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.”

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.

 

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???

Bipolar and the senses

So last year, or maybe it was two years ago, I was sitting cross-legged on my bed, laptop propped up against a pillow, listening to Duel of the Fates from the Star Wars prequels on repeat. I remember it rather vividly. I’d had a huge mental breakdown the night before, where my then best friend and soon-to-be-boyfriend drove me until one in the morning as we listened to music and I alternated between crying and singing along to the loud punk rock hitting me in waves out of the speakers. I was home from work, having called out by leaving a frantic voicemail detailing how I was insane and the thought of coming in to work made me want to die. So appropriate, I know. But there I was, sitting there trying to hold on to some semblance of calm, the vague, fleeting feeling that came and went throughout that entire day. I hadn’t eaten. I’d barely had any water. I was just existing, trying to write just to be doing something, thinking about something. Not one of my better moments.

And here I am now. That same Star Wars song on repeat. And it’s weird because I can taste the insanity of my past. I taste the feeling of hunger, acerbic in my mouth, just like I tasted two years ago. I can feel my insides grabbing for what little bit of calm it can grab. The memory of the thoughts I thought are echoing through my head, bouncing off the walls of my mind like that someone slammed a super ball as hard as they could in a gymnasium, the ball going going going with seemingly endless momentum. Or maybe it’s more like a balloon flying every which way after someone untied it and let it loose. The point is that I’m there again. I’m sitting on my bed, legs crossed, laptop in front of me, fingers flying frantically over my keyboard just because. I’m there again. Because of this song I’ve got on repeat.

It’s weird how that happens. The taste of my gummy melatonin does the same thing. That strawberry-esque flavor melting in my mouth, even now, transports me back to the nights I was plagued with what I’ll call violent, agitated insomnia.

On the flip side, I have this one roll-on perfume that calms me down. I always put it on before therapy and now when I roll it on before work, I smell the panic going the fuck away and my chest easing up. I feel full, deep breaths steadying my heart rate as I take actual air into my lungs (as much as I’m able to, at least).

I have an elephant stuffed animal that I hug close to me when I sleep at night. And I have a mini keychain with the same elephant on it. And I make a point to take out that little keychain and rub the elephant’s ears when I start to lose my cool, when I feel the anxiety bubbling up from my stomach all the way up my esophagus and ultimately reaching my head, dizziness ensuing.

And lastly, I’m comforted in the best way possible when someone I love wraps me in a protective hug, sending love vibrations into my being with the pressure they put on me, squeezing my broken pieces together with a strength that can only come from true care and concern.

It’s amazing how this shit works. What our sense can do for us.

How to know it’s coming on again (short version)

  • No matter what song I put on, it doesn’t feel right
  • No matter where I go, it doesn’t feel homey or safe or okay
  • So much dread
  • The fact that I have to get through a whole day (and subsequently a whole night) feels like I have to scale a mountain
  • “Life hurts”
  • I’m overwhelmed by everything
  • I’m having trouble doing small, menial tasks
  • I want to drive really fast so the anxiety can’t catch up to me
  • I can’t decide what mood I’m in or how I feel, I just know I don’t feel right
  • Oh dear GOD the irritability

Manic

“Do you remember

When you were young

And you wanted to

Set the world on fire”

These lyrics hit me square in the stomach whenever my music shuffles to this song.  I remember so vividly listening to these words on last year’s hot summer days, filled to the brim with hot-blooded passion.  I was nothing if not wildly manic –and not the irritated, agitated, anxious, dysphoric kind that usually rips into me. It was transcendent happiness sending shockwaves of light, blindingly radiant, throughout my emotional core.  Which is why I didn’t simply listen to the music; I experienced it. Particularly distinct are my memories of listening to it one sunshiney August morning in my parents’ pool, as I alternated between sipping my coffee and swimming laps like I was training for the motherfucking Olympics.  “Teenage Anarchist” was roaring through my speaker at full volume, the perfect soundtrack to the perfect start to the perfect day after a perfect succession of days and nights and days and nights and…it blended together, obscuring any realistic interpretation of the previous seven weeks.  Perhaps the tangled mess of sleepless nights and unheard of caffeine intake fueled the fire, but then again, what wasn’t stoking the flames.  What wasn’t egging them on to rise higher, burn hotter.  To spread. The music was an energy that buzzed throughout each of my senses -I heard the interlaced harmonies, saw the notes pass over my vision, even tasted the electric shock of the guitarist striking each chord- finally resting in my sense of feeling.  It was euphoric. It was priceless. It was rampant energy, but this time with someplace to go. It shot out of my body like radiation emanating from the sun. The world was overflowing with a crazy joy, and I consumed it all greedily. I was at the top of the world, not knowing I was dangerously close to its edge.  And I continued to listen to that song, the song that existed for me, my song. The song that played on repeat, that stayed with me underneath my conscious awareness for two months. Two long fucking months.

…until it dissipated into frazzled distress like balloon that ascended too high into the atmosphere, reaching a deranging altitude, until it maxed out, popped, exploded.  Then the remnants of its container plummeted down to earth, somehow crashing into it with the force of the meteor that caused the goddamn ice age.

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)

Morning Affirmations

The sky woke up with a dull, gray covering this morning. And although I usually prefer when dawn chases the night away, forcing it to retreat while purples become pinks become oranges, I’m trying to view this rainy, stormy day as a potential adventure. The heavens are open, life-giving water is pouring into the earth, and the sound of rolling thunder is somehow calming. I’m at my favorite coffee shop. The meditative, chattering background noise along with the raindrops pitter-pattering against the large window in front of me soothes my mind —which is fairly quiet this morning compared to a typical day in my life. I’m taking slow, full breaths, inhaling the deep aroma of freshly brewed coffee and positivity. Exhaling thoughts of today’s potential chaos. My insides are expanding to allow space for observation; today I will watch my emotions flow back and forth, melting into one another, as an impartial judge. I refuse to contract, to fold into myself. I refuse to decrease in size, to shrivel into fear, to let myself tighten when I needn’t let myself tighten. I am vast and all-encompassing. I greet this day with a curious disposition. And as I sit here in contemplative stillness as the world and I wake up, gaining conscious preparedness, following the tried-and-true routines that keep us safely secured amid the rush of life, I know I can retain the cozy comfort of this rainy, stormy morning.