybe I just like to feel down on myself.

One spark. One glittering, luminous, dangerous, shocking spark. That’s all we get in this life, and maybe if we were to let it fizzle out prematurely, we’d regret it.

One spark of madness. One diagnosis. One chance to utilize what it’s given me.

One chance to survive and thrive, to take the bullshit along with the best of it and make this thing work, because one day I may regret it if I don’t.

The point I’m trying to make is that madness is not a punishment. I mustn’t think of it in that way. I must open the madness up to the sparkling light, applying the benefits of it to my life. I think by understanding it in that way I’ll be better able to discern who I am.

Hope.

“Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise”
—Finale, Les Miserables

I hadn’t even checked to make sure that one was actually from Les Mis. I remembered hearing the line on broadway one of the many times I was lucky enough to see the production.

It turns out it’s a small little line, very near the end of the last song of the show.

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

I got it tattooed on my left forearm, over faded and non-faded self-harm scars. It was a day or two before I was propelled into yet another major mood episode. It was literally so close to the edge of where I was thrown into the abyss and dragged through the tormenting hell that has been such a part of my life marked my bipolar.

Throughout my agitated hypomania and the subsequent major depression, I didn’t see how the tattoo I’d previously been so excited about could possibly be true. I was tempted to take a sharpie and cross the whole thing out. In my darker moments (of which there were many), I contemplated cutting it off my goddamn body.

I’m glad I didn’t.

Although I am literally, truly, 100% incapable of finding the light in the throes of my major depressions, the ones that seem to be getting worse and worse and worse, I know that positivity is one of the few answers. It’s a fucked up joke that such positivity seems to allude me so, but maybe that’s why I’m supposed to rely on others in those moments.

And there are other things I can do, of course. I mean, I was doing all of them: taking the meds and the supplements, eating healthy, drinking water, sleeping and waking at the same times daily, keeping a routine, moving my body as much as I could, doing the breathing and mindfulness things, using the apps that help me cope, distracting myself, going to therapy, asking for (begging for) help, journaling, tracking my symptoms, etc etc etc. You name it, I was doing it.

(As a side note, I stopped eating gluten. I’ve heard a few times now that the rash I’ve had or my arms and legs since forever could be related to gluten intolerance, and after a few days of doing the whole gluten-free thing, the rash is a lot better. And I’ve also heard this can affect moods, which makes sense. You know, the whole gut-brain axis, serotonin being made in the stomach, blah blah).

I don’t know what sent me spiraling into chaos this last time. I don’t know if it was random, if it was having gone through a time change because of a vacation, if it was me “thinking myself into it” (I’m still not certain that is an actual thing)…I don’t know. I can’t know. I shouldn’t care so much about knowing.

But, for better or worse, there are a few things that are known:
-This will happen again
-I will survive it again
-My doctor and therapist know how to help me better now that they’ve seen me cycle a few times
-There’s something out there that’ll help me make these episodes fewer and farther between and less fucking intense
-Even the darkest motherfucking night will end and the sun will rise

And by the way, how poignant that my tattoo should heal completely on the day I emerge back into the light. The night has ended. The sun has risen. All is well.

 

Unified Contradictions

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
—Walt Whitman, poet

The acknowledgement is certainly true; when you dive into the core of what makes me who I am, you will find more facets than an expertly cut gemstone, each one vast and expansive, so it is no wonder that contradictions arise. “I contain multitudes.” The potentially understated truth rings out again as I repeat the phrase over and over, speaking the words out loud, in a strained attempt to understand myself.

“I contain multitudes.” My pieces abound, filling me with various morals and behaviors and interests, fitting together like a puzzle (albeit a fluid one) to create the human being that I am. The whole of me is divided into parts, too many to keep track of so don’t insult me by trying. I cannot be boiled down into a single substance; I am more complex than that.

“I contain multitudes,” but two opposing personalities prevail:

1. I am a badass bitch from hell and I take no shit. I am at times overly aggressive, but I blame you because you provoked me. I hold myself tall in spite of my stature, and intensity flies from my hands as I gesticulate wildly in unison with my words. I stare daggers at you —they pierce your very soul. You may not be intimidated, but FUCK does it feel good to assume you are. My confidence is natural. I am a force to be reckoned with. Even with the world out to get me, my shields are impenetrable.

2. I am sweet, gentle, innocent. The world is harsh and I need to be defended from it. I want to be defended from it. Cruelty, which exists in amounts too high, hurts my heart already weary from taking on the pain of everyone around me. I absorb energy like some sort of empathetic sponge, may God damn the portion of my brain in charge of that shit. I am molded around ideals of what you want me to be, the struggle to define myself too much to handle. My eyes leap to the ground at the first sign of disappointment and only flick up to meet yours when it feels safe enough to do so. I crave comfort. I seek calm.

“Do I contradict myself?” How silly to ask. I do, and frequently, vacillating between two distinct versions of myself every other minute, all in the matter of a single conversation. The juxtaposition is obvious and confusing. It begs the question: how is such a phenomenon possible?

“Unity is plural, and at minimum, two.”
—Buckminster Fuller, author and inventor

I am and always have been of two distinct poles. It’s a simple truth that pervades all aspects of my life. I am highs and lows in rapid succession, incredible joy next to impossible sadness, light and darkness wrapped up and folded within themselves.

But if not for my parts how would I exist as a whole? I am all of my facets, and isn’t the assembly necessary? After all, “unity is plural.” Addition may combine two or more numbers, but the sum is its own entity regardless.

How is such a phenomenon possible? I am a sweet, gentle, innocent badass bitch from hell. I am overly aggressive, but the world is harsh and I need to defend myself from it. I hold myself tall but don’t always look you in your eyes. I gesticulate wildly while absorbing your anxiety and her stress and his energy. My confidence is natural, my need for comfort real and persistent and intense.

It is obvious I’m confusing. But…

I am the embodiment of yin and yang, I am the promise of a rainbow after the storm, I am reminder of differences coexisting. I am who I am.

I am proof that it doesn’t need to make sense.