What Does Mental Illness Look Like?

I came out of the bipolar closet to a work friend today. I knew he would be supportive and non judgmental. But his response kind of irked me, which I know he did not intend. I told him I have bipolar and he said “Oh I wouldn’t have thought that at all”. While he meant nothing wrong with this response, it bugs me. I mean, is a mentally ill person supposed to look a certain way? Are they supposed to have a big neon sign floating above them screaming “BIPOLAR!!!”? Should I be crying more or getting in more arguments to fit a particular idea of mental illness? Should I be writing massive essays about government experiments and chemicals making us sick?

I know I’m probably just being overly sensitive but this is part of why I am careful of who I “come out” to. Stigma and incorrect perceptions of mental illness make me want to hide, to change who I am. Every day I fight to appear “normal” and “pleasant”. It’s exhausting. 1 in 4 Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, which means, undoubtedly, someone in your family or circle of friends is mentally ill.

It’s time to start changing our ideas of who is mentally ill, and just what that means. It’s time to end the stigma and allow people to live their lives as they are, rather than pretending to be something they are not.

OK, end rant.

Downswing

It’s terrifying how quickly dark thoughts can swoop in at times. I’ve been battling with my own body of late, between a stomach virus and migraines and my fibromyalgia. I am pondering filing bankruptcy and things just stink right now. I am willing to admit suicidal thoughts have popped into my head quite a bit of late. I fight them and do something uplifting. I know I’m just in a depression now, that it’s part of the cycle of bipolar. Admittedly I have lapsed on taking my medicines regularly, mostly due to all the physical illnesses I’ve been plagued with.

I get so sick of taking so many medicines. I get sick of not sleeping well. I get sick of never feeling well. I get sick of so many parts of my illnesses. I loathe going into work most days, and being at home isn’t much better. I miss being a kid, of being able to shirk responsibilities and just hide.

What gets me through? prayer, my family, my cat. The online community, music and soft snuggly things all help, too. But it’s still so hard. I am so tired of having to constantly fight. I’m jealous of people who can do what they want physically with no repercussions. I’m jealous of people who can shrug off criticism and bad memories.

I’ve heard that allowing yourself to admit when things are not okay is just as important as recognizing when things are. So that is where I am right now, sad, tired and hurting. But I have survived so much and I know I will survive this rough patch.

Mmm Coffee

I love coffee, in case you weren’t already aware. In my home, I have 4 different methods of brewing and I’m always looking into new brands of coffee and ways to enjoy coffee. I’ve debated getting a french press, but it just seemed a little too complicated for me. However, the fine folks at Ghergich and Company, in collaboration with eReplacement parts created this awesome infographic that shows you exactly how to make a perfect cup of coffee with a french press.

 


Source: eReplacementParts.com

I might just give a french press a shot after seeing this!

I did the right thing… I think

Today I had to make a hard decision: to do what was easy, or to do what was right. Some of my long time readers may recall the gentleman I called The Paramour. We tried to have a romantic relationship, but my bipolar and his alcoholism got in the way. Of late, his drinking is even worse. It’s common knowledge among the people he works with, but no one seems to want to speak up about it. I heard all the talk, and promptly stuck my head in the sand. But I can’t do that anymore.

The Paramour is a paramedic. Substance abuse is unfortunately common in that line of work as a “stress reliever” and way to deal with the crap you see day in and day out. Factor in a family history of alcoholism, and The Paramour is set for disaster. I could not stand the thought of him being drunk and taking care of people, of driving the 5 ton ambulance intoxicated. I contacted a friend of mine in the administration of the medical service The Paramour works for. In confidence, I let them know what was going on. I told her I was speaking up not just on behalf of the safety of those he takes care of, but for his safety as well. She advised me that they would try to get him into an inpatient rehabilitation program.

But now, I feel like a traitor. I feel guilty that he is going to feel blindsided by this. He has many demons he fights, just as we all do and I hope that if he is able to get into a program that he can benefit from it. Tonight will be a sleepless night for sure. I do still care a great deal for him and I will pray that this can be the helping hand he needs. I hope to see him once again as he used to be- happy, healthy and hopeful.

Things I’m Loving Right Now

Maybe it’s the new meds, maybe it’s spring finally arriving, but I feel pretty good. Let me share with you things I’ve been enjoying of late:

  • small batch coffee roasters and small batch indie beauty companies
  • HAIM (the band)
  • spending time on my beauty routine
  • M&M’s
  • “springifying” my home
  • actually feeling attractive and desirable again
  • aromatherapy

I’ve been more successful in quieting the inner critic in my head and much, much better at taking care of myself, though I still have a ways to go in that respect. Please share in the comments if spring’s arrival is helping you, and any things you’re currently loving!

A Little Progress

Yesterday’s outing with dad was tiring, but fun. I’ve been a bit depressed but it seems to be clearing up. Not sure if it’s the sun finally appearing, if it’s me taking time to take care of myself or both, but I’m feeling a little better. One of the first signs I’m getting depressed is I just stop caring what I look like. As you might remember, I used to review green/natural/beauty products and I really enjoyed it. It just got to be too expensive and when I didn’t care what I looked like, I felt like a fraud talking about looking good. I don’t know I’ll be starting to review the items again, but I am at least using them again. For months, it was basic shampoo and soap in the shower, not even putting lotion on in the frigid cold, which dried my skin out something terrible. I simply felt too exhausted and didn’t care. I didn’t wear makeup, even to work and I wore my hair in the same simple style day after day.

I’m sure my crush at work has something to do with my renewed interest in looking good, but it also feels good to do something selfish, like pamper my skin and hair. So, I found a few new organic beauty lines with affordable items to try and I’m back to taking the time to look like a lady. I updated my hairstyle a few days ago and started using real, actual facial cleansing balm. Taking the effort has improved my self esteem a little bit, I was told yesterday that I still pass for a teenager!

I’ve also started to use my essential oils again. I purchased some doTerra oils from Jenn over at bipolarmomlife.com and the lavender is really helping me sleep. Anyone with chronic illness or depression knows that sleep doesn’t come too easily, so glad to say applying some lavender to my feet before bed is definitely helping. I believe I will be taking the lemon with me to work to help me find focus during that midday slump. I am also looking into the Bach Rescue product line for other relaxation aides. Big thanks to my darling Jenna at jenna-kahn.com for her post on aromatherapy items/other non medication sources of help a few months back!

Still struggling with the pain of fibromyalgia, but I think the key to this is to learn to pace myself. I’ve become very good at removing myself from stressful situations, and saying no when something isn’t helpful for me. But I tend to move at about 1000 mph, and I need to learn to slow down or I’ll wear myself out and bring on another flare. I’m also stretching nightly and intend to get back into my full pilates sessions once I finish titrating up on my fibromyalgia medicine.

So, readers, what non-medication sources of relief and relaxation do you use to help cope with mental/physical illness? And how can you tell when things are starting to take a positive turn? Please share in the comments!

Dreams

I’ve been having some irritating dreams and they have put me into a bit of a depression. I once again dreamt of my ex fiancee. It’s like, brain will you PLEASE stop this already. Add this to my intense fibromyalgia pain, and you’ve got me laying in bed, unable to even face the day. It’s hard knowing I cannot do things like I used to, that my body simply will not allow it. I feel so betrayed by both my body and my mind. My small reserves of hope are growing thin. Hoping an outing with my dad will raise my spirits tomorrow.

Hugs to all who are suffering in the universe.