Daily Archives: March 15, 2015

Music Soothes Me: "Withholding Nothing"



So the blog post I published earlier today was the most vulnerable and honest I've been on my blog in awhile. I'm on watch to see if I'm headed for a manic episode. And I'm a bit emotional right now.

I'm currently at my boyfriend's house. And while he was going about his business, he was humming a gospel song, the song above, "Withholding Nothing" by William McDowell. I love this song! So I immediately went to YouTube to play it.

As I write this, I've played the song at least four times in the last hour.

While listening to the song the second time, I closed my eyes and quietly sang along, eyes closed, legs crossed. And tears streamed down my face. Not wanting to alarm my boyfriend, I said, "FYI: ignore the tears, I'm just extra emotional, but I'm okay." I then continued to sing along and cry.

After that cathartic cry, I felt so much freaking better. I had forgotten that music soothes me when the mania is coming or when I'm in a full-blown manic episode. During my first hospitalization, I listened to my iPod to calm myself down.

Watch the video and may you too be soothed.

8 Things Non-Binary People Need to Know

The image features the non-binary pride flag.

The non-binary pride flag, via Gender Wiki

Coming out as genderqueer and non-binary was this big, beautiful, scary thing for me. I didn’t know what exactly I was moving towards – I only sensed that I was moving in the right direction.

Navigating something as complicated as gender with just my intuition was like running through a corn maze at night. There were a lot of dead ends. There were a lot of bumps and bruises. And it was, at times, totally exhausting.

There’s so much that I wish I had known when I started transitioning that I simply wasn’t able to find. There’s a lot of validation that we all need, but fail to get.

The internet is still tripping about our existence, so there are plenty of articles about what we are and there’s lots of 101. But our lives exist beyond 101. We need something more than that.

That is why, this week, I wanted to write an article – by a non-binary person, for non-binary people – about the important stuff that we need to hear but often don’t.

If you don’t identify as non-binary, you should read this anyway. You’ll learn something, I promise.

So to the non-binary folks out there, here are eight things that I really, really need you to know:

 

 

  1. You don’t have to be certain and yes, you can change your mind.

People assume because of my confidence or something that I have a very clear idea of what I’m doing.

Haha, that’s funny.

Do I want testosterone? No clue. Do I want top surgery? Uh, maybe? Do I want a more fluid presentation or a decidedly “masculine one”? Ask me again later.

I’m the magic 8 ball of gender. You can ask me the same question ten times and you’ll get at least five different answers.

I don’t know what I want. For a while, though, I felt like I needed to know exactly what I wanted, and I spent too much time agonizing over it. I wish I hadn’t. I wish someone had given me permission to be confused, to be unsure, to be afraid.

You don’t have to be sure about your (a)gender, your presentation, or what steps, if any, you’re going to take. And guess what? You can change your mind! You can change your mind as many times as you’d like, and you are still valid in every single way.

Take your time. Gender is not a race to the finish line; gender is not a competition that you can win or lose. It’s your personal journey, and you can take as much time as you need.

 

 

  1. You are valid, and you are doing it “right.”

Regardless of what you do, regardless of what choices you make, your identity and your gender (or lack thereof) is 100% valid.

There is no right or wrong way to do gender. And yet there were times when I didn’t feel “trans enough,” times when others questioned my transness, or times when I was excluded because I didn’t fit into this box of what it means to be “trans.”

Others will gender police you, even other trans people, or try to push you back into those boxes – but I want you to know that when they do, they are in the wrong, not you.

You are enough. Always.

 

  1. You deserve respect – so don’t apologize for demanding it.

I spent a lot of time apologizing when I asked people to use my pronouns. And that was a ridiculous thing for me to do in hindsight.

I deserve respect; I shouldn’t be misgendered, I shouldn’t be excluded, I shouldn’t be made to feel unsafe. So asking people to respect me should never have been something I apologized for – and you shouldn’t apologize, either.

People will, at some point or another, make you feel like your identity is some kind of burden on others, or that they’re doing you a favor by treating you like a human being. But you don’t need to kiss anyone’s ass just because they treated you the way that you should be treated.

And your identity is not a burden – society’s strict adherence to the binary, and failure to recognize and affirm you – is the real burden here.

The constant misgendering, microaggressions, harassment and even violence that we face as non-binary is a burden that far exceeds what anyone who calls YOUR identity a burden will ever experience.

You deserve respect without pandering, without begging, without people asking for cookies or pats on the back. You deserve respect, period.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I know firsthand, from being in the community and connected with you all, that NB folks often grapple with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. And because we’re afraid of being misgendered and we’re afraid of having our identities dismantled or interrogated, we’re less likely to seek help.

I didn’t come out as trans to my therapist until much later in our time together, because I was afraid of being forced into an educator role in a situation where I was supposed to be the client. I silently and needlessly suffered from gender dysphoria because of that fear.

If you are struggling with your mental health or with dysphoria, ask for help. Please, please, ask for help. I know it can be uncomfortable to be put on the spot, and I know misgendering, especially by so-called professionals, can be grueling. But your mental health is important, and if you need help, it’s important that you get it.

Seek out a therapist. Seek out a healer. Seek out a support group or an online community.

And don’t settle for lousy care – if you aren’t getting what you need, keep looking. You are worth it.

 

  1. Your body is a non-binary body, no matter what it looks like.

When I was trying to get an idea of what I, as non-binary, wanted to look like, I couldn’t help but notice that there was an abundance of thin, traditionally masculine, able-bodied white people without a single curve to be found that were being advertised as androgynous bodies.

There weren’t any bodies that looked like mine.

But here’s the truth: You can be fat and curvy and be androgynous. You can be a person of color and, undoubtedly, be neutrois. You can have boobs and be transmasculine.

What makes a body non-binary is not what it looks like – it’s the person that lives in that body, and identifies that way.

If you feel pressure to pass, to conform, to look a certain way just to feel valid as your gender, I hope you know that your body is a valid non-binary body no matter what shape or form it takes.

 

  1. External validation is great, but self-love is revolutionary.

It’s powerful when we receive validation from others. But I wish someone had reminded me a little earlier on how important self-love is, too.

Over at Everyday Feminism, I wrote a little about the importance of self-love as trans folks.

The gist of it: As we weather microaggressions and dysphoria and oppression, we need to take care of ourselves.

The act of loving ourselves in a society which seldom acknowledges us or affirms us is politically powerful, and psychologically necessary.

While it’s important that those around us respect us, it’s equally important that we put in the work and respect ourselves.

How often are you practicing self-care and self-love? If it’s not often, it might be time to reevaluate your priorities – and put yourself first for a change.

 

  1. You are not alone.

It can feel that way, to be sure. The loneliness is compounded because most folks still cannot see us the way that we see ourselves. It’s complicated to exist outside of what most people have never been asked to imagine.

Yes, being non-binary can be a lonely road.

But it’s worth remembering that you are not the only non-binary person in this world. NB folks have existed everywhere, across cultures and across time. You are not alone in your feelings, experiences, and fears.

If you are feeling isolated, there are so many resources (and more resources, and more), as well as online communities that are waiting for you. And you can come exactly as you are – you don’t need to be out, and you don’t need to be certain.

Sometimes it helps to know that you’re not the only one going through this.

 

  1. Your voice is important, and you deserve a seat at the table.

Your experiences of marginalization, oppression, and fear are important. And every community that you are a part of – whether you’re a person of color, a person with a disability, working class, atheist – should be including you, and valuing your unique contributions.

We are too often pushed to the margins, both in the trans community but also in other communities that we are a part of.

And I want to remind you that your voice is important to all of those conversations – you should never be excluded from any discussion that you are personally connected to.

As an atheist who is also non-binary, for example, I often wonder why the most vocal and visible atheists at conferences, panels, and events are white, cishet men.

Similarly, when transgender folks are talking about transphobia, are they including non-binary people? Why or why not?

It can sometimes feel like we don’t belong in these communities, despite identifying so strongly with them. But your perspective is important, and you should have a seat at the table in every discussion in which you have something at stake.

If you’re being pushed out, don’t apologize for pushing back. Spaces that do not succeed in including you need to confront their failures – especially those spaces that present themselves as being socially just.

* * *

There is so much that I wish someone had told me when I first came out.

In the beginning, it felt as if I was completely in the dark – and I withstood abuse, aggression, and loneliness that, in hindsight, I didn’t deserve.

Sometimes I was convinced I was doing something wrong because I was unsure.

Sometimes I let others step on me because I didn’t feel worthy.

Sometimes I settled for disrespect because I thought respect was too much to ask for.

Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t “enough.”

Sometimes I felt alone and I was afraid to ask for help.

Sometimes I hated my body because I thought it wasn’t an “androgynous body.”

Sometimes I thought the validation of others was more important than how I felt about myself.

Sometimes I let others exclude me because I thought I had to wait my turn.

This was my early experience of life as a non-binary person. It was difficult, and scary, and oppressive. And while in some ways things have remained the same, thankfully most things have improved a lot.

I wish someone had stepped in to let me know that I was worthy of respect, worthy of love and support; I wish someone had told me that there was no right or wrong way to be non-binary, as long as I was being myself.

Most of all, I wish I had realized sooner that I wasn’t alone in everything I was going through.

I hope that my words can offer some comfort and validation, and act as reminders of how deeply worthwhile and important you are. In a society which tries so hard to erase us, it can be easy to forget.

I wish you, and all of my non-binary siblings a safe, healthy, and beautiful journey as you explore your (a)gender. Please know that I am with you every step of the way!

Sam Dylan Finch is a queer activist and feminist writer, based in the SF Bay. He is the founder of Let’s Queer Things Up!, his blog and labor of love. With a passion for impacting change through personal narrative, Sam writes about his struggles and triumphs as genderqueer and bipolar with the hopes of teaching others about his identity and community. When he isn’t writing, he’s probably eating takeout and dancing to Taylor Swift.

Connect with SDF: Website ; Facebook ; Twitter ; Tumblr

New to LQTU? Check out Sam’s articles on being genderqueer.


Another topic not otherwise specified post

Dramedy.
I’ve been watching Californication. I always loved David Duchovny.This show is crude and naughty. Kind of like me, without all the bed hopping.
****
Manic…
It’s knocking at the door. Interrupting my focus. Tainting my opinion. All that talk about making wise choices and reining it in?
Ha ha ha.
I’m gonna be hedonistic given the first chance.
What I want to be and what I actually am are so very often two very different things.
On the plus side, manic means I’m not as uptight and anxiety ridden. I am actually allowing my kid to play outdoors. Normally. I check on her every two minutes. Now as long as I hear her yapping, I check every five minutes.
I hate that my dysfunction affects her, at all.
I look back to last summer and realize…I barely let her play outside at all. Because I was nervous and paranoid and then there was the whole thing started that Becca and I were lesbians so the other parents stopped letting the kids come play with my Spook.
My mentality was, if they’re gonna be such bigoted assholes, I don’t want my kid around their ignorance, not even second hand.
Everyone seems to think that’s evil of me. Like I owe these idiots an explanation. Big deal if I prefer men but am not opposed to women? Bex and I were just friends. Fuck these morons for making bigoted assumptions.
I personally, don’t care what people do in their bedrooms as long as its consensual amongst all parties. Frankly I don’t think “God” cares either.
Only Bible thumping narrow minded jackasses give a damn.
My kid can make better friends.
****
Humor crush…
Ever develop a “crush” on someone’s sense of humor?
Meh, probably just me.
But it’s possible.
I don’t give a damn about facades. I like personality. And it’s nothing dirty, sometimes you just find a kindred spirit who gets your humor and you get theirs.
It’s a good thing.
*****
Hypocrisy sacrilege warning…

My kid goes to Sunday school. Well, the pastor is retiring so next week they’ve canceled Sunday school but are instead having a dinner. I was invited. And it immediately made me panic. That place is packed worse than a bar. I can’t do it. I did it in December and it took me weeks to recover.
I may not agree with the whole religion thing but I am used to putting on an act. I mean, I wear the sane happy mask every day. I can fake faith for a few hours.
But the panic…That’s what gets me down.
*****
woo hoooo….
I showered today.
Did dishes, a load of laundry.
Victory smoke.
*****
The mania…
is fucking with my head again.
I’m beyond the, “I have self esteem, I can do better than this” point.
I am to the “I deserve a little fun, be damned my self esteem” point.
I don’t like it.
But it’s intoxicating.
The aftermath, not so much.
But…manic depression isn’t fun, period.
***
Went..

to run an errand…and in the middle of a parking lot, I had a massive panic attack. It was unpleasant. They are always scarier when my kid is with me. How do you explain the deer in the headlights thing to a 5 year old? This warm weather thing, so early in the season, is bringing all the yahoos out and about and it’s freaking me the fuck out.
I need that xanax salt lick.
And maybe an animal tranq.
*****
Depressing…
My kid is outside lamenting, and verbalizing the lament to every person we encounter, that she has “no friends.” I can’t make the trailer park kids play with her. Frankly, I’d rather they not. Last time I opened that door I ended up running a free daycare for five months that nearly sent me to the rubber Ramada. I had to take a hard line, which was why when the whole lesbian thing started, I didn’t lift a finger to say otherwise. It’s no one’s business and it’s not the mentality I want my kid to learn.
You like what you like, and love doesn’t know gender.
I’m sorry she has no little playmates, I really am. But at the same time…
She can do better. Maybe it’s not the kids’ fault but I can’t change the parents’ minds nor do I feel I should have to.
Utter bullshit.
****
Yep…

today’s panic attack and kid lamentation have resulted in a burning stomach ache. Time to guzzle milk. I despise my own body.
Just when I was thinking earlier, “For an absolute mental trainwreck, I am rallying here.”
Ha. I’m falling apart any time I have to venture outside the bubble.
Easy answer is, stay inside the bubble.
*****
5:13 p.m.

Like clockwork, the mood crash is upon me. Snap, crackle, splat.
No trigger. If anything, excluding the panic attack and my kid’s hurt feelings, it;s not been an awful day. Non eventful. I like that.
So why the crash?
Color me clueless.
****
Ok.
Just gotta get my kid bathed, did the supper thing already. (pizza is a beautiful thing.) I can feel myself slipping fast, not even good shows or music is bouncing me back.
Still two hours at least until bedtime for her.
Pasting on the happy face is excrutiating when my head is screaming like this.
****
Ok…parental duties fulfilled. She wants to watch a movie, then it will be bedtime. And mommy can crawl into her crypt of a bedroom and do the kickboxing thing with bipolar.
*****


Farewell, Dr. Awesomesauce?

Yes, that’s right—thanks to my new status as a lowly Medicaid patient, it looks like I’m going to have to get all my mental health care from the county. To say I’m sick about it is an understatement; Dr. Awesomesauce has seen me through crisis after crisis and been my port in the storm that is my life with bipolar disorder. Whatever will I do without him?

From what the paperwork says, I can appeal by talking to the powers that be, and of course I will because I’ve been working with the man for three years and needed some pretty intensive management for most of that time. I’m also in the middle of a Social Security disability case and don’t want to change horses in mid-stream. Maybe it will be enough to tip the scales in my favor and maybe not, but it’s the only chance I have of hanging onto my doctor.

Of course, I could stay with him if I could afford to pay for sessions myself, but if that were the case we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. So unless I can convince the bureaucrats of the necessity of maintaining the status quo, I’m SOL. And that makes me incredibly sad.

Everyone who reads this blog know what Dr. A has meant to me. He literally saved my life last fall, and I can’t even imagine it without his guidance, wisdom, humor, and nagging. I wonder how I’ll fare without a regular psychiatrist who knows me like he does. I’m pretty high-maintenance and my treatment is tricky. It’s taken three years and a zillion adjustments to get to where I am now—dear God, what if they want to mess with my meds?

I think what I’ll do is keep my appointment in May; there needs to be good-byes and a sense of closure. In the meantime I’m going to try to get used to the idea of handling yet another major upheaval in my life; I guess I got too long of a break from the festivities and have to suffer for it. Crap.


SAD, Springtime, Mania, and Me

Most people have heard of SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some people get depressed during the winter months due to the shorter, darker days. I don’t tend to get depressed during the winter. Instead, all of my manias (and hospitalizations) have happened during the spring.

I’ve been depressed three times and manic three times. But I have only been hospitalized during the manias. I’ve had a 17-day stay, then a 10-day stay, followed by a 5-day stay. The three hospitalizations have been over the course of the last eight years. During my hospital stays, I've found that most people there are admitted for depression or age-related illnesses like dementia. I have been the only manic person each time.

For me, my manias have been a lot worse than my depressions. I have Bipolar Disorder Type I. What distinguishes type I from type II is the mania; hypomania, a lesser form of mania, defines type II, among other features. WebMD says:
People with bipolar I disorder experience full episodes of mania -- the often severe abnormally elevated mood and behavior described above. These manic symptoms can lead to serious disruptions in life (for example, spending the family fortune, or having an unintended pregnancy). 
In bipolar II disorder, the symptoms of elevated mood never reach full-blown mania. They often pass for extreme cheerfulness, even making someone a lot of fun to be around -- the "life of the party." Not so bad, you might think -- except bipolar II disorder usually involves extensive and disabling periods of  significant depression, which can often be harder to treat than if episodes of hypomania had never occurred.
When I am manic, I am super creative and productive. Ideas come to me easily and often. Ideas about career paths, writing topics, and projects. When I am manic, I spend uncontrollably, racking up thousands upon thousands of dollars on my credit cards. When I am manic, I sleep and eat less than normal. When I am manic, I lose weight. When I am manic, I talk extremely fast. In short, the mania is wholly disruptive to my normal routine.
Jessie, from Saved By the Bell, saying: "I'm so excited!"
My last manic episode occurred in June 2014, mere months ago. Since then, I've returned to "normal", but over the past month I’ve felt the stirrings of mania. I’ve been speaking quickly. I’ve been posting more to social media. I’ve been a bit grandiose. Thankfully, I have not spent any money. I’m still digging out of the tens of thousands of dollars I charged this past summer. But still my sleep has been off.
I’ve had sleep issues since the depression set in in June 2013 (the depression would last a year; insomnia is a common symptom) and it hasn’t reverted back to normal despite me being in a stable mood. I was on Lunesta, a prescription sleeping pill, for the past fourteen months. However, over the past two weeks I have stopped the Lunesta and am now taking Melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement recommended by my psychiatrist. The Lunesta caused intense grogginess. The morning after taking Lunesta I would lie in bed for too many hours of the day, halfway between sleep and wakefulness. I cannot be productive in a permanent state of grogginess and tiredness. The Melatonin has been working okay. But I still wake frequently during the night and I wake super early in the morning. I’m not sure if this sleep pattern is my new normal. Fortunately, my psychiatrist is aware of all of this and is keeping an eye on my mood.

 In short, I have to be careful with my sleep. Keeping consistent sleep hours and getting adequate amounts of sleep is crucial to stave off both depression and mania.

I was out of town at a conference this week. The entire week I was there I had anxiety around my sleep. Lying in bed, I would be thinking about the following: how long will it take me to fall asleep, will I fall asleep, will I be rested in the morning, and will I wake up (thoughts of mortality frighten me from time to time). Mid-panic attack, I called my boyfriend to process the experience. Trying to console me, he offered some suggestions. After hanging up, I did some deep breathing to calm myself down. I believe I fell asleep not too long after. However the next day, when my friends asked me how I was feeling, as I would be presenting a workshop later that day, I shared my anxiety around my sleep and started to cry. Heightened emotions are also a sign of mania for me. One of my friends present who was at the conference with me is also my acupuncturist. Thankfully she was around. She gave me a quick acupressure session and I did some deep breathing and all was right in my world again.
I’m not sure if I’m headed for a manic episode or not, but to be proactive I will be: increasing the frequency of my acupunctureappointments from once every three weeks to once per week for the next month or so and I have appointments with both my psychiatrist and therapist soon. I will also keep to my normal schedule and routine as much as possible.

I’ve written about how I generally love the mania, but I’m not sure that the mania loves me back. I mean, I’m super productive when manic. This summer alone: I started two blogs, wrote a proposal for a charter school, wrote a curriculum for a mental wellness presentation, applied to graduate school for social work, and started a memoir. Yup. I did all of that in three months. But the mania is very disruptive and expensive for me. Not to mention, exhausting -- as I’m sure you can imagine.
I would appreciate not being manic again for a long time to come.

Note: My title is an homage to Ellen Forney’s captivating graphic memoir (comic book memoir) about living and working with bipolar disorder. Check it out: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me.

SAD, Springtime, Mania, and Me

Most people have heard of SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some people get depressed during the winter months due to the shorter, darker days. I don’t tend to get depressed during the winter. Instead, all of my manias (and hospitalizations) have happened during the spring.

I’ve been depressed three times and manic three times. But I have only been hospitalized during the manias. I’ve had a 17-day stay, then a 10-day stay, followed by a 5-day stay. The three hospitalizations have been over the course of the last eight years. During my hospital stays, I've found that most people there are admitted for depression or age-related illnesses like dementia. I have been the only manic person each time.

For me, my manias have been a lot worse than my depressions. I have Bipolar Disorder Type I. What distinguishes type I from type II is the mania; hypomania, a lesser form of mania, defines type II, among other features. WebMD says:
People with bipolar I disorder experience full episodes of mania -- the often severe abnormally elevated mood and behavior described above. These manic symptoms can lead to serious disruptions in life (for example, spending the family fortune, or having an unintended pregnancy). 
In bipolar II disorder, the symptoms of elevated mood never reach full-blown mania. They often pass for extreme cheerfulness, even making someone a lot of fun to be around -- the "life of the party." Not so bad, you might think -- except bipolar II disorder usually involves extensive and disabling periods of  significant depression, which can often be harder to treat than if episodes of hypomania had never occurred.
When I am manic, I am super creative and productive. Ideas come to me easily and often. Ideas about career paths, writing topics, and projects. When I am manic, I spend uncontrollably, racking up thousands upon thousands of dollars on my credit cards. When I am manic, I sleep and eat less than normal. When I am manic, I lose weight. When I am manic, I talk extremely fast. In short, the mania is wholly disruptive to my normal routine.
Jessie, from Saved By the Bell, saying: "I'm so excited!"
My last manic episode occurred in June 2014, mere months ago. Since then, I've returned to "normal", but over the past month I’ve felt the stirrings of mania. I’ve been speaking quickly. I’ve been posting more to social media. I’ve been a bit grandiose. Thankfully, I have not spent any money. I’m still digging out of the tens of thousands of dollars I charged this past summer. But still my sleep has been off.
I’ve had sleep issues since the depression set in in June 2013 (the depression would last a year; insomnia is a common symptom) and it hasn’t reverted back to normal despite me being in a stable mood. I was on Lunesta, a prescription sleeping pill, for the past fourteen months. However, over the past two weeks I have stopped the Lunesta and am now taking Melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement recommended by my psychiatrist. The Lunesta caused intense grogginess. The morning after taking Lunesta I would lie in bed for too many hours of the day, halfway between sleep and wakefulness. I cannot be productive in a permanent state of grogginess and tiredness. The Melatonin has been working okay. But I still wake frequently during the night and I wake super early in the morning. I’m not sure if this sleep pattern is my new normal. Fortunately, my psychiatrist is aware of all of this and is keeping an eye on my mood.

 In short, I have to be careful with my sleep. Keeping consistent sleep hours and getting adequate amounts of sleep is crucial to stave off both depression and mania.

I was out of town at a conference this week. The entire week I was there I had anxiety around my sleep. Lying in bed, I would be thinking about the following: how long will it take me to fall asleep, will I fall asleep, will I be rested in the morning, and will I wake up (thoughts of mortality frighten me from time to time). Mid-panic attack, I called my boyfriend to process the experience. Trying to console me, he offered some suggestions. After hanging up, I did some deep breathing to calm myself down. I believe I fell asleep not too long after. However the next day, when my friends asked me how I was feeling, as I would be presenting a workshop later that day, I shared my anxiety around my sleep and started to cry. Heightened emotions are also a sign of mania for me. One of my friends present who was at the conference with me is also my acupuncturist. Thankfully she was around. She gave me a quick acupressure session and I did some deep breathing and all was right in my world again.
I’m not sure if I’m headed for a manic episode or not, but to be proactive I will be: increasing the frequency of my acupunctureappointments from once every three weeks to once per week for the next month or so and I have appointments with both my psychiatrist and therapist soon. I will also keep to my normal schedule and routine as much as possible.

I’ve written about how I generally love the mania, but I’m not sure that the mania loves me back. I mean, I’m super productive when manic. This summer alone: I started two blogs, wrote a proposal for a charter school, wrote a curriculum for a mental wellness presentation, applied to graduate school for social work, and started a memoir. Yup. I did all of that in three months. But the mania is very disruptive and expensive for me. Not to mention, exhausting -- as I’m sure you can imagine.
I would appreciate not being manic again for a long time to come.

Note: My title is an homage to Ellen Forney’s captivating graphic memoir (comic book memoir) about living and working with bipolar disorder. Check it out: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me.

SAD, Springtime, Mania, and Me

Most people have heard of SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some people get depressed during the winter months due to the shorter, darker days. I don’t tend to get depressed during the winter. Instead, all of my manias (and hospitalizations) have happened during the spring.

I’ve been depressed three times and manic three times. But I have only been hospitalized during the manias. I’ve had a 17-day stay, then a 10-day stay, followed by a 5-day stay. The three hospitalizations have been over the course of the last eight years. During my hospital stays, I've found that most people there are admitted for depression or age-related illnesses like dementia. I have been the only manic person each time.

For me, my manias have been a lot worse than my depressions. I have Bipolar Disorder Type I. What distinguishes type I from type II is the mania; hypomania, a lesser form of mania, defines type II, among other features. WebMD says:
People with bipolar I disorder experience full episodes of mania -- the often severe abnormally elevated mood and behavior described above. These manic symptoms can lead to serious disruptions in life (for example, spending the family fortune, or having an unintended pregnancy). 
In bipolar II disorder, the symptoms of elevated mood never reach full-blown mania. They often pass for extreme cheerfulness, even making someone a lot of fun to be around -- the "life of the party." Not so bad, you might think -- except bipolar II disorder usually involves extensive and disabling periods of  significant depression, which can often be harder to treat than if episodes of hypomania had never occurred.
When I am manic, I am super creative and productive. Ideas come to me easily and often. Ideas about career paths, writing topics, and projects. When I am manic, I spend uncontrollably, racking up thousands upon thousands of dollars on my credit cards. When I am manic, I sleep and eat less than normal. When I am manic, I lose weight. When I am manic, I talk extremely fast. In short, the mania is wholly disruptive to my normal routine.
Jessie, from Saved By the Bell, saying: "I'm so excited!"
My last manic episode occurred in June 2014, mere months ago. Since then, I've returned to "normal", but over the past month I’ve felt the stirrings of mania. I’ve been speaking quickly. I’ve been posting more to social media. I’ve been a bit grandiose. Thankfully, I have not spent any money. I’m still digging out of the tens of thousands of dollars I charged this past summer. But still my sleep has been off.
I’ve had sleep issues since the depression set in in June 2013 (the depression would last a year; insomnia is a common symptom) and it hasn’t reverted back to normal despite me being in a stable mood. I was on Lunesta, a prescription sleeping pill, for the past fourteen months. However, over the past two weeks I have stopped the Lunesta and am now taking Melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement recommended by my psychiatrist. The Lunesta caused intense grogginess. The morning after taking Lunesta I would lie in bed for too many hours of the day, halfway between sleep and wakefulness. I cannot be productive in a permanent state of grogginess and tiredness. The Melatonin has been working okay. But I still wake frequently during the night and I wake super early in the morning. I’m not sure if this sleep pattern is my new normal. Fortunately, my psychiatrist is aware of all of this and is keeping an eye on my mood.

 In short, I have to be careful with my sleep. Keeping consistent sleep hours and getting adequate amounts of sleep is crucial to stave off both depression and mania.

I was out of town at a conference this week. The entire week I was there I had anxiety around my sleep. Lying in bed, I would be thinking about the following: how long will it take me to fall asleep, will I fall asleep, will I be rested in the morning, and will I wake up (thoughts of mortality frighten me from time to time). Mid-panic attack, I called my boyfriend to process the experience. Trying to console me, he offered some suggestions. After hanging up, I did some deep breathing to calm myself down. I believe I fell asleep not too long after. However the next day, when my friends asked me how I was feeling, as I would be presenting a workshop later that day, I shared my anxiety around my sleep and started to cry. Heightened emotions are also a sign of mania for me. One of my friends present who was at the conference with me is also my acupuncturist. Thankfully she was around. She gave me a quick acupressure session and I did some deep breathing and all was right in my world again.
I’m not sure if I’m headed for a manic episode or not, but to be proactive I will be: increasing the frequency of my acupunctureappointments from once every three weeks to once per week for the next month or so and I have appointments with both my psychiatrist and therapist soon. I will also keep to my normal schedule and routine as much as possible.

I’ve written about how I generally love the mania, but I’m not sure that the mania loves me back. I mean, I’m super productive when manic. This summer alone: I started two blogs, wrote a proposal for a charter school, wrote a curriculum for a mental wellness presentation, applied to graduate school for social work, and started a memoir. Yup. I did all of that in three months. But the mania is very disruptive and expensive for me. Not to mention, exhausting -- as I’m sure you can imagine.
I would appreciate not being manic again for a long time to come.

Note: My title is an homage to Ellen Forney’s captivating graphic memoir (comic book memoir) about living and working with bipolar disorder. Check it out: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me.

Questions I answered by mistake…

I thought these were the questions I was supposed to answer for the Leibster Award, but they weren’t. They were the questions that Moze Pray at http://mozepray.com/ answered, she nominated me for the award. I’m posting them anyway!

1.Which is your favourite room in your house/apartment?

My favorite room is my Master Bathroom lol! It’s recently been gutted and redone and I picked white marble, espresso (dark brown) wood vanity and medicine cabinet and mint green walls and accents. It’s really amazing! The rain shower has a window in it!! The second favorite room is my kitchen, also totally gutted and redone, more on that later haha.

2. Who made the greatest difference in your life – good or bad?

This has to be three people for me: my grandmother who gave me unconditional and loads and loads of love, which is what saved me from rack and ruin! My husband who is my rock and has been with me for more than half my life and continues to support me through it all. And my son, who taught me how to love unconditionally and who is a BRILLIANT, handsome, charismatic Law student. And I’m not biased, I’m a very objective mama (haha.)

3. What is the meaning of life?

The meaning of life is to be surrounded with the ones you love and playing in the white sand beaches of a turquoise ocean with an azure blue sky! Also being with all your loved ones in a bright airy house on the outskirts of a forest with hummingbirds by the dozen, morrphing in and out of thin air, and all of us cooking, playing games and talking. :-)

4.When you grow up, who do you want to be like?

I’m 54, so I must have grown up by now. And I’m pretty sure I’m decidedly me. If I wasn’t me, I would like to be hmmmmm have to think about that one…

5. Name the single most irritating thing that happens to you regularly.

When I get awful letters in Scrabble online, like A O O I I I E, dad nabbit that really annoys me!

6. What would you never change about yourself, even if you could?

I would never change the family I come from. Even though there is an INCREDIBLE amount of mental illness in my family (see ” History of mental illness in my family, quite extensive” at: https://bipolar1blog.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/251/) There have been and are extremely intelligent, compassionate, brilliant, loving, creative, innocent people in my family and I wouldn’t give them up for the world.

7. Do you like Jell -O?

I sort of do. Although I don’t like artificial colors and flavors. Jell-O is so much fun that I like it.

8. What are your thoughts on capitalism? (make it short or write a separate post if you have that many thoughts on it)

Well Capitalism, like Communism, seems to be engineering its own downfall. As the difference in incomes of the obscenely rich and the poverty stricken increases and as the wealth of the country gets concentrated more and more in the top 0.1% , (see: US wealth inequality – top 0.1% worth as much as the bottom 90% at: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/nov/13/us-wealth-inequality-top-01-worth-as-much-as-the-bottom-90) I don’t think this is supportable in a society that purports to be a Democracy, I think the Capitalist system is preparing for its own downfall.

9.Who is your favourite musician/band/musical artist?

Well, for Classical music, it’s definitely Mozart. And for pop music, it’s Madonna, Bruno Mars haha and I like Pitbull and 50 Cent as well, haha sorry but I do :-) Oh and Kathleen Battle has a miraculous voice! (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ma_Y91u05Lw)

10. Having done all this work, would you ever accept another award?

Absolutely, I really like nominating bloggers for this award and bringing attention to their blogs. And I also liked being asked my opinion on things, it’s nice to be able to voice your opinion!


I have been nominated for the Leibster Award :-)))

leibster-awardleibster-award

I am nominating You for the Leibster Award because I think you have an amazing blog! Please accept if you’d like and read directions below. <3 <3

I have been nominated for the Leibster Award by Moze Pray http://mozepray.com/ I am honored and I thank you so very much!

The rules of this award are:

Here are the rules:

Each nominee must have under 200 followers

Thank and link to the nominating blog

Answer their 10 questions and propose 10 new ones for your nominees

Nominate 10 blogs and tell them that they’ve been nominated

Write a post containing the questions

Include these rules in the post.

Here are the questions Moze Pray sent me and my answers.

1. What would you like to accomplish with your blog?

I would like for other people with mental illness to know that you can survive, live and even have wonderful moments in your life even if you do have a mental illness. Also I want to categorically remove the stigma that exists about mental illness by sharing my stories and bringing them into the light. I want to remove the stigma by not cowering in shame in the dark!

2. How often do you post to your blog?

Almost every day, sometimes less.

3. Do you still read the newspaper?

I don’t read the paper as in paper printed with ink, but I do read the New York Times, and others online.

4. What’s your stance on fighting stigma regarding mental illness?

I absolutely want to fight stigma. I know mental illness can be scary and difficult to understand by people, it is so for us, people who have mental illness as well. But mental illness is really a physical illness of the brain and as such should be talked about, given due consideration, such as sick leave, and people should realize that a person who has mental illness has an illness of the brain. Also for us, the people who have these god awful illnesses, it should not be about being ashamed. Do people who have heart disease or cancer feel ashamed?

5. What is one place you would like to travel to in the world?

Bali. I’ve seen those dome shamed grass pavilions that stand in the ocean. Oh so amazing!

6. Name something odd about yourself that you do.

I stay up till all hours of the night and have a LOT of trouble waking up :-(

7. Do you like photography?

Funny you should ask! I love, love, love to take pictures. Always have my camera with me. In fact my friend was just telling me that for my wake they will pose me with my camera, ready to take pictures, a la New Orleans (they pose deceased people doing their favorite things haha.)

8. Do you have any pets?

I have a cat who is 19.75 years old. She mostly sleeps now but in her heyday, she was a warrior, a hunter, an acrobat and the most loving, protective cat ever!!! Her sister passed away at 18.5 years of age!!! My most beloved Fluffin and Puffin.

9. Mac or Windows?

Oh definitely Mac! I am typing on a MacBook Air right now, while my iPhone and iPad are right beside me on the table :-)

10. Why did you start a blog?

I wanted to tell my story. I wanted to help others with mental illnesses see that we don’t have to be ashamed. If we tell our stories in the open light of day, then the shame, the stigma, maybe even the dread goes out of them. And we as well as others begin to accept our stories. We help each other with our stories. They give us courage and determination and acceptance and a community.

Here are my 10 questions for the bloggers I nominated:

1) Do you like to read and if so what genre?

2) What is a/the story you’d like to tell?

3) What is your history of mental illness?

4) What is a perfect day for you?

5) What is the hardest thing you’ve done?

6) Do you have kids?

7) What advice would you give to your younger self and what would you say to your older self if you were sitting next to them?

8) Do you like to cook?

9) City or suburbs?

10) Did you go to college and if so what did you study?

I nominate these 10 Bloggers:

https://proudlybipolar.wordpress.com/

http://kittomalley.com/

http://stockdalewolfe.com/

https://bipolardyke.wordpress.com/

https://tiffnvb.wordpress.com/

http://bipolarforlife.me/

https://sexyschizo.wordpress.com/

http://thebipolarmama.com/

https://piecesofbipolar.wordpress.com/

http://takingthemaskoff.com/


what they say about what to say about suicide

How do you like my latest trigger warning?

On a serious note – tw for suicide stuff.

Remember the local bipolar guy who attempted suicide? He’s still in an induced coma and has run out of medical aid. Apparently he took a month and a half’s supply of whatever meds he’s on, washed down with alcohol. They suspect there’s brain damage from it all. Fucking awful for his loved ones.

What could have been said?

Everybody tries to prevent suicide and frequently with slogans like
Hang in there.
Keep on keepin’ on.
It’s gonna be ok.
I’ve said ‘em all myself and heard them said to me too. Maybe they’re not working, maybe we have to rethink the strategy. There’s no stick on the planet that’ll work on someone whose deepest and most desperate desire is to end it all as soon as possible. The carrots don’t seem to be effective either.

“Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”
Not True. You don’t give a suicidal person ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do. SAVE.org

I warbled on about busting the taboo and talking about suicide in my last post about the subject, then I wondered what people are supposed to say to a suicidal person. To be brutally honest, what I want to hear when I am that far down is let me take care of stuff for a while. For me, the urge is about not being able to cope. The answer is not that well loved oh pull yourself together and dig the garden/run 50km/accept Jesus/get a hobby concept. That’s just even more depressing. I reckon I’d maybe feel calmer and more likely to hang on if someone arrived, tidied up and made things welcoming, made tea – simple stuff. Obviously that’s assuming there’s time and no window ledge involved – and assuming it’s me you’re trying to rescue. So in general,  I don’t have a clue wtf anyone should say.

I’m hoping people will comment about their own experiences and what might work/not work for them. There are far too many variables for anything to be remotely accurate overall.

Dr Google to the rescue (or the research, at least), to see what sort of wisdom can be gleaned from a fairly common consensus on the matter.

ASK: Are you having thoughts of suicide?
Myth: Talking about it may give someone the idea. People already have the idea; suicide is constantly in the news media. If you ask a despairing person this question you are doing a good thing for them: you are showing him that you care about him, that you take him seriously, and that you are willing to let him share his pain with you. You are giving him further opportunity to discharge pent up and painful feelings. If the person is having thoughts of suicide, find out how far along his ideation has progressed.
Metanoia.org

The majority of sites I visited advocated asking and talking about it. It makes sense to me – I’d like to add though (and again, this only applies to me, I’m not speaking for anyone else) that I wish suicide had been an open topic of discussion way, way before I ever tried it. I don’t know whether that would have stopped me, but I have a suspicion or hope or something, that it would have given me a bit more clarity. Eh I dunno, just some thoughts.

Sometimes it helps to let your friend know why you are asking. For instance, you might say, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been talking a lot about wanting to be dead. Have you been having thoughts about trying to kill yourself?”
Teen Health

My psychiatrist asks, “and how’s the suicidality,” every now and then. I like the fact that she does and I’m honest with her.

Comfort the person with words of encouragement. Use common sense to offer words of support. Remember that intense emotional pain can be overwhelming, so be as gentle and caring as possible. There is no script to use in situations like these, because each person and each situation is different. Listen carefully, and offer encouraging words when appropriate.

I’ve written about the next piece of advice before too and I still think it’s essential. Preceding and following quote both from Suicide.org

Ask the person, “Are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Have you thought about how you would do it?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Do you have what you need to do it?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Have you thought about when you would do it?”

Here are those four important questions in abbreviated form:
Suicidal?
Method?
Have what you need?
When?
You need to know as much as possible about what is going on in the person’s mind. The more planning that someone has put into a suicide, the greater the risk. If the person has a method and a time in mind, the risk is extremely high and you cannot hesitate to call 911 and ensure that professional treatment is given.

I really like the fact that pretty much all of the info says very clearly, listen. It’s a good idea to start listening efficiently full stop – none of us ought to wait till someone is suicidal before we learn that skill. When I’m at the end of the proverbial tether, I go silent and feel panicky if I’m pushed to talk. There are times also, when problem solving really isn’t the answer. Not always, obviously, but sometimes we simply need to listen without rushing to the conclusion with a solution. Speaking for myself, there are times when I have zero respect for my problems, and for myself for being defeated by them.

If I’m struggling with something that is no struggle at all for you, it’d be good if you simply believed what I said.
I am terrified of …
I can’t cope with …
I am freaking out …
I’m so down I can barely breathe …
Those are things that, on the whole, I probably know how to deal with better than you do. I might even be doing the right stuff at the time. Doesn’t mean I want or need to be alone with it.

And I don’t want to feel any more stupid about it than I already do. I need to remember, in those situations, that I’ve faced gunfire and seen deaths and handled a whole lot that other people can’t. So I get all fucked up over simple admin or whatever – so what?

When I am shown respect as a human being, no matter what a disintegrating fuckup I think I am, it really does help. Perhaps not in any tangible way, but it does. And that’s something that hopefully we all have already, from some people in our lives. I do and it means an enormous amount to me.

There’s also plenty of good stuff out there from the other angle, like 10 things not to say to a suicidal person.

I suppose the thing is to spread the word as far as possible – try saying these things, do not say those things … its impossible to gauge their effectiveness or lack thereof though. It’s too easy to sit and judge from the outside. There’s a preconception that suicides happen due to a lack of love or attention or whatever – and that is certainly not the case. You only have to read Danielle Steele’s account of the tragic loss of her son to see that no matter how much love and support there is, it can still happen.

We need to be brutally realistic about suicide, or else all we are doing is setting ourselves up for heartache.

I have had suicidal ideations since I was very young and it’s still a default setting. After my first attempt, I swore it had given me a new lease on life and that it’d never happen again. Well that’s half a lifetime and a long way away. I still have suicidal ideations; in fact I spend most of my life wishing I wasn’t alive. It’s far from ideal, but you’d be surprised how long those ideations can be managed, before they turn into intentions. Will I have suicidal intentions again? I’m pretty sure I will. Will I go through with it? I don’t know. What would stop me? I don’t know that either. When you get that far down, you can’t even see love. Maybe just hang out with me, hand me coffee and cigarettes. No matter how much energy may eventually go into it, I firmly believe that suicidal people are bone tired people.

Erm, in case anyone feels the need to freak out about that last paragraph, don’t. Remember I promised my dog I’d be alive at least as long as her? Well she’s only two.

I want to be completely open about this stuff – maybe the muggles want/need a better understanding of minds like mine? Idk. But it’s there if it’s ever needed.