May I Just Say (An Eloquent Editorial)


I go to a support group for people living with bipolar and depression (often co-occuring with other mental health challenges) and have been noticing a trend lately. I’ve been noticing this trend in my personal life as well, and thought I’d just address it because it’s ridiculous.

Please do not tell people with mental disorders how to treat said disorder.

Honestly…just mind your own damn business. Unless you’re my doctor, you have absolutely no right or authority to tell me how to take care of myself.  I’m specifically addressing people who think it’s their right to tell others to stay off medication.

I have Bipolar II. I take medications to stabilize my severe mood swings, which at times have led me into the darkest places imaginable. I really, truly don’t think I would be alive right now if not for my medication. I see a therapist, and she’s also life-saving. My support group is absolutely essential to maintaining stability. These three things, combined with a good diet and not living a sedentary lifestyle, are the reason I’m happy to say I’m very stable at this current moment.

What people don’t understand about me, what they don’t see when I’m alone and at my worst, is that I work my fucking ass off to stay sane. It’s offensive that people think they are allowed to tell me how to handle my life. It’s offensive that one of my support group peers was told by a naturopathic doctor to discontinue his lithium and antipsychotics. I understand having differing points of view, and I understand that when someone finds something that works for them they want to share it. I also understand if you’re suffering with the same mental illness and sharing about your own experience. But if you know nothing about the mental illness you’re trying to treat without the proper education, you just don’t get to casually suggest that people go off of their life-saving medication.

I don’t want to hear it. My life has been hell for the entirety of 2017. I’ve also struggled through some extremely dark periods throughout my adult life before my diagnosis. I’ve had hypomanic and depressive episodes while unmedicated, and I remember them and shiver. Being inside my mind during those episodes is absolutely fucking terrifying. I honestly find it disgusting and negligent that anyone would try to tell me to medicate with herbs or non-FDA-approved supplements or berries or kale or marijuana or skydiving or dolphin therapy or space exploration.

I’m skeptical of medication. Truly, I am. I’ve told doctors I will not take certain drugs because of their potential side effects and lack of research on them. But the side effects of being inside my brain are sometimes much more dangerous than the ones inside of a pill. I’ve researched. I’ve weighed the costs and benefits. I’m an adult who has made an adult decision to save my own life.

So stay the fuck out of it, ya know?

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Webs


Three spiders have made their homes outside my apartment windows. Sometimes, I watch them spin their webs in the dark, orange streetlights barely illuminating the fibers. Usually they’re sheltered from the rainy Oregon weather but every so often, when it rains sideways, huge holes appear in the meticulously symmetrical designs. I’m always so amazed at the spiders’ diligence. They never stop. They’re never deterred. I’m assuming they’re never discouraged, though I don’t have much understanding of spider brains and emotions.

I’m proud of them. I’m inspired by them. They’re my little friends, my little roommates, and I root for them every night while I fall asleep. I hope they know how much I care about them. I hope they know how much they matter to me.

I hope they feel me, silently cheering them on in solidarity, because if they can rebuild, so can I.

I Live in Mist


What is it about weather that inspires us to write? More specifically, why are we always moved by rain? I suppose rain symbolizes new beginnings as it cleans the streets and helps the crops and flowers grow. I think there’s something more, some other reason that we like to write poems and songs and entire novels about rain. But I have a feeling that by the end of this particular post, that reason will remain a mystery to me.

It’s absolutely pouring here. Monsoon status rain outside my window…and I don’t take monsoon rains lightly, having been caught in several during my stay in India…but I don’t think I’ve ever seen rain this powerful in this tiny little town, and I just love it. All my windows are open, and I went outside on my tiny porch to feel the mist on my face. It’s just…wonderful. It made me write.

I’m scared and anxious lately because I move out of my college town in three days, and within a few weeks will be living in Portland. I want everything to be for sure: I want a nice, cheap apartment in a good part of town. I want a job (literally any job). I want to be happy there. I want to know things about my future in Portland, but unfortunately that’s the weird part about making plans for the future…you never really know anything until it becomes the present. It’s exciting, all those unknowns, but in another sense it’s really really not. It’s just terrifying.

I went to India basically on a whim. I mean, I was heavily invested in going, and I researched a lot, but there’s no way to be prepared for what India presents you with. I just sort of showed up, very white and very naive, with a lot of sunscreen and Pepto Bismol in my suitcase. And I was fine. I survived. I got e. Coli, which was absolutely horrific and not really an experience I’d recommend to a friend, but I totally survived. And I loved my time in India. Every experience was new and exciting, every conversation challenging and beautiful.

So I guess I just need to pretend that this massive new step in my life is like traveling to India. It’ll probably be easier, now that I think of it. I’m relocating from one town in the Pacific Northwest to another (albeit much larger) city. My apartment was dingy, plain, and randomly full of tiny lizards in India…wherever I live in Oregon will be a step up. I’ll have my health. I’ll have a fantastic roommate who cares about me and will look out for me if needed. I’ll have every new opportunity I could ever imaging presenting itself to me, all while wearing the cool vibe of Portlandia…

I’m still terrified. But maybe I can be terrified in a way that at least puts things into perspective. I had this same mini-panic a few weeks before I went to India…this time last year, actually. I just sat there and thought, “I cannot do this.” But I did it. I’m kinda awesome.

It’ll be more than fine. This new part of my life is going to be epic. 

You guys, I figured it out. Just now, totally unexpectedly as a breeze ran through the window I’m sitting next to: it’s rain smell. Rain smell, combined with all those other cleansing qualities and new opportunities that rain represents. It’s rain smell that inspires us, with its woody, green notes and crisp coldness. No matter where I travel, rain smells like the Pacific Northwest. Even when I was in India, rain brought me home.

The Rebirth


It’s been two years, either today or yesterday, since life meant very little to me. Two years since I broke and my mother had to take a plane at 6 a.m. to be with me, to keep me safe and protected. Two years since I started rebuilding.

I never expected any of that to happen, and I would honestly prefer that I hadn’t felt that much pain and suffering and absolute nothingness, because it’s the absolute worst, so don’t start thinking it was a positive experience at the time. But I also know I would not be who I am today without those horrible experiences.

“Everything happens for a reason” is an obnoxiously common saying, and usually I think it’s a bit of a cop out, a way to distance ourselves from pain and confusion. But in a different way, perhaps a more subtle one, I believe it. Life is one long chain of events, each tiny action creating reactions and waves. It’s not just that I wouldn’t attend this particular university on this career path with these friends; it’s that I, as I exist in this moment, would not exist. I wouldn’t understand my inner self in the same way (in fact, that inner self would be very different indeed) and I would not have the same outlook on life that I do right now.

That other person, that child who existed pre-December 2011, would have been lovely too, and I know that wherever she exists — perhaps in an alternate universe — she is absolutely striking. But she is not who I was meant to become.

I’m so happy with who I am and the path I have chosen. Something inside me — some slumbering beast of peace — awoke two years ago and has been struggling to the forefront of my consciousness ever since. I surprise myself lately, in the most exciting and breathtaking way, by how at peace I feel. Every discovery I have made — in Hinduism, in my daily life, in understanding myself — existed in that beast and absolutely exploded into being these past few months.

I am so perfectly flawed and so determined to work through the knots I hold inside, and I honestly gasp sometimes when I realize…I am fulfilling this destiny of sorts. I am becoming me. I never realized I didn’t know who I was until I met myself — I wasn’t lost until I was found.

I will question “why me” in the future, I’m sure, when something terrible happens and I feel broken again. But never again will I look to the past and see tragedy; it was only opportunity of the most brutal nature that allowed me to feel so utterly free.

This earth is so much, so gorgeous, so overwhelming. Sometimes I drink it in and realize I can’t stop and I drown a little, blinking into the sun and choking on the cold. I remember a time when even the heaviest downpours felt like nothing, just another burden to bear. Now, I welcome the sleet as another excuse to feel every nerve in my body vibrate.

“Namaste:” the light in me greets the light in you. Now I have found my inner light.

So Here’s Something…


I was packing today (I leave in 3 days, y’all…going back to college!) and came across an old diary from two years ago. I hadn’t seen it in years, and I read through the whole thing.

It detailed everything from getting asked to prom to being “dumped” by my prom date a few weeks after the actual dance to getting my first kiss (yeah, that seems a little out of order, but that’s how I live my life) to having my first boyfriend to going to college to…and then it stopped. And as I write this, I realize it was  that time, October 2011, when everything slid downhill. It’s funny when you’re so ecstatically happy and in love with someone and in love with your life, and then suddenly you want it to end. I’ve contemplated this so many times on this blog, each time gradually a little deeper, a little darker maybe, but I’ve never written about this because I’ve actually never thought about this. This post was supposed to go in an entirely different direction, but I may have just had a revelation.

I’ve thought about how terrible I felt at the time. How I couldn’t get out of bed, and how my relationships with everyone but about 3 people suffered dramatically, and how I ate stale, dry cereal in bed one night for dinner because I didn’t want to leave my room. And I’ve thought about how terribly tragic that all was, but I’ve always thought about it like it happened to someone else. In a way, it did, because I wasn’t myself. But depression is scary in one specific way: there is no outside force acting against you. Sure, maybe you’re Vitamin D deficient, maybe you had a traumatizing life event, and those are outside forces, but it isn’t a bacteria, it wasn’t a car crash, it isn’t something you had happen to you.

It is you. Or it feels that way, anyway.

I remember thinking I was eating away at myself. Having spurts of thoughts like I am doing this to myself. Having other moments where I liked feeling so miserable because at least I felt something. Not wanting the panic attacks to go away because I didn’t know how to define myself without them. Not caring that I was being destroyed because I had nothing to be whole for anymore. 

I’ve never really talked to my father about this. I had a really amazing conversation with another blogger about it, and they said they’d never talked to certain members of their family about their suicide attempt even though it must’ve been at least 25 years since. It’s weird…we can’t tell the people we love but we can tell strangers. It’s no fault of mine, and it’s no fault of my father’s, but I’ve just never really told him. And it’s been almost two years, and sometimes it feels too late to bring it up because it’s over. But I think I’m still a little traumatized by the realization that at one point I didn’t want to live anymore.

I think it somehow makes it hard to explain to someone that you had suicidal thoughts because doesn’t everyone? Doesn’t everyone have that moment when they’re looking over a bridge and they have the urge to fling themselves down into the abyss below? Well, sure, those thoughts happen all the time. But they arise from changing levels of adrenaline or something, and you would never just chuck yourself off a bridge on a whim.

You might swallow a whole bottle of pills, though, and fall asleep forever. You might think about that in the middle of the night after a panic attack. You might take a few extra of those pills, pills you were supposed to take for sleeping, and see how deep you could go, knowing you’d wake up because 3 isn’t an overdose but 30 is. 

I always thought it’d be more dramatic, like you see in movies. The heroine, tears dripping down her face, picks up a bottle of pills, closes her eyes, raises the bottle, and…slams them onto a table. No. I won’t do it. But real life is seldom so concrete or exciting. I thought about it, long and hard, wondering what my family would do without me, deciding that they’d be fine. I thought about it, but…I couldn’t get out of bed to do it. I couldn’t fight the depression long enough to end it. And that part is the only part that seems dramatic to me. It might fit into a movie. “I couldn’t fight the terrible weight pushing down on me, George,” Selma said in her light Southern drawl. “I couldn’t move to numb the pain.”

And I make fun of it, like that, because that’s the only way I can handle it without breaking into a million pieces and crying myself to sleep. But that moment, marred by a haze of one or two too many sedatives, is strangely sharp in my mind. I’d blocked it out until a few months ago, but…it’s not that I decided against doing it. I was just too tired. The pills probably didn’t help the grogginess, but it seems like maybe that grogginess saved my life.

When I was seeing a psychologist, I was saddened by the fact that I couldn’t remember a lot of my time in the fall of 2011. It was like I knew I must’ve been doing something…I was breathing and alive after all…but that time is just blotchy black spots in my mind. My psychologist said that my mind probably wasn’t ready to let me remember everything. Like maybe I needed to ease myself into the reality of that period in my life. So I read diaries and remember. I open notebooks and see “Am I crazy” scrawled across pages in red pen, written during a panic attack. I hear a song and cry. I wake up from dreams and flash back. 

It’s like PTSD, only mildly satisfying, because remembering makes it real. Remembering gives me a reason to feel bad for myself. I can’t remember for too long, because then I’d get nothing done. I don’t want to live in the past, and I don’t want to wallow. But I do want to allow myself to simply remember. Remember that something terrible happened within my mind, and I — very slowly and against more than a few odds — fixed it. 

There will always be books like The Bell Jar that take me back to those few months. I’ll go back to the town I used to live in someday, and I’ll probably remember horrible moments and cry and cleanse myself, stand up straight and walk away. I’ll find old notebooks, old poetry, old watercolors. Therapy tools. I’ll find them and remember, and I’ll bow my head. But I’ll move on. Someday, I’ll move on. For now, I’m in limbo, living an amazing life that would never have happened if those thoughts had turned to actions. 

I write frankly about these experiences because writing allows me to process. Your feedback is, as always, greatly appreciated. However, this blog is meant to be a safe place for both me and my readers, so I will ask that any negative comments be taken elsewhere and appropriately shoved up your arse. 

The Truth About Anxiety


There’s only so long you can take anxiety before it makes you loathe everything around you (and everything about yourself). Because there’s only so long you can beat a dog before it bites back. But where do you direct the anger you feel toward anxiety? Who do you bite? All the anxiety, everything that makes you hurt, seems to be coming from inside you. And it starts to eat at your insides, causing you to want to rip them out, throw them across the room, and scream. Imagine that: ripping your guts out and just chucking them 10 feet, seeing them splat against the wall. Imagine that actually being satisfying. That’s what anxiety does. Even though that image is disgusting, it can be preferable to letting that horrible, clawing feeling stay inside you. 

Or there are the times when you feel guilty for feeling sorry for yourself at all. You don’t have cancer, you’re not really going to die, and a lot of people don’t even think anxiety is real. With everyone doubting you, with you doubting yourself, it’s hard to feel sympathy for yourself. When you ask yourself Is it okay that I feel this way? Is it okay to cry because I want it to stop? Is it okay that I don’t want anyone with anxiety to sympathize with me? Because why the hell would you want to commiserate with some other poor sap who also hyperventilates in the middle of the night when you can’t even “commiserate” with yourself? Odds are, you see yourself as weak for letting the anxiety get to you in the first place, so you’ll likely not want to blabber about it to others.

Sure, you say you’re open about it. You tell people you have an anxiety/panic disorder, but you’re so cavalier about it. “Yeah, I get really anxious. I have panic attacks. They’re scary.” But you never go into the heartbreaking/gut wrenching details. “I used to think I was going insane” or “I automatically think I’m unsuited to be a parent whenever I have an attack.” Because talking about attacks, and what they do to you, terrifies other people. No one likes a psycho.

Attacks. What a way to put it. Accurate, yes. Possibly dramatic? Sure. But not really. Everything you’ve ever hated throws itself against your heart at once. Every unknown that ever scared you jumps out of the bushes again. Every bad memory, no matter how deeply buried, troubles you once more.

But it’s all you, all inside you. And unless you rip your guts out and sling them across a goddamned room, you don’t know how to make it go away.

Every single person in the world needs to understand this, because I’m sick of hiding myself to everyone else. Sick of having to pretend that everything is fine, sick of skulking off into a dark place so I can flip out in solitude. Not that I’d want to have another panic attack in public, because that’s more traumatizing than anything else I’ve experienced. But I don’t want to feel like it’s this big secret, like I’m some monster that comes out at night. It doesn’t mean I can’t function in normal society, it just means that sometimes I can’t function within my own head. 

When nobody else understands this, or maybe they even act like you’re being dramatic and lying to yourself, it’s hard to get better. So I’m getting better through therapy, because psychologists understand. 

There’s no one to blame for the way that my brain works, and that’s including me. I am not to blame, because I do not do this on purpose. So I guess this is sort of an education session for y’all: People with these problems aren’t being dramatic, and they deserve support, not skepticism. 

So go out and accept everyone, my little muffins! I know how wonderful you all are, and you give me support on a daily basis. Go do good for everyone else. 

xo

Write.


Giving birth…or getting a tattoo. Both, probably.

I haven’t written in so long…I’m sorry! …No, that’s not an apology to you, it’s one to myself. How dare I let myself stop writing after I got a tattoo that says “write.” How. Dare. I.

You heard right, kids! Caps got tatted… The inside of my left wrist now says “write” in typewriter font. I got the tattoo almost 2 months ago, and have been meaning to blog about it ever since, but I’m kind of ridiculous and forgot/didn’t have time…

I think I ought to start out by saying that I am terrified of needles. Like, so scared that for a long time, whenever they drew my blood, they had to use a baby needle to make me feel better. Mind you, baby needles are barely smaller than adult needles, but somehow it made me feel that tiny bit better. Tiny bit.

So, obviously, in the span of one year, I’ve gotten my nose pierced and gotten a tattoo. Because I’m a masochist like that. “Hello, I would like a tattoo. Yes, stab me with a needle 50-3,000 times per minute. Yay!”

I’m pretty sure I almost threw up while Philadelphia Phil (yes, that is what he called himself. My tattoo artist is so much cooler than yours) worked on the tattoo. It felt like a million cat scratches over and over, and I’m a big wimp, and OH MY GOD NEEDLE. So that’s how that went down. My friend Kate was there with me and I’m surprised I didn’t squeeze her hand off. But I’m so glad I went through it all, because it meant a lot to me.

Writing is awesome and hey, why not, I’ve always wanted a tattoo. I purposefully got it on my left wrist so I could hide it with a watch if I have a grumpy boss who doesn’t like tattoos. Thinkin’ one step ahead, like a carpenter who makes stairs.

But actually, there’s quite the story behind my tattoo. I’ve explained my anxiety in a previous post, but basically, I have panic attacks and am almost constantly anxious, which is why if you’ve met me you’ll notice that I’m super fidgety. Anyway, I had a lot of problems with that about a year ago and was pretty useless; I couldn’t leave my room, barely got anything done, and definitely didn’t write. But writing had always been how I combated my anxiety before, and after reaching the lowest point of my life, my mom suggested that I start keeping a journal specifically related to my anxiety. It sounds strange, but it really helped. So now, I’m permanently reminded to let go of my anxiety by writing (I’m doing it right now, actually. I’ve been a tweaky mess all day).

It’s hard to explain it to people, so I usually just say, “I love to write,” which sounds kinda lame. I guess that’s true, too. But for real? The for real answer? I was screwed up, and writing saved me, as it always had and always will.

One more reason that I love all of you, dearest readers. You’ve rarely known it, but you’re like my therapy group. And I love you so much.

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The Ride


Please enjoy the scenery from my bike ride.

Tonight, I discovered that nothing beats a bike ride.

As many of you know, I love love love road biking. But lately, I haven’t really been riding. Like, at all. And there are lots of reasons for that. Okay, mainly just one.

I just finished my freshman year of college. I started out at my dream school, but then it turned out that the only place it was amazing was literally in my dreams. I seriously hated that college. And that’s to say nothing against the academics there, because I took a freaking fantastic linguistics class and learned a lot about Shakespeare, but it was just the wrong place for me. I didn’t feel like I fit in, and I had a really hard time making friends (which is kinda hilarious, because I’m not exactly shy).

And then there was the severe, debilitating anxiety that I experienced at that time. I started having panic attacks every night, and then I started having them in public places. For those of you who have never experienced this kind of anxiety, let me just tell you this: I have experienced nothing more terrifying than a panic attack in a dining hall. I — honest to God — thought that the people standing behind me in line were going to hurt me. I had to leave without eating, and I feared going back for several weeks because I connected my panic with that place. So I started staying in my room all the time, sleeping through classes, panicking at night, literally crying in the bathtub at 3 a.m.

I don’t say this to make people feel sorry for me, and I definitely don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. But this is the real story of my life, and it has shaped every action I’ve taken since that time. So knowing me is knowing this, and I haven’t talked much about it to anyone yet.

Anyway, I transferred to a school closer to home in January, joined a sorority and the school paper, and am so completely content there. That’s not to say that the anxiety is gone, because it definitely isn’t. I have the occasional panic attack, though with the help of a fabulous psychologist those are becoming few and far between. I still feel anxious almost all the time, to varying degrees, but it’s not as bad as it was last year. So I’d say I’m definitely improving.

What the hell does this have to do with biking, you ask? Well, I think when you start limiting your activities based on how much anxiety each one causes, you start going a little bit overboard and limiting everything. I don’t do much these days. Yeah, I read, blog occasionally, study for math placement tests (yuck), work around my house and babysit (cutest kids ever), etc, but I get so scared and anxious doing everyday activities that I worry about what will trigger the anxiety. And for some reason that means that I’ve pushed biking out of my life, even though you’d think I’d know that exercise outdoors would make me feel better.

Believe me, I do know. There are just a lot of barriers I still have to get past.

So getting back to the story…I took a long ride tonight. Today was a crappy day, and I was feeling all anxious and jittery, and those thoughts of, “Hey, just go upstairs and get in bed” were starting to jump into my head. Somehow, this time, I pushed them aside and hopped on my bike. Believe me, that ride was hard. I haven’t ridden in so long. But it was kinda like getting together with an old friend, one who never lets you down but also never lets you quit.

I rode 8 slow miles through the countryside, and by the time I was done I couldn’t really walk (and my butt still hurts). But somewhere between panting up a hill and riding past a pasture full of horses, I forgot all of that anxiety. Even if it just lasts a couple hours, I’m really glad I rode tonight.

Although…I can’t lie; the smell of horse poo is lingering in my nostrils still…

Author’s note: I would love to hear your stories of anxiety, depression, etc should you feel compelled to share them. I understand how sensitive this topic is, and rest assured that this will be a safe place to voice those stories. Or not. It’s up to you.
On a related note, please refrain from attacking any commenters or belittling their experiences. Thank you.