Bipolar, OCD, and My Cousin’s Wedding

I went to my cousin’s wedding this past weekend out-of-state. If I could change one thing about myself it would be not to brood over things like she’s much younger than me, has known her fiance for a way shorter period of time than I’ve known my non-fiance, and has a picture perfect public relationship with him. Doting over each other and whatnot. Making productions of kisses. That’s just a clogged emotional artery though. Guilt that I’m a couple of years away from 30 now and just finishing up my undergrad, a semester behind my cousin, to add to the embarrassing feelings. Blood however is still pushing through my veins, and thank God for that.

Turns out I had a nice time, and got in some family bonding with extended family that I enjoyed very much. I took a million pictures and was proud they had good composition and decent lighting. Photography has been a hobby of mine for years now and though I don’t currently have a working nice camera, I still managed to use the technology available to take shots. The key is to keep snapping away, and then skim off the crap ones, then skim off the not so great ones, then keep the good ones but show off the great ones. In my opinion at least.

The night we arrived at the hotel I ran to a Walgreens to pick up a card after we ate a late dinner. (I went with my immediate family). I ended up bluntly exposing my feelings about why I wish I had a closer relationship with her (and it’s true, I wish I did). Mental illness was the key component, and the stigma revolving around the subject made me cringe and tear up while writing it.

This was the letter. She hasn’t read it yet as far as I know. They were busy all day and are going on their honeymoon in the morning. I both want her to read it and don’t. I’m scared of her reply. More so I’m scared to be let down by her reply.

“Dear C,

I am very proud of you. I remember little blips of walking down the hospital hallway to see you when you were first-born. I remember dominating bowls of black olive appetizers at your birthday parties at your old Chicago house and playing games like ‘Elefun’ in that living room.

Something old: childhood memories.

Then, to speed this up, you guys moved, later yet i got sick with Lyme and all my confidence flew away and I’ve spent the days since fighting major depression, ocd and bipolar disorder. There IS a point to this recap. You need to know that for those reasons, I have sabotaged my relationships with family and friends for years. It’s an enormous regret of mine that my little cousin is 21, a college grad and getting married i hardly know her. And you hardly know me!

Something borrowed: my ears are yours anytime. I’m a great secret keeper and of course a growing psychologist.

After grandpa died, one of my biggest fears was that if grandma passed away the BARBIE side of the family would fall apart. I’ve meant to start mending gaps and making up for lost time but how do you explain to a perfectly normal extended family  that you carry around a constant sadness and fear that’s not reasonable 90% of the time and it makes it hard to socialize with them because you’re super far from comfortable? Putting that out there for you right now is super terrifying. If you know though, maybe that’s the first step toward having a solid relationship.

Something blue and something new: the color you now know I secretly carry.

You’re about to start a brand new chapter of your life and I’m so happy for you. I felt that if I didn’t tell all that to you, you would never know on the happiest day of your life so far that your big cousin loves you so so much and always has.

Now get out there lady! Get married!!!

‘Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts.’ -William Shakespeare”

Well that’s it. That’s what it was. Of all my impulsive ideas this one wasn’t so bad I suppose. Now if only I could use some of that impulsive energy to knock out so I get some rest tonight. Maybe after accomplishing as much as I did after we got home and additionally emptying my mind of all the thoughts I was saving up to get out, that’ll do the trick.

G’night moon, G’night stars, G’night WordPress.

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30 Day Mental Illness Awareness Challenge – In One Post

I’m inspired by http://zedmondson.wordpress.com/ in particular to do this challenge. I have no patience to do this in parts, and am having trouble sleeping, not out of the ordinary for anyone suffering from mental illness. Enjoy.

Day 1: What is/are your mental illness(es)? Explain it a little.

Bipolar Disorder Type I and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I chose links I felt would describe the disorders pretty well, because it would take up a lot of space to explain it all, and I’d probably forget a few things anyway. You live with it, it just becomes of your life, and you don’t really think about the textbook basics anymore when they’re worming through your body.

Day 2: How do you feel about your diagnosis?

I was relieved, among a few other mixed feelings several years ago when I was diagnosed. I wasn’t just an emotional freak anymore, there was some grounds to it all. Over the years I’ve spit on the diagnosis and other times hugged the community for dear life in need of support. Overall, diagnosis means a basis for treatment, and though I dislike popping pills as much as the next person, I’m grateful for some relief because of them.

Day 3: What treatment or coping skills are most effective for you?

Distraction. The best thing for if you know you won’t be getting any sleep in a manic state, or just have a chunk of free time to dwell on your anxieties and depression to read. When I’m in the car, the best way to keep my mind from spinning is listening to music, particularly a playlist I’ve created depending on the severity of my depression and trying to avoid songs or playlists that’ll set off spiked feelings. Writing is also a large part of finding comfort in those rough patches. I exercise six days a week but don’t feel the high you’re supposed to feel nor do I feel better about anything I’m miserable about, but try it for yourself, it’s SUPPOSED to help.

Day 4: What are the pros and cons of having a mental illness(es) or your specific illness(es)?

Pros? When I had horrible agoraphobia in conjunction with my OCD and BP I was able to take administrative withdrawals in college, which changed what would be F’s to W’s. It’s not something to brag about, but it did help a lot to be ill on paper. Cons? It’s all consuming no matter how much medicine you’re on or how much therapy you’re getting. Like having arthritis it’s there to remind you it’s there even when you haven’t moved around for a while and might seem to forget it.

Day 5: Do you believe nature (biology/physiology), nurture(environment), a mix, or something else has an impact on mental health?

Both definitely. The environments we are raised in play a big part of things, as well as the pressures on each individual that come to play over the course of a lifetime. Also, we’re not having to run for our lives from tigers and wild dogs anymore, so that anxiety response for a lot of us is overwhelming in situations that may not actually be so life and death.

Day 6: Do you have a family history of mental illness or mental health issues?

It’s possible. OCD in my maternal grandmother, possibly BP in my paternal grandfather, but neither were diagnosed. We’re going based off of a symptom guide and mindfulness of their behaviors. As a psych major I’m extra versed in symptoms of different illnesses, but I’m surely not qualified to diagnose willy-nilly.

Day 7: Do you think there are any triggers or patterns to how your illness(es) effects you?

Triggers galore for my BP. Anything a little too emotional or that rubs me the wrong way can send a spike through me. The neurons are just jonesin’ to fire off those signals. As for the OCD, the big one is stress, also over the years I’ve had some really dominant obsessive thoughts that were all-consuming, and when something in a minor way worries me about something related, the thoughts come back in full force for a period of time regardless of medication, though I’m much better at coping with them than I used to be.

Day 8:  What age you were diagnosed at?  At what age do you think your symptoms began? (You can make a timeline)

I was diagnosed at 20. I think my symptoms for BP began at 13. I did some majorly manic things in those early teen years and felt some low months as well. It’s actually kind of comforting to know what stemmed my behavior when I got older, but it took a while to re-look at those memories and put them in place. My OCD behaviors and thought patterns started a lot younger, can’t can an age for you, but it drove my parents crazy.

Day 9: What are some of the important events in your life, that may have effected your mental illness(es) for the worse or better? (You can make a timeline)

I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease at 16. It was a rough battle I never fully went into remission from. Also, living with my Asperger’s sister whose only grown more frustrating over the years has taken a toll. I’ve also done a grade-A job at screwing up some of my closest relationships, and never being able to forgive myself for them. They’re stand out marks on the timeline.

Day 10: What is the best thing in regards to your mental illness(es)?

A ‘Divergent’ mind if you want to throw some pop culture into the mix.

Day 11: What is the worst thing in regard to your mental illness(es)?

Regret over how far behind in life I feel like I am because of it all, and regret from some of the decisions I’ve made, things I’ve said, or money I’ve spent in an altered state.

Day 12: What do you think about your diagnosis in general?  (Some ideas are: stereotypes, commonalities, misdiagnosis, over diagnosis)

Stigma is a bitch. I feel like my family has the closest idea to what my reality must be like, among other peers with the disorder, many of which I’m grateful to have met on WordPress. Aside from that even the closest of friends can’t REALLY wrap their minds around it, and maybe that’s just something I’ve been telling myself for years on end. That’s for sure why I’m constantly apologizing over periods of isolation.

Day 13: If you know the criteria of your illness(es) which ones do you think you meet? Or what are your most common symptoms?

Obsessive thinking rules over the ritualistic behavior for my OCD, but it’s there no doubt. As for the bipolar, I’m a textbook case and a rapid cycler at that.

Day 14: Have you ever experienced stigma?

Not exactly, our society I feel at least in the midwest…at least in IL…at least in Chicagoland, is trying to be more open-minded to these things. But I still think that homosexuality is less stigmatized in the US than mental illness is.

Day 15: How has your life been effected by your illness(es)? (Some ideas are: relationships, career, school)

My isolating behavior has caused stress in friendship style relationships as well as with extended family members. Overly emotional outbursts and obsessing over things that may or may not be entirely made up in my head until I’m ready to burst are problems in romantic relationships. School has taken me 6 years longer than it should have in order to graduate, and I’m still waiting to take that last class I need. And careers? Stress is overwhelming a lot of times on the job, but it’s usually in a situation in which I wasn’t properly trained, or trained long enough, as well as poor treatment by the management of whatever company. In a healthy work environment I do pretty well for myself, but it’s been a while since I’ve experienced that.

Day 16: How many people are you “out” to with your mental illness(es)? Why?

I met a couple of people in school during my psychology studies who have Bipolar Disorder. I’ve met the rest of the folk online through platforms like WordPress and DailyStrength.org (which by the way is totally broken these days, I used to be a huge fan). Of course, there are always the people who YOU come out with who dare to say, “I think we’re ALL a little OCD.” Who deserve a good slapping.

Day 17: If you could get rid of your mental illness(es) would you?  Why or why not?

Sure, why the hell not? Unfortunately, I’d probably be really disoriented and not know who the hell I was anymore.

Day 18:  What do you wish people would understand in regards to mental illness and/or mental health?

It’s like having emotional Cancer. People “get” Cancer. They don’t “get” mental illness as easy.

Day 19: Have you ever read a self-help book or a book related to psychology?  What is your opinion on them?  If you have read them do you have a favorite?

I have. “When Panic Attacks” was pretty helpful. Sean Covey also writes pretty inspiring books. If a book has a ‘workbook’ either integrated or attached, I say go with that one. Hands on is more helpful than just a butterfly trying to tell you how to zen out, which is how most Co-dependance books that I’ve read are written.

Day 20: Where do you get your support?

My immediate family has grown to be my most supportive outlet.

Day 21: Many people say stress triggers symptoms, do you agree or disagree?

Umm, duh it does. (Very strongly opinionated in agreement)

Day 22: What is your opinion on medication used to treat mental illness(es)?

Everybody’s body chemistry is different, and it changes over time. It’s a tricky thing to get right and usually it requires a “cocktail” of drugs. Trial and error a lot of times, I’m for western medicine in treatment of mental illness, but I think you need a sharp doctor whose willing to work with you at every turn.

Day 23: What is your opinion on therapy? (It can be any type, some examples are: group therapy, talk therapy, social skills training, exposure therapy, ERP,DBT, CBT, ACT,  marital counseling, and many more)

Group therapy was heaven for me the two times I was a part of it, about four months total. Talk therapy is alright, but the closer I’ve ever gotten to a therapist, the more guilty I’ve seemed to feel at spewing the same things I’m stuck on week after week. Social skills training is a definite yes for people with Asperger’s and other developmental disabilities. My sister skirts around getting it, but she sure as hell needs it, and it would benefit her. CBT is the best of the three letter therapies when it comes to re-shaping your brain, but without constant practice it’s not of any use.

Day 24: What is your opinion on alternative treatments or treatments that aren’t commonly used? (Some examples are: EMDR, hypnotherapy, herbal or vitamin supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, art, music, or recreational therapy, ECT, VNS, TMS, DBS)

I have to laugh at the massage therapy one. I get so uptight thinking about when the massage is going to be over and I won’t have enjoyed it for long enough that I don’t end up enjoying the damn thing at all because I’m too stressed out about it being over too soon…Art, music, recreational therapy are great. I suggest flax and omega 3’s for the extra support alongside your traditional medicine as well as milk thistle to help your liver be healthy since it’s being doused with foreign chemicals.

Day 25: What is your opinion on forced/coercion in mental health treatment? Can be legal (law enforcement or psychiatric holds) or a “helping” friend/family member.

When my dad pointed out that I needed more help than I thought I did I was at first furious, but after having received help, I was grateful. It’s not the same story for everyone. If you’re going to end up hurting yourself I feel that being forced into a helpful environment is okay, but I do think that such helpful environment should be monitored by your doctor, or A doctor who is sharp, and wants to see you get better.

Day 26: How is your day-to-day life effected by your mental illness(es)?

Everything is exhausting. I feel like I shouldn’t have to struggle through every day of my life. I’d enjoy a day off here and there at the very least.

Day 27: Explain a “good” day.

You don’t struggle too much, you’re productive, you laugh and can have a genuine conversation with people.

Day 28: Explain a “bad” day.

You struggle a lot. It’s the opposite, plus you’re stuck in a black goo of bad thoughts.

Day 29: What are a few of your goals regarding your mental health.

I want to live a long life with as many good days as possible.

Day 30: What does recovery mean to you?

Saved the hardest question for last did we? Recovery is like laughter I suppose. It’ll be sobering up from an hour of crying, or going to the grocery store the day after sleeping 18 hours. It’s something to be proud of, and something to strive for in the long run if by a lucky chance you can really ditch the nature and upgrade the nurture.

Ramblings and Fears

I hope I have enough variety in my posts to keep my followers’ interests. I worry about that. Get over myself right? It’s pure anxiety, if anxiety was a drug you’d totally want to buy from me.

I love Christmas time because I get to write everyone cards telling them how much I love them. It’s the one time a year it’s not odd to come out and express it out of the blue. I’ve said before how hard it is to express myself to my family especially about how much I love them and how often I think about them and how much I want to be equally as loved. It’s often the same with my friends but I’m tenfold more open with them than I am with my family.

I keep getting stuck in caves on Victory Road (in Pokémon Y) and it’s horrifically annoying. Caves are the only place I get lost. Throw me in the winding forest and I’m cool, toss me in a tundra and I’ll figure it out, put me in a cave even with all the lights on and BAM you got me.

This morning driving to work I turned the radio off. It was annoying me. Usually I always flood the car with music, but not today. I had so much on my mind I had my own little radio talk show so to speak running it’s course.

There’s still some hope left for getting into the lab course I need to graduate. Aside from the family pressure and the tuition money I would be okay trying to get a full time job as long as I could get INSURANCE (there’s a group home in the city I’d love to work for with or without my Bachelor’s which does offer health insurance – which I need to live, like…literally) for a semester. However, in the end I’d rather finish up and get the hell out of there. Agoraphobia ruined 2 years of my life and had a deep impact on school which has set me back. It’s irritating to some degree to see the rest of my family succeed when I’m so behind and I’m the eldest. But that’s just being mad at myself. We’ll find out tomorrow about lab and my near future.

I made a couple new friends in school, one in particular I’ve talked to on facebook for a little (yesterday) and she even invited me to a Halloween party this Saturday. That means we actually like each other…and that scares me. I have one really good friend I met through school, and getting to know her was easy, we both ended up being bipolar and we both thought each other was hilarious. This new girl and I are pretty chill and had a great conversation, but for me the worst part of new friendships is that ‘getting to know each other’ stage. I don’t know how to get to know someone other than be like ‘So…let’s uhh get to know each other.” It’s really rather awkward, and even if I don’t give off the impression, I feel pretty awkward a lot of the time. Overall I’m glad to jump out of my comfort zone and make a new friend. It even pushes me to connect more with some of my other good friends so I don’t end up totally isolating myself like I get in the habit of…and jumping out of my comfort zone in one area tends to bleed over into others.

I went out by myself and got lunch yesterday. It was a terrifying experience but I got through it and had a nice sandwich and soup.

Oh to be OCD and Bipolar. Thank God the drugs (for now) are working as hard as they can since I can’t afford therapy.

House Hopping, Family, Fears, and Reflection

One thing I do well is in-home pet sitting. I don’t have any animals at home, so I baby other peoples pets. I get a little time away from home to myself living in other peoples houses. The only con is that I may spend a little extra on gas if I need to stop home or at school and back to a usually further away destination than home is for me. The past 2 weeks I’ve spent the majority of my time pet sitting. The houses and apartments I frequent when I have these jobs are like vacation homes. I’m familiar and comfortable with them. I’m lucky to some degree that I can have that experience and that people trust me so much as to leave their home and animals in my hands.

My cousin is spending time for school in Ireland and I won’t say I’m not jealous. She started up a blog about her adventures which I think is a fabulous idea. The closest I get to an exotic vacation is living in someone else’s house for a week. After playing the role of the “cool aunt” to the animals I clean up any sign that I was in the house to begin with. No one wants to come home to an unmade bed, a sink full of dishes and a full garbage can. I even fluff all the pillows in the house and make sure the remote controls are where they were when I arrived.

Speaking of my cousins blog, it’s http://cloversandchrist.wordpress.com/. I do hope my family knows that I love them. I feel like an outcast sometimes and I don’t think any of them really know how damn hard it is to be bipolar and most importantly how it affects my school and social life (which includes family life). But I care with all my heart for both sides of my family and can’t ever really express myself properly through striking up a conversation or visiting with my non-stop schedule. The closest I get now is facebook, and even that is just mostly ‘liking’ posts of theirs. I even care about my uncle, aunt and cousins that divorced themselves from the family when I was a little kid.

I have a fear that the family I do have in my life doesn’t love me very much or think that I care. I wish I was a better niece, cousin and granddaughter. Being cheesey it’s like that episode of True Blood in season 6 where they were at Terry’s funeral and the pastor said instead of “God, Country, Family” or “God, Family, Country” for Terry it was “Family, Family, Family” and though God is a large and quiet presence in my life, I love with my whole heart my family and close friends who might as well be family.

If I never had bipolar disorder I think my relationships would be different, but for now I fight daily to overcome the anxieties that accompany it, and just try my best to keep my heart open.

On another note, my nerdy guy friends and I opened a bunch of Theros boosters from the box we all chipped in for and I made a great white and blue deck which I kept at the end of the night. Next week we’re going to kick back with some pizza and make decks out of all the cards that I have now with the assistance of the more competitive, experienced payers in the group.

StressStressStress

I am all over the GD place right now. I woke up this morning wanting to go back to sleep, but I just couldn’t. I was too restless.

I did my damndest not to eat the leftover homemade enchiladas. I mean I literally took the container in my hands, tried to open it, had trouble then thought “IT’S A SIGN FROM GOD TO REMEMBER MY DIET” (Of which I lost another 2 lbs this week so far).

After finishing some homework early in the day and confident for school tonight I’m totally elated I have free time to watch Disc 2 of Season 4 of Sailor Moon.

And then after a disc I decide IT’S TIME TO DO THINGS! And I remember “OH THERE’S A NOVEL I WANTED TO WRITE” and fail to get more than a few sentences out. So then I clean house. So then after that I chomp down on some turkey breast and celebrate the low calories. And after THAT I get the guts to leave the house, go to the local craft store and find SOMETHING to do. I want to learn to cross stitch, but all the patterns they have at the store are either too lame or too hard. So I look at the yarn and decide to pick up knitting again. I want to make a sailor moon scarf for myself, but that’ll take a lot of time because I need to know how to knit a bow, so I decide to knit my own Darien a scarf for when he travels cross country this winter. Just…so many things…and after a while my fingers hurt and I’m done with THAT too.

And now in about a half hour I need to go to school. I really hate the hour drive to the satellite campus. I get nervous driving these days. That and I’d just rather let the creative juices flow, continue jumping around from thing to thing, actually try drawing in the sketch book instead of putting myself down that I won’t be able to draw anything good. I need to stop being such a stiff and just go with something. I’m definitely down now.