I'm a mentally ill person raising another mentally ill person. With chickens.

Posts tagged ‘Bipolar’

Brave

I’ve been watching American Idol this season, because it’s the (cue stadium announcer voice) FINAL SEASON. I admit to having a love/hate relationship with the show, and can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for the invention of the DVR I probably would have given up on it a long time ago. That fast forward button is what kept me watching (or not watching) through parades of idiots hoping for their fifteen minutes, through Paula, Ellen, and Kara refusing to say anything meaningful, through Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey, and Niki Minaj forgetting to speak English, and through the endless vitriol and narcissism that is Simon Cowell.  I can honestly say that the show today is much improved and I am a bit sad to see it go.

I am also thankful that little fast forward button helped see me through til the end, because I think I am witnessing something great this season, and I would have missed it if that little button hadn’t saved me from all the trash that came before.  I can only imagine what you’re thinking of me right now.  Greatness and Reality television are not synonymous by any stretch of the imagination. And music is subjective, so how dare I tell you that these particular singers are “Great”.  But it’s not the talent that is making it great, and its not the game show format.  I’m seeing something unexpected from the land of all that is fake and vapid and cookie cutter.  I’m seeing BRAVERY shine out of the television, and I am surprised and humbled by it.

 Leaving an abusive man is HARD. Being okay with it is even harder. Twenty-five years later I can barely talk about what happened to me; but, LaPorsha,she OWNS her story, she OWNS her strength, and she KNOWS she deserves someone who likes the things about her that she likes: “my hair, and my church, and my singin'”.  On her home visit she told the women at her former shelter that she sang Mary J. Blige’s No More Drama “for us” and I choked up a bit because I heard my name in that “us”.  Even if LaPorsha didn’t have the hair (that glorious hair!) and the voice, she would still be blessed with strength and bravery.  And the crazy thing is, she isn’t the only one!

LaPorsha has been on my radar from the beginning (with that hair, she may be on NORAD’s radar 😉 ) because her story touched my heart. But when they had the artists tell something about how they came to be artists I didn’t fast forward (probably because I was eating) and I heard something that totally shocked me. Dalton (aka Billy Joe Armstrong 20 some years ago) was talking about how as a kid he would “Feel everything so much more than other kids”. He went on to say that at nine years old he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I couldn’t believe my ears. I actually hit the REWIND button and listened again. Yep, he said bipolar disorder. Wow. Just, WOW.  That may not sound like a big deal to a neurotypical person,  but admitting that you’re bipolar to anyone, let alone millions of people is incredibly brave. I have still told very few of the people I see every day.  I never told anyone at the job I had for almost six years. I told TWO people in my Master’s program, and only one was a professor and she DID use it against me.   The stigma attached to mental illness is real, and its scary. I have a Masters in counseling, and I will never get hired in this town because everyone knows I’m a client. That’s just life. BUT,    since that sound bite Dalton has talked candidly about his disorder, including a conversation with the artist Sia where she states that she is also bipolar, which is truly amazing and a huge step forward for everyone out there dealing with a mental illness and hiding it. We all need to be as brave as Dalton, and as Sia, if we want the stigma to go away. I aim to try harder. This illness is not something to be embarrassed about: It makes me the person I am as much as my blue eyes and my sweet tooth and my inability to get up early and that’s totally fine.

Just a quick step onto my soap box: Bipolar disorder is a disease that unfairly strikes creative minds. There’s even a book about it: Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament  by Kay Redfield Jamison. Entertainers of all kinds have kept this illness a secret and self-medicated with whatever they could get their hands on rather than face the stigma attached to having a mental illness. Far too many brilliant artists have left us too soon, and we wonder why?   Using words like crazy, messed-up, not right, off their rocker, psycho, etc. makes you part of the stigma, and could be keeping someone from seeking help they desperately need.

And because Idol is “pulling out all the stops” for their final season, the brave moments don’t end with Dalton Rappatone.  I have no words for the beauty and pain of Kelly Clarkson’s Piece by Piece, or for how hard it must have been to sing that song, on that stage, while being that pregnant. And hats off to Keith, Harry, and Ryan for being guys who can let real emotion show. Oh, THE FEELS!!!!

 

 

 

 

Awake

I almost missed day one of the A to Z challenge, but since I haven’t gone to sleep yet, I’m calling this good.  And being awake more than usual lately has me concerned, actually, because I think that it is messing with my mood.  I can feel that I am just a bit out of sync, but I can’t quite put my finger on what the problem is.  I’m a little to chatty with people, and I am a bit too rambling in my emails and messages. I THINK mostly only I am noticing it right now, although one of the nurses kind of gave me an odd look today when I got my epidural spinal steroid injection, so I might be talking kind of fast too. And it all comes back to being AWAKE too much, or awake at the wrong times.  Sleep deprivation is a common trigger for a lot of people with mental health issues, and it’s definitely my main trigger.  I think hypomania induced by lack of sleep pretty much describes my time in my Masters program, which wasn’t all bad. I got shit done!!! and for the most part done well, I just crashed really hard after graduation, and it took awhile to bounce back from that crash.  Bigger ups and downs aren’t as catastrophic to my life now that I’m middle aged and maintaining my med regimen all the time. I don’t get fired, or kicked out of places, or flirt with strangers, or drink, so not a lot of risk taking or dangerous behavior anymore.
I think that they’re harder on my overall health though, mentally and physically:  Too much binge eating and avoiding people, too much pain; slow response time, not enough attention span to read a book, forgetting things.  Bipolar in middle age is quieter now than it was in my twenties, but, lying here awake at 3:30AM AWAKE for the I- don’t- know-how-many nights in a row now makes me wonder if quieter is better. This seems somehow more insidious.

Thoughts on purpose

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

–Neil Gaiman

I stumbled across that piece of Neil Gaiman’s commencement address today, and it suited my mood. Partly because I couldn’t really decide what to write about but I didn’t want to skip a day, and partly because of a conversation about mental illness and failure that I had with a friend yesterday.

He brought up the fact that he felt his life was a failure. And usually I can find something positive to say to things like that, but I didn’t want to give him a bunch of BS, so I told him the truth. I struggle with that too. He and I have similar stories: loads of education that was hard-earned, but that is now not going to use because we are at home receiving Social Security Disability benefits. And we need those benefits, because neither one of us can function without medication and regular visits to a psychiatrist. Before I had disability I went without insurance and medication for long periods, two of which ended in the psych ward. That is the reality of mental illness: it has to be treated like any other illness or it’s dangerous. But like any other treatment, psychiatric treatment isn’t without side effects. I’ve had meds that made my weight balloon up, ones that made me constantly nauseous, ones that gave me headaches, ones that gave me “cognitive difficulties”,  ones that kept me awake for days, and ones that made me sleep for days. Finding the right medication combination for a person is really an art, more than a science, and that is one of the things that makes working difficult. The other thing that makes it difficult is the illness itself of course.

I don’t always know that my mood is off. A lot of the time I think something is physically wrong with me because I will be sore or tired or have a stomach ache. But those things can signal depression too. Several of the times I’ve been fired have been for having too many sick days, and that’s more than fair, because I’ve thought I was sick, or maybe stressed myself sick, more times than most people. During my practicum semester at the middle school I had the stomach flu NINE times. And I wasn’t faking, my stomach did act up; I was very stressed out and unhappy and those are conditions that make for all kinds of symptoms to show up. I knew I had a mental illness when I went back for my Master’s, I just underestimated it. I assumed that because things had been quiet for a long time that they would stay quiet.  I hadn’t really challenged myself  in years, and it turned out to be too much. I can run on caffeine and hypomania for a while, but that takes a toll.

I ended up taking a part-time semester after the stomach flu semester and almost didn’t finish my degree. I probably shouldn’t have, seeing how much use it’s getting. But I had plans. That’s where the whole “my life is a failure” thing comes in. I had plans. My friend had plans. Being mentally ill was NOT part of those plans. I don’t know how to tell him his life isn’t a failure because it’s hard to find purpose in mine too.  Yes, I know, I’m a mom and a wife and those are important jobs, but they aren’t all I intended for myself.  In that semester that I cut down to part-time I took a creative writing class in order to still have financial aid and it was the most fun I had throughout my whole Master’s program. It was the most motivated I was too, I actually did assignments ahead of time. It’s been interesting to do this every day, because once in a while I remember little things like that class that was kind of an accident. Maybe it was a “mistake” that I needed to make, so that now, when I’m looking for purpose, I can remember that there’s something I enjoy?

Swirling brain

Sooo.  I thought I was done until after Christmas, but then CT happened and now this morning my kids’ school went on lock-down and I just have a bad case of swirling brain.  That’s what I call it, I think the technical term is “racing thoughts” and all of us bi-polar people get them I guess.  All I know is there is more STUFF in my head than fits, and it makes me rather surly, so I’m going to try to get it out in an orderly fashion.

First of all, I wasn’t going to talk about the Newtown shootings.  I just wasn’t.  I have a daughter in 2nd grade and she truly is a miracle baby and I just can’t even wrap my head around someone doing that to her.  SO I won’t.  I know that’s kind of Scarlett O’Hara thinking, but I just will not think about it if I can help it.

I will however argue til I’m blue in the face about the fact that we need tougher gun control laws.  I think that as our country has become more owned by special interest lobbies regulation of everything protecting the average person has casually–in the name of freedom, no less–gone by the wayside. And the NRA is unfortunately the biggest of the special interest groups.  They spend BILLIONS of dollars every year scaring people into believing that there is an imminent, Nazi-style,  government take-over and that owning a gun will save them from such a fate; their dues and donations foster racial unrest by convincing white America that every brown and black person has an illegally obtained firearm so they must own 10 legally obtained firearms “for protection”.   And are we safer? No.  Because gun violence occurs in homes, between people who know each other.  Because children think guns are like on TV and video games and raid their parents’ arsenals’ and take them to school and to the park and to their rooms.   And does the NRA care that accidents happen? That suicides happen?  That Newtown happened?  Not really.  Do I think that there will actually be a change in gun laws?  Not really.  But I firmly believe that there should be.

Which leads me to my morning.  So shortly after my kids got to school we got School Reach messages (robocalls from our kids’ school).  The first one was from the high school where my son is:  It said that they were on administrative lockdown because of “Facebook posts and a suspicious person”.  The next one was from my daughter’s elementary school saying they were also on administrative lockdown.  These calls, in an attempt to be reassuring I guess, said not to call the school or to come get your child because everything was fine.  Seriously?????  Who would possibly believe that????  About 45 minutes later we got a call from elementary school saying lockdown was over, still don’t call or pick up our children.  Fifteen minutes after that, similar from the HS with emphasis on Aberdeen Police Department having been at the school.  If you knew anything about our police department (officer fired in January for hitting a house with his police car!) you would not find that very reassuring.  And they said they were just going to continue as normal.  GRRRRR.  Seriously, no one was doing much today. just do an early release.    This is a town FULL of guns.  Literally bursting at the seams with them.  Everyone hunts, and dead everything with fur is worth money even if you can’t eat it.  The trap shooting scores are in the paper next to the bowling and softball scores.  GUNS are everywhere.  And every kid has an arsenal they can raid (its scarier when you call it an arsenal, which is what it is!) so if you know a kid wants to go down in flames and take the school with him, AND its the day before Christmas break, fucking call the day.  I know you’re worried about future snow days, but have some priorities!

ANYWAY.  I realize I’m running long, and not making a ton of sense (although I feel MUCH better, thanks)  but I do need to say a word about mental health.  Actually I need to say this:  I do not use racial slurs, or the R word.  I do not use crass names for people of other sexual orientations.  I would like the same courtesy extended to myself please. You do not get to call me crazy, or nuts, or a nutjob, or a whack job, or whacko, or bonkers, or insane (unless you’re my lawyer) or disturbed, or a freakazoid, or a weirdo, or anything else that pops into your mind.  I might call myself any number of those things because I am actually mentally ill, and when I do it its self-deprecating humor.  When you do it, its rude.

Shut up about it already

Blah.  I am in a dull grey sort of mood.  I don’t quite know where to start today, but I feel like I better do something because yesterday I didn’t write anything.  And because I’m currently sharing computer with super gaming addict spouse who will be home soon and then opportunity will be lost for the day.  But blah is about all I have to say.  Sigh.

Last night I was in the mood to rant, but I’m kinda over it now I think.  Here’s the thing:  A lot of the people I know act like I should go back to work, or are super put-out by my disability and medicare.

I won my disability case.  AGAIN.  I was on disability before, for like 10 years.  I went back to work and school because husband complained constantly that my check wasn’t big enough.  Well of course it wasn’t, I’d been a student for most of my life, and I’d been fired from every real job I’d had.  THEN I made too much money (at my part-time job????) to keep said check and its accompanying benefits and got kicked off of disability and had to reapply for it BECAUSE even though I have a Master’s degree now (husband enjoyed student loan checks when starting his business) I’m never going to be a good employee or get hired by anyone here.  I almost didn’t graduate more than once (in both undergraduate and graduate degrees).  I took incompletes and changed internship sites because I couldn’t get a long; I honestly graduated by the skin of my teeth.  And while I’m fairly decent at doing the actual counseling work (I think) I will never ever be able to keep up with the paper work.   On top of that, this is a very small community and I am what’s considered an SPMI (Severely and Persistently Mentally Ill) client.  Everyone in the field knows that, they talk. So who is realistically going to hire me?

I am not going back to work.  I’m not going to jeopardize the small disability check that I just won AGAIN (it is not easy to win a disability case based on a mental illness because you LOOK fine) and the medicare that I desperately need, because other people are unhappy with their financial situations.  I am sorry that you don’t think its fair, but you know what?  I don’t think its fair either.  I would much rather be going to work from 9-5 every day like everyone else.  I had planned on having a career too, you know.  And I would really enjoy having my own money and not having my husband be my payee because I’m not considered responsible.  I don’t think its fair that my brain doesn’t work like everyone elses and only goes warp speed or not at all.  And I really don’t think its fair that my life is almost completely controlled by meds (that are eating my stomach and killing my brain): too much of this and I’m like a 6-year-old with a sugar rush and too little of that and I’m a two-toed sloth.  I can’t make decisions about anything, I’m overwhelmed by everything, and I have almost no control over my own life.  So I am tired of all the “she gets money for free” and “she doesn’t work because she’s lazy” and “when are you going back to work?” shit.   Talk to me about it’s not fair when you want to trade brains.  Otherwise, shut up about it already.