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?

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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!

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!

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Dark Places

The physical manifestation of darkness begins about a centimeter behind the skin where the top of ones nose meets the forehead. It’s a dizzy empty feeling that’s concentrated in one spot, but that has a speckled aura. It’s as though electrons are circling the atom. A tiny spot of energy that could erupt into something curious and dangerous spontaneously.

I spent the week as ‘Up Girl’ and ‘Down Girl’ resulting in my father asking me on my ‘up’ day if I had changed my medication because suddenly I was productive, up early and in a good mood. Unfortunately that was only for one day and since then I’ve been a mope whose been outrageously productive, but miserable.

My obsessive thoughts are crawling their way back into my waking life. It’s been a while since I’ve lived in terror of something. Currently I’ve got an intense fear that house centipedes or spiders are crawling into my food and drink while I’m not looking or sitting in the dark or another room. I split a salad with my dad the other day, who works from home, and got a call just as I was fixing his plate. Instead of leaving it when I was finished I stood there for about five minutes watching it to make sure nothing crawled in from the counter. I got aggravated and wrapped the plate with plastic wrap like a mummy and went about the rest of my day. Gotta love OCD.

Story time – In the beginning: Unease

Yesterday I went to see the movie Gone Girl. It’s based off the novel by Gillian Flynn which I’ve read and what really made the movie so well done was that she wrote the screenplay. I had to fight my inner impulsive twelve-year-old girl who wanted to excuse myself and leave without any explanation. Everything I said and giggled at was forced. I was a world-class actress.

During: Situation

Chris,  his sister and her husband and his mom and step-dad all attended the movie with me. It was planned earlier in the week and I was looking forward to it. Then Chris’ attitude took a drastic dip a few days ago. We haven’t spoken more than a few words electronically in three days now. As we met up at the movie, he didn’t look at me once. It feels like something isn’t right. Something so big it would spin me out of control and make me yearn for the comfort of the hospital. I can smell the excitement of another woman on him, the faint scent of the burning that will char my soul if it’s true. Something new and exciting to distract him from his miserable mundane life. It just reeks of something he’s feeling guilty about. Something he knows that if I know, will hurt me. Maybe he’s putting it off, maybe he’s figuring out a way to say it. Maybe it’s nothing at all.

In the end: Instability

I was so emotionally withdrawn and physically distressed because of the tension in the air (I had my arms folded and squeezed myself so tight I lost feeling in my fingers by the end) that after I peeled away in the parking lot and got into my car I was able to breathe again. I wasn’t feeling myself though. I was more withdrawn than I have been in ages. The ride home was like a lucid dream. As I pulled up to my quiet street I felt a surge. It’s something I’ve felt before, the physical manifestation of darkness. It fed on my emotions and before I knew it I punched the gas and glided down the side of the street with no parked cars, it was inviting. I took a left turn down another street without knowing for sure if another car was coming (which was grossly exciting and something risky I wanted to try), then another left, and another, letting go of the gas entirely and feeling the car slow. After my little fit of idiocy was over I parked and went inside, feeling that my impulses had been fulfilled.

Today I’ve been lethargic and mild mannered.

Semi-Spoilers of Gone Girl psyche:

I wondered on the way home last night if Amy Elliot Dunne of Gone Girl was just manipulative and selfish or if she was mentally ill. If so, what? Could I see myself in a manic state doing what she did? Would I even need to be in a manic state if I was that devoted to my own cause?  I surely can see myself having the thoughts. Everyone I know with bipolar or obsessive compulsive disorder (of which I myself have both) have had what I will casually call ‘insane’ thoughts whether or not they want them or would truly go through with them (at some point or another of their mentally ill career). Have you? If I were to be able to psychoanalyze Amy as a professional would I have empathy? I think in any case she’s brilliant and a survivor. Dangerous though? Any insight is welcome via comment (marked spoiler) or e-mail. You are some very intelligent and insightful bloggers, and I’d love to hear your opinions.

#TheCarouselOfDrugs

I went to this place called ‘Relax Center’ today which is a kind of reflexology joint. I heard good things about it on yelp so I went out of my way and fought bravely through the english barrier to get a 30 minute medium pressure reflexology body massage. Now I came out of that thing feeling pretty good, I think the guy did a lot HARDER pressure than I wanted and there were times I was straight up in pain, but thanks to social anxiety I didn’t say anything. This is a perfect example of how f-ing stupid it is.

In fact it took me a little over a month to even get in the parking lot of this place to go in there. I passed it by a few times to see if I’d get the courage but no, then one day I figured I’d just do it. I’ll save all the gory details of it for yelp, but honestly I was only able to feel relaxed for about 10 minutes and that includes during and after. My back hurts from all the pressure now and I hate that I didn’t speak up during. Also, I gave way too big a tip, which is okay because the guy was really nice and he looked like he was about to leave when he got ‘assigned’ to me and all…but still that was extra money I could have in my pocket.

So now I’m aching, and have been taking care of my mom whose had the flu the past few days, and feeling like I’M getting the flu, but at this point I know I’m not, it’s the transitional period getting off Depakote and getting on Abilify, then raising my Lamictal and keeping my Luvox the same. That carousel of drugs is making me feel awful. I can’t concentrate, I’m super hazy like someone that’s high and even have that ‘glazed over’ look to me. I have a VERY IMPORTANT research paper draft due tomorrow, and I’m not finished.

So here I am, up, working on this paper in spurts, maybe 70% finished which is an accomplishment I suppose, and physically miserable. That’s one reason I went to the Relax Center in fact today. My body is on and off nauseated and with a headache and achey and overall just in bad shape.

I’m starting to really get super anxious too because I’m supposed to hang out with a friend I haven’t seen in maybe 2 years now on Wednesday night, I have a presentation for Social Psych on Wednesday afternoon, and Friday I’m seeing one of my best friends, then Saturday seeing another of my best friends, and because my body chemistry is so jacked I don’t feel like I’ll be comfortable seeing ANY of these people. Mind you I BARELY get out to see my friend Lucy once a week and even that is anxiety provoking sometimes depending on my anxiety level. That being said I suppose it’s a brave week.

I’m making friends with a very brand new person who kind of stumbled in my life too. A girl from one of my classes who is also Bipolar and super wonderful but I’m terrified I’ll act too normal and friendly around her and she won’t be interested in being friends anymore because she’ll not be as interested as I was…if that made sense?

I’ve also been so bold as to try to get ahold of old friends of mine who are married and see if they want to get together. I know both are incredibly busy and homebodies but it’s taking years off my life every time this year I’ve mentioned something like that, even offering to take them out to dinner, and had NO reply. Caring for people is a deadly virus.

So there you go, PHENOMENAL COSMIC ANXIETY, itty bitty living space.