Daily Archives: March 23, 2015

Something’s Got To Give

I could feel my mood starting to slide around 4p.m. No trigger. Just like tripping down three or four steps.
I remember the seasonal affect lasted longer than normal last year, too. I kept wondering why I wasn’t snapping out of it. And so I wonder the same this year.
When will this sense of emptiness and hopelessness mid day stop slamming into me?
I suppose the up and down spring weather isn’t helping. One day it’s warm, one day it’s cold, nothing sticks.
And when I get cold I practically shut down. The shivering and inability to ever get warm drives me into this overwhelming urge to bundle up in warm blankets. I was worse off, depression wise, last year. But I was focused, my anxiety was lesser, and my meds were at least serving as a buoy to keep my afloat.

This last two months, I have learned that heightened anxiety, paranoia, an all encompassing depression around the same time every day and complete lack of focus or interest…Leads to one hell of a traffic jam of the brain.
It’s like I’m glued to this spot, I fight and fight and I go nowhere. I’m stuck.
If sheer willpower alone did the trick, I would so kick this depression and anxiety to the bloody curb. I am SICK of feeling this way.


Maybe the new shrink, seeing me in person an april 2nd, will have some ideas on what’s holding me down.
There has GOT to be that magic bullet cocktail of meds that will stabilize me.
And keep me stable. Which hasn’t happened yet for more than a few months at a time.
I wish to God I were one of the people who can tough this shit out without meds. I’ve gotten to the point where nothing is helping so I’m wondering if it’s making it worse. Except experience (and going off my meds impromptu) never leads any place good.
I know I will feel “sobered” for a couple of weeks once the meds are flushed out but I’ll go right back down the rabbit hole. And it will be even worse.
So much as I’d love to give big pharma the middle finger by curing mental illness with candied apples and primal scream therapy…
It’s just not happening for me.

So here I am, in the middle of a metaphoric ocean, treading water day after day, week after week…And I am sore and exhausted and starting to go under and I pull myself up but at some point if something doesn’t give…
I’m gonna go under and I’m not gonna bob back to the surface.
At least with actual drowning there comes a point where you pass out.
Psychological drowning you are awake for the entire time. You scream, thrash, beg for help, berate yourself for not knowing how to swim in the murky waters of mental illness…You grab onto anything that remotely resembles a buoy to cling to in order to stay afloat.

And it becomes so exhausting, you just want to give up, let go, and disappear under the surface.

But what we want and what we do are often very different things and that’s probably on the positive side.

Oh The Memories

I don’t get a lot of side effects from my medication. Weight gain is quick, much faster than when I...

The post Oh The Memories appeared first on Pretending to be What We Are.

Internet Down

My internet was down yesterday but the days I missed before that are all on me. I thought that once I got my computer back it would be even easier to remember to write everyday but I am trying to live life and I got busy actually having fun.

I was playing outside with my dogs, walking and playing on the computer with hubby until the wee hours of the night. I’d like to say I am going to be writing every day going forward but it’s not a promise I can keep. I am going to be writing at least a couple times a week, maybe more.

My mood has been pretty good for the last few days. Normally it is depression that makes me forget things but happiness did it this time so I really just can’t complain.

I go back to my therapists tomorrow then see my shrink 2 days later. I wonder if she heard about my saliva test. I guess I’ll see.

500 Posts

Well, this one is really the 501st, but WordPress just notified me of this milestone yesterday and I can hardly believe it. Five hundred posts, most of which are about my life with bipolar disorder (will I ever run out of stories to tell about that?) but there are also some about my family and friends, doctors, pets, faith, and football. Who knew that entering a blogging contest on a dare would turn into something that I’m still doing on a semi-regular basis almost two years later?

I’m frankly amazed that I’ve been able to sustain interest in it for this long. I have a notoriously short attention span and I have a lot of trouble completing tasks I’ve started. Sometimes it takes me half a day to write a post because I get distracted and have to leave it for a while, which of course does nothing for the continuity of that post. If you’ve been a reader for any length of time, you can probably tell when I’m getting manic because my writing becomes disjointed, like I wrote pieces of the post at different times and then tried to string them together…..which is exactly what happens sometimes.

In the meantime, Will and I are still house-sitting for our son and son-in-law, who are on vacation in the Caribbean as I write this. The mouse is still with us, and the snake is shedding its skin…..yuck. I hope I don’t have to watch when it finally gets hungry and decides to stop playing with him. I know it’s the way nature works, and I don’t like mice any more than I do snakes if truth be told, but I can’t help hoping this one will make it till after we leave.

For their part, the dogs are settling down and not peeing or pooping in the house as much as they did at first. They’ve gotten used to us, and they follow us around the house as devotedly as they do their owners. Then there’s meal time, when even though we feed them at the same time we eat, we have five pairs of hopeful, pleading eyes on us as we finish our food. Still, I miss Rufus, our landlady’s old mutt, and I think Zinnie does too. He’s just as nosy when we’re eating, but at least he doesn’t beg…..just sits on the kitchen floor and looks at us with big brown eyes as if to say “I wouldn’t mind if you dropped that chicken leg on the floor”.

We’ll be here through the 1st, which means I’ll be blogging a little more often because I don’t have to type out posts on my phone like I do at home. This computer is very slow, but it’s still better than the phone. Plus, it keeps my mind off wishing I was on Ethan’s cruise ship!

5 Ways to Support a Trans Person Experiencing Body Dysphoria

Cross-posted via Everyday Feminism

My partner is pounding on the door, begging me to unlock it.

I’m sitting in front of a tall mirror, tears falling quietly down my face, as I clutch my shirt in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other.

The amount of panic my chest has caused me in the last three months has reached a breaking point. I stare, helplessly, at a body that both confuses and terrifies me.

As I look at myself, my body trembling, I’m reminded of the times as a child when I would take the heads off of my Lego characters and place them on different bodies – only this time, the stakes are real, and the stakes are high.

I can recognize my face, but everything else feels so, so wrong.

My partner manages to pick the lock, and they push through the door. Their eyes widen with horror as they realize I’ve been drinking to cope with my dysphoria. They take the bottle from me, and I listen as they hurry down the hall, pouring the vodka into the bathroom sink.

They return and, helping me stand up, wrap a blanket around me, help me into bed, kiss my forehead and say, “I’m not angry. I’m just concerned.” As I mutter a drunken apology, they sigh, propping me up with another pillow. They squeeze me gently.

“We’re going to watch Netflix, we’re going to relax, and everything is going to be okay.”

* * *

Being a trans and genderqueer person who regularly experiences body dysphoria has been a challenge that few people in my life have felt prepared for.

Coping with body dysphoria, let alone helping someone cope, is not something we’re taught or expect to encounter.

Most who know I experience dysphoria never anticipate the extent to which it impacts my life – at my worst, I can spend days holed up in my apartment, suffer panic attacks in the shower, and before I got help, I could even turn to alcohol to cope.

While friends and loved ones can’t take my dysphoria away, they can help me to cope in healthier ways and ride out the inevitable waves. With the support of folks who loved me, we have learned together the best ways to manage my dysphoria – and it has made a huge difference in my life.

So if you’re wondering how to support a trans person in your life who is experiencing body dysphoria, this list of five tips is a great place to start.

1. Engage Compassionately and Validate Their Experience

No two bouts of dysphoria are identical.

The spectrum of emotions we experience with dysphoria can vary time to time, person to person, or even episode to episode. The severity can also range from mild to severe.

Some days, we might feel comfortable in our skin; other days, it can be intolerable.

Keeping all of this in mind, regardless of the severity or focus, it’s vital to validate that person’s experience.

“Is it really that bad?” is never an okay response. “Why can’t you leave your apartment?” is not an okay response either. And “Get over it, we all have insecurities” is absolutely, 100% an awful response.

All of these responses trivialize this person’s pain and suggest that what they are feeling isn’t worth caring about.

What a trans person needs from you is validation.

“I’m sorry this is happening” or “That sounds really awful” are responses that acknowledge this person’s pain – and moreover, validate that it is real and important. This is what we, as trans folks, need from our supporters.

Remember, too, that body dysphoria can impact more than just trans women and trans men. A whole range of identities – including genderqueer folks, agender people, neutrois, bigender, and so on – can all experience dysphoria.

The bottom-line is that every instance of dysphoria is valid and important, no matter who is going through it or how they experience it.

So, please, don’t interrogate, don’t argue, and don’t invalidate. We need—nay, deserve—your compassion.

2. Ask How You Can Help

Every trans person is different, and sometimes what helps us through our dysphoria can vary.

Keeping that in mind, asking the expert – the trans person themselves – is a great place to start if you’re looking to help someone cope with dysphoria.

Some trans folks need to get out of the house to do something fun, while others would shudder at the thought of being in public. Some trans folks might find talking through their dysphoria to be comforting, while others will only be more upset if they engage in a long conversation about it.

It’s best to ask folks what they need when they’re experiencing dysphoria. It’s as simple as saying, “How can I help right now?”

My partner knows that when the dysphoria comes a’knockin’, we’re going to be spending our night watching Parks & Rec or playing Nintendo. Bonus points if there’s popcorn involved.

In some instances, a trans person may need help setting up a GoFundMe for top surgery or may need to brainstorm how to start HRT. Maybe they need help saving up for a new binder. But not every trans person will opt for these things, however. Instead of suggesting a specific intervention, allow them to bring it up. If it’s on their mind, they will tell you so.

Bear in mind that sometimes we don’t know what we need. And that’s okay! That’s when the next tips come in handy.

3. Suggest Distractions or Fun Activities

Bust out the coloring books. Marathon your favorite movies. Order Thai food and play a board game. Brainstorm some fun distractions that can get their mind off the dysphoria – and if there are laughs involved, that’s even better.

Make sure the activities you suggest aren’t triggering.

For example, getting into a swimsuit and going to the pool isn’t always the best idea if you’re having dysphoria related to your body.

Similarly, going to a funhouse full of mirrors might not be so much fun for someone who wants to take their mind off of their body.

If you’re selecting a movie, a documentary about plastic surgery might not be the best choice.

Try to choose an activity that is both enjoyable and far removed from the crisis at hand.

And remember that sometimes we’re not in the mood for fun stuff. If that’s the case, a cup of tea and a shoulder to cry on can be just as helpful, too.

4. Send (Or Bring!) Them a Self-Care Package

Care packages are awesome. They can include delicious snacks, lotions or soaps, cuddly stuffed animals, a favorite movie or book, a journal to write down our feelings, crayons or colored pencils and a sketchbook, or anything you can think of that might be comforting.

Sometimes trans folks don’t want visitors when they’re feeling dysphoric. That’s important to respect – and a great reason to opt for a self-care package if they’re not looking to hang out.

Mailing it or leaving it on their porch (with permission) is a great way of saying, “I care and also respect your boundaries.”

If you know that they aren’t in the mood to cook, you can also offer to send them food from their favorite takeout restaurant – or deliver a meal to them yourself.

If all else fails, an e-gift card to a favorite store can encourage them to treat themselves, and it doesn’t require the creativity of assembling a care package yourself.

5. If Needed, Encourage Them to Seek Help

The day after I drank vodka to cope with my dysphoria, my partner sat me down and helped me schedule a therapy appointment.

Dysphoria is a beast – and sometimes that beast takes more than just willpower to tame.

If your loved one is engaging in harmful or unhealthy coping behaviors, or is grappling with suicidal ideation, it’s time to seek outside help.

A trans-competent therapist, for example, can be an important safety net for a trans person coping with dysphoria; a local support group at an LGBTQIA+ community center can also be a great resource.

In the case of dysphoria accompanied by suicidality, contacting the Trans Lifeline Hotline, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (call 1.800.273.8255 in the US), or if there is a plan and intent to act, calling 911 may be a necessary step. Transgender folks are especially vulnerable as suicide is too often a silent killer in our community.

Sometimes the very best thing you can do for someone you love is encourage them to seek out the resources and support that they need to ensure their wellness in the long term.

* * *

My partner did everything right that night when I made the mistake of drinking to deal with my dysphoria.

They didn’t waste time questioning the legitimacy or extent of my struggle. They didn’t invalidate my pain. Instead, they compassionately expressed their concern without placing judgment on me or my choices. And after making sure I was safe, they helped by comforting me and distracting me.

When the dust settled, they encouraged me to reach out for the professional support that I needed to ensure that nights like these would not happen again.

Dysphoria can be painful, and at times, traumatic. That being said, the support of a loved one can make all the difference.

You may not be able to take away the pain and discomfort that comes with body dysphoria, but with compassion and respect, you can help make the burden just a little bit easier for us to carry.

Sam Dylan Finch a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. He is queer writer, activist, and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to his work at Everyday Feminism, he is also the founder of Let’s Queer Things Up!, his hella queer and very awesome blog. You can learn more about him here and read his articles here. Follow him on Twitter @samdylanfinch.

Slightly Depressed, But Mainly Okay

Man, chronic fatigue really robs my ability to blog, doot doot doot.

I was in to see my psychiatrist today for a routine appointment. The timing was perfect ’cause I’ve been feeling my ability to cope flying out the window. There have been some anxiety and depression spikes, and with how limited chronic fatigue makes me in getting well… anything done, I’m grateful me and the littlest member of the family are alive and mainly clean and fed. This morning hit me particularly hard — we’re probably going to ask my mother-in-law if she wants to come around a few mornings a week to hang out, and so I can get my head space sorted better to handle the rest of the day. I ‘need’ like, an hour and a half to myself to be at the best functional, and some little cute baby is a morning person…

Anyways, my psych is wonderful. I love Dr. K, and she likes me alright. She likes the baby the best and is well chuffed when she comes to appointments (I can’t blame her — I make cute kids). She did fuss at me for not calling her sooner if I’d been feeling poorly, but I assured her that it really started hitting the Crescendo of Crap™® just in time for the appointment. We’d talked about upping my antidepressant dose I saw her and decided to hold off on it, and of course, decided today was the day to go for it. I was on 50mg of sertraline (Zoloft), and now we’ve doubled it to 100mg. We agreed that if it didn’t do enough, we’d up the quetiapine (Seroquel) next time. Or of course, to call if I was really in need. I muttered about my dislike of phones and the husband and I both expressed our issues with them… but I still think it’ll be a long time before mental health access caters to those of us who are panicked by phones (which is pretty much everyone I know with a mental illness, I’m just saying).

Now, I’m sure some of y’all are looking at the chronic fatigue and wondering what happened to my grand master plan to get a Mirena coil put in. Well! The doctor at my surgery who does them first cancelled on me due to emergency, and then again by going on indefinite leave. Fuck. Since we were at the hospital today, we popped by the sexual health clinic to find out where to go next. They don’t do installs, but the lady on reception gave us two leads with her own gushing recommendation based on experience. So we’ll have to chase that up in the near future. Really, I don’t know if Mirena will do what I want, and I’m not concerned about the contraception part of things… but I’m willing to give it a chance.

For now, I’m vaguely alive out there, and hoping that the little boost to my antidepressant kicks in quickly. I hope everyone is doing well out there.


grieving bipolar

I have been thinking about grieving lately. It need not be death. With a serious mental illness, we grieve the loss of wellness, I know I am grieving the loss of my job identity and I lately I am in a phase of grieving a life/body wholeness I sacrificed for a life/spirit wholeness. It is odd, but one can grieve the loss of one’s self as much as one grieves the loss of another. roughghosts

He’s right, of course; all endings merit some form of grief, no matter how unobtrusive. And grief comes with varying levels of heartbreak.

Bipolar smacked me with a nasty case of grief 24hrs after diagnosis; the first 24hrs were spent sitting numb and dumb with a thousand yard stare. I think that had my mother been around, she would have understood – and probably grieved too. As it was, comfort arrived via instant messaging. Not ideal, but at least it was there.


Fortunately, after reading a few blogs about it, I clicked a link to the Crazyboards (not to be confused with Crazymeds) forum. Their sticky post bipolar info said you will experience grief. I was glad to find it, because I’d begun to wonder if I was just a whiny asshole. People kept telling me it was great that I finally had a diagnosis and great that it wasn’t a manageable illness, and there I was, sobbing my socks off and wanting my mum – at age 44.

It was and is very good to have been diagnosed bipolar at last, as opposed to all the depression and PTSD and C-PTSD diagnoses beforehand. I mean, I still have the C-PTSD one, but it didn’t make sense purely alongside depression. Obviously the stigma matters far less than the ability to find focused and accurate treatment. It is very good to know that bipolar is potentially manageable. Actually I wish they’d qualify the whole bipolar is manageable thing in official info; it’s a bit misleading. If potentially manageable sounds too gloomy, they could just add the caveat that it can take time to find the right combination of meds. Otherwise the grief comes with too many aftershocks – my diagnosis got more complex and my prognosis worse and I wasn’t coping well.

Grief arrives, unannounced as usual, with its baggage full of emotional trauma. Consider adding that sort of weight to a disorder that is already far too heavy on emotion, then add the fact that most of the world will roll its eyes and fail to take any part of it seriously. Grief takes over your house, steals your food and then sits around, burping. That’s the initial stage.


I grieved harder when I started to become better informed. Shitty meds and their shitty side effects, an extra financial burden, fear and loneliness, all sorts of physical side effects … and so on und so weiter ad nauseam ad fucking infinitum. And still far too many people react with something along the lines of, mhm, always knew you were crazy/weird. And before, I was quite proud of being perceived as eccentric. Afterwards it just hurt like gaping, bleeding fuckery. I grieved for months, six or so of them. Depression stalked me like a rabid and ravenous wolf. Medication started kicking my ass in a bewildering variety of ways. I read prolifically, ferociously, soaking up info and regurgitated it on to this blog. I had to; it’s the way I learn and process. Website info wasn’t enough, I had to read research papers. My knowledge and attitudes took shape out of the whirling chaos of grief.

I’m well informed now. I know about the history, treatment, neuroscience etc of bipolar. That makes me feel (I hate this feckin’ word) empowered; demons are way less scary once you know exactly what they look like. So that’s me and grief, when it has to do with intangible things. Education and virtual support is how I get help. More experienced people like you and you and yes, even you hiding there in the corner; you’re the ones who soothe and advise me, and bitch with me and laugh with me.

Thank you.



I thought I’d start off discussing my training this weekend by discussing NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is  the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to Americans affected by mental illness. Begun in 1979, NAMI has become the one of the nation’s leading voices on matters pertaining to mental health.

NAMI’s mission is four-fold–education, advocacy, listening, and leading. .NAMI’s education programs are available throughout the country to ensure families, individuals, and educators get support and information about mental illness.  NAMI works to shape national policy for people with mental illness and their families and provides volunteer leaders with the tools, resources and skills necessary to advocate for mental health in all states.  The toll-free NAMI HelpLine allows it to respond personally to hundreds of thousands of requests each year, providing free referral, information and support–often a lifeline to many.  NAMI’s awareness events and activities, including Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), NAMIWalks and other efforts, combat stigma and encourage understanding, and NAMI works with the media constantly to make sure America understands how important mental health is.

NAMI advocates for all who are affected by mental illness, both the individuals and the people in their lives. Their advocacy efforts have led to many victories including securing better funding for the National Institute of Mental Health, protecting access to medications and other treatments in Medicare and Medicaid, and most recently, attaining mental health parity to ensure that mental illness is treated equally to physical illness in most insurance plans

Across the country, trained NAMI volunteers bring  programs to a variety of community settings, from churches to schools to NAMI Affiliates. These programs and support groups provide free education, skills training and support.  One of these is NAMI In Our Own Voice,  a presentation for the  public to promote awareness of mental illness and the possibility of recovery. This program is also available in Spanish, En Nuestra Propia Voz de NAMI.  This program is the one I trained for this past weekend.  It consists of a multimedia presentation of what it is like to live with a mental illness.  Each In Our Own Voice presentation features two speakers, people who suffer from a mental illness, and allows them to speak their experience with mental illness and how it changed their lives.  I learned how to be a presenter and how to speak to different audiences on all aspects of mental health.

Next time I’ll talk about the training in detail–be sure to tune in!

The Hardware and Software of Mental Illness


So I slept shitty again. Kid laying right next to me in bed and still I kept poking her with a metaphoric stick since she wasn’t snorkeling.Then the phone rang at 10:22 p.m. and I looked at the display only because of my mom having had surgery and worrying about that. Instead it was that drunken dickbag whose feelings were so hurt by being called an asshole. Boo hoo. I ignored it. More drunken ramblings I do not need.
So it was snooze and wake, rinse lather repeat.
At 5 a.m. my brain decided it was awake. Never mind my body is aching, the bed is killing my spinal column, and I was freezing and yearning for that extra ninety minutes of nothingness.
NOOO,scumbag brain came out of the gate running. Flurry of thoughts, resentments, anger, exhaustion.

But it got me to thinking…
Human brains are like computers.
Mine is a Compaq circa 2001, running on Windows ME (moody edition.) It’s slow, glitchy, unstable, and cannot keep up with current programs because the hardware simply won’t drive it hard enough.
See, I had that computer, the compaq with ME. It was the moofmobile. Absolute shit. I used it until its pea brain exploded.
I was sooo glad to meet Windows XP.
Unfortunately, minds cannot be purchased new nor upgraded software or hardware wise.

Way I see it, the mood swings are glitches. Missing or corrupt drivers, prevents it all from running smooth. All the psychological baggage is your Malware. Paranoia is your spyware. And anxiety equates as viruses mucking the works up.

No amount of scanning, removing, immunizing, or reformatting can fix faulty brain hardware.

Last year my beloved computer of many many year, Frankenstein, started giving me the blue screen of death and an error message. I of course indulged my Googleitis and the error code essentially meant my hard drive was a goner.
Still, I used it until it either died or committed suicide.
Now I have another one, bought used, and it too has a failing hard drive. Blue screen, shut downs, reboots. It can be fine for days on end but inevitably the death knoll is ringing.
For it, I can easily venture to Amazon, replace the drive.

But what do I do with my failing brain?
I’m pushing it as far as it can go, and much like a hard drive, eventually it just won’t boot up anymore. I WILL get that blue screen of death and every error code known to man.

404 in my case means “stability not found”.

If only I could just upgrade my brain.

My Short Video For The Healthline.com “You’ve Got This” Series.

You've got this!

I made this video for Healthline.com (link below.) It’s a series called “You’ve Got This!” and it’s meant to be a positive inspirational message for people who have been newly diagnosed with bipolar d/o. Here’s the link to the video I made. It was quite an emotional experience, even though it’s short, it brought up a lot of emotions about when I found out I had bipolar d/o and when my brother was diagnosed with it, he was the first one in my family to start showing symptoms of this illness. Sort of a hellish time. We didn’t know what to expect, what was going to happen to my brother. Then I was diagnosed with it. A time of upheaval and terror, really. So I am so happy to be able to offer reassurances to people who are newly diagnosed that things will be fine. It is imperative that they stay in touch with their doctor and follow the doctor’s advice. And their lives will be their own again.