WARNING: Mildly Optimistic Content

I would rather not go into detail about the recent events that have taken place in my life but I will say that they have triggered an overwhelming amount of disappointment and have left me very confused as to the direction my life is going. I am the type of person who is constantly deep in thought and I have the worst habit of getting lost in my head and often times putting myself into unnecessary panic by dwelling on whatever topic come to mind. I do this with everything; work, friends, relationships, family, the future, problems that don’t even exist but I feel I should be prepared for them. (Refer to the URL if you are confused as to why I would do such a thing). It could be the lack of sleep, the unprecedented amount of stress I have been under or maybe I have just slipped into some state of euphoric denial however for the last few days I have had this weird feeling of contentment.

Now this doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone and I’m sure to a lot of people this is more or less late news but for the first time in my life I have felt that maybe it isn’t terrible for me to not know what is going to happen next. I have always found comfort in having a plan, in being prepared but most of all I have always feared the unknown. It never occurred to me (though people have said it many times) how much I have limited myself by always having a plan and refusing to steer away from it, or being prepared for by finding a way to control a situation or that maybe my fear of the unknown roots from my fear of being unable to control the outcome. My job, my relationship, my future- I can’t convince myself of a worst case scenario when I don’t know even know what direction it is going in. I learn from my mistakes but I have made a terrible habit of assuming that the outcome will always be the same. I never just let things be; I always dig deeper, try harder and push further than is at all necessary. Who knows if this is a permanent mindset, I mean being a “realist” has always fit me quite well but I am not ready to give up this oddly comforting and unfamiliar feeling of optimism.

It goes without saying that my positive attitudes in the past have been during a manic-like state but I assure you that I am still fully medicated. The truth is I’m excited. I’m excited that I haven’t felt that sense of regret, and that my unwillingness to give up isn’t driven by refusal to fail but rather my desire to pursue happiness. I am not this person. I am a control freak with a bad case of agoraphobia that is too afraid to fight for what I want. I FOUGHT for nearly a decade for my life. I wanted to change the way people saw those with mental illness but it’s all superficial. I let it control me, still to this day, and that is pretty stupid. So even if it is momentary optimism, it is more than I have ever experienced. So this is when you (yes you) tell me good luck, tell me to put my cigarette out, go make a move, don’t be afraid to fail and have fun?… idk that last one might be pushing it but we will see

The healthy approach to soul searching and chain smoking

When I talk about ‘triggers’ or ‘stressors’ I am referring to all of the factors outside of a chemical imbalance that have an impact on your mental health status.  Work, physical health, financial problems, even the weather can play a role in the way you feel but I think that the most common trigger ( at least in my experience) would be the words or actions of those around us. Whether it is completely unintentional or a complete lack of respect; friends, family, co-workers and spouses (especially) have a way of ‘sparking’ our mental instability.

Like I said, the preexisting chemical imbalance alters the way we perceive certain situations and causes the over sensitivity that makes us more vulnerable to these outside stressors. The mood swings, depression and anxiety caused by mental illness can be unpredictable at times and extremely inconvenient but aside from various treatment options; it is pretty much the least controllable factor. Work stress, sickness, finances… these are also examples of situations that are unavoidable so in the spirit of taking back what we can control we sometimes have to take a look into our own personal lives and recognize the positive and negative impact that certain people/situations have on our state of mind.

People always say that it is best to surround yourself with others who bring positivity to your life and this applies to everyone, not just crazy folks. However, this is easier said than done. Sometimes we are too wrapped up in a situation to recognize that it is toxic and sometimes we are simply unable to let go. And sometimes it is both.

It isn’t uncommon for me to look too far into what a person says or react too quickly when I feel like an offended or hurt, which in some cases doesn’t really take much. I have a tendency to justify or even excuse a person’s behavior due to this inability to interpret certain situations and in doing so I often blame myself for when things get out of hand. I try to be sympathetic to the fact that I am not easy to handle at times and that no one can really understand the things that go through my head which is why I feel guilty and I am often quick to apologize. I have always seen it as strength to be able to recognize my behavior and acknowledge that a person can’t be faulted for not knowing exactly what to say or do. It isn’t until recently that I have come to realize that this approach does not apply to every situation and every person but only to those who are willing to try and do the same.

When you can be open about your illness and the way it affects your life you are giving others the opportunity to see why you are the way you are and why you do the things that you do. It’s not a get out of jail free card but when someone truly cares about you they are not going to hold what you said out of anger or depression against you. There has been so many times that I have let people make me feel guilty or let their insensitivity slide, deep down I knew it was unhealthy but I never wanted to lose someone simply because of my illness. I have spent so much time repeating over and over the things I need(and what others with mental illness need) from those around them and somewhere along the line I began overlooking the behavior that I had tried so desperately to avoid. Little comments that stuck with me for weeks, that tore me down and made me hate everything about myself were somehow irrelevant to the big picture. “There is always something wrong with you.” “Why are you so sensitive?” “I can’t do anything for you so why are you still upset?” “You are fine” “Stop being so dramatic”. It may seem like nothing but when you are already falling apart and feeling vulnerable, this can be enough to throw you over the edge.

To be honest, I am a little embarrassed that I have allowed these kinds of people in my life. I mean I monitor and manage every aspect of my illness in order to stay healthy and yet I have voluntarily allowed these things to come in to my life. I know, I sound a bit dramatic or salty or angry or all of the above but the truth is this is something I DON’T talk about. Until now, not only did I just really need to get it out but it was in the hopes that seeing it in black and white would somehow get the point across. (I say as if I wouldn’t believe myself). So as impossible as it may seem to do so, it is absolutely VITAL that I begin drawing a line and not allowing this toxicity in my life. Why I have let other people come in and make me feel weak when I have spent so long building myself up is beyond me. So this is my New Year’s Resolution (it’s only a little late) I’m going to lean on those that I know will lift me up and not feel inconvenient or less of a person for living with an illness that I never asked for. Basically 2017 is going to be the year I stop being a dumbass.

Conspiracy Theorist or Mentally Unstable..Who really knows?

“What is the worst that could happen?”

“Well, right off the top of my head they are doing construction on the road I need to be on which means a lot of cones and I’ve never hit one but that could really mess my car up and it’s already making a weird noise. And what if I swerve to avoid one and hit one of the construction workers? I would never be able to live with myself not to mention after spending countless hours binge watching Lockup, I can say with all certainty that I am NOT cut out for prison life.”

***

“What does your gut say?”

“That everyone in that car is laughing at me, I’m about to lose my job and my girlfriend isn’t really at the grocery store she’s actually sneaking around with someone else and just doesn’t want to tell me.”

***

“Go with your instinct.”

“In that case, I’ll just be going home now.  My prescription will be there tomorrow and I am positive that I have some extra at home that could get me through.”

***

You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when a situation just doesn’t seem right? It is an instinctual reaction that you can’t ignore or explain. People say to go with what your gut is telling you; trust your instincts but what happens when that uneasy feeling never goes away? Where exactly do you draw the line between what is justifiable fear and what is simply your body’s reaction to the negative thoughts constantly running through your head? It is much more than “bad vibes”; it is a complete obsession with the negative outcome of a situation, one that is so prominent in my mind that it makes me sick to my stomach. The irony, however, is that on numerous occasions I have found myself completely obsessing over how obsessive my thoughts are which has of course led to hundreds of equally counterproductive fears. It has been no secret that I have a very unhealthy way of viewing the world but does it really make me a stronger or braver individual to discard what very well may be my “gut instincts” in an effort to take back control? How much of a compromise is too much when the lines are so blurred? I think by now people have realized that common sense is no match for what your brain is capable of making you believe but if you take a step back and think about some of your own greatest fears it may give you some insight. Being afraid of the dark, heights, spiders; they are all somehow justified by the REAL threat that they impose. So what is the difference other than the fear created through obsessive negative thinking isn’t simply limited to one or two specific things? Car accidents, cheating spouses, even blatant judgment from strangers in public are all common occurrences and share the same likely hood as the lights being turned off or a spider sneaking up on you.

While it may sound like paranoid bullshit, this Is just an example of the way obsessive negative thinking can override rationality and replace it with an overwhelming sense of fear/regret/betrayal that seems so plausible in our minds.  It is agonizing because this way of thinking doesn’t come and go, regardless of your mood or current mental health status- thoughts similar to the ones above NEVER stop. It’s like your brain is stuck on a loop of worst case scenarios.

Obsessing over situations that more than likely will never occur and/or allowing completely fabricated theories (such as infidelity) to seem more justifiable  in your mind then what is actually happening around you can be not only draining but it causes an abundance of heartache and stress that otherwise may not exist. That is the exact reason that people with depression choose to stay in bed all day rather than facing a world they believe is filled with disappointment; this is why people with anxiety find it in possible to breath during any situation that requires social interaction. It isn’t as simple as what people believe.

These thoughts have been just another part of my constant battle with Bipolar Disorder; however, they are one of many symptoms that are not episodic but rather something that I experience every single day. I have spent years of my life learning to manage my illness or better yet learning to cope with how it affects my life and honestly in most aspects I would consider a pat on the back as a fitting gesture for all of my hard work. (I also accept high fives, approving nods and even cash rewards but no pressure).

The point I’m trying to make is just be patient, if someone you love suffers from obsessive negative thinking no matter how annoyed you get just remember that their pain is real and it is something they shouldn’t have to go through alone.

HAPPY MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH

Bipolar- the “where’s waldo?”of Mental Illness

 

At one time or another, I think we’ve all felt like we lost ourselves whether it be to a relationship, demanding schedule or in this case- mental illness. It causes you to feel insecure and uncertain and it seems impossible to find your way back to the life that you have known.  Whether it was  for a short or extended period of time, it’s hard and to anyone who has ever felt this way – I feel ya bro.

It was as if overnight everything that was good in my life had disappeared. I had disappeared. In the beginning of all of this I couldn’t help but feel betrayed by my own mind not to mention completely blindsided by the way my life continued to become more and more hopeless as the weeks came. (That might be a little melodramatic). The problem, and yes I knew, was that it would be a week or two before the fog of depression would pass and even though the hopelessness remained, I was able to remind myself that everything was going to be okay. It is a bittersweet feeling; I know what is wrong but I can’t do a damn thing to change it.  I can’t just will my way through it, click my heels and repeat the phrase “there’s no place like sanity” or simply ignore the fact that my mental wellness had taken an impromptu vacation. What I can do though is fight for the stability that I know exists…which is basically as effective as the other options.

The last few weeks I struggled to keep a grip on reality. I allowed myself to be beaten down by an illness that I was convinced I had overcome. I lost myself; I lost my confidence, my strength, my passion- every characteristic that had once defined me had diminished. I was scared, weak, and vulnerable; basically I was everything that I hated in a person. Deep down I knew it would pass yet I remained consumed with the fear that this would be the time I fell short, this would be the time that wouldn’t be able to fight back and inevitably the illness that haunted me for years would finally win. And as hard as it is to admit there was a part of me that wanted it to. Like I said, I was weak.

It’s like driving through a dark tunnel at night only instead of being in a car, you are in your head and instead of a tunnel, and it’s just your life. Not a GREAT analogy but if I could explain it correctly it is actually quite true. There is no end in sight and no signs to indicate that you are even going in the right direction, it is about that time the panic will ensue. Your heart begins to race, your chest begins to tighten and it becomes nearly impossible to breath. Though you are paranoid of your surroundings, you realize there is familiarity in the darkness- you’ve been there before and survived. THAT is what it feels like to lose yourself to the darkest place in your mind.

Saying that I felt lost is truly the most accurate way to describe what I had been feeling, I began to believe that the person I once was had disappeared forever. Everyday seemed to be painfully longer than the one before so you can imagine how overcome with relief I was when I finally began to feel like me. Despite having battled this illness for so many years, I had never felt such joy as I did in the following days. I was back, not 100%, but enough that I could say with confidence that EVERYTHING was going to be okay. I could breathe again.

The recovery process takes time, your brain is slowly allowing you to take a glimpse back into reality and sometimes that can be just as painful. The people in your life aren’t always able to find the division between you and your illness; I pushed people away, I blew through thousands of dollars with no regards to consequences and my constant paranoia and depression nearly ended my relationship. Feelings of insecurity, guilt and shame are no longer symptoms of irrationality but instead an unfair reminder of how destructive mental illness can be.

Though it may not seem like it at times- I am still kicking this disorders ass every single day. I am putting the pieces of my life back together, as I have done so many times before, and I can’t help but feel thankful that I now have the strength and the mindset to do so.

Your mom is a hoe(and so is mine)

Since we are a week into Mental Health Awareness Month I feel it is kind of important that I actually sit down and write. My mind has been in a not so great place lately and honestly, I don’t feel like such a great example for the mental health community. However, one of the key focuses of the month is the recognition and understanding of the people who suffer from mental illness and the importance of support from the ones around them.  tomorrow is not only Mother’s day but it is also my Mom’s birthday and what better way to avoid buying a card than to (once again) use this blog to express how blessed I am to have her in my life…so…let’s get right into the cheesiness.

My mom and I haven’t always been that close and it actually wasn’t until around the time that I was diagnosed that we really started to build that mother-daughter relationship you hear so much about. A lot of this had to do with the fact that I had this underlining illness and short temper that I know without a doubt made it nearly impossible to get passed the walls that I had built. It is always hard, no matter how old you are, to be able to open up about the thoughts and fears that are racing through your mind and that is especially true when you have NO idea what it is happening to you. I turned to drugs, isolation and denial…but when my life began spinning out of control and I found myself in the darkest place I had ever been, I turned to her and well that’s when everything changed. Now I know that my last post was clearly in a letter format and it isn’t really my style but (not to sound crude) this is sort of directed to her soooo it would just be easier to resort to that.

Mom,

We don’t have a very traditional mother-daughter relationship, we don’t do too many heart-to-hearts and we spend more time joking around and making pop culture references than we do having serious moments. And that is fine with me haha but it is hard to really thank you for everything that you have done without getting a bit emotional.

All jokes aside, if I were to EVER have a child (something I know should be avoided at all cost) I can only hope that they have the respect and admiration for me as the boys and I do for you. You overcame the unimaginable, held our family together and even though your continuous success is a bit obnoxious at times you set a great example for the importance of hard work and dedication. You are, without a doubt, my best friend; you share excitement over the tiniest things and recognize our accomplishments though they hardly compare to what you have achieved. I speak for all three of us when I say that you are an inspiration and that without you, none of us would be where we are today (that is of course, including dad).

It is pretty great to have someone who understands you even when you don’t understand yourself, someone who believes in you when you have completely given up and above ALL, someone who gets your movie reference when no one else did. (You know that’s legit). You lecture me about decisions I make and give me advice even when you know I am not listening, you never answer my phone calls but are quick to call me back when you know it is important (such as Heath Miller’s retirement or political news) but you are also the very first person who knows when I have met my breaking point and the only one who knows how serious that is. You have never once dismissed my struggle with this illness; You embrace the fact that it can be debilitating and you know that something as small as stopping by the pharmacy or bringing me something to eat when you know I am too scared to the leave the house makes a huge difference. I know it isn’t easy, I know it has to hurt you but you never let it show. You don’t know how lonely it gets in my head and it really does mean the world that you are ALWAYS there…

To sum it up mom, I appreciate everything that you do even when I am too wrapped up in my own problems to say so.  I am SO proud of you for what you have been able to accomplish; to go from working as a secretary to being the CFO of a company while owning your own business and NOW starting a whole new one. (Once again, a bit obnoxious) You have built a life from literally nothing, and it’s a damn good one at that, and you did it without anyone else’s help. You have long ago surpassed the mom role; you are my best friend and my hero. My sense of humor, my confidence (well I may have surpassed you on that), my compassion and my intelligence are all direct results of the example you have set. I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day and an even better birthday.

Thank you for being a bad ass

-Your only daughter (and let’s face it, your fav)12417533_10207785017558408_3778652948309051033_n

Appreciation: the rare sighting

To our loved ones,

The irrational fears that keep our minds racing through the night, the debilitating depression that confines us to our beds, the overwhelming emptiness that leaves us gasping for air; You will never fully understand the battles we our facing but to the ones who have stood by our side, this is for you.

I know it hurts and as much as you say that you can’t imagine what it would be like to deal with the nightmare in our minds, we equally struggle with the guilt of knowing our pain is being projected to the ones we love. It may be hard to believe when we are lashing out in anger or blaming you for not feeling what we feel but deep down it truly is the guilt that sometimes fuels our attempts to push you away. By human nature we are programed to protect the ones that we love and our mental illness does not eliminate that desire, in a twisted way, it actually makes it stronger. This is why the ones closest to us are the ones we hurt the most which is why do everything in our effort to push you away. And yet here you are, fighting by our seemingly ungrateful sides, encouraging us to hold on to a reality that has long ago been blurred by darkness- You are the true hero.

Sometimes we are not the best friends or family member  to have, our emotional needs can sometimes overshadow the things going on in your life. There are times when you refrain from discussing your problems because you don’t feel like we care, we can be so consumed with our own struggles that it is a waste of time to even bring up your own. It isn’t fair to you but you never use it against us. You know when to stop pushing us, sometimes a crowded restaurant can be too much and you settle for pizza instead. You respect our need to be alone and are understanding when we break plans. As hard as you try though, we can hear the disappointment in your voice and we are not fooled by your nonchalant responses, we know when you are annoyed. Our expectations seem high but the truth is we are really just surprised you are still around to put up with our shit.

You don’t know how to react; sometimes the things we say are disturbing and even absurd but don’t be confused by the look of desperation in our eyes, we don’t expect you to know the answer. After all, no one obsesses over the details of our lives more than we do. We don’t need to be told everything is okay because the truth is nothing could be further from the truth. You learned overtime that agreeing with our irrational fears in order to make us feel more comfortable can be the most effective kind of support and it’s true. You don’t stare at us blankly nor do you change the subject and ignore what we have said and sometimes that’s all we need. When you suffer from an illness that is defined by its instability, having a strong person to lean on makes all the difference in the world.

It hasn’t always been easy but we have also been forgiving of your words and actions over the years. When you have used words such as “instable, crazy, dramatic”, those were not easily forgotten. You have dismissed our illness as being nothing more than a made up thing and you have turned away in disgust. We don’t hold it against you because as much imperfection as we display we also understand that no one is perfect. You can’t blame yourself for what is happening nor do you have any more control than we do over it. Facing this from the outside must be agony and the fact that you CHOOSE to stick around and fight a fight that is not your own is something that should be recognized. You should know that it does not go unnoticed and the countless sacrifices you have made for us is something that will never be forgotten.

To the family members, coworkers, friends and partners who fought beside a loved one who suffered from mental illness ; your patience and understanding is what makes it possible for us to go on living with this illness and in case we don’t say it enough- Thank you.

Love always,

Your crazy ass loved one

well….that was depressing…

Depression is thought to be caused when the small part of the brain that stores our memories (Hippocampus) is smaller than normal. There are different theories as to what causes the size difference in people with depression, one being that a stress hormone, Cortisol, is being released in larger amounts which would cause extensive damage to this region of the brain. Either way the smaller size slows down the productions of Serotonin which transmit signals to different regions of the brain. This slowed activity is the theory behind the biological causes of depression. Bipolar Depression is caused by a similar abnormal serotonin chemistry only instead of decreased communication it is simply inconsistent. Hence, mood swings. ….

You know, there was a time in my life when learning about the scientific reasoning behind the way I felt offered some relief but for some reason this time it just isn’t doing the trick. I guess I am just so fed up with convincing myself and others that I have overcome this illness because the truth is that it still controls my life and it’s times like this that I feel foolish for believing that it would ever go away. Bipolar depression isn’t something that can be explained; only experienced. I can’t handle emotions let alone try to describe the most painful and darkest place my mind goes to. I don’t talk about these things because I cannot handle the disappointment or feeling of rejection when I am not taken seriously.

Depression has a way of making you question everything around you which is why it is nearly impossible to rationalize between what is real and what your mind has convinced you of. At this point in time there is literally nothing in my life that I feel confident about, everything has lost its meaning and I can truly say that I feel as if I have lost myself completely. For the last few weeks I have slowly been isolating myself from everyone and work is really the only source of social interaction I engage in but it also happens to be the only time I leave the house. I was once filled with motivation, always pushing myself to do more, I had goals and now I can’t seem to stop questioning whether or not any of my hard work was ever going to pay off. My mind is clouded with self-doubt and the overwhelming fear that I will never be the person I was before. This isn’t me, I don’t sit around feeling sorry for myself but I can’t find the strength to get it together. I’m alone for 16 hours a day, I have attempted to reach out to my friends however, I think their inability to grasp the seriousness of the situation keeps them from making any real effort to be there. Not that I blame them, I don’t even want to be around me right now…

It’ll pass…it isn’t a full blown Bipolar episode. I mean it’s not like Depression is a debilitating illness that is the leading cause of disability and effects over 14 million people in the U.S. or anything…psh…regardless, I am desperately holding on the fact that eventually my brain will get it’s ducks in row and I will find myself again. If not then at least I know I qualify for a disability check (optimistic, I know)