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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Freeman, Past and Present


Some of you may have heard about the most recent school shooting, this one at Freeman High School in Rockford, WA (near Spokane). What most of you don’t know is that I grew up there, know those people, and attended Freeman Elementary and Middle Schools before transferring to a high school out of district.

Freeman is, as I’ve always half-joked, conveniently located between two wheat fields (just take a right at Bessie the Cow); more accurately, it’s a small school district with about 80 students per grade level, and many of those students come from farming or working class families. The great thing about small communities like that is they’re tight knit, and people take care of each other, as many families have known each other for generations: their fathers were friends, their daughters played soccer together, her brother married his sister, they opened up a store together, etc etc. It’s a really beautiful thing because it feels like everyone is a family. Except when you feel like the very distant cousin from Mars.

I transferred to a high school in downtown Spokane after 8th grade because I was often isolated, friendless and miserable while at Freeman. I was that Martian cousin, ostracized by my peers and occasionally their parents. I was always different — being outspoken, liberal, AND feisty isn’t the best combo if you want to avoid conflict at a conservative school. Sometimes I sought conflict because I didn’t know what else to do; I lashed out verbally at times, because I never fit in with the cliques that formed as early as first grade. Truly, I felt uncomfortable, out of place, and desperately unhappy for most of my time at Freeman. Children are horrible to each other no matter where you live. Teachers and parents, too.

The world changes so quickly. All three of the schools were remodeled shortly after I left. Students come and go, and a lot of my old teachers have retired. Perhaps a lot stayed the same. Perhaps it’s still a home full of family for some students, and a place of isolation and despair for others.

As I write, I can only think, “I don’t really know how to do this.” I don’t know how to convey both my sympathy and my memories all at once. I don’t know how say that my heart is broken for the community I grew up in and that I look back at my time there and feel ill and vulnerable, just as I did when I was 8. I can’t explain how uncomfortable I am with my conflicting feelings. I can’t cry over the beautiful memories I had there, because none really come to mind. But I can cry for the fact that there is something very, very wrong in our society when these events keep happening in different settings all over this country. Barely anyone knew where Freeman was, even in my neighboring town of Spokane, because it was quiet and small. Now, CNN is reporting on it.

I will never sympathize with someone who hurts others. But I can, perhaps unfortunately, empathize. I don’t want to make Freeman out as a horrible place…it is no more deserving of tragedy than any other place on this earth. But I see this combination all too often: a child obsessed with revenge — obsessed with school shootings — attacking the place they’re supposed to call home.

They released the boy’s name within the past day or so. He looks a little familiar, but his name doesn’t. I probably don’t know him at all. Maybe I just know the look on his face, as it reflects that of so many school shooters before him. He’s a child. He’s a child with the strength of an adult, weapon in hand. It’s no one’s fault. It’s everyone’s fault. I don’t know where to place blame, so I let it float out in the air hoping it’ll eventually land on something.

I was bullied in school, but I never did something like this. I wasn’t obsessed with school shootings. I wasn’t allowed to be obsessed with guns. Guns aren’t exactly uncommon in rural communities like this, and I remember children joking about using them when I was little, too. Everyone grew up much too comfortable with weapons. I was terrified of them, but my peers didn’t always seem to be. We can’t just say this boy was a wacko, because that ignores the real problems we need to face in this country. We can’t blame this solely on mental health problems. He was suicidal, but most suicidal people don’t try to bring others down with them. He took liking guns to another, more dangerous, level. Perhaps the fact that he had access to a gun is less important than his desire to use one to hurt others at such a young age, or perhaps that access to guns is what caused that desire in the first place. These problems are widespread across our society, and we need to find ways to teach our children that violence of any kind is just not the way to go. And we need to teach our children to stop treating each other so badly. Children, as I’ve said, are horrible to each other. But they don’t have to be. Not if we teach them how to love just a little harder.

I don’t know how to convey my feelings. But perhaps if we were a little more honest with ourselves about the complexities of these situations, we’d find more complex and effective ways to prevent them.

Who, What, Where (A Brief Autobiography)


Contrary to popular belief, I am indeed still alive and well. It’s been a rocky road (unfortunately not the ice cream, though I desperately wish it was), and I have absolutely not fulfilled my resolution to continue blogging more often, as it’s been about 4 months since my last post. I’ve said this before (so many times) but this started out as a humor blog exclusively, but as I’ve gotten older and faced adult challenges, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to be constantly hilarious. I’m still hilarious, but am faced with the fact that I am a multi-dimentional, emotional human being. Of course, that’s okay. Less entertaining at times, but okay.

So what have I been up to? Dealing with multiple mental health crises, honestly. I stay pretty private about it for the most part, mentioning it only in passing unless talking to specific people about it, but you’re all part of the internet so I feel a little more anonymous and lately am less concerned about talking about it anyway. I don’t feel any shame about it anymore, but I also believe it is my story to tell when I want to tell it, and only when I want to tell it.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II at the very end of 2016 and began various methods of treatment at the start of 2017. It’s been difficult, to say the least. Everyone has their misconceptions about what bipolar even is and I’ve received a lot of unnecessary and unsolicited advice from both strangers and those close to me. Be warned: the comments section here is not a forum for advice, but is perfectly allowed to be a place of kindness and support if you really feel the need to speak to me on this subject. This is not a dialogue. It is absolutely a monologue, and I feel perfectly fine drawing that boundary.

I will give very brief and basic introduction to what Bipolar II looks like for me. I know a lot of people don’t understand the disorder (or didn’t even know it existed in the first place):

I live my life in one of three states at any given time: hypomanic, stable, or depressed. I also occasionally experience mixed episodes, which cause me to swing from depressed to hypomanic within short periods of time. Hypomania is sometimes defined as “mania lite,” but I find that definition both overly simplistic and invalidating, as it implies that it isn’t distressing or difficult to live with. During hypomanic episodes, my symptoms range, but can include extreme irritability (what I call “road rage whilst walking”), insomnia, restlessness, compulsive speech, persistent risk-taking compulsions, increased focus on projects (I’m talking picking up an activity and not stopping for days — I’ve acquired several lovely hobbies over a short period of time) and lack of appetite. These episodes last for at least 4 days, but typically last longer for me. I also rapid cycle and at one point had 5 or 6 episodes within a two month period, which was super fun except when it totally wasn’t.

Essentially, I don’t sleep, I don’t eat, and I can’t shut up or stop moving. Sometimes this all feels really fun and freeing, because suddenly I’m the life of the party. Often, though, I feel scared and get the sense that I don’t know who I am or what I’ll do. In general, emotional swings that severe are really distressing.

It ain’t easy, folks. It’s taken a lot of dedication and effort to work toward stability and feel like myself, but I’m getting closer every day. I think. My goal is to keep the hypomanic and depressive episodes fewer and farther between so I can remain stable longer. Sometimes this happens, sometimes it doesn’t. I barely slept for the past three weeks, and started absolutely losing my mind until I finally found the perfect combination of relaxation, essential oils, tart cherry juice, and ocean sounds to get 9 hours of sleep for the past four nights…this is probably the only reason I’ve found the energy to write this post in the first place. That combination may not work forever, though, as I’ve learned in the past, and I’ll have to switch things and work even harder. Extra medication is sometimes involved, sometimes not. It’s hard to know what will help at any given time.

I’m finding plants have helped me heal a lot lately. Doesn’t matter how hypomanic or depressed I am, potting a plant will make me feel sane, if even for just a few hours. Plus, I gain little green friends and purify the air in my house all at once. An unexpected but absolutely appreciated medicine, for sure. Celebrating life and maintaining my creativity has been essential — there’s a lot of art, bass playing, and journaling that goes into my stability. I remain vague about other parts of my treatment because it ain’t nobody’s business but those are also difficult and frustrating at times. Support groups help the most.

I’ve had a lot of revelations over the past 8 months…about life, my will to live, what and who I love, what I deserve in this life and the next, what I want to focus on and what I want to leave behind. I’d 100% prefer to not live with bipolar, but if I have to, at least I’ve done a lot of soul searching and self exploration to learn how to manage it.

Hopefully I’ll write again before another four months have passed, but you never know. Either way, know that I’m here, I’m alive, and I’m more than just this disorder.

xo

If you’re interested in learning more about mood disorders, NAMI is a really great resource. If you happen to be a person living with bipolar, DBSA meetings have benefitted me more than I can ever explain. 

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. 

Gobinda Hari, or I Now Understand Obnoxious Christians


Most of you know that I’m on a path of self discovery, and that I’m learning about and utilizing Hinduism on that journey. Most of you know, also, that I do not really identify as Christian even though I was brought up Episcopalian and still occasionally go to church (mostly because the people there are my family, and the dean of the cathedral is one of the most brilliant men I know and his sermons are thought-provoking in a way that transcends religion). As such, I have typically felt incredibly uncomfortable when certain Christians suggest that I pray when I’m distressed because “God is with you…blah blah.” Incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t like talking about Jesus, and I don’t like conversations that make me feel like I’m being “saved.” I, at times, wish I could wear a sign around my neck that says, “Please do not approach me about your religious beliefs. I will wet my pants from discomfort, and nobody wants to see that.” I get really dismissive and try to escape the conversation as soon as possible. One time my dad suggested that I just talk to Jesus when I’m upset because it can be really comforting for him. And while I understood that it was valuable for him, I really didn’t want to “talk to Jesus” because to me, Jesus isn’t important, not in a religious sense. Sure, I believe that he existed, but why should I talk to the “son of God” when I really don’t think a Christian god exists? Of course, there are a million little exceptions and nuances that I won’t be able to get to in this post, so please understand that I haven’t written anything off completely because the world is full of mystery and I’m sorting things out my own way. I just feel more of a “spirit” than a “god,” and maybe that’s the same to some people. As I write this, it’s incredibly difficult to put my conflicting and confusing feelings into words. There’s just something there with Hinduism that isn’t there with Christianity. Maybe it’s more the practice of Hinduism that I connect with. Maybe God is the same no matter what the religion.

But. I might’ve accidentally become a version of The Obnoxious Christian. That person who suggests meditation to those who struggle. The person who talks about Krishna and “the higher spirit” (I literally said that) to her friends. The person who, when reading more about the mantra “gobinda hari” wants to print out the article to share it with her sister. The person who blogs about Hinduism and its benefits. (As a side note, the mantra gobinda hari can be used as a self-reflection mantra that aids us in connecting with our accomplishments and what the world has given us, while acknowledging that we were an integral part of our self-improvement. It also allows us to thank the world for the help it brings us and the bounty it produces. Or something like that…it gets a little complicated and sounds incredibly hippie, so I’ll spare you. Just know that it’s valuable to me, as I tend to forget what I’ve done well in life and continually put myself down for not “working hard enough.”)

I’m okay with becoming that person. I’m learning more every day — about myself, about the world — but I’m also uncovering more questions, and I like that too. So if I’m reaping these amazing benefits, why should I not try to share them with the world? I led a meditation workshop before finals week at my sorority, and it was absolutely brilliant and everyone liked it and I felt accomplished, like I’d shown them something they would never have found without my help.

I’ve been to hell and back: I contemplated suicide a year and a half ago. I had a panic attack every day, and was in the darkest place I have ever been. I sought therapy and saved myself, by myself, and I don’t think I have God to thank for that. I was broken, and I fixed myself (with the help of many people around me) but God was not involved. I don’t feel abandoned, and this does not come from a bitter place, but I just didn’t feel anything with me or around me or anything as I clawed my way back to reality, to normality. But as I learn and grow, maybe my opinion will change. Nothing is ever definite.

Until then, I feel connected to the earth and the universe in a way that has nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with my soul’s movement between bodies a thousand times on this earth. I sound like such a nutcase as I say this, and I can practically hear you all scoffing through the computer, and that’s fine. I believe what I believe (that our soul never truly dies, just moves from body to body for eternity) and you can believe whatever you’d like (that I’m insane, that heaven exists, whatever). I know now, at least, why those obnoxious Christians that make me so uncomfortable do what they do, say what they say. They’ve found something valuable and helpful and wonderful, and it makes their lives richer and more meaningful, and they want to help me find that. And good on them. I appreciate the sentiment.

I will continue to look to help others who seek guidance in this really, really, really difficult life we all live. But I do promise this: no matter how great I feel, no matter how much I learn, I swear I will not try to “save” anyone. Because everyone is fine, nobody’s going to hell, nobody’s going to bleed for eternity if they don’t “know Jesus” or “understand the ways of Hinduism.” The minute you look uncomfortable or bored, and believe me I can tell, I will send you on your way without judgement. Pinky swear. What works for me doesn’t have to work for you. Guaranteed it won’t work for most of you. Besides, forcing people to accept something doesn’t work. Typically, they need to realize things in their own time; had I been bothered with spirituality when I wasn’t ready, I don’t think I would’ve made the same strides I did on my own.

I feel like I should end this post with some sort of profound statement, but to be completely honest my shoulder is cramping up and I can’t focus on much else. So I’ll leave you with this: anything we find that allows us to learn more about ourselves and others, whether it be religion, exercise, music…anything at all, is worth spending time developing. So go forth and question the world, my friends! And namaste.