Who Do You Manage Your Illness For?

Mentally ill or not, we all have facades that we present to the world to help us cope with our surroundings. Some of us choose to have perfect makeup, beautiful hair, manicured nails, or maybe a nice car to meet clients in. How about that giant house you’re paying out the nose for? It’s all part of how we wish to present ourselves to the outsiders that we have to deal with. But what about people that are in our inner circles? It’s harder to maintain this facade with your family, your lover, your children, your best friends. When you live with mental illness these facades are infinitely more difficult to maintain. Sometimes you have several, but there are cracks in all of them, and over time the people whom you love the most will bear witness to the darkness that flows like nightmares through those cracks. 

Who benefits from our hiding?

In short, everyone; for a while. The reason we do it is not to prevent people from knowing, but to protect people from their own fears. Mental illness is an exceptionally abstract concept for the professionals that deal with it, it is infinitely harder to understand for people who have no previous knowledge of it. It is also a security blanket for those of us who are ill. In a lot of cases, family members have their own preconceptions of what it means to be mentally ill, and they usually aren’t good. They classify people with depression as lazy, people with bipolar as crazy, and people with schizophrenia as dangers to society. If you can’t will yourself into being better, than you are an attention-seeker, a downer debbie that craves drama. Turn that frown upside down, and get over yourself. We’ve all heard it. So our masks provide a protection from the people who we know won’t understand, people who will unintentionally (or perhaps, intentionally) hurt us with their archaic opinions. It’s one thing if this is an old spinster aunt who refuses to learn anything that was published after 1975, but what happens if this person is a parent, a sibling, or even worse, your spouse? Do we continually mend the cracks in the facade in the hopes that they never realise that it’s as bad as it is? Or do we put all of our cards on the table with the full knowledge that they may choose to walk away from us?

Coming out as mentally ill is never an easy conversation, it requires a lot of trust, high hopes, and if you’re lucky enough, some liquid luck to make it go the way that you need it to. None of my admittance conversations have gone the way I expected them to. (I’ve never been successful at brewing liquid luck).I have recounted this before, but I feel like I have glossed over a lot of the emotions that I had felt, so I will tell you again, hopefully in better detail. When I told my husband that I was going to start taking medication to deal with illness, it was not the first time we had talked about psychotic disorders. He had grown up in the camp that believed that fresh air and exercise were the best way to deal with the cobwebs in your attic. I had went so far as to get a gym membership, and I worked my ass off. I was at the gym every day, I ran constantly, I used tanning beds, all in a fruitless attempt to find out that yes, exercise would cure whatever was wrong with me. After a few months of being at the gym every day for most of the day, I realised that although I looked good, and felt good while I was there, it was not a cure to my problems. I would be able to incorporate it into a feel-good plan, but there was no way I was going to continue to survive without medical intervention. Knowing his opinion was terrifying. I was worried that he would think that I was faking it, or that I was unappreciative of the wonderful life he has worked so hard to provide for me. What do I have to be depressed about? He’s given me literally everything I’ve ever wanted, including working hard so that I could stay home with our kids. I have no real problems. What I had to learn to accept before I could talk to him was that it has nothing to do with being sad, or greedy, or disappointed in my life. It is a flaw in my chemistry, and I can still feel happy or loving while living with the underlying problems that I have. 

I waited for a long time to tell him, I had to convince myself that he had the right to know what was going on with me, and he also deserved the chance to say that he was willing to put up with it or he wasn’t, lying by omission is still a lie, and I felt guilty thinking that he was unknowingly dealing with all of my demons. If he wanted a clean slate for himself, that was his choice, and I had no right to take that away. We eventually had our discussion, and he decided that although he didn’t understand it, he would do his best to support me, and hopefully learn a few things along the way. I have found myself to be considerably gifted in the spouse department, because not only has his ideas of mental illness shifted, but he has taken such an active role in my health that I truly feel like I have one person in my life that no longer needs to see me in a mask. It’s liberating and vindicating, and if he is the only person in my life that makes an effort to understand, I will count myself a very lucky woman.

What if he didn’t understand? That was always an option. I had to be ready to completely destroy my life to include him in this dark part of it, what if he decided he couldn’t stay? It happens to people with serious injuries and cancer, it definitely happens to people who are mentally ill. What happens if you open up to your loved ones and they can’t or won’t support you? It’s a terrifying thought, but it is equally terrifying to live with the knowledge that every day you come closer to letting slip that you aren’t ‘like the rest of them’. Part of receiving treatment for mental illness is admitting that you are stronger than you think, in ways that you don’t understand. It takes an incredible amount of strength to keep yourself together in times when you wish you could fall apart, and an even larger amount of strength to take that first step in admitting that you need help in the first place. We live our lives in terror, and adding the uncertainty of how your loved ones will react makes getting out of bed seem impossible on most days. 

The point of this post: Who do you manage your illness for? 

As much as we love and respect the people that are closest to us, if we manage our illness based on what they think and feel, we aren’t actually managing our illness. It is another facade, that will eventually crack and leave us exposed and potentially dangerous. The more we hide and sweep things under the rug, the easier it becomes to lose sight of why we are taking these steps to take care of ourselves in the first place. Yes, we learn to manage our illnesses because we love our families and friends, and we want to be the best version of us that we can for them, but the most important person that we are managing for is us. If you forget that, you are causing an infinite amount of extra problems and fears for yourself that you do not aid in your recovery. There is no value in glossing over the facts of your illness, and it is selfish to hide the scary parts because you are afraid that people won’t love you the same way. Maybe the won’t, but that seems like a pretty solid indicator that they also have problems within themselves that they haven’t acknowledged yet. 

Dealing with someone else’s mental illness is a tall order to fill, and can’t be done overnight. Even the most willing of participants have trouble understanding what’s going on all of the time, just as we ourselves don’t understand. What we all need to keep in mind is that we will not be cured. We cannot make promises that we will ever be off of our treatment plans, because we may not, and giving people vague answers like ‘I’ll reevaluate in a few months’ only gives them a false hope that you will ‘get better’, and leaves you feeling stressed out leading up to that deadline. We learn to live with our illnesses, we master the tools that we are given and we are capable of seeming as though nothing is wrong, but the bottom line is, it’s still there. We will always have bad days. Sure, they will become fewer and farther between, but it will happen, and when it does our loved ones can’t be surprised or shocked by it. We work very hard to manage the person they see, but it’s not always perfect. There are two promises that I believe we should make, one to others and one to ourselves.

To others: I promise to never blame you for my actions or illnesses, and I will not lie to protect your feelings.

To ourselves: I will never minimise my suffering for the sake of others, and I will not cling to those who cannot accept me for the beautifully flawed being that I am. 

These are two promises that although seem easy in writing, are harder than we realise. But hey, we all already lead such exceptionally hard lives as it is, so why not add these two logs into the fire? 

The bottom line is this: We all deserve our own version of happiness. We need to surround ourselves with people who only contribute to our success, not minimise our good days and exaggerate our bad days. We love incomparably and magically, and there ARE people who are willing to love us in the same ways. Maybe they are also damaged, maybe they aren’t. Our lives are a continuous parade of people who march in and out making promises to us, and even though it’s exhausting to sort through them, it’s important that we do; because maybe that one person who offers us that mask-free existence is hiding in the crowd, waiting to accept you for exactly who you are. Never give up on what you deserve, and never settle because you think you are too damaged to do any better.  

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Big surprise, I’ve offended you AGAIN.

I am pregnant. Some days I am a glowing beacon of motherly radiance, floating in golden crepe paper on a cloud made of love for all living things. Most days I’m a cranky bitch who wants nothing more than to be done being pregnant. I have two other daughters, and they do their best to make sure that my rest times are never restful, and that I never forget that I still have to make them sandwiches and dry their pickles even when I feel like a swollen hippopotamus. That’s ok, I need to stay humble. What really gets my goat about being pregnant is having to kowtow to everyone’s opinions of what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. This is MY pregnancy – my last pregnancy, in fact, and all I want to do is enjoy it. I don’t care if you think I should see my doctor more often, I don’t care what your opinions on taking anti-psychotic medications are during pregnancy, and I really don’t give a fuck if you think I shouldn’t be eating peanut butter or caesar salad. Guess what? I eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich EVERY DAY. Always have, always will. My other kids have no nut allergies, and if this one does I promise I will apologise to her profusely for the rest of her nut-free life. For now, WEEE! I love salad, I eat protein bars, I exercise almost daily, I eat as much junk food as I can get my swollen little fingers on, I use cleaning products several times a day specifically because I LIKE THE SMELL.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy discussing pregnancy with other women, ones who have and haven’t been pregnant. I enjoy sharing experiences, learning from other women, and finding out the differences between my generation and the generation before me. When sharing experiences turns into lecturing me on how you would do it/did it, I get a little frosty. My personal experience isn’t actually any of your fucking business. I will be polite as possible, but keep your advice to yourself – for both of our sake. There are a few people who I ASK advice from, my mother-in-law, my mother, my sister, because I genuinely respect and trust their opinions. If you don’t fall into that category, or if I don’t explicitly ask you – back off. Everyone has their own beliefs and methods, and that’s wonderful; but they are just that – your own. Not everything works for everyone else, and that’s not wrong. I don’t offer up parenting advice to friends of mine unless they ask, because it makes me feel incredibly vain. What gives me the right to think that my parenting or pregnancy skills are any better than anyone elses? That’s right; nothing gives me that right. I refuse to submit to my own ignorance and tell someone how it should be done, and I implore everyone else to do the same. Not only do I feel like shit physically, but I then have to deal with feeling terrible emotionally because someone saw me sniff my husband’s beer to see what it smelled like. Take your ass-masking judgement pants off and just be kind. No one cares what you think. Least of all, me.

I typed this sitting next to a container of Comet Cleanser. It smells like angels.

My kids know I’m messed up, they love me anyway

My kids are so amazing, you have no idea. 

The One Who Saved Me

My first daughter was born when I was nineteen. I was destitute, had no education, and was constantly trying to kill myself. I hated who I was, I had no self-worth, and I couldn’t feel the love that my family and friends were trying to give to me. I didn’t deserve it, they were wasting their time. I lived in a dirty neighbourhood with a landlord who had tried to kill me on at least two separate occasions, I hadn’t finished high school, and the clearest option for me was death.  When my little babe was born my boyfriend moved us to Halifax so he could pursue his career in the Navy, and I credit them both for saving my life. They both gave me a reason to live, things to hope for, and most importantly, they showed me how to accept as well as give unconditional love. My life is worth so much, and teenage pregnancy showed me that.

I was very lucky that I had the support that I did, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. My family loved me and did the best they could to help in any way that they could, everyone was determined that I would be a good mother. Their encouragement showed me that being alive was a worthy cause. I didn’t need to be an astronaut with a degree in brain surgery; just being me was good enough – being a good mom was good enough. If I could go to bed every night knowing that I did my best for my little family, then my life was worth living. I look at her face and see my own hopes and dreams reflected back at me. For as long as I live I will never be able to thank her enough or repay her for what she has given to me, but I will try every day to prove to her that I was worth saving.

When my daughter was eighteen months old we relocated to Vancouver Island, and the weather started to get to me. Seasonal affective disorder is not uncommon here, but when you’re unknowingly fighting other demons, it quickly takes its toll.


 

The One I Prayed For

After arriving on the island I went back to school, first to finish high school, and then to post-secondary. The rain and the depression that I was already dealing with made leaving the house very hard. People on the west coast are not as friendly as the people in the east, and I wasn’t prepared for people to not want to be friends with me. I was a young military wife, and struggled to find things in common with other people my age. Before my daughter’s fourth birthday, I gave birth to my second daughter. The one thing I was sure about in my life was the love that I felt for my daughter, and I was determined to fill my life with that same feeling. I couldn’t find friends; I was too far away from family, so another baby was what I needed. My oldest was gaining independence rapidly, and I was missing that feeling of being needed completely.

When I became pregnant for the second time I focussed completely on being the best prenatal mother. I took care of myself, read books, kept a journal, and was excited to be pregnant. There was no stigma attached to being pregnant with her, I just got to enjoy myself. I was happily married, we already had one child, my husband was an amazing caregiver, and no one had to worry about us anymore. It was a special feeling; the knowledge that people weren’t expecting me to self-destruct anymore. A lot of things happened for me during that pregnancy. We found out that our oldest daughter was gifted; I finished school, went through my first deployment as a military wife, and started learning about mental illness. I had suspected that there were imbalances within me, but I was still so afraid of the consequences of admitting it out loud. I thought if I learned enough about it, I would realise that I wasn’t suffering from the things that I thought I was. When my second daughter was born I was able to shift my focus from myself back to my kids, and that continued to work for quite a while. It’s easy to hide from yourself when you don’t slow down enough to see what’s going on.

 


 

The Sickness

          When my middle daughter was two I became very sick while my husband was on a long deployment. I tried my best to take care of myself, but a few weeks after he got home I was devastatingly ill. Being sick changed me in ways I still can’t understand. In some ways I am more relaxed than I used to be, I a more willing to let things go, less likely to become blinded with rage at the slightest inconvenience. In other ways I take things a lot more personally, I am also finally open and accepting about my mental health. When my body shut down, it took along with my power supply, all of the walls and barriers I had used to protect myself and my loved ones. My mental health problems were always just below the surface, but I had constructed elaborate masks to hide behind, and being sick stripped me of all of them. I was left confused and scared. My doctor told me that I would need to see a psychiatrist to determine the extent of the damage that my illness had caused. I didn’t tell my family. I met with the psychiatrist and he told me that he suspected that this wasn’t my first foray into mental illness, and that not only would I need to be medicated, but I would need counselling. I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and insomnia thanks to my near-death experience, as well as a deep-rooted major depressive disorder, and more than likely Bipolar disorder. It would take a few months to determine if I was bipolar, but I was definitely depressed, there was no getting around that.

          When I told my husband I shook and cried, and was positive that he would leave me. I was defective, officially. Even if we had both suspected that something wasn’t right with me before, no one with a professional opinion had confirmed or denied it. I was safe in not knowing. He has been nothing but supportive of me since my diagnosis, and has committed himself to learning alongside me. I know that it is no picnic to live with me, and I can’t imagine how hard it is for him to never know what he’s coming home to. He is always kind to me, regardless of how I treat him, and someday I hope he realises that he deserves better.


 

The One Who Brought New Hope

          In approximately two weeks I will give birth to my third daughter. Sometimes I feel irresponsible for being pregnant while I’m mentally ill, but then I remember that I have always been ill, and my other kids have turned out just fine. This third baby was to prove to myself that I could do it. I am a good mom, and no matter what the status of my mental health is, I will always be a good mom. Being pregnant as an openly mentally-ill person has been a very interesting journey, and I have learned so much about myself and about the people who I’ve surrounded myself with. My support circle is small but tight-knit, and I am confident that the people who love me will help me if needed. My daughters are very excited to be big sisters, and the thought of creating a new life after almost losing mine has been invigorating. I went into this pregnancy with the knowledge that not every day would be perfect, and that I will struggle to maintain my own health while looking after my family, but it is this kind of loving struggle that sustains me, and reminds me that my life has purpose.

 


 

Parenting with Mental Illness

          My kids are both aware that mommy has mental illness. I don’t sugar-coat it, and I don’t beat around the bush. I am emotionally defective, and I include them in my feelings so that they know that none of it is caused by them. When I am having a down day, I try to explain it. I ask for extra hugs, I ask for extra quiet time. I am open with them in the hopes that they will know as they get older that they can trust me with their feelings and emotions. If I don’t hide, why should they? We talk about everything all of the time, and I feel like being sick gives me a unique perspective on their lives and feelings. My oldest daughter deals with childhood depression thanks to being gifted, and who better to understand her confusion than me? We read books and articles together, she draws me pictures and tells me when she’s having a low day. My little one is always good for snuggles and hugs, and she loves singing us songs to make us feel better. As they get older and have to deal with the trials and tests of being young women, I will be beside them to remind them that not everyone is here to judge them, and that they are always allowed to trust their feelings. So often when I was younger I was made to think that what I was feeling was wrong or exaggerated – and now as an adult I am determined to never let my daughters’ feel that way. Every concern that they have is something that I will take seriously, because sometimes that’s all people need. To have their thoughts validated can be the difference between them trusting me with their feelings and not.

Not every day is sunshine and roses for us. I spend a lot of time reflecting on things that I could’ve done better, situations that I wished I could change. What I’ve learned the most over the past six years is to not allow myself to be hung up on the things that have already happened. The most important thing that I do every day is forgive myself – accept the things that I can’t change, and promise to try for better the next day. I wake up in the morning committed to doing the best job that I can for my family. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – but it doesn’t matter, I forgive myself and try again. Children are the best tool for learning forgiveness, because they love you so unconditionally. Instead of dwelling on the notion that they deserve better than me, someone who isn’t broken, I forgive myself and move on, because they forgive me, too. 

 From me I hope that that they will learn compassion for everyone, to be tolerant and non-judgmental of others. They needn’t be friends with everyone, but everyone has their own battle that they are fighting, and my daughter’s will not contribute to anyone else’s pain. My goal in life is to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness, and giving the world these three beautiful girls to help with the fight is the best gift I could give. A new generation of informed and gentle people who see every human as valuable, regardless of what’s going on on the inside. If they are taught to know that there aren’t varying degrees of illness, that cancer isn’t worse than depression, because it’s something you can physically see, then maybe we will start to experience a real change in the way society views mental illness.

 

 

 

I make you uncomfortable

“I totally understand the plight of the mentally ill. I took Psychology in university, and some of my best friends have depression!”

 

I’ve gone from closeted sufferer to sideshow so quickly my head is spinning. Although it’s probably always spinning. See: Mental Illness

We have become fashion accessories. We are the new gay best friend. The Latina house keeper that everyone has. Mental illness is the newest Bentley, and anyone who’s anyone is depressed or knows someone who is.

 

If I weren’t a psychopath this notion would hurt my feelings. Luckily for me, I have none. What I do feel is anger, anger on behalf of myself and my community who want nothing more than respect. I understand that you can’t understand me. No amount of Wikipedia articles can put you in my head, just as I will never know what it’s like to live in yours. I am painfully flawed, but that doesn’t mean that I want to be dressed up and paraded around to all of your friends.

No, you can’t try any of my pills.

No, I can’t recommend a good therapist.

No, I don’t want to diagnose you based on my ‘expertise’.

I want to live my version of normal, have my own friends, deal with my own situations, and most of all, not have to worry that I’m too fucked up for the cute white girl who totes wants to be friends with me because my mood swings seem exotic. I’m not a puppy that you can stuff in your purse, I am a human being. I am no less than you, and I shouldn’t have to choose between acceptance and being a cast-away because I refuse to use my mental illness as a party trick for your enjoyment.

What is going on inside of my body and head are real things, sometimes terrifying, always confusing, and having shallow hipsters writing me slam poetry at the vegan coffee club does not make my situation any better. You don’t have to understand me, you don’t have to coddle me, you don’t even have to like me – but what I do need is respect. It’s what all of us need, and I would rather crawl back into my cavern and suffer in silence than pretend to suffer happily for your benefit.

 

 

I like my literary friends more than I’ll ever like you.

Dear everyone,

I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want you to try and find common ground with me, we have none. I do not enjoy idle conversation nor do I suffer from the delusion that there is something to like in everyone – least of all me. I am not likable, I am not friendly, I am barely and I don’t need you to try and find out that there is no silver-lining to my permanent rain cloud. The handful of people that I love have very low expectations of me, and I have very high expectations of them. I am the most conditional person you will ever meet. 

My list of conditions for friendship and love is a mile long, and varies upon each relationship. I expect that people will understand that I cannot always help being rude, that I often prefer my own company to anyone else’s, and I generally only surround myself with people whom I feel are at least on the same intellectual level than me. If, however, I determine that you can out-knowledge me, I will probably stop being your friend. I have always been the smartest person I know, and it’s easier to weed out the genius’s than it is to cram more into my already illustrious mind palace.

Having said all of that, if I love you, I love you. If you meet all of my expectations and still have the decency to stick around, then we are bonded for life. I don’t need a lot of people to feel emotionally satisfied, and the benefit to that is that I can be as picky as I want, and only allow the people who I think are perfect fits into the life of myself and of my children. When the love is gone, no hard feelings. I won’t waste any more of your time than necessary, and hopefully you will respect me enough to call it a day when you’ve had enough. I don’t get hurt feelings, it’s not in my programming. 

I very rarely try new things. 

I don’t like being made to listen to new music that you think is awesome, I don’t want to watch your fucking indie films that were totally underrated this year, and I’m not in any book clubs for a reason. I don’t deal well with change. I like what I like, which isn’t very much. I’ve been listening to the same bands, watching the same genre of movie, and I’ve been reading the same books for longer than I can remember. My innermost circle of friends are completely fictional. (I have a very small group of actual human friends, they know who they are, and they know that they are all riding bitch to my book mates).

In real life I struggle to make friends. I have trouble understanding people’s motives for wanting to obtain my friendship, and I have no inner-censorship to help me know what I should or shouldn’t say at any given time. When I get nervous I become sarcastic (but I think I’m funny), and this characteristic more often bites me in the ass than helps break the ice. If I engage you and you bore me, I tell you that you’re boring and I walk away. It’s nothing personal, I just don’t think being a casual friend is worth my effort. You’re probably great, I’m sorry.

I think my biggest problem with air-breathers is that they evolve too quickly and too often. You are not, as a species, static. You change and form new opinions based on things that you learn or experience, and you grow and change to constantly be the best version of yourself. I don’t operate that way. I am resolute in opinions and static in thought processes. I don’t care how things are evolving, I am happy with they way things were. I do not change, and the thought of having to do something new or differently is terrifying and panic inducing. I am sedimentary rock. I am packed layers of solidarity that yes, erode over time, but always remain layers of rock.

It takes more than a rainfall to wash my layers away. 

The character that I resemble the most is Christopher Tietjens. He is the protagonist in the Parade’s End quadrilogy (Ford Maddox Ford). I identify so cleanly with him because he knows only how to be himself. He prides himself on being educated, he values knowledge over friendships or money, and his goal is to live as simply and honourably as possible. Inevitably, the rest of the characters begin to loathe him, if most of all perhaps because they deem him to be so pure and honourable that they all tarnish by being in the same room as him. Having said that, I also identify very closely with his wife, Sylvia. I believe she reacts nicely with the psychopath inside of me. She tortures her husband out of boredom, and perhaps ignorance. She is determined to find humanesque flaws within him, he of course has none. She is beautiful, educated, and arrogant, and I understand the frustration that she feels in being married to a good man. We both married above our intellect, and now we suffer in knowing that we are a dark cloud over the good men we’ve roped into marrying us. If you are interested in classics, or enjoy ‘hard reads’ I recommend anything by Ford Maddox Ford, but especially Parade’s End.

(Full disclosure: My favourite actor slash boyfriend plays Chrissy in the 5-part miniseries that was produced for the BBC. Having said that, the Chrissy that lives in my head is NOT Benedict Cumberbatch. He is described quite differently in the book, and the literary version is the one whom I identify with the most. I watch the miniseries almost as often as I read the book, they are both amazing pieces of work that deserve more attention.)

Chrissy Tietjens, in spite of all of his perfectness and righteousness and his not existing in real life, is my best friend. He is my moral compass (with the exception of the times when I can’t control my emotions, see:psychopathy). He is logical, meaningful, and helps guide me to be a more honest, and respectable person. The best part about him is that he does not change. Sorry humans, but this is what makes him worth more to me than any of you. No matter what, he will never change. His story is set in stone, and no matter what happens, he will not change as a character. I cannot bring him into the present or future and ask him to change, because it is impossible – I did not create him. Just as I cannot ask you to change for me, I cannot ask it of Christopher, either; but that’s what I like. I need things in my life that stay as constant as I do, it is a safety net, a teddy bear, something for me to retreat into when the real world gets too much for me to handle. There are several book characters that I use as stability for my life, and I don’t regret it. I need them. I was not built to move as fast as the rest of the world, and I am easily scared by the Earth turning beneath me. Instead of constantly trying to keep up, I can hop into a book and forget everything for a few hours, emotionally recharge, and enjoy myself a little, before I repair the person-mask that I wear when I leave the house. I will never function like a normal person, but over the past few years I’ve come to accept that as more of an interesting part of my personality than a fatal flaw. At the very least, I am exceptionally well read, so if you feel it absolutely necessary to engage me in conversation, try and make it about a book, OK? (Classics, preferably, I don’t do YA, or really anything written after 1948.) 

P.S., I do enjoy comic books. Star Trek. Actually, that’s it. I was going to write a list, but my collection is made up entirely of Star Trek. I’m not sorry. Trek fuckin’ rules. 

P.P.S., I realise that this post feels a little negative, but I have been feeling the pressures of my kids being in school, and me being required to be civil to parents that I have no interest in being friends with. I know that my being kind to them directly benefits my children, but it leads to a lot of anxiety for me that I find exceptionally hard to deal with. 

I’m going to read now. 

Don’t Look Back in Anger*

this post originally appeared on my blogspot

With the depression, suicide, and mental illness being pushed to the forefront of the media (for now), it has a special affect on people like me. While the world (including myself) mourns an incredible loss and makes promises to be more educated, more caring, I find myself reflecting on my own muddy past – particularly my attempts at suicide.
I never intended to live this long.
My first attempt was at age 16. I wrote in my leather bound journal, coloured a pattern on my bed sheets with a blue pen, and convinced myself that the person I was wasn’t worth enough to be alive.
I only recently found out that I was classified as a gifted child, which explains a lot of what I was dealing with and why. My parents couldn’t afford specialty education, and the resources at the time were minimal, so I was left to sink or swim.
I sunk.
I struggled through school, hated authority figures (especially anyone who told me I had unused potential), couldn’t bond with my friends, and resented my family for what I felt was a lack of caring. I wouldn’t get dressed, I slept through most days of school, and when I did go; the anxiety of being so far behind would cause me to completely clam up and not try. Every day I felt like a waste.
The night I (pathetically) attempted suicide, I had tried to hang myself in my closet. It was a hot pink belt with neon stars that I had bought from Forever 21. I still have it. Luckily for me, it was of a very shitty quality, and after a few seconds of discomfort the buckle snapped under my weight, and I cried myself asleep in the closet. I couldn’t even die properly!
My second attempt came not quite two years after, when I wrapped a loaned car around a light standard. I remember in both of these situations feeling a great despair. I didn’t see a tunnel nor did I smell brimstone. It did not give me a new lease on life, I was mad. Mad as hell. I wanted it to be over, I daydreamed about it, but for some reason I couldn’t pull myself together enough to end it.
I continually lied about what happened, because everyone I knew considered suicide to be a cowardly act. Before I go any further, please let me give my opinion on this:

When you are in the throes of feeling your life fall apart, and you are desperate to end the voices in your head, calm your anxiety, feel clarity, whatever your need, you do not consider what others are thinking. People who struggle with mental illness to the point that they choose to end their lives do not make that choice lightly or over night, and calling them a coward in death makes you an ignorant bastard in life.
The mentally ill aren’t craving attention, they are craving safety.

My final attempt came just a few months after my accident, when I tried to jump off the balcony of my new apartment. It wasn’t very high, but I thought the cement would do the trick. While it didn’t kill me, it left me with incredible back problems that I still deal with. I lied and told everyone that I tripped over the cat and fell off of the balcony (the logistics of this claim are impossible and ridiculous), and I became dependent on the medication prescribed to dull the pain in my back.

In all of those moments, like so many others, I was desperate to find calm in the storm. I was angry that people didn’t understand me, angry that I couldn’t understand myself, and hurt that the people who I thought I could trust brushed off my cries for help as calls for attention.
Now, on the eve of my twentysomethingth birthday, I reflect on the pain that my head, heart, and body have endured, and am proud that I have survived myself. I have a beautiful life with an amazing husband and even more amazing children, and it makes me sad to think that I could’ve deprived myself of these relationships.
I will never be out of the woods, I will always have days where I feel that I am more useful dead than alive. It’s a hazard of being me. I self deprecate, I self loathe, and some days I can’t bring myself to look in the mirror; but some days I can – and those days are worth it. Every day that I don’t contemplate suicide is a victory, and I celebrate by being the best person that I can be. I am lucky to be alive, whether I recognise it or not, and so are you.

Two steps forward, fall down the stairs

When you think of willpower what do you think about? Using it to stay away from junk food? Using it to keep on track with your gym schedule? Do you want to know what I use willpower for?

I use it to stay alive.

I am not suicidal in the sense that I plan to take my own life. Being violent towards myself hasn’t crossed my mind in probably a decade, but this is something altogether very different. There are days when my mind and body don’t want to keep each other alive. These aren’t ‘I’ve had a stressful day with the kids’ days, it’s nothing that I can control. I can feel my blood pressure drop, i get migraines, I have trouble breathing, and medication doesn’t offer any help. My anxiety kicks in, and it tells my body that it doesn’t need to keep fighting anymore.
Anxiety doesn’t always strike in the form of a panic attack, anxiety can creep into your mind like a rolling fog across water. It plays with you in ways you cannot imagine, and yes, sometimes it tries to kill you.
So how do I get out of these situations where I can feel myself shutting down? This is where willpower comes I to play.
The sound of my children’s voices, the brush of my dogs fur against my skin, the warmth of the sun through curtains, a sudden text message from my sister or my best friend, hearing my husband come through the door when he’s home from work, these are all gentle reminders that I want and deserve to be alive. I have felt my consciousness leave my body on several occasions in my life, and I do not wish to feel it again, so why does my psyche wish so hard for me to be dead?

I have no answer for this question. I wish I did. The rational part of me wants nothing to do with death or the dissolution of my earthly being. The poison fog that lives inside of mind has a mind of it’s own, and it refuses to coexist with the light that does live in there, no matter how minute of an amount it is.
I won’t give up, as long as that little ray of light is inside of me, I won’t give up, sometimes it does feel like the easy solution, but I know that it’s not, and I will never give into the dark.
If you or sow some you love deals with this frustration and pain, please know that you are NOT the only one, and I am here to help anyone, talk through experiences, and offer friendship to anyone who needs it. If you need to talk, message me on here or on my twitter, I promise I will always respond. We all deserve understanding, and our common ground doesn’t have to be sharing the same diagnosis, our common ground is being members of the same community that is fighting for acceptance from the rest of the world.

Good luck to you today, and every day. Let’s all push through the darkness and make it through one more day.

Mental health and children

More needs to be done to address mental illness in children in youth. Posts like this are a good way to get the discussion going!

kelzbelzphotography

Borderline personality disorder in children. As a person with boarderline I have educated myself on the matter. I like to be informed. But like any mental health issues, I worry for my children. I hope they wont suffer like I have. I have at great length discussed this with my therapist and group therapy people. My daughter at 5 years old is display early signs of bpd and ocd. My son is showing signs of isolation, anxiety and depression. My son has had counselling in the past after there were major concerns of clinical depression. He has learnt skills, and I’ve learnt his signs. I’m proud to say he has a major improvement. Either way weather they suffer or not. I’m proud I’ve educated myself to know warning signs and triggers. To seek early intervention. I’m also able to now teach my darlings the skills I’ve learnt and used to…

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No hate, just love*

this post was previously featured on my old blog

For me, addiction is a major part of my mental health. I take a few different medications to combat various symptoms, and I have realised that I live and die by when I can take them.
I am very strict about what time I take them, the same time for each every day. I always carry an extra in my purse for if I find myself in a situation that I can’t handle on my own, and at night if I don’t take my sleeping pill, I will not sleep.
Every medication has what’s called a half-life time. The half-life of the drug I use to oppose my PTSD is 27 to 32 hours. Realistically, I should be able to miss one whole day without feeling the effects of withdrawal. So why can’t I?
Because I have become addicted to the habit of taking them. Not only does my body require the medication, but my psyche requires that I take it. Each tiny pill is a security blanket, it’s the placebo effect – knowing that I’ve taken it helps me to feel better.
If I miss it by an hour I am distracted. I will carry on with my day, but I will be focussing my attention on when I can get home to take my meds. If I miss it by a day, I have a headache, sweaty palms, anxiety is turned up to eleven, I have trouble staying awake. If I miss it by 3 days I start to feel my bones inside of my body. I twitch and shake, feel nauseous, and have trouble focussing on anything. At the end of day three, I feel suicidal. Thankfully, there hasn’t been a day four for me yet, and I do everything I can to prevent these symptoms from coming on. I am very good at planning when I get them refilled, and the only time there is a delay is if I have to see my doctor physically for him to renew for me. (He has a busy schedule and not a lot of days that match up with mine).

Being a somewhat rational person, I understand that many of these symptoms are psychosomatic, especially in the first two days. However, after a few days the psychosomatic mixed with the real withdrawal is a very dangerous combination.
I try to battle it out in my head, reason with myself, not allow it to bother me, but the truth is, I can’t help it. To function as a human being there are several variables that must be satisfied within me. I must see my therapist, I must eat well, I must exercise, I must go to bed on time, and I must take my medication. If even one of these facets is removed or disrupted, I cease to be.

I have weighed my options, talked and thought out everything that I need to be me, and the addiction to stabilisation will always be better than the crippling anxiety and depression that tag along with my PTSD. I have reconciled the fact that I am addicted to prescription drugs, because if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be who I am right now. My kids need a mother, not someone who can’t get out of bed or have a shower. My addiction allows me to feel OK, and I am not yet ready to try and change that.
Many people that I know do not believe in depression, and believe even less in taking medication for it. When I first started, I hid it. I felt stigmatised just by knowing that they wouldn’t agree. Now that I have found an even keel for myself I’ve realised this: if YOU don’t agree, YOU don’t have to be medicated. It is nobody’s business to tell me how to heal, and if you disagree with my use of medication, feel free to find a less-crazy friend. I don’t push my beliefs on you, so please don’t push yours on me. I experience this a lot because I am open about my disorders as well as my treatment, but I shouldn’t have to hide – addict or not.
I feel that in writing down that I rely on prescription drugs, I am freeing myself of the final stigma – and I encourage others to do the same. I will not pass judgement on anyone who chooses to open up to me, and I hope that in time, if enough people come forward in support of carefully regulated medicinal treatment of mental disorders, there will be less shame for those affected.

This is not an exit*

this is a post from my old blog that I have decided to move over.

I am an outspoken supporter of mental health education and clarity. On the outside I am open and honest with the struggles that I face, and the emotional strain I too often put on my family. I blog, I talk to other mental illness warriors, and on the outside looking in, it seems like I have a good grasp of my own conditions.
This is a lie.
The face of me having myself put together is a mask, a well developed one, that helps me avoid what I really feel by sounding educated, speaking eloquently, and essentially, talking about myself in the third person – though I don’t refer to myself by name.
The unmasked truth is this: I haven’t seen my doctor in weeks. I am hiding. I am tired of tests and leaflets and questionnaires. Some days I would wear the mask to appointments, dealing with everything peripherally is generally much easier than accepting that these problems are coming from deep within me.
Lately I have been having trouble maintaining my mask. I am avoiding the medical professionals that could help me because I am afraid of finding out what lies in the bottom of my mind. Writing helps, of course, but typing down a thought and saying it aloud to someone are two very different experiences.
My prescription refills run out soon, and I will be forced back to the office to reevaluate my situation. Have I mentioned how tired I am of evaluation? When did this become my life? I know that my medication needs to be altered, perhaps changed completely; but I hate the transition phase between drugs. I don’t have time for malaise or rashes or changes to my appetite. At the same time, I can feel that my meds aren’t working the way that they should be, and it’s a slippery slope between medicated sanity and under-medicated madness.
I went so far today as to google the phone number for the mental health services in my city, but I convinced myself not to call and instead I folded more laundry. (Not normally my forte).
My biggest fear of having to speak out on my own behalf is this: I’m not ready to tell a professional that I want to give up. I want to be heavily medicated, maybe a medically induced coma, for as long as possible. I want to completely check out and cease to be for just a little while. I know that when I say that, they’ll tell me that I can’t just rely on medication, and remind me that I have a family to look after who doesn’t need a drugged-out mom. I’m not saying that I want to check out permanently, but I’m so tired of fighting. I need a break from myself, and no amount of meditation or counting all of the things I can see, hear, touch, and smell, is going to give me the relief that my whole body is screaming for. There is no escape from my own thoughts. (If I were a wizard I would’ve failed occlumency).
I have no current plan to fix this. Having no babysitter definitely helps when they call to schedule appointments, but my husband will be home soon, and I will have limited excuses. I’m losing my composure, and it would be nice if someone would step in and hold my hand through the appointments and interviews and quizzes, and at the end the could spoon-feed me a cocktail of sedatives and tuck me into bed, but it’s not going to happen. So in approximately 20 days I’ll slither back into the doctors office and either ask for more intensive outpatient treatment, or have him refills the meds I’m on and continue to stew in my thoughts for another 60 days. The mask I wear knows what I should do, it always knows what everyone should do, although I’m starting to wonder when it truly has my best interests at heart. A mask is for keeping up appearances, and I’m realising that I need more.