Coming Out of the Bipolar Closet

My immediate family is aware of my bipolar diagnosis, I mean, how could they not know? They’ve lived with me and all my explosive outbursts, my teary depression, my ambitious hypomania. But my entire family is not aware. It’s not that I fear rejection, mostly it stems from not really seeing them as much, so I don’t feel as close to them as I’d like. But on Saturday, I went ahead and started a conversation with my beautiful and talented cousin, who lives in another state. She had been writing a blog and stopped because she wasn’t really getting the response she hoped for. I told her she should keep going, to push a little more and then came clean about writing this blog, and about having bipolar, as well.

She handled it as amazingly as I knew she would. She is much younger than me, but she carries herself with such grace and integrity, you would think she was much older. We had a good conversation about bipolar, about writing and about living life the way you want to, without worrying what other people think. I was flattered when she told me she thought I was strong and brave for battling bipolar. But later on, after we had both said our goodbyes, I wondered if I really was brave. I often feel like a cop out for writing anonymously, when there are so many other amazing bipolar writers who are open about their identity. I don’t know that I’ll be revealing my “real” identity anytime soon, but it sure felt good to have that conversation with my cousin. It’s made me think about “coming out” to my entire family, which I think may happen sooner than I ever thought it would.

Revealing my bipolar disorder to my cousin was incredibly freeing and it’s so great that conversations about mental health don’t have to be shameful or forced. I feel reignited as far as advocacy goes, as well.

Readers, have you had good or bad experiences when revealing your diagnosis? Please share your story in the comments!

The Flu

I write this post in the dark, my nose stuffed up, a nasty cough barking out every now and then and aching muscles. Ugh, it’s the flu.
Despite feeling like roadkill I will be going to my therapist appointment later, equipped with tissues, sanitizer and possibly a mask.

Debating discussing my feverish dreams. I usually don’t remember dreams, but the ones I am having in my fitful sleep are interesting to say the least. From my ex fiancee’s girlfriend turning into Ursula from The Little Mermaid to buying a new house with a secret tunnel, they are just plain weird. Maybe they mean something, most likely that the fever cooked my brain.

I feel that illness can often be a sign to slow down, that we push too hard. I am guilty of that for sure. My careful routine to control my bipolar symptoms has gone out the window which has me worried. In any event, just wanted to update you dear readers and remind you to take care of
yourselves!

1825 Days

Tomorrow marks 5 years since my relationship with my ex-fiancee started. It was truly a beautiful start and we had so much promise. He was my best friend, my champion, my greatest supporter. I was so looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him, only to be irreparably broken.

There is no way to explain the way I felt about him. Saying I loved him is too tame a phrase. I felt him in every fiber of my being, and looking at him made my heart swell. I would have followed him to the ends of the Earth (which essentially I did).

I also don’t have words to describe the pain I have felt in the years since we split. I am not the same person I was. I think about all the experiences I had with him, both good and bad, and I am a different person as a result.

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold.” Frodo Baggins, Return of the King
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Crocheting, Coffee and Self Imposed Exile

In the interest of self-care and being in the middle of a rather deep depressive episode, I have stayed home from work for the last 2 days. Part of me just cannot handle going in right now. My self care is in the toilet and I worry about what the call offs will do to both my work record and my check book. But I have to push that aside and recognize that I am at a dangerously low point, one I need to safely get through.

Despite a love/hate relationship with my employer (which I think everyone can relate to) I must say I am blessed to have great health benefits and a wealth of resources for improving my physical and emotional well being. My employer offers a “disease management” program in which they provide additional care and coverage for people suffering from various chronic conditions. It covers everything from diabetes to ALS to depression. Essentially if you follow the care plan they set up and stay compliant on your medications, they reimburse you the cost of office visit copays and drug costs. Needless to say, with my financial situation being a disaster, I was all about signing up for the program. It’s a great relief to know that I can now go back to a more regular therapy schedule and still be able to pay for groceries.

Also, I was able to schedule an appointment with a therapist. I have to wait a bit longer than I’d like to see her, but knowing I have an appointment coming up is a big relief. I spent a lot of the last few days in relative quiet, crocheting, drinking coffee and snuggled up with my cat. I am not over the hurdle yet as far as my depression goes, but I have at least taken steps in the right direction. I want to thank my friends and family, and especially my internet family: Dyane, Kitt, Jen, Jenna and Kat. You all reached out despite your own struggles and knowing you’re all rooting for me certainly helps.

Tomorrow I am going to work, and it’s going to be hard but it’s time to emerge from my exile and try to be a functioning human again.

 

Comparison and Busyness

For a very long time, too long, really, I have been comparing myself to someone. They pray at the shrine of busyness and, as far as I know, do not suffer from mental illness. They love attention and networking. Why I would compare myself to someone I have so little in common with is beyond me. But the depressed mind brings out all the ugly thoughts, all your flaws both internal and external are highlighted. All the things you haven’t done, haven’t succeeded at and things you fear are thrust in your face, filling your mind with inescapable negativity. I am feeling quite paralyzed  by depression at present.

I’d love to be writing another how to post or showcasing a new DIY. There are plenty of coffees I’ve enjoyed that merit a review, but my mind has little light in it right now. All I can see is the dark. I have friends and family I can reach out to, but even that is difficult, I don’t want to be a burden. Mostly I don’t want to admit to myself how far down I am right now. I don’t want to think about hospitalization or more frequent therapy sessions. Even though I know of plenty of free resources available to me to use via NAMI.org, I can’t make myself go through with it. All I want to do is sleep. People tell me to stop comparing myself to others, to stop dwelling on negative thoughts. But my brain isn’t wired like theirs is. I cannot turn off the thoughts, much as I would like to.

So I again reach out to the people reading, my interwebs family. You all understand what I’m going through so well and I appreciate your encouragement.

Making Sense of Suicide

*Trigger Warning. This post contains content that some people may find disturbing*

 

I have only been affected by suicide twice, personally. In my freshman year of high school, one of my classmates committed suicide. We had a large class, so I really didn’t know him much more than passing him in the halls, so I wasn’t profoundly affected. Two days ago, a young girl was brought in by an ambulance. She had committed suicide, but her mother discovered her and called 911 anyways. We exercised all the appropriate measures, but honestly there was nothing to be done. I am surprised by how much this young girl’s death has affected me. I didn’t know her, I simply recognized her as a human being going through insurmountable anguish. To truly put a human face to the enigma that is suicide is startling and powerful. I have been thinking about the young lady most of the weekend.

A fellow bipolar blogger has been suffering for some time. A family illness, inability to keep a job due to her bipolar disorder and financial troubles have her feeling desperate. Fortunately, she made the brave decision to check herself into the hospital and she’s feeling much better. For those who do not suffer from mental illness, suicide seems so selfish, so impossible to understand. There’s no one reason why people contemplate suicide, the reasons are as varied as the person.

As any of you who regularly read my blog know, save my “real life” identity, I am quite open about my struggles with mental illness. I’ve always sought to break down barriers and reduce stigma, to help people feel less alone. In that vein, I am going to share with you one of the most painful experiences of my life, to help explain what can drive a person to suicidal thoughts. I find that open and honest discussion about things can lead to understanding and change, so…here goes:

My ex fiancee and I had broken up.  I will not divulge what set me off because I like not being sued for libel, but it was bad.  The day I found out I came home and exploded. I screamed at the top of my lungs, my face on fire and tears streaming down my face. I have never felt such pure rage. Things got physical and I packed a bag and called a coworker to see if I could spend the night at her house. I went out to the car without telling my ex I was leaving and drove to my coworkers house. I was still crying, still enraged, shaking and nauseated. I was having a hard time finding my coworker’s apartment and that’s when I heard my phone ringing. It was my ex fiancee, looking for me. I refused to answer. I pulled over to get my bearings and was idling not far from a telephone pole. At that moment, there was a crystalline calm as I stared at the telephone pole. I remember thinking I could just slam my car into it. The pain would stop, the embarrassment would end. No more pain. My ex was still calling. I picked up the phone and told him I wanted to die. I hung up and finished driving to my co worker’s house. With her support, I made it through the night safely. There were other very dark nights, but none matched the breathless desperation of that night.

I wish I could say that I have gotten over that pain, that I don’t have dark thoughts every now and again, but I do. I wish I could make my ex understand that I wanted to kill myself. This wasn’t some run of the mill relationship to me, he was in every breath I took and my life will never, ever be the same. I honestly hope that it was worth it to them. I hope maybe that crosses his mind when he’s  having a tender moment with his current girl, that that tender moment nearly came at the cost of my life. Is that mean? Petty and bitter? Probably. But depression spares me no miserable thoughts, so why should I spare them?

What gets me through the dark times is mostly the reminder that the dark times, like everything else, is transitory. Life is a cycle, with ebbs and flows and the light will come back eventually. There are too many things I want to do, too much coffee to drink, too much life to experience to end it. My life’s mantra is “the only way out is through” and I believe there is a reward for all suffering. If you are feeling suicidal, please seek help. There are countless resources available to help you. Stay strong and don’t believe the lies depression tells you.

The Cost of a Migraine

Every little girl has a dream of what she wants to be when she grows up. For many, it’s a lifelong goal and they actually get to do what they want, or at least come very close. For others, our dreams change as we get older and for still others, the dreams never culminate in anything more than that- dreams.

I’ve always been different, never really went with the norm. If you asked me in the 8th grade what I wanted to do, I would tell you in all my 13 year old wisdom that I wanted to be a journalist. I wrote for the school newsletter and fully intended on working on my high school paper, as well. Recalling the fervor with which I believed I could change the world with a scathing article over why we didn’t get lunches when our parents paid tuition embarrasses me now. Then I realized I didn’t want such a passive job, I wanted in on the action, not just to observe and report. I could feel my ideals shifting but it wasn’t clear where I was heading. I would figure it out in time, but my dreams never came to fruition due to one reason. Not my bipolar or depression, not my heart murmur or my thick glasses or my skinny ankles but my migraines.

I got my first migraine when I was 9 years old. I was in school and I asked the teacher if I could use the restroom. The bell dismissing us for the day was about to ring, so she told me I could hold it till then. I was miserably nauseated and I honestly thought my head was going to explode. After the teacher told me to go sit down, I did. And promptly emptied the contents of my stomach onto my desk, the floor, everywhere. Ironically, the teacher who refused to let me go to the bathroom had to clean it up. I stayed home the next day, mortified and sure people would pick on me for the rest of my life and that “puked on desk” would go on My Permanent Record, you know, the record the teachers warned you was on file and would follow you for all eternity. From that point on, I would get migraines every Monday or every first day back at school after a holiday. We only had one bathroom in my house and I recall having to throw up in the basement wash basin because someone else was using the restroom, and always after Monday night dinner.  Fortunately, with time, the nausea went away, but I would still get frequent migraines. Once I got to high school, they were a lot better and I attributed the bad spate of headaches with the stress I felt in junior high from being bullied.

I started working full time right after high school and went to community college part time, not really having a major or any specific goal in mind. Not long after I started working more hours, my migraines increased again. Taking 4 classes at college while working dropped down to just 2 classes and I was getting frustrated. Somewhere in the course of going to school at night after work, I finally figured out what I wanted to do and it surprised me. I wanted to be a firefighter. The college I was at had a fire sciences program, and I was looking at all the requirements, started working out to be up for the physical challenges of the job as well. My parents were surprised but supportive and I decided in fall I would apply for the fire sciences program. Then my migraines launched the worst attack I had ever had in my entire life (until now that is). I would wake up, go to work, sleep immediately when I got home, shower and go back to bed. I barely ate, I dropped to one class at college. It was so bad I used to sneak into a quiet room at my job and sleep for 20 minutes in the hope of reducing the intensity of the migraine. I went to the doctor and the first battery of tests began. I got my wisdom teeth pulled to see if that was contributing. I had allergy testing done, I had a CT scan. I was put on a new medication every 4 weeks and the neurologist simply said he could find no cause. Finally, I had to drop out of college. The next several years of my life involved new medicines, doctor’s visits, counseling and tears.

Years down the road, I found a medicine that worked and it helped me for nearly five years before I had to stop using it due to damage it caused my kidneys. Subsequent medicines proved less effective, but I am here at that desperate place again, hoping my new medicine will be “the one”.  I have accepted that my employer will never give me a perfect attendance award. I have accepted that I will miss out on family get togethers and fun nights out with friends due to my migraines. I have accepted that having a romantic relationship is very difficult both due to my migraines and being bipolar- it’s no fun to be with someone who is always napping, hurting or just miserable. I have never accepted the betrayal of my own body costing me my dream, however.  When a fire engine goes speeding past me, I feel just like Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite, that sadness of your dream passing you by and you’ll never catch it.  Last year, I did get to pretend, though. One of the fire squads that works with my hospital offered to let me ride along for a shift. It was exciting and fun. But it helped cement the finality of it, as well.  Migraines have cost me more than I ever thought they could. I won’t stop fighting them, though. I owe my dream that much, at least- to fight the migraines as bravely as I would have fought a fire.