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 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. 

Enough already.

I am physically strong. I can lift things, fix other things, my cardio could be better, but I can begrudgingly run a 5k without throwing up or dying. I am mentally acute, and in many aspects I am emotionally strong. When it comes to defending myself and my ideals, I am undaunted. Strangers with differing opinions don’t scare me, and I am always ready to go to bat for those I love at any moment. This does not, however, mean that when I do need help, when I am scared and vulnerable and feeling weak, that a simple “you can handle it, you’re tough” will make all of my problems disappear. 

Telling me I’m strong is, in my opinion, a brush off of my concerns/fears/anxiety etc. You care so little about my wellbeing that you end the conversation before it starts. One sentence and TA-DA! I’ve been reminded that I can deal with it, so I should shut up and make sure there’s nothing that I can do for you. The worst part of this for me is that nearly every time I’ve been given the “you’re strong” conversation ender, it’s been someone I consider myself close to. I don’t latch onto strangers and force my sob story upon them, I keep my emotions for the people I think I can trust with them. 

And thus begins a whole new sub-cycle of anxiety and fear. Are my problems that easy? When I struggle, should I keep it under my vest so as not to burden my loved ones? Why is it that I am willing to repeatedly help those who cannot offer me even a feigned interest in my life?

I am strong. I kick ass on the regular. But strength still requires maintenance, validation, and gentle care. If you leave the rebar exposed to the elements it becomes warped by the wind and rusted by the rain. It needs to be built upon, encased, secured with foundation, and protected so that it remains a a useful part of the structure as a whole. The point is, we all need to support each other, whether you’re the rebar, the windows, the support beams…because if one breaks down, the whole structure suffers. 

So please, I beg you, don’t brush ANYONE off by “reminding” them that they are strong. They know they are. What you need to remind them that you can be strong on their behalf when they need a break. You may see your statement as uplifting, but to people like me it indicates complacency. Treat me how I treat you. 

That’s all. 

Two songs to go with the post: 

Apple Blossom by The White Stripes https://youtu.be/y8gU1zhzJ2E

Bloody Motherfucking Asshole by Martha Wainwright http://youtu.be/pX-bIr8dr6U

Empathy from the Devil

I am vexed and perplexed, confused and unsure. I am an emotional enigma, and not even I can crack the code. I have been called narcissistic and sociopathic by more than one doctor (and several layman’s), and I have felt and identified with these diagnoses at certain points in my life. I am treatment-resistent bipolar, prone to spending sprees, delusions of grandeur, and thoughts of suicide. As if that wasn’t enough, I was have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, the cherry on the psychotic sundae. 

I am also an empath. 

Wait….what?

How can I be a sociopathic narcissist and an empath at the same time? It doesn’t make sense, does it? 

I feel. I feel so deeply that the weight of my emotional load is crushing. I never tune out or turn off, while I’m supposed to be sleeping I’m reliving everything that’s ever happened to me, in vivid detail. Do you remember the time you told me that my makeup didn’t look good? No? I do. My mind is a highlight reel of everything that helps me to hate myself. Perhaps you were the one who told me my thighs are too thick for corduroy. Don’t remember? I can fill you in. 

I am not a doctor, but I would like to amend my original diagnosis – I am a hedonist. Yes, I have narcissistic tendencies, I have long periods of introspective self-involvement, although what I see as quiet regrouping others see as pathetic lagubriousness. If I’m not feeling as though I’m conquering the world, I am desperately maudlin. There isn’t an in between. That doesn’t mean that I’m a narcissist. In fact, most times I find myself to be quite the opposite! I will do anything for anyone…once. Dick me around and i’ll wash my hands of you. At least on the outside. I don’t have the ability to forget. Once you stick your knife in, it stays put. You move on, I do not. That’s the empath part. 

So how is it that I identify with all of these traits? Honestly, I  have no fucking clue. But if you have any insights, please feel free to share!

I cut apart my favourite book today. That act is what spawned this post. I felt more emotion about tearing pages out of a book than I do about most people. I relieved it of its loquaciousness with good reason; to make a book bouquet for my sisters wedding. My poor book is missing the first two chapters, stained with tea, folded and dilapidated. It still hurt to take my scissors to it. I painstakingly sought out my favourite passages and cut the delicate pages away from the spine. In rereading these snippets I found myself overcome with emotion. I know every inch of each character, and can imagine how they look, how they smell, but they can never know me. What a beautifully tragic relationship to have! To know everything without revealing anything. I love these characters because they hold pieces of me that I can’t let others see. They live inside of me, never changing, always existing exactly as I need them to. The only relationship I’m good at maintaining…

But I digress. 

What was my point? 

That if I can’t define myself, how can I ask anyone else to. 

Perhaps that was it. 

Wave of Mutilation 

I have always considered self-harm to be out of my realm of possibility. I don’t cut myself, I don’t cut my hair when I’m feeling depressed, and i’ve never removed one of my eyebrows. I’ve never given the topic of self-harm much thought, honestly, until the other day, when I was having a particularly stressful conversation with my husband. We were outside talking, and he asked me repeatedly to stop picking. I have been picking at my skin for years. My arms, my shoulders, my neck, my face. Most of the time I don’t even recognize that I’m doing it. I absent mindedly scratch away at my skin until I draw blood. I have deep scars, especially on my arms. Sometimes it takes months to heal, because I keep pulling the skin off to create a fresh wound. He told me that I do it to relieve stress, but that it causes me more stress in the long run, because having a face with bullet sized holes in it starts the cycle all over again. 

I have been thinking a lot about why I do this, and i’ve come up with a few ideas. 

Stress relief. When I’m frustrated, upset, anxious, I scratch away until I’m feeling better. Although as my husband mentioned, the craters in my skin cause more stress when I look at them, which results in me scratching more. 

It feels good. It’s a release of tension. I don’t know that I can accurately describe it, but I can feel areas of my body that feel like they’re going to explode. When I break the skin it literally feels like a release of pressure. 

It keeps me from feeling good about myself. There are a lot of times when I don’t feel like I deserve to feel good about myself. When things in my life are headed in a positive direction, I dig in to remind myself that I don’t deserve happiness. I don’t deserve someone telling me I look pretty. I feel ugly on the inside, so I subconsciously make myself ugly on the outside to match. At times my ego seems grandiose, I am skilled at portraying myself as someone who is overconfident, secure in their own skin, someone who can’t be bothered with what anyone else thinks. On the inside I am none of tthos things. I am riddled with self doubt, I hate my appearance, and the things people say and do affect me deeply. I think now that exposing the raw layers of my skin is a way to expose who I really am on the inside. I don’t think it’s working. I’m literally peeling the mask off that force myself to wear everyday. 

Self-harm can be so many things and manifest in myriad ways. It’s meaning is personal, and everyone is different. The important thing is to recognize what it is to you, and find your way out. I am in the realization stage. As I’ve been writing this I’ve been clawing at my face. I don’t yet have a plan to overcome this, but I thought writing about it may help sort some things out. 

   
  I don’t have acne. I never have.  
Have you made it to the other side of self-harm? Leave me a comment and tell me your healthy way of coping with the urge to hurt yourself. 

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.

Hoop Dreams and semicoherent ramblings

An ideal caregiver, simplified, and then possibly over-complicated, by me. 

After lengthy conversations with numerous people of varied backgrounds and levels of mental illness exposure, I have compiled a composite sketch of the ideal caregiver. Some points may seem contradictory, but the illness I suffer from is one giant contradiction. So bear with me, and feel free to comment with agreements, arguments, and amendments. 
My ideal caregiver…
– May not understand, but takes the time to educate themselves, and uses that knowledge to respond and react appropriately
– Asks open-ended questions about me specifically, that are more specific than asking if I’m ok
– Isn’t easily exhausted. 
– Understands that I don’t do it on purpose, that it doesn’t go away, and that I can’t always control it 
– Believes me when I say that my thoughts, feelings, and behaviours have nothing to do with them or any of my loved ones
– Doesn’t shame me or make me feel guilty/afraid to express what I’m truly feeling; no matter how upsetting or shocking hearing it may be
– Embraces the good days, and doesn’t melt down on the bad days
– Respects that I feed off of the energy of those surrounding me; if you’re grumpy, I’m grumpy
– Accepts that I am not always the bad guy, but calls me out when I am
– Apologises when they are in the wrong, doesn’t twist it into how I’ve created a negative atmosphere
– Self deprecation is common in people like me. You don’t have to like it, but a certain amount is always going to be there. The negative nelly in my brain makes sure of that. If it gets out of hand, talk to me – don’t shame me
– Knows that they didn’t cause my illness and neither did I
– Admits if they can’t handle the huge undertaking that is being a caregiver of mine. There is no shame in knowing and accepting your limits
– Doesn’t hide their feelings for fear of triggering mine. I’m a big girl, I know how to listen and be respectful 
– Isn’t condescending to me during panic attacks, down swings, or periods of mania
– Asks what I need, doesn’t tell me; and reacts and responds accordingly
– Loves me for me, because of all of my weird quirks, insecurities, and downright crazy attitudes, because I am worth loving, and I deserve to be loved without having to change to fit who others think I should be. 
This is a very simple list that I feel applies to any human being, because when it comes down to it, that’s all I am – a human being. I am flawed, as are you, and everyone we’ve ever known. Flaws can be beautiful if the people living inside of them are nurtured and cared for, feel safe and loved. Stop defining human beings by the flaws that make them unique, and start loving the whole person. 
Being someone with a flaw that has a name doesn’t make us bad people, being judgemental, ignorant, and impatient is what bad people are made of. 
I am the most critical of myself, and I often project my opinions of myself onto others. I try to remind myself that everyone is entitled to form their own opinion, and it’s not right for me to assume how they feel about me. It’s a cycle: I assume the worst, negative energy is created, the other party reacts negatively and/or I lash out, and assume that they have a poor opinion of me. Rinse, repeat. I try hard to avoid these situations, but I am often affected by social cues, both verbal and nonverbal. Tone of voice, how your eyes move, where your hands are when you speak; all things that my brain converts into either ‘good vibes’ or bad ones. My most used phrase (admittedly not first spoken by me) is, “impact, not intent“. If you are a caregiver or close friend with someone who is living with mental illness, this is really a mantra that you should take to heart. Let’s say that while we’re talking you roll your eyes at something I’ve said. (Assuming that we’re talking about more than just sports or the weather) even though you may not even notice that you’ve rolled them, I did. I am analysing, conjuring all of the negative thoughts that I think you’re having about me and what I’m talking about. The impact of what you say and how you respond to people can have a major effect on their mental well-being. 
I’m not saying that you should find out the life story of every passersby before looking or speaking to them, but I am saying that you need to know your intimate audience. Just as I can’t assume that you don’t like me, you can’t assume that you’re close relations can’t or won’t be affected by some of the things that you say. 
Educate yourselves! Embrace your loved ones! And most importantly, be comfortable enough in your own skin that you don’t have to scratch the freckles off of mine. I have accepted who I am and what I live with, if you can do the same, we can all care for each other.