mental illness

Some Sunday Selections

I normally (er… used to normally?) hook up links to my blog during my www. Wednesday feature, but since I’m SO far behind, I figured I’d roll ’em all out here on this lazy Sunday. Or, if you’re like me, you’ve already been up for three hours listening to the Arctic Monkeys and planning blog entries.

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+ I LOVE short stories. There is something about them that is so special; here’s a list compiled by Refinery29 of 30 you need to read… bookmarked and ready to go over here!

+ My friend S posted or sent this McSweeney’s article to me forever ago, and it just knocked me off my feet. It’s a perfect picture of our mental health care system right now, as written by a lady writer whose been through it all. She’s also witty as hell, so read it if you like charming-as-hell writing.

+ Not that I know anyone like this (cough… me), but I’ll just leave this here for anyone who might understand the 11 struggles of being a highly sexual being.

+ Through pure chance, I am apparently a combination of two of my lady heroes’ body-type wise: KimK (hourglass) and Angelina (carrot), and I could not be happier. I also adore how many body types they address in this article. #Refinery29JunkieForLife

+ I will never tire of this highly paid teachers salary math problem floating around on the Internet. Spoiler alert: teachers are so, so, SO underpaid.

+ BLESS THIS POST: 15 things you don’t owe ANYONE.

+ Just sayin’, this dude ain’t a marriage counselor for nothing. He understands why women (or men) leave and/or cheat on the ones they love: lack of attention/gratitude/listening.

+ Because I miss it every day, here’s a compilation of 26 Office quotes that will make you laugh. There are thousands more if you just WATCH THE SHOW!

+ I was appalled to find that the Neutrogena products I’d been using for YEARS were exposed as being horrible for you/NOT WORKING this year, especially since I’m (for the most part) vigilant about sun exposure. EWG has an extensive list of sunscreens that actual work, while also being good for your body.

+ God, I hope this scientifically-proven method of decreasing procrastination works on my concrete-stubborn procrastination tendencies.

+ This beauty article makes me feel so validated about my brow tendencies. Here’s how to keep your brows on FLEEK… and get ’em there if you don’t feel satisfied yet 🙂

+ Please enjoy this puppy photo to brighten your day, or you know, make it brighter.

via jjae

via jjae

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Hopefully I’ve caught up enough to jump back into the www. Wednesday pattern later this week! Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, lovies ❤

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Retail Therapy

This morning, I woke up feeling an extra pound of exhaustion on me for no particular reason, unless that particular reason is life. I laid around, catching up on telly, before finally deciding to get up and get to work on the house. The problem was, I needed more caffeine.

I ran out to the store up the street, ready to start my productive Saturday, only to nearly curb my car because a woman in a tiny Ford somehow took up ALL THE SPACE! I knew everything would be fine with a sugar splurge and a mega dose of the c-stuff, but of course, when I walked up to the door, there was the world’s most infuriating sign. “CASH ONLY. Sorry for the inconvenience!” I made an audible harrumph that was supposed to somehow express how much I didn’t believe their apology and swung back into my car with probably an inappropriate level of anger.

As I had errands to run, I figured I’d just stay out and head to Target to pick up what I needed, treating myself with one or two items with that 5% RED CARD DISCOUNT, WHUDDUP!??!

I started by being “smart,” looking for winter-based work items I needed before I found a section of Marvel shirts and threw almost all of them in my cart. I slowly built a pyramid of more items in my cart, because more and more people started jumping in front of me, acting like massive suckages of human space. The longer I shopped, the more reasons the people around me (and their slow movements or rude cart placement or their screaming children or their bad manners or…) gave me to add another clearance item to my pile.

I started to feel guilty. I needed a pair of winter flats and hadn’t even made it to the shoes yet. I thought “Retail therapy isn’t even real! Stop what you’re doing and put all of this shit back. YOU WILL REGRET THIS DAY FOR ALL ETERNITY!!!!!” P.S. This only prompted me to put one item back.

I finally wound my way to the shoe aisle(s) and instantly found, like, three pairs of loafers I needed wanted. As I was walking further into the shoe tunnel and shopping guilt, a cute, old associate stopped me and asked me if I wanted to buy the pair of boots in his hand.

“They’re only $10,” he said.

“Ah, I’m here for flats. I already have enough boots. TOO many probably!”

“No such thing. You can never have too many shoes!” he said before wandering away to put them elsewhere.

I smiled to myself and kept looking at warm options for my toesies. I was thinking about how much he’d relieved the stress I’d had when he popped around the corner of the new aisle I was in.

“Good thing you didn’t want those boots. We don’t even sell them in our store! Some teenager brought them back to the wrong place!”

I made some poor retort–I was still feeling sorry for myself–as he walked up and inspected my cart.

“Oh, are you getting these? I saw someone just try them on. They’re nice.”

“Thank you!”

“I’m tellin’ you, I could just shop forever. My wife and I went to the Mall of America, you know, in Minnesota, and WOO BOY!”

I asked him how long he stayed.

“A WEEK!” He laughed. “Well, at least it felt like one. It was like a vacation! I’m tellin’ you, I could outshop any woman. I love picking out women’s clothes, even china. My wife told me she’d never met a man that had gone shopping for china.”

“I bet you told her, ‘WELL GET READY FOR A LIFETIME OF IT, HONEY!'”

He laughed, and it felt good. I was finally starting to feel genuinely enriched by our conversation.

“I truly believe you can never do too much shopping,” he added.

“I’m right there with you! Maybe to a detriment.”

“Well, it can really be therapeutic, too,” he said as he smiled knowingly and walked off.

This jolly customer service man had somehow known what I needed to hear. For a second, I wanted to chase him down and ask him the winning lotto numbers for this week. Instead, though, I let him disappear to hopefully help another customer with his comforting word.

I had felt so angry, not only due to the events of the day, but mounting frustration from months of tiny things snowballing. He reminded me that retail therapy really can be just that sometimes: therapy. While there’s a (very) thin border between shopaholism and the former, it’s okay to just spend on yourself sometimes.

So I stopped feeling guilty and added everything I wanted to my cart. And you know what? I left feeling so much lighter and perhaps a bit rejuvenated. To boot, I actually came home with more than a few functional items. I even cleaned the house like I’d intended.

What’s your go-to therapy on a bad day?

 

Be Fearless, Live Fearless

When my long-time friend Liz at FitnessBlondie posted that she would be doing a #BeFearless link-up today, I couldn’t wait to participate. It’s a beautiful thing she’s doing, compiling so many people’s stories about overcoming unimaginable obstacles and surviving at the end of the day. I thought about how many of these trying moments I have had in my life, and I have spent every. single. moment. since the announcement of this link-up trying to pinpoint my most fearless moment.

The thing is, I couldn’t. I still can’t. I cannot hone in on one moment I feel is particularly more fearless than the others because I have had so many of them. I started to stress last night and figured I would come to terms with whatever decision I made in the light of the early morning.

I finally realized upon waking that this lack of a single moment of fearlessness might actually be the best angle to approach the topic of fear (or a lack of it) for me anyway. About how it is so present in my life and so hard every day; about how even the smallest victories of fearlessness deserve a mention.

It’s important to me that this be a part of the #BeFearless movement, because sometimes, other people belittle our accomplishments, and that kind of negativity has to stop. It might be a really big deal for someone to just… wake up, and that should be commended properly.

So here it is: a list of my fearless moments — some big, some small — but all equally important. The most crucial aspect of publishing this list of mine, however, is that I want anyone who reads this to feel just how much your fearless moments matter, even if someone has tried to tell you otherwise. All of the moments you overcome fear are victories, and damn the cynics who belittle ALL of our accomplishments!

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1. I had to choose to live again after losing the first man I loved to a horrible addiction, the man who had already asked my mother if I could one day be his wife. I had my struggles along the way, but I did finish college and started grad school. I did find another love. I did find my happiness and my faith again.

2. I overcame crippling PTSS and the accompanying violent panic attacks. It was hard. I had to fight for my life through therapy, through HELPFUL medicine, through many nights of anxiety and non-sleep. I had to fight against people who told me I was crazy, against people who don’t believe in mental illness, against my own brain’s disruptive and destructive behavior.

3. I had to learn to let go of two mentally abusive relationships in college. I loved the men in them with me so much that I was blind to the fact they were putting me down constantly, making me feel like I was not worthy, and trying to make me feel trapped by pushing away then pulling me right back. I finally realized I wasn’t a fish on a line, and it took a lot of work to let go of people I still had feelings for. The most fearless thing, I think, was letting them back in my life as friends, and I now cherish them both in that role.

4. One of the above scenarios involved me having to make the choice of whether or not I would go through with a pregnancy or not. This is something I have never publicly mentioned, and there are even some people in my family or friends of mine who may or may not know about this event, but in the spirit of this project, I need people to hear it. Since I obviously do not have a child, we all know the path I chose to take. I know it is a divisive topic, but it is a topic others may need support with right now, and that trumps everything else. I am being fearless in this moment of confession alone because what I have to say could save someone else’s life.

I need people to know that it was a horrific thing to go through, especially because I went through it without my partner at the time (another instance of mental abuse on his part). I need people to know that some of my friends were so judgmental that I had to lie to them about what really happened, further deepening my self-loathing. I need people to know that I had postpartum depression, a time my mother says she has NEVER feared more for me, despite all the deep places I’d already struggled through. I need people to know how important support was for me and could be for you. I need people to know I came out the other end realizing I had done the right thing for both of us. I need people to know it is something I will never regret. I need people to know that if you don’t agree with this or me or others who go through the same struggle that we can all still love each other; we can all still live in harmony even if our beliefs don’t align.

5. After ALL of that hurt and pain, I found the courage to love again. It’s cliche as hell, but now I’m in love with my best friend of three years, and I have never felt more appreciated, loved, or healthy.

6. I went, by myself, to a HUGE city I longed to live in and work in for the long haul. It was scary, but I had to do it. I also then made the decision to come back because I needed more time to find myself, to say goodbye, to find love, to spend time with my loved ones. I don’t know which is more fearless, but I know it took a lot of bravery to do both.

7. I finally admitted to myself that many of my health issues probably stemmed from being overweight. Now, if you know me, you probably are thinking “YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN OVERWEIGHT!”, and I would agree 100%. But my genetic frame is much smaller than what I had allowed myself to carry for so many years, so I worked my ass off to lose the weight I needed to to feel healthy. This has brought along a LOT of comments from others such as “Eat a cookie,” “You must be on Adderall,” “You’re too skinny,” each more creative and hurtful than the last. What they don’t understand is that now my heart, digestive, back, and mental health issues are ALL almost completely under control because my frame genetically needs less weight in order to function at its best. I am still learning to be fearless in the face of these comments, but it gets easier every day.

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8. I left a job I loved to start a career I was unsure I could handle. It was horrifying, and I woke up crying many days, but I have found so much happiness and reward in being a high school educator. I have had to be courageous in the face of students, other faculty, administration, parents, and even outsiders who have commented about my style of teaching or my salary. Still, I fought through to find a home in a career I may not have forever, but a career I will always love.

9. I overcame the tremendous mental block I had to go talk to my psychiatrist about my depression returning. I had to suck it up and say “I cannot do this without your help, or I will die.” It took so much effort and the process is still occurring, but without the fearlessness it took to overcome my pride and my illness, I would not be half the person I am writing this today.

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I feel like there are so many other fearless things I could write about, like standing up at the karaoke bar and singing in public for the first time or finally choosing to sleep with someone again for the first time in two years after my heart was broken. I could mention the times I worked through my POTS attacks alone or underwent two horrifying surgeries in one week. I could talk about so much, because so much of what I do… of what we ALL do, every day, is from a place of fearlessness.

Never let someone tell you you aren’t brave enough. You are. You are.

#BeFearless

How I Got My Happiness Back

depression

It’s funny, you know? You can appear to have it all or if you’re really lucky, you can actually have it all. But sometimes it’s not enough; not for your lack of gratitude or love, but because your brain doesn’t register the actualities of happiness. It doesn’t understand “This is what I need, what I want, what I’ve worked so hard for.” It only vomits back “I DON’T FEEL GOOD! EVERYTHING IS GLOOMY, DISGUSTING, AND MEANINGLESS! GO EAT A LOT OF FOOD AND CRY!”

It’s not like I didn’t know something was wrong. I had suspicions I was close to the edge, but I shrugged those off as usual stresses. Besides, I’d had worries all my life, some that even registered with the DSM. I thought I had it under control because I’ve always “had it under control.” Even in the blackest of holes, I’ve somehow found a way to defy physics and light up my darkness. This time, though… this time was different. This time was above me, beyond me. And when I pushed and stretched and struggled to light up the shadows around me, I couldn’t. Sometimes I could muster a flicker, but it couldn’t hold its crappy candle to the depression.

People noticed I was different. They noticed I was sad, exhausted, angry, neurotic, withdrawn. But no one saw the depth of it, not really. They didn’t see me cry silently every day so my roommate couldn’t hear. They didn’t see me yelling and screaming at all of the things that were going wrong. They didn’t see me drowning in a sea of thoughts that even skimmed over the idea of death; not so much in a suicidal manner, but in a “I don’t mean anything to anyone, and everything is pointless, so why am I alive?” kind of way.

One day, I started freaking out when I realized how very little it would take to break me. How easily I could become even less than nothing. If I lost this or I lost that, that would be it. I wouldn’t be able to cope, and those thoughts about doubting aliveness would become believing in the soothing nothingness of death. I was no longer responsible for my own thoughts. I was merely a vessel for my fucked up brain and its malfunctioning internal responses to external stimuli.

I had to change something, but as I’d told every person who told me to just “get better,” it wasn’t as simple as that. Often and violently, I pointed out that “mental illness needs medical attention in the same vein as the flu. You wouldn’t tell someone vomiting to just ‘get over it!'” However, I knew I had to work on myself in the lag time between mental crisis and the first moments the SSRI kicked in. So in spite of myself, though I knew it couldn’t solve all of my despair, I made the effort to start trying to change what small part of my mind I still had control over. Think happy to be happy, you know? Ugh.

It wasn’t easy. It’s strikingly hard to jolt yourself out of a coma, especially when you’re not really in charge of whether you’re awake or not. But sometimes, even when you’re more feeble than you’ve ever been, your pinky finger still finds a notch to hold onto in the side of the tunnel you’re careening into. Sometimes it’s just enough of a grip for you to slowly bring up your ring finger, then your middle and index fingers before you finally have a whole hand holding on to something – anything – again.

I realized through a lot of tears and a lot of talking to my partner about getting better that it was possible to do so through baby steps, despite those steps being the ones I am worst at taking. I had to learn how, which made it seem all the more daunting and painful, but he is the one who really convinced me I could control what parts of me were left unsullied by mental disease. And so I did…

I decided to work out any time I got angry.
And I joined a gym, then spent many weeks grappling the crippling anxiety of returning to public workout life. But when I finally jumped that scary first hurdle, my body immediately thanked me. It begged for more. It started to return to its toned shape, and all my rage and fatigue finally had an outlet. It will always be a struggle for me to make it there after a horrible day, but I also know I will always be one of those {annoying} folks who just finds peace in exercise.

I decided to shower every time I sobbed uncontrollably.
And I did eventually, but it took a long time to get myself in that stall. Once I was there, I found reason. I started being able to work out some things, even if they only stayed under the droplets in the shower. For 15 minutes, I could either completely let go or completely control myself, whichever came more naturally. Both felt good. So did realizing my hair didn’t have to dread horribly if I remembered to tend to it a little more frequently. (Oh, and going to the gym more often actually required me to wash myself. Two birds, right?)

I decided to create after bad days at work.
And I found myself getting better at those creative things I love, remembering practice makes perfect, and strengthening my soul and its drive to push through for greatness. I started writing more, making more items for the shop I hope to own ever-so-soon, and I started cooking dinner for myself again. I started doing, doing, and doing, but only if it was something I wanted to create, something I thought would make me better.

I decided to laugh when it hurt. I decided to get up and sing. I decided to walk and snuggle with my dog more. I decided to eat better. I decided to get up and leave when I didn’t like the environment. I decided to forgive. I decided to let go of toxic waste. I decided to realize what a beautiful life I had built. I decided to live.

Tired of Tired

I’m tired.

I’m tired of not appreciating enough the only job that will have me. I’m tired of not having money. I’m tired of working too hard to make the career I DO want for myself. I’m tired of being told “sometimes you have to do things in life you don’t want to do,” just to turn around and alternatively be told “life’s too short, so do what you love.” I’m tired of asking for help and not getting any. I’m tired of being told to ask for help after I’ve already asked. I’m tired of busting my ass to make an occupation I love and getting door after door slammed in my face. I’m tired of people telling me “you must not be working hard enough, then.”

I’m tired.

I’m tired of feeling anxious and worried all the time. I’m tired of explaining those things stem from illness. I’m tired of explaining that yes, mental illness is real. I’m tired of feeling sick all the time. I’m tired of doctors telling me I’m okay when I feel so distinctly un-okay. I’m tired of feeling fatigue on 3 or 8 or 10 hours of sleep. I’m tired of internally hating my sicknesses when I love my self and my body so much. I’m tired of being told to walk it off, work through it, get over it. I’m tired of searching for a solution and finding the same old lines fed to me by professionals who haven’t ever had their mind and body fighting against them. I’m tired of not getting to enjoy life because I’m bound by invisible chains of pain.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of being the last one. I’m tired of being a best friend, but not THE best friend. I’m tired of being alone and lonely, one or the other or both. I’m tired of waiting in the wings. I’m tired of putting myself out there too often, too far. I’m tired of having to go back into hiding. I’m tired of always caring, but never being cared for. I’m tired of missing people, even when some of those people are still right in front of me. I’m tired of calling, texting, emailing, chatting. I’m tired of letting all of it slide, letting everyone think it’s okay to put me last. I’m tired of being unsupported.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of crying. I’m tired of knowing where I should be, yet not having the means to get there. I’m tired of knowing who and what makes me happy, yet unimportant realities get priority, get in the way when they shouldn’t. I’m tired of apologizing. I’m tired of trying to fit my round personality into a boring square hole. I’m tired of screaming. I’m tired of not fulfilling my potential in life for reasons I don’t understand, but reasons that nonetheless weigh so heavily on my shoulders every day.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of knowing I’m good enough and falling on my face every. single. time. I’m tired of being told to grow up, to stop caring, to get over it, to let go of my dreams. I’m tired of a lack of faith, of hope, of connection, of love. I’m tired of pleasing others who say they know what’s best for me. I’m tired of being told I’m not capable of knowing what is best for myself. I’m tired of standing up for myself. I’m tired of being anyone other than myself.

I’m tired of being tired.

A Tale of Woe

I wish I had the comedic efforts of Allie Brosh to aid in this tale, but alas, I am not in a place of creativeness; if I were, could I even begin to write/illustrate something as magnificent, yet touching, as these entries? I hope so, but know the answer is “LOL, probably not, girl.”

On with the tale…

It all started sometime last year, when I started feeling something of a quarter-life crisis. I was happy with the good parts of my life, but couldn’t shake the funk of the bad parts. In fact, I often let the stuff bothering me eclipse the stuff that made me smile. It left me in a series of funks, but every time I found my way out, so I figured it was just self-pity or a part of growing up.

Not so long ago, I felt better for a lengthier period of time than I had for as long as I can remember. My life started to go on an upswing: I figured out some of what I wanted to do and who I wanted to do it with. I felt mostly okay, but there would always be something…

That something was and is normally me overthinking any and everything. It’s how I’ve always been, and on occasion, it can be helpful. But there are the other times, most times, when I overthink something that has little importance in reality, or overanalyze someone’s actions for stupid reasons. Times when I can’t stop the thoughts, as irrational as they sound even to myself. Times when I can’t find happiness or any other emotion, even when I want to.

via Hyperbole and a Half

I alternate between non-stop movement and sloth-like slowness, physically and mentally speaking, both accompanied with this astounding fatigue that feels like it has been here since I was born. I am never quite manic, but I’m never quite depressed either. Must mean the irritability, the paranoia, the anxiety, the sadness, the nothingness, the tiredness, and all the ups and downs and in-betweens must be normal, right? It’s totally normal to feel nothing about a new job. It’s totally normal to slouch in non-productiveness all day because you feel like an ocean is sitting on top of you. It’s totally normal because it’s not noticeably or dangerously abnormal. Right? RIGHT?!

I’ll take wrong for $500, Alex.

After a series of events and lots of chats with my truth-sayer, I realized the reactions I have, while somewhat a part of who I am, are still not necessarily normal. It’s like I have a five-course Brinner in front of me all the time and I just think, “Huh, I really could care less about the delicious and copious ways in which crispy bacon has been utilized in this meal.” But then sometimes I think “THERE IS NO WAY THIS IS MINE. SOMETHING MUST BE WRONG. THERE MUST BE SOMETHING HIDDEN UNDER THIS TABLE! THE CHEFS ARE PROBZ POISONING ME! GOOD BRINNER JUST DOESN’T FALL INTO MY LAP!” And other times I’m like “Oh, man, I really hope all the animals that died to make this didn’t have large families, and golly, I really hope these carbs don’t clog my arteries and give me a heart attack, and SHIT, I should probably make sure that everyone else at Brinner has their meals taken care of first, and OMG! I can’t believe the chef hasn’t come out of the kitchen to check on us yet. Do you think he’s okay? He’s probably burning alive.”

It’s exhausting to read. It’s exhausting to write. It’s exhausting to live. I mean really, who can’t just sit back and enjoy the bacon, no matter the circumstances? You should be able to… but I can’t. Why?

In good faith, I headed to my always-trusty Internet to start investigating the process of fixin’-uppin’. After a few duds, I found a somewhat decent and free online test to take to begin to narrow down what my mind’s ailment could be. I knew I couldn’t be bi-polar, but everything seemed somewhat similar; a distant cousin of the disorder perhaps. And while I did score high on said disorder, I also scored high on something called Cyclothymia.

To be crass, cyclothymia is like bi-polar lite. If bi-polar were the Catholic church, I’d be Episcopalian. Of course, I have to be diagnosed. I have an appointment to chat with my trusty psych later this month to hopefully do that, but I honestly don’t know what the course will be. I do know that it’s a step.

That step is a crucial one, but it’s not where this journey starts, and most certainly not where it ends. I also have to start making decisions that make me happy, and more importantly, decisions simply to be happy — a hard fight, but one I think I can win. And this happiness must be based on my own notions, not some pre-described ones my friends, or my family, or even society as a whole may try to force upon me. I need to find my happy to find my way back to myself.

So goes my tale of woe. I know it’s not the worst there’s ever been, nor the worst there will ever be. But I do think it’s an important tale to tell because as someone who has lived it for a long time, it can be really hard to admit to yourself something is wrong. It can also be even harder to notice something is wrong to begin with. Luckily, I have a person to kick my ass in gear, but if you don’t… well, here I am:

Get your ass in gear! Take a test. Call a number. Make an appointment. Mental health is still health. E’rrybody got time fo’ dat.