These are my, ‘reasons why’.

I want my family, friends, colleagues, strangers on the street who I pass by and say “excuse me” to, doctors, bosses, government officials, indigenous tribes and golden retrievers to know what living with mental illness is like, is because you can’t see it. But I do, it’s like a filter, distorting the picture in a different way than how the next fella may see the world. Go ahead, it looks way better in Valencia than it does #nofilter.

I can’t just, “get over it” Mr. Porter. I’m nearly 30 years old now. It’s a familiar recommendation, but the reality is, I’m likely going to be hard on myself over a mistake the size of a speck of sand on a beach off the coast.

Here are my 13 reasons why my behavior is so shy, and awkward and shaky. Why I’m great at writing and terrible at talking. These are the reasons why I skip showers sometimes and avoid phone calls always. Why I doubt on a daily basis the people that love me really care. These are my 13 reasons why I need your empathy when I’m at my lowest points. Because it’s not something you can take on by yourself.

1 – Just as we discussed, mental illness often takes the form of an invisible disability. I’m not in a wheelchair nor do I have a cast on my skull or stitches on my chest to heal up the everyday heartbreaks. Take note the power of invisibility is real.

2 – My feelings affect my decisions. And in turn, some of my shittiest decisions sparked and reflected my feelings. Guilt hunts me with a sharper eye than death. Oh how there are moments I greatly regret the past. Including today, and likely tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

3 – I do CBT, I see a therapist, a psychiatrist, I journal and cheer people on in online support groups. And no, it’s not a cure all cocktail. Pay your dues, work with all your heart, proactively adjust your thinking strategies. But it’s still alive inside of me. It never leaves.

4 – Stigma is real. Even self stigma. I spent two years doing empirical research on stigma about mental illness in a university environment. All of us affected think, “change needs to be made” but Paul Revere is out for the season and we’ve run out of tea bags filled with Prozac to toss into the water.

5 – It’s not JUST bipolar disorder, or OCD or ADD. I’ve had Lyme Disease for 13 years, I never went into remission. I don’t take antibiotics anymore. I don’t remember what it feels like to be pain or irritation free, to not have a double dose of brain fog. I don’t talk about it, so no one knows or remembers. I’m no longer a vegetable shipped between hospitals with a PICC line. So who cares? There is no support for me here, about this, anymore. And I swallow the bitter taste of it.

6 – I dropped out of business school and joined the field to help people. Not just people with invisible disabilities, but people with visible ones as well. And strangers. And animals. Not Zombie’s though, I’m on the first responder team for a Zombie outbreak. I get bit and kicked by autistic children on a daily basis. I’ve been spit on by an older woman with an IQ of 6 while changing her diaper. I can tell you how stressful it is to take 4 women with moderate to high degrees of mental retardation to the supermarket to find food for the home I used to run before I became a RBT. I can tell you how great it is to hear a little austistic girl you’ve been working with for a year say, “yay!” as a replacement behavior for a shrill squeal stimm. I’m glad with all my heart I became a therapist.

7 – And as a therapist, who’s been promoted and recognized for my quality direct work, I in particular now than ever take feedback poorly. I’m told to take it and swallow, no speaking up for things I did or didn’t do no matter how minor, just move on, don’t take it personally. We all make mistakes to grow my boss tells me. Make sure you do more yoga with your aggressive client. The fact I didn’t during that overlap cut me with knives made of cursed bones for months. Self hatred flourishes when feedback is given and anticipatory anxiety spins fierce uncuttable webs through my chest and stomach where my anxiety manifests.

8 – I ache missing the people I’ve lost in the storm cloud of knicked and cut up relationships I couldn’t save. I miss a girl I haven’t spoken to now for 10 years, she’s like a sad picture in my mind I can’t manage to set fire to as opposed to store in the attic. I miss a boy who was a breath of fresh air just a few months ago, just to turn around and suck the air from my chest without explanation. I fear a falling out before I’ve finished parking in the top lot.

9 – I am chronically fatigued.

10 – I have difficulty concentrating.

11 – I’m angry I can’t control what you think about me. And how you act toward me. All of you, silent readers, neighbors and best friends alike.

12 – I am a living rock. Every experience good or bad on my daily adventures chips away at the marble. You may be a sculptor and not know it, the way you chip harshly or buff smoothly at my curves. God only knows how deeply I wish the artists who made the boldest dents in the softest parts would look back to see I was not the same hunk of rock they left me as. My carved eyes long to have another chance at those few.

13 – And lastly, I thirst. It’s a deep thirst that wants someone I look up to, to tell me I need to be writing. A woman I admired planted seeds in me 12 years ago. As the Lyme pains became bearable and the manic pre-diagnosed bipolar full fledged obsessive compulsive disorder rose to power I lost track of something that had always been important to me, and that woman and I also parted as life goes between teachers and students. Complications in invisibility have laid bed for a dust storm that has dried the land. I lap up puddles for blog posts. I walk endlessly toward the ocean.

I am more than my faults. It’s just that my faults, are more or less very visible, they’re easy to interact with, and thick enough to mask the marble. Easy enough to walk away from.

Those are my 13 reasons why. What are yours?

Advertisements

My Fingers Get Panic Attacks

Life is going pretty well if I put it on paper (or, internet paper…). However, I am still not happy.

I’ve been coloring this big picture for my brand new pen pal who I’ve been friends with for a couple years now online and I notice some water droplets touched the paper…if anything it gives it a bit of a watercolor flushed look and it’s tried and the damage is done but…THE DAMAGE…IS DONE!!! Oh god it’s ruined. I’ve spent like 3 hours on this thing trying to make all the colors work together and I’m nearly done and then…drop drop drop. Honestly I don’t even think it’s a big deal but it makes me feel SLOPPY and no one wants to feel sloppy when they present themselves to another person…I want to still send it though. Honestly it shouldn’t be a big deal. But right now it’s the BIGGEST deal.

I have a mood tracker app on my phone which I recommend, it’s called, “Mood Log” and it’s brilliant. Gives you a little graph and you can log your mood at your fancy any time of the day or night very quickly and easily. Since I started Celexa about a week and a half ago now I’ve noticed instead of solid 2-3’s (out of 10) I’m more generally in a 4-6 range. Right now in this moment I’m about a 3 though, with tightness in my tummy.

I’ve been trying really hard to work through the kinks of life and I’m obviously alive to write that all out but my fingers have been having major anxiety attacks. Seriously. That’s why I go missing from blogging, I feel guilty I haven’t a set schedule and pumped out new material for people to skim and nod at. I feel guilty when I don’t get back to e-mails…oh lord do I feel guilty…PANIC ATTACKS. Just this paralysis, or this gap in my brain that disconnects, “I should reply but my reply won’t be brilliant and witty and long so it’s not quality and I can’t just send a SLOPPY e-mail” and then the days go by and the weeks and I have a couple e-mails I’ve been meaning to reply to that I keep putting off because of finger fears. Same thing in my facebook inbox, though for whatever reason it seems to be a lot harder in my gmail one.

See, all the words in the English language are at my disposal (I haven’t worked on my second language skills in months, should get back on that, I think- though by the way from a cognitive behavioral therapy standpoint using ‘should’ statements is a no-no), and I can ‘share’ a meme on facebook or throw a few ‘like’s on my feed as I’m laying in bed sorting out all the things I’ve done and have to do and contemplating getting up to drink water because that’s good for me but I’m depressed and don’t want to get up and also water sometimes leaves droplets on your coloring pages. It’s problematic.

Woe is me, my job is great and when I’m at work I do a great job though in-between sessions I have with clients I get MAJOR anxiety about how it’ll go, even though I’m wonderful at what I do and get a lot of positive feedback from higher ups. Woe is me. I have a pen pal now!!!!! How cool is that?! Woe is me. I have friends who want to share stories with me and hear mine too. WOE IS ME. I’m starting side projects like picking up knitting again (I WILL finish this blanket before I die, I swear!!) and zine making and taking care of my skin and hair. But you know, I’m miserable. So, as guilt so often does it will give me enough fight or flight anxiety now that it’s built up like gunk inside my arteries to empty ALL of my inboxes tonight which will feel wonderful. Until they fill back up again and I’ll have to rewire my brain with self talk so that I can fight against the finger panic attacks. Though I know, they’ll still come and as they do I’ll have to face them.

For all of you out there reading this, I hope very much that you’re having a fantastic day and be sure to feed your fingers with fabulous thoughts so they work well for you. Time to catch up on some blogs!

Mental Health App Review: Pacifica

The Pacifica app is a new find with a bit of everything to track and treat your mental health on the go. There are some great aspects of this well rounded app and some things I’d like to see improved. If you want the condensed version, Yes. I would recommend this to a friend.

What you’ll see first is the “Mood” screen. You can log your mood between “great” and “awful”. If you’d like, you have the availability to write in details associated with the logged mood. From this page you can also quickly navigate to a journal/thought log which you can do a minimalist version of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) which is recorded and can be referred back to.

Screenshot_2016-05-05-01-56-52

This feature allows you to write a distressing thought, highlight the inaccurate or negative parts of the thought/feeling and recognize the cognitive distortions. What I appreciate about this bit of the app is that while it’s on my phone, I can conveniently plug in my negative or obsessive thoughts without having to scribble them down elsewhere and then transfer them to a journal I keep specifically for CBT. Seeing as how it’s usually too much of a hassle to keep my CBT logs together I don’t do them, this allows me to have them in some form. Cool, right? What I don’t like is that if you want to go back to edit the thought later, there is no option to.

There is also a Goals section. You can choose a long term goal (mine is “feel less stress or anxiety in social situations”) and choose daily goals. Write your own or pick from a large selection of pre-made challenges such as ‘sit in the front during class or a meeting’. There’s a tab that logs your completed challenges. Though this is nice in concept,

The Health section allows you to decide what goals you’d like to meet for yourself every day to stay well. Hours of sleep, minutes exercising, etc. If midnight rolls around and you forgot to check in, you can tap back a day and fill out the information (this feature is unavailable on the website). This is great for folks like me who tend to neglect remembering to fill it out until 12:02am and then have to back up.

Screenshot_2016-05-05-01-57-12

Social aspects of the app include Groups (“Groups are private chats centered around peer support”), and Community, which is more of a forum than a chat room. Again these are great concepts. I feel that Groups lacks the depth it could have. With hundreds of members in a 1 section chat room it’s hard to lose focus or let everyone have a turn like you can in a forum setting. However, in Community, which offers some more of that depth, it lacks in the availability of mental health support groups. I love that it has forum space for things like books and general community, but I would prefer to be in a forum about Bipolar Disorder (and OCD) rather than a chat room about it with people that tend to dominate the conversation and a lack of back to back chatter that makes a chat room a great place to communicate (you’ll see people responding every few hours or so instead of seconds).

For $3.99 a month you can unlock all of the meditations (“Relax Now”). There are 15 altogether. You get the first 4 free. I took the bait and gave them my money for a month and was able to review all of the meditations for you guys. I mean the only way to tell if they’re worth it for you personally is to try it, and I believe that they ought to give you a one month free trial option to begin with. I also think that one thing that would make a subscription worth it is if they were to give a different meditation every month or two. Even if they switched it out and gave a different one to replace it, I feel like I’d be on board for that subscription. For all the searching I’ve done for guided meditations, I find these pretty good. They’ve made fitting 5-20 minutes of meditation a day into my routine very easy. 1-5 a day is my goal, but the meditations don’t drag and are to the point which allows for the option of multiple before bedtime.

Screenshot_2016-05-05-01-57-17

Breathing is largely practiced across all meditations. Each meditation also has the opportunity to have either “No Soundscape” or any of these options to accompany the meditation: Ocean Waves, Thunderstorm, Summer Night, Rooftop Rain, Forest Morning, Bach Cello Suite #1, Underwater, White Noise. When the meditation is finished you can “return” or continue sounds. Minor interrupts are noticeable in some soundscapes when sound loop ends. They are most noticeable in the “unguided meditation” which I’ve found soothing to fall asleep to.

  1. Deep Breathing: (FREE) Text tells you when to inhale/exhale. There’s a visual that also widens/becomes smaller as inhaling and exhaling is prompted. You have the option to ‘play breathing sounds’. You can pick your breath length as well in 1 second increments (between 5-25 seconds – holy lord if you can do 25 second inhale/exhales).
  2. Unguided Meditation: (FREE) Just soundscapes here. Length between 5 and 30 minutes, increments of 1 minute. I tend to throw on 15 minutes of Ocean Waves and go to bed without anxiety of having not turned off the sounds. I love the timer option.
  3. Muscle Relaxation: (FREE) Tense up and release all over your body. One of the best ones.
  4. Mindful: Senses: (FREE) Grounding through the five senses. Guided attention from one sense to another. Good meditation.
  5. Mindful: Breathe: Awareness of body sensations while breathing. Attention to the fact your mind may wander and that it’s okay. What I like about THIS meditation in particular is that at the end you get some closure. It says when you’re ready to return to the space around you. They need this in more of them. The lack of ‘closure’ in some of these meditations is a big turn off for me.
  6. Mindful: Observe: Find a small physical object to hold in your hand during meditation. Focus on this item, guided examination of it, an open and closed eyes exercise. This would be a good soothing meditation in a public place with headphones if you were anxious.
  7. Mindful: Body Scan: Grounding through attention to your body in it’s environment. Virtually the same as the sleep meditation.
  8. Anxiety Emergency: Whereas other meditations start with breathing, this jumps first to tell you you’re going to be okay and these are just sensations that are real. “Trust you’re getting all the air you need in this moment.” Grounding using 5 senses. Good meditation. Then affirmations putting logic and control over anxious thoughts/sensations. I’m not a huge fan of all affirmations such as, “I am safe”. I mean I get it, but what if you’re not?! I think something like, “These thoughts can’t hurt me” would be better.
  9. Visualization: Pick your breath length before you start. It’s hard to navigate if you want to record your own mantra with the lack of instructions. They do have ones to choose from though if you’d prefer like, “This too shall pass” and, “I love myself”. Personally, not a fan of this one.
  10. Sleep: Focus on the body. Guided awareness of bodily sensations. I find muscle relaxation a superior meditation to achieve same end to sleep, personally.
  11. Gratitude: Focus on something you’re grateful for. ‘Analyze’ the goodness. Affirmations after. More generalizable than ‘cheesy’ self compassion mantras in later listed meditation. Nice relaxing exercise.
  12. Becoming the Tree: Visualize a tree you’re seen before with some significance. Attention to the environment that has an affect on the tree and how it stands strong regardless of environment. Tree goes through changes, so do you, blah blah blah. It’s decent.
  13. Difficult Experience: Visualize experience that brought up difficult emotions. Examples to help. Allow yourself not to suppress details and physical sensations. Label what you feel. Make it a physical item. I like this one a LOT, but the ending of it doesn’t make me feel super awesome. Perhaps I need more practice.
  14. Self Compassion: Environmental and inner state mindfulness. There’s a prompt to bring to mind something you’re self-critical about and bring attention to sensations in your body triggered by these thoughts then compassionate mantras.
  15. Intense Emotions: Focus’ on bringing attention to thoughts and feeling and to label them as being just that, while stressing that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. For someone feeling intense emotions, I’d recommend the anxiety or difficult experience meditations before this one, but it’s still a good listen.

Thanks for reading folks. Go on now, give it a try.

6d566242de29585bfdd1476ebd7e6d6e

I’m the Queen of Run-on’s

As my depression has spiraled into the lowest point it’s been in quite some time my immune system has gone tumbling down with it. So, on top of feeling emotionally defeated, I have a scratchy throat, body aches and the sniffles. Totally how I want to spend my existence right now. You know, I’m being mindful just living in the moment and stuff. The achy, shitty moment where I can’t remember where I hit the Sleeping Beauty button that allows me to wait for things to get better.

Last night I spent having a very loud conversation with myself (in my thick head, where I spend most of my time since all of the things I feel like responding to socially are full of some kind of passive aggressive poison and that’s pretty counter productive, but so is being isolated from other people) full of rage for not being in control of huge chunky life situations I’ve recently encountered.  Though I know I’m not being realistic here feeling as though I should be able to control everything, I kind of wallowed in my swamp of an emotional state. Wondered if this life is hell. Pondered why anyone would have any sympathy for someone whose always depressed and has been depressed for an extended period of time. Recently (and by recently I mean two days ago) I had a friend I haven’t spoken with in a while ask me why I don’t go see a counselor in response to me saying I’m pretty depressed at the moment but happy with work (you know, small talk, “Hey Bipolar Barbie how are you?” “Fine” is the socially acceptable answer you should give by the way). At that moment in time I decided I was done responding to pretty much all messages and e-mails on a social level and don’t really care if I have any friends anymore. Rofl. Look at me using internet slang like “rofl” in my blog. Insanity.

depressionarmy:  There are still so many misconceptions about depression.:

I usually equate situations like this (though I haven’t personally had one of these in years) to how if someone were to say they were having a hard time in chemo or that they had a cancer relapse that the out-pour of support and community candle vigils would be epic. Mental illness? Well, just the term sounds bad in itself. Mental health issues? Sounds pretty pathetic too. Depression? An overused tossed around term for general sadness unless you’ve had or have it. So what do you do ey? I’ve been studying mental illness stigma for a year and a half now and honest to God even I find myself in the midst of it because that’s the culture I’ve grown up in and it’s hard to disassociate myself with it especially when being bipolar and being depressed and BEING ocd is guilt producing and announcing it in any way shape or form other than an anonymous public forum like this blog is just me “looking for attention” or a “cry for help” you know, that kind of garbage. I sound so pretentious to myself right now. As if I’m entitled to feelings and things like that.

Well, I’ve spent plenty of time finding activities to keep me busy and I cross off and list all of my daily accomplishments. I have a job where I help people that I’ve worked toward getting for years and I’m doing well at and am proud of myself. I run the CBT thought logs in my head and sometimes scribble them on paper and I use positive self talk when I don’t feel like I’m being carried upright by a steel pole that I can’t get any good posture with while it’s impaling me. I try to meditate and I keep a log of my mood and circumstances surrounding it as well as time stamp it. It’s just hard, existing that is, so that’s that.

Oh bother, I am a Barbie of very little brains.

Obsessions, Compulsions, Intrusive Thoughts & Deep-Dark-Fears

When I get a new notebook or discover an old one that’s blank or only partially used it’s like the 4th of July in my brain. My neurons must be shooting in every which way spazzing out and if they added THAT scene into a Pixar movie, audiences would be like, “The hell?”. I’ve been dealing with this as far back as I can remember. THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE AT A TIME! And it has to be completely filled, there can’t be any nonsense stuff like to do lists or anything. That’ll go on separate throw away paper. Recently I went through the ritual of spazzing out and finding places to more or less hide other notebooks from myself that I’ll just use later. It’s like this huge trauma to have to decide which one I’m going to use and what’ll go in it. Some years it’s very serious diary stuff, others it’s just listing every single thing that happened during a day or accomplishments, other times it’s lists. Right now it’s lists primarily. This is nothing out of the ordinary, but probably less depressing to read about then my fear of my house setting on fire and losing everything or people I love falling down the stairs and cracking their heads open. The fire obsession has been a reoccurring intrusive thought which also spans as far back as I can remember and in times of stress just dominates my cranium.

I want to touch base on intrusive thoughts tonight because it’s something that’s had a starring role in my OCD/mental health stigma research for the past year and almost a half (and absolutely nothing I want to talk about further at the moment because I just got feedback from an anonymous committee member saying in order to approve my experiment he/she wanted me to revise a section of my analysis section which made me enraged and super sad). Since I’m done citing empirical research for the evening and finding where an ampersand needed to go in 21 pages of citations that I had forgotten, Wikipedia’s description of “intrusive thoughts” will have to do.

“An intrusive thought is an unwelcome involuntary thought, image, or unpleasant idea that may become an obsession, is upsetting or distressing, and can feel difficult to manage or eliminate. When such thoughts are associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), and sometimes attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the thoughts may become paralyzing, anxiety-provoking, or persistent. Intrusive thoughts may also be associated with episodic memory, unwanted worries or memories from OCD,  posttraumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorders, eating disorders, or psychosis. Intrusive thoughts, urges, and images are of inappropriate things at inappropriate times, and generally have aggressive, sexual, or blasphemous themes.” 

A great medium to express intrusive thoughts is to draw them. That wasn’t exactly the intention of artist Fran Kraus, but he is the #1 artist I know whose art captures examples of them. His work is described as being a dark, humorous visualization of irrational fears we have. I wanted to share with you a few comics he’s drawn that I feel capture the essence of fears that for some will pass quickly and for others will play on a loop…unfortunately. For more Fran Kraus, visit his tumblr or check out his book!

tumblr_nmrv7scfTb1rmvzs8o1_1280tumblr_nswc50eU6X1rmvzs8o1_1280tumblr_nup34tlpts1rmvzs8o1_1280tumblr_nxkylli1d71rmvzs8o1_1280tumblr_nxxvn6Kc0s1rmvzs8o1_1280tumblr_o0tmk3L93X1rmvzs8o1_1280