Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Year in Review

This year I…
confessed that I had bipolar disorder.
started yoga.
found my voice as a mental health advocate during Mental Health Month in May.
had my first psychotic episode.
was “upgraded” from Bipolar II to Bipolar I. (I’m allowed to joke about it, ok?)
finished high school.
skipped prom and graduation.
organized and photographed the “What Does Mental Illness Look Like?” photo shoot with a group of beautiful friends.
moved in at Towson.
started college as an unhappy Chemistry major and finished my first semester as an excited English major.
experienced real heartbreak.
had a manic episode that resulted in hospitalization.
learned some powerful life lessons (and a few academic ones too).
was a mental health panelist at a NAMI event. 
Pardon the shadows. I was taking pictures very late at night in my bedroom.
So what’s going to happen next year? I have quite a few ideas!
I am participating in a 365 day photo project. You can stay updated by following or bookmarking my new tumblr. I’ll be documenting my days as well as experimenting/doing whatever I feel like doing. That will all be happening here: http://theawkwardindiegirl365.tumblr.com/
I will be launching a BRAND NEW website that is currently untitled. It will be a place to share the faces and stories of individuals affected by mental illness, including survivors, family members, friends, significant others, etc. I will not be launching the website for a while, but I have already started compiling content. It’s going to be rad.
I will be focusing a lot of my efforts on collaboration. There are so many talented and unique individuals that are a part of my community, online and real world. I want to connect with these powerful people and make a difference.
At some point I also have to fit in the 18 credits’ worth of classes I’m taking, Active Minds, and finishing my book.
Oh wait – I didn’t tell you? I’m also writing a book.
2014 is going to be jam-packed full of awesome.

Plethora of Suck

Spent two days functioning at sub basement level. Meaning, barely. Mood in the gutter, mind cluttered with every negative thought it could dredge up. It amazes me how my mind waits until I am on the precipice of complete breakdown…THEN it decides NOW is the perfect time to reflect on every failed relationship, every failed job, every wrong ever committed. And in an altered state, the damage is immense. I ended up in the fetal position under a blanket two straight nights because I literally couldn’t handle any more consciousness, any more of my own self torture.

Today has been better, though I think mostly due to the fact that if I survive this last day I can kiss the wretched year 2013 goodbye forever. People scoff and ask what I have to complain about, what happened that was so bad, it’s all in your attitude and how you look at it. Okay, well, even at my best I am CERTAIN having my home invaded and my shit stolen is a bad thing. Meds failing is a bad thing. Rampant anxiety and depression are bad things. Bad bad bad all year long for the most part. What happened to be happy about? Oh, right, I am still breathing, let’s have a parade for that miracle.

No one gets it. It’s about mental state because it adds to quality of life or lack thereof. If your mind is encased in darkness, sucking the joy even out of good things no matter how hard you are fighting it, well it tends to taint and color everything. I resent being labeled a pessimist. Because I’ve earned my pessimism by having more bad than good happen. Still, my outlook has been positively great even when waking up to find myself suddenly a single mom- because my mental state was not in this abysmal place. At the same time, I have had times when everything was awesome but the depression drained it all and it was all bad and would forever be bad.

Mental state.

Good riddance to 2013. May 2014 be better. I have no resolutions. I only want meds that work so I can survive. It seems modest yet so impossible a goal.

In my evil moments,I fantasize about mental illness being contagious. So I could just shake someone’s hand and let them take a walk in my world for a day or two. Let them finally see and ‘get it’. It’s mean and yet it’s realistic because until I can find people able to grasp the depth and severity of the illness…I am forever going to be resentful of being dismissed as this jumble of behavioral and personality problems. I have those, no doubt, but everything seems to start and end with the mental stuff I can’t get a grip on. Let my critics walk in my shoes a couple of miles. Maybe I will be more humane and not mock them and push them and make them feel like absolute pieces of shit.

Maybe not.

My mood is not great today. But my head seems clearer, the “you are a loser” thoughts have subsided. The anxiety is a quiet thrum. I have already done the functional facade thing. Get dressed, go out, wash dishes, cook lunch. Hollow little victories but victories just the same. Things others take for granted, things that are like climbing mountains when at war with your own mind, when your mind keeps telling you things are one way when they are another.My contrary mind.

Happy New Year.

I still want a new brain.


Empathy

This short video made the rounds on Facebook a while  back.  In fact, I may have even published it before. But, none of that matters because it’s good enough to share again.  This is an excellent video to share with friends and family.  It may help them to be more sympathetic towards your living with metal … Continue reading »

Burn – Elle Goulding

We’re gonna let it Burn! We are going to let them know we are here in 2014! No more excuses. No more suffering from this illnesses. No more letting your mind get you. We’ll be raising our hands, shouting up to the skies!

CUZ WE GOT THAT FIRE, FIRE, FIRE

..and we’re going to let it burn.

Happy and safe New Year’s Eve, my friends..


2013: The Year That Was

And I’d thought 2012 was bad……all I had to worry about then was adjusting to my big, bad bipolar diagnosis and playing lab rat for all the necessary experimentation with meds. Now my whining about that year sounds like schoolgirl hyperbole compared with what I want to say about this one.

In fact, 2013′s only saving grace is that it’s ending on a high note. The rest of it, basically, has SUCKED. What good is there in a twelve-month span of time that sees your husband diagnosed with stage IV cancer? That includes going street-rat crazy and losing the best job you ever had? That plunges you back into poverty and forces you to go begging for medical care, a decent job, and some self-esteem?

Almost everything that could’ve gone wrong this year, did. I should’ve known it would be a shitty year when it started with a stomach virus that (literally) brought me to my knees. It only got worse with the passage of time, as the stress of my job wound my nerves so tight that they finally snapped and I barely escaped hospitalization. The resulting damage to my professional reputation was so great that it not only cost me my position, but fundamentally changed the way I thought about myself and my career.

Then my sister fell here at home and needed to move to assisted living, which was a clusterfuck in every sense of the word. She was being overmedicated and her mind was turning to mush at a time when I needed her wisdom badly, as I was still trying to make sense of what was happening to me. We fought like cats and dogs the entire time she was in the nursing home, and it didn’t help that I was hypo/manic all summer…..she doesn’t respond well to me when I’m in that condition, and I don’t respond well to her not responding well. We’re OK now, but things were pretty tense for awhile there.

I’m also still unhappy that I used that friction as an excuse for overdosing on Ativan and blowing almost twenty-two years of complete sobriety. I look back at that and wonder what in the hell I was thinking when I took those tablets and then told Will what I’d done. Now I can’t celebrate my “sobriety birthday” on January 1st like I did for over two decades, because in the strictest sense of the word I’ve only been sober for three months and one day. I HATE it that I’ve had to start over…..but what’s done is done, and there’s no use pissing and moaning about it now.

And then to top it all off, Will was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which made everything else that happened this year look like a cakewalk. I STILL glance over at him several times a day just to make sure he’s still here and whisper a prayer of gratitude for this grace period we’re in. His primary care doctor says that if he’d had the ‘normal’ kind of pancreatic tumor, he wouldn’t be here now. Thank God that if he had to get this terrible disease, he got the rare form that can be stopped, if not cured!

The other big thing that happened this year was, of course, leaving clinical nursing to take a HUGE leap of faith into the unknown. It’s not as if I had a choice; I knew as far back as a couple of years ago that my days as an active, working nurse were numbered, but when things came to a head in midsummer I realized I had to go sooner rather than later. Again, thank God I had enough smarts to listen to the “still, small voice” in all of us that tells us the truth, even when we don’t want to hear it. I was nursing on borrowed time those last six months, and knowing my patients are safer in the care of other nurses who DON’T have all this mental stuff going on will help me sleep much better at night.

Speaking of which: another good thing is finally having developed some discipline in the self-care arena. As much as I hate to admit it, Dr. A was right—going to bed and getting up at the same times every day IS crucial to balanced moods. Nothing else has worked as well to get me where I am today. I think a major reason is that the routine makes it much easier to take my meds at the same times each day, which also promotes stability. It’s certainly cheaper than a lot of the other methods I have to employ (can we say psych appointments?). But of course no one’s suggesting that all my issues can be fixed with a little sleep and a good routine……oh, boy, do I know better than THAT now.

Which brings me to what I think the take-home lesson of 2013 is, and that’s acceptance: of my illness, of the need for consistency in my life, of the good and bad things that happen…..and of the fact that I am a deeply flawed, but decent human being.

Welcome, 2014!


Sit down and shut up!


Moving Up and Feeling Down

And so the weight gain continues (sigh).  To rehash my story, when I first started on this weight loss ordeal I weighed 303 pounds.  I couldn’t wear green clothes at the time because people would mistake me for Jabba the Hut.  I’d pretty much always been overweight, but once I got on bipolar meds my … Continue reading »

DBT Debrief: Emotion Regulation

The final module in DBT, Emotion Regulation, was the turning point at which I got with the program, because it …

Continue reading

The End

Well, today was the day…..I am now officially retired from clinical nursing. As I passed my meds, performed the usual feeding-tube rituals and did treatments, I felt a bit wistful because I knew I was doing them for the last time; but honestly, my primary emotion is relief.


I should’ve done this a couple of years ago……and probably before that. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was tapped out long before I made this last ill-fated attempt at floor nursing, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it forced me to understand that I really WAS done. As some of you may know, I’d toyed with the idea of leaving nursing for some time, but it wasn’t until this past summer that it became crystal clear that I had no choice anymore—it was time for me to go.
And I won’t be back. I hope and pray that this new job will be the one I stick with until full retirement age, but even if it’s not, I know I’ll find something else to do outside of the clinical arena. One of the more amazing things that’s happened in the past few months is learning that I can push myself beyond some of my limitations and take risks I was too afraid to take even a short while ago. However, that works only if those risks are calculated ones, and with a lot of help, I’ve come to recognize which are too dangerous to attempt.
Remaining in clinical nursing is one of them. Yesterday I almost committed a serious medication error when I got distracted by too much noise and activity in the hall. (Yes, that continues to be a problem, even though my concentration has improved somewhat now that I’m well again).  Every nurse makes mistakes now and again (and narrowly escapes making many more), but this was yet another time when only the grace of God and one more quick glance back at the med record sheet saved both my patient and me from disaster. Needless to say, the near-miss scared the daylights out of me, and it only reinforced the conviction that I’m doing the right thing by getting the hell out of direct care before my luck runs out.
It feels so weird to be hanging up my stethoscope after almost two decades in healthcare, but it’s good that this part of my career is over. I’ve no doubt that I’ll miss it—at least a little—but not enough to return for an encore, even if something were to go sideways during my second act.

While I have countless good memories of favorite patients and co-workers, I’ve paid dearly for the privilege of being a nurse. I’m far older than I should be on the inside, and my physical body is shot to hell from years of lifting, bending, transferring, pushing wheelchairs and heavy, occupied beds, and walking on hard surfaces. And we ALL know what it’s done to me mentally (even though I was never wrapped too tight anyway).  But nursing has also given me countless stories to tell about both the best and the worst of humanity, humbled me by allowing me to witness feats of incredible strength and acts of mercy, and proved to me that we human beings are truly “fearfully and wonderfully made”.

Yes, this is the end of my career as I know it and part of me will always long for the days when I had a passion for nursing; but as somebody once said, the last step of one stage of life is but the first step of another. It’s just that when you spend a good chunk of your life caring for your fellow man, you learn in the end that it was the other way around all the time.


A Tutorial on Bipolar

There is really no way to explain to a “normal” person what it’s like to have bipolar. I can describe it as it is for me, but it differs for everyone. Obviously it also differs just for myself as I vary between depressive, manic and neutral phases. As a part of my desire to reduce stigma and increase understanding, let me give you a colorful synopsis of my life with bipolar.

I am a rapid-cycling, highly functioning woman living with bipolar disorder. The diagnosis is still pretty new, but the symptoms are not. At age 19, I was diagnosed with clinical depression bordering on cyclothymia which is often a predecessor or offshoot of full blown bipolar disorder. I began taking antidepressants at that time and learning how to live my life a bit differently. Therapy and medications were the game plan after suffering for years. I’ve always been plagued with obsessive thoughts, low self esteem, sleep problems and negative self talk.  For me, I know when depression is creeping up. I just want to sleep, I binge eat, I have random aches and pains. I lose interest in the things I normally love and crying is pretty much all I do some days. Isolation during depression is very normal for me as I berate myself with negative self talk, sometimes self abuse through hitting or cutting myself and lapse in my self care and hygiene. During the depressive phase, I pretty much have to force myself to do anything- go to work, take care of the house. I have several amazing friends (and my sister) whom I reach out to when times are at their darkest. I am happy to say that, while I was self medicating on an unhealthy level with alcohol during my 20′s, I have essentially stopped drinking alcohol, save a glass of wine on special occasions. Blogging or writing can be difficult at this time, though I will post during the dark times to sort of send an S.O.S. out to the world for a little help.

The opposite of my depression is the manic phase. This phase has two subcategories, if you will. There’s hypomania, when I’m starting to get manic and I am very very effective at just about anything. This is the “addictive” mania because you feel so creative and efficient and alive. I get a lot of crafts and DIY’s done during hypomania and it’s the reason my house gets clean quickly. Hypomania for me is marked by rapid speech, fast moving ideas, the urge to create and clean, diminished need for sleep, hypersexuality, financial irresponsibility and abundant confidence. During hypomania, I love just about everyone and everything and it’s all just so FABULOUS!!!

Then, the nasty part of the manic phase – full blown mania. Also known as I go from creative Christian crafting coffee drinker to sociopathic bitch. I usually don’t refer to it as manic, I call it Green Mamba Time after the beautiful and deadly snake. Manic (or G.M.T.) is when I tear people down, look for fights and nearly destroy friendships and relationships. I am frighteningly aggressive and have practically no regard for my own personal safety. Anything and everything can set me off during G.M.T. and I continue to pay the consequences for things I’ve done during this phase. I vividly recall destroying several large cardboard boxes during a manic-fueled rage resulting in a swollen hand for two days. This phase is the one I feel people most associate bipolar with, and quite wrongly. It’s merely a part of the disorder that can be effectively managed.

If you’re a girl, you might understand if I say having bipolar is like having PMS every single day. You can go from crying to happy and then numb in practically hours. Also I work in a highly female-dominated environment, and let’s face it, women do a great job of tearing each other down (and yes, I’m guilty of that as well). Some days it’s all I can do to get home and decompress. However, I have a lot of hope that I will be able to live a productive and positive life despite the disorder. My faith in God has gotten me through so much, including several near-suicidal nights.My psychiatrist actually listens to me and lets me have the drivers seat as far as my treatment is concerned. I have wonderful friends who have stood by me despite the constant changing tide of my moods. Blogging about my bipolar has helped me to discover I am not alone in this, and I hope I help other people suffering from their own demons feel a bit more accepted and understood.

If you would like to share your story of struggle/triumph/etc or tips on how to live with mental illness or loving someone suffering from a mental illness, feel free to share in the comments or send me an email at [email protected] I’d love to hear your stories and share them if you’d like your story to be heard!

Filed under: Wellness Warriors Tagged: antidepressants, bipolar, cyclothymia, mood stabilizers, positivity, stigma, therapy, understanding