Diagnosis : Disaster 

For the past almost year I have avoided my psychiatrist. In the months after my wedding I spiraled out of control, hurting everyone I could purposely or unintentionally. I left miles of burnt bridges in my wake, knowing all the while in the back of my mind that being alone would make my final task easier. I was going to die. 

I finished the summer barely holding on to the tiny bit of sanity I had left, leaving a long trail of destruction behind me. Moments of clarity lead to intense self-loathing, and I dreaded the silence I normally craved. I punished myself for my shortcomings by destroying the relationships that mattered most to me, and in a final act of inner hatred, I consumed ten days worth of medication. 

Spoiler alert: I survived. 

Unfortunately, the attempt on my life did not provoke me to seek professional help. I went to my local walk-in, told the doctor that I lost my meds while on holiday, and carried on hating myself. I pressed on, facing each day with a heavy heart and a crazy brain. If I’m not supposed to die, what am I supposed to do? I’ve lost almost everything I had. My kids and my husband deserve better. Could I run? Leave them to give them a fresh start, and throw myself off of something that I surely could not survive? 

After thoroughly researching and considering my options, I got a message from my nephew. He told me about his girlfriend, and about university, and in they conversation he sent a message that changed my entire outlook on my life. 


This message. This one message had a profound affect on me, and is responsible for saving my life. 

I contacted USTAT and told the receptionist that I required immediate attention, and she got me in to see my doctor in the same week. What I learned at that appointment, I really wasn’t expecting. During the course of our conversation I learned that almost a year ago, he determined that my diagnosis was wrong, and that my treatment needed to be  changed. After dozens of attempts to reach me, he was forced to set my file on the back burner, and hope that I would either come back or had sought treatment somewhere else. 

I was misdiagnosed, and treated for, bipolar disorder. I  know now that this was incorrect. (I was also diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which is correct). I have now been rediagnosed with Disassociative Disorder, along with BPD and major depressive disorder. What this means, is that for more than a year, I was essentially treating myself for a disease I do not have, taking medication that was not correct, to the point that it was harming me mentally, which inevitably lead to harming myself physically. 

So what is Disassociative Disorder?

“Dissociative disorders (DD) are conditions that involve disruptions or breakdowns of memory, awareness, identity, or perception. People with dissociative disorders use dissociation, a defense mechanism, pathologically and involuntarily. Dissociative disorders are thought to primarily be caused by psychological trauma.”

I fall into the Depersonalization Disorder camp, and I have to say, as messed up as it sounds, I fit the bill perfectly. I’m not treatment résistent bipolar, I have DD; and after learning that, so much of my life makes sense. I cannot excuse my actions or behaviours, but I can finally start learning why I do the things I do, and more importantly, how to prevent these behaviours from occurring in the future. My medication regiment has been altered to fit this new diagnosis, and I am enrolled in Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT). Three counselling sessions a week (until my program starts), journalling, and positive daily affirmations are helping me on the path to recovery. 

Not seeing my doctor was an intrepidly ignorant and dangerous choice that I made for far too long. I cannot treat myself, and I was naive to think that self care was as easy as having a prescription filled every two weeks.

The people whom I have hurt may not choose to forgive me, and that is something that I will have to learn to accept. I cannot change the minds of others, but I hope that, regardless of if they choose to stay with me or not, that they will see that I am once again putting in the effort to help myself, so that I may be better for my family. I already am feeling the effects of my new medication, and for the first time potentially ever, I recognise the wrongs I have committed, and feel immense guilt. It’s not a feeling I’m used to, but it’s part of my recovery, and I accept it.

I am not better. Far from it. But I will get there this time, because I truly want to. I want to be the woman my sweet nephew thinks I am, and I think I can be. No more self treating, no more ignorance, no more blame, no more hate.

To my nephew : I owe you my life, and I love you more than anything. We will succeed together.

To my sister : Out of everyone I’ve mistreated, I’ve treated you the worst. I don’t know how to properly apologise, because you deserve more than just words. I hope that my behaviour from now on helps to heal the gash I cut between us. I love you. That is my  constant. That has never, and will never change.

To my husband : Thank you for not packing up and leaving after you saw the pills I took. Thank you for standing unwavering in my corner. Thank you for loving me through all of the days that I can’t love myself. I life you.

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Delerium

Intake 
Awaking to a swollen head, a puffed out chest, basking in the clarity that I have mentally ascended to. The universe is mine, and I’m ready for it. 
Like a mechanized cephalopod, limitless limbs extending in all directions, ready and willing to aid everyone anywhere, each limb acting independently of the body, but the body and mind are omnipresent; and approve the limbs whims. 

The world’s problems seem minuscule, and I am the answer. 

Calculating, insightful, linear, purposeful, energetic, like a bioluminescent light show, drawing everyone in, offering comfort, wisdom. 

The omnipresent body is full of hope, not just for itself; for everyone. Every being is a pearl; beautiful and fragile, and in need of constant protection. 

Tentacles outstretched, the mind clouded by the pounding of the heart; the omnipresent body loses sight of what each limb is doing, and against what it believes of itself – doesn’t know what the limbs are capable of when left to their own devices. 
Compression 
Awake in a shallow pool, gasping for breath, unable to see through clouded vision. The weight of the ocean bearing down on the omnipresent body, it falls in and out of consciousness. Ink stained dreams – memories – obligations that cannot be fulfilled by the weighted down limbs. 

The lights no longer flashing, the limbs fall away from the body – no longer omni anything – the body wheezes as the limbs splash violently, failing to grasp at anything, until they fall lifeless into the puddle, surrounding the body like a grotesque disconnected sun. 

Water finds its way into the lungs, but not ever enough to end the life of the body, but enough to inflict excruciating pain. A hurried prayer for an end that will not come, repeated until the words lose meaning. 

Metallic coughs sputter as the body tries to make sense of itself – of the limbs; brief moments of harsh clarity show promises broken, pain inflicted, knives through the hearts of trustees who trust no longer. 
Power
The second wind, the nail that seals the coffin. Muddied and bloodied the body crawls away from the decay of the limbs, determined to make right of the wrongs committed. A delusional sense of hope, a new kind of clarity. Answers to the problems that sparkle like diamonds. Plucking these hope diamonds out of the carnage, they quickly turn to coal. Extreme measures must be taken to prevent the coal from blackening the delicate pearls. 

Clawing through inky darkness, clinging to anything that remotely resembles a solution. Cramming pièces of different puzzles together and convincing itself they fit. Panic, chaos, and the passage of time force the decayed limbs into réanimation, recklessly attempting to do the bidding of the body, who is trying desperately to gain traction in the shallow pool in which it fell apart. 

Completion is completion, regardless of the eventual outcome. The ends justify the means, a deluded and tired body is convinced of that. 
Exhaust 
The calm before the final storm. 

A sense of relief washes over the body, its intense desire to succeed in the eyes of others temporarily sated. The mind and body blinded by the pounding of the heart, watery eyes that stare blankly, hiding behind them a prayer of desperate hope. A hope that things will work out the way they were intended. 

Watching the good intentions go up in flames, but standing steadfastly by the choices made by not only the body, but the limbs as well. Flames licking at the body, it crackles and bubbles until it pops. Delusions of happiness are gone, an inky hole of unfathomable depths remains. 

Acceptance washes over and the breast swells with understanding. A limp handshake with the devil, the pills are lined up and swallowed without hesitation. 
Awake with swollen eyes and clammy skin. Disappointment that it’s not over, and terror in knowing that the cycle will repeat, but you can’t know when. 
The strand of pearls dirtied and broken, the body bruised, the heart broken. Waiting….for the next manic upswing. 

The baby who wasn’t 

I have three gorgeous children, aged 8, nearly 5, and 1.5. I love them more than I can fathom, and they drive me to the brink of full-on lunacy every day. I have three gorgeous children, and I have had seven pregnancies. 
My seventh occurred a few months ago. After my husband left for his most recent romp with the Navy, I realized I was pregnant. We have talked extensively about having a fourth child, and we both agreed that another baby just isn’t something we can do. With that in mind, I was at first afraid to call him and break the news. I chose to wait and process the situation for myself. 
For a few weeks I quietly prepared myself for the conversation I would have with my husband, my children, and then my family. I stayed up at night looking at options for a second vehicle, a bigger house. I started taking prenatal vitamins, and without realizing consciously, I was becoming exited. I talked with my sister about it, and my best friend, and decided that I was ready to tell my husband. 

At week 9, I miscarried. 
I have had SAB before, as well as late term, and what I have learned is this: it doesn’t matter if it’s week 2 or week 22, when you miscarry you lose a piece of your soul. The hopefulness that pregnancy can bring is ripped away from you, and all that was left was a crippling sadness, a feeling of worthlessness, and a rapid descent into an ugly depression that is all-consuming. The hint of joy inside of me is gone, and no matter what, it can never be replaced or recreated. When a living person leaves you, they take a piece of you with them. You grieve, you wonder if you could’ve done something to help. When someone dies inside of you, the guilt of having let this person-to-be expire, to deny them their right to life, it is a pain that stays fresh inside of you for as long as you live. Whether or not it was my fault is inconsequential, because no one will ever be able to convince me that it wasn’t. I’m a statistician and an historian – I am an entirely logical person. However, for me, miscarriage defies logic and understanding. Perhaps it’s not meant to be understood as a whole, because everyone’s experiences causes them to forge their own reality to cope with the unyielding pain that comes with unconscionable loss. 
My soul is ripped in seven pieces, but I am not immortal. In fact, with every tear my humanity is amplified in my own consciousness. Three pieces of my soul live on in the beautiful children I have helped create, and four live on in the annals of my heart and mind, never to be known by anyone but me. In my heart they have names, faces, and the sadness that I feel for them has shaped who I am, and who I have yet to become. 
On top of this furious flurry of emotions, I am still very much bipolar/BPD/major depressive. The demons hiding in my darkness have come out to play in full force, and at times I feel as though I need to scream to silence them. But silence doesn’t come no matter what I do. I hide, I cry, I hug my babies, I carry on as usual, I eat too much, I can’t sleep, I read the same page of the same book for days, I get dressed and force myself into normalcy. No matter what I can’t win. There’s no version of this story where I come out a better, more evolved human being. I leave this essay just as broken as when I started writing it, but feeling infinitely more exposed having vocalised what I have been trying so hard to hide. 

The lines you amend 

*addiction, compulsive behaviour, and any other symptom can be substituted for the one I’ve chosen to write about. Pick your poison.*
How does one make amends for all of the horrible things that they do in a day? How does one recognize when their actions are underhanded? Is there a line between succumbing to your symptoms and being malicious?

Bipolar comes with some very unique symptoms, some of which are compulsive spending, and habitual sneakiness (I have refrained from using the word lie, because it insinuates a conscious decision to deceive). Usually accompanied by these symptoms is regret, self-loathing, and sometimes, thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm. When you are involved in a partnership, you are expected to, and want to, contribute to said  partnership. Whether it be a roommate, a spouse, an employer, you want to succeed at being normal. You hope and pray and beg yourself to make this the partnership that changes everything. You set your sights high, and you start out with a clarity you’ve never experienced before. More often than not, that clarity is delusion. Your glorious brain telling you that it’s finally got a grip and is going to behave itself. 

Everything is hunky dory until your first regression. A trigger, known or unknown, presents itself, and you panic. The light switch is clicked off and you are left in the darkness of your disease, groping for anything that will help pull you out. What’s the first thing you grab? Your debit card. 

Impulsive spending is a very slippery slope that destroys more than your credit; but how do you curb it? How do you avoid these destructive behaviours that can cause myriad problems for you and the people you love? You don’t do it on purpose, it just happens. For those around you who don’t live with bipolar, this is not a good enough excuse. How can spending money be a symptom of anything, aside from vanity and arrogance? 

Unfortunately for all, this is a well documented and very real problem that the majority of us don’t know how to deal with. We don’t know why we do it, how can we possibly ask for your understanding and forgiveness? 

We can’t

So we hide it. We find ways to bring things in without notice. We shop online, we overspend on things we consider necessity, until we get called out on it. We don’t have the forethought to cover our tracks. Hindsight is usually found on the way home from a panic shop, when you have to consider how everything will get in the house undetected. When the panic has passed, the guilt comes knocking. If you don’t catch us we feel the guilt of being dishonest, but we’re also afraid of having to tell the truth. What will be the straw which breaks the camel’s back? If we do get found out, we have a very quick decision to make, though it’s not entirely conscious decision. We must decide if we will defend, or amend. 

If you are in defence mode, it turns into a battle royale. Our magical brains come up with excuses at the speed of light. It is expert at telling us why you’re at fault. Why you’re the one causing our problems. If we decide to make amends, we must admit freely that we are wholly in the wrong, and that even though it is a  symptom, it is not an excuse for destructive behaviours. 

The wish of those struggling with compulsive/impulsive spending is of  course, to permanently stop those behaviours. The knowledge that we cannot completely eradicate ourselves of these short comings amplifies the self-loathing, which can lead to harmful thoughts and behaviours. 

Mental health/illness is a cycle. You are the hamster running on the wheel of illness, powerless to stop and get off. You are exhausted, you don’t remember why you’re running, but here you are

So you keep spinning the wheel, every rotation presenting a new obstacle. Sometimes the hardest obstacle is progress. The longer you succeed at ‘wellness’ the more steep and rapid the descent becomes. Every few rotations you slow down enough to ask yourself if any of your triumphs have been worth it. Is anything worth it? Is continuously punishing your loved ones worth it? You know that you’re ruining their lives. 

Like many of my posts, I don’t have the answer for how to fix this. I struggle with this symptom almost daily, and there have been many low points where I’ve had to defend or amend. Luckily for me, I have an unreasonably understanding husband who refuses to give up on me. Does that make our rows over finances any easier? Hell no. More often than not I would prefer if he yelled, or threw in the towel. The self sabotage finally works, and I am left alone to deal with my psychosis. That suicidal grey area that tells me he’s better off without me is a very scary place. It doesn’t tell me that I don’t love my family, it tells me that if I truly loved them I would free them from the burden of my existence. 

 However, as of right now, I have chosen to accept my defects, make amends, and work with my loved ones to be an effective and valuable partner. I won’t ever stop running on my wheel, but I think the struggle is worth it, and I would rather be their burden in life than their burden in death. 

Reflective Fragments 

The first time someone called me delusional I was seventeen. The librarian called said that I must be delusional because she was positive that I hadn’t returned a book that I was positive I had. 
The first time I questioned my mental health, truly, I was sixteen, and was largely rebuffed by the professional I confided in. I was lazy, ungrateful, ambitionless, and angsty. Get out of bed, brush your hair, show up to class on time. You’ll feel better. You have so much potential. 
The first time I wanted to die I was fifteen. I had a panic attack over having to tell my mother that I had failed math again. I had myself in such a lather that I began cleaning out my closet, and I had every intention of hanging myself in it with a belt. A pink belt with green stars that I bought at Forever 21, the only souvenir from my school band trip that I could afford. My mother called and asked me to do the dishes before she got home. I missed my window. That feeling of wanting to end would simmer in the recesses of my mind, bubbling over at different times later in life. 

The first love of my life came at fifteen, and has remained my only love. He nurtures the good parts of me, and forgives the bad. I owe him my life. 
The first novel I remember reading was Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. My dog was my best friend, and the book helped put my emotions into words. It also destroyed me emotionally for a few weeks after finishing it. Being able to read independently (i was in the third grade) offered a method of escape that would save my life more than once as I got older. 
———————————–

On the foggiest days I can reach out and touch the ragged fabric with which my reality is created. It’s frayed edges like worn burlap glide through my fingers as I struggle to grasp something tangible. As the mist coats the flora in the early morning, so does my fragmented reality coat my mind. My thirst for normalcy never quite sated from such a thin layer of moisture. 

When the wind picks up I am carried into the lives of others. Today I’m a parent volunteering at the school. When the wind changes I am an acquaintance in a tattoo shop, a fraud in a bookstore, a friend via text. I can never commit enough energy or attention to any one person or thing for too long. Lights flash in front of my eyes, I want to entertain all of them but instead cannot focus on even one. 
I feel so many things, yet I am paralysed by the thought of expressing them. Truly feeling them. It would be more apt to say that I think about feelings. If I start allowing myself to feel, I won’t be able to stop. I am an emotional implosion waiting to happen. The only thing I feel is fear. 

Fear of loss. Fear of change. Fear of success. Fear of self confidence. Fear of finding out who I really am. Fear of failure. Fear of faith. 
I couldn’t tell you who I am if I had all of the words in the world. I am a collection of grand ideas, half-truths, fears, and open wounds. The embodiment of an overactive imagination. I am an actual metaphor. Or is it a simile? I could never keep them straight. 

Affairs of the Mind 

With suicide prevention in the news, I thought given my somewhat intimate knowledge of the subject, I would throw my two cents in. While I believe in talking openly about suicide, I do not, necessarily, believe that it can be prevented. In my  experience, if a person is in the mindset that they need to take their own life, they will make that attempt regardless of how many people try to intervene. For those who have attempted to die, many will say that they needed that experience, for many different reasons. 

I will speak only on my own behalf; each person’s experience is as intricate and unique as a snowflake. For me, my attempts on my own life came at various stages. After the murder of a  friend, after attempting to seek help for mental illness was rebuffed as ‘in my head’, after a quiet but tumultuous battle with PTSD, all very different situations that resulted in the same self-loathing, shame, disgust, rage, and confusion. Each attempt I made was in earnest; I didn’t want to survive and receive treatment, I wanted to throw in the towel. Tired of fighting, battle worn, I needed sleep. I needed to sleep. 

No one could’ve prevented what my body was telling me to do. So how, as bystanders, care givers, do we help those afflicted by suicides disease?

Here are my suggestions, based on what I did and didn’t receive during the aftermath of my attempts. 

The person who wakes up from a failed suicide attempt is not the same person who made the attempt. It is naive to think that your loved one will emerge with a new zest for life, ready to take on the world with a new appreciation for all of the sights and sounds that the world has to offer. Shame, anger, regret, frustration, more anger: that is what is felt when you realise that after your best efforts to end the terrors in your life were not successful. The hate that consumes you cannot be abated with get well cards, flowers, or whispered conversations between family and medical staff. You don’t need to understand, but a little bit of empathy can go a long way. 

Make freezer meals. 

Bring books. 

Make horribly inappropriate jokes. 

Stand up against anyone who plans to lecture or belittle the fragile psyche of your almost departed loved one. 

In a shitty situation, Nibs always help make things better. 

In short, be who you’ve always been. No one is made of porcelain (except perhaps Tilda Swinton). Being handled with kid gloves only accentuates the above mentioned feelings of shame, guilt, anger, etc. Yes, things are different, your loved one has changed, but by offering a steady hand you are providing an incredible feeling of unity and support. As survivors we know that nothing about our situation is easy for anyone. We know the fear, the anger, the burning desire to grab us by the shoulders and shake us; we feel these things too – amplified exponentially by the demons inside of us that got us to the point of suicide in the first place. 

I’ve said it before, and I will say it until I’m blue in the face, suicide is a disease. The only cure is death. No matter how many good days we have, suicide is always lurking, waiting for a vulnerable moment to hit us from behind. Remember this:

Suicide. Is. Disease. 

Suicide. Is. Disease. 

Find the balance between constant vigilance and being over bearing. That’s where we need you. Always be on the lookout for ‘signs’, but don’t make us feel guilty. The bomb is ticking, but no one knows when the clock will stop. Remember this:

We love you. 

We aren’t punishing anyone. 

You can’t prevent something that has been preordained. 

Your patience means more than you know. 

We will work on prevention, we need you to work on acceptance. 

Suicide is disease. It cannot always be prevented. Like a cancer it can be aggressive, all consuming. Some strains have cures, some are fatal. In the end, making those afflicted feel normal, valued, unashamed, wanted, needed, those are the things that will make the periods of remission better for all parties involved. 

Death Song

What does suicide sound like?

Suicide is different for every person who attempts it. Unfortunately for the living, we can not ask questions of the dead. We can however, question the survivors. I am a survivor. I have made several attempts on my life, and although I’m not proud of it, I will not shy away from talking about it. My vow of transparency about mental illness has no conditions, and I will not hide the less than glamourous parts.

An attempt on your life starts well before you even acknowledge your want to die consciously. Your thoughts change slowly, the taste of the things that you love gently fade. The retreat into the vast darkness of your mind is generally an even descent, with sadness and desperation compounding hourly. The poison floods your veins like ink in water, and soon, you hear the sounds of suicide.

Everyone’s experience is different, and I encourage who is ready to share their story. Mine continues…

A slight ringing in my ears, just loud enough that I feel irritated. The constant drone of my inner monologue, highlighting every painful event, every negative feeling, running like a nonstop ticker tape behind the rest of my thoughts. It is background noise, but when things go quiet, the sounds become more clear. The music I love becomes muted when I listen to it, the voices of my loved ones sound far away. The monologue gets louder, its hurtful thoughts getting nastier, more aggressive. It whispers to me while I read, while I do the dishes. 

You’re worthless. You’re a burden to your loved ones. You will never get your life together. Everyone is tired of you being sick. If you love them, you’ll leave. 

 After weeks, months, years, of the sybiote wearing you down, there is no longer any light to fight it with. The fire in your soul is now ashes, ashes that make it hard to breathe, hard to see. As you try to fight your way through the cloud of ashes the demons within blow it in your face, and your soul is scattered into pieces that you think can never be put back togeher. This is when the biggest change happens: you believe your monstrous ticker tape. The fog clears for the first time in ages, and you are thinking more clearly than ever before. I AM a burden. My loved ones deserve better. This is the ultimate sacrifice I can make for them. Free them from the shackles I have placed them in. 

The ringing in your ears stops, you can no longer hear your own heartbeat. You are finally filled with the calm that you have been craving. 

What does surviving sound like?

Waking up is knives in your head, sirens blaring in surround sound. Metallic ringing so loud you feel nauseous. Then the yelling starts. That inner monologue is angry, and it takes no prisoners. It screams at you, over everything else that you’re hearing at full volume. YOU ARE THE ULTIMATE FAILURE. YOU DON’T DESERVE TO STILL BE ALIVE. YOU CAN’T EVEN DIE PROPERLY, HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO LIVE? 

You drift in and out of consciousness while the medication being pushed through your veins starts to work. The volume inside decreases, and if you’re lucky, a tiny fire is lit in the brassiere. The anger subsides, and you promise yourself that you will do better. You feel ashamed and embarrased, but the fire warming you convinces you that you will survive, and thrive. That hideous ticker tape retreats back into the dark annals of your subconscious, but it takes those angry, bitter, ashamed, thoughts with it to save for a rainy day. 

You apologise profusely to your loved ones, you promise your numerous doctors that it won’t happen again; but you know deep down somewhere inside of you that suicide is a disease, and the only cure is death. It becomes dormant, you smell flowers and love and giggle with friends, but it’s always there, ready to spread through you when the timing is right. Thats when you hear the ringing in your ears…
Remember why your life is worth living. Bottle happiness, listen to every song that you love until you can sing every part, including the bass guitar. Accept and be thankful for complements, and give them back tenfold. Look your loved ones in the eyes when you tell them you love them. Eat cake. Sleep in. Feel sand in your toes. Walk barefoot when possible, and store all of these beautiful thoughts and feelings away so that when the ticker tape starts, you have a fighting chance.

Too Many Elephants in the Room

This month has been full of ups and downs. My sister and my niece came to visit, my husband has started sailing again, now my uncle and cousin are here for a few weeks. I haven’t been compelled to write much as of late, but a recent experience has reminded me of the healing that can come from expression, and the cathartic relief it provides. 

A few days ago I ran into the one person I was not ever prepared to face – the person who over the course of several years abused me financially, emotionally, and sexually. The encounter was brief, but the effects were immediate. I was terrified, horrified, and completely taken off-guard. Of all the gin joints in all the world, how did he end up in mine? 

My fear turned to shame, anger, and guilt. Am I being punished? Tested by some divine power, perhaps? I went home shaking, wondering ” why me?”. I told my husband immediately, and he reminded me that I’m safe, and will remain safe with my family. 

After a restless sleep full of nightmares of horrors from my past, my husband and I talked again. I learned a lot from that short talk, and I’d like to share that with you now. First, and I think most importantly, we talked about forgiveness. I am not required to forgive the wrong that was done to me at the hands of someone I trusted. He will never apologise, and I need never forgive him. I do however, need to forgive myself. It wasn’t my fault, and I need to stop punishing myself based on the actions of another. The emotional trauma that these events caused me have changed me forever, but they needn’t define me, and I can’t allow the bad memories to continue to creep into my new life. No forgetting, no forgiving, just acceptance. I can’t erase the past, and it’s time to stop living there. 

The second, equally important point was strength and success. I have conquered many things in my life, why not this? Fear of the past has coloured the way I have lived, have seen myself, and controlled my emotional capabilities. But hell, if I can survive suicide, death from illness, bullying, homelessness, and hopelessness, who’s to say I can’t survive, and thrive, because of this? 

It’s time to reclaim my life! My emotions, my mental health, my dreams at night. I own all of those things, and no one person can take anything away from me. Only I have the power to punish myself, and only I have the power to heal myself. I forgive the naive girl that I used to be, I forgive the bitter woman that I have allowed myself to become. The soul-sucking raven I used to be is gone, and a Phoenix has arisen from the ashes in its place. No more feeling sorry, no more excuses for my anger, no more burying the experiences that have helped to shape me. My shadow needn’t scare me, my nightmares aren’t real any longer, I owe myself some sanity. 

I am growing, I am moving on, and I am looking forward to a newer version of myself who refuses to be defined by the bad, but instead by the good.

I am strong. I am worthy of real love. I am a better person for all of my experiences, both good and bad. Most importantly, I am good enough for myself. I am OK with who I am as a person, a mother, a wife, a sister, and a friend. From this moment on I pledge to give no one the power to hurt me, and I will cause no one any hurt in return. I can’t forgive the wrongs, but I can move past it all and know that acceptance, in my case, is a good replacement for forgiveness. 
  

10,000 Maniacs

How many times in your life have you felt out of control? I’m not talking party animal, too drunk to function, throw up in the Arby’s bathroom, I’m talking about your brain operating so fast that you can’t make heads or tails of anything that you’re thinking. For some people, bipolar is a mixture of depression and mania. I am one of those people. I have experienced depression as well as manic depression, or a mixed-state, but never true mania without the depressive undertones. You would think that being a mixture of manic and depressive could lead to a balance of sorts, because one should even out the other. This however, is not the case. Manic depression is terrifying because your wheels are turning at an incomprehensible speed, and you are powerless to stop them. The thoughts and feelings I have are almost never productive or helpful, and it is in these times that I hate myself the most. 

Some of the symptoms of being manic in my case are excessive sweating, the inability to sit still or focus on one task at a time, spending too much money, insomnia, no appetite, and delusions.

I am about to be  very explicit with my experiences in the hopes that it better explains what I am going through. I want my transparency to help those who are suffering without knowing the root of the problems they face, and the caregivers who feel helpless. If any of these thoughts, feelings, or behaviours sound familiar to you, talk to me. If you know someone who suffers from these symptoms, love them. Don’t punish them for the things that they cannot control, and certainly don’t make them feel ashamed to come forward. Sometimes just being able to say one’s thoughts out loud can save someone’s life. If you can’t be someone to lean on, I strongly suggest you get off of the crazy train at the next stop.

 When I am feeling only depressed, I am tired constantly. I eat too much, and doing anything feels like too much energy. I wear the same clothes, I don’t shower, I feel pathetic. When I am feeling manic depression, I have a lot of energy. I clean, I cook, I put makeup on. On the outside I function mostly well. On the inside, I can’t control my thoughts or emotions. The hate that I feel for myself while depressed is amplified exponentially by mania. My inner monologue screams at me. It tells me that I am useless, that I am not a good mom, a terrible spouse, and that my family would be better off without me. It is during these times that thoughts of suicide crowd my brain, and because i can’t get my thoughts in order, it starts to seem like a good idea. I project my own feelings of self-loathing onto my loved ones, and assume that they are tired of me, tired of having to care for me, tired of having to constantly clean up my messes. Those feelings are my own, and it’s wrong for me to assume that others feel about me the way I feel about myself. One part of me knows and acknowledges this, but the rational part of me has trouble overpowering the yelling that is constantly going on in my head. 

When I am manic depressive I act impulsively. I lavish my loved ones with gifts and money in the hopes that they will continue to love me, in the hopes that they can see a value in the things I give them, because I can’t see the value in just being myself. I am so sure that everyone hates me, and I’m afraid that if I dont’t shower them with gifts that they will give up on me. They will wish me dead just as I do. 

The pinwheel spins so fast that all of the colours blur together and become gray. It slows down long enough for me to see the blue thoughts, the ones that tell me that I’m worthless, incapable of normalcy, inadequate. It speeds up again and I’m left to dwell on the thoughts that came to the forefrunt during the small slow-down. I feel like a car without a driver, a brick on the accelerator. I can see where I am headed but cannot stop myself from getting there. I say and do things that hurt people, but because I can’t explain myself. The result is anger and frustration from the people who I love. I am not an easy person to live with, and I know that I put strain on my friends and family. What they don’t realise is that it causes me pain, too. I don’t want to hurt them or anyone, and as a result we are all stuck in a vicious cycle of me hurting myself emotionally as well as hurting everyone else.

My thoughts of my family being better off without me, running away to help them,  or committing suicide as a way to put an end to their embarassment from having a crazy wife and mother are unfounded in the real world. The rational part of my brain knows that my children need a mother, and that I am thinking about a permanent solution to a temproary problem. I don’t want to die. I want to live free of pain and confusion. Even though that will never be a reality for me, I have to remember that I can make them feel better by trying my best to be a good mom. Removing myself from them doesn’t solve anything, and will cause a permanent hurt that I will never be able to take away. 

Being manic is a very selfish state to live in. The problems that I have inside consume me, and I can’t see a way out. It is truly terrifying to not know what you are capable of. I feel very self-involved, but I’m afraid of what will happen if I let myself stop thinking about it for even a moment. So far, the fear of myself is what has kept me going. 

Two years ago I got into our family vehicle during the only snow storm that we had that year. I jumped on the highway, and I spun my vehicle into the rock face as fast as I could. After I hit I tried to drive away again, even though the front end of my vehicle was gone. It was only after I was in the ambulance and on the way to the hospital that I realised that I had never intended to make it home. I hated myself so much, I was angry that I didn’t die in the hospital a few months earlier when I was sick. I was a shell of myself, filled with hate and anger and disgust. The only thing that could get rid of those feelings was to stop feeling all together. I got home after being checked out in the hospital, and a new hatred filled me. A hate that was fueled by my willingness to leave my family. I looked at my children and wondered how I could be so selfish, how I could think that they would be better off with a dead mother. I felt disgusting and unworthy of love. One thing that I have leraned from that experience is that suicide is not based on anyone other than yourself, but it’s not selfish. You are trying to put an end to their pain, you feel as though you are giving them a chance at a better life if you remove yourself from it. In my case, I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, I was trying to free them. 

Being manic depressive is a constant emotional rollercoaster that can’t be easily explained. It’s like being asked to explain the feeling of vomitting – you can’t listen to an explanation and picture the feeling – you have to experience it. I truly hope that no one I love ever has to know exactly how I’m feeling, but I do hope that if they read this they understand that I never, ever, intend to hurt them, and that I am always trying to act in their best interests. I also want them to know that I am always going to seek help when I know that I am losing control, and that I will, to the best of my ability, shield them from the trouble that my instability can cause. I know that my actions always affect my loved ones, and I am doing everything I can to minimise the blast zone.

Do you know someone who is eperiencing or has experienced anything that I have described? Don’t know how to treat them, act around them, or care for them? Here are a few ideas on how you can engage them in a positive way.

If they don’t want to be touched, don’t touch them. Sometimes being manic can heighten the senses, sometimes to the point of touch being extremely uncomfortable. Always ask before embracing.

Don’t force them to engage. Ask how they are feeling, ask if they need to talk, but don’t pressure or guilt them into talking if they can’t. One thing that bipolar people are good at is deception. If they can’t sort themseves out they will tell you what YOU need to hear, getting you off of their case so they can go back to fighting silently for their lives.

Don’t. Get. Angry. If your loved one opens up to you and is honest with the thoughts and feelings that they are having, don’t react negatively. The first time that you do will be the last time they trust you with their demons.

We don’t come with a ‘fragile’ sticker, so please don’t label us. I know that this is a difficult one, because it’s hard to know what will set someone off. I get that, I don’t know what will set me off, either. Just be patient, and know that we don’t do it on purpose. No one likes being handled with kid gloves. 

Know when you’ve had enough. There is no shame in recognising that you aren’t able to be someone’s nurse-maid for the rest of your life. We know that we are hard to deal with, and the unpredictability of our emotions is taxing on everyone. Have the courage and the decency to say if you can’t do it anymore. It won’t be easy, but if it’s what’s best for all parties, so be it. YOUR mental health should alays be your number one priority.

Most importantly, love and be loved. Let the people you love know how much you do, make sure that they feel it. Gifts don’t equate to experiences…something I’m trying to learn. Everyone has good days and bad, just remember that every new day is a new chance for forgiveness, kindness, and the pursuit of living a full and happy life with someone who is wired a little bit differently from yourself. 

“Thank you for being here reading.”

The other day I was reading through the blogs that I follow on here, and I decided to leave a comment on one that I particularly enjoyed. The blogger is chronicling her struggle to overcome an eating disorder, and I find it especially interesting because that is one thing that I have never dealt with (Although when I was younger I was frequently referred to as a ‘dyslexic anorexic’ because I had a fast metabolism and ate a lot).I left my comment and the author responded with “Thank you for being here reading.” This phrase can be interpreted several ways. I could take it generically, literally in the sense that she is thanking me for reading, or I can apply it to my own life, that i am still here – and reading.

Of course I wouldn’t be writing this entry if I had taken it the generic way.

People like me who are self-destructive, angry, depressed, people that have the inability to always see the value in themselves, people like me who fight every day to remember that we are worth more alive than dead – every day that we are here is a victory. We sabotage ourselves in the hopes that someday our faults and failures will be a memory for the people we loved but couldn’t love the right way. (In our own skewed opinions). When I read her response, “Thank you for being here reading,” it resonated with me. I am here. Not only am I present as a heart that hasn’t stopped beating yet, I am providing (hopefully) words of encouragement to someone else who could be in my same emotional and psychological situations.

Everyday we struggle against the current of our emotions. We are fighting a constant battle against the filth in our minds telling us that we aren’t worth as much as the rest of the world. We aren’t worth enough to care about our bodies, we aren’t deserving of true love or friendships, people don’t really like us, they tolerate us. We can hear the judgmental whispers, and we cannot always separate the ones coming from hurtful people versus the ones that our minds are creating. The seeds have been sewn, and too often the justification for taking our lives becomes easier than finding reasons to keep fighting. I am proud of myself for every day that I finish without knowing how easy it would be to leave. I will think these thoughts for the rest of my life. I have a poison in me that I will always have to fight against to keep what little sanity I have. There is no day off from a battle within yourself, the effort is as real and as physical as running laps at the gym. I am exhausted at the end of every day, but I’ve made it.

Thank you for being here reading.

This simple phrase meant so much to me. An acknowledgment within myself that I am still here, and that there are people who appreciate my just being here. I didn’t do anything special for her, I just read and commented. She however, did something special for me. Sometimes the validation of a stranger can put your life back into perspective, and it’s refreshing. I know my kids love me, and I’m sure they appreciate the things that I do for them in a day, but it’s easy to fall into a space of complacency when you live the same routine. Fight, nap, make a lunch, kiss a boo-boo, brush hair, run a bath, turn the fight inward. 

So now I say thank-you to you, for  being here. Take that how you want, but know that I appreciate every heartbeat that is reading this, and that isn’t, because we all deserve to be here. The fight is hard and frustrating and never ending, but we all deserve to be here – and as long as you need a friend, you have one in me.

Day by Day | Rewriting the heart and letting go. (This is a link to the blog that inspired this post)